As a kid I was big on Archie comics, when the biggest problem at Riverdale High was when the local soda shop ran out of strawberries for the milkshakes. These were the teenage Utopia days. Archie and the gang at Riverdale High was soon joined by TV land’s Wally and Lumpy on “Leave It to Beaver,” eventually peaking out with “Happy Days” Richie Cunningham, TV’s Archie doppelganger in the 1970s. It was all just so pleasant. There were no rebels and everyone had a cause…be happy. Along with “Car 54 Where Are You?” and Soupy Sales with White Fang and Black Tooth, all on TV, my media teenage world was all good.
So, I thought it would be natural. I could watch and review the modernized “Riverdale” archived on Netflix and it would be just like the good old days at Riverdale High, days of innocence when stress was not yet invented, life was easy, and the Cold War simplified everything. The comic book Archie was a walking high school mission statement flowing with goodness. Veronica? We were not sure. Betty was kind of a nice person type. Reggie had slick hair and was maybe a Ferris Bueller schemer prototype. And Jughead was just like all the friends I hung out with in high school. Goofy. Life was good.
I was wrong. In the anti-comic book Netflix’s “Riverdale” life is beyond yucky. First of all, Beverly Hills 90210 star Luke Perry is getting old. Jughead, who was a loveable buddy in the comics, surfaces as a Greaser right out of The Outsiders with a gang called the Serpents. Principal Weatherbee is no longer a nice roundish father figure with spectacles, and makes the Serpents toss out the heavy gang leather jackets. Jughead eventually shows up wearing a Riverdale High preppy polo shirt. All-American good guy no longer, comics Archie is messed up with some FBI investigation trying to pin some crime on Veronica’s father, Mr. Lodge.
It seems a big question for upcoming Season 3 is whether or not Archie will go to jail! This is not your grandparents’ comic book Archie! No one smiles in Season 1, Episode 23. Somebody named Cheryl, who is not a comic book character, appears with the most firetruck reddish lipstick ever worn, and she is blackmailing Archie for because…he kissed Veronica. No wait, Betty…I’m confused. In the comics, no one kissed. And in the antiseptic comic Riverdale High, nobody slugged some other guy like the new Archie did to some bad fellow named Nick.
After some deep research, I learned how Cheryl played by Madelaine Petsch won the Teen Choice Hissy Fit Award for two years straight.Something once won by such megastars as Lisa Kudrow and Adam Sandler, among others. An award I could maybe win…without the teen part.
Back to Season 1, Episode 23…it seems Greaser Southside High was closing because the fantastically wealthy Lodge dad and mom didn’t want a gang-ridden reform school near their new mall construction. So, the Lodges bribed the mayor to close Southside, and all the alleged thugs were transferred to Riverdale High. Oh, on an aside, it is nice to see spinoff band Josie and the Pussycats are alive and well in the dystopian Riverdale High. There are more side stories in this show than when Wally came home with the birdcage on “Leave It to Beaver.” You had to be there.
Let me get a little academic at the end here and explain my Hobbes reference. Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century built a political model starting with the hypothesis that in some prehistoric state of nature people were just mired in self-interest and everybody would take advantage of each other for their own selfish gains. Life for Hobbes in his famous maxim was “nasty, brutish, and short.” Hello, new Riverdale High! So, what’s the bottom line on this new Riverdale High dystopia?
One, you can skip the first 22 episodes of season one and still clearly catch the dysfunction. Two, I may watch it again just to see if the Netflix bizarro Archie has any of comic book Archie’s forever combo of “gee whiz” and caring beyond self.