Welcome to Riverdale, via Twin Peaks, PLL, Gossip Girl, BH90210 (you can add the rest no doubt)
Last weekend saw the very first episode of the new Netflix/CW series Riverdale hit our screens. Based on the characters in Archie Comics, it’s very much a reinvention of the all-American all-ages comic, but then again, over the past couple of years, Archie Comics themselves have been undergoing something of a modern reinvention, taking the comics in some very different, rather surprising directions. The good news is that the show’s written by Archie Comics Chief Creative Officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, which means there’s a real continuity here between comic page and screen.
First things first, am I meant to like Riverdale? Surely I can’t be the target audience. But I figured it was certainly worth watching, just out of a comics related interest if nothing else. And although it’s a really flawed thing, wearing so many influences on its sleeve, sometimes to the point of near plagarism at times, I was rather impressed. Impressed enough to tell you about it anyway. I’ve watched episode 1 a couple of times now and yes, it’s a fine piece of modern TV, albeit made up of god only knows how many other series.
Just to give you an idea, the first thing I thought of during the opening ten minutes was that the whole thing was trying really hard to be something melding Beverly Hills 90210 and Twin Peaks. But that’s showing my age. Number 1 daughter Molly watched the show’s trailer last week and immediately came back to me with… “First 20 seconds literally looks like it’s been lifted from the Pretty Little Liars pilot!”
And here’s the trailer in question…..
And yep, she’s right. And so am I. And so are you with whatever show you recognise in Riverdale. There’s Twin Peaks, Beverly Hills 90210, Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, Clueless, Buffy, in fact just name any TV show with a teen cast from the last 30 years and there’s very probably something you could reference here.
But even with that, what’s actually on screen works. I was into the storyline straight away, with the (always very beautiful and predominantly white) cast of teens returning to Riverdale High after an eventful summer of illicit love affairs, broken friendships and a mysterious death looming over it all. Yep, the whole Laura Palmer thing from Twin Peaks doesn’t happen in the opening scenes as it did in Twin Peaks, but you sure know it’s coming.
The cast all do really well with the script, and they’re all recognisable for anyone who’s followed the Archie Comics. There’s good ol’ American boy Archie Andrews, his long-time best friend / maybe girlfriend Betty, newcomer Veronica, Jughead busy writing a novel in the late night diner about the events of the summer, Betty’s gay best friend Kevin. They’re all here, different from the comics sure, but still recognisable. There’s even a very switched on Destiny’s Child style Josie and the Pussycats here as well.
It’s going to be interesting with future episodes whether they can keep things going and maintain the momentum in this packed first episode, but it’s a good sign that this old man has enough interest in the show to be looking forward to episode 2.
You can see Riverdale on Netflix right now. Episode 2 airs on Thursday February 2nd. The first season is due to run to 12 episodes.