The musical TV shows we have been given in the past lay out a very clear path. At first, we weren’t sure how to make it work, then we made the music part of the storyline. From there, it just continued, and now we’ve ended up with Riverdale’s new spinoff show about Katy Keene.
Based in New York City, the Katy Keene spinoff will be a musical dramedy that shows the popular comics character struggling to “make it on Broadway.” We haven’t met her yet, but if the show is anything like Riverdale, it’s going to have some interesting song choices, which seems to be the trend with musical television.
For many of us, we remember the days of Glee less than fondly. It isn’t that Glee was the first TV musical of its time; it is just that it was the first show that garnered a huge fanbase online and led to the fandom culture we now associate with many of our favorite properties. From Glee came Smash, a show that brought its music to life in the form of Broadway performers creating their own show about Marilyn Monroe.
The problem with these past musical TV shows is that they didn’t really understand how the music doesn’t have to be that thought out. One of the great things about Riverdale is that, most of the time, the music serves as a reminder of the absurdity of the show. Remember when Veronica and her friends beat up Nick St. Clair because of what he did to Cheryl while “Out Tonight” from Rent played?
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is also a wonderful example of the musical TV show that doesn’t rely heavily on pop hits getting on the radio (as Glee and Smash both did). Original, unique, and bringing to life a very interesting lead with Rebecca Bunch, Rachel Bloom’s brainchild is a great example of how musical TV can work.
Look, maybe it’s because I’ve been a fan of musical theatre since I was a kid, but growing up, I had a love-hate relationship with these shows—not just because they were turning musicals into just pop songs sung by Broadway performers, but because they were performing some of my favorite Broadway classics and not teaching viewers the storylines.
Most recently, Riverdale had an episode that featured songs from Cabaret because they were being performed in Veronica’s speakeasy. My problem is that none of the songs made sense out of context on Riverdale. Viewers are going to think they know what they stand for, and it is going to be quite an interesting turn of events when everyone goes to see Cabaret someday.
Do I love TV musicals? Yes, of course, but I still have my problems with them.
Now, this new Riverdale spinoff is going to focus on a musical drama, meaning that the cheesy moments we tend to love from Riverdale won’t have the same impact with a more dramatic show. Then again, it’s still part of the Riverdale world, so what do I know? Someone will probably get attacked by a tiger while someone else is singing Cats.
The TV musical can be special, it can be a mess, and each and every time, I’m going to sit there and watch it.
(image: Katie Yu/The CW)
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