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Let love rule: Give Archie Comics the Bridgerton treatment, you cowards

If period romances are all the rage, then surely we can let Archie Andrews be the All-American dreamboat he was originally intended to be?

Archie's Girls Betty and Veronica #37
Image credit: Harry Lucey/Archie Comics

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There’s no denying that Archie Comics has made an impressive showing in recent years when it comes to leaving the 'Comics' part of their name in the background. Think about the success of the CW’s Riverdale, or Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — or even, for that matter, the recent Hindi language version of The Archies, or the short-lived live-action Katy Keene series… if you’re willing to look back a couple of decades, even the Josie and the Pussycats movie could be argued to loosely fit into this trend. There’s one obvious thing missing from this list, however, and it’s so obvious that I feel almost embarrassed to bring it up… but… where is the Archies period romance?

Image credit: The CW

Okay, wait; don’t look at me like that just yet. It actually makes more sense than you’d think. The success of shows such as Bridgerton — or, for that matter, Downton Abbey — has made it clear that the period romance (or, if you’re more of a classicist, “period dramas”) has a significant audience out there eager for that kind of material, especially the more melodramatic and soap-operatic material available. Archie Comics has that kind of material in abundance; even if you ignore the darker turns of the Riverdale or Chilling Adventures series, you’re still dealing with a world where one redheaded boy is apparently so irresistible that two women who, let’s be blunt, are way out of his league will somehow risk their own friendship to win his affections… even as that boy’s best friend is clearly struggling with some erotic fixation with burgers that psychologists would love to unpick. Okay, maybe that last part isn’t classic romantic comedy material, but still…

Don’t misunderstand; I’m not suggesting that someone recast Archie as taking place in the 1800s, or even the turn of the century 1900s. I don’t think anyone really cares to see Archie and his so-called Pals and Gals transported to regency England… or England at all, to be blunt. The concept is, after all, a very American one in its very DNA — which might be why so many people overlooked the transplanted movie version that reimagined everyone in mid-20th century India.

Related: Archie and Me: How Riverdale brought me back home to Archie Comics

That movie did get it right when it came to the idea of what period to set the period piece in, however. The mid-20th century — anywhere from the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s, really — has all of the markers to be a successful setting for a period piece by this point in time: it’s long enough about (60 or 70 years!) to be glamorous and unknowable for its target audience, and it exists in a cultural bubble that is different enough from today to feel like another world. Given that this is when the Archie Comics existed at their cultural peak for decades — far past the actual 1950s or ‘60s, it has to be said — it feels like an ideal place to pitch a new period take on the concept.

The Archies
Image credit: Netflix

Imagine a period romance show that took the attitude of Bridgerton and placed it in mid-century small-town America, placing the eternal love triangles and dramas of a bunch of high-school characters — who even get to be in a rock’n’roll beat combo, for extra potential crossover appeal down the line! — front and center, and downplaying anything beyond that. Treating Archie and his friends as the straight-up romance that the comics have always threatened to be, but been derailed from by market forces and countless other elements, feels like something that’s long overdue, especially in a format and a medium that has proven to be receptive to this kind of storyline for some time.

It also feels like something that would be restorative to Archie Andrews and the rest of the Riverdale crew. In their (admittedly successful) attempts to transform the characters into stars of the screen, there’s been a repeated attempt to darken them, and move them into something more… perhaps not realistic, but certainly more weighty and intense than the rom-com characters they’d originally been created as. Placing them in a period romance would let them, at least for a brief time, shake off that grittiness and danger in favor or something… well, sillier and more loving.

Perhaps I’m wrong; maybe I’ve been spoiled by seeing the success of period romance elsewhere in the world and thinking Archie is perfectly primed for that kind of treatment. It’s up to Archie Comics and some brave producers to prove me wrong, I’d argue. Netflix, the ball is in your court.

Whether its the bane of your existence or the object of all your desires (or both), Bridgerton is back. Read all our spoiler-y thoughts on Bridgerton season 3 here, and then delight at a guide to how to watch all of Bridgerton (and the spinoff), an our exclusive interview with the show's costume designer John Glaser, as well as some recommended reads for all Bridgerton fans.