Considering how heavily the show leans into '90s teen TV tropes, it's interesting to speculate how Riverdale would've been different in the '90s. While there's plenty to love about the era — like Pogs, Blockbuster Video, and Leonardo DiCaprio at peak dreaminess — there was also a lot to dislike about it, too. The decade wasn't exactly renowned for its progressive television, which means there were plenty of examples of homophobia and sexism on '90s TV. And considering how progressive Riverdale strives to be (with mixed results), that would put the show totally at odds with the values of the time.
There are also a lot of teen TV show tropes of the '90s that would seriously alter the Riverdale fans know and love it. Sure, the show pays homage to storylines like Pacey's relationship with his teacher in Dawson's Creek, or the regularly repeated love triangle between three main characters (which, in turn, was arguably inspired by a trope conceived from Archie Comics). But Riverdale also thankfully subverts a number of '90s teen TV show tropes, which is part of what makes it so enjoyable.
Considering the culture, tropes, and politics of that time, Riverdale would have been a completely different show back in the '90s. And here are all the ways that would be the case.
1. Archie & Betty Would Climb Ladders Into Each Other's Bedrooms
You know, like Dawson and Joey, or Sam and Clarissa. Platonic male-female relationships didn't get to enjoy the luxury of doors back in the '90s.
2. Archie Would Have Joined A Grunge Band
And he would've left when the rest of the members tried to pressure him to do drugs. At which point, we'd all learn a valuable lesson about peer pressure and following your heart. Gee, thanks Archie.
3. Everyone Would Hang Out Watching VHS Tapes
And, like in Dawson's Creek, all of their movie choices would have been deeply symbolic for whatever was happening in the episode.
4. Reggie Would Have Had A Bigger Role Than Jughead
The truth is that self-proclaimed "weirdos" like Jughead weren't exactly lead character material back in the '90s. But total, misogynistic jerks like A.C. Slater and Steve Sanders were. So yeah, Reggie would have thrived.
5. Betty Would Have Been Dating Reggie
Look, Betty has a dark side, that much has been established. But she's also a good girl through and through. And in the '90s, good girls got with bad boys. It was the law of the universe.
6. Jughead Would Be The Editor Of Riverdale High News
And he'd be a minor character. He'd probably appear once in every episode to shout, "I've got the latest scoop, guys!" and then disappear back into the shadows.
7. Jughead Would Also Be The Dateless "Loser" Until About 3 Seasons In
Oh, he'd get the girl eventually. But not until he'd spent three seasons being very lonely, acting a little creepy, and then making a bold gesture that suddenly makes him "hot."
8. Cheryl Would Be Accompanied By A Small Squad Of Loyal Mean Girls
She'd be constantly flanked by two or three anonymous characters as she strides through the halls, while smiling at her victorious take-downs of "nerds."
9. Veronica Would Have OD'ed On Jingle Jangle In A Very Special Anti-Drugs Episode
Like most '90s teen show characters, she'd also survive. But not before the audience has had a chance to learn a valuable lesson about partying.
10. Kevin May Not Have Been Gay
But if he was, the show would have revealed that point much later in the series. And delivered an unnecessarily gratuitous "coming out" episode in which at least one of his friends struggles with Kevin's "new" identity.
11. The Violent Femmes Would Have Played Prom
Because the cult alternative rock band was an oddly prescient fixture of teen TV. In addition to guest-starring on Sabrina The Teenage Witch, their song "Blister In The Sun" was also critical in helping Angela Chase get over Jordan Catalano in My So-Called Life.
12. Destiny's Child Would Have Guest-Starred In An Episode With Josie & The Pussycats
You might fondly remember their cameo in an episode of Smart Guy. And frankly, it's still not too late to make this one a reality. Your move, The CW.
13. It Would Have Stayed Stricter To Comic Canon
Because there would have been riots in the '90s if anyone would have dared to make an "edgy" reboot of Riverdale like this.
14. Melissa Joan Hart Would Have Starred As Sabrina In A Special Crossover Episode
This one's just a given.
15. Pops Would Be A Local Rock Club
Like The Bronze in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, it would be a place where underage kids can still mysteriously hang out at every night and brood to their favorite alt-rock band.
16. It Would Have Had A Hit Theme Song
Because you're lying if you say you don't still know all the words to "I Don't Want To Wait" by Paula Cole. A '90s Riverdale would have had something equally catchy.
Just FYI: A '90s 'Riverdale' Did Sort Of Happen...
It was called Archie: Return To Riverdale and focused on a class reunion of the Archie gang as adults. And judging from the trailer above, it was a complete and utter abomination.
Let's all just count our lucky stars that Riverdale was made in this era instead.