Comics On TV

What To Expect From Riverdale Spinoff Katy Keene

Find out how the New York-set series ties in to Riverdale, how music figures into the show, and what familiar faces you might see.

by | January 31, 2020 | Comments

JSquared Photography/The CW
(Photo by JSquared Photography/The CW)

With its glitz, glamour, and can-do attitude, The CW’s Katy Keene may seem more like an echo of the network’s Gossip Girl than an extension of the emerging Riverdale universe. And that difference may cause fans of the mothership series – or its Netflix cousin, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina – to look at it with some pause. Some of those fears may be unfounded, as Katy Keene charts a new corner of the Archie Comics world on television. Join us as we examine some of the program’s unique details and why it fits in both The CW’s lineup and a place not too far from Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Jughead (Cole Sprouse).

It’s Got A Magical Tone

Barbara Nitke/The CW
(Photo by Barbara Nitke/The CW)

From his earliest discussions about the program, executive producer Robert Aguirre-Sacasa promised it would have a magical tone. In much the same way Riverdale’s atmosphere stems from film noir and the series occasionally flirts with horror tropes, Katy Keene’s sense of magic seems to come from romantic comedies in which the world itself is, on the whole, a good place. The city Katy (Lucy Hale) walks through is brighter, its denizens smile widely, and a song could break out at any moment.

And although the series would seem to set up romantic travails for its four principal characters — and each has someone in their lives — their truest romance is with the city itself and the sense that anything can happen there. Compared to the way the Riverdale gang seem to loathe their hometown and the soul of Greendale seems a secondary concern for the Sabrina characters, the love of place is a refreshing change – but it might drive those less enamored with New York a little crazy.

It’s Set Sometime In Rivedale’s Future

Barbara Nitke/The CW
(Photo by Barbara Nitke/The CW)

Though the program avoids specifics in its early episodes, the show takes place sometime in Riverdale’s future. Some reports indicated a five year gap exists between them, but we saw no indication of that. Early on, Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) makes references to the time spent between leaving town with her father (as seen last year on Riverdale), but avoids elaborating too much on where she’s been. Additionally, Katy herself is a contemporary of Veronica Lodge (Camilla Mendes) – who availed herself of Katy’s costume-making skills on Riverdale earlier this season – but tells the viewers in the first episode she has been working at Lacy’s Department Store for three years. Perhaps her guest appearance on the February 5th episode of Riverdale will clear up the question of time. If Katy is already working at Lacy’s when Veronica heads to New York for some catching-up and shopping, then we know the two shows are within three years of each other.

At the same time, the lack of a precise time gap offers both shows some flexibility in terms of future crossovers or characters making long-term migrations from one series to the other. It also means events on Katy Keene are less likely to conflict with Riverdale. Luckily for both shows, Sabrina takes place in an alternate reality and keeps its Devil far from The CW.

Katy Is Your Narrator

Barbara Nitke/The CW
(Photo by Barbara Nitke/The CW)

Like Jughead before her, Katy narrates the goings-on of the story. Although, from the episodes we’ve seen so far, she is only privy to her own thoughts and her own life. But also like Mr. Jones, she seems to have some omniscience or future knowledge about her life and may be speaking from some future point in time.

Created by Bill Woggon and first debuting in 1945’s Wilbur Comics #5, Katy was a popular character in the Archie stable for roughly 15 years. She appeared in various Archie Comics titles and, eventually, her own self-titled comic, in which the twenty-something character aspired to become a model, actor, and singer. Reader engagement was high, as the company encouraged fans to submit their own dress ideas for Katy to wear. But as the character’s popularity declined in the early 1960s, along with other female-focused comic book genres, she is not as well known as Archie, Sabrina, or Josie. After a short-lived revival in the 1980s (spearheaded by fans of her 1950s exploits), she disappeared once again into Archie trivia.

The television series re-imagines her as a would-be fashion designer who has a major talent as a personal shopper at Lacy’s. Seemingly mentored by department head Gloria Grandbilt (Katherine LaNasa) – who reminds us of Sabrina’s Aunt Zelda (Miranda Otto) a great deal – Katy appears to be caught between these two aspects of her chosen industry, much as her comic book counterpart vacillated between three facets of the entertainment industry. At times, she has a Veronica Lodge energy to her, so it’s not a huge surprise she’s the de facto leader of her group of friends, but we wonder how she and V really got along all those years ago.

The Poppy Dialogue Remains

Peter Kramer/The CW
(Photo by Peter Kramer/The CW)

Like Riverdale and Sabrina, the fast, poppy dialogue remains a fixture, but with its references to Broadway, legendary recording studios, and fashion labels, viewers more aligned with the other shows’ reliance on film history and the macabre  may find themselves missing some of the jokes. Nevertheless, Aguirre-Sacasa’s constant voice means fans of Riverdale and Sabrina will just pick up new knowledge bases as the series progresses.

