If you’ve ever thought, “I wish Riverdale had less murder and more designer gowns,” well, does the CW have a show for you! Katy Keene, the newest spin-off from the Archie Comics series is set five years in the future. Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray) is now a twenty-something ready to pursue her dreams in the big city.
But Josie isn’t the titular character; that would be Katy Keene, played by the bubbly Lucy Hale. As in the original comics, Katy is obsessed with fashion. Her mom was a seamstress and Katy shares her love of clothing. She works at a fictional department store named Lacy’s, where she assists the Miranda Priestly-esque Gloria in the personal shopping department.
Rounding out Katy’s crew is Pepper, who seems to be a writer/actor — although that’s unclear — and whose name-dropping would put Tahani Al-Jamil to shame. There’s also K.O., Katy’s very hot and rarely clothed boyfriend, and Jorge, Katy’s roommate who auditions for Broadway by day and performs in drag as Ginger Lopez by night.
And then there’s the character of New York City. Everyone is obsessed with it in a way that only Midwestern transplants in their first year can be (I know; I’m a Midwestern transplant myself). In the opening scene, Katy walks to work while smiling and gawking at everything like a goofy tourist. But the writers definitely want you to know that they *understand* New York City. At one point K.O. says, “Let’s take the F train to Coney Island.” (Yes, the F train does go to Coney Island. Good job writers.)
Anyway, Josie has just moved in with Katy and Jorge and all of them are raring to take on the world. (It’s unclear what Pepper does at this point… or any point in the pilot.) Katy is up for a promotion at Lacy’s; she has to prove herself to Gloria with an upcoming client to get the personal shopping position. Gloria’s a bit hesitant because she’s heard that Katy also designs clothes on the side. How dare she. Katy assures her that making clothes is just for fun and would never interfere with her work.
When the client — a prince, of course — comes in to shop for the Met Ball, he brings a girlfriend they weren’t expecting. She’s a “commoner” and hates all the clothes they pull for her. But when Katy realizes she’s just a girl who grew up on the Lower East Side like she did, they bond. Katy finds clothing for her, and even lets her try the clothes off her back: a dress Katy made herself.
We probably all saw this coming: Gloria gets mad at Katy’s success and promotes her nemesis, Amanda, to the personal shopper position instead. And to top it off, she demotes Katy to stock room assistant.
Josie is also not having luck achieving her dreams on Day 1 in New York. She meets a music agent — Alexander Cabot, who just happens to be a billionaire in the vein of the Rockefellers and Astors — while she’s busking with a stranger at Washington Square Park. Alex helps Josie record music and presents it to the Cabot board, which includes his sister Alexandra. (Nothing says billionaire like having a near-identical name to your sibling.) The sister is not loving Josie and she blows up her brother’s spot: Turns out he’s often trolling parks for young talented women, which is not what Josie wanted to hear since she slept with him the night before.
And then there’s Jorge, who is ALSO not making it big immediately. His dream is to be on Broadway, but in the first casting call for Mannequin, the director tells him he’s not reading “tough” enough. Katy has a wacky idea: He should audition as Ginger, not Jorge. She bedazzles a leotard for him, and he nails it at the audition. Except the casting director has eyes and realizes this is the person he had already cut. Jorge is not having it and gives a speech about how one day they will all know his name. I do not believe this was meant to be a Hamilton reference, but that’s really all I could think about.
So, yeah, three dreamers down on their luck (and Pepper) decide to drink their sorrows away. After pre-gaming at their apartment, they decide to do a little light B&E and potential theft? It’s unclear if they’re just doing a clothing montage or are actually walking out of the store. But either way, they get interrupted by Francois, who is the window designer. He’s pulling an all-nighter because the client didn’t like his vision and it’s due the next day. Katy has inspiration and helps him. The next morning Mrs. Lacy herself is so impressed she compliments Katy and Francois offers her a position on his team.
No more stock room, which is good news for Katy, but bad news for K.O. He was hoping to move to Philadephia and train at a gym that he’s been on a waiting list for. She tells him he should go and they’ll do long distance, but he has other plans. He proposes with a teeny tiny ring, and Katy says … to be continued.
So what do you think of our fledgling grown-up Riverdale spin-off? Hands down the best moment was when Josie said, “I am from Riverdale. It is the murder capital of the world. I’ll be fine.” Okay, maybe it’s tied with Alexandra telling Josie that “life isn’t A Star Is Born. You don’t just meet a guy and win multiple Grammys overnight.” A few more lines like that and a lot less pie in the sky ideas about New York dreams and we could have a fun show on Thursday nights.