Luke Perry’s forehead looked a bit preposterous on 90210’s Dylan McKay, but on Fred Andrews, Perry’s famous furrows and receding hairline were perfect. Fred—Archie’s dad on the CW’s beloved show Riverdale—is tired. Fred works hard. As a young person, he wanted to be an urban planner, but he went into construction to support his family. Before the action of the show begins, he splits with Archie’s mom and gets a DUI. That construction company he runs is constantly in danger of failing. Fred worries, and he tries to spare his son that worry. In short, he’s a grown person, with grown-person problems—and he’s beloved.
Is it just my own middle-aged-ness talking, or was Fred Andrews way hotter than Dylan McKay could dream of being? “You’re looking extremely DILFy,” the teen siren Cheryl Blossom says to Fred in one episode, and I agree. The show actually offered two DILFs: Fred and FP Jones, who’s Jughead’s dad and is played by Skeet Ulrich. Here were two aging actors, both former teenage hotties, playing dads on the downslope to old age. But where FP, who’s a formerly incarcerated gang member, is dangerous and sometimes unreliable, Fred is comfortable. FP is wild and charismatic; Fred does things right. It’s a testament to Luke Perry that his straight arrow was as much fun to watch as Ulrich’s live wire.
At the end of Season 1, Fred Andrews takes a bullet. (He’s shot in Pop’s Diner by a serial killer called the Black Hood, who becomes the Big Bad of the second season.) Fred’s recovery in Season 2 is rocky—Luke Perry was very good at looking gray and frail, and hobbling around the Andrews house with pain-filled eyes—and the experience turns Archie into an amped-up bro who stays up all night with a gun on his lap, watching over his house. Eventually, Archie even starts a militia. Archie, the ultimate Boy Scout, became a fascist, Eric Thurm argued fairly convincingly in the Outline. As improbable CW storylines went, this one worked because we knew Fred Andrews. The son’s horrified overreaction at the threat to the father made sense. Because most of all, Fred Andrews was a mensch of a dad, and an elementally good man—a man whose pain might prompt a son to murder.
Archie does all kinds of ill-advised things that only the kids in CW teen shows do (investigate a murder without the help of the cops, etc.), and Fred lets loose and lectures Archie about his poor choices on several occasions. But Archie, at his core, loves Fred. At one point, given the choice to move to Chicago with his mom, he opts to stay. What will Archie do without his dad? I suppose we will have to find out.