TV Rewind: 10 Years On, The Carrie Diaries Remains the Superior Sex and the City Spinoff

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TV Rewind: 10 Years On, The Carrie Diaries Remains the Superior Sex and the City Spinoff

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our TV Rewind column! The Paste writers are diving into the streaming catalogue to discuss some of our favorite classic series as well as great shows we’re watching for the first time. Come relive your TV past with us, or discover what should be your next binge watch below:


In 2021, HBO Max debuted the first season of And Just Like That…, the latest addition to the expansive Sex and the City universe that follows three of the four members of the friend group at the center of HBO’s revolutionary series, as they navigate their lives as 50-somethings in a post-pandemic world. It was originally met with divisive reviews and received much blow-back for being a departure from its grounded and more clever predecessor, but it has since turned into the exact type of show we love to hate. SATC’s re-emergence in culture discussions and the threat of And Just Like That…’s upcoming second season has therefore caused me to frequently think about an overlooked member of the SATC universe: The Carrie Diaries, a prequel series that aired for two short but sweet seasons on The CW, and celebrates its 10th anniversary this week.

For many younger audience members like myself, 2013’s The Carrie Diaries served as our first introduction to the influential character of Carrie Bradshaw and her whirlwind life. Though it has become a forgotten show that is rarely ever spoken about in association with SATC, The Carrie Diaries is more than anything a heartfelt celebration of the confident and determined character who has resonated with thousands of people for decades, and has had such a lasting TV legacy.

Adapted from Candace Bushnell’s book of the same name, The Carrie Diaries is a coming-of-age story set in the mid-1980s that follows 16-year-old Carrie (played here by the utterly convincing AnnaSophia Robb), who lives in the fictional town of Castleberry, Connecticut, with her father (Matt Letscher) and rebellious younger sister, Dorrit (Stefania LaVie Owen). After a summer of grieving over her mother’s death, Carrie’s dad helps her land an internship at a law firm in New York City, and she quickly finds happiness and comfort in the autonomy that the sprawling city has to offer. Soon after, she meets Freema Agyeman’s fabulous Larissa Loughlin, a style editor at Interview Magazine who later becomes her boss, and gets the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of working on a fashion photoshoot that opens massive doors for her.

Long before Carrie became inseparable best friends with Charlotte, Miranda, and Samantha, she had an equally lovable and relatable group of friends. There’s Mouse (Ellen Wong), a high-achiever intent on attending Harvard; Maggie (Katie Findlay), an insecure girl who has an affair with an older police officer; and Walt (Brendan Dooling), Maggie’s boyfriend who is secretly gay. And before Mr. Big came and swept Carrie off her feet, she was dating Sebastian Kydd, the dreamy new bad boy at school played by teen heartthrob Austin Butler. While it took time to find its footing, The Carrie Diaries ultimately excelled at centering on more than just its namesake, dedicating real time to each of these characters and their personal journeys as they found their way in the big city, pursuing their dreams and figuring out what they wanted for their futures.

In the second season, The Carrie Diaries also gets the one thing that And Just Like That… lacks: Samantha Jones. Here, she’s an up-and-coming publicist working as a bouncer at a rock bar, and while nobody can ever match the energy that Cattrall brought to the character, Lindsey Gort—who bears a striking resemblance to the originating actor—sure as hell pulls it off to the best of her abilities, and it’s truly special to see how her friendship with Carrie began.

Over the course of two seasons, there is plenty of drama, romantic storylines, ‘80s needle drops, and a questionable yet genuine interpretation of Carrie’s backstory. We see Carrie experience many firsts, from her first love and heartbreak to her first time and first sip of a Cosmopolitan. The biggest factor that carries (sorry!) over from the predecessor is the eponymous character’s obsession with fashion. Here, the fashion is bold yet not very timeless nor historically accurate, and surely doesn’t match adult Carrie’s immaculate sense of style. Had it been released this decade, it likely would have received comparisons to the mismatched and print-heavy looks of Emily in Paris. It is, however, the perfect encapsulation of a young woman who is in the midst of finding her voice. One of my favorite moments in the series occurs in the first episode, where she decorates her late mother’s vintage handbag with her name using nail polish that becomes her most prized possession, serving as this story’s version of the iconic gold chain necklace of Carrie’s name featured in nearly every episode of SATC.

As die-hard SATC fans who have seen The Carrie Diaries likely know, this version of Carrie is far from the same one brought to life by Sarah Jessica Parker. Despite spanning across six seasons and two movies, we never really learned much about Carrie and her upbringing before she became a beloved sex columnist in the Big Apple. The term “prequel” can only be loosely applied to the series, since it shares very little narrative similarities with the original Darren Star-created show. Most notably, Carrie has a present father who is raising two teenage girls alone after their mother passes away from cancer, while in the fourth season of SATC, Carrie mentions that her father walked away from her and her mother when she was a child. Moreover, unlike SJP’s Carrie, her younger counterpart doesn’t come from a scrappy background, but rather lives a comfortable life in an affluent suburban neighborhood, and her mother left behind a wardrobe full of fancy clothes that became a pandora’s box that influenced Carrie’s style.

The Carrie Diaries arrived at a transitional time for both The CW, which had just started moving from traditional teen shows like One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl to the sci-fi and superhero genres, and television in general, as the development of original programming for streaming services had only just begun. In retrospect, while I loved the show when I was a teenager and still continue to adore it, it wholly relied on a soapy nostalgia factor that prevented it from having the longitude that other shows, including the dated original series, are able to maintain. It’s a testament to the show’s witty writing and perfectly matched ensemble, though, that the discrepancies never actively hinder our ability to find it enjoyable.

To watch The Carrie Diaries is to escape into a world that is completely different from the bustling, unapologetic Manhattan attitude we typically associate with SATC and Carrie’s life, so much so that the only thing keeping them from being two distinctly unrelated shows is their shared protagonist and occasional callbacks to the original. But that’s also what makes it so special—the fact that it can serve as a standalone teen drama exploring its own issues while doubling as a loose origin story for one of television’s most unforgettable characters. So as the SATC-verse continues to expand, I can’t help but wonder if The Carrie Diaries will forever be the best spinoff product of the successful franchise.

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Jihane Bousfiha is an entertainment writer based in Florida. When she’s not watching or writing about TV and films, you can find her tweeting about all-things pop culture on Twitter @jihanebousfiha__.

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