Monday, January 30, 2017

Is Riverdale REALLY All That's Cracked Up to Be?

The thing about adaptations and revamps to classic anything is that it's tough to find a balance between what made the classics so iconic to begin with, and how to keep those elements while delivering a fresh perspective for a new audience. With that said...

What to say about Riverdale that hasn't been said thus far...?

OK, I'll admit. One of my first American comics from childhood is Archie Comics, and yes, the coincidence of the young Andrews of Riverdale sharing a name with my uncle is just that. And of course, along with Marvel, Archie Comics has been revolutionary in diversity and inclusion for decades, though recently with the inclusion of such characters as gay teen Kevin Keller, along with revamps like Life with Archie, showcasing their adult lives in parallel ways, Riverdale was slowly transforming from a cartoon funny utopia to a teen soap with the quickness. But I never quite expected an actual soap adaptation of Riverdale. Or perhaps I was making corny jokes about it undergoing the telenovela format because I was so deep in the closet about the possibility, I was in Narnia.

With that said, how was Riverdale, the latest CW teen soap?

I'll be blunt. There's nothing revolutionary about it, structure-wise. The character archetypes are all obvious cheap cliches we've all seen before: the 'hot jock' who feels things ‘deeply,’ the 'sweet girl next door,' the sardonic, sarcastic best friend, the stuck-up rich bitch, the sage dad giving sage advice, etc (To be fair, the same could be said about the old-to-current Archie Comics, sans current soap opera drama.) Plus the stories of mysterious deaths, love triangles, and scandalous secrets have long been staples of serial TV in general, ESPECIALLY in soap operas and telenovelas. 

And yet, despite all that, Riverdale manages to take all that and make it engaging and addictive to watch.

For starters, the well-depicted use of the town itself turns Riverdale into a character all its own via its unique camera style almost reminiscent of cinema verité sometimes. Also helping is the sharp writing and kickass acting from its rather diverse cast, young and old, black, white, gay, etc, making the characters a bit less-cliched and more like actual people. Plus the murder mystery as an umbrella arc bridging the other plots and subplots was nicely done.

Speaking of the characters, KJ Apa has come a long (and I do mean LONG) way from New Zealand soap Shortland Street. As main character Archie Andrews, Apa has shown a lot of depth and maturity. Of course it helps that he's got a nice body, which is fanservice the camera loves to linger on. Luke Perry as Archie's dad Fred is damn good, too. Yeah, he's aged from being Dylan McCoy on Beverly Hills 90210, but he's still sexier than ever. Now if there's any more scenes of him getting his groove on...but I digress. Lili Reinhart is pretty ace as Betty Cooper, the nice girl with secrets of her own, and Cole Sprouse actually wowed me as Jughead Jones, though it looks like his love of hamburgers is basically all but gone, so far. 

The real show stealer, though, is Camilla Mendes as rich bitch Veronica Lodge, as she's written with heart and actually has enough depth to give even Archie a go. It's clear Camilla is having a lot of fun as Veronica, as she not only stops the show when she enters, she does so with style and grace. Her blistering chemistry with Apa's Archie is also amazing, though it doesn't bode well for Betty thus far. One thing I can say is that Betty and Veronica's friendship is real, and while both are clearly in love with Archie, they wouldn't fuck each other over some ginger D. Clearly different from other teen shows of this caliber.

Of course, it helps that Josie and the Pussycats are all sistas here. And Robin Givens as Josie's mother and Riverdale mayor adds to the inclusive flavour. Compared to old Riverdale, New Riverdale (both comic and TV) doesn't seem so bad. There's just one small, though important, problem so far: Kevin Keller.

In the Old Riverdale comics, Kevin was not only the first openly gay character to ever come to Riverdale; he was also an aspiring military guy, looking up to his father. Hence while he was a nice guy (like Archie), he was also winsome, quippy, and slightly bland. In the current Riverdale show, though, he was somewhat the same, but now he's also a pop culture-obsessed queen. I'm not complaining about the stereotype in of itself, but that there's more to being gay than camp and pop culture obsession. There was enough of that with Kurt Hummel on Glee, so why revisit here?

Almost forgot: Kevin's dad, rather than an Army Colonel in the comics, is now the Riverdale Sheriff. Go figure.

Don't worry, there were lots of changes to the other characters, too. Miss Grundy, for instance, in the classics was an elderly woman with a dowel rod-like nose and a barrister wig-like hairstyle. Here, Grundy is a nubile thirtysomething ephebophile who had an affair with Archie over the summer (and possibly other teen boys, too.) Classic nerd Dilton Doiley has an...interesting hobby I won't spoil here, but it does somewhat creep me out. Moose Mason, while still a musclebound idiot, in the comics was a generally nice guy. Here, he's a straight-up bullying shitlord who bro'ed with a sexual predator. (Uh...yeah. Fuck no.) Reggie Mantle, who in the comics was a frenemy prick with Archie and the gang, here barely shows up, and even then he's more of inconsiderate moron than an outright prick.

Overall, while the old Riverdale was very light on scandal, sex, and murder, the new, current Riverdale  bathes in it, and then some. Yes, it traded old-school wholesome fun for typical millenium teen soap opera drama, but I'm not complaining, as the murder mystery and scandals ARE engaging and delicious enough to delve into.

Welcome to Riverdale. Better than Dawson's Crack, and actively far more riveting.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Random observation: Popeye is a pothead, and other shit

Ah, Popeye the Sailor. According to Wikipedia, though at times he seems bereft of manners or uneducated, Popeye is often depicted as capable of coming up with solutions to problems that (to the police, or, most importantly, the scientific community) seem insurmountable. Popeye has, alternatively, displayed Sherlock Holmes-like investigative prowess (determining for instance that his beloved Olive was abducted by estimating the depth of the villains' footprints in the sand), scientific ingenuity (as his construction, within a few hours, of a "spinach-drive" spacecraft), or oversimplified (yet successful) diplomatic arguments (by presenting to diplomatic conferences his own existence—and superhuman strength—as the only true guarantee of world peace). Popeye's pipe also proves to be highly versatile. Among other things, it has served as a cutting torch, jet engine, propeller, periscope, and, of course, a whistle with which he produces his trademark toot. Popeye also on occasion eats spinach through his pipe, sometimes sucking in the can itself along with the contents. He seldom appears to use it to smoke tobacco.

But it makes me wonder...Is it me, or was the ongoing battle between Popeye and Bluto over Olive Oyl really a battle over who can pull off the most feats on drugs? Popeye, his true love is Maryjane (oops, I mean, SPINACH), Brutus is on constant roid rage, and Olive is the ultimate crack whore. C'mon now, you know that chick done fucked all of Gaslight Alley, Wimpy included. Even her baby Swee'Pea is always twitching in the Fleischer Famous cartoons, so he is the epitome of a crack baby. Not to mention no one ever knows who the father is, so that's another Maury Povich episode altogether.

Let me be specific here. One of the main drugs in the cartoons, no matter which era, movies, or series, has got to be steroids. Actual spinach does NOT make one super-strong, or at least not that fast, anyway. I would say that both Popeye and Bluto have the steroids. Symptoms of steroid use usually include sudden growth in muscles, increased aggression and feelings of invincibility, something both Popeye and Bluto definitely have, Bluto especially. Constant 'roid rage results in poor decision making, which kind of explain Olive the super-skinny crack whore.

People are fucked