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Adapted from the comic book creation of cartoonist Bob Montana and John Goldwater, the character of high school student Archie Andrews and the whole gang from Riverdale High came to Saturday morning TV in the USA in the late 60s and stayed through various incarnations for almost 10 years.
The Archie Show was the first of several TV incarnations of the beloved comic book series, which began in the 1940s. The popular show (which seemed to change titles every season) focused on a group of teenagers who still preferred to hang out together despite their wildly different personalities.
The main character in the group was the perpetually youthful and red-headed all-American nice guy Archie Andrews.
The object of his affection was primarily the dark-haired beauty Veronica Lodge, who was wealthy and too aware of her devastating looks. Competing with Archie for Veronica’s affection was the equally self-absorbed Reggie Mantle.
Jughead Jones was Archie’s eternally hungry (yet skinny) best friend, who had a pathological fear of girls and so played the cynical bystander while the other boys actively pursued Veronica.
The other female in the cast was Betty Cooper, the blonde girl-next-door, who was Veronica’s best friend/ worst enemy in the ongoing competition to be Archie’s best girl.
Other key characters were Riverdale High School staff members Miss Grundy (homeroom teacher), Mr Weatherbee (the Principal) and Coach Kleats; and class-mates Big Moose (the school ‘jock’), Dilton Doily (the school ‘brain’) and Jughead’s pursuer, Big Ethel.
The gang were usually also accompanied by Hot Dog, Jughead’s big, white sheepdog.
When the kids weren’t riding around in Archie’s old car or eating at Pop’s Chock’lit shop, they were singing groovy tunes in their rock band called, appropriately, The Archies.
In the real world, The Archies were a group of studio musicians while the voices behind the singing cartoon characters were vocalists Ron Dante, Toni Wine and Andy Kim, who were later called upon for touring purposes. Don Kirshner was hired by the show’s producers to produce the record albums and singles to be promoted to the same teen and pre-teen audience that had brought millions of copies of Monkees records.
Everything’s Archie (the theme song to the show) is just one of the hits by the bubblegum musical group that scored 5 top ten hits, including the #1 song, Sugar Sugar which was originally intended for The Monkees but they refused to sing it. The Archies’ version spent four weeks at the top of the US charts in August/September 1969.
The Archie Show was followed by The Archie Comedy Hour (1969 – 1970), Archie’s Funhouse (1970 – 1971) and Archie’s TV Funnies (1971 – 1973).
But the series took an unexpected plunge in popularity with The US of Archie in 1974. Designed as a mingling of history with entertainment, it found the gang going back in time in such plots as working with Harriet Tubman on the Underground Railroad for slaves during the 1800s. Such serious concerns were off-kilter for the normally light series, and it disappeared from Saturday mornings in 1975.
Its last season on CBS consisted of US of Archie repeats. NBC tried repeats of earlier shows in 1977 under the title The Bang-Shang Lalapalooza Show, but it flopped too.
Nearly a decade later, NBC gave the property another try under the title The New Archies. The characters became prepubescents in this instalment, with a few modifications made to accommodate the 1980s. Some were substantial (Eugene the egghead and Amani the nice girl finally integrated previously lily-white Riverside), others were subtle (Pop’s Choklit Shoppe was now Pop’s Video Cafe). Even Hot Dog became an English terrier.
Besides the comic book and cartoons, there was a radio sitcom titled Archie Andrews on Mutual from 1943-44 and NBC from 1946-53. There was also a lousy live-action NBC TV movie in 1990 titled Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again, starring Christopher Rich as Archie, in which the characters appeared in middle age.
Not to be confused with The Archers.