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The Carrie Diaries vs. Girls

How does the prequel to Sex and the City measure up to the HBO darling?

There are few shows more iconic to New Yorkers—actual or aspirational—than HBO’s Sex and the City. The show deftly chronicled what life was like for a group of smart, stylish, driven young women trying to make their way in the big city from 1998 through 2004. The CW’s new show, The Carrie Diaries, is a prequel that follows heroine Carrie Bradshaw (played by AnnaSophia Robb) and her circle through their teen years in the 80s.

And then there’s Girls. The HBO series, helmed by the omnipresent Golden Globe winner Lena Dunham, also follows a group of smart, stylish, driven young women trying to make their way in the big city from 2011 to the present. While it’s little more than a season old, the show seems to be aiming for icon status (and its fans think it’s already gotten there).

So how does The Carrie Diaries measure up to Girls? Let’s find out.

When it comes to girl power
The Carrie Diaries: The young woman who’ll grow up the become The Carrie Bradshaw doesn’t seem to have read her Friedan just yet. Sure, she counsels a heartbroken friend in a most admirable, who-needs-a-guy way, but there’s nothing here to make viewers feel truly empowered.

Girls: The women of Girls have grown up in a world where Madonna was always famous, Hillary Clinton was always a viable presidential candidate, and topics like premarital sex are always up for discussion. Still, there’s not a whole lot here that makes us feel better about feminism in the current generation—no matter how badly Hannah might want to write for something resembling Ms.

Who Does It Better: Draw.

When it comes to fashion
The Carrie Diaries: While Carrie and co. are très fashion-forward, viewers hoping to see Versace or Dior couture on the show might be disappointed. As a teenager in the early ’80s, Carrie’s wardrobe reflects the over-the-top extravagance of the times, although expect sprinkles of high-end fashion in future episodes as she begins a fancy internship in New York City.

Girls: The unique style of each of the protagonists is very reflective of their respective neighborhoods and current economic status— and never more so for Hannah. You definitely won’t see her carrying a Chanel bag any time soon, however her unapologetic wardrobe choices are a refreshing change of pace to the sometimes overwhelming chicness of Carrie.

Who Does It Better: Girls

When it comes to men
The Carrie Diaries: This is a case of boys vs. men. While Carrie is at an age disadvantage here, we know that her high-school crushes, particularly Sebastian Kydd, will inform her future love life and only make her a more discerning dater later on.

Girls: The relationships run the gamut, from long-term steadies to bathroom hookups. Although not all of the male counterparts that frequent the show qualify as “men,” the ladies of Girls get their fair share of boy drama.

The Winner: Draw

When it comes to cultural cues
The Carrie Diaries: There’s a genuine effort here to portray both the 1980s suburban Connecticut scene that young Carrie comes from and the bustling Manhattan she’s destined to inhabit. It’s just that, well, from the slightly off covers of New Wave songs to the strangely friendly, kleptomaniac magazine editor characters, it doesn’t quite work.

Girls: Whether it’s Hannah dancing in her room to Robyn or the totally believable blog editors she meets with for assignments, the writers of Girls have their fingers on the pulse and do a fine job of keeping their show and its references current.

Who Does It Better: Girls

When it comes to New York City
The Carrie Diaries: SATC famously featured New York City as a cast member on its show and the tradition stays alive on this new show, especially when young Carrie says, “”I lost my virginity to a different ‘man’—Manhattan.” And while not everything works perfectly, the amount of ’80s-era cars and New York landmarks that the production managed to wrangle is quite impressive.

Girls: From Greenpoint coffee shops to Bushwick lofts, the spots where Girls films might not be postcard-ready as Manhattan, but they’re New York-y in a way recognizable to any in-the-know resident of Gotham. And it’s not as if that famous skyline never makes an appearance.

Who Does It Better: Girls

Photos (top to bottom): Alo Ceballos/FilmMagic; Courtesy of HBO