“Riverdale” premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday on The CW, promising a bold, dark and subversive take on the wholesome town familiar to generations from Archie Comics.
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Archie Comics’ chief creative officer, said he and Jon Goldwater, its chief executive officer, had discussed doing a live- action Archie project, with a film their initial thought.
After seeing the 2012 coming of age film “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and getting “Pitch Perfect” director Jason Moore to sign on, Aguirre-Sacasa pitched what he described as “a slice of life, coming of age movie” to many studios.
“A lot of the studios really loved the pitch, really loved the characters, but they didn’t know exactly how to make and market a coming of film,” Aguirre-Sacasa said during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour. “It was sort of not a big enough movie for a bunch of places.”
However, the pitch was bought by Warner Bros. Senior Vice President of Production Sarah Schechter. A then-Warner Bros. executive who Aguirre-Sacasa and Schechter both declined to name later suggested incorporating time travel, a portal to another dimension or having 40-something comedian Louis C.K. portray Archie.
“We spent about a month trying to figure out how to do a high concept Archie movie and in the end, Jason and I were like, `That’s kind of the exact opposite of what we wanted to do,’ so … all parties backed away,” Aguirre- Sacasa said.
Aguirre-Sacasa said he learned about a year later Schechter had become president of television producer Greg Berlanti’s production company and proposed a television series based on the Archie Comics characters.
“It made so much sense because Greg does so many comic book shows … and … had done some of the most iconic coming of age shows and one of the most iconic small town shows, `Everwood,”‘ Aguirre-Sacasa said. “So it really felt like this was a match made in heaven.”
In his first meeting with Berlanti, Aguirre-Sacasa said he discussed “how I wanted to do a coming of age show and a slice of life show.”
“Greg said, `Yeah, you’re going to need a dead body, though,” Aguirre- Sacasa said. “And I remember thinking, `No, no, no. We’re not going to need a dead body. No way we’re going to need a dead body.’
“And we took a pitch out that was more slice of life and coming of age, and Fox bought it, and one of the first things they said is, `We need to make this a little edgier. It needs to have a little bit more of a hook.’ And seven months after Greg said to me, `You need a dead body,’ I was sort like, `We need a dead body.’
“That’s when the show really crystallized artistically. It went from just being a coming of age show to a loss of innocence show and it really kind of framed every story we would tell, which would be kind of a more traditional Archie coming of ae story, but something that was also a little bit darker, a little bit moodier, a little bit more noir.”
The dead body is Jason Blossom, the twin brother of Riverdale’s “queen bee” Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch). The series begins with Riverdale reeling from Jason Blossom’s mysterious death, which has prompted Archie Andrews (KJ Apa) to realize he wants to pursue a career in music and not follow in his father’s footsteps.
The cast includes two actors from memorable 1990s series as parents of teenage characters. “Beverly Hills 90210” heartthrob Luke Perry plays Archie’s father Fred and Madchen Amick, who portrayed waitress Shelly Johnson on “Twin Peaks,” plays girl-next-door Betty Cooper’s (Lili Reinhart) overbearing mother Alice.
“Alice Cooper is probably one of the funnest characters I’ve ever gotten to play,” Amick said. “She’s a little twisted. I’m so excited to open up the script. Every time I get one I’m like what is Alice going to do in this episode?
“She strives for perfection, and because she’s so obsessed with perfection, it means that she’s absolutely out of control behind the facade.”
“Riverdale” will give viewers the opportunity to watch something “you don’t see a lot on television anymore, stories about parents and children,” said Schechter, one of “Riverdale’s” executive producers.
“I grew up a really big fan of `90210′ and `Twin Peaks,”‘ Schechter told City News Service. “This show is for me is almost for the 15-year-old version of me to enjoy what a cross of those two shows would be.”
—City News Service