The Hardy Boys Mysteries
and The Nancy Drew Mysteries
began in 1977 as separate series alternating in the same time slot on ABC. Early the following year, the casts combined, and in the fall of 1978 the Nancy Drew
thread was dropped and The Hardy Boys Mysteries
continued on alone. This Season One
boxed set captures the twin-series idea at its most ambitious, with adolescent brothers Frank and Joe Hardy, created by author Franklin W. Dixon, sleuthing for clues one week and Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew investigating crimes the next.
Actually, as fans of the books know, Dixon and Keene were both pen names used by Edward Stratemeyer when he created those characters in 1927. Just as the young detectives have been updated in print every so often to accommodate successive generations of readers, so too did the TV show present Joe (Shaun Cassidy, brother of David Cassidy of The Partridge Family), Frank (Parker Stevenson), and Nancy (Pamela Sue Martin) as thoroughly 1970s kids. The boys are outfitted with motorcycles, Joe enjoys a retro-pop singing career, and Nancy has a certain freedom of movement only the hippest of dads in a permissive age would allow. Hardy Boys finds the always-amicable siblings following in the footsteps of their father, Fenton (Edmund Gilbert), a private detective, as they untangle capers that take them from haunted houses to Hawaii. The Hardy episodes make for brisk, family viewing, much better than the bubblegum reputation that built up, undeservedly, around the series. Slightly less interesting are the Nancy Drew programs (despite a more entertaining supporting cast), but only because the heroine is less focused and distractingly man-crazy, and the storylines are less exotic. An emphasis on the supernatural and science-fiction themes lends a Scooby-Doo vibe to several programs in both series, though the best stories are the ones with straightforward, meat-and-potatoes detective work. Among the directors on either series are Jack Arnold (The Creature from the Black Lagoon), Winrich Kolbe (Star Trek: The Next Generation, and actors Vince Edwards and Stuart Margolin. --Tom Keogh