When Sex in the City hit the screens in 1998, it was a sensation. A spicy exposition of modern manners and a dazzling fashion show, it was also a ruthless update of the Helen Gurley Brown idyll: the single career girl liberated from the old, conservative husband-hunting mores.
So to see it on TV2 On Demand, Mondays, backdated to the 1980s and made into a rather sweet teen series, The Carrie Diaries, is sad.
It's a cute idea to make a prequel to the Carrie Bradshaw story, set in an era newly ripe for nostalgia, and with intriguing possibilities. What kind of schoolgirl turns into the bold, analytical and - sometimes nauseatingly - sassy likes of Carrie Bradshaw?
Disappointingly, aside from the fact that we find out why Carrie first adopted her trademark not-for-ballet tutu, and that she was always a prodigy at running in high heels, this series sidesteps into the tamer zone of by-the-numbers kooky-sweet teen-ness.
Despite a stunning performance by AnnaSophia Robb, who is irresistible, The Carrie Diaries is just about the antithesis of Sex in the City. It lacks an edge and explores nothing that could be called new social ground. And as the protagonists are schoolgirls, there are - decently but dully - no gasp-making moments.
On the last stretch of high school, junior Carrie has scored an intern job in a law firm, and come under the influence of a racy fashionista. Aside from that, it's Felicity in retro kit. There are the two best friends, one nerdy but sweet, one precocious but sweet; the mostly deluded parents who range from naive but sweet (Carrie's dad) to bitchy but sweet (the society maven Mom of one of her love interests); the dim but sweet boyfriends; and the mean girls, who are distinguished by caricature 1980s fashions so tragic that they're rather sweet, too.
And the 1980s-ness is not that authentic. The hair isn't big enough, you can barely detect any blusher or blue eyeshadow, and the characters say more modern things like "awesome".
It's a nice show, and quite entertaining, but if Carrie had really started out from here, she'd never have graduated to Jimmy Choos and Mr Big (though at least there is a Master Big, her second, richboy boyfriend George. And yes, he's sweet too).
As to why the series is online only, months in advance of its screening on an actual TV channel . . . well, TVNZ continues to move in mysterious ways. On the whole, you'll get more retro punch from a re-run of Footloose.
- © Fairfax NZ News