The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries was a show that had it all for the teen set: engaging Scooby-Doo-style mystery plots, a trio of attractive teen-idol stars, and even an occasional catchy pop tune crooned by star Shaun Cassidy.
This hour-long drama was based upon two legendary children’s book series, the ‘Hardy Boys’ books and the ‘Nancy Drew’ books. These novels were respectively credited to Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene, but no such people existed. The books were actually the products of a pool of ghostwriters supervised by Edward Stratemeyer that churned out stories not only for these characters but also for Tom Swift, the Bobbsey Twins and several other children’s book icons. When Stratemeyer passed on, his daughter Harriet Adams continued the business.
Networks were interested in adapting the books from television’s earliest days. There was a “Hardy Boys” segment on The Mickey Mouse Club and a cartoon in the late 60’s, but Adams held out on a full-fledged series until she could get a deal that involved script approval. Universal Studios ultimately agreed to this arrangement, and Adams allowed them to produce a show for ABC. Veteran producer Glen Larson, the man behind Battlestar Galactica and Knight Rider, was brought into to produce the show, which began its run in January of 1977.
The Hardy Boys were Joe and Frank, two brothers who were the sons of the internationally-famous investigator Felton Hardy. The two younger Hardys felt compelled to follow in their father’s footsteps, investigating mysteries with the help of their Aunt Gertrude and Callie, a girl who worked part-time at their father’s agency.
Nancy Drew was the daughter of a famous widowed criminal attorney named Carson Drew. She had the same detective urge that drove the Hardy Boys, and she followed that urge with the help of Ned, her father’s assistant, and George Fayne, a faithful if not always courageous friend.
Originally, two separate series were produced, one for Nancy Drew and one for the Hardy Boys, and the two alternated in the same Sunday night timeslot. Just the same, the two series often overlapped as they helped each other search for clues. The mysteries might involve phenomena as diverse as smuggling, kidnapping, blackmail, robberies, and even ghosts and haunted houses. Since the show was aimed at a young audience, violent elements were downplayed in favor of the mystery angle.
Though the basic plotting of the novels was retained, they were updated in certain respects to appeal to a 70’s youth audience. For instance, one Hardy Boys mystery involved the two going to Dracula’s castle for a rock concert, only to become aware of supernatural goings-on. Also, the producers made certain to place their stars in attractive settings and have them wearing the latest hip clothes. Shaun Cassidy decided to launch a music career during this time and it was incorporated into the show, adding extra teen-idol appeal to the series. Cassidy performed his current single, “Da Doo Run Run,” on an episode in April of 1977, and the song quickly went to number one on the pop-record charts.
The course of the shows changed in early 1978 when the producers decided to merge the three sleuthing youths into one show, working alongside each other. Pamela Sue Martin, who played Nancy Drew, disagreed with the decision and left the show. She was replaced with Janet Louise Johnson. The merged version of the show was short-lived: the Nancy Drew character was dropped from the show altogether in the fall of 1978, and the show was retitled The Hardy Boys Mysteries. Two new characters were added in the 1978-79 season: federal agent Harry Gibbon and CIA operative Harry Hammond.
The show was canceled in August of 1979 after two seasons, but it would later be revived briefly as a syndicated series in 1995 with a new cast. However, the original still pops up on occasion in reruns, and there is no doubt that the show still has a special place in the heart of any grownup who swooned over one of the show’s stars in younger years.
|9/6/69 – 9/5/70 ABC (The Hardy Boys)
1/30/77 – 1/21/79 ABC (The Hardy Boys Mysteries)
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