When the CW TV show Riverdale was announced, few people knew what to expect from the upcoming drama about comic book legend Archie Andrews and his gang of friends. After Riverdale premiered, viewers were taken aback. While the Archie comic books were traditionally light and fun, the new TV iteration felt like the lovechild of David Lynch and Stephen King. Dark, sinister and generally creepy, people either immediately fell in love with Riverdale or hated it on the spot. Some viewers quickly got behind the whodunit murder mystery the show had become, while others lamented over the fact that this wasn’t the Archie from their childhood.
Since it debuted over a year ago, Riverdale’s success shows that taking bold risks sometimes pays off. In a world with an influx of dark TV shows, making Riverdale a universe that could be compared to other TV show favorites like Twin Peaks and Stranger Things made it unique and desirable to watch. Yet while Riverdale might be a quality program, it doesn’t align fully, or at all sometimes, with the comic books they stem from. Today at CBR we’re looking at eight ways Riverdale ruined the Archie Comics and seven ways it made them better.
15. RUINED: JUGHEAD
If you know anything about the character Jughead Jones from the Archie Comics, then you’ll know he’s nothing like his Riverdale counterpart. In fact, the two young men come across as entirely different people with their only shared traits being their name, they’re best friends with a guy named Archie, and they live in a town called Riverdale.
Jughead is one of the goofier characters in the comics, what with his love of hamburgers and constantly scheming and using his incredible intellect so he can get more hamburgers. Comic book Jughead is a riot, but Riverdale Jughead…not so much. Broody, weird, and an unflattering stereotype for what it means to be “different” in high school. He’s constantly complaining and whining about one thing or the other, but always rejects anybody’s help.
14. MADE BETTER: STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS
One of the best things about Riverdale is not only the diverse cast, but it features a group of actresses who portray strong female characters. In this day in age, showing the women are capable of more than just bickering and vying for the attention of the same man is of paramount importance; Riverdale does just that. While Betty and Veronica were once only thought of as romantic love interests for Archie, on Riverdale, the status quo has changed.
They now feel very real and not fake or artificial. They refuse to take any nonsense from men, as seen early on in the first season when some of the school’s football players tried slut shaming multiple girls. Betty, Veronica, and even Cheryl Blossom, the resident mean girl, joined together to claim some social justice.
13. RUINED: A LACK OF JOY
One of the things that make Archie comics so blamed fun is that they’re just that: fun. Light-hearted and innocent, the brightness of the comics is one of defining traits for the Archie brand. Even darker approaches to Archie stories, like Archie vs. Predator, though bloody and horrifying, are still campy and loaded with laughs. Riverdale did away with all that and traded it in in for a dark, foreboding setting, with even darker and gloomier characters.
Instead of being portrayed as happy and bright, the TV version of Riverdale is a sinister cesspool of secret romances, murders, and closely guarded secrets. There’s no room for happy-go-lucky escapades when killers and predators are running around. Even the lighting is dark, as though the sun never got the memo to shine on Riverdale.
12. MADE BETTER: HAS A PLOT
Many of the early Archie comics, and by that we mean everything before the current run by Mark Waid, were made up of loose stories and oftentimes bizarre and inconsequential shenanigans. When readers picked up Archie, they didn’t read an overarching plot, but rather the comic book equivalent of a “villain of the week”, or “crazy happenstance of the week”, as it were. Riverdale features a shockingly complex story that harkens back to the first episode in the first season, with its aftereffects still being felt in the second.
The first season was a whodunit, starting with the body of Jason Blossom washing up on shore, having been shot. Everyone becomes a suspect and even though the evildoer is caught, the day is far from saved. Season two picks right where season one left off, smoothly diving off into a scarier storyline.
11. RUINED: JUGHEAD’S CRIMINAL FATHER
Like his son, Jughead’s father in Riverdale might as well stem from any other universe that is not Archie. Jughead’s father, FP Jones, for reasons unknown was made into a gang member and one of the show’s darker characters. There’s no rhyme or reason for it, except for when a scene calls for the presence of someone to act or do something that can unintentionally come across as sinister. Because, and here’s the rub, Jughead’s dad is a nice gang member.
