Riverdale is a dark, modern take on the lives of the iconic Archie comic book characters.
That's the simplest way to describe the CW's twisty, new drama, but simple is probably the last word you should use to describe a show that combines a coming of age high school drama with a murder mystery and soapy goodness. It's a show that doesn't try to shy away from being everything at once — which is what will make it one of the most unique shows of the mid-season.
"We have a lot of different elements," executive producer Roberto Aguire-Sacasa tells TVGuide.com "We have the mystery. We have the coming of age. We have the musical element. We have the secrets of a small town element to it. It's a balancing act and some episodes skew more a certain way than others. Rather than having the show be just one thing, the show should be a mix of tones. Episode 6 is a very strong musical episode. Episode 5 is a very gothic horror type of episode. Episode 4, the closing of the drive-in is very neo-Noir episode."
At the center of all those elements is a dead body. The pilot begins with the reveal that Jason Blossom is missing and the details around his disappearance are sketchy to say the least. The premise is a bit of a divergence from the hijinks Archie Andrews and his band of misfit friends usually get into. However, the murder not only sets up the tone of the first season, but prepares fans for a series to be filled with mystery. While Jason Blossom's killer will be discovered before the end of the first run, there will always be secrets in Riverdale that need to be uncovered.
"There are shows, for instance like Desperate Housewives, that had the murder of Mary Alice in Season 1, then Season 2 was a different mystery. That's kind of what we're thinking," Aguire-Sacasa explains. "Each season will have a genre element, a higher concept...I think the show lives in the tension of the full color world of the comic books and the black and white neon of noir. There will always be a crime or a suspense or mystery story driving each season...We'll still always telling the romance, relationships and coming of age stories as well."
Part of the darker twist is adding new layers to the characters everyone thinks they already know. Archie (KJ Apa) is in the midst of a scandalous relationship with neither Betty (Lili Reinhart) or Veronica (Camila Mendes). Betty has a much darker side than her perfect-girl-next-door posterior suggests and Veronica arrives in the small town after a scandal sends her father to prison and her mother running from New York for cover from the gossip.
There's time to dig into all of that as the series goes on, though. The person who introduces the audience to Riverdale is Jughead (Cole Sprouse), via a classic detective-style voice over. He's our entry point into the mystery of Jason Blossom's murder and we'll meet the new Archie characters through Jughead's eyes. The decision to make Jughead the voice of the show is something that Aguire-Sacasa doesn't think should be a surprise to Archie fans.
"When we landed on the idea that this would be a noir story, there's always a hard-boiled narrator. I really like that convention. Some of my writer friends don't like voice over, but I like voice over," the producer says. "It felt like Jughead was the character who was removed enough from our main group to be able to comment on it. I love that he's a writer. That felt very Jughead. He's always felt a little bit wiser in the comic books, and a little more sardonic."
Do you think the dark Archie take is right for you? Find out when Riverdale premieres Thursday, Jan. 26 at 9/8c on the CW.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of the CW's parent companies)