I’m sorry that this is late. My workplace dicked with my schedule for this week.
Writer: Brian Swenlin
Director: Robby Benson
Original Air Date: Saturday, October 2, 1999
Twelve years after “The New Archies” and nine years after the TV movie, DiC coproduced another Archie cartoon series, this time able to use the teenage versions of the characters (I guess the movie rights lapsed with whoever had held them). It was coproduced with Les Studios Tex (which doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry) and “Riverdale Productions and Kent/QMA”, which, from what I can tell, is Archie Comics. Apparently, the series was animated in China, and all video and audio post-production was done in France.
The series aired on PAX in the United States and Teletoon in Canada in the 1999-2000 television season. If you don’t know what PAX is, don’t worry, neither did a lot of other people back then. It was a minor network, a bit more than a year old at the time, and the predecessor of Ion Television, which is now mostly known for rerunning a bunch of cop series (L&O, Blue Bloods, Criminal Minds, etc.) from other networks. Yeah, they have a bit of original programming, but they really might as well rename themselves Cop TV.
I didn’t see this series during its original run (because what the fuck is PAX?), but it was in syndication for many years afterward, so I managed to watch the entire series. This is the second of three series that I’ll be reviewing in full on this blog, because I really like it.
The series was eventually released on DVD in North America on Tuesday, February 21, 2012, by Cookie Jar, the kids’ division of Mill Creek Entertainment, a discount DVD company.
The DVD release is pretty poor. It’s a four-disc set. For a series that ran 40 episodes, that meant cramming 10 episodes on each disc (which are dual-layered, at least). But that’s not all. They also added a “bonus” episode on the first three discs. Disc 1 has the “Sabrina: The Animated Series” episode, “La Femme Sabrina”. Disc 2 has the “Sabrina’s Secret Life” episode, “Rather, Rinse, Repent”. Disc 3 has an episode of “Mona the Vampire”. Also, each disc has a commercial, running 3:45, for their various releases.
I took a look at the tech specs of the first disc. Everything is encoded at a variable bit rate of 7500 kbps. That’s not bad, I guess, but it uses up only 7.1 GB of a dual-layer DVD’s 8.5 GB capacity, leaving a lot of space to go to waste. Also, I remember seeing encoding errors when watching the DVD set on my TV, so I’ll make note of those when I spot them.
Here is the main voice cast:
Andrew Rannells – Archie Andrews
America Young (credited as Danielle Young) – Betty Cooper (first role)
Camille Schmidt – Veronica Lodge
Paul Sosso – Reggie Mantle
Chris Lundquist – Jughead Jones
Ben Beck – Dilton Doiley
I guess I should talk about the premise of the series. When this series aired on TV, it included two commercials. One aired right before the “Riverdale Reporter” segment (see below) and let you know it was coming up. The second commercial aired…during the first break, after the opening theme song, I think. One or both of these commercials (I know the second one did for sure) explained the backstory. Riverdale has become a “magnet for all things weird” after an experiment in the high school physics lab “went awry”. The thing is the commercial used footage from a later episode to depict the experiment in question, which is wrong. There is no origin episode in this series. I don’t know who narrated these commercials.
The commercials and the commercial bumpers were removed for the DVD release, which is a fucking shame, because they’re as much a part of the series as the stories themselves. Couldn’t Cookie Jar have provided at least one copy of them as a bonus feature?
The commercial bumpers / eyecatches were fun. They featured still images of a particular character, who would narrate whatever was written on the screen. I have episodes on VHS and DVD-R, but there are two problems with one cause: my DVD recorder is broken. I can no longer capture stuff from my VHS tapes. Also, I never finalized the DVD-Rs after I recorded the episodes off the air, making the discs unplayable elsewhere. Getting my DVD recorder fixed (or getting a replacement of the same model) would solve the problem, but it’s over $100 for a used one. There’s more affordable hardware and software to capture VHS directly to the computer, so I might look into that. I might eventually be able to share the missing stuff with you.
I can give you the text that the characters spoke during the bumpers from memory (except Archie; amusingly, I forget his):
Betty: “Don’t touch that remote! We’ll be right back!”
