If you're on the fence about The Carrie Diaries (and/or if you've been snoozing on it and you'd like to catch up), I've put together a thorough mega-recap of the entire first season so far.
Being something of a professional Sex and the City-eviscerator, I fully planned to watch the premiere of The Carrie Diaries and offer hella bon mots about peplum skirts and Samantha's future-vulva. But then, you know, life and not-caring got in the way, and now we're four episodes in and there are already rumblings about cancellation! And I haven't even figured out yet whether or not I should care! As ratings have been rather dismal, it seems as though most of you haven't figured it out yet either. But don't worry. I'm on it. Below, you'll get the dirt on everything that has happened so far.
(To get the most out of this article, you might want to watch along with me. Then we can have a bunch of inside jokes about Carrie's epic Bosley. Just a suggestion.)
At the end, we can decide together whether or not we need Carrie Diaries to stick around. Leeeeeeet's go!
It's 1984 and Carrie Bradshaw is a 16-year-old goody-one-shoe (she is kind of bad) who lives underneath a giant wig in Connecticut. She hasn't had sex yet, but she did tongue a guy in a pool once. So. She has three friends—Knives Chau, a brown-haired girl who is taller (let's call her...Brownie), and Brownie's confused gay boyfriend Walt—and all she wants is to move to New York City and compliment performance artists on their scarves all day. Also her mom died (THIS WILL BE IMPORTANT
There's a hot guy at school named Sebastian and a mean girl named Donna LaDonna and both of them have ridiculous mouths. Carrie has a well-meaning Droopy-Dog dad and a grumpy goth sister named Dorrit, which is short for "Doritos." It's a family name. You can chart the grumpiness of Dorrit at any time by measuring the thickness of her eyeliner. These are all of the characters so far. (Later there will be a black lady and a hamster!)
Carrie's dad gets her an internship at a law firm in the Big Apple, which she weirdly goes to in the middle of the day while all of her friends are at high school. It's SUPER BORING and there is a frumpy lady who is bossy (almost like...a boss?), which I guess is supposed to make us terrifically indignant on Carrie's behalf. Except, I'm sorry, I really cannot be concerned about a 16-year-old having a shitty job. It's the law—the younger you are, the shittier your job is. Like, down to age 5, when your job is to play with blocks and not pee in your pants. Do you know how boring blocks are? Child, please.
Anyway, upon arriving in the city, Carrie immediately meets a black lady and mistakes her for a terrifying thief. Turns out, the lady isn't a thief, she is a tres glamorous fashion gadabout named Larissa who is the style editor for Interview magazine and fucking loves Carrie's purse! It's Carrie's purse's big break!
This is when we discover the #1 most salient characteristic of all people on The Carrie Diaries: a deep and all-consuming love for Interview magazine. These people cannot get ENOUGH Interview magazine! They read it in the shower. They read it on the train. They read it upside down on their beds with their giant wigs trailing down upon the floor. They read it like it's their food. And now this glamorous lady who is not a thief* wants to put CARRIE'S PURSE in Interview magazine? It is too much to be borne! It is a dream come true.
Incidentally, this dream come true also provides us with an ideal metaphor for the show itself: The Carrie Diaries is exactly as exciting as an interview with a purse.
But. We forge ahead!
The glamorous lady (who, when she's not style editing, moonlights as a time-traveling medical student) somehow does not notice that Carrie is a literal child and invites her out for a debaucherous night upon the town. Because everyone knows that magazine writers are the most elegant sophisticates on earth (I, for instance, am currently wearing a Slanket and eating an Eggo waffle with my hands—you know, like Joan Didion). "Meet me at Indochine at 7 pm!" she says, as though 7 pm isn't the #1 dorkiest time on the entire clock. Seriously? WHO STARTS CLUBBING AT 7 PM? The kind of people who want to do cocaine with children, I guess. W-evs.
Now Carrie has a dilemma. Should she go do art drugs with Larissa (at 7 pm!!!) or should she go back to Connecticut and make out with Sebastian at the school dance like a baby? She decides to go with the club thingy. Because, you know, "Manhattan was a lot like my purse." Yes, Carrie. That makes so much sense. Please become a professional writer immediately.
Meanwhile, back in Connecticutty-from-the-Cut, Sebastian smokes pot with Donna LaDonna, closeted Walt gazes at a photo of '80s Rob Lowe (dude, don't even worry about it—EVERYONE masturbates to '80s Rob Lowe), and I don't remember what Knives Chau and Brownie were doing but I'm sure it was boring.
You know, here's a problem with prequels. It's really difficult to get invested in these characters when you already know that Carrie stops being friends with all of them just a few years later. Also, though I'm not a mega-fan, SATC was refreshing because it was largely about unapologetic lady-owned-and-operated fucking. But I don't want to watch a show about 16-year-olds fucking! I'm uncomfortable! Fortunately, there's one aspect that did survive the translation from HBO original to CW prequel: belabored pun-filled narration. She may not have had sex with Sebastian after the school dance, Carrie thinks to herself, but tonight, "I lost my virginity to a different man...MANhattan."
