Dawn McElligott: RIVERDALE ‘REVISITED’ is RIVETING

by Dawn McElligott

In an age of rebooting vintage television, the development team for the new series RIVERDALE re-imagined a whole lot about Archie’s Comics for the CW network. Far from innocent adolescent hijinks, RIVERDALE has often been termed as ‘Archie Comics’ Meets Twin Peaks.’ What could have been a blasphemous mischaracterization of the milk shake slurping teenagers appears more as an updated twist on the beloved comic book characters.

The show’s development team includes Archie Comics’ Chief Creative Officer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who created the show and now serves as the Showrunner. Additionally, series hit-maker, Greg Berlanti, guides the show as executive producer along with Sarah Schechter and Jon Goldwater.

As of March 7, 2017 the series was renewed for a second season either in spite of or in light of weekly ratings hovering around 0.4, or slightly more than one million fans, the night it airs. During the week, its numbers improve to 0.8 considering delayed digital viewers bringing the audience to two million.

Various sources state that Warner Bros. TV has made a big development deal with Archie Comics, supplying another reason to stick with its sprouting new project. Surprisingly many viewers and critics have commented that Archie’s character is the least interesting in the show. He is a young man torn between school, a music career and helping his financially struggling father, Fred Andrews. Even an affair with young, hot Music Teacher, Miss Grundy, leaves him lackluster. Some have suggested that Archie Andrews is the cog in the wheel, holding together the town’s more fascinating folks.

The most engrossing character may well be its narrator, Jughead Jones. Jughead is a moody writer for the newspaper at Riverdale High School through the first 12 episodes. His father, FP Jones, is a train wreck of a man, heading up the Southside Serpents gang. Jughead’s moodiness clearly comes from his predictably disappointing family moments.

Jughead’s noteworthiness is due in part to choices made in the show’s development but may also spring from the actor, Cole Sprouse. In a February 2nd edition of Vulture.com, the actor described his interaction with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. ‘When I walked in I asked Roberto if I could read it [the narration} like Rod Serling, he was like ‘Uh, yeah, of course!’ I got a good idea of where we stood then. But when we shot the pilot, I really knew where we stood, in terms of the film noir elements and the darker tone. That’s when I knew this was a show I was really excited to do. Because I had just come off a Disney background.’

Twenty-four year-old Cole Sprouse had played Cody Martin in Disney’s two wildly successful series THE SUITE LIFE OF ZACK AND CODY and THE SUITE LIFE ON DECK. Transitioning into an adult entertainer for the young man has been noticeably different from his female Disney counterparts, Britney Spears and Miley Ray Cyrus. Whereas Britney and Miley turned up their sexuality to divorce themselves from the wholesome Disney image, Sprouse agreed to play a character that is sometimes called ‘asexual.’ In the series Jughead dates Betty Cooper, but keeps a wary distance from her, realizing her unrequited love for Archie.

Sexuality is approached quite differently in RIVERDALE. The first episode starts with a redheaded teenage boy, Jason Blossom, driving with a redheaded teenage girl to the river. They appear to be lovers about to go canoeing. We learn later that they are Jason and his sister, Cheryl, (the cruelest girl in town) staging his death and disappearance. Incest and later, eugenics, appear as some of the more disturbing currents to muddy the waters of Riverdale.

When Jason’s dead body appears in the river, we start dredging Riverdale, the town with too many redheads, for answers. The parents in this sad place have about as many lurid secrets as their children. Putting together the parents’ promiscuity and the surplus of redheads, it’s not too surprising when hints are dropped that Archie might be at least a half-brother of Cheryl Blossom. His appearance in a football jersey at a game reminds Cheryl so much of her dead brother, it causes the mean girl to cry.

In the penultimate episode of the first season, Jason’s jacket is found. It yields no clues until Betty decides to search the pocket linings. Instead of putting the jacket on herself, she asks Archie to put it on for the search. Archie is literally wearing the mantle of dearly departed Jason, when a flash drive is found in its pocket linings, containing the video of his own father shooting him to death. Weird!

Women are painted with a fresh brush. Whereas, Veronica Lodge could have been another mean girl, she’s instead looking to make amends for her father’s illegal dealings. She’s still a clotheshorse and has enough sophistication to counter Cheryl Blossom, often beating her at her own game, much to Ms. Blossom’s chagrin.

Betty Cooper is a breath of fresh air. She’s the good little girl who seems to acquiesce at every turn, but by Episode 11 she warns her concern-trolling mother, ‘Alice Cooper,’ ‘Do not push me tonight, Mom, because I will push back.’ Betty wants to right the world’s wrongs, including the alienation of Jughead from his father.

Cheryl Blossom, whose forbearers made a fortune on maple syrup, is the only truly mean girl on the show but her cattiness is explained as a defense mechanism contrived for dealing with a family, no one would want, despite the material wealth. The audience pities Cheryl, FP Jones and especially, Jughead.

Every week this season, surprised viewers have been treated to revilement, pity, prose, exquisitely crafted zingers and plenty of tension, making the show as much of a guilty pleasure as the most tempting malted at Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe. My glass is raised in the hope that next season brings us even more of the same.


Dawn McElligott is a an award-winning writer and filmmaker in Los Angeles by way of Philadelphia and other points East. You can learn more about her HERE

Dennis O’Neil: Priorities

Talia

by Dennis O’Neil

Hey, ja hear? Two Supergirl episodes were on the other night! ‘Course, I’ve seen ‘em all, but it was a pleasure to see ‘em again. You too?

And hey. Looks like the Cardinals won’t make the playoffs this year. Darn shame, if you ask me. But there’s always next year. One’a these years, the birds’ll go the distance.

Huh? You said something about water?

