A Teenage Love Affair with New York, Fashion, Friendships, and Dating in “The Carrie Diaries”

We all knew it was just a matter of time.  And that time has finally arrived…

Once again, television is hoping to cash in on the success of a previous TV hit—Sex and the City—and has created a spinoff series, hoping to attract today’s younger audience, and more than likely, all of those that worshiped the former HBO franchise.  Hey, I’m one of them.  Not only did I tune in every Sunday night with my girlfriends to watch Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha, but I also tortured my guy and forced him to take me to the theater to see both film continuations of the series.  Well, I didn’t force him, but I conveniently selected show times at our local full-service bar and restaurant/movie theater for the showings.  I figured if he could drink hard alcohol while sitting through the films, my chances greatly improved of getting him to take me.  I was right.

But The Carrie Diaries isn’t just television’s attempt to keep the Carrie Bradshaw hype alive; the series is based on the book of the same name written by Candace Bushnell, the woman responsible for Sex and the City in the first place.  And which network is best suited for telling the tales of a teenage Carrie?  The CW… one of my favorite channels on TV today.

The Carrie Diaries follows a teenage Carrie Bradshaw (played by AnnaSophia Robb from Soul Surfer) after the death of her mother.  After spending all summer grieving with her father and rebellious younger sister, Carrie jumps at the chance to intern at a job her father secured for her—in Manhattan.

This is where Carrie’s love affair with New York, fashion, clubbing, and writing about friendships, dating, and sex begins…

I won’t lie; I was hesitant to watch The Carrie Diaries at first, but the pilot won me over AND this is coming from a Sex and the City addict.

Despite the flashback to 1984, the creators did a great job of not making it look antiquated.  Granted, many of the ‘80s styles have and are still in the process of coming back today, but that didn’t take away from the classic elements present in the series: the vibrant colors, shoulder pads, big earrings, Rob Lowe references, the “brick” cell phones, and the music.

Carrie’s high school’s “Mean Girls” in their hip ’80s clothes…

Let’s talk about the music for a second.  Anyone who claims to be a child of the ‘80s will love the tunes:

“I Melt with You” by Modern English
“Burning Down the House” by the Talking Heads
“Blue Monday” by New Order
“Material Girl” by The Bird and the Bee, a remake of Madonna’s classic hit
“Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes
“Footloose” by Kenny Loggins
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper

The character of Carrie Bradshaw is known for many things.  First, she loves fashion.  We see the younger Carrie’s unique fashion sense when she takes her mother’s damaged purse and paints, in nail polish, a design to salvage it.  What does she paint?  Her name.  This reminded me of the famous Carrie necklace Sarah Jessica Parker wore throughout the years on the HBO series.  Nice touch, The Carrie Diaries.

It may not be the classic Carrie necklace, but I like it! Fitting for a teenage Carrie…

The adult Carrie Bradshaw was also known for her writing, shared with television viewers via narration, where she told stories of friendships and tackled taboo topics such as women and sex.  At least women talking about sex was taboo it seems until Sex and the City hit television sets across the world.  Now, it’s kind of normal…

Teenage Carrie isn’t broken, but she’s hurt.  She’s trying to find herself and where she fits in this world.  Like most of us, she’s learning through life’s experiences, including love and loss.

“The pain of love is what truly changes us.”

“The losing of love, that’s what makes us who we are: the loss of a parent, of your virginity, of who you thought you might be, of your innocence.  Those losses are perhaps our first steps into adulthood.  Life gets more complicated… but it also opens your heart to new beginnings.”

Sounds like something SJP would have narrated, doesn’t it?

Meet Carrie’s first love, Sebastian (played by Austin Butler)

The CW series describes Carrie’s first kiss, personal connections, and self-realizations via narration the way only Carrie Bradshaw could.  The show tackles sexual topics such as virginity and being gay, closeted, and scared.  There are touching lines: “How could he have had sex with me and treat me like this?”  And there’s humor: Sex “is like putting a hot dog in a keyhole.”

And speaking of humor, the dialogue is fun and appropriate for the younger audience:

“The key to being a writer is figuring out who you are—finding your voice.”  ~ Carrie as she tears her room apart, searching for her mother’s purse.  She screams.  Loud.  “Well, that seemed to be the only thing I had found that day.”

