First of all, despite evidence to the contrary, The Carrie Diaries is not Sex and the City: the Early Years. It lacks the essence of its parent show; it lacks the groundbreaking salaciousness, the raunchiness and the short, punchy episode structure. This becomes less of a criticism when you realize that The Carrie Diaries doesn’t seem interested in mimicking its namesake at all, with AnnaSophia Robb’s Ms. Bradshaw bearing little resemblance to Sarah Jessica Parker’s icon of ‘90s pop culture.
There are many ingredients to this show that, when arranged in the right order and distributed in the right quantities, could well create the next big teen phenomenon. Gossip Girl is gone, and the partial setting in Manhattan brings the glamor and wish-fulfillment that the character herself craves. Then there’s the Jane by Design-esque internship that turns into a case of mistaken identity, and the small-town relationship drama that has love triangles, queen bees, promiscuous friends and closeted boyfriends galore. The trouble is, none of it adds up to something compelling, and the show has no handle on where it’s going or what it could be.