Each day I live and breathe, I'm inching closer to a time when I will no longer understand and will therefore lose the capacity to truly love a teen drama. But I'm not there yet, and I'm (still) searching for something to fill the void Gossip Girl left when it was revealed that Lonely Boy was the one putting the words in Kristin Bell's mouth.
Gossip Girl first aired after an episode of America's Next Top Model. I remember this because my mother and I used to watch ANTM together in the days before girls started auditioning just so they could meet Tyra. But neither of us could leave the room once Gossip Girl's pilot began. We were both hooked immediately, and it would be a show we enjoyed together even after I left home for another city hours away, and then another state halfway across the country.
GG was corny at times, and it had its pitfalls (how did Chuck Bass start Season 1 by trying to rape little Jenny and end it by kicking off what would become an epic love story with Blair?). But through all of its ridiculousness, Gossip Girl never seemed to lose its stride. There was always Serena and Blair. There was always the star-crossed love story of Serena and Dan and there was always the amazing wardrobe and spot-on music direction.
Since the show's finale, my heart has been longing for a replacement. Recently, I think I may have found it in Riverdale.
First of all, none of the young men who matriculated at my high school had bodies like Archie's (KJ Apa). If they had, I would have lost my virginity much earlier. Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) and Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch) share the two sides of Blair, and Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart) is a perfect Serena fill-in, what with her pretty face, sweet nature and looming secrets. Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse) marries the parts of Chuck Bass and Dan Humphrey while Archie – who managed to date or almost date everyone of relevance in the cast in Season 1 alone – is a solid Nate Archibald type. We even get narration at the open and close of each episode, carrying everything but the "XOXO." The clothes aren't quite as covetable as they were on Gossip Girl, but Riverdale is far from the Upper East Side, so I'll deal.
Riverdale is so welcome after a strong series of almosts. The show gives me serious The Secret Circle vibes. The Secret Circle – a show I thought would earn the spot of GG replacement – was canceled after one season. It was for the best: The acting left a lot to be desired and that plot just was not stable. I maybe have been desperate for a teen-TV fix, but I loved the dark magic and the parents' outrageous antics.
I dipped a toe into East Los High and didn't make it through a full season. I loved that the show had an all Latino cast and dealt with some pretty serious themes, but I kept getting frustrated with so many characters making bad decisions.
I tried 13 Reasons Why because I'm a glutton for punishment. I'm sure the intentions were good, but that show is an unnecessarily long PSA. The saga dragged on so long that the show almost glorified Hannah Baker's elaborate suicide. Sorry, but Law & Order: SVU could have handled all of that in one episode.
My only gripe about Riverdale is the same gripe I have about most teen dramas. There's a lack of diversity in the core cast. Of course I have to give them a pass (do I really?) because apparently rural Riverdale isn't a diverse town, and the characters are based on the cartoon personalities invented back when schools were still segregated. I suppose I should be happy about the five-ish POC characters in the storyline. Honestly, the world as it is right now, it's almost refreshing that they don't mention race more than once or twice through Season 1. They instead focus on status, nepotism and fucked up family histories. Josie and her pussycats wear their natural curls, Archie dates Valerie (Hayley Law) with no racist backlash, and Josie's mom – a black woman – is mayor. The characters seem to be aware of the weight of these things, but we as viewers are not beaten over the head with it.
I binged the whole first season in about three days. Now I wait to see how the story will progress from here and if we'll ever see what's outside of Riverdale. Will Veronica fly back to NYC and link up with Blair and Serena? Probably not, but I can dream.