Both of these are Marmite shows, I think, for different reasons.
Riverdale is pure trash, but enjoyable trash if you can set aside your snobbishness; Narcos is a graphically violent semi-documentary about the Drug Enforcement Agency and their dealings with Pablo Escobar.
Let’s get this out of the way right at the beginning: Riverdale is truly awful. The characters are ridiculous, the storyline beggars belief, and almost nothing in it makes sense. And yet somehow it’s very enjoyable.
The show focuses on a group of teenagers living in Riverdale, a town plagued by tragic events. The one the series centres around is the death of Jason Blossom, a popular high school jock who disappeared one summer morning. His twin sister Cheryl misses him desperately, but she’s also a grade-A bitch, so local sympathy for her and her immensely rich family of snobs is sparser than you might expect.
Soon enough the whole town is trying to solve Jason’s murder, or at least that’s at the forefront of Archie’s mind and the minds of his friends. As they try to work out what’s happened, they gradually become embroiled in a web of danger none of them could have anticipated.
It’s odd because I enjoyed this show even though I hated most of the characters. The only one I really liked was Jughead, whose dad is a deadbeat drug-dealing biker, and who ends up sleeping in school to escape his terrible home life.
But even though the characters are irritating, even though the storyline is holey at best… somehow the series hangs together. Aesthetically it’s pretty in a very American way, and something about it is quite compelling when you’re binge-watching it. Having said that, I stopped watching after the final episode I could binge, and now that there are new episodes coming out I’m not expecting to keep up with it.
In other words: if you want something completely brainless but somehow watchable, this will do the trick.
Over the past couple of years, something strange has happened to me. I’ve always loved crime shows, especially those based on true crimes, and yet nowadays I just can’t seem to get into them. I think it has something to do with having investigated so many criminal things myself; now it doesn’t feel relaxing anymore, it feels like watching a day at work. Like how when I was working in advertising I couldn’t watch Mad Men.
Let me put it out there right away: I have never investigated a Colombian drug cartel. Nor have I done the kind of on-the-ground investigating that ends in shootouts. But I’ve been far enough into the industry that it no longer seems glamorous to me, just sort of tiring and sad.
The show follows a DEA agent as he tracks down Pablo Escobar and investigates his activity smuggling drugs into the USA; but as he works the case, he realises that there’s not as much distance between his own life and Escobar’s as he’d originally thought.
I started Narcos because it sounded like it’d be good, but I gave up on it because I just couldn’t get into it. However, it has such excellent reviews that I think I’m in a minority here, and it’s certainly worth watching if you’re into crime shows that are based on true stories, as long as you don’t mind violent content.