Review (TV Show): Testing the Look and Sounds of Riverdale

Look out kids, this isn’t your grandparent’s Archie Comics!

***SPOILERS WARNING***

(Duh.)

That’s right, Precious Readers,

I had to get a disclaimer out before greeting you. This show is would shock the living daylights out of your (great/grand)parents. In no way shape or form am I “early” to the game. The Season 1 attempt has been out so long that I watched it on Netflix. I do not have cable. That’s how out of the loop I am.

Have I mentioned I’m on the latter half of life?

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, but I am a comic book/graphic novel fan. I am a legit comic book fan. I spent much of my youth in the 19-blah, blah, blah’s (we don’t need to go into specifics) lost and absorbed into those ink soaked pages filled with 2-D hand drawn tales of drama, adventure, daring rescues, laughter, sorrow, and the battle between the (sometimes non-)human condition versus impossible odds. The courage scrambled together in the face of death. The highs and lows of the life and trials of (sometimes super) people living their lives with the incredulous dichotomy of circumstances.

Did I throw enough fancy words at you to prove how “too legit to quit” I am?

I haven’t read everything. I am in no way an expert in any genre or 1+ series. There are 8 year olds far better versed in the comic world than I am. Although, nowadays the focus seems to be on Manga, not as much American-based work. I mostly was stuck on the American giant comic worlds Marvel and DC. My main loves covered the following worlds:

  • Batman (DC)
    • Love Batman, Joker, Catwoman, Riddler, and Two Face!
  • X-Men
    • I’m all about Storm. Love, Love, Love Aurora. GO STORM!
  • Spiderman
    • Most of the films and reboots (kicking of the dead horse that is the Spiderman origin films) have damn near killed me, although Spiderman Homecoming wasn’t completely terrible.
  • Watchmen (later in life, not safe for kids!)
  • Wanted (later in life, not safe for kids!)
  • In the future – looking to start reading the original The Walking Dead series graphic novel series because I love the TV show so much. So much. Plus, I hate not reading the source material before seeing something on the screen. (Coooooral!)

Most of all, I was a big fan of one of the original American comics: Archie Comics. The star comic of this post. It may not be a big surprise, but my favorite stories were the Betty and Veronica characters and Jughead.

Betty and Veronica are as night and day as their hair color. Why would I appreciate their characters? Betty Cooper was the all-American girl next door who could do it all and still be herself. She had a demure confidence from natural skill, working hard, and believed that she could accomplish anything if she set her mind to it. Why appreciate the spoiled rotten Veronica Lodge? Veronica, although had her faults, was often making the wrong decisions but would have to deal with the consequences. Her confidence came from herself, knowing her value, and wouldn’t have the time of day for any boy who didn’t appreciate her. She liked the finer things, but many of the original comic humor for her character stemmed from her attempting to be more like Betty and relate to her friends. Her often misguided attempts at achieving this endeared her to me, as she often failed but continued to try. And really, what teenage girl wouldn’t want an unlimited credit card and a closet full of her favorite clothing, whatever that style may be?

Then, there’s Jughead. No, I wasn’t a fan of him because they made him adorable on Riverdale. I was a Jughead fan years and years (and years) ago. I appreciated the writers making him a bit obtuse and subversive from the rest of the series. He often broke the fourth wall, having a strange spatial awareness that he was a drawn character for the entertainment of others while the rest of the Archie characters believed they lived in their own world. Jughead directly connected with the audience, had an aloof manner that gave him an easygoing personality that I envied, and could eat more cheeseburgers to put Shaggy from Scooby Doo to shame. In actuality, I firmly have a theory that Shaggy was the stoner’s version of Jughead to make Shaggy more in line with the trippy time of Scooby Doo’s release to the world.

