Streaming on Netflix
Metadata: 2018–present | TV-14 | 2 seasons, 35 episodes
Genre: Archie Comics–based (!) dark teen drama/mystery
Why I watched it: I loved Archie growing up, but I think what really drew me to the show was everyone's relating it to David Lynch's Twin Peaks. The most obvious reference is the casting of Mädchen Amick (aka Peaks's Shelly) as Betty Cooper's mom, but there are so many more, from a dead body pulled out of the river to long shots of pine trees. Hardly any episode goes by without a Lynchian reference, which is so fun!
You might also like: Go watch Twin Peaks, already. The 1990 series that started with "Who killed Laura Palmer?" was one of the first serial narratives on primetime. Basically, we have Peaks to thank for TV as we know it! Currently streaming on Netflix.
I am a connoisseur of teen TV, so it will be surprising to exactly no one that I am obsessed with Riverdale, a noir, weird reimagining of the Archie Comics. The series features an ensemble cast made up of all the characters we know and love—Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa), Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), etc. But in this version of the picture-perfect small town known as Riverdale, the story starts with a dead body: Jason Blossom, brother of Cheryl Blossom, drowns in Sweetwater River. (Um, I told you the show was just like Twin Peaks!)
This surprise win from The CW started as a mid-season replacement, pitched to the network by Archie's creative director Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Like other network hits, the drama is full of twists, turns, and teens who are much more beautiful and damaged than any real-life counterpart could ever be. But unlike Gossip Girl, which constantly attempted realism, Riverdale revels in the fact that it's fictional. The series draws on decades of pastiche and introduces campy plots left and right. (Exhibit A, a maple syrup conspiracy is at the center of Season 1.) The dialogue feels written, and our characters know that they're in a television show. “You may be a stock character from a 90s teen movie,” Cheryl snaps at Veronica, “but I’m not.” (Cheryl is the best, obviously.)
I have literally nothing negative to say at all about this show. The ensemble cast is rich and diverse. The moody images are aesthetically pleasing beyond belief. Riverdale moves quickly past the Veronica–Archie–Betty love triangle that provided the comics with a story engine throughout, giving the female characters' relationship more depth and purpose. And Josie and the Pussycats are the back and so much better. Really, I'm here to say it: Riverdale is the best thing on TV right now. In the words of Cheryll Blossom, you're welcome to challenge me, but you'll loose.