I’m going to take a bit of a break from Franklyn and the film world in general today, and talk about the world of Neo-Noir TV shows.
Last year, the TV show “Riverdale” on the CW network was a surprise hit. Based on the popular comic series “Archie,” Riverdale brought a Twin Peaks-style noir vibe to the small screen. I highly recommend the first season to anyone who loves noir films or tv shows. Interestingly though, I wouldn’t recommend it as strong to fans of the original comic.
Archie and Friends is a comic series that ran from the 1960s onward; the golden age was during the 1970s, although it has existed in various media until about 2005. The comic revolved around the titular character, Archie, and his friends/occasional love interests Betty and Veronica. Jughead and Moose were recurring characters, given much bigger roles in the show itself. The comic was the embodiment of the 1960s and 70s high school drama; every day was sunny and there was always fun to be had. So how on earth did this comic inspire the dark drama series that is Riverdale?
Riverdale was born around 2010, but did not get full funding until around 2015. It (oddly enough) was difficult to convince anyone that a gritty reboot of a comic involving friends in high school having a good time would go well. However, the juxtaposition worked. There is an element of teen drama in Riverdale, just enough to keep the CW’s target audience engaged. However, there is a Twin Peaks vibe that starts at the beginning of the show and just keeps on going. There are some truly creepy moments in the show.
How is it Noir?
Well here’s the interested thing: it only KIND OF noir. It checks enough boxes to convince me that it is noir for sure, but some would disagree. There are two major points that point me to the “yes” on noir: the murder mystery that dominates the show, and the element of grounded fantasy. The death of Jason Blossom opens the first few seconds of the first episode, and there are “visions” that few characters see that add a slight horror element.
However, there are a bunch of summer good times as well; you see a lot of football, badminton, cheer leading, and hanging at the soda shop. In a way, this is what makes the show as amazing as it is. While some TV snobs have written the show off as nothing but a teen drama, careful viewers will appreciate what the showrunners have done with this; they’ve managed to take a comic without a real story, and transfer it into a television world with a unique feel and story. The characters are (at best) 2 dimensional in the original comics; the TV show fleshes them out in ways that feel faithful to the original comics and realistic in the tv world. Give it a watch if you haven’t yet! You won’t regret it.