Jughead: “We’re back! And I’m still hungry.”
Dilton: “We’ll be back faster than you can say Pythagorean theorem.”
Veronica: “And now back to Archiekins’ Weird Mysteries.”
Reggie: “Now back to Reggie’s…Archie’s Weird Mysteries.”
Anyway, it was Archie Comics itself that provided the origin story (the true experiment that led to this mess) – but only after the series had already started airing. First, they published a 12-page free comic, cover-dated September of 1999:
The ongoing series started in February of 2000 (cover date) and ran for 24 issues, the last “weird” issue cover-dated December of 2002, long after all of the episodes had aired. It then dropped the “Weird” from the title (the weirdness had left Riverdale) but kept the numbering and was revamped into a CSI rip-off:
This incarnation didn’t last long, putting out 10 issues (cover-dated February of 2003 to June of 2004) before being cancelled.
The issues are expensive now, and I’m sorry that I sold or gave away my copies (but I kept the issues of “Archie’s Mysteries” that Fernando Ruiz sent me as a gift), but a 128-page trade paperback was released (there’s also a digital version), and it’s very affordable, so you can check that out if you want some more weirdness.
One more note before we get into the episode: the continuity is a big mess. This series is supposed to occur during junior year (it’ll eventually be mentioned), but the episodes skip around the calendar year. If the time of year is mentioned in an episode, I’ll be sure to note it.
Okay, let’s dive into the weirdness:
Each episode is preceded by a “Riverdale Reporter” segment. “Riverdale Reporter” is supposedly the name of the school newspaper, but the name is never mentioned outside these segments. A drawing unique to the episode is shown, and then various clips from the upcoming episode are played, framed within the newspaper, followed by a repeat of the drawing. Meanwhile, creepy music plays, and a spooky narrator previews the episode. I think this is meant to sound like the narrator in an old-time horror movie trailer or perhaps like a TV horror host. I don’t know who did the voice, but I would guess Jerry Longe, who is the sole other credited main cast member and will voice two characters sporadically throughout the series. These segments runs 20 seconds and are immediately followed by the opening theme (no fade out or fade in).
The theme song is pretty catchy. The music is sufficiently “creepy”, and the lyrics are a bit funny. The theme song runs 1 minute and was composed and performed by Mike Piccirillo, who cowrote the music for the series with Jean-Michel Guirao. The sequence is comprised of shots from various episodes.
After the commercial break, the episode opens on a shot of Riverdale.
We then see Jughead’s house.
Archie is criticizing Jughead for watching a horror movie marathon, even though he’s already seen the movie. They argue about it. Archie wants to go out bike-riding, but Jughead’s glued to the TV.
The next day, Archie is driving Jughead somewhere and is surprised and disappointed to learn Jughead sat in front of the TV for twelve hours.
Archie’s taking Jughead to the TV station to claim a prize for a contest that he’d won. Archie has Jughead repeat the explanation
for the benefit of the audience to refresh his memory.
When the movie marathon ended at midnight, Jughead was “totally in the zone” – when you’re so wrapped up in something that you don’t even notice the world around you.
The “lady from the station” came on and offered a prize for the first person that calls in and can name all of the movies in today’s marathon.
Jughead explains freebies or food can snap him out of the zone.
The guys are being watched as they approach the TV station.
Once they enter the building, Archie points out Jughead’s stupid prize (which Jughead apparently wasn’t told about over the phone):
Jughead is unimpressed.
The anchor (or whatever she is), quite obviously possessed, insists it’s a “lucky potato”. Jughead sarcastically thanks her and picks up his prize, and Archie drags “Spudboy” off.
Could you be a bit less subtle, show? I’m not quite getting it.
It turns out that she’s just a potato duplicate of the real anchor, who’s in a potato trance.
I’m starting to think this series doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Anyway, Potato!Anchor refers to the real anchor as “the Earthling” and explains to “Master” that the contest itself was real, but she took over and offered the potato as the prize.
“Master” watches from the shadows.
Later that afternoon, at twilight, Jughead’s watching another horror movie marathon. Archie admonishes him for it.
