10:00 am EDT, April 2, 2020

‘Katy Keene’ is failing to tell a compelling story

Katy Keene is lacking direction.

Katy Keene, The CW’s spin-off of Riverdale capitalizing on their rare social media success, follows the titular character and friends, including Josie McCoy, as they chase their dreams in the big city, finding unusual routes of pursuit.

Katy Keene is eight episodes into their first season (which caps at 13), and the ratings aren’t great… probably due to the series’ lackluster storytelling.

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Unlike Riverdale and Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, both of which are set in the same universe and created by the same people, Katy Keene takes a positive and light-hearted spin on the world, taking it too far and teetering on the edge of satire.

The series, starring Pretty Little Liars‘ Lucy Hale as the titular Katy Keene and Riverdale’s Ashleigh Murray as Josie McCoy, has so much potential, but it really feels like the writers are falling on their face with each episode, which just seem to get less interesting and believable every week.

The faults of ‘Katy Keene’

Katy Keene

Warning, minor spoilers ahead.

My review of Katy Keene season 1, episode 8 explained a lot of my issues with the show, particularly those specific to the individual characters, so I won’t dig into those as much here, rather just the issues with the show as a whole. But I encourage you to look at that review, too, which highlights many more issues with the series.

That said, Katy Keene is really failing with their main characters, particularly with their development and moving forward in their stories.

Over the eight episodes, we’ve seen the story played out in various ways for Katy, Jorge, and Josie: Katy’s struggle with K.O., and love in general, is messing with her career; Josie being torn down by Alex’s family (just because it’s now Alex’s dad instead of Xandra, doesn’t mean it’s not played out); and Jorge’s struggle to get his family to accept him.

Alas, Pepper is the only character that feels fresh and invigorated, and that’s partially because her entire story on Katy Keene season 1 is that we’re slowly figuring out who she. Like, we just found out who her father is and it was a complete shock, which resulted in fans questioning anything we thought we knew about Pepper beforehand.

But majority rules, and their stories are stale already.

Lack of direction

Katy Keene season 1, episode 4

One of the biggest issues with Katy Keene, for me, is that the series seems to have no idea where it’s headed. Sure, there’s a long-term goal for each of the characters: Katy as a world-renowned designer, Josie as a pop star, Jorge’s big break on Broadway, and Pepper’s “Pepper Plant” coming to fruition to make her the next Andy Warhol. But the series is so lost trying to find its way there.

Like, Katy just had three jobs casually (each of which could have dramatically changed her life, but didn’t) dropped in her lap, Jorge’s hardly performing at the bar he works at anymore, Josie’s too busy caught in the Cabot drama, and Pepper has to discover who she is and stop a con artist from ruining all of her plans.

Katy, Jorge, and Josie care more about their love lives than their careers, and the series does, too. And I’m not saying focusing on their romantic lives isn’t important, but it’s been so poorly handled, especially for Katy, and often takes precedence over whatever else is going on in their lives.

And aside from not having any real short-term goals, the series prides itself on being light-hearted and completely different from the darkness of Riverdale… to the point where the tone of the show is childish and this version of New York City feels like a joke.

Katy Keene has no room for deep conversations — like we could have seen after Jorge and his boyfriend were the victims of a hate crime — because the writers are way too focused on keeping up this happy-go-lucky tone.

I really want to like ‘Katy Keene’

Honestly, I want nothing more than to genuinely enjoy Katy Keene. I love Lucy Hale, and I felt the same way with her short-lived Life Sentence on The CW in 2018, which also had a lot of issues. (Hale’s characters feel very similar… not in a good way).

But it’s awfully ridiculous that Riverdale, a show featuring teenagers, feels more adult and complex than Katy Keene, which follows a group of twentysomethings in New York City.

Every character on this show has such potential, but they’re all being failed by the lack of seriousness from the tone and stories of the series. Additionally, it’s hard to really root for anyone when there’s no goal.

Each episode has an arc that pushes the characters forward, as it should, but the next episode feels like they’re starting in exactly the same place as the previous. There’s little growth, repeated storylines, and even then, the main stories are all terrible.

Like, Josie’s obsession with Alex Cabot, despite all of the drama his family has caused her, and her repeated second chances from the Cabots to be a pop star when no one but Alex believes in her… it’s truly terrible. Same goes for K.O. and Katy’s relationship, that went from a proposal at the end of the pilot to breaking up in episode 3… despite a supposed 10-year perfect relationship.

Point is, Katy Keene has a lot of issues that make the show almost unbearable at times, despite just how much I am trying to enjoy it.

I think the show has the potential to recover with a second season if some major changes are made and an effort is put in to make the series feel like it’s in the real world.

It’s not all sunshine and daisies all of the time, and that’s okay. That’s part of life. Let’s not overcorrect, though, and become too much like Riverdale. Let’s just please find a balance… and also tell some better stories. I’m not giving up on Katy Keene… yet.

Katy Keene season 1 returns Thursday, April 16 at 8 p.m. on The CW!

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