This title may sound jarring, but allow me to explain.
I’m a huge proponent of shows created by the The CW. I’ve watched “The Vampire Diaries” twice over and fully subscribe to all of its spin-offs, “Jane the Virgin” is a treat and a half and “Gossip Girl” first sparked my now near-unnatural obsession with Blake Lively. I’m a closet nerd for the fantasy genre and a fan of overexaggerated teenage drama, so The CW has always been a favorite.
The network most recently has been creating shows based on old-school comic content: “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” is a new look at “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “Katy Keene” and “Nancy Drew” are hitting the small screen and, of course, there’s “Riverdale,” which is based on the Archie comics.
That’s a loose assessment, though -- while the characters that appear in the show mimic those from the comics (Archie Andrews has fire-red hair and Betty Cooper wears her girl-next-door sweaters and ponytail to a T), the subject matter couldn’t be more different. In the first three seasons of “Riverdale,” there’s been a filicide mystery, serial killer who escapes prison, a cult disguised as a wellness retreat and fatal role-playing game.
The reason I call “Riverdale” terrible isn’t because of its over-the-top content (though I will say the parts when teenagers bartered debts with drug lords and broke each other out of prison was a bit extreme, even for me), but it’s more so the execution. Plot lines are dropped or hurriedly explained away; the dialogue, at times, is ridiculous at best.
The seasons have become increasingly dramatic and unbelievable. Season 1 centered around the mysterious events that led to the disappearance and death of a student at Riverdale High. There were some gang feuds mixed in there, but nothing too wild. Where we’ve ended up is something different altogether, something that barely resembles an HBO drama, let alone a coming-of-age show on The CW. It’s as if the writers are seeing how far they can push the line of insanity before anyone notices.
But, you know, we noticed.
So, no, “Riverdale” isn’t an Emmy-winning show, but there’s a reason it’s survived through a fourth season, and I have to say it’s the actors. Not even so much the characters -- like I said, the writing can truly be atrocious -- but those who bring them to life. KJ Apa (Archie Andrews), Camila Mendes (Veronica Lodge), Lili Reinhart (Betty Cooper) and Cole Sprouse (Jughead Jones) as the “core four” have somehow worked wonders with their strange little scripts and wormed their way into our hearts. Apa’s abs don’t hurt, of course, but the vivacity with which the actors play their characters has kept me coming back for more. Then there’s Madelaine Petsch, who plays a queen bee in Cheryl Blossom that rivals even Blair Waldorf.
On and off screen, watching these actors interact has been reminiscent of the buddy-buddy dynamic that we miss from shows like “Friends” and crave from shows like “Stranger Things” -- it’s simply a good time to be a voyeur to something magical happening before your eyes.
I think, too, that the casting choices specifically set “Riverdale” up for success. Apa, Mendes and Reinhart weren’t the most well-known actors, but the inclusion of the late Luke Perry (whose tribute episode serves as the season 4 premiere), Mädchen Amick and Cole Sprouse piqued our curiosity. The show was dipping into unfamiliar waters with its content, but included people recognizable enough that we wanted to see what these more veteran actors were doing with some ragtag early 20-somethings.
Now, Sprouse and Reinhart are happily dating, Apa and Mendes are getting more teen drama work on Netflix and the “Riverdale” panel at Comic-Con is always super looked forward to. Not bad for a show that objectively stinks.
A bubbly cast that loves their work and each other translates on screen, so we forgive a show riddled with ridiculous storylines and poor writing for being such a hot mess.