Jughead also managed to transcend space and time, often with Dr. Strange-like movements from one frame to the next. Who wouldn’t want that ability? He was often the voice of reason from the everyday drama of high school life, and seemed to have outgrown Riverdale years before ever graduating from Riverdale High. Perhaps space and time travel, page leaping, and fourth-wall breaking ability makes one mature quicker as the character realizes how much a part of a literal larger picture he is, causing him to take life in a bit more stride than his friends. Plus, I really, really loved that crown paper hat that he wore ironically.

You’ll notice that i didn’t write anything about the titular character, Archie Andrews. You know, despite being the headliner for this vast world of high schoolers, I was often bored with Archie. He was a kid who was nice, sure. And, of course, the love triangle between will he, or won’t he between Betty and Veronica, never quite being able to choose… well, that bugged me even as a kid. As a girl who has no time for not being wanted “enough” for someone to decide if they wanted to be with me or not, I had no head space for a character who was a total fuckboy. That was the one aspect of Betty and Veronica’s characters I could never get over. Why the hell would these smart, confident, young women even bother with a guy who “wasn’t quite sure” if he wanted to be with them. It was always clear that “Betty” stood for “Backup,” while Veronica was more of a symbol of the life Archie wanted for himself. He never really appreciated either of them.

For those reasons, I have no patience, nor empathy for a fuckboy like that.

Now that I’ve probably lessened my endearment to my fellow readers, again, let’s move on to the actual Riverdale show now, shall we?

Conversion of Pages to Television and Style

How did the writers, set designers, and directors do with creating Riverdale? I think they did a great job bringing Archie into the modern world. They still have iconic locations, of course the home base, Riverdale High, Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe, Betty Cooper’s house. One set that was new to Archie fans was the lack of the “big” mansion for Veronica and her family. The show begins in the immediate aftermath of Veronica’s father, Hiram, being incarcerated for shady, dastardly business deals. Veronica and her (visible) mother, Hermione have to move to the “tiny” mansion back in Riverdale. (Yes, kids, there was a Hermione known to Americans loooong before the British, bookish Hermione.) Hermione Lodge was typically a non-visible character, as most of Veronica’s home life in the comics was the push/pull spoiled/unspoiled relationship between her and her father.

The original Archie comics were set decades before, but were fitting for the time they were drawn. The style, the haircuts, the slang, all timely at publication. Although part of me was sad they didn’t keep the comics in the 1950’s, (I would’ve loved to see some vintage cars and architecture), I feel they successfully brought the characters into the 21st century. I am happy to report they kept Pop’s Choklit Shoppe as a time warp in more of a throwback diner.

The gang now has cell phones, YouTube, and cyberbullying. It truly is a modern take on the show.

Casting/Acting

Here’s where it gets interesting. I have to say, I have zero problems with any of the casting of this show. That is rare. There’s typically someone who overacts, or doesn’t fit the character at all (Emilie de Ravin as Belle on OUAT – I’m looking at you), or is waaay to old to play a teenager. Although there is a slight issue with some of the ages of the actors, I’m pretty excited about the hiring of relatively unknown actors for this show. I also appreciate that the show has embraced racial diversity. Most of the key characters are all white, but the hiring of Camila Mendes playing an updated and Latina version of Veronica, the character reformatted as a “reformed” queen bee with a tarnished crown, is a breath of fresh air. I did note that for Hollywood “whitewashing” entertainment that the hiring of Mendes was still strategic, as she is white-enough looking to pass for Caucasian. Way to play it safe, Hollywood. Characters who are more easily spotted as non-white are predominantly in secondary roles, or in the case of Reggie, played by Ross Butler, is the school bully. He’s not a nerd and he speaks English well. Although it’s nice to see an Asian as a handsome jock, he’s also the school’s biggest asshole. Not sure how to handle that one.

Archie Andrews, played by Australia’s KJ Apa, is a far more fully fleshed out character than in the comics. It’s nice to see him have frustrations, sorrow, and general human emotions overall. In the comics, I felt that Archie was often a “tra la” guy, floating through life and not appreciate the fine group of friends and adoration of amazing women at his side. This Archie, while still figuring out what he wants from life, actually seems to care about the people around him, including Betty and Veronica… more on that later.

