The period from the end of the Filmation cartoons until Archie’s Weird Mysteries was an unremarkable time for the Riverdale gang. Years after the failed 1970s pilots but still a few years before the TV movie that went nowhere, there was The New Archies, a Saturday morning cartoon series on NBC. Co-produced by DiC, it was the first of their Archie-related productions, which included the TV movie, Archie’s Weird Mysteries, and the Sabrina cartoons. Archie Comics advertised the show in their comics, of course:
The show was also represented in a montage of NBC cartoon characters. Pictures like these often appeared in comic books to advertise NBC’s Saturday morning line-up as a whole:
The show was also previewed on NBC’s Saturday morning preview special from that year, “ALF Loves a Mystery”. For those of you too young to remember, Saturday morning cartoons used to be a major deal until the late 1990s / early 2000s. Kids would religiously tune in and watch cartoons all morning long, usually while eating snacks and/or sugary breakfast cereals of dubious nutritional value. In addition to new shows every fall, corporations would often launch new commercials aimed at kids on the morning that the new season began. So, for example, in addition to seeing new cartoons, we might also see a new McDonald’s commercial starring their mascot characters. To get kids (and also their parents) ready, the networks would air preview specials on the evening before the new season began, hosted by characters from one of their live-action series. I looked forward to these previews as much as Saturday morning itself.
Personally, I primarily watched ABC, because that came in the clearest (this was in the days of analog transmission via antennas), but I occasionally changed the channel to NBC or CBS for other shows. Obviously, I didn’t see this special when it aired, and I didn’t see The New Archies back then either (I didn’t get into Archie until three years later).
For the The New Archies preview, skip to 20:17.
Hilarious, ain’t it? From the misspelled title to Archie listing “Miss Grundy’s back” as a selling point.
Anyway, what we ended up getting were thirteen half-hour episodes, each containing two segments, for a total of twenty-six unique stories about the gang as tweens at Riverdale Junior High School. Or Riverdale Elementary School. The setting is weird, containing a mix of elements from both elementary school (one teacher) and junior high school (football, cheerleading). It’s like the writers couldn’t decide and wanted to have it both ways. Supposedly, the reason that they’re not in high school was because the rights to the teen versions of the characters were optioned by a film studio at the time for a potential movie (which never happened), hence this. They also threw in plots involving aliens, werewolves, and wacky inventions, which sort of makes this series a prototype for Archie’s Weird Mysteries. Combine this with a general lack of parental oversight (Fred Andrews and Hiram Lodge appear twice each, and Mary Andrews and Ricky Mantle are heard once each), and the kids end up doing things that no junior high student would actually do.
Honestly, most of the stories weren’t particularly good. These were animation writers, not the writers of Archie Comics. While Archie Comics put out some shit stories sometimes, this cartoon is almost nothing but.
I’ve already reviewed the stories themselves in probably way more detail than anyone ever has, so I won’t do so here (suffice it to say the two stories where Betty’s a bitch are the only ones that have stuck with me as being really good). Instead, I’ll discuss the writers, characters, and voice actors.
Kimmer Ringwald wrote 4 segments as part of a career that spanned 1977-1999, dying on March 29, 2011, at the age of 63.
Jon Cohen wrote 2 segments, his sole work in the industry ever.
Scott Anderson wrote 2 segments, his only actual writing work. He primarily worked in the animation and art departments in a career that spanned 1986-2004.
The writing team of Eleanor Burian-Mohr and Jack Hanrahan wrote 6 segments, making them the largest contributors to The New Archies animated canon – at least by plurality. Mohr’s career spanned 1980-2001. Hanrahan’s career of writing and acting spanned 1961-2004. He died on April 28, 2008, at the age of 75.
Herb Engelhardt wrote 2 segments. He had a short career, spanning 1985-1987.
The writing team of Pat Allee and Ben Hurst wrote 4 segments. Allee’s career spanned 1981-1999. Hurst’s writing career spanned 1987-1999, and he also, strangely, had 1 acting credit for being the narrator in a short in 2008. He died on August 10, 2010, at the age of 59.
Dennis O’Flaherty wrote 2 segments. His acting career spanned 1957-1980. His writing career spanned 1981-1999.
Gary Greenfield wrote 4 segments. His career spanned 1978-1997.
With so many different writers (and probably a very short period of time in which to write), there probably was no way that any kind of cohesive, consistent product could be created.
Each character will include the number of story appearances. For the dogs, this will include the total number of appearances. For the humans, this will include only the number of segments in which s/he has at least one clear line all to herself/himself. In other words, no silent cameos or segments in which they just grunt or have one line mixed in with everyone else’s.
Archie appeared in every segment, of course. He comes across as an accident-prone but generally well-meaning kid. Thankfully, the love triangle from the comics is absent.
Veronica appeared in every segment except “Making of Mr. Righteous”. In contrast to her radio and Filmation incarnations, she’s not Southern; she’s a Valley girl. That’s…different. Otherwise, she’s the same Veronica. She’s often paired with Reggie.
