Carrie Diaries: Start of something big

In this Sex and the City prequel, it's 1984 and teenager Carrie Bradshaw asks her first questions about love, sex, friendship and family while navigating the worlds of high school and Manhattan

caption: AnnaSophia Robb plays the teenage Carrie Bradshaw in The Carrie Diaries. Courtesy OSN
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With its ruffled skirts, leg warmers, leopard-print bracelets and crimped hair, the 1984 in The Carrie Diaries is a far cry from the dismal society once imagined by George Orwell, but it's the perfect world for the 16-year-old Carrie Bradshaw who is about to fall head over heels for the most important man in her life - Manhattan.

This highly anticipated prequel to Sex and the City reminds viewers that in 1984, Girls Just Want to Have Fun was more than a feminine anthem - it was a lifestyle choice that takes all the energy and enthusiasm that Carrie and her coterie of high-school besties can muster, as the Big Apple bends her persona on the path to womanhood.

"Carrie's a junior in high school, so she's very vivacious, friendly and she's a little bit tormented, because her mum just passed away," says the series star AnnaSophia Robb, whose feathery blonde hair and angelic features evoke a Botticelli painting of Venus.

As the series begins at her home, in the fictitious town of Castlebury, Connecticut, the smart, witty and somewhat naive Carrie finds herself locking horns almost daily with her little 14-year-old sister Dorrit (Stefania Owen).

"Her relationship with Dorrit is very sensitive," says Robb, "and I think Dorrit and Carrie respond very differently to their mother's death. Carrie's also having a rough time at school and her dad is being overprotective. He thinks that she needs a distraction, which is fine by Carrie, because it ends up being in Manhattan" (as an intern at a law firm).

"During her first visit, she meets Larissa (Freema Agyeman), who works at Interview magazine, and is introduced into this whole new, wild world of fashion, interesting people, nightlife and all the sort of mischievous experiences that she absolutely loves - and are completely new to her."

Keeping Carrie grounded are her junior-high friends, the sensitive Mouse (Ellen Wong), the spitfire Maggie (Katie Findlay) and the thoughtful Walt (Brendan Dooling). Plus, the arrival of new hunk Sebastian (Austin Butler) brings Carrie a surge of romantic spark.

Dooling says his Walt "is best described, actually, as one of the girls. He's that close to her".

And he cautions viewers not to expect to see Samantha, Charlotte or Miranda - her later-in-life friends - huddled at the junior-high lockers. "[The Carrie Diaries] is a completely separate plot - she hasn't met the Sex and the City girls yet. It's just her in her adolescence, becoming a young woman."

When one recalls how pre-internet teenage life in the 1980s was portrayed as hectic, crazy, angst in John Hughes movies such as Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink, the teenagers of The Carrie Diaries come across as a tad more sophisticated and worldly and appear to take life much more in earnest.

This also reflects how, in recent years, The CW network has fostered a gift for storytelling in the teenage and young adult arenas, with popular series such as The Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl, Arrow, Beauty and the Beast, Prom Queen and Supernatural on its roster.

Odds are, The Carrie Diaries could soon eclipse them all in viewership and popularity - judging by the online and social media buzz - if this series can engage the, original series' older viewers as well as teenagers.

After all, the original Sex and the City comedy-drama series - based on the book by Candace Bushnell - proved a cultural touchstone from 1998 until 2004 as it explored hot-button sexual topics and the differences between friendships and relationships in the span of its six-year, 94-episode run on HBO, then spawned two feature films.

But it all begins here, as Carrie reflects in voice-over as she crosses a bridge towards that famous skyline: "I have arrived, to the place so many before me have come to live out their dreams. It was the beginning of my Manhattan love story."

* The Carrie Diaries premieres at 11pm on Wednesday on OSN First HD