Now in the midst of its third season, “Riverdale” is a decidedly dark, completely bonkers take on the old “Archie” comics — which had been around a long time when the parents and grandparents of today’s teenagers were young. (“Archie” debuted in 1941.)
And yet Rolling Stone called “Riverdale” a “sensation” and a “ratings-busting guilty pleasure” that has turned the young actors who play Archie (KJ Apa), Jughead (Cole Sprouse), Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica (Camila Mendes) into “TV’s hottest stars.”
Apa, a 21-year-old from New Zealand, doesn't have to go far for advice on how to handle his status as a heartthrob. Luke Perry, who became a star as bad boy Dylan on “Beverly Hills, 90210” almost 30 years ago, plays Archie's father, Fred.
“I find that, as it pertains to my experience, the temperature of the show is similar in that it’s a lot of screaming teenage girls,” Perry said.
But “Riverdale” (Wednesdays, 7 p.m., Channel 30) is not just a show that focuses on teenagers played by 20-something actors. Their parents are also integral, which is why executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa insisted that the show not be titled “Archie.”
“We wanted it to be bigger than just a high-school show,” he said, adding that “the show wouldn’t work without the parents.”
Certainly, the adults have been at the center of the dark doings in Riverdale. (SPOILER ALERT for the rest of this paragraph, if you’ve never watched the series.) Season 1 revolved around the murder of Jason Blossom (Trevor Stines) — and it turned out his father, Cliff (Barclay Hope), did it. Season 2 revolved around a serial killer known as the Black Hood — who turned out to be Betty’s father, Hal (Lochlyn Munro).
And Season 3 is well on its way to being even more insane. Archie has been in prison for a murder he didn't commit, and the swirling mystery involves a Dungeons and Dragons-esque role-playing game/creepy cult headed by the Gargoyle King — and pretty much all the parents were hiding a deep, dark secret related to it.
Perry isn’t the only “Riverdale” parent familiar to fans of 1990s TV and movies. Mädchen Amick (“Twin Peaks”) stars as Betty’s mother, Alice; Robin Givens (“Head of the Class”) as Josie’s mother, Sierra; and Skeet Ulrich (“Scream”) as Jughead’s father, F.P.
“It is like a childhood dream for me to have someone from ’90210′ and ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘Scream’ and ‘Head of the Class’ … in a scene together,” said executive producer Sarah Schechter. “It doesn’t make sense, but it totally makes sense to me.”
Ulrich had said he hoped his “Scream” co-star Neve Campbell would be cast as Jughead’s mother, but that role went to Gina Gershon; her first appearance will air on Dec. 12. There is more crazy casting coming, however. Daytime talk-show host Kelly Ripa — the real-life wife of Mark Consuelos, who stars as Veronica’s mobster father, Hiram — has been cast as Hiram’s mistress. Their son Michael Consuelos played young Hiram in a flashback episode.
Coincidentally, Marisol Nichols, who plays Veronica's mother, Hermione, had small roles in “90210” and “Scream 2.”
Whatever casting comes our way, Aguirre-Sacasa promised the parents will remain central to the storylines.
“We would love to do a bizarre episode where we follow mostly the parents and the kids are just sort of on the fringes,” he said. “It would be great.”