Netflix has a new sitcom streaming. Maybe that’s why you mentioned “water,” ‘cause water streams just like sitcoms. Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean. Anyway, we’ll give the new sitcom a watch right after dinner. Well, maybe not right after dinner ‘cause Supergirl’ll be on from eight to ten and we won’t be missing a single second of that. It’s important to know what Netflix is up to, though not as important asSupergirl. That Melissa Benoit – is she an actress or what! But I don’t have to tell you that it’s important to know what Netflix is up to. Ja hear that they’re releasing a Luke Cage movie, to go with Daredevil and Jessica Jones? We’ll be turning off the phone that day! It’s important to know what Netflix is up to. Did I already say that?

Rain? Is that what you said? Like what kings do? That kind of rain?

And ja hear about Brad and Angie? Apparently they’re talking divorce. Wow, I’d sure hate to see that. A darn national tragedy, that’s what that would be. Seems like Brad got caught kissing Marion Cotillard – she was Talia in the last Batman flick, you remember. No, no, not the tall woman, the shorter one. The tall one was Anne Hathaway – how could you forget that? She was Catwoman. No, not Halle Berry Catwoman or Michelle Feiffer Catwoman, or those other ones…We’re talking the lovely Anne Hathaway, darn it.

“Run for office,” did you say? Like, an office is on wheels and it’s going downhill and you have to catch it?

Oh, politics. Yeah, politics can sure be fun. I can’t wait to see what those wacky ducks’ll do next. One said the other was a “poopy head,” or something like that. I heard it from my uncle and he I think he was eating something while we were talking, and, you know, he was hard to understand. It was a doughnut, maybe. Anyway, those politics’ll come up with something funny every time – you can take that straight to the bank, my friend.

There you go again, yakking about floods. So there were some floods in some of those states we don’t know about and in Louisiana they’re saying it’s the worst disaster since Hurricane Sandy? Houses lost. Dead people. Stuff like that’s too bad. But they’ll get over it.

Ja hear that Ben Affleck is the next Batman?


Dennis O’Neil is one of the top writer-editors in comics, having guided the careers of just about every superhero the world has ever heard of. He’s also a damn fine writer of TV. LB still remembers that time he and Denny collaborated, without ever knowing they were doing so. Or knowing each other either. Ah, the magic of TV! This post was first published in Denny’s column at ComicMix.

The 2016 PEOPLE’S PILOT Early Bird Entry Discount Ends in 2 Weeks

It’s quick heads-up for everybody planning to enter TVWriter™’s 2016 People’s Pilot Competition. (Which  should be all of you because new categories, new prizes, bigger prizes too!)

The regular price for the PP is $50/entry, but our Early Bird Discount cuts that by 30% to $35 if you enter by 11:59 pm Pacific Time on May 1, 2016.

This doesn’t mean you have to upload your entry by that date. You can hold onto it or finish it or revise it up to the very last minute entries will be accepted – 11:59 pm Pacific Time, November 1, 2016.

Sign in for your 2016 PEOPLE’S PILOT Early Bird Entry HERE.

Find out more about the People’s Pilot, one of the oldest and most respected writing contests on the web – including its rules, prizes, et al – HERE

Winners, Finalists, and Semi-Finalists of TVWriter™’s past contests are or have most recently been on the staffs of MOM, CHICAGO PD, CHICAGO FIRE, PERSON OF INTEREST, THE WALKING DEAD, RIZZOLI AND ISLES, COLONY, GREY’S ANATOMY, ONCE UPON A TIME, SMALLVILLE, ROME, THE LEFTOVERS, the upcoming WESTWORLD and recently departed THE BASTARD EXECUTIONER, to name a few. We’d love to see you join them!

Break a leg!

The Week at TVWriter™ – April 18, 2016

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In case you’ve missed what’s happening at TVWriter™, the most popular blog posts during the week ending yesterday were:

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path with Manager Zadoc Angell, Part 1

What to Expect if You Move to LA

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Who is Herbie J Pilato?

Showrunners’ Guide to Effective Apologies (Hi, Jason Rothenberg!)

And our most visited permanent resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

The Teleplay

The Logline

Student Central

Major thanks to everyone for making this such a great week. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed. re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!

The Week at TVWriter™ – April 11, 2016

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In case you’ve missed what’s happening at TVWriter™, the most popular blog posts during the week ending yesterday were:

Peggy Bechko’s World: Writer Not Writing

Peggy Bechko’s World: On The First Draft

Showrunners’ Guide to Effective Apologies (Hi, Jason Rothenberg!)

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Kelly Jo Brick: Highlights from the Los Angeles BinderCon

And our most visited permanent resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

The Logline

The Teleplay

THE BASICS OF TV WRITING: Overview

Major thanks to everyone for making this such a great week. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed. re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!

The Week at TVWriter™ – April 4, 2016

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Peggy Bechko’s World: Writer Not Writing

Peggy Bechko’s World: Writers’ Listening Skills

Kelly Jo Brick: Highlights from the Los Angeles BinderCon

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

The 100 and the Power of Story

And our most visited permanent resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

The Logline

The Teleplay

THE BASICS OF TV WRITING: Overview

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The Week at TVWriter™ – March 28, 2016

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In case you’ve missed what’s happening at TVWriter™, the most popular blog posts during the week ending yesterday were:

Peggy Bechko’s World: Writers’ Listening Skills

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

Peggy Bechko on the Writer’s Curse: Overthinking

The 100 and the Power of Story

Lessons From Late ‘60s TV

And our most visited permanent resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

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The Logline

The Teleplay

Script Formatting Software

Major thanks to everyone for making this such a great week. Don’t forget to click above and read what you missed. re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!