Riverdale (The CW) pilot preview: THE teen soap of the late 2010s?

riverdale

Pilot “Chapter One: The River’s Edge” written and executive produced by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Looking, Glee, Big Love). Based on characters appearing in Archie Comics publications. Directed by Lee Toland Krieger (The Age of Adaline, Celeste & Jesse Forever). Also executive produced by Greg Berlanti (Blindspot, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Brothers & Sisters, Everwood, Dawson’s Creek), Jon Goldwater (Sabrina: secrets of a teenage witch) & Sarah Schechter (Blindspot, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow). For The CW, Warner Bros. Television & Berlanti Productions. 60 pages.

Description: Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends and enemies and parents, explore the surreality of small-town life – the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade. The whole town is shaken when the mysterious disappearance of a teenager turns into a murder case…

With KJ Apa as Archie, Lili Reinhart (Surviving Jack, The Kings of Summer) as Betty, Camila Mendes as Veronica, Cole Sprouse (The Suite Life of Zach & Cody) as Jughead Jones, Casey Cott as Kevin Keller, Madelaine Petsch as Cherry, Ashleigh Murray as Josy, Luke Perry (90210, Oz, Jeremiah) as Fred, Madchen Amick (Twin Peaks, Damages, Witches of East End) as Alice, Marisol Nichols (Teen Wolf, GCB, 24, Resurrection Blvd.) as Hermione, Sarah Habel (Rush, Underemployed) as Geraldine, Ross Butler as Reggie…

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The early 90s had Beverly Hills, 90210, the first teen soap, the late 90s had Dawson’s Creek, the early 2000s had One Tree HillThe OC, the late 2000s had Gossip Girl. The early 2010s had Pretty Little Liars & Glee. And what about the late 2010s? Where is THE teen soap for the new generation? If everything goes as planned, it will be Riverdale and if there is one project this pilot season that is a 100% sure thing, this is it. Because it’s a very popular, really powerful, beloved property (I know a lot of you were waiting for this preview in particular for a long time). Archie Comics exist since 1941. It never went out of style and a new version is published since 2015. 2016 is the 75th anniversary of the series! Because it’s produced by Greg Berlanti and he has an incredible track record at The CW. Because they did an extensive search to find the right incarnations for the characters. Because the promotion has already started with sexy pictures of KJ Apa playing Archie Andrews on the set flooding the internet. So now the whole process has been set into motion. Riverdale, 8pm on Mondays starting next fall?

The first thing that came to my mind while reading the pilot script was: gosh, it looks an awful lot like Dawson’s Creek. Apart from the fact that this is my reference, the teen soap of my teenage years, the love triangle at the center of the story -‘cos of course there is one- is exactly the same. The only difference is Dawson was not popular at all. Archie is. He’s a football player and an artist, he writes music. Sweet and smart Betty is in love with him for a longtime and he doesn’t want to see it even though it’s obvious for everyone else. Dawson & Joey all over again. Confident and silver-tongued Veronica, determined to become a good person, arrives in Riverdale from New York, like Jen, and shakes things up a little bit. But let’s be honest: Kevin Williamson, Dawson’s Creek‘s creator, probably read Archie comics and it inspired him the idea of the show, mixed with his own life story. And I’m discovering it almost 20 years later…

The other show that I thought of instantly is Desperate Housewives. Because of the atmosphere, the use of the voice-over (performed by the character of philosophically bent heartthrob Jughead Jones), this idea of a town where nothing is like what it seems on the surface, and the murder mystery that starts in the opening sequence and that will probably be used as the common thread of the season. The Blossom Twins, Jason and Cheryl, hated by the whole town because of their manipulative and pretentious attitude, had a boat accident on the 4th of July. Except it was not an accident. And weeks later, while Cherry is alive and well, Jason’s decomposed corpse is found on the edge of the river. There is a ton of possible culprits. And Archie knows some things. He was there when it all happened… The tone of the show is very similar to Marc Cherry’s. It’s fun, colorful, full of twists and turns, punchlines, bigger than life characters, but also dark and twisted stories, involving the teenagers but also their parents and teachers, who went to school together many years ago and share their own secrets and rancors.

Riverdale is said to be “subversive”, that’s how The CW presents it, and I don’t really agree with that. And they should not insist on it or people will get disappointed. The pilot is really efficient, exciting, promising, but subsersive? I mean… It would have been in the 90s and it certainly was when it came out in the 1940s! But in the 2010s? Okay, Archie fucks his teacher. Sorry but Pacey already did in Dawson’s Creek. Kevin Keller is a popular openly gay student. He meets boys/men on Grindr. It’s very modern, but not revolutionnary. Plus, at least in the pilot, he says he does but we don’t see him doing it. So that doesn’t really count for me. Sorry. Honestly, I don’t see what else can be billed as “subversive” in there. Riverdale is full of references (to Hunger Games, Beyoncé…) and can be irreverent sometimes but that’s all and it’s okay. Glee amateurs should be happy to know that there is music in the show, thanks to Archie, who sings, but also Josie and the Pussycats, the girls band of the school. You’ll also find the usual codes and clichés of teen soaps with the cheerleaders (Betty & Veronica are on the team), the giant bitch who’s the captain (Cheryl), the football team and their testosteroned locker room…

Riverdale is timeless. This modernized, energized, darkened and respectful version has everything it needs to become another success for The CW & Greg Berlanti, hoping it won’t just be critical. The absence of vampires, zombies or superheroes is a real breath of fresh air. Teen soaps are not dead after all, and coming back to the roots of the genre is the right way to go. Teens and millenials should be hooked. Welcome to Riverdale, bitches!

7 comments

  1. Joe says:

    Riverdale sounds like it’s going to be a great tv show and an absolute hit. They were great comics, but they did need to be heavily modernized in order to keep the attention of today’s television viewers. Even though there were a lot of changes I still think everybody will love Riverdale.

  2. fedupwithpointlessarchierevisions says:

    And it’s not just gratuitous, but out of character. Archie might sleep with a teacher, but blackmail is so not Archie. Jason doesn’t even like Cheryl very much in the comics and wouldn’t get obsessed with her even if they did screw around. Other characters have been racist but not Josie.

  3. fedupwithpointlessarchierevisions says:

    Ugh, Roberto Aguirre Sacasa is going to foist on the audience his weird Afterlife With Archie alternate universe retcon of Jason trying to have sex with Cheryl and her killing him as a result. That’s not respectful of traditional Archie comics where their relationship is nothing like that. Archie blackmailing his teacher after they have an affair and Betty having a sucky family who drive her to popping pills, Mr. Lodge in prison, Josie refusing to work with Archie because he’s white…none of these changes are respectful of Archie comics.

  4. Antonio95 says:

    This show is just right down my alley.About a month until the upfronts for the networks.Can’t wait to see some trailers!

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