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'Riverdale,' 'Normal People' offer different takes on teenage angst

Posted 5/6/20

By Kevin McDonough

Most American TV series reduce teenagers to types. None is more obvious than "Riverdale" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14), the lurid, pop-besotted adaptation of the "Archie" comic omniverse.

In the fourth season finale, the brooding …

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'Riverdale,' 'Normal People' offer different takes on teenage angst

Posted

By Kevin McDonough

Most American TV series reduce teenagers to types. None is more obvious than "Riverdale" (8 p.m., CW, TV-14), the lurid, pop-besotted adaptation of the "Archie" comic omniverse.

In the fourth season finale, the brooding Jughead (Cole Sprouse) gets a note from the Iowa Writers Workshop inviting him to submit an original short story. He concocts an elaborate and violent fantasy about the gang killing their principal, Mr. Honey, the man who ruined their senior year.

As much as the notion of a ruined senior year may resonate with an audience of students sent home from school, this episode is clearly inspired by the 1999 movie "Teaching Mrs. Tingle," written and directed by "Dawson's Creek" creator Kevin Williamson and starring "Dawson's" own Katie Holmes. An earlier episode of "Riverdale" was titled "Varsity Blues," referring to a 1999 film featuring "Dawson" star James Van Der Beek.

Viewers in search of a teen melodrama on a more human scale might enjoy "Normal People," now streaming its entire first season on Hulu.

This Irish series follows Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones), a bright, bookish loner, and Connell (Paul Mescal), a popular soccer star whose mother works for Marianne's wealthy and icy mother.

Marianne is an interesting character, the brightest student in her class as well as the most rebellious and likely to act out. Friendless and strange, she's the subject of gossip and ridicule.

She initiates a romantic and then sexual relationship with Connell only after agreeing to his desire to keep it secret. Their romance isn't the only thing Connell tries to hide. He's prone to reading and reflection, things he's not sure his loutish football friends might like. As their teen affair continues, Connell falls under Marianne's influence, leaving viewers wondering who's really the dominant partner.

A curious look at youth, desire, sex and class, and utterly devoid of product placements, it's a welcome relief from Hollywood product that can see teens only through the lens of recycled nostalgia.

TONIGHT'S OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

• Developed for Stanley Kubrick before his 1999 death, the 2001 sci-fi drama "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence" (7 p.m., Showcase) was directed by Steven Spielberg.

• Questionable patient care has serious ramifications on "Chicago Med" (8 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).

• High school students (Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson) lead an insurrection against the Soviet occupiers of their Colorado town in the 1984 Cold War fantasy "Red Dawn" (8 p.m., ShowX), directed by John Milius.

• Bryan Cranston portrays a blacklisted screenwriter in the 2015 biopic "Trumbo" (8 p.m., TMC).

• An elderly woman turns pyromaniac on "Chicago Fire" (9 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).

• The witch soldiers embark on their first training mission on "Motherland: Fort Salem" (9 p.m., Freeform, TV-14).

• Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton star in the 1980 comedy "9 to 5" (9 p.m., Starz Encore).

"H2O: The Molecule That Made Us" (9 p.m., PBS, TV-14, check local listings) examines the efforts of private corporations to profit from human water needs.

• A carjacking turns deadly on "Chicago P.D." (10 p.m., NBC, r, TV-14).

• Colin's work promotion upsets the house's balance of power on "What We Do in the Shadows" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA).

CULT CHOICE

An artist convinces himself that a beautiful woman has been turned into a mythic monster in the 1919 silent "The Dragon Painter" (8 p.m., TCM, TV-PG) starring Sessue Hayakawa. A major sex symbol during the silent era, Hayakawa's star faded as xenophobic racism became politically popular in the United States. Decades later he earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in the 1957 war epic "The Bridge on the River Kwai."

SERIES NOTES

Faking out Beverly on "The Goldbergs" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) * On two helpings of "Single Parents" (ABC, TV-PG), mixed emotions (8:30 p.m.), summer plans (9:30 p.m.) * A family vacation on "American Housewife" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-14) * A major head's-up on "Bulletproof" (9 p.m., CW, r, TV-14) * A race against time on "SEAL Team" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).

LATE NIGHT

Jimmy Fallon welcomes Gabrielle Union, Henry Winkler and Brad Paisley on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) * Ice Cube and Sarah Kendzior visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC).

© 2020, United Feature Syndicate