FP Jones wants what’s best for his son, and despite being the reason his wife and daughter abandoned him and his son, FP really wants his son’s love and respect. It’s a tall order, especially when he’s always finding himself in jail, getting framed for murders he didn’t commit, and is the leader of the town’s biker gang.
10. MADE BETTER: COMPARED TO TWIN PEAKS
In the early ‘90s, Twin Peaks came out on TV. It blew people’s minds. Nothing previously matched up to David Lynch’s dark, fever dream of a small town where evil had set up residence. In relatively short order, Twin Peaks became a sensation that holds up to this day. Without Twin Peaks, there would be no shows like Lost, Stranger Things, and Riverdale.
Riverdale is not only a good program, but has been likened to one of the greatest shows of all time. There’s a murder mystery (remember the question of who killed Laura Palmer?) and secret trysts; an ominous sense of darkness permeates just out of the corner of the screen. Similar to Twin Peaks, Riverdale genuinely feels like a show where anything can happen. Also, why did Betty devolve into a completely different personality when got revenge on that football player? The plot thickens.
9. RUINED: PROVOCATIVENESS OVER SUBSTANCE
The CW features plenty of great shows and nearly all of those shows have an insane amount of good-looking people. It doesn’t matter what the show is about, rest assured, the actors and actresses are going to look like they popped out of a Vogue photo shoot. Riverdale is no exception. Archie looks nothing like his dorky, innocent comic book iteration, but rather is a beefcake with chiseled abs (which we see nearly every episode) and jawline that looks like it was carved from marble.
Betty and Veronica are of course glamorous, with Veronica oozing sexuality whenever she can. Josie and the Pussycats might be the show’s hottest characters, nearly always dressed in skimpy outfits. Even Jughead, the antithesis of sexy, is now dark, mysterious, and wields an impossibly disarming smile. Instead of luring viewers in with storytelling, Riverdale marketed the show’s sexuality as a central appeal.
8. MADE BETTER: MORE DEPTH THAN THE COMICS
Archie comics are fun and entertaining. Before the current line of Archie Comics, the classic tales featured all manner of kooky madness. Archie and the gang would partake in misadventures and seemingly never learn from their mistakes. It was an endless series of rinse and repeat, but it was a formula that worked; it worked for over 50 years. That said, the Archie Comics lines wasn’t particularly known for an overabundance of meaningful or intellectual substance.
Riverdale could have taken a similar route, turning Archie and the gang into a sitcom. Instead of making their characters into loveable, dumb, goofballs, they turned them into real people with real problems. The teens are struggling with making their way through the maze of adolescence, all the while dealing with a murder. They’ve been given depth and it’s paid off.
7. RUINED: THE CHARACTERS ARE INDECISIVE
On Riverdale, hardly anyone can make up his or her mind about anything important. Everyone is constantly floating on air, dealing with whatever drama of the week seems to be the issue, but rarely finding the wherewithal to make solid, reasonable decisions.
Archie is the best example of this indecisive attitude. The first season is made up of several Archie subplots. On the one hand, he wants to be the star of the football team, but he also wants to become a master musician. He ultimately seems to give up on both. Additionally, he can’t seem to figure out whether he wants to date Betty or Veronica, and they in turn can’t figure out what they want, so everyone is left scrambling with no clue about what to do. Resolutely, they agree on just letting things happen and hoping for the best.
6. MADE BETTER: EXCELLENT SYNTHESIZED SCORE
A necessary part of any film or TV show is the musical score. You might not realize it, while in the midst of watching your favorite program or movie, but the music is just as important as the actors, script, and setting. It helps set the tone and delivers a distinct feel to administer a certain effect.
The breakout music in Riverdale hasn’t been the Archie guitar solos or even any of the covers by Josie and the Pussycats; it’s been the synthesized musical. Like something crawling its ways of the ‘80s, the electronic keytar-sounding harmonies, are perfect for the melancholic and ominous world Archie lives in. Composed primarily by Blake Neely, he’s the maestro behind one of the coolest soundtracks in television. Retro is all the rage, and Neely’s music capitalizes on that sense of nostalgia we love in shows like Stranger Things.