Jughead appeared in every segment except “Thief of Hearts”, and he was often the focus (his name appeared in 4 titles). He’s basically the hungry, lazy Jughead from the comics but without the woman-hating and with an added “character trait”: he really loves listening to music.
Reggie appeared in every segment except “Take My Butler, Please”. He’s the same old schemer that you love to hate from the comics. He’s often paired with Veronica.
Ms. Geraldine Grundy
Ms. Grundy appeared in every segment except “I Was a 12 Year Old Werewolf” and “Incredible Shrinking Archie”. She comes off as a strict (sometimes overly so) but caring teacher that’s stuck in a thankless job. She even considering leaving at one point. She obviously has a thing for Mr. Weatherbee, so why don’t these two just get together already?
Eugene appeared in every segment except “Jughead Predicts”, “Hamburger Helpers”, “The Prince of Riverdale”, “Incredible Shrinking Archie”, “Jughead’s Millions”, and “Take My Butler, Please”. He’s basically Dilton Doiley from the comics turned black in order to be the smart scientist kid while also fulfilling the role of the boys’ token black friend without having to add Chuck Clayton as well. He gets a decent amount of stuff to do and is the focus of several stories, much like Dilton will later on Archie’s Weird Mysteries.
Moose appeared in “Ballot Box Blues”, “Last Laugh”, “Jughead Predicts”, “Stealing the Show”, “Hamburger Helpers”, “Goodby Ms. Grundy”, “Jughead the Jinx”, “Telegraph, Telephone, Tell Reggie”, “Wooden It Be Loverly”, “I Was a 12 Year Old Werewolf”, “Loose Lips Stops Slips”, “Change of Minds”, “Gunk for Gold”, “Jughead’s Millions”, and “Making of Mr. Righteous”. Much as in the comics, he’s basically a dumb jock – but without (most of) the violent tendencies, largely due to a lack of one Midge Klump.
Amani appeared in “Thief of Hearts”, “I Gotta Be Me or Is It You?”, “The Awful Truth”, “Future Shock”, “Stealing the Show”, “Hamburger Helpers”, “Goodby Ms. Grundy”, “Telegraph, Telephone, Tell Reggie”, “Wooden It Be Loverly”, “Loose Lips Stops Slips”, “Change of Minds”, “Gunk for Gold”, “Jughead’s Millions”, and “Making of Mr. Righteous”. She was created for the show, specifically to be Eugene’s love interest (because they apparently weren’t daring enough to pair the black boy with a white girl). She’s also the show’s equivalent of the comics’ Nancy: a token black friend for the girls. While she appears often enough, only one story really gives her any focus (the one where she and Eugene try to act like each other). Most of the time, she’s just along for the ride. Her lines could have easily been given to someone else, and the show wouldn’t have been worse off.
Mr. Waldo Weatherbee
Mr. Weatherbee appeared in “Last Laugh”, “Thief of Hearts”, “I Gotta Be Me or Is It You?”, “Jughead Predicts”, “Future Shock”, “Stealing the Show”, “Goodby Ms. Grundy”, “The Prince of Riverdale”, “Loose Lips Stops Slips”, “Change of Minds”, “Gunk for Gold”, and “Making of Mr. Righteous”. Much like in the comics, he’s the ultimate authority figure in the school and has to deal with shit from the students. He has a thing for Ms. Grundy.
Despite the fact that Ethel isn’t considered a main character (since she doesn’t appear in the opening theme), she’s still a strong supporting character. She appeared in “Last Laugh”, “Jughead Predicts”, “Future Shock”, “Stealing the Show”, “Telegraph, Telephone, Tell Reggie”, “Wooden It Be Loverly”, “Loose Lips Stops Slips”, “Gunk for Gold”, “Making of Mr. Righteous”, and “Horray for Hollywood”. She’s a love interest for Jughead, as in the comics, but she doesn’t display stalker tendencies. She’s also a decent friend to the others.
The Unnamed Coach
Appearances: 08 (1 of which is just a daydream)
The coach might or might not be Coach Kleats from the comics. The hair color doesn’t match. Anyway, he appeared in “The Visitor”, “Future Shock”, “Stealing the Show” (in Moose’s daydream), “Loose Lips Stops Slips”, “Change of Minds”, “Gunk for Gold”, “Making of Mr. Righteous”, and “Take My Butler, Please”. He basically comes off as a stereotypical coach, prone to anger and worry.
Red appeared in “Ballot Box Blues”, “Thief of Hearts”, “Hamburger Helpers”, “Red to the Rescue”, “Telegraph, Telephone, Tell Reggie”, “Making of Mr. Righteous”, and “Take My Butler, Please”. Only 1 segment really focused on him.
Smithers appeared in “The Visitor”, “Hamburger Helpers”, “Incredible Shrinking Archie”, and “Take My Butler, Please”. Only 1 segment really focused on him; mostly, he was just Veronica’s servant.
Despite the kids frequenting his establishment, Pop himself, ahem, popped up in only “The Visitor” and “Horray for Hollywood”, bookending the series. There’s not much to him, but he does act as a guidance counselor of sorts for Betty at the end.
