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TAKE ME TO THE RIVER

No one loves anything more than the teens love “Riverdale”

By Adam Epstein

The sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and Riverdale dominates the Teen Choice Awards. Such things are facts and cannot be changed.

The CW drama won all 10 awards for which it was eligible last night (Aug. 12), including “choice drama TV show,” “choice drama TV actor” (Cole Sprouse), and “choice drama TV actress” (Lili Reinhart). It did this after winning all seven of the awards it was nominated for last year, making the sizzling teen-oriented series 17-for-17 at the Teen Choice Awards, an award show whose winners—and this is important—are chosen by teens.

The show is based loosely on the classic piece of Americana known as Archie Comics, which depicted the everyday shenanigans and love triangles of high school student Archie Andrews and his group of friends, starting in the 1940s. Riverdale premiered in 2017 to positive reviews (the first two seasons each boast an 88% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes—and presumably 100% among teen reviewers). But these are not the Archie, Betty, Jughead, and Veronica that fans of the long-running comic series are accustomed to. Riverdale is darker, soapier, hotter, and more murder-y than its comic counterpart.

Among the show’s Teen Choice accolades were “choice TV villain,” “choice TV [relation]ship,” “choice liplock,” “choice scene stealer,” and one that appears to have been designed specifically for Riverdale, ”choice hissy fit.” While these might seem like odd award categories to adults, the teens clearly love them (and they’re arguably more interesting and considered than the new ham-handed Oscars category, “best popular film“).

Quartz health and science reporter and resident Riverdale fanatic Katherine Foley tells me that one reason the show appeals so much to teenagers is because it completely and unabashedly leans into the absurdity of its heightened drama, mirroring how many teens view their lives.

“When you’re a teen, you feel like all these stupid little things are so important even when they’re dumb, like someone not texting you back,” she says. “On Riverdale, all these super dramatic plot points embody the sense of that importance.” In the second season, for instance, a serial killer enlists Betty to help him purge the town of people he deems fake. The season two premiere earned the CW its best TV ratings among teens in five years.

Other big Teen Choice Award winners last night were blockbuster superhero movie Avengers: Infinity War, circus musical The Greatest Showman (probably due to the Zac Efron factor), and the romantic comedy Love, Simon. But none threatened the dominance of Riverdale, the King of the Teens.