The CW’s upcoming gritty Archie Comics series “Riverdale” has been described in various ways: “The O.C.” meets “Twin Peaks.” “90210” meets “Twin Peaks.” “Gossip Girl” meets “Twin Peaks.” But it wasn’t always thus.
It started with Archie Comics executives Jon Goldwater (CEO and publisher) and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (chief creative officer) looking to do a “Perks of Being a Wallflower”-type film, “Riverdale” executive producer Aguirre-Sacasa revealed Sunday morning at the CW’s TCA panel. But while many studios liked the pitch, everyone passed, until the idea came to Warner Bros. It was bought as a film, and development was continuing apace until a meeting with one particular executive.
“He said, ‘I want you to think about time travel, Archie traveling through time,'” Aguirre-Sacasa said. Then came another suggestion: “Portals are huge, [there’s] a portal to another dimension.” And finally: “What if Louis C.K. is Archie?”
“It was like something out of an episode of ‘Entourage,'” Aguirre-Sacasa added. After it morphed from a film to a series with Greg Berlanti attached as an executive producer, Fox bought the series, but said they wanted it to be a little edgier.
“Seven months after Greg said, ‘You need a dead body,’ I said, ‘We need a dead body,'” Aguirre-Sacasa said.
The show acquired a darker tone and more of a noir feel. “It became a loss of innocence show,” Aguirre-Sacasa explained. That loss of innocence doesn’t just refer to the dead body. Spoiler alert: High school sophomore Archie, played by New Zealander KJ Apa, is involved with one of his teachers, Miss Grundy (Sarah Habel).
Given that Archie is 16, the executive producers understand that there might be some trepidation among viewers about the portrayal of that kind of relationship.
“Roberto loves these characters, and I don’t think anyone’s being salacious to be salacious,” Berlanti said. “That is not our goal. That being said, ‘Riverdale’ wants to deal in the tropes of these kinds of shows and comment on those kinds of things and have that be a part of it.”
The Archie universe is large and malleable, according to Goldwater, and though CW president Mark Pedowitz hasn’t yet committed to expanding the network’s roster of Archie shows, Aguirre-Sacasa and Goldwater have plenty of related projects in development. There’s the forthcoming Will Ferrell-Adam McKay-penned Archie Broadway musical, which the two said will be more comedic than the Archie world in “Riverdale,” and even a “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” idea in the works. “We’ve talked about Sabrina being a bit darker, more like ‘Rosemary’s Baby.’ It’s not going to be the half-hour sitcom with Melissa Joan Hart,” Aguirre-Sacasa said.