author: lena scriver | contributor
My biggest question is, “Why in the bloody hell do I keep coming back to this garbage fire of a TV show?”
At the end of this past January, CW’s Riverdale turned one year old. Riverdale is a television adaptation of the classic Archie comics, but with much darker and “sexier” plot lines. The show is currently at the second half of its second season, and there is a spin-off being developed in the near future for the vaguely related Sabrina the Teenage Witch. As you might have guessed, or simply seen online, Riverdale is incredibly popular. Literally hundreds of thousands of people tune in to this show each week. I have thoughts about this, and I’ve come up with a few questions. My biggest question is, “Why in the bloody hell do I keep coming back to this garbage fire of a TV show?”
Let me just clarify: I have been tuning in to Riverdale every single week since the show debuted last January. I am still watching it, too; I finished the latest episode not more than an hour ago before sitting down to write this article, and I’m already excited for the next episode. Related to this, I occasionally reblog Riverdale stuff on my Tumblr. I may or may not read Riverdale fan fiction, too (but you can’t prove anything). Yet, despite all this, I still think Riverdale is trash. There has been so much wrong with it since the beginning, and I feel like this show is going to be on the CW for so long, it will overstay its welcome and be the next Supernatural. This doesn’t stop me from watching though. Why not?
I think Riverdale has stumbled upon the ideal formula for an edgy, modern teen drama, one that allows it to overcome its glaring issues and be borderline addictive. This is mostly thanks to the characters. There’s Archie, of course. He’s the boy-next-door-type main character with a heart of gold, and he plays a bunch of high school sports while also developing his musical talent. Honestly, he’s kind of bland, and he makes really stupid decisions, but he appeals to the fanbase that likes a hunk of man meat. For those who don’t quite like the high school jock type, there’s Jughead, the dark loner kid with a knack for writing (if you like pretentious baloney). He’s in the local gang and has…daddy issues. I find him insufferable, but the Internet sure doesn’t: they love their brooding Cole Sprouse.
As for the ladies of Riverdale, there’s a complementary girl-next-door for Archie. Her name is Betty, and her character is incredibly polarizing. On one hand, she’s headstrong and takes no crap; on the other hand, she has some serious mental health issues that the show needs to properly address instead of glamourize. Still, the fan base loves Betty because she is a) the catalyst for much of the show’s action and b) Jughead’s on-again, off-again girlfriend. I am of the opinion that were it not for reason b, the majority of the fandom would hate her. Betty’s best friend (apparently, although they haven’t passed the Bechdel test in, like, ages), and the other primary character of Riverdale is Veronica. She’s the only non-white character (a Latina woman) of any critical importance to the plot, as well as the only character who I can confidently say thinks about the needs and wants of other people, despite coming from a family that’s pretty much the Latinx mafia. Veronica appeals to the Riverdale fans that like the sexy, smart, rich-girl stereotype.
So, take Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, all of their dysfunctional parents (and I mean, like, please-get-divorced-and-love-yourself-instead dysfunctional), a mean girl, a Token Gay, an all-black all-girl band who deserves so much better, and a bunch of one-dimensional side characters, and throw them into a small city. So far, you almost have Riverdale. Lastly, add a special ingredient: edginess! So much edge! The CW went for the darker side of teen drama in creating Riverdale. And, honestly, that’s all they’ve gone on…no, that’s all they’ve needed so far. It’s like the writers have a big hat, in which they throw paper slips saying things like “DATE RAPE,” “ADULTERY,” and “SERIAL KILLER,” and for every episode they just pick from the hat and go from there. The ultimate effect is that Riverdale has terrible, terrible writing, but even if you are fully aware of this, you still want to see what happens.
All of Riverdale is available on Netflix if you want to check it out. Do I recommend this show? Abso-frigging-lutely not to anyone who values a solid script and a spark of originality. But if that’s not you, I think you’ll be entertained. Just don’t blame me if you find yourself binge-watching Riverdale during the February winter break.