Jan 27, 2017

Channel Surfing: Riverdale - "Chapter One:: The River's Edge"

Scene from Riverdale
Welcome to a new column called Channel Surfing, in which I sporadically look at current TV shows and talk about them. These are not ones that I care to write weekly recaps for and are instead reflections either on the episode, the series, or particular moments. This will hopefully help to share personal opinions as well as discover entertainment on the outer pantheon that I feel is well worth checking out, or in some cases, shows that are weird enough to talk about, but should never be seen.
Comic book TV series are a dime a dozen nowadays. It's impossible to think of a network who either doesn't have one or has one in development. Among those leading the pack is The CW, whose D.C. Comics shared universe has made for some of the most lively TV of the past few years. Yet there's one series that is likely going to confound everyone when they hear that it exists: Riverdale. Yes, if the name of the series sounds familiar, it's because Riverdale is the town where the Archie Comics take place. For those who don't know, Archie Comics is best known for their clean cut image and overall silliness (as well as the hit single "Sugar Sugar"). So for The CW to turn Riverdale into a dark and gritty show may be fitting with the recent reboot age, it's still a baffling choice.
The one benefit is that almost all of The CW series are in some ways about hormonal teenagers. If Riverdale was to fall on any network, it went to the right one. Still, it's compelling to see the channel take up the task of turning a formerly friendly and lighthearted series into one that is full of dark cinematography and a cliffhanger involving a murder. It's almost like a cartoonish version of Stranger Things, albeit without the supernatural elements. Even then, the show has a creepy undertone from the beginning as it tries to introduce The CW's version of this universe. For purists, of which there are likely to not be many, it may be a bit hard to appreciate the pop soundtrack skewering towards more contemporary styles. There's parts that are unnerving intentionally, but as a whole it manages to create intrigue.
The show does an excellent job with casting characters who mostly resemble their archetypes in a broad sense. Archie (K.J Apa) has red hair. Josie and the Pussycats all have the stylish ears. Everything about the show already feels like it's there, just with a darker tinge to the surrounding. With narration from Jughead (Cole Sprouse), the series is neo-noir in a way that feels cliche, but thankfully at least has a central cast that knows how to riff off of each other and give the show a sense of authenticity. That more than anything is the one piece of relief in a series that seems to be taking some artistic license with this universe.
Is the show good? It is if teenage crime dramas are your thing. Maybe the series will lighten up and have a great iTunes-ready soundtrack as time goes on. With that said, it will be difficult to see many past the demographic tuning into this show with regularity. The CW caters to teenage series, and this one may be the most inventive in spite of being on a network with iZombie. One has to wonder where the series will go, and if the murder that ends the episode will be an episode arc or a season one. Whatever the case may be, Riverdale isn't an awful show by any imagination. The show overcomes the odds to at least be an engaging and unique update of a comic strip that most people had forgotten about. Maybe it will continue to surprise everyone as time goes on. Much like that cliffhanger, we'll just have to wait and see.

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