It’s still early into the season, and I’m not saying The Carrie Diaries is my favorite CW program… because it’s not (The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural top the list with Arrow and Beauty and the Beast not far behind).  But it does outrank others.  I’m not sure it’s going to be as scandalous as Gossip Girl, a show that I couldn’t walk away from no matter how frustrating the character of Serena was, but The Carrie Diaries definitely piques my interest more than the new 90210 and a few others that have been cancelled recently or are in danger of being cancelled (Emily Owens, M.D. and Hart of Dixie).  Heck, TCD may not even rank higher than five on my list of CW television shows after Cult premieres in February… I am really looking forward to that one.  But it did surprise me, pleasantly surprise me.  And it will keep a spot on my DVR queue for now.

Welcome to New York City, Carrie Bradshaw (with Larissa, a style editor at “Interview” magazine, played by Freema Agyeman)

Saying the character of Carrie Bradshaw is iconic may seem a bit exaggerative, but is it?  Is it really?  Honestly, it could be argued either way.  For me, I’m going with iconic.  She (and her friends) affected me (I would have said touched me, but that didn’t quite sound right).  Watching those four women helped me realize that I could be myself, no matter what.  This is something I’ve always somewhat believed, but perhaps wasn’t nearly as comfortable with until watching their characters learn from their fictional life experiences—experiences we could all relate to one way or another.  Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha taught me it’s okay to be alone… that being happy within is the only way we can be happy with others.  But most importantly, the girls in Bushnell’s world reminded me that friendships are important.  I only hope that teenage Carrie does the same for the young girls today.

What do you think?  Have you watched The Carrie Diaries?  Are/were you a Sex and the City fan?  I’d love to hear from you!

And for fun, what do you think of The Bird and the Bee’s remake of Material Girl?

Tele-Tuesday #8 – New to Summer 2011

Every summer, the major networks pick up at least one new show hoping to break it big with huge ratings success.  With June just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away, here are a few of the programs that might fit your television tastes.  Give ‘em a try!

ABC: The Hot ZoneThe new medical drama

The Hot Zone follows the medical staff, consisting of nurses and doctors from the allied nations (the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia), in Afghanistan as they treat the men and women fighting to protect their country’s freedom.  The show stars a few familiar faces: Elias Koteas (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Shutter Island), Michelle Borth (The Forgotten and Hawaii Five-0), and Luke Mably (The Gates).  Premiers Tuesday, June 21ST

NBC: Love BitesThe new romantic comedy

Love Bites follows a single girl (Becki Newton from Ugly Betty and Guiding Light) dating in New York City while searching for love, and a Venice Beach married couple (Constance Zimmer from Entourage and Boston Legal, and Greg Grunberg from Heroes and Alias). Love Bites plans to feature an array of guest stars including Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer), Lindsay Price (90210 and Eastwick), and Guillermo Diaz (Weeds and Half Baked) just to name a few. Premiers Thursday, June 2ND

USA: Necessary Roughness – The new sports series

Necessary Roughness follows a New York woman attempting to balance her family and her career following a recent divorce.  She accepts a position as a therapist for a professional football team, and is assigned to assist the team’s star receiver in actually catching the ball.  Callie Thorne (Rescue Me and Prison Break) stars as Dani Santino along with Scott Cohen (The Gilmore Girls and Law & Order: Trial by Jury), Mehcad Brooks (True Blood and Desperate Housewives), and Marc Blucas (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Knight and Day).  As an added bonus, the show is inspired by a true story.  Premiers Wednesday, June 29th

USA: Suits – The new legal series

Instructed by a partner to hire another brilliant Harvard Law graduate for his Manhattan law firm, Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht from Whiteout and Love and Other Drugs) recruits a brilliant new associate, Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams from Friday Night Lights and many other cameo appearances on popular television shows).  But, Mike has a huge secret – he never graduated college, yet alone law school.  The two unconventional minds work together balancing the law and lying to everyone – now that’s a dilemma, right?  Premiers Thursday, June 23rd

Unfortunately, many of the summer shows on the basic cable channels don’t fare well; however, there are a few that return this year including Rookie Blue (ABC) and Flashpoint (CBS).  The USA network, on the other hand, ROCKS the summer broadcasting, and I’m personally looking forward to their new shows this summer!

What shows are you looking forward to checking out this summer? Do you prefer sex, dating, and  marriage comedies, medical dramas, legal series, or sports-themed television?  I’d love to hear from you!

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