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Cole Sprouse Explains Riverdale's Confusing Time Period

To mock The CW's high school drama series "Riverdale" for depicting objectively wild content (read: cult-based murders, musical-based murders, and multiverse-based murders ... wait, there's a theme in there) kind of misses the point. After all, the show is based on a comic that once featured the actual factual Predator prowling around for a couple of malt-loving teens (via CBR). At no point has the shark not been jumped. And yet, not mocking "Riverdale" feels like a lost opportunity because, again, the whole production is patently ridiculous. It may be low-hanging fruit but the "epic highs and lows of high school football" line is quite literally unforgivable.

So instead, let's get specific. "Riverdale" leaves its viewers with a number of inexplicable and unsolved mysteries, including that of its time period. The problem is that the original comics take place in the 1940s and The CW's project takes place ... at some point after that? It's entirely unclear. There are modern clothes and modern musicals but crumbling, older cars and vintage diners. So what's the deal? Turns out, the whole anachronistic vibe is intentional, at least, according to series star Cole Sprouse.

There is no official time period for Riverdale, apparently

In a 2017 Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), Cole Sprouse, who portrays Jughead on "Riverdale," responded to fan questions for the dual purpose of promoting the show and sating curiosity. One such question came from u/cardiggan, who asked, "MY BIGGEST QUESTION: is the show supposed to be set in modern times with old cars or in 'less' modern times (like a different decade) but with modern phones? Confuses the heck out of me."

To his credit, Sprouse opted to respond in a way that blended humor and useful information. "Riverdale has no formal or announced time period as of now," he said. "And with the amount of money we dedicate to atmospheric fog, the setting is supposed to feel dreamlike. My understanding of the town is some twilight zone between the modern and the nostalgic 'golden age' America. Hence the set pieces like the autos."

But maybe this source is too old to satisfy contemporary fans. Well, consider Alex Zalben's 2021 article for Decider, where he went off the rails detailing all the disjointed time trivia mentioned in "Riverdale," from the explicitly stated dates and time jumps to environmental clues like the proliferation of VHS tapes and the local theater showing "Love, Simon." Ultimately, he came to the same conclusion that Sprouse offered back in 2017, saying, "The point is, having no idea what time period Riverdale is set in is a feature, not a bug." Perhaps more will be revealed in the upcoming seventh and final season of "Riverdale."