It's 1984. Carrie Bradshaw doesn't know she's Carrie Bradshaw yet, but she does know how to deliver an almost-constant narration.
Carrie's mom is dead from cancer. This is important. Also, she has a 14-year old sister named "Dorrit." Carrie can't go to school without her mom's purse because it's totally a thing, Dad, and you just wouldn't understand. Dad really doesn't understand, acting surprisingly insensitive for a man whose wife just died three months ago and left him with a "troubled" daughter named Dorrit.
Carrie has three friends, three enemies, and one love interest in high school. The friends are a smart shy Asian named "The Mouse," a slutty friend with boobs, and a closeted gay guy who is dating the slutty one. Her enemy is Donna LeDonna, whose friends are called "The Jens." You don't want to be one of "The Jens" in high school, but you do want to be the person who grows up to come up with these character names. Speaking of bullshit names, her love interest's name is Sebastian Kidd.
Carrie and Sebastian connected after one hot, pool-filled summer, during which they kissed and unintentionally referenced Dirty Dancing. Carrie is still a virgin, and worried about it. The school is having a dance and she wants to ask Sebastian but faints before she can get the chance.
Carrie's mom-death-related fainting spell prompts her dad to suggest an internship at a law firm in Manhattan for one day a week. This is Carrie's dream (in more ways than one), so she's excited. Day one of her questionable internship, Carrie rips her pantyhose due to constantly being bumped into when she's marveling at the city.
Carrie's oddly-chaste-and-God-fearing-but-divorced supervisor suggests Carrie go to Century 21 for some new stockings. At the department store, Carrie meets Larissa, a fabulous black British shoplifter who works for Interview magazine and only shoplifts because she can. Carrie thought she was a mugger but she's totally not. Larissa only steals from The Man. Larissa invites Carrie to a party, but it's the same night as that dance she wants to see Sebastian at. Life-altering decisions.
Larissa sends Carrie a dress at work, which the confusingly stale supervisor remarks looks like "something that singer would wear ... you know, the one who takes the Lord's name in vain?" She's talking about Madonna, which sways Carrie's decision toward living it up at some party in 1980s New York. This turns out to be the right choice, as Carrie enjoys free champagne, artists and gay men in New York City, while relatively little happens at the high school dance.
Donna LeDonna tries to steal Sebastian away, but they really only ended up smoking together in a red sports car. It seems like a non-issue. Carrie's sister Dorrit goes missing, but comes back and hardly fights with anyone before taking all her dark makeup off and going through the late Mrs. Bradshaw's closet with the rest of her family. Carrie's dad accepts that his wife is gone, Sebastian shows up at the pool again, and Carrie finds some of her mother's old diaries to begin The Carrie Diaries we were promised.
"It's always the same dream," The Carrie Diaries begins, with the classic Carrie Bradshaw narrative. Yes, I think to myself, it is always the same dream. Young girl wants to go to New York and make it big and wear beautiful clothes and write columns like a regular Carrie Bradshaw. Except this time it is Carrie Bradshaw. Not that many viewers of this show can be expected to know what that means.
Really, who is this show for? It's not for older fans of Sex and the City, who wouldn't bother with this show; and it's not for fans of Gossip Girl because it doesn't have the sex or the camp. So it's for tweens who have a vague idea of who Carrie Bradshaw is and are about to re-define it? Let's go with that for now.
Anyway, Carrie isn't talking about a dream like the dream of being on Buh-roadwayyyyyyy. She's talking about an actual recurring dream. (Do people really have those? They must if people keep referring to them in movies and TV shows.) But then she gets bumped out of her New York haze and out of her dream.
"I always wake up the same old Carrie Bradshaw," the narration says, as though we didn't know the significance. The original version of "Melt With You" is underscoring this moment so hey, history lesson, it's the 1980s. Like most teenagers (FART), Young Carrie Bradshaw knows exactly what she wants to do with her life. Yes, that was a sarcastic fart. Nobody knows anything, especially not at 16ish. Though I guess being "a writer" fits in pretty well with this whole "dream" we're talking about.
No 16-year old pre-Sex and the City wants to be a sex columnist, though. And I don't think we'll ever be referring to The Carrie Diaries as such an influential square in our television crazy quilt. But I'm getting ahead of myself, and this is getting way, way too meta. Young Carrie Bradshaw doesn't know what Sex and the City is because it's the '80s, and because she is Carrie Bradshaw, and hypothetically exists within the same charmed world Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw would. Ow, Carrie Diaries, you makin' my head hurt.
And hold the phone, Carrie has a sister? A GOTHIC sister. A gothic sister who hides pot in her top drawer, which Carrie finds only seconds after opening said drawer in search of "Mom's purse." Then Carrie and her sister slow-motion fight to eighties music, and I am really not sure who this show is for now.
This purse is clearly a big deal, and nobody is making a big deal about "Dorrit," the first weird name of this show, written by bored people who read too much Sweet Valley High.