What is it? Exactly the hour-length format trainwreck iO9 said it was going to be, with attempts by The CW to try to disguise it into a single-cam drama but ultimately that failed.
Where did it air? The CW, which apparently stands for "Couldn't Watch"
Who stars in it? The most recognizable name in this whole thing is Cole Sprouse. No, I don't mean for people familiar with the type of shows we review - I mean literally, period. Cole actually gets to be the biggest name star out of this whole thing. Ross Butler, who you may recognize from KC Undercover and Teen Beach 2 (another trainwreck so hopefully he's used to that sinking feeling of the production set being a disaster) gets to be a guest star here. Pretty much everyone else is a, as the meme'ing kids say these days, a Literally Who?
Why are we reviewing this? Now you'd think we'd be reviewing it because of the Cole Sprouse connection because we've reviewed awful series starring former Disney and Nick stars before, but nope, not this time! I'm watching it just to see if it really is the bizarre train wreck iO9 claimed it to be based off of ComiCon previews.
...sadly, it isn't. Oh, it is indeed a trainwreck just not a bizarre one. But more on that later.
Once upon a time there was a show on a network called The WB that in turn was called Dawson's Creek. I don't know if I can really call the show revolutionary, though in hindsight it did perhaps give birth to the whole mid-late teen and even young adult dramatic genre that's sprung up a lot on both its successor network and on many, many others, eventually virtually taking over its own network entirely in the form of ABC Family and finally fully transforming it into Freeform (which The CW so, so desperately wants to be within the confines of an FCC Over-the-Air Broadcast license). But what it certainly was was controversial, namely in, I believe, depicting a sexual relationship between a female teacher and one of her students. And then later came Gossip Girl which defined the mid-older teen/young adult dramatic genre for its era, and now Pretty Little Liars that does it for the current era. And back just before Gossip Girl you had Smallville, a (at first) highly praised drama for taking both the prequel formula and the Superman mythos and turning it into something that was both relevant to teens at the turn of the Millennium and a truly imaginative take on a decades-old property, before it started rapidly falling apart (whether in the true sense or in a more spiritual one, it pretty much gave birth to all the DC comic properties on The CW and went a long way to making The CW The DC Channel). And half a decade ago already there was also Hellcats, a show about high school cheerleaders which at least just by word-of-mouth I think did a better job at what Riverdale's trying to get at minus the crappy genre/murder mystery shit, and starring both Ashley Tisdale and Aly Michaylka which given the era they represent are practically Disney Channel royalty.
I'm not really familiar with those shows; the last thing on either of The CW's parent networks I saw was just before they merged, and Riverdale is the first CW show I've seen full-length ever. Based strictly on word-of-mouth I do regret never having seen Gossip Girl and Hellcats actually, and to a somewhat lesser extent Dawson's Creek although it's been my experience that many shows from the 90s and these teen and young adult dramas from that era especially age very, very badly. Like, forgotten refrigerator leftovers bad.
Fortunately for Riverdale, it doesn't have to worry about that because it's already gotten to that point, right in the first episode!
The biggest sin Riverdale commits is the biggest sin any piece of fiction can possibly commit - become terminally boring right out of the gate. I can't call the pace "molasses slow" because I just don't feel like insulting molasses right now. Actually, let me put up a visual demonstration of the pace of Riverdale's first episode:
Really, nothing happens. We're given a set up on how the show twists around the Archie mythos with a murder mystery surrounding the Blossom twins with incestuous implications, and after that it's a giant who cares. The high school tropes would embarrass a Lifetime special (trust me I would know). To borrow a phrase from AV Club in one of their The Secret Life of the American Teenager reviews, it feels like the writers are actually aliens from outer space that spent their entire lives watching teens on cheesy Earthling comedy television, and then tried to write their own drama show. The developments would be agonizing provided they even technically exist. To quote Savagegeese from that video right above, "it's literally one big joke," except nobody's laughing. There isn't even any enjoyment from a so bad it's good factor. Even on the reimagining factor it falls flat on its face and absolutely fails; it feels like they simply slapped Archie-legacy names on characters for...for what, exactly? Name recognition? How many people alive even remembers Archie? It got so bad that the entire publishing company behind Archie Comics was staring into the abyss of bankruptcy. There's almost literally no reason for for this to be "Riverdale" or Archie-anything. Oh, and speaking of Dawson's Creek Archie is involved in an affair with his teacher because...I don't know? Because they're desperately hoping you'll be reminded of Dawson's Creek and might confuse this show for good?