Hot Dog sniffs the potato, and it grows slightly, scaring him. Thankfully, Hot Dog doesn’t have thoughts on this series.
Archie mentions the big Riverdale-Springfield game tonight, but Jughead gets on his case for blocking the view.
Archie warns him that he’s going to turn into a couch potato, which is what Potato!Anchor called him back at the station.
Archie lectures him a bit more. Jughead says he’ll catch him at Pop’s tomorrow. Archie leaves.
That night, Jughead is so wrapped up in the movie that he’s watching that he fails to notice the potato growing and wrapping him up for real.
Why did Jughead keep the potato by the couch instead of in his bedroom? This, by the way, is one of the big questions of the series: Where the fuck are the parents most of the time? Why do Jughead’s parents allow him to sit up the whole night, watching TV?
The potato takes on Jughead’s form.
Hot Dog is frightened.
Then it cuts to the exterior of the house as Hot Dog barks, and all of the lights (except the porch lights and attic light) turn off. Um, why?
Fade out. Fade back in. (It’s difficult to tell where the commercial breaks are without the bumpers.) At the TV station, we see the same room from earlier, but the real anchor isn’t present. We see potato growth along the floor, and then…
Fade out. Fade in.
The next day, at Pop’s (which doesn’t have a sign), we get silent cameos from Chuck and Nancy.
Archie, Betty, and Dilton walk in. Betty’s getting a little worried about Jughead, and so is Archie.
They have different concerns, though:
“Dirt is good for you, Arch.”
“What the fuck are you on?”
Okay, so the potato duplicates have to stand in dirt to absorb nutrients through their feet. Got it.
Veronica’s like “Dick be crazy.”
Reggie suggests Archie make it one of his stories, which pisses Archie off for some reason.
Archie gets no reaction from “Jughead”. Has he just stopped moving for some reason?
Dilton guesses Jughead is suffering from sleep deprivation (Betty looks like she doesn’t fucking care). Archie angrily asks Jughead if he stayed up all night in front of “that tube” again. He gets no response.
Reggie tries to lure Jughead with some of Pop’s sexy french fries, and Jughead jumps and slides across their table. Dilton and Betty look at each other like “WTF?”
Veronica’s concerned about the food that’s now on her “blouse”, which came from Paris. This is, by all appearances, a dress. Maybe it’s a really long blouse, and Veronica is wearing short shorts (or less) under it.
Regardless, Dilton and Betty share a laugh over her misfortune.
“Jughead” declares “I’d never eat french-fried potatos. No one ever should.” This dumbfounds Reggie, and Archie takes it as a sign of sleep deprivation. He wants “Jughead” to go home and sleep.
“Jughead” passes out potatoes and tells them to keep his “new friends” company while he’s gone. He picks up his pot and leaves. Betty’s worried about him, but Archie thinks he’ll be normal after a good night’s sleep.
Betty reminds Archie about him coming over for a movie tonight, and he confirms. He suggests they get outta here before “Pops” finds this mess. What the fuck is it with Archie getting Pop’s name wrong?!
Pop (Ryle Smith) stops him. The scene ends as Archie laughs nervously. Do they tell him that Jughead made the mess, or are they forced to clean up his place?
That night, at Betty’s house, she and Archie are watching a movie. There’s a bit where we hear their thoughts and learn how nervous that they are about showing the least bit of affection. For fuck’s sake, these two were five years behind me in school (I was Class of 1996; they’re Class of 2001), and couples in my school had no problem kissing in school. Hell, during junior year, guys that I sat with in class talked about getting blowjobs, and a girl in my homeroom during sophomore year talked about getting humped in bed. Why are these two dumbasses worried about cuddling?
Betty’s potato grows and touches her in a way that Archie never has.
Archie finally notices what’s going on (Betty consciously decided to not look so as to not scare Archie off). Oh, and the potato destroys Betty’s purse.
Archie tries to warn Betty.
It’s too late, though. She’s in the zone.