5. RUINED: COMPLETELY CHANGED MS. GRUNDY
In the Archie comics, Riverdale High’s teacher Ms. Grundy was an old, skeletal shell of a woman who was the butt of jokes. She’d yell, cough, and wheeze, while Archie and Jughead performed whatever harmless prank they had lined up. Riverdale chose to take a daring and somewhat harrowing approach when it came to depicting the aged educator. Ms. Grundy was now something of a seductive drifter, who’d go around from town to town, taking up shop as a music teacher in the town’s high school, and then seek out teenage boys.
In Riverdale, Archie and Ms. Grundy engage in a rather lengthy and steamy relationship. Throughout it all, it’s clear Archie is confused about what’s going on and Ms. Grundy is just stringing him along. She has no intention to be with him forever, but delights in treating herself to some young man flesh.
4. MADE BETTER: EXPOSED A NEW GENERATION TO ARCHIE
Archie isn’t like Batman or Spider-Man. He’s a simpler character from a simpler time. He’s not going around fighting giant robots or saving the world on a frequent basis. Instead, in both tales new and old, Archie deals with the rigors of everyday life, albeit in a slightly more comedic fashion. Even though he’s been around for half a century, younger generations all but forgot Archie even existed. Riverdale set to fix all that, and it did.
When once Archie was a household name back in the ‘50s, he’s once again found relevance in pop culture. People, both young and old, now know about Archie, and Riverdale is largely to thank for that. To top things off, Riverdale even sparked enough interest for fans of the show to go and pick up the comics.
3. RUINED: BETTY AND VERONICA’S RELATIONSHIP
One of the cornerstones in Archie Comics has been and continues to be the rivalry between Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge. It’s a constant battle of blonde versus brunette, girl-next-door versus daddy’s little girl, and down and grounded versus exorbitant wealth. While friends, the two young women are also the other’s adversary and will do whatever it takes to claim the ultimate prize: Archie.
Even when they’re not trying to steal Archie from one another, they always find something to bicker about. Not anymore. Granted, in this day and age you can’t have the driving motivation for female characters being trying to get with a man, but it doesn’t do to remove their rivalry altogether. Riverdale remade Betty and Veronica’s relationship, now the best of friends, it seems like a core premise of Archie will forever be ignored.
2. MADE BETTER: PEOPLE ARE READING ARCHIE AGAIN
Spanning over 650 issues, Archie is more than just a comic book character. He’s a centerpiece of American pop culture. Without Archie, comic books and the industry wouldn’t have the foothold they do. Despite this, many people have never picked up an Archie comic. While Archie #1 was released in 1958, the characters slowly started becoming lost to obscurity.
That all changed when two things happened. The first was the re-launch of the entire Archie Comics brand. Creators like Mark Waid were brought on to pen the adventures and the books were phenomenal. Things heated up when Riverdale was announced. Suddenly Archie was back in the public eye, garnering the media’s attention and sparking interest once more in the character. The show promoted the comics in tandem with itself and together, on account of the risks they both took, the Archie brand is stronger than ever.
1. RUINED: INACCESSIBLE FOR OLDER VIEWERS
One of the problems with Riverdale is the audience. Not the young teenage or 20-somethings who watch the show, but the older generations. These were the folks who grew up on the Digest comics, realizing Archie in a completely different way than he’s depicted today. For over 50 years they knew Archie by his goofy demeanor and the endless squabbling of Betty and Veronica.
When Riverdale was publicized, it was a chance for older fans to reconnect with one of their most beloved character. However, the Archie in Riverdale is nothing like the Archie they grew up with. No longer were things light-hearted and squeaky-clean. They certainly weren’t expecting a dark, brooding series of characters and events. Riverdale is not your mother’s Archie, and for older generations, the new tone makes it difficult to jump on board with Riverdale.
Did Riverdale ruin Archie for you? Let us know in the comments!
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