In one scene Betty and Veronica try out for cheerleading and in a desperate bid to make it on the team Veronica forces Betty to make out with her (and by forcing her, I mean literally, in the somewhat sexual assault-y lets-suck-whatever-good-taste-remained-in-this-show sense) and the scene is flooded with this ridiculous dramatic music like we're witnessing a major character and plot turning point. It manages to avoid being boring only by being the stupidest scene in the episode's first half hour. The only good thing to come out of it is that Cheryl rightfully shuts them down by pointing out how stupid it is. Not that it prevents the show from going overly-dramatic straight into stupid territory at all, including right in the immediately following dialogue.
I believe iO9 also pointed out how...odd Cole Sprouse's opening narration is and, yeah, it's pretty freakin' weird. What helps it be especially weird is that Cole has all the cadence of a Freshman trying to put together a video for AP History. I know he more or less retired from acting after SLoD until now apparently but he simply sounds seriously, seriously out of practice. For narrating a voiceover, no less. He "reinvents" Jughead by writing what he claims to Archie is a novel but is really an expose on the truth behind Jason Blossom, names retained and all, hence the narrative overlay. It's exactly as contrived as it sounds.
There is one scene that's worth watching, when Veronica is with Betty and Kevin and they see Archie down the hall and Veronica asks "is that your boyfriend?" and they both quickly deny with a flimsy "no." Yeah, I know it's not exactly the most original thing to happen in this decade but it was the only thing the episode managed to pull off. And the commercial breaks. I swear, there's only 35 minutes of actual show here. Which is actually to my great relief so I'm filing it under "things good about this show."
I think the show's creator is actually also the creator of NBC's Undateable...another show we'd previously reviewed due to its Disney Channel connection and another show so unbelievably bad, to the point where it's considered the worst show this blog's yet reviewed. Well guess what it now gets to have company because it's now tied with this unfortunate borefest of a shitshow.
Episode Grave: F Minus Minus. Some blogs or review sites will assign F grades to shows that still manage to be entertaining on some level, even only on a So Bad It's Good basis. Well, not this blog! We'll tell you if there's anything salvageable for entertainment including if it manages to be so bad it loops around back to being good, and our final scores will reflect that. But no, there's absolutely nothing redeeming here. It's so bad I'm bringing back "Episode Grave" with the intentional misspelling, because it's so bad it kills. It's not just the worst thing this blog's reviewed in the new year so far, it's tied for worst thing period so far. Minority Report and The Mysteries of Laura were better than this.
Again, if this is coming from the same human-shaped talentless hack of a turd that created Undateable, I'm not surprised.
Episode MVP: We actually have several tied for this believe it or not. We have Madeliene Peitsch, for being a pretty attractive redhead, I guess. We have who I'm going to call "Pussycat #2" for, uh, being pretty, again. We have the commercial breaks for making sure we at least don't have to suffer much. We also have "Savagegeese" up there for pointing out the pitfalls of using too high a weight of oil in your car during the winter months which is also helpful, along with Worker & Parasite for being more entertaining than anyone in this show. And finally to any brave souls who managed to make it through this ordeal in its entirety.
Episode LVP: Cole Sprouse's agent.
- yeah there's a reason why this is premiering on the last Thursday of frickin' January. No way this is going to last past this half-season, or at least if there is a God it won't.
- LaToya Furgueson (I hope I spelled that last name right) of the AV Club actually gave Riverdale "Chapter 1" a B+ of all things. I have no idea how to explain this other than 1.) she was on drugs or drunk, and I don't blame her or 2.) the thing is that I've always suspected AV Club to be a little more lacking in integrity than they're willing to admit, especially with Todd Van der Werff who is more than a little prone to writing TV show and movie reviews as if he actively wants to display his wishes for wanting to write for former Gawker and Jezebel instead, if not VICE (that last one's pretty bad).
I'm not going to let you down the same way, dear readers. I'll let you know upfront that I completely lack any integrity from the very beginning.
- Despite having just poked fun at Gawker I'm going to post this preview from Gizmodo that tempers some of the expectations that were had for this show back in May: http://io9.gizmodo.com/what-in-gods-name-is-going-on-in-this-riverdale-synopsi-1777821851 Apparently, a lot of the positive reviews for this show really are for its So Bad It's Good factor, but I'm still not seeing it.
- it turns out PopTV airs reruns of Dawson's Creek so there you go. Just this morning (after I finished the above review) I was able to catch a little bit, and in the 36 minutes of this one random episode in the middle of Season 3 that I saw (the first bit of Dawson's Creek I've seen since they were still premiering brand new episodes, if not ever) I can easily tell it's vastly superior to any hope of quality Riverdale can possibly ever grasp at.
- And on that note I'm actually blown away by how absolutely gorgeous Michelle Williams was back in the 90s (and still now, for that matter). And yeah, one of these days I'll take some sensitivity classes so this blog can be more than a collection of extremely sexist observations on actresses. I promise.