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RIVERDALE Needs to Slow the Heck Down

RIVERDALE Needs to Slow the Heck Down

There’s definitely a trend happening in TV, and for the most part it’s a good one. Series keep getting shorter and shorter episode orders. Most of the time, it’s because creatively, shorter episode orders make sense for a certain show. Look at Legion, kicking ass and taking names in only eight episodes. Or Westworld. Or Fargo. Showrunners and writers aren’t beholden to the old status quo of 23+ episodes in one season, and it’s paying off in quality of the shows, as writers and actors are able to sign on for shorter production schedules they normally wouldn’t be available for if it meant shooting for most of the year.

But sometimes, shorter episode orders hurt shows creatively. I’m looking at you, Riverdale.

Let me preface this by saying I’m a huge Riverdale fan. As one of the first to review the series, I was obsessed from the start. But deep into its first season, I find myself thinking the same thing while watching every episode. I think I first noticed it around episode 5.

Riverdale moves way too fast.

The cW

It’s gotten worse and worse as the season has moved forward. The writers pack way too much plot into each episode. I get whiplash as each scene smash cuts to another in rapid-fire succession. I can barely process the emotional weight of each scene or character interaction before the show has already moved on to another equally-important moment.

What’s wrong with lingering on each scene, letting each moment breathe to give both the characters/actors and the audience time to fully process what’s happening? Nothing, and in fact, you’d get a deeper emotional payoff and audiences would feel more of a connection to what’s happening onscreen. Plus, you’d actually remember everything that happens in each episode instead of forgetting literally entire storylines because there’s just too much damn story in each episode. Relationships end before I ever really get invested in them. I can never keep track of who is mad at whom, or who is investigating whom, or even who looks the guiltiest of murder before they’re cleared of suspicion and another suspect enters the game.

I won’t even try and pretend like I know how to write or produce a TV show (showrunners are absolute geniuses and I’ll never understand how their brilliant minds work), but as someone who watches them for a living, I know how to spot the problem when something just doesn’t feel right. The real problem is in the short episode order Riverdale received as a midseason series. With only 13 episodes for its first season, it feels as if the writers still packed 23 episodes worth of story into this season, and that hurts the show more than it helps.

The cW

But I’m not the only one who feels this way. Whenever I voice my concerns over Riverdale‘s creative speed on social media, I’m met with a chorus of viewers who agree (and some even confessing that they had to give up the show entirely for that reason). And even Riverdale‘s executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa feels the restrictions put on him in an 13-episode order.

“I’ll tell you what I wish. I wish we were one solid hour of television,” the showrunner recently told Nerdist along with a small group of press at an advance screening of an episode. “It’s just like 41 [minutes]. The cast is so big as you guys know, and everyone’s so good and you want to know more about everyone. You’re trying to tell a bunch of stories and create intimate character moments and things like that. So if I could take it anywhere, it would be to a one-hour, full, no commercials kind of place just to tell more stories.”

According to Aguirre-Sacasa, most of the episode cuts come in way over the allotted 41-42 minutes, and through edits, they have to cut sometimes up to 30 extra minutes. That’s almost a whole additional episode! That explains why every episode feels so jam-packed and sped up.

Going off that information, instead of giving Riverdale 60-minute episodes (since the CW would never go no-commercials in prime time), shouldn’t the CW series just have a longer episode order? If they have enough content to make 23 episodes, what’s stopping them?

The CW

“I don’t think you ever turn down more episodes,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “Yeah, I’d be up for it. I think everyone would. As [executive producer] Greg Berlanti always says, ‘What’s the prize for winning a pie-eating contest? More pie.'”

When I pointed out to him that most showrunners nowadays sing the praises of shorter episode orders and how it’s creatively beneficial for most shows to have trimmed and sleek seasons, he nodded.

“Yeah and listen, I think it was great that our first season was 13 because the murder drives us through it, and we get as much out of it and service it,” Aguirre-Sacasa said. “The one drawback is you can’t do those really special episodes. I’m a TV fanatic. I always loved when there was like a special episode that was almost outside of continuity. That’s the only, biggest drawback to having a shorter order. The nice thing is you can control the story a little bit more and take maybe a little bit more time. The grass is always greener right? Advantages and challenges, they both have.”

Do you think Riverdale would have been better off with 23 episodes for its first season, or do you agree with him that 13 made more sense? Should the series get a bigger order for season two? Tweet me your thoughts and opinions at @SydneyBucksbaum!

Images: The CW

Riverdale airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on The CW.

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