Nancy Drew is all grown up, and her life as a NYPD detective is coming to CBS. The new drama will have Joan Rater and Tony Phelan attached; both have worked in producing roles on Grey’s Anatomy and Madam Secretary. The new take on the character will place Nancy in her 30s, using her exceptional observation skills to solve crime while dealing with the intricacies of modern life.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that the deal may be part of the networks’ continuing efforts to tap into proven stories with established fanbases. Projects like MacGyver, The X-Files, and The Island of Dr. Moreau are all in the pipeline even as new shows Heroes Reborn, Minority Report and Limitless are seeing a lukewarm reception.
But Nancy Drew has a much bigger pool to draw from than those new properties. The book series on which the character is based was first published in 1930 and is a literary touchstone for generations of teens. Along with The Hardy Boys series, which debuted in 1927, the exploits of these curious adolescents’ primed readers for later obsession with TV detectives from Mannix, to Monk, to Benson and Stabler.
Both series have been written by a variety of ghostwriters, with the Nancy Drew series published under the collective name Carolyn Keene and The Hardy Boys under Franklin W. Dixon. Both franchises have been revamped and relaunched under new series names several times to adjust to changing societal norms, such as one revision in 1959 to remove racist stereotyping.
The first Nancy Drew mysteries hit the big screen in the 1930s, with an eventual four films produced by Warner Bros. and starring Bonita Granvile in the role of Nancy. The films created some controversy, as viewers thought Granville played Nancy more coy and flighty than the books, willing to use her feminine wiles to enlist help from male characters. Warner picked the character up again in 2007, for a film with Emma Roberts in the lead, accompanied by Max Thieriot, and Tate Donovan.
Desilu Productions tried to launch a TV version in 1957, but the program never made it to air. The Hardy Boys beat Nancy to the small screen, appearing first on CBS as a live-action show and later on ABC as a cartoon. Nancy joined the boys for a new series in 1977; The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries aired on ABC for 2 years, first starring Pamela Sue Martin and later Janet Louise Johnson. Though a couple more attempts were made toward TV shows, Nancy Drew only aired once more as a TV movie starring Maggie Lawson on ABC in 2002.
Surely CBS has taken note of the significance that has been attached to the character of Drew. She’s been studied in literary research programs, and gender studies classes, and cited as an influence by powerful women from Supreme Court Justices to politicians to celebrities. Casting the right actress to fill those shoes will be no small feat. Yet with the successful casting of female-driven projects like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and even Buffy, and Veronica Mars, there may be no better time in history to see this iconic character breathe again.