Fangs isn’t a main character. He was lifted from the Little Archie comic book and aged up for this series. He appeared in only “Last Laugh” and “I Gotta Be Me or Is It You?”. Typical troublemaker.
Hot Dog appeared in only “Red to the Rescue” and “Telegraph, Telephone, Tell Reggie”, and he certainly didn’t do much – if anything – useful.
The voice acting on this show was generally competent, especially considering the kids were voiced by actual kids. No one stands out as great, but no one’s awful either. Here’s my round-up of the actors:
This show was the only thing that J. Michael Roncetti (Archie) ever acted in.
Alyson Court (Veronica) started acting in 1985 and hasn’t stopped, even branching out into other areas. She’s probably most famous as the voice of Jubilee on the 1990s X-Men series and as the longtime voice of Claire Redfield in the Resident Evil series (before being replaced).
Michael Fantini (Jughead) had a short but fairly prolific acting career, spanning 1985-1989.
Sunny Besen Thrasher (Reggie) had a fairly prolific acting career, spanning 1985-1995. From 2010 to 2016, he’s had a bit of a career resurgence in production, direction, camera, and grip work.
Victor E. Erdos (Moose) had a fairly prolific career, spanning 1984-1997. He produced a movie that was released in 2002.
Jazzmin Lausanne (Ethel) had a sporadic career that spanned 1981-1987. This was her third and final role.
This show was the only thing that Colin Waterman (Eugene) ever acted in.
Karen Burthright (Amani) has had a long, albeit very sporadic, career, which started here and has lasted until 2013. She has only 6 credits. She also acts in live theater.
Marvin Goldhar (Mr. Weatherbee) had a long career, spanning 1966-2002. He died on March 31, 2002, at the age of 67 or 68 (IMDb and Wikipedia give two different dates of birth, and other sites use one or the other).
Linda Sorensen (Ms. Grundy) has had a long, prolific career, spanning 1969-2017.
Greg Swanson (Coach) had a fairly prolific career, spanning 1979-1998.
Lisa Suzanne Coristine (Betty) was born on September 10, 1975, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She started acting in 1985 (coincidentally playing a character named Elizabeth). This was her 4th of 8 roles, the last being in 1989. She later went into teaching. At the age of 25, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that began in her sinuses. After a three-year struggle, four surgeries, and endless hours of treatment, she sadly lost her battle with the horrible disease. She died on June 14, 2004, at home, at the far-too-young age of 28. From her IMDb bio: “Although Lisa is no longer with us, her family and friends are left with a tremendous sense of gratitude, because targeted radiation allowed Lisa to live her life to the fullest in spite of her illness. With fewer side effects to combat, Lisa traveled the world during her final years; climbing the Great Wall of China, running on the beach in Mexico, and living with a sense of adventure and hope – hope for a healthy future. Lisa spent a great deal of time at PMH during the course of her illness. While she was certainly a young patient, she understood that she was not the youngest patient who had ever endured cancer treatments. She was deeply moved by the fact that many children also fight cancer there, and that they stand to benefit the most from future developments in radiation therapy. This is why she believed so strongly in the mission of the Brave Heart Foundation, which now bears her name as a tribute to her courage, her kindness, and her indomitable spirit.” Read this article for more information.
The New Archies is definitely a product of its time, a mostly uninspired animated take on an existing property. It was a relative success (it’s the only thing that made it to series) in between the failed 1970s pilots and the TV movie. Archie Comics stuck blurbs advertising it on the front covers of its comics, cover-dated November of 1987 (likely came out in September) through October of 1988 (likely came out in August, when they knew the show wouldn’t be coming back in the fall). For issues cover-dated March of 1989 through February of 1990, a new cover blurb announced the series was back and told readers to check their local TV listings for time and channel. I’m guessing the series entered syndication at that point.
The series has mostly been forgotten – in large part because of its unavailability on DVD. Still, you can find it on YouTube, so check it out, if you want. It’s nothing great, but it’s not completely awful either. It’s mostly a show that will, among older fans, trigger a response of “Oh, yeah, that was a thing that happened.”
As I’d mentioned previously, Archie Comics created two tie-in comic books for the series. I happen to have a few issues of the floppy comics. I’m not sure where or when I picked them up. Probably at the used bookstore (which closed nearly 17 years ago) at the flea market. Who knows? I’d completely forgotten I had them until I went searching through a tote for something to review. I might review some of these stories, if I feel like revisiting this iteration of the characters, but this post is, for the most part, my final word on The New Archies as a series.
Archie Comics has released a digital collection of some of the comics (the blurb places them in Riverdale Middle School), so you can check that out.
It might or might not be the same as this collection:
I won’t be promoting another series to a regular feature on this blog, because there are still plenty of episodes of Archie’s Weird Mysteries and Riverdale for me to review. I’ll try to review one episode per month. The rest of the month will be devoted to comic reviews – with a continued focus especially on Cheryl Blossom.