Here's a kind of awesome thing about The Carrie Diaries—all the characters (including the 14-year-old goth child!) are smoking pot all the time like it's no big deal. Because it isn't! I mean, I don't smoke pot because I'm an old lady, but I'm not sure I've seen the non-scariness of it addressed so frankly in a show for teens. Kudos, CD.
Carrie is confusingly grounded because Dorrit ran away in the last episode (I forgot to mention it because it only lasted like 12 seconds so how can one care?) and the grounding has brought the family extremely close together. So close, in fact, that by the ten-minute mark Dorrit is wearing almost no eyeliner, and Carrie and Dorrit make plans to go swimming together! Like sisters! But then Carrie decides to break their swimming date to go "swap chlorine" with Sebastian instead, so Dorrit is all "URGH BRB GOT SOME SERIOUS EYELINERIN' 2 DO." She tattles, and Dad catches Carrie with Sebastian.
Dad says Carrie can't date Sebastian "because I said so." Because he "knows a little bit" about Sebastian and his family.
"I'm not gonna lie and say I don't like to party," says Sebastian. And then, for clarification: "I do."
Yes. We were following.
Meanwhile, Brownie is trying to get Walt to have sex with her. They've been dating for two years, but his penis is like, "eh." So he breaks up with her. Larissa has a zebra on a leash and is being a complete bitch because FASHION, and she makes Carrie bail on her internship and go all the way to Dumbo to bring her that goddamn stupid purse. Then Carrie has to lie to Peter Frumpton at the law firm ("I need more binders for the files!") but makes it up to her later by feeding her ten pounds of Moo Goo Gai Pan and giving her a free scarf.
Carrie, feeling remorseful about her web of scarf-lies, comes up with a complicated Pinocchio metaphor and realizes she'll never become a real boy if she doesn't get her shit together. To comfort herself, she invites Brownie and Knives over and they all spend several days putting peanut butter on crackers. You know, like when girls get together and put peanut butter on crackers? It's like that.
Carrie continues to be entranced by Larissa's glamorous bitchiness:
"Your life is just so exotic."
"You mean DIRTY!"
Then Larissa says that if Carrie wants to be "exotic" too, she can introduce her to 40 bad boys. Larissa still hasn't noticed that Carrie is a small child, because the luminaries at Interview magazine (MAYBE YOU'VE HEARD OF IT?) don't trifle with such petty concerns as temporal human age.
Back in Connecticut, Dad gets hit on by a sexy woman in the tampon aisle while he's trying to buy Carrie's monthly vagina-plugs. The woman writes her phone number on the tampon box.
"Hey dad, what are these numbers written on my tampon box?"
"Oh just this lady I'm gonna fuck later."
JK, that lady is a creep. He hella runs.
Carrie and Sebastian meet up outside the high school, where he's jamming out to the new Cars album. She puts her head real close to his head so they can share headphones and listen to it together. Hey dummies, it's actually not romantic to share headphones because you don't even get the stereo image. Duh. HAVE SOME RESPECT FOR OCASEK, YOU ANIMALS.
C Story: Dorito has a tantrum because Dad bought the wrong kind of frozen pizza. More details as they develop.
Carrie's dad is some sort of crime lawyer, and she figures out that the reason he knows so much about Sebastian is that he was Sebastian's lawyer! For Sebastian's secret crime! Carrie is so invested in this 2-second-long relationship, she has no choice but to invade Sebastian's privacy by raiding her dad's confidential lawyer files. Turns out, Sebastian got kicked out of his last school for having sex with his Art History teacher. Because that's probably what would happen. If a professional educator sexually molested a child. Kick that sexy boy-temptress to the curb! (To be fair, Sebastian is one of the most startlingly attractive people to appear on television since Dylan McKay, and he is 21 in real life so I am not even creepy.)
Oh my god, this is the best thing. Carrie and Knives go to New York to get dragged around by Larissa, and to meet up with Knives's erstwhile boyfriend (who hit it and then immediately quit it back in episode 1). Larissa takes them to a performance art show at a gallery where a former porn star named Monica Penny is "reclaiming her vagina" by flashing it at strangers, including—the show implies—Yoko Ono (yeah right, show). "One day you will boast that you were there to see Monica Penny reclaim her vagina," Larissa explains. Okey dokey. Now it's time for Carrie to Learn! About! Feminism!
Monica Penny calls Carrie up on the stage for no reason and yells:
"Never let a man—any man—make your decisions! Own your power! Take my throne! Show us your power! You're ready—SHOW THE WORLD YOUR VAGINA."
All of the art people scream at the 16-year-old to show her vagina. No one thinks it's weird, even though she is obviously fucking 16, you guys. Like, have you ever seen a 16-year-old in real life? THEY LOOK 8. Anyway, then Carrie chimes in, via voiceover. "While someone was about to show their box," she says, "another one was being decorated." Oh, Carrie. Good one.
