“Riverdale” looks good on the surface, but in practice is everything that is wrong with teen TV. The CW has tainted a classic set of characters with lazy dialogue, a plot that extends beyond the suspension of belief and a shameless “sex sells” approach that does not fit the Archie universe.
The show is based on the “Archie” comic book series, which revolves around the life of the “All-American” guy Archie Andrews and his teenage life balancing dating Betty and Veronica, playing sports, going to class, and hanging with his underachieving friend Jughead. It always had a very campy, wholesome feel in a similar vein to “The Brady Bunch” or “The Waltons.” It is typically a very family-friendly series.
“Riverdale” attempts to make a darker, more mature look at small town life. It isn’t the overly-cheesy wholesome town that is depicted in the comics. “Riverdale” is ripe with scandal. Mysterious deaths, inappropriate teacher-student relationships and psycho cheerleaders infect the town. Everybody appears to have a secret. On the surface, this sounds like an intriguing plot. In execution, it fails miserably due to lazy writing.
The pilot episode is filled with cheap thrills and tropes that have been seen in just about every single teen drama of the past decade. In fact, if one had never heard of “Archie” before, one could assume this show was a sequel to “One Tree Hill.” That’s the problem.
What made Archie great was the fact that the universe is overtly cheesy and wholesome. There is a certain campy charm that came with it. That is not to say that one can’t make a more mature, darker show set in the Archie universe, but merely to say that it is a shame that one was made with characters and plot points indistinguishable from just about every other teen drama. It is generic. “Riverdale” deserves better.
Once again, it isn’t impossible to take something campy, and turn it into something mature. “Riverdale” had a chance to tackle real teen issues, and perhaps put the characters into situations that wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate for the comic. Unfortunately, the writers decided to turn it into “fake lesbian” kisses at cheerleading tryouts, and “hot for teacher” affairs that are seen in many soap operas.
However, one positive about “Riverdale” is that the production value is quite high. Where the writing fails, the set design succeeds. All characters casted look like the characters in the comics. The lighting creates a dark, eerie mood that the show attempts to create. It’s just a shame that the writing is so bad that it outweighs any aesthetically pleasing feature of the show. It’s nice to look at. The characters are good-looking, if not too good-looking. One could argue that it makes sense, because it shows the facade of the “perfect small town,” but at the same time, the lack of any average looking people in the cast makes the show less believable.
The acting of the main characters is actually not that bad. They do the best they can given the dreadful script. The cast appears to have pretty decent chemistry, and it gives hope that if the writing of the show can improve, then perhaps “Riverdale” can eventually become a pretty good show.
In conclusion, “Riverdale” is an aesthetically pleasing, well-casted show that is bogged down by terrible writing, and insulting plot points. Everything about the show screams “wasted potential.” “Riverdale” looks good, but has no soul. It’s an insult to fans of the “Archie” universe, as well as those in pursuit of quality television.
Final Verdict: 4/10
Riverdale airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW network.