Riverdale: Season 1
Most kids growing up in the late fifties to early sixties had at least one common interest. A substantial portion of their leisure time was spent reading comic books. This was a universal phenomenon cutting across most of the standard niches present in classrooms. The nerd, those that soon will occupy positions of responsibility in the Audio/Video squad often gravitated to ‘Classic Comics.' Their specialty was to simply the great literary classics presenting them in a comic-book format. The most significant segment of your classmate inevitably would take up with one of the two major publishing companies, ‘Marvel’ or ‘DC.' That rivalry is still going strong and has surpassed stakes in inhabiting in the billions of dollars. Younger kids were entertained by the gentle characters of ‘Harvey Comics.' The last major demographic to consider is also most pertinent to the TV series examined here, ‘Archie Comics.' Mostly set in the small town that would provide the eponymous title of the show, ‘Riverdale,' the stories focused on a group of kids in the local high school. The main character, Archie Andrews was perpetually caught between the drama of frenemies, brunette vixen Veronica Lodge and wholesome blonde Betty Cooper. With the help of his hamburger addicted best friend, Jughead Jones the teenagers of Riverdale High were always getting into so mischief. This is not the first major translation of this comic book’s universe to real life, in 2001 a spinoff set of characters, ‘Josie and the Pussycats’ had their film which despite a reasonably talented cast tanked with the fans. I am confident that most people upon hearing the announcement of the TV show wondered how the transition from comic books and TV animation would translate to a life cast production. For me, that question answered long before I watched the pilot episode. The production would be handled by the CW. With the two most popular teen dramas ending, ‘Gossip Girls’ and MTV’s ‘Teen Wolf,' the timing was perfect to fill the void. The CW would inevitably make the characters exceedingly attractive or more to the point, sexy, the trademark of CW show. The contribution of ‘Teen Wolf’ would manifest in a darkly shrouded mystery. I was pleasantly surprised just how engaging the series turned out.
The tone of the entire story set with notable efficiency defining the stylistic foundation for the season. It most assuredly makes every effort possible to avoid the lighthearted tenure that permeated the comic book for so many decades. The somewhat simplistic artwork has been completely replaced in strict accordance to the immutable guideline enforced in every CW teen-oriented drama. This translates to the male characters that are ripped. Archie (K.J. Apa) sports a set of six-pack abs that are displayed on a regular basis while Jughead (Cole Sprouse), is the requisite brooding emo also serving as the narrator opening each episode with a thoughtful insight into the emotional turmoil and psychological disruption the current quagmire as wrought. In true CW format, the teenage girls populating Riverdale High are each gorgeous in their distinctive fashion. Veronica (Camila Mendes), is a brunette that turns heads the moment she makes an entrance. After her, 1% wealthy father is sent to jail for a Ponzi scheme Veronica and her mother, Hermione (Marisol Nichols), are forced to vacate their life in New York City leaving the trappings of their court seized wealth behind. They must survive without the limousines, sycophants and unlimited credit. This portion of the story runs contrary to the expected hackneyed resentful spoiled brat hating everything about her loss of social standing. Directly from her introduction Veronica is open, friendly and proactive about making new friends. She bonds to Betty (Lili Reinhart), instantly declaring the perky, yet stunning blonde as her new ‘BFF.' Archie has always considered Betty as his best friend, a plutonic friendship although Betty would rather their relationship move on to a romantic direction. Instigating a rift between the two new friends is queen bee of the social scene the fiery redhead, Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch). Her family’s maple syrup business has been the foundation of the town. The first family of Riverdale is experiencing an unprecedented stress, on the past Fourth of July Cheryl’s twin brother, Jason (Trevor Stines) was murdered. The body took some time to surface from the lake delaying the trauma and suspicion. Making the plot considerably thicker heard a gunshot now of death. Although the erstwhile Archie wants to come forward except he was in an intimate, compromising position with the school’s music teacher, Geraldine Grundy (Sarah Habel). The casting of this character represents one of the most profound characters in the traditional depiction in the comic. The grey haired, pointy nose spinster transformed into a very attractive music teacher with a fondness for Archie. Music is central to this series providing a major story thread. Besides being a solid student and star athlete, Archie is also a very talented nascent singer/songwriter. His father, Fred (Luke Perry). He had hoped his son would join in in the family business, a construction firm.
Another way the script incorporates music is with the inclusion of ‘Josie and the Pussycats’. Josie (Ashleigh Murray), is an ambitious and driven young woman who is determined to conquer the music business. She explains a non-sequitur present throughout the comic, why she and her bandmates always wear those kitty ears even when not performing. Josie explains that she is building a brand, crucial to success in entertainment. Josie’s mother, Sierra McCoy (Robin Givens), is the town’s mayor. Adults play a more substantial role in the lives of the teens that regular seen in the comics or most other teen angst series. Jughead’s father, F.P. Jones (Skeet Ulrich), the leader of the local motorcycle criminal gang, Southside Serpents. They hang out in a dive bar on the outskirts of town, the antithesis of the family-friendly dinner to teens and their parents frequent, Pop's Chock'lit Shoppe, owned by Pop Tate (Alvin Sanders). After Miss Grundy breaks off all contact with Archie, including music mentoring, Archer turns to the bassist principle songwriter of the Pussycats, Valerie Brown (Hayley Law). The collaboration soon develops into a romance when Betty begins seeing Jughead as a boyfriend.
Typical of a real high school the relationships, romantic, friendships and others, are in a near-perpetual state of flux. Betty confesses her love to Archie, but he keeps her in the friend zone, to upset her parents and anger, Betty and Veronica, Cheryl attaches herself to Archie like a lamprey. One socially forward plot device started in the comic is carried over to the show. Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) is Betty’s gay friend who has a romantic relationship with the bi-curious jock, Cody Kearsley (Cody Kearsley). Kevin’s father is the town sheriff fully involved in the Jason Blossom murder. Old grievances are renewed as the parents interact with their high school peers. Fred Andrews is on the verge of losing his business until Hermione Lodge offers him a lucrative contract. When she pushes it to include a more intimate association, Betty’s mother Alice Cooper (Mädchen Amick) gets very upset. Alice is an overcontrolling helicopter mom, on the order of Blue Thunder. She demands perfection from Betty and is convinced the only way for her daughter to succeed is to obey every minute detail of Mom’s instruction to the letter. When Mom mandate a shade of lipstick for her daughter Betty’s rebellion is to wear a different shade. It seems picayune, but to Alice, it was an act of sedition.
The series is far more textured than I expected with twists and turns suitable to categorize the show as one of the better mysteries to recently appear on television. The talented cast provides nuanced performances that layer the numerous story threads into a synergistic tapestry that remains highly entertaining throughout.