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.

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