Making a prequel series to a TV show that was already perfection is a dicey move. It should not be taken lightly. But that’s exactly how the creators of The Carrie Diaries, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (who also produced Gossip Girl), seem to have approached it. While Candace Bushnell’s prequel novel of the same name delivered a more succinct, less cheesy portrayal of Carrie Bradshaw’s beginnings in New York, the show comes across as lazily crafted and lacking in sincere emotion—not to mention attention to detail (the World Trade Center isn’t even present in the skyline as Carrie arrives in the city).
Another issue is in casting AnnaSophia Robb (who has been in films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and, ugh, Soul Surfer), who doesn’t have any of the charm or polish that Carrie should have. In an ideal world, Blake Lively could have played the role, but is, unfortunately, out of the age bracket to do so.
With noticeable discrepancies between the book and Sex and the City, the story begins as Carrie has recently lost her mother. In the show Sex and the City, Carrie only ever mentions that her father left her and her mother when she was young (which is part of the reason she feels she’s so fucked up when it comes to men). In The Carrie Diaries, her sister Dorrit (Stefania Owen) is taking the loss much more moodily than Carrie (also note that in the book Carrie has two sisters, but perhaps that would have been too much for casting to take).
Carrie, on the other hand, at least has the distraction of Sebastian Kydd (Austin Butler), an Aryan type who kind of looks like he could be Carrie’s brother and is a new student at her high school. The only problem is, the most popular girl in school, the drag queenly named Donna LaDonna (Chloe Bridges), also has her eye on him.
In the novel, Donna LaDonna is ultimately the one that connects Carrie to Samantha Jones. Whether or not the show will ever address that remains to be seen (though I can’t say I’ll have the patience to watch it long enough to find out). But for now, she’s content to subtly torment Carrie. Although Carrie’s ultimate reason for going to New York is an internship at a law firm in the show, in the novel it is actually because she gets accepted into a writing seminar at the New School (after being rejected as a full-time student). And this is where another inconsistency comes into play: The fact that Carrie is supposed to be in her senior year of high school. The show takes no heed of that and instead has her in her junior year, which is what makes her come across as even more hopelessly juvenile.
I suppose it wouldn’t matter that there are so many variances between this show, the book and Sex and the City itself if it was actually well-written and watchable. Candace Bushnell obviously doesn’t seem to mind (she’s an executive producer) her story has come to life so robotically on the screen, but, for fans of Sex and the City and the iconic woman it spawned, The Carrie Diaries is merely a desecration rather than a thoughtful homage. In fact, I don’t even think the addition of Michael Patrick King as one of the writers could salvage it.