It’s Also A Josie And The Pussycats Show

Barbara Nitke/The CW
(Photo by Barbara Nitke/The CW)

While Valerie and Melody are nowhere to be seen so far – and have been missing from Josie’s life since sophomore year of high school – Katy Keene features a lot of ideas from the Josie comic book and animated series. Pepper Smith, her original best friend in the comics, is one of Katy Keene’s four principal characters. Played by Julia Chan, she’s been re-imagined as a new media hustler with something of a shady past. Alexandra Cabot (Camille Hyde), complete with a white stripe in her hair, emerges as Josie’s first real antagonist on the series. Alexander Cabot (Lucien Laviscount) appears as a possible romantic interest for Ms. McCoy with a more idealistic vision for a record company than his comic book counterpart’s scheming for success and Josie’s affections. Nevertheless, Josie’s encounters with the Cabot siblings ring familiar from the comics, and Alexander’s interest in making Josie a star may lead to a reformed Pussycats — at least, we hope it does. Other Josie supporting characters like Albert and Sock are still missing, but maybe they’ll pop up at some pint. Long time Josie love interest Alan M. Mayberry is reportedly set to appear on the show (in the form of actor James Maslow), so it is possible the entire Jose and the Pussycats cast will populate Katy Keene.

But considering the traditional Katy Keene cast is pretty much limited to Gloria Grandbilt, her boyfriend K.O. Kelly (played on the show by Zane Holtz) and Katy’s sister (who has seemingly been erased for the TV show), the Josie group is a worthwhile set of characters to import into Katy’s orbit. Well, that’s presuming she’ll be an active participant in Josie’s story.

Riverdale-Style Musical Numbers Abound

Barbara Nitke/The CW
(Photo by Barbara Nitke/The CW)

Riverdale likes its music. Whether it be Kevin Keller’s (Casey Cott) annual school production or the entertainment Veronica programs at La Bonne Nuit, the show has relied on both reality-breaking musical numbers and more diagetic performances designed to showcase the chops of its cast.

But even with the excuse of the speakeasy and Kevin’s love of musical theater, Riverdale is somewhat limited in the amount of singing it can credibly feature; keeping such scenes down to one every few episodes.

Katy Keene takes it to a whole new level, with several musical interludes per episode. Some may just feature a single person playing piano and singing, while others take to the stage at Molly’s Crisis – the favorite spot of Katy’s circle – but it’s a definite uptick from the amount of singing one might find on Riverdale.

This is by design, of course. Initial descriptions of the series noted its intention to be a “musical dramedy.” And while it may not feature as much choreography as an episode of Glee or even the level of production one might see at La Bonne Nuit, Katy Keene is very much about its cast singing.

There Are Theatrical Struggles

David Giesbrecht/The CW
(Photo by David Giesbrecht/The CW)

Of course, it can’t all be magical nights filled with song on Katy Keene. Drama still must occur. And in lieu of murder or witchcraft, Katy Keene’s dramatic hooks come from the characters trying to make it while maintaining their romantic notions about life. And though the show is trying to play this material in a more whimsical way – particularly with Katy’s story — the struggles are there.

Jorge Lopez (Jonny Beauchamp), in particular, has it tough as the program’s only character trying to make it on the Big White Way. Like so many before him, he wants to be a dancer in Broadway shows, but his seemingly fluid gender presentation and his drag act as “Ginger Lopez” may cause him any number of difficulties, to say nothing of the way the theater eats hopefuls of all stripes.

Meanwhile, Pepper’s real story has yet to reveal itself. Early press materials suggested she has a secret business plan, but if it’s the one she expressed in the episodes we saw, it will lead her into some rough times in the very near future — perhaps even the greatest struggle of her life.

But the presence of these struggles will, hopefully, underscore the sense of magic Katy Keene wants to cultivate about New York and establishing oneself in their 20s. Sure, the show may only be paying lip service to things like rent or the rigors of finding a career in the entertainment field, but it is trying to be a hopeful show. At the same time, we wouldn’t be surprised if it makes some sort of pivot into darker material. It is a Riverdale adjacent show, after all.

