The Archie Universe on TV is set to expand with the upcoming addition of Katy Keene, and after viewing the three episodes available for critics, I can say that the series offers something new for the franchise.
Instead of being shrouded in darkness like Riverdale and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Katy Keene plays out more like a New York-set fairytale, and in the process, it shines a light on the pitfalls of trying to become rich and famous.
Lucy Hale leads the cast as the titular character.
You would think the actress would be over the teen drama genre after roles in Privileged, Life Sentence, and, of course, Pretty Little Liars., but Hale embodies the character well, using her full acting range to convey this colorful confection of a character that first originated in comic-book form.
As a young woman struggling to become a fashion icon in New York, Katy is the character at the wheel of this visually-stunning journey. Her life-long dream is to design fashion for one of the biggest department stores in the world.
There are Devil Wears Prada-like vibes sprinkled into the narrative as Katy tries to excel in the workplace while facing animosity from coworkers who think they are more deserving of climbing the career ladder.
There is not a nasty bone in her body, which makes this particular plot all the more worthwhile. She is a genuine young woman who errs on the side of caution in case she hurts someone, and that's a commendable trait.
Katy's world is bursting at the seams with a beautiful group of friends and a stunning boyfriend in K.O. While might expect CW drama to include needless scenes putting the relationship in turmoil, the early conflict between the lovebirds is handled maturely.
Zane Holtz plays K.O., a man with aspirations of fighting in a welterweight championship in Madison Square Gardens. He seems too good to be true from the get-go, but tonally, that type of character fits well in the universe.
Katy and K.O. have chemistry for days, and there's no doubt in my mind that they will become the next TV ship everyone is obsessing over. They're just so darn cute together, and they deserve for all of their dreams to come true.
Being a Riverdale spinoff, you would expect Katy Keene to have a similar tone, but the only similarity is Ashleigh Murray reprising her role as Josie McCoy. The Katy Keene timeline is set several years after Riverdale, so it makes sense for Josie to be chasing her dreams in the big apple.
Riverdale was not the best showcase of Murray's extreme talents because the character played second-fiddle to most of the other secondary characters.
Having Josie as a lead on this new series is a great idea because she will now get the screen-time she deserves and plots that actually make sense.
Josie arrives in New York early into the pilot, and she makes fast friends with Katy, Pepper, Jorge, and K.O.
Josie feels like the piece of the friend group they didn't know was missing. She wants to make it in the music business and is devoted to honing her talent to achieve the lofty goals she has set out for herself.
There will be many hurdles along the way because the series is eyed to last several seasons, so we can't have have all of her wishes coming true during the first season. But there are hints of a new romance for her.
Jonny Beauchamp is another interesting character as Jorge/Ginger Lopez, an aspiring Broadway performer who wants to take his drag career to the next level. Jorge is the wittiest character on the series by a landslide.
He's come up against people who don't accept that he has the talent to do what he loves the most, and that's the main driving force for him in the initial episodes.
The only weak link in the character department out of the gate is Pepper Smith, and it-girl who seems connected to some of the most famous people in the world, despite her relatively young age.
Having only viewed the first three episodes, it's possible the character could grow down the line, but I can't shake the feeling that she's not who she says she is, and that's something that will unravel as Katy Keene Season 1 progresses.
It took me two watches of the pilot to get on board with the series. The primary concern I had is that there wasn't nearly enough conflict, but I realized I was comparing it too much to Riverdale which moves from plot to plot at a record pace.
To fully enjoy Katy Keene, you need to put aside your thoughts on the other shows in the franchise, and enjoy it for what it is.
It feels more like a lighter version of Gossip Girl, and that's a huge compliment given that Gossip Girl is one of the best teen dramas out there.
Katy Keene is an inspirational series that will warm the hearts of everyone who watches. Be prepared for tears of joy as these characters set out to fulfill their potential.
Will you watch the series?
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Katy Keene debuts Thursday, February 6 at 8/7c, but viewers will first meet Katy on Riverdale Season 4 Episode 12, airing Wednesday, February 5 at 8/7c.
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Paul Dailly was an Associate Editor for TV Fanatic.Follow him on X.