Reviews: Riverdale

Why Riverdale was a big let-down...

(sigh...)

I feel bad for Riverdale as a whole, and even though I'm not really a fan of the Archie Comics, I was looking forward to this series until shakeups ruined everything.

It all goes back to October 2014, when J. J. Abrams, reportedly a die-hard fan of the Archie Comics, pitched a stealth adaptation of the comic books to Fox, but it ended up going nowhere until July 2015, when it moved to ABC.

Feeling that network TV wasn't making teen dramas anymore, Abrams pitched it as being set five years after Archie and his friends have graduated high school, but ABC wanted it to be more faithful to the source material, as then-president Paul Lee confessed that the Alphabet network "hadn't tried their hand at teen dramas before." The original title, "Homecoming", also had to be changed due to the new Spider-Man film having a title with that name.

Then, Lee resigned, with Channing Dungey taking over as the network's new president, and she decided that Riverdale was not the right fit for ABC. And even though it could have been a better fit for ABC's sister cable channel Freeform, the Alphabet punted it to The CW instead, and J. J. Abrams pulled out for economic reasons. That's right, Abrams just ruined his own life-long dream of making an Archie Comics TV show.

Not only that, but one of the actors in the pilot, namely Victoria Justice, who played Veronica Lodge, was forced to leave the project due to her NBC drama Chicago Med getting picked up for a second season. I was hoping that either Sam Raimi or Kevin Williamson would take over as executive producer of the show, but, in the end...

...it was Greg Berlanti, creator of the Arrowverse, who was named the new EP of Riverdale, which was really shocking to me. When I finally saw the premiere last January, it was just plain atrocious. Poor acting, lame subplots, and even horrid casting, especially with Josie and the Pussycats, who in the show are all black, this was not the kind of Archie drama I had looked forward to. And with Sabrina likely appearing in season two, I fear this series will fall into the Sci Fi Ghetto.

I give the show 1 1/2 stars out of five.

The First Episode is My Last Episode

Iíve never read an Archie comic and have only the most superficial understanding of them. So youíll have to forgive my presumption that Archie is some boyís puerile harem wank fantasy. In my defence, that is precisely what the new Netflix adaptation Riverdale feels like. Our first episode introduces us to Archie, a handsome, great at everything, sensitive and compassionate guy who has at least three gorgeous women going after him before the show has even got going.

I have some difficulty watching these sorts of high school shows, in that I have no idea whether Iím allowed to be sexually attracted to the characters. On one hand, they are invariably played by twenty something swimsuit models and filmed in the most gratuitous fanservicey, gazey way possible. On the other hand, they are meant to be depicting 15 year olds, and I donít feel comfortable that these people are half my age.

The show isnít uncomfortable about this conflict at all. Archie is already dating his music teacher, and the show finds it so terribly romantic that not once are the words ďstatutory rapeĒ ever uttered. Outside of awkwardly romanticised paedophilia, Rivervale hasnít anything new to show us. Every character is a lazy 90s clichť, including the megabitch lead cheerleader, the overbearing father who wants the son in his family business, the sassy black girls who brush off the honkys, and the flamboyantly gay best friend. It doesnít help that the show even tries to hang a lampshade on it, with the bitch and the gay pointing out how clichťd the other is. Congratulations show! Thanks for letting us know you do lazy stereotypes on purpose. If there is an intention to subvert these archetypes later, they certainly aren't giving any clue of that in the first episode.

On top of the generic highschool drama, there is also a surprisingly uninvolved missing person plot thread. We donít know anything about the missing boy as a character, but his sister is the megabitch cheerleader so we donít care. I donít think Iíll stay to see the mystery resolved. I donít know how good a reflection of the comics Riverdale is, but fans and newcomers alike will probably be disappointed by this bland, unoriginal and poorly conceived show.

Looking forward to the ride.

Look. I can already tell that this is not going to be the greatest show ever. It's not the most original or most inspired, and it's probably not gonna win any Emmys. I have definite issues with a few aspects of the plot (*cough* Miss Grundy *cough* queerbaiting *cough* stereotyping *cough* *cough* *cough*).

But I still have the whole season set up to record.

Part of it is that I did grow up reading these comics. I know these characters like the back of my hand, and it's fun to see them in a dramatic/trying-too-hard-to-be-dramatic environment. Plus, who doesn't like a murder mystery? The cast is also excellent. I have some issues with the script, but the actors themselves are doing great, at least so far. And I also really appreciate casting POC as traditionally white characters. Yay, diversity!

Overall, going solely off the pilot, this isn't a show for when you want to think too hard. This is a show for when you want some indulgent entertainment with some pretty visuals and pretty people to look at while you're at it. I doubt this show will blow my mind, but I think I'll enjoy what it has to offer.
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