I never watched a ton of television growing up. My parents really limited my screen time during adolescence (this included my computer/video games experience, which might explain some of my choices in last week’s mock draft), but that being said I still saw plenty of “Rugrats”, “Spongebob Squarepants”, “Doug”, “Hey Arnold”, etc…to have qualified as a child of the 90s. Once in college and able to experience the joys of a DVR for the first time, I consumed ample TV because I could (I watched every episode of “Outsourced” and “Terra Nova” for crying out loud).
Then came Netflix, and everything changed. TV shows were not on TV, they were no longer consumed a week at a time and there were so many good ones you could not possibly watch them all (though some try). The last show I watched live (at least most of the time) on a week-in week-out basis was “Mad Men”. Since then, I’ve watched a handful of Netflix shows and still halfheartedly DVR “New Girl” every week, but have not felt the pull of a show that has had me counting down the days until the next episode airs. That is until now.
First, a little backstory. My cousin Jeff was the older brother I never had. He had a blue Civic, I wanted one for my first car. He ate Sour Patch Kids, they became my favorite candy. Most importantly to this tale, he read Archie Comics, which meant I needed one whenever I went to Publix with mom. I passed my love of ‘Archies’ down to my brother (whose love is probably better described as obsession), but have not thought much about them for a while outside of the one I get in my stocking each year.
My annual Christmas ‘Double Digest’ featured an ad for a new show called “Riverdale” on the back. Out of curiosity, I Googled it to find out if this was in fact, the same Riverdale featured in the comics. I found out that it was, but basically by name only. Archie fans within the family saw the promos and offered a variety of opinions, mostly panning the concept of a murder-mystery on The CW. I decided to give it a try, and convinced my skeptical brother to watch the pilot with me. I’m glad I did.
Is it traditional, no. Is it cheesy at times? Of course, it’s on The CW. Is it also well-acted, well-written and riveting? A definitive yes.
Nine episodes into season one as of this writing, even with a brief hiatus due to the NCAA Tournament (at least, in my mind that is why they did not air a new episode for two weeks in March), I anticipated the storylines stalling, or the unproven acting to falter. None of that has happened, as the murder backstory continues to tangle, yet not suffocate the underlying teenage Archie, happy-go-lucky tone. There are high school relationships and everyone appears to be a standout at something, a pull from the comic universe. But there are a lot of real world situations that the characters have to navigate that do not seemed forced or scripted and the dialogue is surprisingly snappy and topical.
The cast is overwhelmingly attractive, even for television standards, and the small town narrative is forced at times, but I feel more invested in the characters and what they are experiencing than I have been with a show in a long time. Despite my long history with the Archie Comics characters, my appreciation for the show has gone well beyond just childhood whimsy at this point. “Riverdale” is one of the top must-watch shows on television right now. And it has roped me right back in to network television where I am at the mercy of the day and time of the week again, a real rarity in the post-Netflix America. Is it Thursday night yet?
“Riverdale” airs on The CW Thursday nights at 9 p.m. and streaming on The CW app. Starring KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes and Cole Sprouse (yes, the “Suite Life” kid.