The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries
Season One (1977) (Universal Home Video-2005)
The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries was a short-lived ABC series about three chicks solving crimes in a world that resembles a studio back lot and there is nothing to Google.
Despite their feather-haired cuteness, trouble just seems to find them. In almost every case, some poor schlub is either framed for a mild crime or scared off his land, with Gordon Jump making an appearance at least somewhere in the mix. And because this series is filmed at the height of seventies kitsch culture, it’s obsessed with the Big Three: UFOs, discos and Russians.
Despite the Doubting Thomas authorities (“It’s our job! Not yours!” growls the police chief), these two guys and a girl always get their man or occasional woman, who are diabolical only in an annoyingly acting-coached manner, with all the menace of a mosquito.
“You think you’re smart, dontcha,” one bad guy inquires of the Hardys.
“He’s smart, I’m cute,” responds Shaun Cassidy, which, of course is up for debate, as science has recently discovered that the Hardy you think is most cute could be the key to your anxiety disorder.
The bad guys (Seinfeld‘s Uncle Leo, Len Lesser, is one of them!) may have plans to rock the cruise (or the haunted house, or the carnival, or the old theater), but they will assure you that things will be explained “all in due time.”
Not that we have the patience to wait – in the thirty years since the debut of this series, television drama, especially for teenagers, has gotten faster, sexier and more attitudinal.
The effort here is noble, and meant for that rare teenage viewer with the higher grade-point average, but the plots move so slowly and the energy is so low that your brain actually starts to drain as the endless, irony-free minutes lumber on, deconstructing the deconstruction until you have no idea what is going on.
“The brain is the last organ to die,” instructs Nancy’s Drew’s less-attractive friend, and don’t we find that out here.
Still, you have to give cred where it’s due: Glen Larson, later of Battlestar Galactica and Knight Rider, was the producer, and he was probably just cutting his teeth here. It’s an honorable attempt to feed young people’s minds, in an era of Sweathogs and Fonzie. But the feeding is slow, and through an intravenous tube.
“Nancy has a very inquisitive mind,” says her father (the fatherly William Schallert, who played Patty Duke’s TV dad), but we don’t know if he is boasting or reaching out.
If these were your kids, you wouldn’t know whether to be bumper sticker-proud of them or anxiously freaked out by them. You can bring them home to mom, but mom will be subject to their suspicion in “The Case of the Puzzled Parent.”
They solve more crimes than breathe, eat or sleep; we’re told they’re brilliant, but investigation takes precedence over school (they don’t seem to attend, ever) or dating or rebelling (yet on some freaky level, their crime-solving is their form of rebellion).
The one thing we do know, according to a hardy reminiscence by Papa Hardy, is that Frank (Parker Stevenson) got an F in volleyball class because his shorts were too tight.
They’re almost robot-like in their dedication to their procedural work – there is absolutely no downtime – no rest for the nerdy.
The Hardys were your typical All-American boys: surfing, scuba diving, digging bubblegum music and wearing hot pants. Cassidy, an actual teen idol at the time, had a convenient chance to lip-synch his current hits when not solving baffling mysteries, the most baffling of all being why these songs were such monster smashes.
These ditties include “Da Doo Ron Ron” (clap your hands over your head!), “Surfin USA” (clap your hands over your head!) and “That’s Rock and Roll” (clap your hands over your head!).
At one point, he instructs his small but eager audience, “Feel free to clap your hands or do whatever you feel.” Of course, the “whatever you feel” does not include changing the channel.
Nancy Drew (Pamela Sue Martin, in an age where it was a law for all actresses to have the middle name Sue, as in Melissa Sue Anderson) was smart and pretty, and to prove it, she had a Plain Jane friend (Jean Rasey, her “Rhoda”), who was reluctantly drawn into each adventure like an unfunny Ethel Mertz.
Nancy Drew was meant to be spunky, but you hate spunk. She cracks cases, but rarely cracks a smile. Ultimately, though, she wins, because her series captures more guest stars than the Boys: Jamie Lee Curtis (with no lines!), Robert Englund (later Freddie Krueger of the Nightmare on Elm Street movie serial), Howard Cosell, Mark Harmon and Terry Kaiser (Bernie in Weekend At Bernie‘s!).
To occupy your time while your mind wanders away from the uninvolving plot, ain’t nothing funner than a car chase with an AMC Gremlin; in fact, the cars in this series are so ugly that you can actually see the actual moment of the demise of the American auto industry.
As well, you get character actress Penny Peyser, who made it her business to guest-star in every seventies show ever (again, it was a law, even though her middle name didn’t appear to be Sue); you can also shake your groove thing along with extras dancing to generic disco music, which is always an uncomfortable hoot.
Each episode revolves around this following concept, with no exceptions: “what starts out as another day at the…” and then plot it from there. While you’re at it, throw in your occasional skeleton chained to the wall and the old dependable ticking time bomb.
You also can’t miss with at least one Lady From Shanghai mirror scene and a pain-in-the-ass Aunt Gertrude (never been kissed) who believes that boys need their eight-hours sleep. And to be impressed, seventies style, watch them communicate via CB radios.
There are actually two mysteries here that are actually actual mysteries: actor Bob Crane appears as a washed-up actor in a staged murder mystery (in real life, he himself would be washed up and murdered). Rick Nelson is also strangely cast as a rock star adored by The Kids, which would be fine if it were 1957 and highly unlikely in 1977. Nevertheless, he stars in an episode revolving around plane trouble, and he himself would die in a real-life airplane crash in 1985. Still we get to hear him sing some good Rick Nelson stuff, including “It’s Late” and “Garden Party.”
Sure beats a remake of “Da Doo Ron Ron.”
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 18, 2007.