He tries to free Betty. When that doesn’t work, he kicks the potato away. He then frees Betty, who’s disoriented. He grabs her by the wrist, and they run away. He asks if she’s okay. She is, and she asks what’s going on. He doesn’t know but suggests they talk to Jughead. She agrees.
At Jughead’s, the TV’s showing nothing but static (is the station off the air, due to the potato duplicates?), and Jughead and Hot Dog are in the zone.
Archie declares “Something really weird is going on.” He and Betty discuss it for a bit (including the current whereabouts of the potatoes), and Betty decides she’s gonna call the police.
Potato!Jughead scares her, and she trips over a potato stem and falls to the floor.
A potato has even taken on Hot Dog’s form, because that’s totally necessary to their world-domination plans.
Archie is dumbfounded.
After the commercial break, Potato!HotDog has disappeared. Archie asks what “Jughead” is. Potato!Jughead explains he was once a mere potato, but he’s “been liberated by the Master, freed by the Great Potato”.
There’s a brief cut to the TV station (still no sign of the real anchor) to emphasize the point.
Potato!Jughead shares his thoughts and does his bidding. Thanks to him, starting tonight, “potatoes will rule the Earth”. He kicks some potatoes out of his bag, and one of them grows around Betty.
Archie goes to help her but is prevented by the timely reappearance of Potato!HotDog.
Potato!Jughead explains it’s too late; even now, the Master’s thoughts are being broadcast to all of the potatoes of Riverdale.
Y’know, this plan really makes no sense. It’s reliant on 1) everyone in Riverdale having a potato 2) that’s sitting in front of a TV 3) that’s tuned to Riverdale’s shitty low-powered station. Somehow, I doubt Veronica would be watching Riverdale’s local shit station.
Oh, I guess she is.
How is a potato sitting in Dilton’s lab effected? Where the ones that Potato!Jughead handed out pre-liberated?
But what about the bag of potatoes in Pop’s kitchen?
Why are there nothing but potatoes in Reggie’s fridge?
Huh, the anchor’s back. Did the Great Potato send her to relieve her bladder or something?
There’s an odd moment when Potato!Jughead says “never having to think or do anything ever again” twice.
The shots of the various people in “the zone” are static shots (except the anchor and Jughead, who are visibly potato-fondled), despite the fact that we still hear “potato growth” sound effects. Pretty cheap.
There’s one more shot of Betty – for seemingly no reason other than to show off her legs (not that I’m complaining).
The potato takes on Betty’s form.
Potato!Betty calls on Archie to join them, and Potato!Jughead tosses a potato at him (which Archie stupidly catches).
Archie briefly fights with the potato and manages to throw it off, surprising P!J and P!B.
They are aghast at the potatocide.
Archie’s pretty happy with himself, though.
Another potato attacks him, and he stomps a bunch of them to death.
The face of triumph?
P!J and P!B give chase, and the show falls back on the trope of Archie having trouble opening the door. He’s finally able to do so, though, and makes a run for it.
Archie drives off into the night, eventually arriving at the seemingly-empty Pop’s. He yells out: “Listen, everyone! We’ve got to hide from the potatoes!” I fucking love that. It’s the kind of cheese that’s to be expected from this series.
“Oh, Archiekins! You can’t hide from the potatoes!” Yes! More! Give me more!
Archie runs outside and drives off. He decides to try the police.
A shadowy figure rises from the back seat.
Oh, it’s Dilton. He warns Archie to not do that.
Dilton clasps Archie’s shoulder, causing him to freak out and crash. Brilliant move, genius.
It’s then “revealed” it’s Dilton (as if we didn’t already know). He apologizes to Archie for nearly killing him and asks if he’s okay. Archie asks if it’s really him. Dilton says yes and says he tried the police, warning Archie away from it.
Archie is in disbelief over “potato zombies” and mentions the Great Potato. Dilton detected microwave transmissions with his lab equipment and suggests stopping them, so the potatoes will return to normal. How? They’ve already been “liberated”. Do they have to be in constant contact with the Great Potato to be “alive”?
Anyway, remembering Jughead’s prize, Archie guesses the transmissions are coming from the TV station. They head there.
