[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Show: "The Carrie Diaries" (The CW) [MIDSEASON]
The Pitch: It's a "Sex and the City" prequel. Who needs a pitch?
Quick Response: Every second of "Sex and the City" that I ever watched made me cringe. The characters. The dialogue. Every bit of it. Of course, I wasn't the target demo, so I don't take it personally, but "The Carrie Diaries" was definitely one of my most dreaded pilots. With that in mind, take it with as many grains of salt as you choose that I sorta kinda liked The CW's "The Carrie Diaries." It's not bad. I'm not hung up on associations with "Sex and the City," so I'm not interested in quibbling about changes to the Grand "SatC" Mythology and I'm not invested in whether or not Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw can be extrapolated logically from the version of Carrie being played by AnnaSophia Robb here. The show that The CW is airing at midseason is sweeter and more modest than anything you might be expecting, closer in tone to a John Hughes movie, right down to the '80s setting, than a premium cable raunch-fest (though some of the dialogue is a bit risque). With that in mind, I liked the dynamic between Carrie and her father (Matt Letscher) and younger sister ("Running Wild" co-star Stefania Owen all grown up) because it felt like an old WB drama. There's heart here. I didn't care nearly as much about the plotline bringing Carrie into New York City and introducing her to her future worlds of journalism and fashion, because that felt like "Jane By Design." Just as The CW premiered "Ringer" after the mighty similar "The Lying Game" last year, The CW is going to premiere "The Carrie Diaries" after ABC Family has already cancelled "Jane by Design" and there's a ton of overlap. And Robb is even less believable as a teen capable of convincing cool New Yorkers that she's in her 20s than Erica Dasher was on "Jane." Robb is, in fact, both the best and worst part of "The Carrie Diaries." There's a nice vulnerability to her performance and I warmed to her more fully in 44 minutes than I ever warmed to Parker's Carrie, but the 18-year-old actress reads very young on the screen, too young for anything she's doing to be plausible and too young to allow the show the kind of latitude for maturity it might be hoping for. Director Miguel Arteta deserves a lot of the credit for balancing the tone and '80s nostalgia in "The Carrie Diaries," for keeping the kitsch factor from ever approaching what doomed the dismal "Gossip Girls" '80s backdoor pilot. The actors have been well-cast for the period, especially Austin Butler, whose Young James Spader vibe has never been better used. [For Butler "New Young James Spader" is a much more aspirational descriptor than "New Chad Michael Murray," which would also fit.]
Desire To Watch Again: Moderate. I sound positive here, but I think I'm mostly positive relative to my expectations, which were perilously low. I'll approach the second episode with revised expectations that'll be harder to meet. Then again, my DVR is already set for The CW in that hour with the final season of "Gossip Girl" anyway... so who knows?
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Malibu Country'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'The New Normal'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Guys with Kids'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'The Mindy Project'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Partners'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Nashville'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Made in Jersey'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Emily Owens, M.D.'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Mob Doctor'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Animal Practice'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'Last Resort'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Vegas'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Beauty & The Beast'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's '666 Park Avenue'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Chicago Fire'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: FOX's 'Ben and Kate'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: CBS' 'Elementary'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: The CW's 'Arrow'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: ABC's 'The Neighbors'
Take Me To The Pilots '12: NBC's 'Revolution'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots entries