Riverdale is one of the most successful shows on TV right now. Its ardent fanbase has continued to love the show's many twists and turns each and every season. In many ways, Riverdale broke new ground on TV. Like all shows, though, there are plenty of shows the influenced Riverdale's development and production. These shows that inspired Riverdale all proved the something like Riverdale was possible.
Some of these shows are about crime in the same way Riverdale is. Others concern themselves with teenagers and their day-to-day lives. Whatever the case may be, each of the shows on this list played some small part in what Riverdale ultimately became. Without each of them, the show might be different in ways both big and small. These are 20 TV shows that inspired Riverdale.
It may seem strange, but Riverdale may be more indebted to Twin Peaks than it is to any other show. Twin Peaks tells the story of a small town that is rocked by the murder of an incredibly popular girl. The series is stranger than Riverdale, but the two share a lot of DNA.
Both shows are interested in the darkness at the heart of a small town, and both know how to artfully combine normal high school drama with a broader story. Twin Peaks is much more interested in the spiritual side of things than Riverdale, but both shows combine a murder mystery with normal soap opera conventions.
Veronica Mars has a slightly different tone than Riverdale, but otherwise the two are very similar. Veronica Mars is a about a sleuthing high school student who plays crucial roles in solving small crimes, as well as more grandiose ones. The show excels at depicting the way class affects event the high school social strata, and always features plenty of compelling plot twists and turns.
Riverdale owes some amount of its combination of teenagers and mystery-solving to Veronica Mars. The show paved the way for many great teen shows that came in its wake, ones that could be a little edgier than what came before.
If we're being honest, most TV shows owe at least something to My So-Called Life, especially ones about teenagers. Although it only lasted a single season, the show broke ground on the kinds of stories that you could tell about teenagers on TV. It was darker and weirder than every teen show before it, and a little more realistic.
That dark, honest tone is something that Riverdale emulates. Riverdale may be a little more concerned with its ongoing mysteries than My So-Called Life, but both shows try to be honest about what it feels like to be a teenager in America.
There are plenty of TV shows that give cops a case to chase each week. Most of the time, that case is tidily resolved at the end of the hour, and a new one is introduced in the next episode. On The Killing, we got to watch detectives chase down a single case over the course of an entire season.
Riverdale obviously takes a similar approach, which gives both shows a chance to go deeper into exploring what these crimes do to the people impacted by them. It also gives the shows a chance to unspool more twists and turns, which they do a lot of.
Pretty Little Liars proved that Riverdale could work. Fundamentally, the show is about a group of friends who come together to protect themselves and one another. The show was filled with twists and turns, and it managed to sustain itself through quite an extended run.
Over the course of that run, it paved the way for shows like Riverdale, which was influenced by the story of Pretty Little Liars and the show's visual aesthetic. Whether you loved Pretty Little Liars or hated it, we can all be grateful that it helped give us Riverdale. Without, who knows what Archie and Jughead would be up to.
Much like Riverdale, The O.C. follows a group of high school students as they navigate their lives in school and at home. Like Riverdale, there are elements of class conflict at play on the show, as well as a sort of soapy drama that exists on most high school shows, but was really perfected by The O.C.
Soapy drama doesn't have to be annoying or overwrought, though. What makes shows like Riverdale and The O.C. work is that they know how to use their soapier elements to tell interesting stories. There are plenty of twists and turns, but that's what makes them worthwhile.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has way more vampires than Riverdale, but the two shows do share a high school setting and a keen sense of how to make tortured bad boys into fascinating characters. Jughead Jones owes a lot to characters like Angel and Spike, who proved that you could be tortured and brooding while still being pretty, witty, and smart.
Even if the show's follow very different trajectories, Buffy also provided a template for how to mix high school drama with another kind of story. Teen shows can be about other things too, and Buffy proved that so that Riverdale could execute on it.
Beverly Hills, 90210 basically offers character template that every other teen show uses from then on. It's also notable for the starring role that Luke Perry played on the show as bad boy that would make even Jughead Jones weak in the knees.
90210 wasn't a particularly good show, but it was wildly popular, and it's a show that basically every other teen show would comment on or reference in one way or another. It became a blueprint that all other teen TV would change or adapt to fit their own needs. Riverdale is not an exception to that rule.
There are few shows darker or moodier than True Detective, and Riverdale often emulates a similar tone in its more serious moments. Although it never gets as heady or meditative as True Detective, there's also a similar need to philosophize on Riverdale, especially from Jughead.
Both shows also have a certain obsession with darkness and what makes criminals tick. It's an obsession that True Detective puts much more at the center of its story, but that doesn't mean Riverdale doesn't share it. Fundamentally, both shows are about the darkness that lives inside people, and what it takes to make that darkness come out of hiding.
Broadchurch is about a normal town that is totally undone by the murder of a young boy. In that way, it's very similar to Riverdale. Broadchurch is also a show where everyone has something to hide, even if that something is pretty innocent in terms of the big picture.
