“Riverdale”, a teen drama that aired on the CW and is now available on Nextflix, is loosely based on the comic book favorites Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica. The Archie, Betty and Veronica comics began in the early 1940’s, and have been iconic ever since. In the show, Betty is still the blonde, smart, sweetheart; Veronica remains the black haired, seductive heiress; Archie still the redheaded, beloved jock/singer, and Jughead his intelligent, oddball pal. Understandably, the television show needed to add some depth to the characters, as well as drama. So, Veronica’s father is in prison, Betty’s sister is pregnant as a high schooler, Jug’s dad is a gangster, and Archie is having an affair with a teacher.
If you have never heard of the comics, you’re in luck; though, if you were ever a fan, don’t get your hopes up. The main characters’ resemblance to the comic books is primarily in name, appearance and personality. The love triangle between Archie, Betty and Veronica which was the hallmark of the comic books still exists in the show, but it doesn’t drive the plot as it did in the comics. Rather than a series about teen antics in high school, “Riverdale” centers on an eerie murder mystery and Betty Cooper turns out to be more of a Nancy Drew. That being said, "Riverdale" has no shortage of juicy high school drama; Betty and Jughead's romance is adorable, Archie shifts from girl to girl before starting his romance with Veronica, and the leading women even take on the jocks objectifying their 'conquests'.
The set design is wonderful– a union between old and new, with retro cars and Pop’s diner straight from the ‘50s, and Jughead tapping away on his Mac with modern pop songs and references throughout. The pervasive darkness and fog paired with the faded reds, pinks and blues create what feels like the perfect aesthetic for the show. It is so visually appealing, and sets the tone for the show's unveiling of evil that lies beneath the small town. It's called "Riverdale" after all, and the town is very much a character in the show. We know we are in for some serious drama when Veronica explains that she is “filled with dread” in the first episode; she complains that the town of Riverdale is more In Cold Blood to her than Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
“Riverdale” is a joy to watch because of the visuals, the sound track and the phenomenal gang of lead characters. Somehow, the show still seemed to fall short. My disappointment in “Riverdale” came not from the lack of ties to the comics, but rather from the show’s untapped potential. The pilot episode started off so well, and I was sure that “Riverdale” could be the next, less supernatural, “Stranger Things”. It was entertaining, no doubt, but it lacked the depth and complexity that many teen-oriented shows have started to take on. Jughead’s monologues are over the top and cheesy, and as the New Yorker’s Emily Nussbaum points out, the show is absurdly saturated with references to everything in popular culture from “Gossip Girl” to “Dawson’s Creek”. The dialogue tries too hard to be witty, to the point where it becomes tedious to listen to.
The show is simply mediocre in script and plot, a flaw that couldn’t be made up for in style and casting. Of course, that didn’t stop me from binging the show and falling in love with Cole Sprouse as Jughead. Despite its flaws, “Riverdale” is fun to watch. I’m always a sucker for teen dramas, and this was no exception. Unfortunately, though, “Riverdale” ended up feeling like more of a guilty pleasure (a couple steps up from “Pretty Little Liars”) than I expected. I’m hoping that in its second season “Riverdale” will grow into itself and find more substance and push the boundaries of the genre a little further. If, or when, you choose to watch "Riverdale", don't hold it to the high standards that I did and you might just love it.
Big fan of the show? Did you hate it? Comment and tell me!