As proof that comic book adaptations are here to stay – and that TV shows are a far lower hurdles for them to tackle than big screen features – the latest property announced to be coming to the small screen is Archie Comics‘ leading man himself, with Fox landing a pilot order. The drama series, titled Riverdale, will also be bringing his surrounding cast, from Jughead, Betty and Veronica, to supporting characters like Josie and the Pussycats.
While some might laugh at the very idea of Archie Comics coming to live-action in a ‘drama,’ the pilot is being developed by a few proven talents in comics or teen programming. As Deadline reports, producer Greg Berlanti will be overseeing the production along with Warner Bros. TV – a relationship already credited for the likes of The CW’s Arrow and The Flash, as well as CBS’s Supergirl.
But before Archie fans hope for (or dread) a superhero slant on their favorite characters, it’s clear the network and producers are eying the demographic expected to tune in to any series following a group of high school students. Though some may jump to conclusions given Berlanti’s past work – Dawson’s Creek or Jack & Bobby – there stands a real chance of Riverdale making its mark. A fact alluded to in the series’ description:
Set in the present, the series offers a bold, subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends, exploring the surreality of small-town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.
The series will showcase the eternal love triangle of Archie Andrews, girl-next-door Betty Cooper and rich socialite Veronica Lodge and will include the entire cast of characters from the comic books — including Archie’s rival Reggie Mantle and slacker best friend Jughead Jones. Popular gay character Kevin Keller also will play a pivotal role, with other characters from Archie Comics’ expansive library also slated to appear, including Josie and the Pussycats.
Terms like “bold” or “subversive” get tossed around plenty these days, but writing duties will be personally handled by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa; the playwright responsible for “Afterlife with Archie,” a series re-casting the comic’s characters in a zombie nightmare. As one of the best new horror titles in years – landing Archie Comics back in comic stores instead of supermarkets – the line also Aguirre-Sacasa a spot as Archie Comics’ Chief Creative Officer.
Add the writing experience he has on shows like Glee and Big Love (as well as the Carrie remake) and the push to return Archie Comics to the pop culture conversation, and Riverdale has the potential to be intriguing, if nothing else. Recent cable hits have shown that quirky, surreal drama can find larger audiences than previously assumed; and with the name alone sure to attract viewers for its pilot episode, the series could turn heads simply by defying expectations.
There were previous reports that Warner Bros. was developing a full-length Archie film with a script by Aguirre-Sacasa and director Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect). It’s unclear if the TV deal is a sign that the movie plans have been placed on hold, but with more and more comics finding success on the small screen, that’s a very real possibility. And for Archie Comics, Riverdale could be just the beginning.
After all, there were also plans to bring an edgier, darker reboot of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch to the big screen. With Aguirre-Sacasa having launched his own horror title – “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” – after the success of “Afterlife,” there’s always spin-off potential for Fox should Riverdale find an audience. Why should superheroes get to have all the shared universe fun?
We’ll keep you updated as more news of casting or plot details arrive, but for now, what do you make of the news? Does the cast and setting seem like a good fit for a high school drama, with Berlanti’s experience in comic adaptations lending even more momentum? Or does this seem like a long shot compared to the rest of the comic TV shows in development?
Riverdale pilot is currently in development with a pilot commitment from Fox.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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