Katy Keene Season 1 premieres on Thursday, February 6 on The CW.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

Paramount OneApp teaser PlayStation Awards Super Bowl TCM science fiction Ellie Kemper Pop TV Shondaland animated Hear Us Out dramedy Mindy Kaling anime Amazon Studios docudrama E! 4/20 Sony Pictures Mudbound Amazon Prime aliens Character Guide quibi criterion dark romance spain Video Games DC Universe Brie Larson Reality SXSW Sundance Chernobyl Interview MCU zero dark thirty USA facebook independent History cinemax TCA Winter 2020 Black Mirror A&E FXX 2018 mutant Lucasfilm mission: impossible Schedule CMT latino diversity emmy awards ABC Family Election Binge Guide X-Men Columbia Pictures OWN spanish language Thanksgiving free movies Spring TV sitcom unscripted PaleyFest disaster award winner strong female leads films supernatural Musicals technology Spectrum Originals Shudder FOX TV Land Summer franchise reviews TCA Awards Tarantino stoner DirecTV natural history AMC Ghostbusters canceled Photos Hallmark Christmas movies Box Office series LGBTQ dceu breaking bad Song of Ice and Fire Academy Awards Comic Book San Diego Comic-Con Opinion theme song slashers TBS CBS Pixar classics Valentine's Day casting richard e. Grant comic Film Fox News Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt HBO Go universal monsters Christmas 007 what to watch Trophy Talk indie Red Carpet VOD 2019 Disney hist batman Epix Reality Competition Spike Esquire cancelled TV series cancelled television DC Comics Lionsgate all-time TV Winter TV ghosts Food Network The CW Showtime based on movie Rock sequel zombie Family crime Britbox halloween DGA cults stand-up comedy spy thriller Nickelodeon revenge Tomatazos Infographic YouTube Watching Series asian-american cartoon Peacock Music FX RT21 Amazon Universal Lifetime Turner Classic Movies chucky Best and Worst Film Festival WGN crime drama Fall TV comedies kids Podcast dragons dc renewed TV shows psychological thriller obituary nature GLAAD sag awards Nat Geo APB jamie lee curtis Crackle Fantasy WarnerMedia BBC MTV Trailer discovery zombies Teen tv talk Tumblr Cannes Toys GoT Warner Bros. GIFs Writers Guild of America Superheroes foreign Mary Tyler Moore streaming MSNBC television blockbuster Polls and Games Ovation Drama SundanceTV 72 Emmy Awards Apple TV Plus Lifetime Christmas movies space travel adventure biography ITV justice league period drama Mystery BBC America Pride Month laika Funimation die hard Horror serial killer ESPN Pirates 20th Century Fox golden globes Biopics Certified Fresh screenings 24 frames Avengers doctor who Disney streaming service psycho Hallmark Rom-Com TruTV HBO Max The Purge singing competition Freeform Cosplay south america green book boxoffice vampires satire TNT book Disney Plus Star Wars Adult Swim Captain marvel Discovery Channel cancelled TV shows TCA 2017 CNN SDCC Syfy toy story Marvel Studios child's play BBC One Marvel crime thriller 2015 A24 Rocky Crunchyroll Apple news dogs concert Classic Film Pet Sematary First Reviews documentary witnail Nominations DC streaming service Heroines composers El Rey game of thrones 71st Emmy Awards Comedy Central stop motion Country a nightmare on elm street BET Awards FX on Hulu finale YA versus Sci-Fi Holiday YouTube Red TLC Bravo best canceled TV shows ABC thriller christmas movies Marvel Television Sundance Now politics Quiz medical drama harry potter Musical Kids & Family talk show social media NBC Masterpiece game show indiana jones Calendar USA Network anthology cars cooking elevated horror name the review Television Critics Association directors Trivia Awards Tour Rocketman American Society of Cinematographers Tubi crossover Arrowverse miniseries Logo Mary poppins critics First Look documentaries Elton John Cartoon Network National Geographic Set visit cancelled The Walking Dead video on demand movies fast and furious festivals Acorn TV Extras romantic comedy mockumentary scary movies Endgame The Arrangement IFC Pop 45 Travel Channel worst binge Countdown BET superhero Martial Arts cats Winners Turner police drama NYCC Stephen King RT History Holidays Television Academy Emmy Nominations nbcuniversal parents The Witch rotten PBS E3 LGBT Vudu robots political drama Disney+ Disney Plus hispanic Star Trek Amazon Prime Video Hulu Premiere Dates comics Creative Arts Emmys Anna Paquin New York Comic Con Oscars Emmys Paramount Network Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Baby Yoda war Women's History Month Netflix joker adaptation rotten movies we love Black History Month Marathons CBS All Access 21st Century Fox Netflix Christmas movies Disney Channel Dark Horse Comics comiccon Grammys spider-man sports werewolf hollywood cops TCA true crime President twilight Mary Poppins Returns Comics on TV Walt Disney Pictures Action Comedy Year in Review HBO children's TV Starz VH1 VICE YouTube Premium screen actors guild movie ratings CW Seed reboot 2017 Sundance TV historical drama Superheroe blaxploitation transformers Western Sneak Peek See It Skip It 2020 TIFF IFC Films spinoff video TV renewals 2016 BAFTA Animation Apple TV+