The Three "R's"

Ramblings, Reflections, Reviews … From the "Pen" of William Land

21st Century TV Reboot Planned for Nancy Drew

21st Century TV Reboot Planned for Nancy Drew

by William Land

Earlier this week, CBS announced a planned television reboot of Nancy Drew – the heroine of various series featuring the intrepid girl detective.ND-GD-1

As a long-time Nancy Drew fan, my feelings about the proposed Nancy Drew TV series are mixed. Anything that brings Nancy into the 21st century is welcome, but the project must be done well. Unfortunately, neither book series Nancy Drew, Girl Detective (2004-2012, 47 titles) and the current Nancy Drew Diaries (2013-, currently 11 titles) are particularly successful. Many long-time, adult fans dislike and/or are not interested in this modern version of Nancy Drew.Nancy Drew Girl Detective series

I don’t believe either series are credible modern adaptations of the classic Nancy Drew mystery stories which the former series had replaced. The modern books lack the gothic elements and thrilling spine-tingling situations of the original series, Nancy Drew Mystery Stories (1930-2003, 175 titles). The first 56 books, published by Grosset and Dunlap, are particularly noteworthy as a testimony to the originality of the Nancy Drew series. These exciting novels of yesteryear have been replaced by a running theme in each book of the new series – sabotage.Nancy Drew Diaries

Of course, the various Nancy Drew series are not geared for the adult fan, but for an age-appropriate child audience. I lack first-hand knowledge of children’s reading habits, but I believe if the books were block buster sellers, like the Harry Potter books for example, sales reports would be frequently reported in the news.

I am not optimistic about some of the planned reforms. Changing Nancy from an eighteen-year-old amateur detective in a small, bustling city to a NYPD 30s super-sleuth is my biggest misgiving for the success of this project. How will the 21st century TV Nancy Drew still be similar to the Nancy Drew of the novels? Of course, if Nancy and the other main characters from the classic book series were present and close to their book personalities, the new TV series may have merit.

Of course, Bess, George, and Ned would have professions because they are Nancy’s age. Ned, for example, would have left university long ago. Nancy’s father and their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, would likely have cameo appearances in the series unless Carson Drew, too, had relocated to New York City. Will his sister, Eloise, a resident of New York City in the book series, be cast in this updated TV adaptation?

What is very positive about the TV adaptation is that it will introduce the Nancy Drew brand to new audiences? Diehard fans of the TV series might be eager to seek out the first 34 original titles (1930-1956) and/or their counterpart revised books (1959-1977) and the balance of the series which only had original texts (1957-1979, 35-56 titles). Both the child and adult readers might take interest in the various Nancy Drew print series; many of the books are long out-of-print.

Possibly fans might also find interest in the various TV and movie adaptations of Nancy Drew: wire-holder

1) Bonita Granville (four movies approximately 66 minutes each, 1938-1939);
2) Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: Pamela Sue Martin (11 hour solo appearances and two two-hour episodes with the Hardy Boys, 1977-1978;
3) Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries: Janet Louise Johnson (one two-hour appearance and two one-hour episodes with the Hardy Boys, 1978);
4) Nancy Drew: Tracy Ryan (13 30-minute episodes and two 30-minute appearances with the Hardy Boys, 1995);
5) Nancy Drew: Maggie Lawson (1 87 minute movie, 2002); and,
6) Nancy Drew: Emma Roberts (1 99 minute movie, 2007).


If the TV series brings Nancy Drew again into the limelight and the character gains new fans that is wonderful. The legacy of Nancy Drew from the Stratemeyer Syndicate will continue well into this century. The current book series might not be blockbusters, but the Nancy Drew HER Interactive computer games have been best-sellers since 1998. Currently, over 30 titles, based on Nancy Drew books, have been released; more are in development.ND-Her-Interactive-01

Count me among those life-long Nancy Drew fans waiting for the release of this new incarnation. Of course, I won’t wait with bated breath – I suspect a 30s-something New York professional women sleuth will bear little resemblance to the young teenage amateur detective of the white-spine and wraparound-spine dustjacket-covered blue books and the yellow-spine pictorial hardcovers from my collection.

Yet, over 85 years since her first appearance in The Secret in the Old Clock (©1930), Nancy Drew still lives on in her various incarnations. The long-lasting young sleuth, in whatever form she makes her appearances, still continues to captivate her audiences from the first time age appropriate child reader to a nostalgic elderly adult fan in her sixties or seventies. Nancy Drew still has universal appeal!




    Wow – right on and exactly what I was thinking as well, Bill!! Excited to hope that maybe THIS one would be done well – not as hokey as previous ‘teen-age’ adaptations, but apprehensive that it won’t meet my (our) expectations! Would be great if perhaps she was working with her father or perhaps as an investigator on her own. Could do a really good job of sending her on exciting adventures – yes, would be nice if Bess, George and Ned made appearances as well. But they’re already comparing it to Supergirl (very ‘camp’) and I’ve afraid it’s doomed. Certainly time for Nancy to join the ranks of a true detective series – just because it’s a children’s series doesn’t mean it can’t appeal to adults as well. Your reference to Harry Potter was a good one! And I also agree – if it’s done right, would be a great way to reintroduce the vintage series books to a whole new audience – it definitely needs a shot in the arm after all the horrible stories that have been published the last few years!! Luckily, I started out reading the original stories with the beautiful dust jackets when I was young. Here’s hoping!!


    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, Nora. I really don’t think the new series will meet my expectations because there is one that can’t be met with the proposal – Nancy is significantly older than what she is in the books.

      The 1970s TV series with Pamela Sue Martin was very close to the books, but the changes made the the characters contributed to it’s failure. 1970s TV Nancy was close to the book personality, but she was too old (at 22 or 23 she should have been more established in a career not just a “part-time investigator), and she was too caustic and whiny much of the time. Her father was very similar to the book dad, but he was too old. George, with Bess’s personality was not believable, why not just cast Bess? Ned was very dissimilar to book Ned. This series had four actors and by the second season three of the roles, including the star, were recast! Not a recipe for success!

      The 1930s TV series are “suggested” from the Nancy Drew novels, not based. This Nancy looked very much like book Nancy with golden hair and blue eyes, but she was world’s apart from her book counterpart.

      1995’s Nancy was completely wrong in every way!

      2007’s Nancy was too young and unpopular!

      Still the proposed series might be a good way to get people interested in the older books. As you wrote, “here’s hoping!” 🙂


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