Universal // 1977 // 1063 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // June 20th, 2007
"You be Redford, I'll be Newman and smile a lot."
Joe to Frank when he suggests they con a con man
It was the era of feathered hair, shiny satin baseball jackets, and velvet painted-on pants. "Pretty" boys were all the rage and rock 'n roll was pushed aside in favor of bubble gum pop and disco. And how ironic that the decade that began with a Cassidy on the cover of every teen magazine, ended with a different Cassidy on those very same mags. Move over David, little brother Shaun is in the house and together with Parker Stevenson -- they're still breaking hearts as The Hardy Boys in The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew Mysteries: Season Two
Is there anyone who doesn't know The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew? Well, here's the primer.
Nancy Drew (Pamela Sue Martin, Dynasty) is the teenage daughter of lawyer, Carson Drew (William Schallert, The Patty Duke Show). Nancy loves a mystery and often helps her father with investigative work on behalf of his clients. She can usually be seen in the company of her perky friend, George (Susan Buckner, Grease). Inexplicably, Nancy's boyfriend Ned Nickerson disappears after the first season, but a different Ned turns up in the form of Rick Springfield (General Hospital) during season two. To complicate matters further, Pamela Sue Martin left the series after episode 27 and she was replaced by teen model Janet Louse Johnson (often billed as Janet Julian) for the remainder of the season.
The Hardy Boys, Frank (Parker Stevenson, Baywatch) and Joe (Shaun Cassidy, Invasion) are teen sleuths who sometimes work for their detective father, Fenton (Edmund Gilbert). In the first season the boys often hung out with Frank's girlfriend Callie who doubled as Fenton's secretary (a fact I always found weird) and pal Chet Morton but they're both missing from season two. Also gone is the boy's substitute mother Aunt Gertrude and pretty much the entire town of Bayport, Massachusetts.
The second season of The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries came with a lot of changes most of which occurred due to the huge rise in popularity of the show's two male leads. When ABC debuted this series in 1977, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew segments aired on alternating weeks. By the second season, however, the stand alone Nancy Drew episodes were almost completely phased out with her character appearing more often as a guest star on The Hardy Boys portion of the show.
The switch was likely caused by the millions of young fangirls who shoved Cassidy and Stevenson into the annals of teen idoldom. Though Pamela Sue Martin was no slouch herself, it was the boys who popped up on posters, t-shirts, lunchboxes, and teen magazines. Shaun Cassidy's music rise was meteoric that year as he added two more Top 10 tunes to his number one hit "Da Do Ron Ron."
There's also a large change in tone of the series. In the first season, Frank and Joe were played as high-school age teens with curfews and homework. Getting involved in a mystery often meant getting in trouble with their aunt who seemed more concerned with their messy rooms than the fact that they were putting their lives in danger. In the second season, Frank and Joe are played a little older (they're obviously not in school anymore as they spend the whole season traveling the world), they're responsible, and they're actively working on their father's behalf. The episode plotlines leaned more toward danger and intrigue and weekly romances became a key ingredient.
Here's how it goes:
The season begins when "The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula." This two-parter was a dream come true for me since I was a lover of guest star Paul Williams and a huge collector of Dracula memorabilia as a teen. In this story, the boys visit Transylvania to find their missing father and come face to face with Nancy Drew who is tracking down a series of art thefts. Paul Williams sings some of his songs from Phantom of the Paradise, and Shaun gets in a tune, too! A fun episode with a bit of the supernatural and watch Shaun shed those tears over the body of his dying daddy!
From Transylvania, the boys ditch Nancy Drew and head out to Egypt where they get involved in "The Mystery of King Tut's Tomb." Taryn Power (daughter of Tyrone Power) is awful as a girl who gets involved in a con to sell fake Egyptian artifacts.
From Egypt, it's off to Hollywood California for another two-parter that was made in my dreams. It's a detective's convention at Universal Studios where the boys again meet up with Nancy Drew. This clever mystery was like a two hour commercial for the studio and ABC's other TV series'. The tram tour is featured prominently in the episode with the Jaws and Flash Flood attractions being used as traps for our heroes. Dennis Weaver, Jaclyn Smith and Robert Wagner all appear as themselves to promote their TV shows and Casey Kasem guest stars as a fake Lt. Columbo.
From California, the boys go back to Africa for "The Mystery of the African Safari" where they chase down a poacher who may or may not be the father of Anne Lockhart (Battlestar Galactica, daughter of June Lockhart) They bring on the romance between Frank and the girl and that fact alone makes me want to skip this one! What does he see in her?
Sci-Fi elements come into play in "The Creatures Who Came on Sunday" and "Strange Fate of Flight 608." In "Sunday," the boys help another Hollywood daughter, Buddy Ebsen's daughter Bonnie. She thinks her boyfriend has been abducted by aliens but what's really going on at that old ranger station on the hill? In "Flight 608," the boys hitch a ride on an all stewardess flight that leads them right through the Bermuda Triangle. It's not the paranormal but poison that knocks out the pilots leaving Frank and Joe to save the day.
