The preview for Riverdale landed this week. Riverdale is the new show from the CW and is a murder mystery set in a tranquil American town. It is a dark show which focuses on a group of teenage characters, most of whom have secrets. It is going to premiere in January 2017.
It is interesting for a number of reasons.
This is the newest project from Greg Berlanti, who is a notable producer and writer. Berlanti is very talented and has done lots of great work in his career. He made the series Everwood, which was very well-written and high quality for what was essentially a teen melodrama. Recently he has made the DC comic shows which are very good and have achieved a synergy, airing on the CW every Monday to Thursday. Riverdale has been adapted for TV and is produced by Berlanti and Roberto Aguirre Sacasa.
The show is based on a comic which is very well known and enduring. The Archie comics have been around for a long time – almost 75 years – and there are many permutations of the strip and its characters.
The series features a teenage boy called Archie, who is an average kind of boy, and his friend Jughead, who is a bit of a character. Archie is friends with two girls who are love interests to him, Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge… Yeah, even a neophyte to Archie has probably heard of Betty and Veronica.
Next year is going to have a new version of the franchise as Archie moves into the medium of TV. Now named Riverdale, the show is about a bunch of teens in a town where something sinister has happened. A teenager named Jason has been killed and the murderer is unknown. Archie and his friends get involved in the mystery and find that their town is full of intrigue. Jason has a sister Cheryl who is also one of the main characters.
The thing which is striking is that some huge changes have been made from the comic. For a start, Archie is having an affair with his music teacher. The show feels more like a modern teen drama, featuring evil popular kids and teen cliques. This is also an introduction to the franchise so it is about establishing the world and its characters. The first episode introduces Veronica as the new girl in town and the characters don’t know her yet.
This new series has re-imagined Archie as a murder mystery with a dark tone to it. It is reminiscent of Twin Peaks and seems to have been modeled after that classic work. It even has an actress from that show in it – Madchen Amick, who plays Shelley on Twin Peaks, has been cast as the parent of Betty Cooper. Twin Peaks is fantastic so a teen version might be good also, who knows?
In doing this, though, the show is changing a lot about the comic and altering its tone substantially. The original comic is quite light and easy going. It is not like David Lynch, at any rate. The fans of the comic might see these changes as heresy.
The truth though is the franchise is very elastic and flexible. The comic has changed many times over the years – and has been quite risqué at times. It evolved over the 20th century and gradually inserted modern elements into its world. The comic’s tone became more adult. There was even a sort of supernatural version where the characters deal with zombies and the apocalypse.
Riverdale looks like a good show and with the talent working on it it should be good. The producers worked hard to cast it and find actors who are able to bring these archetypes to the screen.
The CW has a fine tradition of teen shows and specialize in this sort of content. The perception of the network is that they show a lot of melodramas and youth-oriented programming. The new rendering of Riverdale might be a good fit for them. They haven’t launched a teen show in a while and were probably looking for something vaguely like this.
The first season is airing early in the new year, with the premiere on January 26.
Image – Betty and Veronica. Author – J. Kramer at Flickr.