Squawk Box: Riverdale

My dim and limited experience with Archie Comics had me thinking that they were mainly about wholesome teenaged hijinks that seemed somewhat out of place in the modern world today and Archie the lovable redhead who was torn between Betty (blonde) and Veronica (brunette) oh, and there was someone called Jughead involved.

Turns out, I could not have been more wrong. A quick perusal of the wiki-page for Archie comics reveals that there are mysteries and drama and weirdness and Josie and the Pussycats are somehow mixed up in all of this- so the somewhat jarring translation of Archie to the small screen actually has some basis in fact, even though Riverdale takes a bit of getting used too.

As school is starting after an eventful summer which included the death of Jason Blossom, high school quarterback, Archie Andrews has discovered his passion for music and (scandalously) his music teacher. He tells his next door neighbor Betty Cooper about the first part, (but not the second part) which turns out to be a remarkably tactful move on his part, since Betty has a major crush on him and as the series opens is working up the courage to tell him when rich girl Veronica shows up in town and catches Archie's eye.

Despite some early jealousy between Betty and Veronica that nearly derails their friendship, they are soon besties and that's when things get interesting: Jason Blossom's body, assumed lost, turns up in the river. And then the hunt for the murderer is on... soon enough Archie is wrestling with his forbidden love for his music teacher, torn between his newfound passion for music and football while all the while shadiness and secrets are being revealed all over the previously innocuous and relatively vanilla town of Riverdale.

The first episode (which we caught randomly in Colorado on vacation) intrigued me enough to give it a go and once you get past the first couple of episodes, the show really comes together and takes off. Once the mystery of who the hell killed Jason Blossom becomes the central question of the show, that's when things get enjoyable- coincidentally, that's also where Jughead sort of moves into a central role- as he's kind of on the sidelines for the first couple of episodes providing overly dramatic narration- and after that, it's just a fun, murdery, sex-drugs-lies romp- and what more can you ask for in a CW television show?

Fair warning, though- in the "Things That Will Make You Feel Old As Shit" category, first up: we've got Luke Perry as Archie's Dad. Yes, early to mid-90s children: Luke Perry has gone from teen hunk to teen parent and it's..  odd at first, but he's got wrinkles and gravitas and does good teenaged Dad. But, mild spoiler plot twist, who is Archie's estranged Mom? That's right- Molly Ringwald shows up in this! Plus, Skeet Ulrich is Jughead's Dad and he doesn't look like he's aged, like, at all. (Seriously: we don't see Veronica's Dad this season, but he's coming... soon and if he's not played by Judd Nelson, they've done something wrong. Very, very wrong.)

Overall: despite the somewhat jarring good looks and strange red hair of this particular version of Archie Andrews this turned into a lot of fun to watch. If you liked Veronica Mars, you'll love Riverdale. It's going to be interesting to see how they handle a full season of episodes instead of this shorter run of just 13 episodes- I think if they're smart, they'll have two sort of arcs over a season and maybe a larger season long mystery, but who knows! As long as they keep the fun murdery death hijinks coming, I'll be back for more! **** out of ****


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