The French soccer legend Eric Cantona once quipped, “When the seagulls follow the trawler, they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.”
His philosophical words were intended to be a thinly veiled critique of the hounding press, but this article ventures to use it as a metaphor for the construction of a classic.
Classic work withstands the ravages of time due to its ability to fend off the constant nipping of ravenous seagulls, or critics, for want of a less derogatory phrase. When the trawler survives this incessant harassment and turns into a cruise ship, its beauty is unearthed. A classic is born.
“Riverdale,” The CW’s new take on the classic Archie Comics, premiered Jan. 26. The series has done a Zayn Malik — saccharine innocence is intentionally shed in favor of raw, sexual grittiness combined with film noir influences.
W.E.B. Du Bois said, “A classic is a book that doesn’t have to be written again.” The CW didn’t listen.
Based on the considerably darker Archie reboot by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples, the show centers around the town of Riverdale, which is reeling from the death and possible murder of high school heartthrob Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines, “Amityville Terror”).
Everyone is fishy, mind the pun, and discreetly drags a closet full of the most rattling skeletons. Even the innocent Archie Andrews (K.J. Apa, “A Dog’s Purpose”) manages to balance the Betty-Veronica (Lili Reinhart, “Miss Stevens,” and Camila Mendes, respectively) lonely hearts’ club with a rather iffy relationship with his older music teacher, Ms. Grundy (Sarah Habel, “Underemployed”). The latter has apparently sipped from the fountain of youth to become a hot mess of a young blonde woman instead of the 70-year-old Audrey Hepburn double the comics sketch her out to be.
The actors are wonderfully cast (shout out to Cole Sprouse of the infamous “Suite Life” who plays Jughead Jones) and the writing is inundated with quotable lines (“Check your sell-by date ladies, faux lesbian kissing hasn’t been taboo since 1994”). For the more refined viewer, there is a decent smattering of “What the hell, that didn’t just happen” scenes for good measure. But Riverdale’s fortunes were never going to be based on those simpletons alone.
Last week, The Badger Herald published a review of “The OA” in which it vehemently attempted to defend the show because of its newness. Newness is not always genius. Just ask The CW and “Legends of Tomorrow.” That is why this review is coming in three episodes into Riverdale’s first season, to look further into whether The CW had actually proved Du Bois wrong, or whether Du Bois was more knowledgeable from the grave than grizzled (and alive) network heads.
Rather fortunately for those alive, “Riverdale” is a triumph. It is riveting, a glorious marriage of popcorn television and smart television. It takes the classic slapstick Archie stories and rewrites them for a more mature, murder mystery/teen drama/controversial bombshell inclined 21st century audience.
Expect it to be renewed again and again. The seagulls came calling after the first episode but the show’s subsequent installments fended them off. The trawler survived. Only, “Riverdale” was already a cruise ship and it will continue to be one.