6 Reasons Why 'Riverdale' Is the New Teen Drama We've Been Waiting For
By Meredith B. Kile
Photo: The CW
Of all the comic book adaptations that have flooded film and television in recent years, perhaps none are as ambitious as Riverdale. The CW’s attempt to transport the family-friendly cast of Archie Comics into a dark and soapy teen drama could have been disastrous, but instead, it looks to be a very promising offering, calling to mind some of the network’s greatest hits, like Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill.
Here’s six reasons why you should set your DVR for Riverdale, and prepare yourselves for a new fave.
1. A Cast of New, New Hotties (like The O.C. blessed us with)
One of the greatest things a teen drama can do is introduce viewers to a whole new cast of nearly-unknown hotties to swoon over. This is why certain segments of the population still dream of Adam Brody as the ultimate boyfriend or give Jared Leto a pass for almost anything.
Riverdale does just that, debuting 19-year-old New Zealand-born hunk K.J. Apa as “hipster Prince Harry” Archie Andrews. According to character commentary, Archie “got hot over the summer,” but he’s not the only fresh face in town. Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes star as Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge, respectively, and the supporting cast of high school hotties also features relative newcomers like Madelaine Petsch, Ashleigh Murray, and Casey Cott.
In fact, one of the only truly familiar faces (once you recognize him) is Disney Channel alum Cole Sprouse, in one of his first major starring turns without twin brother Dylan at his side. Sprouse’s darker take on Jughead Jones narrates the series, scowling at his classmates and studying the goings on of the town from beneath his gray beanie, which is cut to look like the comic character’s signature crown. He’s like a Gen Z Veronica Mars, except his best friend didn’t die, he just got super ripped.
2. A Love Triangle That Will Keep Us Guessing (a la Dawson’s Creek)
From the looks of things, the comic canon-inspired entanglement between Betty, Veronica, and Archie, will likely become an even more complicated shape as the show plays out, but the initial drama-packed relationships between the three -- Betty’s in love with her childhood best friend, Archie, who’s swooning over the new girl in town, Veronica, who’s determined to rehabilitate her Serena van der Woodsen bad girl image by becoming best friends with, you guessed it, Betty -- will give us a solid triangle to build on.
It’s all very Dawson-Pacey-Joey, and so far, we love it. Hey, there’s even a student-teacher tryst in there for good measure!
3. Soapy Teen Storylines, Scandalous Relationships, and a Murder Mystery! (like your favorite Pretty Little Liars)
Riverdale’s pilot kicks off with a Twin Peaks-style murder mystery -- the shocking (and shockingly aesthetic) death of school A-lister (and ginger twin) Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines). And, just like in PLL, as the characters deal with the aftermath of the murder -- Jason’s twin sister Cheryl (Petsch) is ready to milk her mourning period for all its worth -- high school goes on as usual.
Cheerleading tryouts put Betty and Veronica’s new friendship to the test, awkward twosomes get paired up for science labs, and Archie seeks extracurricular tutoring from the school’s bookishly hot music teacher, Geraldine Grundy (Sarah Habel).
It’s like Friday Night Lights, when Landry killed that guy? Remember that? Except this murder’s actually going to stick.
4. Fun With High School Stereotypes 101 (aka Popular or Freaks and Geeks)
“Can’t we just liberate ourselves from the tired dichotomy of jock/artist?” Veronica asks in the Riverdale pilot, as Archie weighs his athletic and musical aspirations in the face of a daunting high school schedule. “Can’t we, in this post-James Franco world, be all things at once?”
All jokes aside, the answer that this show presents to the question posed by its resident bad-girl-trying-to-go-good is both yes and no. Riverdale turns certain high school tropes on their head while lovingly (and self-referentially) embracing others.
“Is cheerleading still a thing?” asks Betty’s GBF Kevin Keller (Cott) at lunch one day.
“Is being the gay best friend still a thing?” Cheryl snarks back, before defending her beloved Riverdale River Vixens. “Some people say it’s retro, I say it’s eternal and iconic.”
5. Plenty of Drama From the Parents, Who Are Played By All Your (or Your Parents’) Faves (very One Tree Hill)
Of course, dramatic teens would be nothing without the pressures and adulation from their equally sensational parents, and Riverdale has a cast of ‘80s and ‘90s faves on tap, including Luke Perry as Archie’s sullen but supportive father, Fred Andrews, and Mädchen Amick (hey, another Twin Peaks reference!) as Betty’s overbearing and manipulative mother, Alice Cooper.
And the flashback fun doesn’t stop there. The drama has also recruited Robin Givens (as Riverdale mayor Sierra McCoy) and Marisol Nichols (as Veronica’s mother, Hermione Lodge) to round out the parental regulars, and Molly Ringwald has been cast as Archie’s absentee mom, Mary.
Plus, Skeet Ulrich is set to face off against Perry as a gang leader from the wrong side of town who has a mysterious connection to Jughead. So, you know, stay tuned.
6. Original Music Worth Downloading (miss you, Glee)
While the show will almost certainly be following Josh Schwartz’s pioneering example of a hip, relevant indie-pop soundtrack, and also seems to embracing a Friday Night Lights-style score, the music we’re truly excited for will come from some of Riverdale High’s own students.
Archie has found an interest in songwriting -- along with his, ahem, other extracurriculars -- over the summer, but the pilot episode wastes no time introducing fans to the true musical stars of the town: Josie and the Pussycats. Even firestarter Cheryl admits “to know them is to be obsessed with them.”
At first, Josie (Murray) is no more interested in hearing “Justin Ginger-lake” attempt acoustic tunes than she is any other distraction. She’s ready to launch herself to stardom and Beyonce her way out of this town. But does a musical collab lie in their future? We can’t wait to find out!
Bonus: Barb from Stranger Things!
Stranger Things doesn’t really count as a teen drama, but everybody loves Barb! In Riverdale, the Netflix series' cult breakout star, Shannon Purser, gets a chance to handle some more drama as Ethel Muggs, who teams up with Betty and Veronica to seek revenge on some meathead jocks (and hopefully, stays far away from the pool).
Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.