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Frenemies on film and TV: Forget Betty and Veronica of ‘Riverdale’ – these five works are better viewing options

UPDATED: Tue., April 6, 2021

Vanessa Morgan, Madelaine Petsch, Camila Mendes, K.J. Apa, Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse accept the award for choice drama TV show for "Riverdale" at the Teen Choice Awards at the Forum on Aug. 12, 2018, in Inglewood, Calif. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Vanessa Morgan, Madelaine Petsch, Camila Mendes, K.J. Apa, Lili Reinhart and Cole Sprouse accept the award for choice drama TV show for "Riverdale" at the Teen Choice Awards at the Forum on Aug. 12, 2018, in Inglewood, Calif. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Every now and then, I decide to watch a TV show I know nothing about, and sometimes it pays off. This was not one of those times.

Based on the Archie Comic series, first published in 1941 and still printing today, “Riverdale” follows a group of high schoolers through a particularly dark sophomore year tinged with murder, rivalry and, generally, the worst aspects of young adulthood.

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the show writer, once described it as “Archie meets ‘Twin Peaks.’ ” And, considering the crude, sledgehammer approach the show takes to shoehorning in cultural references, it’s almost surprising that the script doesn’t include that quote verbatim.

In the first episode, we meet Archie Andrews, the redheaded heartthrob; Betty Cooper, the classically beautiful girl next door in love with him; and Veronica Lodge, the heavily sexualized new girl who steals him.

Unfortunately for them both, Archie is infatuated, not all together unrequitedly, with the school’s young Juilliard-grad music teacher.

Nevertheless, Betty and Veronica, eternal frenemies, remain available as love interests for Archie throughout the CW series.

There are half-hearted attempts at updating the blonde (Betty) vs. brunette (Veronica) dynamic, but, at the end of the day, Betty is still the perfect sort of domesticated future housewife, and Veronica is still a vixen.

I couldn’t bring myself to finish Season 1 of “Riverdale,” so, getting away from Archie Comics on television, here are five recent films and series centered on female rivalry that I instead recommend.

Mary Queen of Scots

Based on “Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart,” John Guy’s 2004 biography, “Mary Queen of Scots” chronicles the complex relationship between cousins Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) and Mary, Queen of Scots (Saoirse Ronan). Following the death of her husband, Francis II of France, Mary sails home to Scotland.

Some, mostly her Catholic subjects, believe that Mary’s claim to the throne is stronger than her cousin’s as Elizabeth is Protestant, unmarried and without an heir. Pitted against each other by advisers on every side, Elizabeth and Mary still hold out hope that they will be able to come to some agreement between themselves. “Mary, Queen of Scots” is available on Amazon Prime Video.

Bridesmaids

Annie (Kristen Wiig) is already having a rough year, but when her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) announces her engagement, everything kicks into high gear. Lillian asks Annie to be her maid of honor. One of the other bridesmaids (Rose Byrne) seems hellbent on taking over, but, despite the rivalry, Annie fights her way through the process and proves that she is willing to go the distance for her best friend. “Bridesmaids” is available on YouTube.

Killing Eve

Eve (Sandra Oh), a skilled but bored MI5 security officer, and Villanelle (Jodie Comer), an uncommonly talented assassin, find they’ve met their match. Mutually obsessed, each is tasked with bringing down the other. “Killing Eve” is available on Hulu.

Me Without You

Starring Michelle Williams and Anna Friel, “Me Without You” follows the development of a troubled but enduring friendship spanning decades of toxicity and acceptance. “Me Without You” is available on Amazon Prime Video.

The Favourite

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, this dark comedy follows the relationship between cousins Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), and Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) as they compete to maintain the role of court favorite to Queen Anne (Olivia Colman, in her Oscar-winning performance). “The Favourite” is available on YouTube.

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