Review: ‘The Carrie Diaries’: The age of innocence
There’s a really great quote from the second season of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ that talks about the big moments in life and how they’re going to come no matter what we do. It talks about how it’s not actually the big moments that define us, but what we do after those big moments that counts. That’s when, they say, we find out who we really are.
I’m pretty sure it was one of those patented Joss Whedon Deeper Meaning of Life Speeches, but just for a minute I’d like to go ahead and use that as an analogy for making a TV show.
Anyone can make a good pilot. OK, not everyone. I mean, I can’t. I don’t have the creative mind to write a pilot script. But those blessed with that skill: those people can make a stellar pilot. Remember how much critical praise ‘Smash’ got before it premiered? Imagine if the pilot was the only thing the show ever produced – no Bollywood numbers, no love affair with hideous scarves or annoyingly treacherous assistants and wallpaper trying to parade itself around as Debra Messing’s offspring. Imagine all of that. We’d all have a much different opinion of the show, wouldn’t we?
The same can be said for ‘Nashville’. Don’t get me wrong, “Nashville’ is still light years better than ‘Smash’ can only dream of being, but the pilot was so spectacular that everything that’s come after it has inevitably been a let down. The eight or nine episodes that it took to get Rayna and Juliette on the road, an idea introduced in the pilot, were laborious and, at times, boring as hell. Any minute spent on Avery felt like a minute too long, and the same goes for the mayoral race.
Pilots have one job and that’s to set up an interesting premise and introduce conflicts and characters. It’s not the pilot that really matters in the end, it’s whether or not the writers and producers can deliver on what they’ve promised. And what this long winded ‘Buffy’-inspired analogy was leading to is this: the second episode of The CW’s ‘The Carrie Diaries’ continues to deliver on what the pilot promised us last week: a fun, innocent, teenage drama about a fun, mostly innocent teenage girl. I was worried that the pilot might have been a fluke, like so much of TV today, but I was pleasantly surprised by how pleasant the show continues to be.
This week Carrie was grounded after breaking curfew in the pilot, and like the innocent teenager she is, she spends most of her incarceration hanging out with Young Dana Brody and reading magazines in her room. Sometimes she talks on the phone to Baby Fish Mouth, but for the most part, she’s exactly as I want her to be: innocent.
Whether or not our ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘90210’-fueled society wants to see these things or deems them boring, I don’t care. It is downright refreshing to see a teenager act like a damn teenager for once. I mean, sure, I think I’d have at least pondered the idea of sneaking out to meet up with a guy with Baby Fish Mouth’s face, but the world was a different place in 1984 and the show’s portrayal of how most of society acted (and currently acts), is a breath of fresh air.
It will be interesting, however, to see if this innocence holds up throughout the season. The show is about who Carrie Bradshaw is in 1984 and how she becomes the adult of ‘Sex and the City.’ And that version of Bradshaw is not innocent by any means. But for now, I enjoy the mostly innocent world of Carrie Bradshaw, including her cute crush on Baby Fish Mouth, who continues to remain a standup dude despite Donna LaDonna throwing herself at him at the country club. Uh, girl, back off, boy is basically spoken for. Do I need to draw you a picture?
AnnaSophia Robb and Austin Butler seem to have just the right amount of chemistry that I don’t feel like a creeper when I ship their characters together. And while I think I’d have preferred a slower burn to get to where they are even now (which is basically nowhere: some heavy flirting and a couple of stolen kisses in a swimming pool), I like that the show has once again turned the preconceived notion of what equals good teen drama on its head by having the two already know each other when the show premieres.
The other refreshing part of the episode is the way the show has so far portrayed Rosie Larsen’s character. This week the writers really spent some time fleshing out Rosie Larsen and to an extent, her gay boyfriend, Walt. Sure, she might be hooking up in the backseat of a police cruiser (I guess they were designed different in 1984 than what they were in ‘Super Troopers’?) with someone who isn’t Walt, but deep down, she thinks she’s really in love with Walt and is confused about why he doesn’t want to have sex with her. Her hooking up with Random Cop Dude comes out of a place of insecurity. Random Cop Dude wants her while her own boyfriend does not, and so she allows herself to believe it’s what she wants too. Her insecurity is evident as she asks him to lie with her in the back seat of the cruiser for a moment after their rendezvous and again when Walt breaks up with her.
When Walt finally realizes that he loves Rosie Larsen but inherently isn’t in love with her the way he should be (because, even if he hasn’t really truly let himself admit it yet, he’s gay), Rosie Larsen is heartbroken and unable to understand why he doesn’t love her or return her feelings. It was a very nice scene, despite Carrie’s voiceover (yes, those seem to be becoming more prominent), and it was very truthful to how these things go down in real life.
Also truthful to life? What Rosie Larsen does after Walt breaks up with her. She puts on a fabulous glittery shirt and goes to her best friend’s house to eat PEANUT BUTTER CRACKERS and watch a bootleg copy of PURPLE RAIN. She doesn’t go get hammered. She doesn’t put on a slutty dress and go out to party. She doesn’t hook up with the first guy who crosses her path. She acts like a normal teenager and relies on the connection and familiarity of her friends to wash away her woes. Though I have to say, couldn’t they have at least broken out some ice cream for the poor girl?
Obviously the show isn’t without its faults, like the Manhattan portion of the episode feeling shoe-horned in almost as an after thought, despite Martha Jones’ terrible advice to A) fake it ’til you make it, and B) if you tell a lie enough eventually it will become the truth. These are two ridiculously bad ideas that Carrie should steer clear of if she wants to remain herself. And while her lies to her boss keep her from being fired, they’ll most certainly one day come back to bite her in the butt the way blowing off her sister for Baby Fish Mouth did at the end of the episode. But despite these small bumps, the second episode of ‘The Carrie Diaries’ delivers on the pilot’s promise of a new and improved teen drama. Let’s hope the rest of the season follows suit.
Some stray observations:
- The good ’80s music selection continues. However, I have to say that I’m disappointed in Carrie for not knowing who Blue Oyster Cult is.
- Good Looking Dad knows Baby Fish Mouth’s dick of a father, but I’m not sure it’s fair to take out whatever history they have on Carrie’s budding crush/relationship. Let’s hope this doesn’t become a main focus of the season, because if it does, it will quickly wear out its barely warm welcome. These kinds of storylines never produce good TV, they just annoy viewers until they grow tired and quit watching.
So what did you guys think? Are you still as smitten as you were last week? How do you feel about Carrie and Baby Fish Mouth’s romance? Does the show need more Mouse? Do you like Blue Oyster Cult?
Note: Photo courtesy of The CW.