'The Americans' and 'The Carrie Diaries' Pay Homage to the '80s -- Which Does a Better Job?

From the music to the clothes, we pit these new shows against each other to see which one respects the beloved decade the most

TV fans, have you noticed that not one, but two new, 80's-era TV shows have hit the airwaves this month? There's The CW's The Carrie Diaries (Mondays at 8 p.m. ET), which stars AnnaSophia Robb as Sex & the City's young Carrie Bradshaw. And on Wednesday, FX debuted The Americans (Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET), which stars Keri Russell (Felicity) and Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters) as Russian spies in an arranged marriage, living in D.C. with their two kids.  

Both shows, which take place in 1984 and 1981 respectively, have taken pains to remain true to the time period. Which series has done the better job at 80's verisimilitude? They've both pulled it off, but in different ways. Let's see how they match up!

The Music
-The Carrie Diaries: This being a teen show, we get to relish those synthesizer-happy pop songs that dominated Top 40 radio. That means guilty pleasures like Modern English's "I Melt With You" and Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself." Carrie's edgier sister Dorrit has a soulful hamster named Morrissey, and posters of Depeche Mode and Joy Division.

-The Americans: Rusell and Rhys' characters, Elizabeth and Phillip, are well out of their teens, so we don't hear Cyndi Lauper squawking from their dashboard speakers. The first episode opens to the tune of Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk." Later, we also get Quarterflash's hit "Harden My Heart" and Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight."

The Style
-The Carrie Diaries: A young Carrie Bradshaw is obviously going to showcase the fashion trends of the moment. She and her classmates wear loud colors and balloon skirts with giant, brightly colored earrings, jelly bracelets and Swatch watches. The hair, of course, is big and permed on almost everyone, except Carrie's Asian friend, The Mouse (Ellen Wong). How awful to be an Asian teenager in the 80's! Such impossibly straight hair!

-The Americans: Well, Elizabeth does wear high-waisted Guess jeans with a tucked in shirt and braided belt. But her hair isn't much different from Russell's Felicity days. As for the couples' tween-aged kids, they're not exactly sporting flashy Jordache jeans and blue eye shadow. "When I first heard that the show was in the '80s, I thought that it was gonna be Madonna, and neon clothes and the big hair, and when I got there, they were like, 'So, you're gonna be wearing these auburn-colored corduroys,'" says Holly Taylor, who plays 13-year-old Paige. When your folks are Russian spies, she says, "I guess it's a good thing that it's not so extravagant."

The Gear
-The Carrie Diaries: Rubik's Cubes abound, naturally. Carrie's got a little, handheld boom box on her desk. So cute! And at one point, Carrie's would-be boss calls her on a gigantic, rectangular phone with an antenna sticking out of the top.

The Americans: They may be playing sophisticated spies with the full support of the Russian government, but this is still the eighties. Their cars, TVs, stereos, phones and computers are all big and boxy. And they use floppy discs. And pay phones. Remember those?

Of the two shows, you're most likely to forget it's the 80's while watching The Americans. Truth is, with hair like Russell's, she could fit into any time period. 

The Carrie Diaries wins this one for us!  

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