The CW’s latest teen soap is a sexy murder-mystery. And there’s a good chance it will be your new favourite guilty pleasure. Here are 5 reasons to start watching Riverdale.
Riverdale (2017): Based on the Archie comic series; 1 season à 13 episodes à 45mins; starring KJ Apa, Lili Reinhardt, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse (The Suite Life on Deck), Madelaine Petsch, Ashleigh Murray, Luke Perry (Beverly Hills 90210), Mädchen Amick (Twin Peaks), Sarah Habel (Underemployed).
For fans of: Twin Peaks, teen soaps like Gossip Girl or Dawsons’s Creek, CW casting, well written female characters.
I was remiss to include Riverdale on my list of shows to look forward to in 2017. To be honest, I wasn’t confident that this show was going to be good, because, frankly, the CW doesn’t have the best track record for introducing exciting new shows anymore. But alas the Forever 21 of television has struck gold with its sexy and relevant re-imagining of the beloved Archie comic book series.
Riverdale sees the lives of a group of small town teenagers upended when one of their peers is found murdered – and it’s everything I wanted it to be and more. Sure, I would still lable it a guilty pleasure. But, arguably, in a time when every breaking news alert you get sends shivers down your spine, pleasure of any kind is what we could all use a little more of, no? Here’s why you might want to give this show a chance…
1. It’s loveable characters
A good girl, a bad girl, a clean-cut hunk, an emo writer, a resident mean girl, a feisty pussycat and a fabulous gay BFF – granted, Riverdale employs the same character tropes as kindred programmes Gossip Girl, Dawson’s Creek, or Teen Wolf (Cheryl Blossom is a dead ringer for Season 1 Lydia Martin). However, by adding some extra layers and twists to each of the kids, the show makes sure to avoid archetypes. Except for Archie (Apa) maybe, who is the most boring heartthrob in recent memory.
But who cares about Archie when you’ve got Jughead Jones (Sprouse), a boy so pure and precious most women will feel their maternal instincts kick in. There’s Josie (Murray), lead singer of the famous pussycats and a real breath of fresh air when it comes to how black teenage girls are portrayed on teen dramas. And, most importantly, there’s Betty (Reinhardt) and Veronica (Mendes), two beautiful and strong young women you are guaranteed to fall in love with and whose dynamic carries the entire show.
2. Betty and Veronica are #friendshipgoals
Think Blair and Serena without the backstabbing and constant competing for Queen B status. Instead of making them rivals for Archie’s attention and affection, the show is dedicated to presenting a positive female friendship that is defined by mutual support and admiration. The girls inspire each other and help each other grow as women. Plus, their ying and yang dynamic oftentimes drifts into queerbaiting territory which makes the duo even more magnetic.
3. It makes no apologies for being exactly what it is
Not only does Riverdale embrace the fact that it’s a teen soap, it openly acknowledges its ancestry and pays tribute to its forefathers by casting Luke Perry a.k.a Dylan McKay from Beverly Hills 90210 which is generally considered to be the first great teen soap, as Archie’s dad (kudos to the CW because they actually look alike). Moreover, the dialogue will sometimes comment on some of the traditional tropes it employs like it does in the pilot episode with a frosty exchange between Cheryl and Kevin:
Kevin: “Is cheerleading still a thing?”
Cheryl: “Is being the gay best friend still a thing?”
or this particularly feisty schooling Veronica gives Cheryl in a later episode: “You may be a stock character from a 90s teen movie, but I’m not.”
4. It’s darker and more mysterious than you would expect from a teen soap
That is because the show’s creator, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, drew inspiration from another nineties classic, Twin Peaks. The critically acclaimed cult show has obviously been a great influence on Riverdale, both stylistically (the latter’s pilot practically mirroring the former’s opening sequence shot for shot) and thematically, as both are small-town murder-mysteries. What is more, the show cast’s Twin Peaks actress Mädchen Amick as Betty’s mother – well played, show, well played.
5. It’s stylistically unique
While Riverdale does borrow aspects from Twin Peaks, the show’s focus obviously lies on paying homage to its comic book origins. And it does so by elegantly re-vamping the style and vibe of the series various eras to make it appealing to a modern audience. For instance, Betty continually dresses like she raided Sandy (from Grease) ‘s wardrobe, while Veronica wears outfits befitting of a young Jackie Kennedy.
In addition, the pop cultural references both serve to evoke nostalgia for days gone by – “I’m Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but this place is strictly In Cold Blood” – and ground the characters in the 21st century – Betty is slagged off as “too season 5 Betty Draper”. Although let’s be honest, no modern day teenager would be caught casually reading Truman Capote novels unless they’re die-hard literatis such as Rory Gilmore and Lucas Scott.
Furthermore, the show features inventive covers of 60s tunes such as Josie and the Pussycats’ take on Sugar, Sugar by the Archies as well as songs that succesfully emulate the sound of the 50s and 60s (listen to Trouble by Cage the Elephant with your eyes closed and you will find yourself sitting in a mint-coloured, leather-seated diner sipping on a milkshake).
To binge or not to binge: At the moment, episodes are available in weekly installments only, but as soon as the season has completed Riverdale will make for a great weekend binge.
Where can I watch? If you are in the US, you can watch Riverdale Thursday nights on The CW or on demand in the channel’s media store. Internationally, the show’s weekly installments are distributed through Netflix (see list of countries where it’s available).