Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 1, Episode 4 of The CW's "The Carrie Diaries," titled "Fright Night."
High School can be a scary place. As Carrie Bradshaw aptly put it in the fourth episode, "The time in your life when you're least capable of managing your emotions is the same time you're locked up for eight hours a day with the people responsible for those emotions in the first place."
Sadly though, audiences were only able to see Carrie navigate high school and heartbreak for a fraction of Monday's show. Most of this episode focused on Carrie and her soon-to-be-out-of-the-closet friend Walt finding their way around a Halloween loft party in Soho.
It seems like the series is suffering from a bit of an identity crisis early on, and I felt like I was watching two conflicting CW series last night. Carrie is a suburban girl who enjoys her world at home, but yearns for life in Manhattan. It seems like series creators have been trying to weave those two desires together, but it's not quite working yet. We're now four episodes into this young CW series, so let's take a look at what is and isn't helping the young Carrie Bradshaw find her place in primetime TV.
Keep It Comin'
1. AnnaSophia Robb
As I wrote in previous recaps, Robb is the reason to watch "The Carrie Diaries." She's immensely talented and brings the same blend of humor and heart to the role as Sarah Jessica Parker did years ago. She has somehow made this obsessive "Sex and the City" fan not care if a young girl Carrie Bradshaw actually grows up to be Carrie Bradshaw.
2. Sebastian (Austin Butler) as Carrie's Big
Sebastian's ability to ooze self confidence that makes Carrie feel insanely insecure makes him a wonderful precursor to Big. I love how the series has developed the tension between Sebastian and Carrie. I just wish they would give me more than part of an episode to watch them interact as "it's complicated" high school lovebirds.
3. Walt as Carrie's Soon-To-Be Stanford
Most of Episode 4 dealt with Walt's fear of coming out of the closet. He accompanied Carrie to Larissa's Halloween party, only to find himself kissing Larissa's openly gay colleague. He was so panicked that he ran away from the party, and eventually straight into Maggie's bed. He broke up with Maggie in Episode 2, but ended the fourth episode telling her, "I need my girlfriend." And we all know what Maggie doesn't -- he needs her for a very specific and tragic reason. Walt is the only interesting, somewhat well-developed friend Carrie has on this show so far.
4. The Carrie Before The Manolos, Fashion And Music
Though the wardrobe on the series has gotten some flack for looking way too cute for the '80s, I do not care in the slightest. It's vaguely reminiscent of the "Pretty In Pink" era and quite frankly, I want to see a young Carrie Bradshaw in cute, non-shoulder-padded clothes, even if it's not entirely true to the time period.
5. Carrie's Family
The combination of Carrie's angry younger sister Dorrit and somewhat annoyingly earnest father Tom just works for me.
6. Teenage Angst
I'm not sure if this is a CW series thing, an Amy B. Harris thing, an AnnaSophia Robb thing or just the happy result of everyone involved, but I like watching semi-smart, semi-wholesome teenagers obsess over high school problems, and I don't need to see Carrie dealing with older friends high on ecstasy and acid to feel like this series has edge. I love that Carrie loves Manhattan, but keep her in the hallways of Castlebury, Connecticut. As we know, this character has decades to spend in the city later in life, but only two more years of high school.
Having Some Trouble
1. Too Much That's Too Different
In this week's episode, audiences saw Carrie lament over her break up with Sebastian, go into Soho for a Halloween party, ditch drugs, take care of her Larissa (who was high on ecstasy and acid), prevent her from jumping off a building, break up a date rape, and run after her friend Walt, who left the party after a gay man kissed him. Meanwhile, Maggie blackmailed a cop for statutory rape, Mouse smoked pot, and Sebastian challenged her to a game of Pac-Man. I don't see how the aforementioned plot points can all coexist in an episode together and actually gel. At this point, there's more working in the suburban teenager scenes than rookie New Yorker ones.
2. Mouse and Maggie as Carrie's Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda Roll-Up
I've given these characters four episodes and I still don't like them, especially the whole "Maggie gets her friends out of trouble because she slept with the cop who is busting the party" storyline.
3. Larissa as Carrie's Gateway To New York City Nightlife
As I wrote last week, I don't like Larissa much at all. I want Carrie to have an older person in the city who introduces her to New York, but this Larissa character is mostly annoying and I think incredibly dumb not to notice that Carrie is not even old enough to buy cigarettes legally.
4. Overtly '80s References That Are Lost On Me As A '90s Child
Though I was technically born in the '80s, I am most definitely a "Full House" and "Saved by the Bell"-era child, so I actually don't feel a strong attachment to the decade of Reagan and shoulder pads, as Carrie put it in the first episode. I also imagine that a large portion of The CW audience's familiarity with the '80s is through John Hughes movies, and that's about it. So the Nancy Reagan references, while kind of cute, also kind of need to go. But hilariously ironic references, like Carrie and Walt dressing up as Princess Di and Prince Charles, totally works for me because I just translated it to my obsession with Kate Middleton and Prince William.
5. The Narration
Carrie's voiceover narration in HBO's "Sex and the City" was the glue that held all the storylines and characters together. We're not there yet with "The Carrie Diaries" -- that's probably why it felt like I was watching two completely different shows as Carrie and Walt partied in Manhattan and Mouse and Maggie played video games in Connecticut. But, I feel like this will work itself out over time. The first season of HBO's "Sex and the City" had some strange narration problems too. Remember how Carrie used to stop mid-scene, break the fourth wall and talk directly at the audience? I shudder at the memory.
"The Carrie Diaries" airs Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. on the CW.
Follow Rebecca Shapiro on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rebeccashap