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Riverdale and Twin Peaks: Paying Homage or a Rip-Off?

ByAddison Baker

Oct 11, 2017

Teen murder, small-town conspiracy, and a lot of pine trees: three central aspects that would make up a fantastically mysterious television show. In fact, they already do, and make up not one, but two fantastically mysterious TV shows. The series in question are the 1990s hit Twin Peaks, and the wildly popular Riverdale.

With the second season of the latter less than a week away, there is no better time to pick it apart. As most 18 to 20-somethings know, Riverdale was one of 2017’s biggest breakout television shows. Although it is a CW show airing in the US, it quickly made its way onto Netflix, allowing adolescents around the world to swoon over the likes of Archie Andrews. Based on the vintage Archie Comics, the show claims to have derived the plot and storyline from the comics themselves. Nonetheless, when adapting a written story into a moving, talking, real-life-people type of art – namely, a TV show – inspirations often arise from elsewhere. Another older, slightly-forgotten TV show, perhaps?

Due to a recent reboot, many 18 to 20-somethings have been made aware that Twin Peaks was a massive show from 1990. It is now considered a modern pop-culture staple, often referenced and appreciated for its cinematography. Two seasons long, and accompanied by a prequel film, Twin Peaks revolves around the investigation of a teenage girl’s murder in the fictional small-town of Twin Peaks in Washington, USA. Created by David Lynch, the show was, and still is, bizarre, comprising supernatural elements and cryptic motifs.

Almost three decades later, the similarities between the two shows are manifold. Both Twin Peaks and Riverdale begin with the tragic and obscure discovery of a teenager’s body in a town and, while both towns are entirely imaginary, they share identical climates and landscapes. Pine trees, mountains, rain – complete with random and inexplicable plagues of low-hanging fog to add to the aesthetic. Twin Peaks reveals long-hidden and deeply rooted conspiracies between residents, and Riverdale does the same. Uncannily, a cast member is even shared. The actress Maedchen Amick stars in both television shows: in Twin Peaks as young rebel Shelley Johnson, and in Riverdale as Alice Cooper.

Riverdale also features the actor Skeet Ulrich, playing the role of Jughead’s father F P Jones. Ulrich is also famous for his role as murderous psychopath Billy Loomis in Scream (1996) – another 90s pop-treasure. So, is Riverdale simply paying homage to 1990s thriller-genre classics such as Twin Peaks and Scream?

Or, does this example of pseudo-plagiarism beg a larger question: is there any such thing as a new idea? Often philosophical, yet undoubtedly intensely real, this question is one that is begged in any form of art, ironically meaning that it isn’t a new idea in itself. It is often speculated that all things are recycled – fashion is a definite example. Clothing from the 1980s has made a resurgence, and will again in 30 years’ time.

That said, is Riverdale similar to a pair of high-waisted acid-washed jeans in that it fills a predictable and expected demand for a thriller-genre television series? There is sufficient evidence to answer the question above with a ‘probably yes’, seeing as both shows share plot, setting and even casts.

If in fact the answer is that there is no such thing as a new idea, then the Riverdale producers probably could have done a more discrete job of recycling. Thirty years later, Riverdale is most likely just the second coming of Twin Peaks, yet a little more teen-drama and a little less David Lynch.

Image: vagueonthehow @ Flickr

By Addison Baker

Addison is an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and resident editor of the TV & radio section of The Student, winning the best writer prize in December 2017. She also writes for ShortCom publications specializing in interviews of Comedians. Addison is also a tech supervisor/production manager at Monkey Barrel Comedy and dabbles in stand-up comedy herself.

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