The CW has finally rolled out the long-awaited TV adaptation of Archie Comics’ Riverdale, and if you were expecting the light froth of the classic comics, you were in for a big surprise. When I was a kid, I never really read superhero comics (although I did have a soft spot for Metal Men) but I would always pick up any of the various Archie titles that were available, and I woke up early every Saturday morning to watch Archie’s Fun House, a sort of kids version of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In. It was all jokes and music, and of course, there was also the hit record “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies (studio musicians assembled by producer Don Kirshner).
But tuning in to see how Greg Berlanti, the mastermind behind The CW’s superhero quartet of DC Comics TV shows, brought Archie Andrews and the gang to life proved to be interesting, entertaining and actually engrossing as the show exposes the seedy underbelly of the town always bathed in sunlight in the comics. Now a perpetual fog hangs over the town, as well as a mysterious death.
The series opens with someone (later revealed to be Jughead Jones) narrating the story of the Blossom twins, Cheryl and Jason, who took a rowboat out on the river early on the morning of July 4th, with only Cheryl returning, found by a group of scouts sitting on the rocks at the river’s edge. What happened to Jason, who supposedly fell out of the boat to retrieve Cheryl’s dropped glove and panicked, hangs over the town affecting not only his sister, but Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) and her family as well. Jason was dating Betty’s sister, but things turned bad and mom Cooper (Madchen Amick) isn’t too broken up about the boy’s death (suspect number one?).
Betty also pines for her neighbor Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), the nerdy high schooler who’s been working for his father all summer and has returned home impossibly hot, catching the eyes of Betty, new girl in town Veronica (Camila Mendes) and gay best friend Kevin Keller (Casey Cott). But Archie has a lot on his mind, from trying to appease his father (Luke Perry), to juggling his obligations to the high school football team (comic book Archie would have never been on the team) and his desire to pursue a career in music. That desire is driven by a brief summer fling with the school’s music teacher Miss Grundy. Now before you get all grossed out by the thought of Archie and the somewhat elderly Miss Grundy doing the nasty, Riverdale‘s Miss Grundy is young and beautiful. While she tries to avoid any further contact with Archie, he pushes her to continue to help him develop his music, promising that it won’t go beyond that, even though they share more than one secret. The one in particular that they can’t reveal without exposing their affair is that they both heard what sounded like a gunshot on the morning of Jason Blossom’s disappearance.
Much like Twin Peaks, the first season (at least) looks like it will focus on the mystery of who killed Jason Blossom. And yes, it was definitely murder because in a surprising turn of events, Kevin was on his way to having a hook-up with Moose Mason (Cody Kearsley) — who is down for anything but kissing, prompting Kevin to reply, “I love the closet cases” — but there was a major stumbling block in the path of their tryst — Jason Blossom’s body, complete with a bullet hole in the forehead. We still don’t know who, besides Alice Cooper (!) and possibly Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), the suspects could be — and could Betty be involved as well? — but it should be interesting watching the mystery unfold. Riverdale got off to a pretty good start with its mashing up of traditional CW fare, a little Gossip Girl here, a little The Vampire Diaries there (minus the actual vampires) with more than a little Twin Peaks to keep things weird and interesting (and how can one not think Twin Peaks with Madchen Amick in the cast?). Hopefully they will be able to keep this vibe going for the rest of the season.
Odds & Ends
- Veronica Lodge is not the life-long friend to the Archie gangs as she is in the comics. She and her mother have only recently moved to town (her mother is a native) after her father was arrested for embezzlement. For now, she is not a rival with Betty for Archie’s affections, even pushing Betty to make a move. But a forced game of Seven Minutes in Heaven — due to Cheryl purposely driving a wedge between Betty and Archie — upends that friendship.
- We didn’t get to see much of Reggie Mantle (Ross Butler), who in the comics is Archie’s arch rival for Veronica and Betty. As a little twist, he seems to be friends with Archie as they are both on the football team, and the role has been cast with an Asian actor.
- We don’t know much about Jughead yet either. He’s writing about the events in Riverdale, chronicling everything that’s happening so we’re almost seeing things unfold through his eyes. In the comics, he and Archie are best buds, but the one encounter between the two at Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe implies that there is a rift of some sort between them.
- Veronica’s mother Hermione (Marisol Nichols) has a past with Archie’s father, and hoped he would give her a job at his company. But the wife of an embezzler may not be the best person to handle his books in the eyes of his clients and partners.
- Josie (Ashleigh Murray) and the Pussycats have attitude to spare, and don’t take kindly to Archie’s attempt to consult them about creating his own music. Not. Gonna. Happen.
- Kudos for not holding back on Kevin Keller. The episode started with him and ended with him, so it’s good to see he’s not being marginalized in any way.
- Will Sabrina, the Teen-Age Witch ever make an appearance, or is that too far into the fantasy realm for the show?
What did you think of the Riverdale premiere? Is it what you expected? Are you hooked, or was it not for you? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.