Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Teen Sleuths Investigate Prime Time TV

When ABC debuted The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries in January 1977, I was at the upper end of the 10-to-14 age bracket at which the books were supposedly aimed. But having followed the adventures of the Hardys for much of my childhood, I was curious to see how this new series would portray them.

The format called for a "Hardy Boys" segment, starring Shaun Cassidy as Joe and Parker Stevenson as Frank, to alternate with a "Nancy Drew" segment, in which Pamela Sue Martin took the lead. (Every fifth week would be devoted to that classic bit of TV kitsch, The Brady Bunch Hour.) Arlene Sidaris, who produced the show with Joyce Brotman, explained to journalist Joan Hanauer on the eve of its debut, "We grew up on Nancy Drew. It was probably my first reading. Nancy Drew just brought back memories of this terrific girl who got into all of these wonderfully exciting situations and fought herself out of them."

From the outset, the series' 7 p.m. Sunday time slot meant formidable competition for family viewership from NBC's long-running The Wonderful World of Disney. According to Sidaris, producers and executives hoped to attract a broad audience to the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew shows. "We think the kids who are reading the books now will watch, that the format is fun and exciting for younger children and that the older members of the family will be attracted by nostalgia. Certainly they'll view the first shows to see what we've done, and we hope they'll be entertained by them."

The show performed well enough at the outset to be renewed for a second season, but didn't achieve lasting popularity. Ratings for the Hardy Boys segments benefited from Shaun Cassidy's following as a pop singer, but by late 1977 the separate Nancy Drew segments were dropped (with Nancy folded into the boys' adventures), and the show was ultimately canceled in 1979. The books, however, are still being read by kids today, though in modified form from what we Baby Boomers loved.


  1. Great link! I loved the books, though I unfortunately had some first editions and spent a great deal of time puzzling out Titian hair, chums and roadsters. Also, Nancy was little too prim for me and I found, after a while, I greatly preferred the Hardy Boys. I first encountered them on the Mickey Mouse Club (RERUNS, darlings, reruns) but was more than delighted to swap them (and Spin and Marty) for Parker Stevenson. Oh, and Shaun Cassidy, who looks startling like his mother these days. However, one cannot go home again, at least not with television from the '70s and a recent review on Netflix left me shaking my head at the bad writing, silly plots and wide lapels. Good gad!

    I remember not being able to check these out of the library when I was a child because my children's librarian thought they were trash. So delighted that my local system doesn't agree.

    Thanks for the great link and stroll down memory lane, David

  2. Thanks for reading. It's true, some things we remember fondly seem to have aged well; others probably should remain just a happy memory.