Here’s something I’m a little embarrassed to admit: I was cautiously looking forward to The Carrie Diaries. Although I’m not one of the apparent army who’d lay down their life for Sex and The City, I’d quietly enjoyed most of the series and, when I found out there was a prequel with Doctor Who actress Freema Aygeman in the works, I vowed to watch the pilot with interest.
Imagine my disappointment, then, when I actually saw it. What made Sex and The City such a success, and what sets it apart from other programmes skewed towards the fairer sex, is the wise decision to focus on the titular city as almost a fifth character; New York looked, by turns, glamorous, dilapidated, unbearably modern and attractively quaint. Another major player in the shows success was-and let’s be honest about this- all the graphic-for-populist-TV sex. There was still a mild novelty in the explicit banter about the sex lives of the lead characters (and apparently everyone else they even had a casual acquaintance with), although it’s difficult to imagine anyone in this day and age who would need to have the function of a rampant rabbit explained to them. It was a pleasant, slightly risqué drama-comedy, the televisual equivalent a cheeky seaside postcard wrapped around a dildo. And that was fine.
So what do you get when you replace New York with high school, assured thirtysomethings with bellybutton-staring teenagers and people who can actually act with Freema Aygeman? A big, sloppy mess. The majority of the actors grapple commendably with the disgraceful writing, in particular the teen cast, who go at it (the acting, you gutterminds) with a wide-eyed gusto the adults can’t seem to muster. Matt Letscher as Carrie’s recently widowed father is particularly weak, less phoning in his performance than texting it in from the inside of a tunnel. And who can blame him? Featuring characters that are essentially a cross between a flashcard with a stick figure on it and a particularly lingering fart, the set-ups for the stories for this season were about as compelling as gluing your fingertips together and the direction apparently nonexistent. They’ve simply transplanted the characters from Sex and The City- the outrageously camp one, the comedically promiscuous one, the sensible one, Carrie- from somewhere where their characters made sense, stuffed them into a pigeonhole marked “High School Drama” and hoped no-one would notice. When the characters first appeared they were at least moderately fresh and witty, and seeing, for all intents and purposes, what is the same cast in an eighties high school scenario is blisteringly silly. The moral of The Carrie Diaries thus far? Let sleeping dogs- and Rabbits- lie.