Katy Keene Is No Riverdale, And That's a Good Thing!

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When you first heard about a Riverdale spinoff, you likely didn't expect a series revolving around the fashion and music industry, but that's exactly what you get with The CW's Katy Keene

Devoid of murders and darkness, the series (based on the Archie Comics), spearheaded by Lucy Hale in the role of the titular character, shines bright amidst the supernatural vibes of its sister shows, Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and the often supernatural lineup embraced on The CW.

Her New Position - Katy Keene

In place of those murder mysteries that tend to envelop the residents of Riverdale, Katy Keene sets the stage for a coming-of-age tale that propels themes of hopefulness, following your destiny, and chasing every opportunity.

Some of us -- the ones that were old enough to have watched Gossip Girl and Sex and the City when it aired live, anyway -- might say that the series is the younger sister of those fashion-centric shows and fills the void they left behind quite nicely with its bubbly depiction of New York's elite, always-on-the-go, and hook-up-heavy aesthetic. 

But don't be fooled -- the show's optimistic outlook doesn't mean it's without its fair share of drama.

Like Riverdale, Katy Keene relies on a formula of convoluted mysteries and twists, and it thrives on throwing its characters into unpredictable and messy situations, albeit, with less murder and fewer serial killers. 

Getting To the Bottom - Katy Keene

And New York, much like Riverdale, can make or break you in a minute; it can snuff out that very hope it evokes and destroy the opportunities it's made possible until you're left feeling more alone than ever.

Katy Keene focuses heavily on its ensemble cast -- heavier than Riverdale at times -- giving each of its characters a storyline to dig into. 

The circumstances of the Big Apple  --  rent as tall as the skyscrapers and the competitiveness of its inhabitants -- brings Katy closer to Jorge/Ginger Lopez (Johhny Beauchamp), Pepper Smith (Julia Chan), and Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray).

And their career ambitions are so fun with Katy an aspiring fashion designer, Jorge/Ginger an aspiring Broadway star, Pepper an aspiring business owner, and Riverdale's finest, Josie, an aspiring singer.

Much like Riverdale's core four, this unit relies on each other to navigates life's up and downs. 

Jorge and Buzz - Katy Keene Season 1 Episode 9

For Riverdale's Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead, their trials and tribulations tend to consist of dark forces and mysteries like finding the identity of the Black Hood, the Gargoyle King, and how to escape (and stop) an organ-harvesting cult, among others. 

Instead, Katy Keene offers up a dreamlike vibe while showcasing more relatable and realistic issues of navigating your upper 20s with the focus being on every millennial's struggle to juggle the pursuit of a dream career in an overpriced city with romantic life. 

Alex says it best -- you're no one in this city without money -- and thus, a lot of the drama revolves around financial situations. 

Plotlines include Katy getting into mishaps as she attempts to salvage her job at Lacy's while also revolting against the shady fashion practices of fashion mogul (and temporary love interest), Guy LaMontagne. 

Guy and Katy - Katy Keene Season 1 Episode 8

Josie endures a back-and-forth tussles with the Cabot family whose grasp extends almost as wide as the Blossoms' in Riverdale.

She can't break free from the Cabot's despite doing her best to get her music career off the ground and supplements the income she's not making off of her music by working at a donut-shop we never see. 

Pepper Smith channels her inner con-artist heiress, Anna Delvey, while aspiring to scrounge up (or con) enough money to become the next Andy Warhol with the launch of her visionary shared creative space for artists dubbed the Pepper Plant.

The series also taps into the theme of disappointment and rejection when you realize getting your heart's desire isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Despite its picture-perfect exterior, it doesn't shy away from grim realities that fall upon Katy and her friends. 

Life is messy, unpredictable, oftentimes downright cruel, but it's survivable with a tribe that pushes and motivates you every single day. 

Pepper's Birthday Outfit - Katy Keene Season 1 Episode 8

Katy Keene has found her tribe, and the strength of the show lies within their connections and shared experiences. 

Admittedly, Katy as a standalone character could not carry a show. Hale, much like Katy, does best when she's propped up by a supporting cast that infuses the storytelling with color. Their personal storylines have potential, depth, and offer intrigue that Katy's plots sometimes lack.

Katy Keene is an entirely different ball game than Riverdale, and sometimes, you have to actively remind yourself that these two shows — which are also five years apart in the timeline — exist on the same playing field.

But in case you suddenly forget, the series won't hesitate to remind you by using every opportunity to relate back to Riverdale in hopes of reeling in the viewers that made the series, complete with its oddities, an international and social success. 

Katy Smiles as Josie Looks On - Katy Keene Season 1 Episode 6

There are elements that give it "Riverdale-esque" vibes to entice viewers, such as the violence Jorge endures while walking the streets as his drag queen persona, Ginger Lopez, and the mysteries of both Katy's birth father and Pepper's birth parents. 

Josie constantly labels herself as a survivor of the "murder capital of the world."

There's even been a handful of crossovers episodes that bring familiar faces like Josie's mother, Kevin Keller, and the more exciting inclusion of Hiram Lodge, who proves that he's a villain that can adaptable to any background and reality.

They even deliver a bit of incest -- on a slightly less in-your-face level -- with Alex and Xandra Cabot, former romantic partners turned step-siblings. 

Ginger Attends the Show - Katy Keene Season 1 Episode 6

Katy Keene and Riverdale's worlds bleed together ever so slightly so that it works in the frame of Keene's doe-eyed, optimistic, and at times, silly, world.

But by embracing their difference, they can exist on the same playing field and offer up an entirely contrasting experience -- one that's less twisted and dark and more relatable; you want to root for these characters and their success. 

All Her Energy - Katy Keene

Now, if Katy Keene snags a second season renewal (The CW still hasn't made a decision), it needs to use the opportunity to work out some kinks. 

The foundation is there, but the series lacks direction. Riverdale never fails in that department because its murder mysteries are meticulously plotted out, whereas viewers may find themselves frustrated with the lack of progress or movement for each character's arc on Katy Keene.

Katy and Pepper - Katy Keene Season 1 Episode 4

The series also suffers immensely by glossing over the character's backstory and rushing through relationships without giving them the proper time to develop or flourish. 

If the series can smooth out these creases, it has what it takes to become what Riverdale often struggles to be -- an authentic and realistic portrayal of a twentysomethings journey. 

What do you think about the similar but distinct worlds on Katy Keene and Riverdale? Is Katy Keene establishing a world you want to visit frequently?

Hit the comments, and watch Katy Keene online now to catch up on episodes! 

Lizzy Buczak was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in June 2021..

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