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Beyond 'Riverdale': 5 Archie Comics TV adaptations that paved the way

Archie Comics is getting back in the TV business with the upcoming drama Riverdale. The series has already found its Archie, Betty, Veronica, Josie, Jughead, and Cheryl Blossom with KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Ashleigh Murray, and Madelaine Petsch. We’ve even got the likes of Beverly Hills 90210‘s Luke Perry joining as Archie’s dad, Fred.

The series will diverge intensely from the classic Archie Comics stories (even more than the amazingly revamped Archie series). As Archie Comics states on its website, “The live-action series offers a bold, subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica, and their friends, exploring small-town life and the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome facade.” Sounds like it’s going to be like a teen Peyton Place.

Riverdale is just one of the most exciting things to come from this new version of the Archie Comics company. But this is also not the first time that Archie Comics has braved the world of television. Let’s take a nostalgic look back at four of Archie Comics’ television properties.

1. The Archie Show

Let’s be real: 1968’s Everything’s Archie is cheap. The animation is such that only a few frames were used at a time, and were constantly recycled. The character models were off, making everyone look like strangely skinnier, country-bumpkin versions of themselves. And the voices were terrible. Jughead and Reggie have high-pitched, nasally voices? Veronica has a Southern accent? There are more questions: Why is Reggie a jovial part of the gang? What was the show’s budget? Why can’t any of the people featured in this opening dance to the beat of this song, which is supposed to be a “snappy” tune, even though it’s got a slow 4/4 meter? Just look and listen for yourself:

With that said, Everything’s Archie is fun(?) to watch simply because of the nostalgic factor. Is it horrible and could it have used some more money behind it? OF COURSE. But it did introduce the world to the song “Sugar Sugar,” a song that rivals The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” as the most successful song from a fake ’60s band. If you’re like me and actually hate the song “Sugar, Sugar,” you should actually listen to Ike and Tina Turner’s version. You’ll hear it with fresh ears.

2. Josie and the Pussycats

Kids growing up in 1970 were able to watch the brand-new episodes of Hanna-Barbera’s Josie and the Pussycats. Josie and the Pussycats had a lot going for it. First, it was produced by Hanna-Barbera, which already means you’re going to get quality animation (even if some of it was also reused over and over). Second, it was the first animated show to feature a prominent black character. Not only was Valerie a history maker, but she was the “Velma” of the group, since she was the smartest and would routinely give the group the plan to catch the Crook of the Week. Third, it had fantastic songs and an opening theme. The most famous singers in the live-action group (which existed for a while in the ’70s) were Patrice Holloway, a pop singer in her own right and the sister of Motown’s Brenda Holloway (probably best known for her song “Every Little Bit Hurts”), or Cheryl Ladd (yes, Charlie’s Angels’ Cheryl Ladd). Just take a listen to some of the bomb.com Josie and the Pussycats songs.

Of course, with Josie and the Pussycats, we have to address Alexandra and her awful cat, Sebastian. Alexandra wasn’t in the original Josie books (she was written in later, when the Josie comics became Josie and the Pussycats to match the show). I guess Hanna-Barbera was trying to make a Veronica to rival Josie, but she just came off as annoying. For ’90s kids, Alexandra was to her twin brother Alexander (who was in the original Josie and Josie and the Pussycats comics, but as a more Reggie-esque, smarmy character) as Janet was to her poor, beleagured cousin Arnold on The Magic School Bus. Alexandra got on everyone’s nerves, and the only reason she was allowed to stick around was because Alexander was the group’s manager (and because Alexander didn’t have a spine). I could write a book about how pitiful Alexandra was, but suffice it to say, Josie was always the winner: She had her life together, and it’s not like Alan M. was about to leave Josie for a homewrecker who needed to get her own life. As for Sebastian, he’s probably the most evil animated cat since Cinderella‘s Lucifer. Both he and Alexandra should have been kicked off at the next tour stop.

(For completion’s sake, there’s also Josie in Outer Space; it’s weird.)

3. To Riverdale and Back Again

To Riverdale and Back Again sounds like a Hobbit version of Archie and the gang. To be honest, the 1990 TV movie might as well be fantasy, since the film imagined the group as grown-ups meeting each other again at their high school reunion. Archie has become a responsible adult and is set to marry some lady named Pam. Jughead (who likes girls now and looks inexplicably older than his Riverdale friends) is a divorced father who now has an even worse fear of women after his marriage went south. Ethel (horribly called “Big Ethel” in the comics simply because she’s tall) is now a supermodel. Veronica, a four-time divorcee, has been living in France. Betty is now a schoolteacher, and faces a barrage of mental abuse from her boyfriend. None of these imagined futures wins over viewers because no one was probably ready to see the teenage Riverdale gang with real-world problems. Jughead as a divorced father? That’s just too much. Besides, the film looks painful (there’s rapping).

Needless to say, the TV film did poorly in the ratings and quickly became something akin to an urban legend among TV lovers. It would be fantastic if How Did This Get Made? discussed To Riverdale and Back Again sometime soon. In the meantime, you can watch the whole thing on YouTube.

4. Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch is arguably the longest-running Archie Comics–based show, since it began in 1996 and lasted all the way to 2003. It was also probably a more sanitized version of Sabrina, since there was a point in the original vintage comics when they would address the scarier side of Sabrina and her family (such as one comic panel featuring Sabrina gleefully admitting that witches can’t cry, and another one featuring Sabrina unable to swim in the ocean because she’d float). Still, the ’90s Sabrina featured Sabrina and her aunts Zelda and Hilda carrying out spells, and Sabrina’s familiar Salem attempting to counsel Sabrina out of doing something that could land her in front of a witch tribunal. Of course, the show also featured the love trials between Sabrina and Harvey, the school jock.

It could be argued that the show’s success lies squarely in the casting of Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina. Kids of the ’90s already knew Hart from her time as Clarissa in Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains It All. She had a loyal fan base, and her charm was something that immediately gave the show a heart. It also didn’t hurt that one of her aunts was comedian Caroline Rhea, that comedian Martin Mull was also on tap as the school principal, and that Hart had great chemistry with her animatronic cat co-star, voiced by Nick Bakay.

(There’s also 1999’s Sabrina, The Animated Series, which is also good, and featured Hart as the voice of Aunt Hilda, and Bakay reprising his role as Salem.)

5. Archie’s Weird Mysteries

Our final stop on the Archie Comics TV adaptations tour is Archie’s Weird Mysteries. Also from 1999, the cartoon featured the Riverdale gang in a Scooby-Doo capacity, which kinda worked and kinda didn’t. I don’t know if Jughead deserved to be thought of as a direct analog to Shaggy (or why, once again, Jughead had to be given such a nasally voice), or if Archie has ever earned the right to be the direct analog to Fred. But the show did what it could do. It seemed like it was always failing in the ratings, and for good reason: It was a little boring and oddly jarring, since none of the Archie gang are actually friends with each other. They just hang out together because of their connection to Archie. Also, the theme song was terrible.

Soon enough, though, the show did go off the air, which was a mercy.

Which of these TV adaptations were your favorites? Give your opinions below!

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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