×

‘Katy Keene’: TV Review

Lucy Hale lends charm to a winning CW series set in a fantasyland New York — and in the "Riverdale" universe.

With:
Lucy Hale, Ashleigh Murray, Katherine LaNasa
Release Date:
Feb 6, 2020

60 MIN

Katy Keene” may be set in the Archie Comics universe. But it’s a long way from “Riverdale.”

That point is made, first, by a series-opening sequence in which Katy (Lucy Hale) announces “Welcome to New York!” while watching her roommate, a drag queen (Jonny Beauchamp), perform; only moments before, the Taylor Swift song “Welcome to New York” had been playing as Katy went about her job at an upscale department store. Later in the pilot, Josie (Ashleigh Murray), now an aspiring vocalist who operates without her backing Pussycats, announces she has little to fear in the big city: “I am from Riverdale. It’s the murder capital of the world.”

Indeed, the problems in “Katy Keene’s” New York seem more prosaic than in the drug-and-violence-strewn small town of “Riverdale” — and the show is better for it. Katy, here, is a would-be designer seeking to balance work, friends, and a relationship with a fellow (Zane Holtz) with whom she seems to share more past than future. She’s one among a group of friends trying to make it in a New York that’s a fantasy, but an appealing one — a playland with just enough grit to make attaining one’s dreams seem like a struggle worth enduring.

Hale, previously of “Pretty Little Liars,” is an endearing guide; her Katy is never defeated but easily flummoxed, with a very slight shade of Carrie Bradshaw to her witty, undercutting sense of the inherent drama of being herself. And the ensemble — the friends surrounding Katy as well as the coworkers seeking to deflate her dreams — are, to a one, well-cast.

In all, this show does an elegant job of reversing the “Riverdale” equation. On that show— also on the CW, also executive-produced by Greg Berlanti, and sharing source material as well as a vision — high schoolers speak in the lofty parlance of well-read thirtysomethings while dealing with nightmarish problems. On “Katy Keene,” characters living on their own as newly independent adults retain both the optimism and the indecision of their high school selves,  a framing that feels refreshingly true to how one’s early 20s play out. And the loopy, serendipitous Manhattan of the series carries just enough real risk — of romantic disappointment, of career stall-out, of just not figuring it out at the same pace as one’s peers — to remain worth watching.

In all, “Katy Keene” represents a pleasant instance of the CW getting the balance exactly right for a comforting, engaging watch, keeping what works on “Riverdale” and ditching the murder. One hopes it stays that way.

'Katy Keene': TV Review

The CW. Three episodes screened for review.

Production: Executive producers: Greg Berlanti, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Michael Grassi, Sarah Schechter, Jon Goldwater.

Cast: Lucy Hale, Ashleigh Murray, Katherine LaNasa, Julia Chan, Jonny Beauchamp, Lucien Laviscount, Zane Holtz, Camille Hyde.

More TV

  • U.K. Broadcaster Channel 5 Readies Thomas

    U.K. Broadcaster Channel 5 Readies Thomas Markle Documentary

    ViacomCBS-backed U.K. broadcaster Channel 5 will air a 90-minute documentary on Meghan Markle’s father Thomas Markle. Markle and her husband Prince Harry sparked a global media frenzy earlier this month with their decision not to continue as senior members of the British Royal Family. Buckingham Palace announced that the couple are to lose their royal [...]

  • Tony Hall BBC Director General

    BBC Boss Tony Hall Lands at U.K.'s National Gallery

    BBC director general Tony Hall has been appointed chair of the board of trustees of the National Gallery. The executive, who has served on the Gallery’s board since November, takes over as chair from Sir John Kingman, who has been interim chair since Hannah Rothschild stood down from the role in September. Hall said: “The [...]

  • Fox TV Stations Greenlight 'Central Ave'

    Fox TV Stations Greenlight 'Central Ave' From Will Packer, Debmar-Mercury

    Fox Television Stations has ordered the weekly entertainment news magazine “Central Ave,” which hails from prolific film and TV producer Will Packer and Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury. Debmar-Mercury and Will Packer Media will produce two half-hour shows per week of “Central Ave,” which tackles pop culture and other topics from a “socially conscious and diverse lens,” per [...]

  • Tony Hall, Director General of the

    Frontrunners Emerge as BBC Boss Tony Hall Set to Leave Broadcasting Behind

    As the U.K. industry reacts to news of Tony Hall’s intention to depart the BBC this July, top-level executives including Charlotte Moore and Tim Davie as well as external contenders such as Channel 4’s Alex Mahon are beginning to emerge. Variety understands that Lord Hall, who has headed the BBC for seven years as director [...]

  • Gustavo Mello and Ran Tellem

    Boutique Filmes, The Mediapro Studio Team for ‘To Kill a Queen’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID — Gustavo and Tiago Mello’s São Paulo-based Boutique Filmes, producers of early Netflix Original overseas breakout “3%,” is teaming with high-end drama powerhouse The Mediapro Studio (“The New Pope,” “The Head”) to produce “To Kill a Queen.” International sales rights on the series will be handled by The Mediapro Studio Distribution. From an original [...]

  • Donald Trump Hollywood Racism

    Impeachment Trial Adds to TV's Breaking-News Juggle

    As if TV news needed more headlines… The usual suspects are gearing up to cover the U.S. Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, the latest swirl in what seems to be a never-ending news cycle centered on the White House. But the impeachment proceedings, which kick off in earnest Tuesday, take place as many [...]

  • Blood Oath

    MBC Studios to Launch Arabic TV Series 'Blood Oath,' Written by Britain's Tony Jordan

    MBC Studios, the Saudi-owned production unit of top Middle Eastern free-to-air satellite network MBC Group is set to launch “Blood Oath,” an Arabic crime series written by Britain’s Tony Jordan (“EastEnders,” “Life on Mars”). The announcement comes as Dubai-based MBC Studios, set up in 2018 and headed by former president of NBCUniversal International Peter Smith, is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content