Archie’s Weird Mysteries is an American cartoon show that ran from 1999 to 2000 on Teletoon here in Canada (PAX in the United States) and was produced by DIC Entertainment. Whenever Archie is brought up, I always gush, recalling the childhood television show that I adored (far more than the comics, I’d add), watching with my siblings and singing along with its catchy theme. After reading Mark Waid and Fiona Staples’ Archie #1, I felt that a rewatch was in order. I wanted to explore why the show gripped me the way it did compared to the double digests (I would read them in the gorcery store cash line, usually after I had asked my mom for a Push Pop, Kit Kat, Baby Bottle Pop or Ring Pop. 50% of the time she’d buy one, along with a copy of the digest). Most importantly, I wanted to know if it would hold up today as an adult, and secretly prayed that it wouldn’t break the nostalgia of seven-year-old me.
The show is about Archie and his friends—Veronica, Betty, Reggie, and Jughead—who have to deal with something weird in Riverdale every episode. Archie then writes about it for his school newspaper column called Archie’s Weird Mysteries. The show had a total of forty episodes and in my journey down memory lane, I viewed the first ten.
- Attack of the Killer Spuds
- Driven to Distraction
- Me! Me! Me!
- Invisible Archie
- Attack of the 50-Foot Veronica
- The Haunting of Riverdale
- Curse of the Mummy
- Fleas Release Me
- The Jughead Incident
- Virtually Evil
Does it hold up? Yes and no. I can easily see why I enjoyed it as a kid but after the tenth episode, the thought of viewing the rest of them was mentally exhausting. This is mostly due to its formula: introduce regular problem, introduce weird element, solve weird element, and that leads to the moral of the story which links back to the regular problem.
In the second episode, “Driven to Distraction,” Archie is so obsessed with his car that he prefers its company to his real life friends. His friends, of course, are sick of it, but Archie shrugs them off. As he’s driving around Riverdale, Archie decides to check out an antiquities shop, Doctor Beaumont’s Emporium of Curios, Novelty, Antiquities, and Hard Lessons, and it’s there that he meets its owner Horatio Beauregard Beaumont. Horatio is an eccentric character—he calls long distance telepathically—and he gives Archie a pair of fuzzy dice for his car but not before warning him off of buying them. Archie shrugs off the warnings because, duh, and we find out that the dice can bring the car to life. It seems possession works both ways because Archie’s car is not having this whole friends business and goes after Betty, Veronica, Reggie and Jughead during the spring dance but don’t worry! Archie saves the day and removes the dice before his friends can be hurt and learns a valuable lesson: don’t go into an emporium full of curios, novelty, antiquities, and hard lessons…oh and don’t put the value of an object above real life people.
This is how every episode is set up, so its easy to see why I enjoyed it as a kid and why it doesn’t hold up for adults. What did intrigue me was: why did I like this version of Archie and Friends way more than their counterparts in the grocery store double digests? I came up with three reasons.
Love Letter to The B Horror Movies
Each episode starts off with a 1940s style radio announcer giving the audience a rundown of what (or who) the weird of the week is. There’s an accompanying old school horror poster which then animates key “scary” scenes from the episode before returning to its static poster. The Archie comics do have their funny moments, but at the end of the day, they’re pretty square. The show’s added weird element was what hooked me as a kid and made the Friday night viewing extra creepy.
Archie’s Looking Good
Move over James Dean, Archie Andrews is here! Fashion is so important to communicate intent to your audience and this is an outfit that Archie wears for most of the series. It says, “I kind of understand why Betty and Veronice would fight over someone like Archie.” He’s so cool with his collarless tee, jeans and open brown jacket.
Pair Archie’s signature campy humour with weird (sometimes unexplained) things happening in the mundane town of Riverdale and you have a pretty entertaining show. The people of Riverdale don’t believe in the weird despite weird things constantly happening, Reggie is always questioning the validity of the love triangle between Betty, Veronica, and Archie (like the rest of us) and Jughead is always finding ways to eat more. There are flashes of the show being self aware which is always a trea,t but if the humour was what you loved about the comics then you’ll find it here as well.
What’s interesting about the ten episodes I watched was how much of a non-character Betty is compared to the rest of the crew. Everyone else starred or were the central figure of an episode except for Betty, and the only time she was presented as a real contender for Archie’s heart was in the first episode. Otherwise, Veronica is the clear object of Archie’s affections, just with the weird added element of Betty inserting herself into this seemingly “open” relationship. They’re teens, so this isn’t a bad thing given that they aren’t expected to commit, but it’s always strange that it’s being presented as though it’s a legitmate love triangle. Also, I’m not sure how Reggie is friends with Archie. They’re like the Blair/Serena of Riverdale with Archie doubling as a Gossip Girl narrator at the end of the episodes.
Overall, I’m glad I chose to revisit this. I think it still works as a kid’s show and it’s great for a laugh once in a while for adults. Like Archie says*, “Listen to Ardo from a little site called Women Write About Comics.”
*Archie has never once said this.