Based on characters created by Edward Stratemeyer
Starring Shaun Cassidy, Parker Stevenson, Pamela Sue Martin, William Schallert, Ruth Cox
- All fourteen first season episodes
- Fold-out poster of The Hardy Boys
Released by: Universal.
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: True diehard fans must own, everyone else rent on a lark.
[ad#longpost]Ah, the splendid seventies. Frightening hair, wide collars, and…scary teen detectives! The series aired on ABC late in the decade. Season One alternated an episode of the Hardy Boys one week and Nancy Drew the next. Each episode opens with a sequence of incredibly melodramatic montages, featuring both the boys and their female counterpart. At the end of the opening sequence, a menacing voice announces the title of the episode, at which point the boys turn as if they were just poked with a cattle prod. It’s great fun. If you thought Scooby and the gang were meddling kids, get a load of this group!
The Hardy Boys, Frank (Stevenson) and Joe (Cassidy), often “help” their ex-cop detective father, Fenton Hardy, with his cases. Other times, they dig up mysteries on their own, gallivanting around the countryside in their far out sunset-clad brown and orange van (with a carpeted interior, of course!) or on the cool motorcycles they keep in the back. While they’re out, they can communicate with their father (or their elderly Aunt Gertrude, played by Edith Atwater, who apparently keeps house for them) via shortwave radio. And if they’re lucky and find any clues, they have a hip lab in the basement with microscopes and a darkroom to analyze anything.
Nancy Drew (Martin) is a stylish, attractive young lady who “assists” her father, the noted attorney Carson Drew (Schallert) with investigative work in the oh-so exciting River Heights. She is every bit as nosy as the Hardy Boys, delving into other peoples’ business with reckless abandon to quench her thirst for a new adventure. With her trusty sidekick, George (Nancy’s female cousin who enjoys her boyish nature, played by Susan Buckner), Nancy careens around in her trusty blue sedan and spies on suspected felons. When she’s not joyriding, she is exploring dangerous places (abandoned lighthouses, underground caverns, haunted house, etc.) in highly impractical footwear.
Although this series was marketed as family-friendly, I don’t know how many positive influences kids would take away from it. Hey, kids! Here’s a role model for you: a single father sending his boys into danger frequently because he’s too cheap to hire an assistant for his detective agency. Be like the Hardy Boys and drive around after midnight in sketchy neighborhoods, making bad decisions and almost getting yourself killed on a bi-weekly basis! Imitate Nancy Drew and have other people do your dirty work while you “look for clues,” (Oh, George, can you saw through this rusty old padlock while I go exploring?) or flirt with anyone resembling a male no matter how much older than you he happens to be. Kids, tag along after your detective or lawyer father, endangering your lives at every turn instead of going to college or getting a real job! A friend of mine who watched the series regularly as a preteen simply stated, “Why do you think people my age are so screwed up?”
The music and wardrobe really enhance the exciting seventies feel of the series as well. Joe and Frank’s collars are so wide you could land a plane on them (speaking of planes, did I mention that all three sleuths are pilots?), and Nancy has a disturbing love for gauchos and wearing platform shoes when going to explore a cave. The set comes with a fold-out poster of the alluring Hardy Boys themselves, and while there are no real features, viewers can enjoy Sean Cassidy’s smash hit “Da Doo Ron Ron,” as well as guest stars such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Rick Nelson.
To sum up, the series can best be described in two words: mesmerizingly cheesy. As someone who read the original Nancy Drew books religiously as a young girl, I find this series very amusing. While the episodes are not based on specific books, they have the same feel as the original material, and it’s just so much fun to watch if you’re familiar with the books at all (or if you just really dig the seventies). The ideal way to watch this, in my opinion, is to share a bottle of wine with a friend who will equally appreciate the campiness of the series and then the two of you make up your own commentary as you go along.