Potato-Jughead was hiding nearby (somehow) and overheard everything. How the fuck did he get to the random street that Archie was driving down?
Archie and Dilton arrive at the TV station.
They look inside but can’t get to the controls with all of the potatoes in there.
Dilton suggests overriding them directly from the transmission tower and points out the control box.
Of course, it won’t be easy.
After the commercial break, the potato zombies continue to approach. Archie and Dilton stands around like a couple of dumbasses and watch for a while before suddenly deciding to yell and run away.
The potato zombies (slowly) give chase. Really, how are zombies even a threat if they’re so fucking slow?
The potato zombies throw potatoes at Archie and Dilton. Dilton feels the need to put this into words.
A potato sprouts and catches Dilton.
Archie kills it.
Archie helps Dilton to his feet, and they run to the tower.
The potato babes catch Dilton.
Archie pauses and looks for a while, and then he continues climbing. Dilton cheers him on.
Potato!Betty forces Dilton to give a potato oral.
Why are the potato zombies giving each other five like real teens?
Then, from all appearances, Dilton himself rises as a potato zombie. Yeah, I realize there’s probably meant to be an unseen transformation sequence, and this is a duplicate, but it doesn’t come off that way.
Regardless, he joins the climb after Archie.
Archie pauses and looks down again for a bit like a dumbass. The zombies are on his tail.
Seen here: no zombies.
Through the power of inconsistent animation, the zombies re-appear, and Potato!Jughead manages to grab hold of Archie’s leg. Archie kicks him off and opens the control box.
He then lets out a celebratory cheer like a dumbass instead of, y’know, turning off the motherfucking transmission!
That’s what happens, man.
P!J puts a potato on Archie’s leg.
“Time to become one with the Great Potato!” I fucking love this show.
Archie shakes off Potato!Reggie and climbs back up to the control box. The potato on his leg is (somehow) preventing his hand from shutting down the transmission.
The Great Potato is alert.
Archie pulls the switch, shutting down the transmission.
“This cannot be! My plan was flawless!”
The potato zombies revert to normal potatoes. Confusing matters, Potato!Dilton reverts to a potato while on the ground, even though he was shown climbing the ladder earlier.
Veronica wakes up and is grossed out, and then she frees herself from her potato prison. Such is the strength of a socialite.
The others do the same – except for Betty. I guess she enjoys being wrapped in gooey potato goodness.
Dilton cheers for Archie and then gets hit by belatedly falling potatoes.
Archie wonders about the Great Potato.
The Great Potato’s alien origins are confirmed.
Due to shitty animation, Archie’s expression suddenly goes from this:
The Great Potato reveals himself in his full glory and acts all menacing for a while to scare Archie and Dilton.
Then he tries to steal Riverdale’s shitty TV station’s microwave dish, which surely is his key to world domination.
Dilton yells at Archie to turn on the dish and increase the frequency to full power.
Archie does the latter but not the former.
Good enough, though.
Having been baked (and, presumably, killed), the Great Potato leaves Earth.
“Oh, golly gee willikers, did I do that?!”
Each episode ends with Archie typing up his column, and we hear his thoughts. He (prematurely) says they never saw the Great Potato or his kind again.
Jughead has picked up some new hobbies.
Archie types with one finger, because he has to look all contemplative and shit.
Archie mentions a “weird mystery” for the nation’s big produce suppliers: why no one orders potatoes anymore…
…in a little town called Riverdale.
The end credits use footage from various episodes and an instrumental version of the opening theme. Also, there’s a constant featured image of the gang apparently sharing a five-necked sweater.
So that’s the first episode of “Archie’s Weird Mysteries“. It actually has some creepy visuals and music. The plot is pretty silly, but it’s standard for this series. The cast is great; the voices definitely fit the characters; they’re the voices that I hear when I read the comics. School is neither seen nor mentioned, so this episode takes place either on the weekend or during summer. I really enjoyed this episode. It feels a bit “creepier” (relatively speaking) than later episodes. The Great Potato looks creepy, and Betty and Veronica have seriously weird grins on their faces when they’re in “the zone”.
Tune in next Wednesday!