Monday, January 30, 2012

Pilot Script Review - The Carrie Diaries

Network: CW
Written By: Amy Harris
Draft Date: December 20, 2011
Pages: 60


Remember that one time when Gossip Girl, at the height of its ratings and buzz (aka: season 2) tried to do a backdoor pilot about Lily Rhodes in the 1980s? Well, for some reason / many reasons, that didn't wind up happening. Now, three years later, CW is a changing network with new leadership, Gossip Girl is gasping for its last breath / apparently is getting one last season for some reason... and we have another 1980s-set teen drama that's a prequel to an iconic New York City-set series (that also happens to share two out of three words in its title with CW's lone, um, successful? show, The Vampire Diaries... so that will be fun and confusing if this is picked up... and before you jump down my throat, TVDers, please keep in mind that I think TVD has developed into one of the best network dramas on the air right now).

Where was I. Oh, right! Carrie Bradshaw.

I will say that, having sat through 94 Sex and the City episodes and 2 SATC movies (or, really, one movie and one horror show where depressingly materialistic women try to ignore that they're aging and throw everything that's bad about Western culture into the face of the Middle East), I could very, very clearly hear Carrie saying these lines (write Amy Harris did work on SATC), especially the abundant and theme-explicating voiceovers (which I'd ordinarily complain about... except that TCD is just following the SATC template). In fact, I heard Sarah Jessica Parker in my head while reading those lines. A very large part of me wonders if the show could get SJP to record the voiceovers like Kristen Bell does for/as Gossip Girl and Bob Saget does for How I Met Your Mother.

If you're a stickler for continuity... The Carrie Diaries is just a tad different than what was "established" in SATC (then again, SATC never really talked much about Carrie's backstory). So, try and forget anything you knew about Carrie. And that sound you hear is all of the gentlemen readers who are, somehow, still reading this review after the prior paragraph shrugging.

The year is 1984. Carrie Bradshaw is a sixteen-year old about to start the first day of a new year at high school. But there's a change... because her mother died of cancer three months ago. This year is different. Carrie's fourteen-year old younger sister, Dorrit, has reacted to the trauma by developing a pot habit and biting Carrie when they fight. Their father, Tom, is generally clueless to the fact that Carrie's mother always took her shopping for a new outfit for the first day of school, and so, being Carrie Bradshaw, Carrie Bradshaw is depressed and passive-agressive about this until Tom does the unthinkable, and opens the doors to his late wife's untouched closet for her to peruse.

Hey, it's 1984 and she's 16. I'm okay with her being materialistic in the Age of the Material Girl. The show isn't quite playing to the "isn't this ridiculous" tone of Clueless with it, but whatever.

Carrie lives in generally affluent suburban utopia somewhere in Connecticut. Sucks to be her, right? She has a smart, loyal friend who spent the summer interning in DC, Jill aka "The Mouse." Then there's Maggie, overtly sexy, who is the son of the chief of police / sheriff. Maggie is dating a very obviously in the closet (he says, looking back from 2012) boy, Walt. And so we have our core group of friends that are a close proximation but not exact copies of Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha. Being high school, there's a mean girl (the somewhat hilariously, somewhat laughably named Donna LaDonna) and her minions (The Jens). Maggie lost her virginity, The Mouse lost her virginity... but Carrie is still a virgin. There's a very frank discussion of what happens when a girl loses her virginity.

In walks Sebastian Kydd, the new boy in school. And he knows Carrie from two summers ago. And they kissed. But Donna LaDonna has her sights set on the fresh meat, too.

But then, a shocking twist! As Carrie is about to ask Sebastian out, she sees her dad in the school hallway, reminding her of when/how she found out about her mother, and she passes out. Tom and Carrie's guidance counselor develop a way to help Carrie get a new beginning: intern once a week in Manhattan at a law firm (because Carrie wants, at this point, to be a lawyer).

So, it's not quite Jane by Design, but you can kind of tell that's where it may be going, right?

Anyway, Carrie goes to Manhattan for the first time, and hates doing filing work at the firm. But she ripped her panty hose on the way to work, so took them off and, being the 1980s, receives a very stern talking to about that from what I assume is The Horrific Future Version of Joan Holloway. She's told to go the Century 21 to get a pair of hose during her lunch break, and when she walks in, she finds herself in "what will become her fashion mecca." There, she meets Larissa, a female style editor at Interview magazine, who basically sweeps Carrie along for a crazy, glamorous night in Manhattan that will set a template for Carrie's life 20 years later.

This section reminded me of that episode the The Simpsons where Homer becomes a famous artist for five seconds because he smashes a failed attempt at a backyard BBQ pit. "Carrie, this is everybody. Everybody, this is Carrie. That's Dominick, he's an artist who works with found objects and wax..." (this is a direct quote from TCD).

There is some actual conflict with her home life, because this magical night in Manhattan is happening on the same night as The New Beginnings dance at high school, where Carrie and Sebastian may become an item and/or do the nasty and she has a curfew (of midnight). Instead, Carrie pops her Manhattan cherry (*the script makes this thematic point, it's not me being crude*) and Donna gets Sebastian... for now. But Carrie has been changed forever.

This is a definite, "um, we'll see how it turns out." Combine the soap of teen drama, the overt sexual nature of SATC, and the challenges of a period piece... who knows. It seems to fit in what the CW's old wheelhouse was, under Dawn Ostroff. You don't want to completely alienate that audience by completely changing the nature of every series, but this seems more risque than risky. But maybe risque can pay off.


DuMont said...

This series will initially have a bi-polarized audience. On the one end, there will be the 'Sex and the City' afficiandos, eagerly checking it out for a little bit of prequel backstory for their beloved Carrie Bradshaw. They will probably watch a few episodes, as with '90210', and then fold their arms and say "Not for me".

On the other end, there will be the young ones, no doubt entranced into watching this series by The CW's very alluring promo campaigns. However, I think the timing ('80s/'90s), coupled with they hype that it's a prequel to an old people's series, will cause the 'Hanna Montana' generation to quickly look elsewhere, no matter how witty, clever and relevant the series endeavours to be.

The writers and producers would be better advised to try to pitch this as a movie script, with an aging Carrie looking back to some defining watershed in her youth to provide succor to a modern day circumstance or situation. And please, no young Big!

WhosTheMorley said...

Since it's going to be rated PG, it will make a difference with how they speak of sex in conversation's. Especially noticing that Carries clothing is very appropriate and nice! Not slutty like Sarah Jessica Parker's version thank god and god bless!!! Plus the actress AnnaSophia Robb also has warned "Sex and the City" fans that it will not be like the original, she was also stressing a bit wondering if it was going to be for a younger audience and actually appropriate for her to play. So obviously it is and she can portray the character nicely. So if the pilot does become successful I hope it stays that way! Plus I still don't want to see Carrie Bradshaw lose her virginity by AnnaSophia Robb's portrayal! But everything else is fine! I've herd that Sebastian and her actually meet in school and she actually tell's her friends that she kissed him a while ago but it was only a 5 second smige. Plus she actually doesn't even make it to the dance of where Carrie and Sebastian get together and dance inappropriately while also drinking alcohol! She actually goes straight to New York City! So I'm guessing Sebastian is only init for a majority amount of screen time. I just hope that after this pilot it will remain like this! Plus I think Carrie Bradshaw will take a long time till she actually loses her virginity by AnnaSophia Robb's portrayal. Which is a good thing!