Ah Archie Andrews. The quintessential all-American boy of yesteryear.
Good-looking, kind-hearted, charming, lovable, loyal, polite, athletic, smart, in touch with his emotional side and perhaps just a tiny bit mischievous … all traits that make a teenage boy the perfect specimen.
But it is 2017 and a teenage boy like the “original” Archie Andrews of the Archie comic book series will never survive – or exist – in today’s real world. Even as a fictional character original Archie would have been the one to kill off first, if not by the test audience or producers, then definitely by the critics.
Which is why the re-imagined, re-plotted and cleverly-modified version of TV’s Riverdale is such an intriguing watch, even to a hardcore loyal Archie comic book fan.
Currently screened on Netflix in Malaysia, Riverdale is a teen murder mystery series set in the seemingly sleepy town of er, Riverdale. Almost all the characters from the comic book are in the show, although each one isn’t exactly like how they are portrayed in the books. For example, Geraldine Grundy (Sarah Habel) is a young, super sexy woman who teaches music, while Waldo Weatherbee (Peter Bryant), is an average-built black man.
Narrated by Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), Riverdale begins with the death of Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines), twin brother of Riverdale High’s Queen Bee, Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch). Actually, in the first episode, Jason was only thought to have “died” in the river from drowning. Later, he was found washed ashore by Kevin Keller (Casey Cott) and Moose Mason (Cody Kearsley), who were in the woods for a … romp.
At the same time, Hermione Lodge (Marisol Nichols) and her daughter Veronica (Camila Mendes) are forced to leave their glitzy lifestyle in upscale New York after Hiram Lodge gets imprisoned for money laundering. The mother-daughter duo return to their old mansion in Riverdale, where Hermione has no choice but to get a job at the kitschy retro diner Pop’s to survive.
It is interesting to note, though, that even with “no money”, the Lodge ladies still have Smithers (Tom McBeath) the butler in their employ.
As a new episode debuts each week – Ep.5 is out on Feb 24 – more people become suspects in Jason’s murder, even Cheryl herself. Archie (KJ Apa) has an important detail to share about that fateful day, but coming clean to Sheriff Keller (Martin Cummins) would mean having to expose his sordid, forbidden affair with Grundy.
Yes, spoiler alert: Miss Grundy the teacher has sex with Archie the teenager in this show.
To shake things up even more, every episode also deals with issues and drama involving the teenagers and their parents that may or may not have anything to do with the murder. So far, there’s been a slut-shaming incident, scenes of cyber-bullying, the gentrification of Riverdale, a gun-toting wannabe-survivalist-cum-nerd and the introduction of the town’s “bad guys”, one of whom is related to Jughead.
Oh, in this show, Jughead and Archie are no longer best pals. Instead, it is Archie and Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) who are best friends, while Veronica is not even on the redhead’s romantic radar.
Perhaps bedding an older woman has something to do with that.
What I really love about this series is that it is nothing like the comic book. I still occasionally buy the books for the heck of it but the stories and characters – even with the addition of new characters like Kevin Keller, a gay teen – are too outdated for TV. And when a TV show is outdated, it becomes less relevant and less engaging.
Riverdale keeps viewers intrigued because the characters and subplots are a lot more relatable, even if they do tend to be a little cliched. Take, for instance, the female teacher having sex with a male student angle. Although a nightmare in real life, it is also a common problem as “proven” by the shocking posts on our social media feeds every other day.
So, while the idea of Archie and Miss Grundy sleeping together is (for lack of a better word) gross, an unfortunate affair like that does happen in the real world. Also, disconnecting the TV characters from the comic book somehow made the situation easier to digest.
Well, maybe not THAT easy but you do forget about it after the initial shock.
The other thing I like about the show is the featured music. Josie And The Pussycats is the town’s best band, made up of the mayor’s daughter Josie (Ashleigh Murray) who is a bit of a b**** at first, Valerie (Hayley Law) and Melody (Asha Bromfield). The trio did an awesome updated take on Sugar, Sugar, the theme track to The Archie Show cartoon from the 1960s. The song was “originally” performed by The Archies band, but that’s probably never going to happen in Riverdale (thankfully).
By the way, Robin Givens plays the town’s mayor, while Luke Perry – once upon a time famous for playing TV’s hottest teen bad boy Dylan McKay – is now Fred Andrews, Archie’s balding, divorced dad. Look out for a grim-faced, puffy Skeet Ulrich, too, a handsome actor who everyone thought was going to be a big deal 15 years ago.
A new episode of Riverdale is released every Friday on Netflix.