For some fans, the Archie comics are little more than a passing memory from a childhood long forgotten, but, for others, the adventures of Archie Andrews, Jughead Jones, and the rest of the gang are as fresh in their minds as the latest trends in social media. Still, The CW’s live action adaptation of that comic book series is likely to introduce some new concepts, adult themes, and suspense never before experienced by the Archie comic’s fans. Named after the small town in which it takes place, Riverdale sets up a modernized, darker, and sexier story, spun around Archie and his inquisitive social clique.
Is Riverdale The Next Dawson’s Creek Or Beverly Hills 90210?
As Vulture remarks in assessing the premiere of Riverdale, which is set to air on The CW network tonight, the new series re-imagines the Archie comic book series. Taking the town, Riverdale, and the characters, headed by Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa) and including favorites Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), and Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch), the series plunges them all into an intertwining tale of mystery, murder, romance, and sex for a modern audience.
If this sounds familiar, it may be because Riverdale follows a formula that produced another great The CW hit, Dawson’s Creek, and a familiar that worked well for big teen drama hits on other networks, like Fox’s Beverly Hills 90210. This gives Riverdale an immediate leg up in becoming a new favorite for several generations of television viewers, but, sadly for devout Archie fans, it also means there will be little resembling the classic comic books.
Even at its core, Riverdale differs from Archie in the genre in which the new series is cast. While the Archie comics might best be described as a slice of life or a sardonic comedy, Riverdale sets a darker tone and plunges viewers instantly into a mystery that belies the sunny, bright community of Riverdale and reveals a darker, seedier underbelly to the quaint Anywhere, U.S.A. town.
What Early Critics Are Saying About Riverdale
Even as early as it is in its run, Riverdale seems to present a unique story with even the show’s setting in contradiction with itself, as the New York Times reports in amassing a collection of Riverdale reviews. Certainly elements of Riverdale are meant to be throwbacks to the ’50s and ’60s in which the original Archie comic strip took place, but critics reveal that the new The CW series is unmistakably set in the present day. Though describing it as a melding of Dawson’s Creek and Twin Peaks is meant to give us a better grasp on what to expect, that odd coupling only serves to further confound the setting.
While Riverdale does update the Archie archetypes for the 21st century, the basic themes of competition between the blonde, redhead, and brunette are still present, even amid the new murder mystery concept. As well, Riverdale draws the classic yellow and blue letter jackets from the Archie comics and the kids all still gather at Pop Tates after school.
While Riverdale showrunners have chosen wisely in casting K.J. Apa as Archie, one review reveals that Archie isn’t the lead in this story.
“Make no mistake: Archie may be hot now, but it’s Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge who run this show, literally and figuratively,” writes MTV‘s Crystal Bell.
As was the case with the aforementioned Dawson’s Creek and Beverly Hills 90210, the critics all agree that Riverdale‘s success depends on characterization, and judging by its premiere episode, Riverdale succeeds in this aspect of the live action reimagining. The strongest development surrounds the friendship of Betty and Veronica, and to a lesser degree, their relationships with Archie.
In short, Riverdale will apply to a melding pot of demographics, transcending age groups and genre-specific interests, drawing upon aspects of the murder mystery, teen soap drama, comic book aficionados, and hopeless romantics, to deliver a smart, edgy series. If Riverdale can develop a quality storyline and build upon the prime characters, it may outshine its source material.
Riverdale airs Thursdays on The CW.
[Featured Image by The CW]