When Riverdale first hit the small screen in 2017, it showed a lot of promise.
Billing itself as a ‘gritty reboot’ of the wholesome Archie comics series, the show — which starred KJ Apa, Cole Sprouse, Lili Reinhart, and the late Luke Perry — took a more realistic spin on the titular teenagers in the fictional town of Riverdale.
Murder, mayhem, and awkward love scenes ensued.
In other words, Riverdale was your typical teen drama.
And the critics loved it. The first season of the show had an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the writing was on point, and the acting was…good enough. (They were teenagers. No one was expecting Sir Laurence Olivier.)
And that’s when the problems began.
When you have a writer’s room that’s not diverse, you’re inevitably going to hit a few snags. These snags came in the form of problematic depictions of minority characters.
Critics noted that Josie and the Pussycats — all played by Black actresses — don’t seem to have a “voice” on the show. Rather, Valerie Brown (played by Hayley Law) only seems to exist within her friendship with Archie Andrews (Apa).
What’s more, the decision to disband the Pussycats — only to reform it as “Veronica and the Pussycats” — could be further seen as an erasure of black voices.
And then there was the infamous decision not to make Jughead Jones (Sprouse) aro/ace — as he was in the comics, even if they didn’t call it that at the time. Queer fans of the show felt erased when Jones was paired up with Betty (Reinhart).
Sprouse, himself, pushed for Jones to be depicted as asexual, to no avail.
And this is to say nothing of Riverdale‘s fondness for problematic storylines to this day. The Archie/Hiram Lodge (Mark Consuelos, who plays the billionaire with ham-fisted glee) storyline was nothing if not creepy. The performance of Hedwig & the Angry Inch was rightly seen as “queer-baiting.”
And do teenagers need to be over-sexualized on television when sex trafficking is a real thing?
When Riverdale returns in January 2021, the irascible teens will now be adults. And while this removes a bit of the creepy factor, executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa doesn’t seem to be handling this transition very well.
We’ve been talking and planning on doing a time jump, and of course, usually time jumps happen in between seasons, because there’s a tease at the very end. But because the coronavirus pandemic shut down production and ended Season 4 early, it felt like maybe what we’ll do is start with the last three episodes intended for Season 4, including the gang’s senior prom and high school graduation. So what we’re doing is picking up right where we left off for the first three episodes, and then doing a time jump… after those three episodes.
So Riverdale gets somewhat of a pass for making do with what they’ve got.
But it’s challenging for teen dramas to transition into adult dramas successfully.
What made the original Beverly Hills, 90210 (later just 90210) so successful for so many years was the writers’ ability to grow with the characters. The actors, too, matured in kind and brought that maturity to their roles.
That doesn’t seem to be the case with Riverdale. The cringe-worthy dialogue (“coo-coo bananas”? Really?), the actors’ emotional immaturity (all those social media stunts and Instagram deleting sprees come to mind), & the tired storylines work against the show.
It will be difficult, if not impossible, for Riverdale to grow up. So, perhaps it’s time for it to bow out.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.