Cut back to C Story! The other box in question is an airless shoe box in which Dorito is housing the contraband hamster she stole from the pet store during her rageful pizza-fugue. The hamster escapes and runs wild throughout the house and Dorito chases it for the entire rest of the episode. Thrills abound.
Also, Dad goes to a singles bar and tells awkward dead-wife stories—which, pro tip, drop panties like nobody's business. Dad's slimy bro is like, "Allllllll riiiiiiiiiight."
Back to the public sexual coercion of a child! Carrie refuses to show her vagina and flees into the night. Larissa is a complete dick about it and basically calls Carrie an uptight nerd. Ugh, I hate Larissa. Two seconds later Larissa changes her mind and decides that Carrie is fabulous again, because not showing your vagina is the new showing your vagina. Art.
Later, Sebastian breaks up with Carrie for invading his privacy like a common thief. He is completely justified. Then everyone goes home and plays with the hamster. The end.
Sebastian is having a Halloween party but he doesn't invite Carrie, which is fine because she DIDN'T EVEN WANT TO GO ANYWAY. Besides, Larissa invited her to some heavy-metal vomit party in the city, and she's taking Walt because dude needs to hurry up with this sexual awakening shit. Dorito's brief period of hamster-redemption has ended, and the flavor-powder around her eyes has reached Threat Level JACKED.
When Carrie and Walt arrive at the party, Larissa is all, "Oi, look! It's dis choyld Oi'm fwembs wiv!" (Did I ever mention that Larissa is British? Because she is.) Then she gives the visiting children some Ecstasy—you know, like on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. Carrie throws her Ecstasy on the floor. Walt eats his.
They meet a hot guy who looks exactly like '90s sex twerp Jeremy Jordan (he has those strange watery eyes, you know? Those Macauley Culkin eyes?) and Carrie is ready 2 bone because nobody on this show has a shred of gaydar. Then, once again, she completely fails to have this conversation:
"You were going to tell me a little bit about yourself?"
"Well, I'M IN HIGH SCHOOL."
The hot guy, it turns out, also works for Interview magazine, which causes Walt to have an episode because it's basically like meeting the hot gay guy who wrote the Bible: "YOU WRITE THE HOTBOX COLUMN FOR INTERVIEW!!!" Jeremy Jordan tells Walt a story about "that time at the Odeon when Janice Dickinson actually put on a saddle and John Belushi rode her around the restaurant like a horse," and Walt says, "Wasn't he like 500 lbs**?" and JJ says, "Anything can happen here. Fat comedians can ride models." Real talk.
Then Jeremy Jordan tries to make out with Walt in a tender and nurturing way, so Walt calls him a fag and runs off. On the mean streets of New York, he runs into some actual homophobes who are about to bash some gays, and then he fights them. Oh, I forgot to mention that it's Halloween so he's dressed like Prince Charles, which is pretty adorable. He goes home and revenge-bones Brownie, which isn't so adorable.
Larissa starts doing a bird impression and then collapses from dehydration because she took two Ecstasies and some champagne and an "acid paper." It's fabulous. She almost gets date-raped by a lion and Carrie has to rescue her. Now Carrie begins to realize that, sometimes, being fabulous isn't so fabulous because you have to go around fighting lions and thwarting date-rapes all the time. Frowny-face.
Meanwhile, Knives and Brownie are back at Sebastian's party being boring. Here is an actual conversation with Sebastian:
"It's a private party. I bought the place."
"Like you buy everything?"
"Can't buy me love. The Beatles wrote that."
To alleviate the crushing boredom of being around Sebastian's talking mouth, Knives gets super duper high. Sebastian takes her to Carrie's house because he is a solid dude. Carrie is like, "aw." It's so exciting, you guys! Will they or will they!?
The Carrie Diaries is like one of those pho restaurants with a pun for a name—like Tic Tac Pho or Pho-k You—where the owners clearly came up with the name first and worked their way backwards. I don't think anybody on the show should be embarrassed to be a part of it—it's fine—it just feels like it has nobody's heart in it whatsoever. And isn't there anybody else in New York we could pay attention to at this point? We really need more Carrie Bradshaw, only with less of the stuff that actually made Carrie Bradshaw interesting (i.e. the unconventional beauty and the grown-up sex talk)? Carrie Diaries is bland compared to the thematic boldness of Degrassi or the ice-queen camp of Gossip Girl or SETH FUCKING COHEN—it's just middle-of-the-road goofy fluff. That said, writing this 8,000 words about it was the funnest thing I've done all week, and if the point of crappy teen television is enjoyment and not loving mockery, then I've been using my eyeballs wrong 4 life. I love goofy fluff. I do. Plus, I genuinely want to see what happens when Larissa finally figures out that she is a complete creep who makes babies do drugs.
So my verdict is...YOU MAY STAY, Carrie Diaries. You may stay. For now. I'm glad we had this talk.
*Oh wait, except actually she is totally a thief and makes Carrie distract a security guard so she can steal a gown from a hardworking local business owner. Then they never speak of it again.
Photos courtesy of the CW.