If you are not watching Riverdale on the CW (Thursdays, 9pm est/8pm cst), you are missing a modern television wonder. Riverdale revolves around Archie Comics ‘ Archie Andrews and his crew. It’s as if the Twin Peaks reboot started five months earlier than expected, only if Heathers-scribe Daniel Waters was at the helm. Except that it is not Waters behind this masterful work, it is longtime Archie Comics writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and producer Greg Berlanti.
First of all, how did we get here? Archie and his gang have had a spotty success record when it comes to television. The most thorough summation of that spottiness I can find, was compiled by Den Of Geek‘s Chris Cummings in Riverdale: Archie’s Strange Journey To TV, in which he lists over 25 previous television incarnations (and at least one radio version) of Archie. There have been a few successes — very few.
However Riverdale is by far the most successful Archie television adaptation to date. It somehow manages to respect the original content, while becoming its own fresh meta-meta-entity. That’s right. Meta-meta. It is not only self-reflexive, it is aware of its own self-reflexivity. Case in point, the titular reference at the top of this blog to that kiss between Betty And Veronica. When you see Betty And Veronica kiss here, watch how it’s immediately dismissed by Cheryl Blossom. Cheryl eye-rolls through the line, “Check your sell-by date, ladies. Faux-lesbian kissing hasn’t been taboo since 1994.” Well-put, Cheryl.
Gender issues are top-of-mind on Riverdale. In addition to the Betty and Veronica dynamic, Archie Comic’s first openly gay character, Kevin Keller, is presented matter-of-factly. The same holds true for Archie’s backseat trysts with music teacher Miss Grundy. We even see some slut-shaming tackled in the first four episodes. Plus, I love how the female characters (and there are many) are written with way more depth than the male characters.
Social issue discussions go beyond sex and gender in Riverdale, Josie (from Josie and the Pussycats) calls out Archie for his white-privilege. Future episodes promise to deal with mental disorders and disabilities.
The show does have its detractors, mainly comics purists — but I am here-and-now declaring them wrong. Archie Comics has embraced pop culture and current events on-and-off for the past 75 years (and started tackling social justice issues over a decade ago). These fault-finders need to take a backseat (with Archie and Miss Grundy) to the new generation of Archie fans — who have embraced Riverdale — and enjoy the ride.