After that harrowing experience, the boys head home for some rest but are soon called upon to be "Acapulco Spies" when their father goes missing (again). From there it's off to Las Vegas where Joe falls for a deaf girl who is the only link to a deadly casino extortion scheme in "The Mystery of the Silent Scream."
While the boys take a break, Nancy Drew gets involved the life of tennis star Maureen McCormick (Brady Bunch) in "Nancy Drew's Love Match" and then it's home for the holidays. In "Will the Real Santa Claus...," Rick Springfield joins Nancy as they try to track down a burglar who robs homes dressed as the jolly one. "The Lady on Thursday at Ten" is Nancy's last solo outing as she helps out a troubled boxing champ (John Karlen, Cagney & Lacey") while trying to prevent the assassination of a top British official.
Time flies on this series as we hop from Christmas to The Fourth Of July in "Oh Say Can You Sing." Joe is supposed to be swinging his hips to the beat at a concert in the park, but the lead singer of the band is jailed on hit-and-run charges. Cassidy and guest Debra Clinger (The Krofft Supershow) perform a lovely duet of "Walk Away" off Cassidy's "Born Late" album.
More chills abound as the boys visit "The House on Possessed Hill." A young and creepy Melanie Griffith (another famous Hollywood daughter) is a psychic with a strange fascination for a spooky old house.
Next, it's off to Hong Kong for a fangirl favorite, where Joe is the "Soul Survivor" of a case gone wrong. Joe wakes up after a full year in a coma, only to find that his father and brother were killed while trying to see a defector safely out of the country. What? Frank and Fenton dead? Don't worry, the show won't have to be renamed to The Hardy Boy. It's all a trick to get Joe to reveal some spy secrets.
Mardi Gras, anyone? It's a two-part trip to New Orleans where the boys again meet up with Nancy Drew (in the form of Janet Louise Johnson) to solve the mystery of the "Voodoo Doll." The threesome stay together for a "Mystery on the Avalanche Express" where they battle the bad guys on a moving train.
It's another vacation gone wrong when Frank fails to save a young woman (Maren Jensen, Battlestar Galactica from the "Death Surf." Torn up by guilt, Frank searches for answers and ends up falling in love with the haunting image of a girl he never knew. Interesting and certainly one of the heavier episodes of the season.
Nancy Drew makes her final appearance (thank God) in "Arson and Old Lace." This odd tale feels like a two-parter pared down to one. Nancy's been missing for more than six months but as luck would have it (yeah right) an arsonist sets fire to the building where she's being held captive just as Frank and Joe arrive on scene. Fire = Evacuation = Frank discovers Nancy in the penthouse! Gymnast, Cathy Rigby is the confused firebug and Pernell Roberts (Bonanza) is wasted as the fire chief. There are some nice action sequences reminiscent of Irwin Allen's Towering Inferno which burned the same building on the Universal front lot.
The season ends on a high note with Valerie Bertinelli (One Day at a Time) experiencing "Campus Terror." Girls are getting kidnapped by a psycho with a computer voice and Joe's old girlfriend Wendy may be the next victim. Creepy amusement park atmosphere and a neat twist ending makes this one of the best of the bunch.
So there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about the second season of The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries.
Universal gets two thumbs down for their shabby treatment of this popular TV series. First off, there are no special features. That's right. NONE. The listed feature, "America's Top Sleuths" is nothing but an extended commercial for NBC Universal's new Sleuth Channel, so in my book that doesn't count.
More perplexing is the spotty quality of the video transfer. Some episodes and even parts of episodes are bright and crisp while others are loaded with pops and crackles. This show isn't even thirty years old yet. I've seen shows from the fifties without these issues so what's up here? And why didn't Universal make the effort to clean up the episodes?
Finally, I guess I have to address the quality of the series itself. This is tough for me, because I'm a true fan of the show, and as such, I watch with Cassidy colored glasses. But taking my shades off for a moment, I have to admit that this isn't exactly top notch TV. Like many shows of the era it has a flat, back-lot look (which I don't get, since shows like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea made ten years earlier have a cinematic quality.). The dialogue is cliché and even embarrassing at its lowest points and the acting is often over the top. Much of this I have to lay at the feet of producer Glen A. Larson and the era in which the show was filmed. Just two years later, Shaun Cassidy proved he could act when he starred in the critically acclaimed movie "Like Normal People." Parker Stevenson went on to star in four more TV series so he must have some ability. I'm just saying.
The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew have long been a staple of American culture. Both have been invented and reinvented through books, movies and TV shows since the 1920's with new generations of fans hoping on board with each round. This version, The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries was my round and as such, the show holds a special place in my heart. This show was my first real fandom; the kind where I bought the posters and the toys and waiting breathlessly for every new episode. Yes, it has its flaws but they don't bother me. Just remember it was the era of disco and you'll enjoy the show, too.
The court will render a decision as soon as the bailiff clears the room of the screaming, crying teenage fangirls -- this could take awhile.
Review content copyright © 2007 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 1063 Minutes
Release Year: 1977
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "America's Top Sleuths" Featurette
* Shaun Cassidy Behind the Camera Site
* Parker Stevenson Fansite
* Pamela Sue Martin Website
* Hardy Boys Fan Site
* Nancy Drew Sleuth Unofficial Website