In the giddy, sleepless weeks and months that preceded the premiere of The Carrie Diaries, I could not decide if I was excited because the show would be awful, or because I held out secret hope that it might be good. I've always had a soft spot for Sex & The City, and was thought of young Carrie Bradshaw running around in the '80s, swimming in booze, embalming herself in cocaine, and pushing through her hangovers to turn her math homework in on time.
What can I say, I love '80s sleaze. Last week, just to get a fix, I subjected myself to the relentlessly average Alphabet City, a stylish "thriller" with no script to speak of. It would have been nice if The Carrie Diaries were 10% this grungy, but I didn't really have high hopes. As it turns out, what little I had were dashed on the rocks.
When Sex & The City was big, I was in high school. If I’d been living in New York, the show may have left the same sour taste in my mouth that Girls does, with the mention of Sarah Jessica Parker. Instead, the show was exotic. The wilder girls watched it with their mothers, leading to (I imagined) frank discussions about sex and the consumption (gasp!) of white wine. High school was innocent; the show was not. Filthy, knowing and occasionally brilliant, it was something to aspire to.
The Carrie Diaries is not.
The premise of this half-baked prequel intrigued me: high school Carrie makes mischief in 1984 New York—the last days of decadence, when Brooklyn was but a whisper and cocaine was king. The version of The Carrie Diaries that I imagined—not knowing the source material, mind—was dirty and dangerous, with Carrie misbehaving, making mistakes, and washing up like hungover flotsam on the shores of every famous touchstone of 80′s nightlife. In the first episode, we get a glimpse at Indochine, but there is not a whiff of Bolivian marching powder in sight. This New York will never give Carrie a chance to make bad decisions. Oh well.
One thing The Carrie Diaries made me realize is that, although Girls irritates me, I'm happy it's out there, being honest about the fact that post-teenage life is embarrassing, sleazy and weird. Teenagers need that to aspire to.