The 3 big surprise castings to me are the following:

Hermione Lodge, played by Marisol Nichols. For those who are older than 20, most will remember her as “Audrey Griswold” from Vegas Vacation, the fourth installment of the Chevy Chase comedy dynasty.

Jughead’s dad is introduced as “Forsythe ‘F.P.’ Jones II,” (is it for-sith or for-sigh-th?) played by a longtime cinematic crush of mine, the brooding, dark, and oh-so-cuddle-able, Skeet Ulrich. Jericho, anyone? I love that freaking show, and it was canceled far too early. LET’S BRING IT BACK! JERICHO! JERICHO!

Another surprising addition to the cast is ’90’s 90210 heartthrob, Luke Perry. Those puppy dog eyes, that low, gentle voice. He’s the smooth to Archie’s freak out nature. I have to say, watching Luke Perry act again is relaxing and enjoyable. Like snuggling into a soft, familiar blanket, and enjoying a few minutes of entertainment and not having to think much. Even better, he’s all grown up and a dad now. Could he be more adorable?

Archie loves Veronica/Betty/Veronica/Betty/Veronica/Betty… wait. Archie loves… Miss Grundy?

Are they dramatic enough for you yet?

I promised we’d get here, and we did. Have I ever let you down? (Don’t answer that.) I have to hand it to the writers. In Episode 1, they fully address the love triangle and make Betty have respect for herself. She fully calls out Archie asking if he ever loved her. Although the Archie/Betty/Veronica triangle is never completely gone, at least Betty does her best to move on, and happily does. (Again, more on that later.)

The twist… Bring on Miss Grundy! Apparently, having an older woman on the show with actual grey or white hair who is single and open about wanting to date is still a “no no” in Hollywood. Instead, the writers took an iconic, and sometimes hilariously dry, character of Miss Grundy and sexified her up in a child-molesting model vamped up way.

Image result for miss grundy riverdale

I mean… seriously?

I’ve made it no secret that I work at a school. The even slightest hint at a teacher fraternizing with one of their students, especially an underage minor, is unethical, amoral, and completely illegal. YES. ILLEGAL.

The writers’ excuse?

“Archie got abs.”

Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?

This was an attempted plot point that was completely unnecessary and used only to add drama. It did nothing to the plot, and I can’t tell you how happy I was to see her go. Buh-bye!

I don’t care who you are. THIS IS NOT OKAY. I don’t care if you say “it’s a gray area. They’re in love.” I say again, THIS IS NOT OKAY.

Done.

No excuses.

Let’s just move on.

Bughead? Bughead!

Is this going to work?

Yes. Yes, I think it will.

Now we’re at some fun. Can I just say how much I love, love, love, “Bughead?” The writer’s gave Betty a break and paired her up with Jughead. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Fans of the original comics will remember that though Jughead was an aloof, sometimes asexual character, he and Betty always had a special connection. He had even mentioned [paraphrasing here] that if he was to ever kiss a girl, he’d want it to be someone like Betty.

Awww.

The writers finally gave the readers and longtime fans some closure by granting us Bughead.

#Love #Bughead

Thank you, writers. Thank you. The onscreen chemistry between Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse, Betty and Jughead, respectively, is deep, emotional, and guts you with every word they type together for the school paper. Apparently the on-screen chemistry was too hot to handle as Reinhart and Sprouse are now an item off-screen as well.

Let’s hope that if they break up they can still work together. I’m really calling Riverdale by its rightful name, Bughead now.

 

What do you think of the show?
Has it crossed too many lines?
Are you eating up the drama with a spoon?
Loving Cole Sprouse’s emo-tastic darkened locks?
Do you want Jughead’s knitted cap and Betty’s Jughead crown sweater as much as I do? (Believe me, I’m working on getting those for my own wardrobe.)
Are you wicked jealous of Betty and Veronica’s BFF relationship and even more green-eyed jealous of their wardrobe?
Have you seen too much/too little of Archie’s abs?

Comment below!