Sunday, 17 April 2016
381 The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries
First viewed : March 1979
Who remembers this one then ? It replaced The Pink Panther and Dr Who on a Saturday teatime from the beginning of March to the end of August 1979.
The clumsily-titled series drew together two separate book franchises owned by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew titles were aimed at adolescents and teen boys and girls respectively with the protagonists getting involved in mystery stories in a similar fashion to Enid Blyton's Famous Five. They had been going since the 1930s although of course the protagonists never aged.
The TV series was set in the present day and broke with the books in Season Two by bringing the characters together in a number of "crossover" episodes. All the stories in Season One featured either the boys or Nancy on alternate weeks although they were all featured in the opening titles. The equitable split was abandoned in Season Two with only three solo outings for Nancy compared to eleven for the Hardys. Unsurprisingly the actress Pamela Sue Martin flounced before the season was completed so Janet Louise Johnson played Nancy in four crossover episodes at the tail end of the season. In the third and final season Nancy was dropped altogether and it was cancelled after 10 episodes.
That had just finished in the US when BBC 1 started screening the series. They mixed and matched episodes from the first two seasons ( the third has never been shown here ) but maintained the alternating pattern. The Johnson episodes were avoided although the opening titles and the actress playing Nancy's friend George changed between the seasons.
The Hardy brothers were played by Parker Stevenson ( Frank ) and Shaun Cassidy ( Joe ) . Cassidy was half-brother to David and had a few hits himself ( although not here and each one peaked lower than the one before ). He too was rather feminine in appearance and, given Nancy's pluckiness, led to the thought that it should have been called "The Nancy Boys and Hardy Drew Mysteries" instead.
Both the brothers and Nancy largely worked on cases to help their fathers. They were a private detective and attorney respectively and were both remarkably cavalier about placing their offspring in mortal danger . The boys did tend to get the better storylines including the only one I can clearly remember where Joe is blackmailed into helping an assassin get to a federal witness.
It was a likable amalgam of Ellery Queen, Scooby Doo and Charlie's Angels, but unlike the execrable The Dukes of Hazzard which started later on the same evening it hasn't left much of a mark on popular culture.
The original UK season ended in August but it returned two years later in the same time slot when six more episodes were shown in the late spring including , bizarrely, the Christmas episode ( a Nancy story from Season Two ). The remaining episodes , including all those featuring Johnson , were shown in the morning over the Christmas holiday period in 1981. The Christmas episode is the only one that's ever been repeated.
The delectable Martin went on to a high profile role as Fallon Carrington in Dynasty . Cassidy has become a successful writer / producer while Stevenson has always had plenty of work in TV and TV movies. Johnson , who later preferred to be known as Janet Julian , had further acting work in TV until the mid- nineties but now teaches childcare in Hollywood.