Archie (KJ Apa), Veronica (Camila Mendes) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) get ready to share a booth at Pop Tate's in "Riverdale."

Archie (KJ Apa), Veronica (Camila Mendes) and Betty (Lili Reinhart) get ready to share a booth at Pop Tate's in "Riverdale."

KATIE YU/THE CW

A lot of Archie Comics fans are excited for Riverdale, which will premiere at 8 p.m. Jan. 26 on the CW.

Two words: Stand down. Or maybe these two: Just wait. Or these: I can't. 

Riverdale plays like a spoof of all things popular (and beautiful) on the CW and among the teen lit crowd, past and present: Heathers, Jawbreaker, 90210, Gossip Girl, etc. It's moody as hell, with emotions careening around every plot twist and enough drama in less than five episodes that there's hardly any room for character development. 

Here's the deal: It's time to go back to school in Riverdale. And the town is still trying to make sense of the death of one of its bright stars, Jason Blossom, over the Fourth of July. And then more questions come up, turning what's supposed to be a sleepy town into the scene of a real murder mystery.

But, there's light: We meet America's favorite redhead (sorry, Danny Bonaduce) and his favorite unrequited love interest Betty Cooper. 

It's like a lightning download watching the first few episodes of this series.

Because here comes all the rest:

Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes) is trying to turn over a new leaf, but she can go all Gossip Girl with the best of them, including some fan fiction come to life with a "fake lesbian kiss" with Betty. "I'm Breakfast at Tiffany's, but this place is strictly In Cold Blood," she says. Pop-culture references!

Betty's taking Adderall, the better to overachieve with. She also has a hard time dealing with her feelings for the new hotness, which happens to be best friend and next-door neighbor Archie. She is also obsessed, with a few things.

Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character in the pages of the comics, is Betty's sometimes-too-close-to-stereotype confidante.

Jughead Jones is emo -- with a knit hat that resembles that omnipresent crown -- and narrates some of the proceedings.

But who are these people?

Because we only know them from the comics and cartoons (shout out to Archie's Weird Mysteries), we can only lean on that understanding of the characters. Bummer, because these people aren't those. I keep waiting for one of the teachers to go meta and say, "Focus, honey."

The series is dark with a sense of foreboding or maybe a jump scare around every plot. I kept waiting (hoping?) for Jughead to turn into a werewolf. There's a thought: Maybe this is just a setup for a rebooted spin-off of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch?

The CW has cast Betty and Jughead for its Archie Comics series 'Riverdale'

If you like it, you'll love it.

If you don't, well, there are other great comics adaptations for you to watch. Paging The Flash.

There are nods to longtime comics readers. Jughead name-checks his little sister, Jellybean. There's a dog, but it's not Jughead's Hot Dog. It's as if some alien entity snatched the bodies from the comics and learned what to say and do by watching teen soaps from the '90s. 

Veronica even calls Archie by a favorite nickname from the comics, "Archiekins," but it's apropos of nothing.

So far, the best thing about this whole endeavor is at the end of the credits.

I hope they will send people racing to their local comics shop to see what the new Archie Comics logo is all about: a beautifully revived series that could have been perfectly brought to live action.

After all, we meet some favorite characters in the first few episodes and in some surprising ways: Reggie Mantle, more a tool here than he ever was in comic-dom; Cheryl Blossom, positively trying to be evil, and her twin, Jason Blossom, positively dead; a curious Moose Mason; head Scout in charge Dilton Doiley; Ethel Muggs, not quite as tall as she's been drawn; Chuck Clayton, a hunk now with little to no morals; his father, Coach Clayton, put in an unenviable position early on; a stern, watchful Mr. Weatherbee; a mostly silent Pop Tate, who probably knows all the secrets since apparently he owns the only place to eat in town; and a hot-to-trot Miss Grundy, who helped budding musician Archie make lovely music during a hot summer session.

There are some good things: The actors are doing the most with this twisty, Twin Peaks- and Fargo-ish noir, especially Lili Reinhart (Betty), who is the class of this joint; Josie (Ashleigh Murray showing appropriate disdain for a man trying to steal her blues) and the Pussycats are a welcome addition to any scene; Robin Givens plays a devious mayor and Josie's mother; the colorblind casting decisions; and Luke Perry as Archie's father, Fred Andrews. 

And the parents are actually present, with their own story lines. Marisol Nichols is all strength and fragility as Veronica's mother Hermione, who is laying low -- and flirting with past paramour Fred -- while Hiram Lodge runs afoul of the law. And when Molly Ringwald, cast as Archie's mom in December, comes, that can only be good.

So there, I may have talked myself into two more words: I might.

A show featuring this Josie and the Pussycats? That I'd turn the channel for. Here are some more names for Riverdale:

  • One Tree Riverdale
  • 50 Shades of Riverdale
  • Riverdull
  • Veronica Snores
  • Archie's Creek
  • As the Lodge Turns
  • The Three Faces of Betty
  • New Cheryl
  • Twin Peeks
  • The Diary of a Mad Blonde Woman
  • Josie and the Volcano
  • Red Like Me

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