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John Doyle: What’s hot now? Riverdale, gay rights and the real world

You're probably wondering what's going on. Me, too.

So much content, so little time. Possibly, you spend hours staring at CNN for the latest Trump-related outrage and eventually you speculate there are other things unfolding on TV you should know about. There are. Some Trump-related, and some not. Herewith, what's hot on TV right now.


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The CW's bizarre, subversive drama based on the characters in the Archie comics airs weekly on Netflix in Canada and it is a substantial cult hit. Much talked about the day after a new episode airs. Little wonder.

The CW calls it "The O.C. meets Twin Peaks," but it often leans more into David Lynch territory rather than staying in place as a high-school show. Written with sublime wit and the sort of references that stick in your mind for ages, it is adult, yet vastly entertaining on multiple levels.

Its strange gothic quality adds a spice to its take on the Archie universe. The love triangle of Archie, Betty and Veronica is a twisted, almost entirely new storyline now, with Betty and Veronica not enemies but seriously best friends forever. Where this puts Archie remains to be seen. The dialogue is so rich it is of baroque construction. At one point, Veronica says to Betty and Archie: "Can't we just liberate ourselves from the tired dichotomy of jock, artist. Can't we, in this post-James Franco world, be all things at once?"

And at one point, Archie is referred to as "the teen Outlander." It's unnerving how ambitious this concoction can be. You can catch up with existing episodes on Netflix in Canada.


The CBC documentary channel is free to many cable subscribers until the end of next Tuesday. And there's a lot to savour on it.

If you're an aficionado of the true-crime genre, then Motives & Murders (Mondays, 10 p.m.) is for you. Originally made for the Investigation Discovery channel, it follows a crime from its discovery through all the detective and forensic work to the conclusion. Monday's program starts with the discovery of a woman's body in an Orlando park. At first, detectives are baffled and then slowly connect the crime to a seemingly unconnected beating and carjacking.

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Having Our Baby (Tuesday, documentary channel, 10 p.m.) is a world premiere and a first-rate doc about surrogacy. It starts in Edmonton, where Heather is having Sarah and Jason's baby. For no fee. It's a matter of "helping a stranger out," as Jason puts it. As we get to know Heather, she says, "I first thought about being a surrogate when I was 12." She even talked about it with her boyfriend when they were first dating. "My self-esteem goes up when I'm a surrogate," she says.

This might seem to make sense until the depths of the surrounding issues are plumbed. Hundreds of Canadian women have signed on to carry babies for strangers. As the doc points out, "pretty well everyone gets paid except for the surrogates themselves." That means a lot of people are asking for laws to be changed.

LGBTQ issues

ABC is giving the miniseries When We Rise a remarkable platform. The series, about the origins and rise of the gay-rights movement, starts Monday (ABC, 9 p.m.) and runs on consecutive nights – except for Tuesday when it is pre-empted for President Donald's Trump's address to Congress – during the week. Star-studded, with Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker and Rachel Griffiths among the cast members, it is sprawling and effective. And, really, for all its sprawl – it covers three decades – it is about protest and how various forces who feel compelled to protest can coalesce and force change.

Obviously conceived during the Obama era, it is particularly relevant now – it is about those who consider themselves oppressed minorities learning to strike back against authority and ingrained prejudice. A real standout is Michael K. Willams as a Vietnam vet who initially feels isolated from his community, his fellow vets and, indeed, the world.

When We Rise has resonance now in the Trump era. So, maybe yes, almost everything interesting is connected in some way to the news of the day.

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