Mid-20s suit Archie and the gang
Archie’s got a little gray mixed in with his red hair these days following a seven-year “Riverdale” time jump early on in Season 5. (OK, so not really: Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica went from 18 to 25 in Episode 504.) But has The CW drama performed better or worse since the gang fast-forwarded into their mid-20s?
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The Season 5 premiere on Jan. 20, 2021 had a 0.39 rating among adults 18-49, according to Nielsen, and 1.175 million total viewers. Those numbers, like all in this story, include one week of delayed (mostly DVR) viewing. The next “Riverdale” episode got a 0.34 rating and 985,000 total viewers. The one after that received a 0.36 rating and 1.017 million total viewers.
The Feb. 10 time-jump episode scored a 0.40 rating and 1.029 million total viewers.
That evening, “Riverdale” flashed seven years into the future — or rather, it brought us into the present day.
That installment introduced us to the mid-20s versions of Archie Andrews (KJ Apa), Veronica Lodge (Camila Mendes), Betty Cooper (Lili Reinhart), Jughead Jones (Cole Sprouse), Toni Topaz (Vanessa Morgan) and Cheryl Blossom (Madelaine Petsch). The hour also set up the rest of Season 5 to be what showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa had previously intended for the entire season ahead of the pandemic, which prematurely ended Season 4 last spring before the kids could hit their all-important high school milestones of prom and graduation.
“We decided early on, when we stopped in the middle of shooting our prom episode, we kind of thought, well should we just find our characters when we come back in the present, as adults? And we felt like, since ‘Riverdale’ had been ostensibly a high school show, we shouldn’t skip over things like prom and graduation, that those were rites of passage that every coming-of-age show hits,” Aguirre-Sacasa told TheWrap in February. “However, we’d already shot a bunch of the prom episode, so we couldn’t even really rewrite it to make it sort of feel more like a season premiere. So we bit the bullet and said we’re going to start with what would have been the last three episodes of Season 4, and we thought that they had enough momentum that they would carry us to the time jump.”
On Feb. 17, “Riverdale” had a 0.38 rating and 1.074 million total viewers. The next week, the Archie & Friends series got the same rating as its predecessor and 1.105 million total viewers.
After a week off — its the only one of the season, thus far — the show returned March 10 with a 0.35 rating and 977,000 total viewers. A hiatus, no matter how brief, never helps.
So the highest-rated episode of Season 5 is currently the time jump one. In terms of total viewers, the season premiere tops the list, but the episode after the time jump is second. The time jump itself is No. 3.
Crunching the numbers, the three episodes ahead of the time jump have averaged a collective 0.36 rating among adults 18-49. The three after the time jump have averages a 0.37 — so actually they’ve performed slightly better. That’s somewhat surprising since later episodes in any season so rarely outperform the first three.
Episodes 501-503 averaged 1.059 million total viewers. Episodes 505-507 averaged 1.052 million total viewers — so 7,000 fewer total viewers than the pre-jump episodes.
At the time of this writing, “Riverdale” has aired 10 episodes during Season 5, nine of which we have Nielsen’s Live + 7 Day data for at this point. I felt it fairest to focus on only the three before and the three after, as ratings tend to naturally decline as a season goes on. This case is a good example of that trend, as Episodes 508 and 509 have the smallest season-to-date audiences.
“Riverdale,” which regularly airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW, is on hiatus now until a July return. “Kung Fu,” which premiered this week, now occupies its time slot.