Friday, June 21, 2013

TV on DVD Review: The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Decent mysteries, plenty of fun
Cons: 70's cheese
The Bottom Line
Well lov'd characters
Come to live on the TV
Dated but still fun

Famous Teen Detectives Leap from the Page to the Small Screen

Mystery lover that I am, I'm sure it's no surprise to learn that I used to read both The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books as a kid.  I remember loving them, too.  (Well, until I found Trixie Belden.)  Somewhere along the line, I learned about The Hard Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, a series based loosely on the books that aired on TV during the late 70's.  Since I wasn't old enough to watch the show when it originally aired, I never saw it, but I recently caught up with the first season on DVD, and I enjoyed it.

For the first season, the show split time equally between the Hardys and Nancy.  While they never solved a case together, one week featured Frank and Joe Hardy (Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy) while the next week was a Nancy Drew (Pamela Sue Martin) mystery.  For the first season set, all seven of the Hardy Boys episodes are features on the dual sided disc one while Nancy gets all of her cases on the dual sided second disc.  Since each episode is independent of each other and the two sets of characters never meet, the fact that the episodes are in order for the characters but not interspersed as originally aired doesn't really matter.  Heck, you could watch these episodes in random order and not really notice anything.

Probably the biggest thing that the loyal readers will notice is how characters have been shifted, combined, or deleted.  For example, Frank and Joe's mother is never mentioned, their best friend Chet only appears twice, and Joe's steady girlfriend is nowhere to be found.  Instead, they are supported by their dad Fenton (Ed Gilbert) and Callie (Lisa Eilbacher) who appears to be Fenton's secretary more than Frank's girlfriend.  Aunt Gertrude (Edith Atwater) does appear for a little comic relief.

The characters in Nancy's universe faired a little better.  Gone is the housekeeper and Bess, but her friend George (Jean Rasey) and potential love interest Ned (George O'Hanlon, Jr.) are present.  William Schallert also plays her father Carson.  In the first episode, none of the characters seem like themselves, including Nancy, but soon they start to right themselves and find characterizations that work for the show.

So what kind of cases to the characters take on?  Frank and Joe investigate a haunted house, try to save a rock star, and trap a ring of thieves in Hawaii.  Along the way, we even get to hear Shaun Cassidy sing a couple of times.  Nancy, meanwhile, investigates a haunted lighthouse, takes on a motorcycle gang, and investigates a group of actors in a local play who are acting very strangely.  None of these cases are pulled from the books, although two of the Hardy Boys episodes do share titles with the books, and many of them sound like they could be titles from the series.

The mysteries are surprisingly good.  A few I figured out early on, but most of the time I was left wondering what the heck was happening until the very end.  Yet things always make sense at the end.  There's one episode each that weren't up to the normal standards, but that's to be expected with anything.

The acting is fairly decent as well.  Don't get me wrong, this is definitely late 70's cheese, and it shows up just about everywhere from obvious Universal Studios town sets to obvious stock footage.  And yes, even the acting.  But the acting is good enough to make the shows watchable, and the cheese adds some fun to the mix.

And can I comment on the clothes?  Can we scream 70's any louder?  This is especially true in the Hardy Boy's episodes when Frank and Joe go around in the shortest shorts I have ever seen guys wear.  It's perfect for a laugh at how styles have changed.

There are no bonus features in this set, just the 14 hour long episodes on two double sided discs.  The picture is full frame and the sound is stereo in keeping with how they were originally broadcast.

There's nothing deep about these episodes; they are simply escapist fun.  And if you keep that attitude in mind, you'll enjoy the first season of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries.

Season 1 Episodes:
Hardy Boys (Disc One):
1. The Mystery of the Haunted House
2. The Mystery of Witches' Hollow
3. The Disappearing Floor
4. The Flickering Torch Mystery
5. The Mystery of the Flying Courier
6. Wipe-out
7. The Secret of the Jade Kwan Yin

Nancy Drew (Disc Two):
1. The Mystery of Pirate's Cove
2. The Mystery of the Diamond Triangle
3. The Secret of the Whispering Walls
4. A Haunting We Will Go
5. Mystery of the Fallen Angels
6. The Mystery of the Ghostwriters' Cruise
7. Mystery of the Solid Gold Kicker

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