If there was any question whether “Sex and the City” prequel “The Carrie Diaries” would embody all that was totally tubular about the decade, a recently released still of star AnnaSophia Robb, channeling a “Like a Virgin”-era Madonna, put any lingering doubts to rest. Well, except for this: Can the CW series overcome the curse of ’80s-set, teen-targeted series? In our iPhone age, will typewriters and rotary phones seem cute and quaint, or just blase? It’s a challenge many shows have faced…and failed.
The most infamous example of undervalued nostalgia is undoubtedly the well-regarded, though short-lived, “Freaks and Geeks.” Set during William McKinley High School’s 1980-81 school year, the series followed two distinct groups of friends, which are, as you may have guessed, alluded to in the title. Though the one-season series never really found its footing, it wasn’t for lack of quality. Produced by Judd Apatow and written by “Bridesmaids” director Paul Feig, “Freaks and Geeks” received three Emmy noms during its run, with wins for Best Writing and Best Casting; not to mention it launched the careers of Hollywood heavyweights like Jason Segel, James Franco and Busy Phillipps.
Despite the cautionary tale, FOX bigwigs tried to capitalize on the success of its time-warp comedy “That ’70s Show” with a companion series called…“That ’80s Show,” which followed a group of twenty-something friends living in San Diego. The series lasted even fewer episodes than “Freaks and Geeks” (13 in total) and wasn’t really the launching pad we suspect Brittany Daniel had hoped for.
And then there’s The CW’s own unsuccessful foray into the period with the proposed “Gossip Girl” prequel “Valley Girls.” The pilot, which aired as a special episode of the soapy series, followed the teen shenanigans of Serena’s mom, Lily Rhodes. (Because, clearly, that story needed to be told.) Starring Brittany Snow and Krysten Ritter, the series was never greenlit (“Melrose Place, “The Beautiful Life” and “The Vampire Diaries” were instead. Breathe a sigh of relief, Ian Somerhalder fans.)
It would appear, then, that the only audience truly yearning for the return of blue eye shadow and acid-wash jeans are the thirty-, forty- and even fifty-something executives and producers pursuing these projects. If it’s to be a hit, “The Carrie Diaries” will need to rely on a very different (and hopefully stronger) form of nostalgia—the desire to revisit the life of Manhattan’s most glamorous sex columnist. If it can tap into our shared zeal for Miss Bradshaw and portray her early years in a way that rings true to her most devoted fans, the series will no doubt earn a spot on fans’
VCRs DVRs, regardless of the year on their birth certificates.
Are you excited for “The Carrie Diaries”? Do you care that its set in the ’80s? Tell us in the comments and on Twitter!