Both shows are obsessed with getting to the bottom of their respective crimes, but also with the idea that it's impossible to really know another person. The people around you could be innocents or criminals, even if you think you know them. Everyone has secrets, even those who seem like they have nothing at all to hide.
The TV version of Fargo is based on the movie of the same name, and both are obviously quite a bit quirkier than Riverdale ever wants to be. Even so, the two shows have a few things in common. Most importantly, they are both interested in what it means to take a life, even if you're doing it to protect someone you care about.
Although it doesn't always feel like this, Riverdale is often quite meditative about the nature of violence and its enormous cost on the world. It takes some of that from shows like Fargo, that are always brutally honest about the random, terrible toll that violence can take.
Veronica Lodge is a character straight out of Gossip Girl. She's even from the preppy upper-class world of New York, which only makes the comparison even more appropriate. Gossip Girl's drama isn't the same as Riverdale's, but it's telling that so much of who Veronica is seems to be heavily influenced by that show.
Gossip Girl established what rich New York girls acted like, and it's that example that Riverdale followed as they set up Veronica and her family. Without Gossip Girl, Veronica would likely be a lot different, and those changes would probably not be for the better.
In its quieter, more intimate moments, Riverdale resembles Friday Night Lights. For a while, Riverdale had an interest in football, and that interest is what dominates Friday Night Lights. Although Friday Night Lights is ostensibly about football, it's really about a Texas town where family means more than anything else.
Some of those values are translated straight to Riverdale, especially in moments where these kids look to their parents because they don't know what to do. It's in those moments that Riverdale shows how influential Friday Night Lights was. While it was on the air, no show handled teenagers' relationships with their parents better.
Top of the Lake is closer to the True Detective end of the darkness spectrum, but it's a decidedly more feminist version of that show. It tells the story of a detective who returns to her hometown to investigate the sexual assault that was perpetrated against a young girl.
The show's subject matter is quite dark, but it shares an interest in small-town crime with Riverdale. It's a careful reminder that corruption and criminality can fester in communities where everything seems perfectly normal on the surface. Criminals are not always easy to spot, and that makes preventing crime even harder than it already is.
Terriers may be a show about adults, but its tone is quite a bit lighter than Riverdale's. The show follows two friends, one a former cop, as they open a private detective agency that has very little interest in danger or responsibility as they solve cases.
On its surface, Terriers doesn't seem to have influenced Riverdale at all. What the two shows do have in common is that, even though the friends at the center of Terriers don't want to take their cases seriously, those cases ultimately do matter. There's a gravitas that comes with the crime, even if no one on Terriers wants to admit it.
In many ways, The Fall is a simple cat and mouse game. The show follows a serial killer and the detective assigned to hunt him down. Especially in its second season, Riverdale was very interested in the lines between killers and good people, and the way that they can take the same philosophy and interpret it differently.
The Fall's central ideas are very similar. They're meant to make us question the differences between cops and the people they catch, and how fine the line is between those two groups. It's not a new idea, but it's one that The Fall handles well.
Especially in its more recent seasons, Hannibal has felt like a major influence on Riverdale. Hannibal tells the story of its titular serial killer, and his relationship with Will Graham, a man he shares quite a bit in common with.
Like The Fall, Hannibal is very interested in what makes killers tick. Riverdale's third season takes some of the same imagery used on Hannibal and makes it a little more PG. Riverdale is not nearly as stylized as Hannibal, and it's a lot easier to follow, but the two shows do share some DNA, especially when it comes to insanely detailed sculptures.
The Vampire Diaries may live in a different genre, but it takes the same approach to plot as Riverdale. Both shows are willing to tear through reveals and plotlines quickly, unveiling twists in almost every episode. That's part of the appeal of both shows, and what makes each of them so addictive.
The CW has known for years how to combine rapid plotting with interesting young characters to tell stories that most networks aren't interested in telling anymore. The Vampire Diaries is a direct predecessor to Riverdale, even though one is about crime in a small town and the other is about vampires.
The X-Files was a normal case of the week TV show with one major twist – the cases were supernatural. The X-Files and Riverdale don't have a ton in common, but there is an element of conspiracy that both shows share. More importantly, though, The X-Files broke new ground in terms of what kinds of stories were allowed on TV.
Riverdale's success comes in large part because there were tons of shows before it that proved that the formula could be broken. You didn't have to do normal detective shows, and you could make Archi Comics into something darker, moodier, and altogether more sinister than it used to be.
The biggest lesson that Riverdale likely took from Wayward Pines is one that has united many shows on this list – the idea that small towns are not the idyllic places they appear to be. On Wayward Pines we follow a detective as he ventures into a small town to discover why two federal agents disappeared there.
It's a series where nothing is ever as simple as it first appears to be, and it's one that likely held some sway for the writers of Riverdale as they were planning out their town. Riverdale may seem nice, but that couldn't be further from the truth.