The news of Luke Perry‘s sudden passing hit TV fans like a sledgehammer. Those of us who grew up in the ’90s will always remember him as brooding heartthrob Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills, 90210 — but today’s teens know him in a much different light: as Archie’s rock-solid dad Fred Andrews on The CW’s Riverdale. And it hurts to know we have to say goodbye to Fred, because he was hands down the best parent on the show.
Now of course, Riverdale fans know that’s not saying much: Pretty much every other parent on that show is either a serial killer, or a ruthless gangster, or a scheming ex-con, or all of the above. But despite it being an extremely low bar to clear, Perry went the extra mile to make Fred an exemplary TV parent: warm, empathetic and thoroughly decent, without being a total buzzkill. (That’s a ’90s term, Riverdale fans. Look it up.)
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Perry’s casting as Archie’s dad was a knowing wink to his teen-idol past — one of many for Riverdale; Molly Ringwald plays Fred’s estranged wife Mary — but the actor made sure it wasn’t just clever stunt casting. He served as the show’s emotional anchor, with Fred offering Archie unconditional love and sage advice through three seasons. Their father-son heart-to-hearts may seem like a corny relic from a bygone era, but they served as an essential counterweight to the show’s wilder storylines. As Archie battled mobsters, druggie gang members and even a grizzly bear (!), he always knew Fred has his back, no matter what.
The transition from “teen hunk” to “dad of teen hunk” can be tricky, but Perry made it seem effortless. That devilish Dylan McKay grin of his had turned grizzled in middle age, and it suited Fred well: He was a man who obviously had a lot of fun in his day — he was once a musician with dreams of stardom, just like Archie — but had now settled down to set a good example for his teen son. If anything, we didn’t see enough of Fred on the show: While the other parents ran wild and chewed scenery in increasingly absurd storylines, Fred was the stable parent who actually stayed home at night, not even getting much of a love life to speak of. But looking back now, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We don’t know yet how Riverdale might choose to handle Perry’s untimely death, and that’s really a question for another day. Today, we just want to remember Perry’s Fred Andrews for the quiet hero he was: never flashy, but always getting the job done. We know Archie will miss him… and we’ll miss him, too.