The American public has always had a soft spot for teenage sleuths, and none more so than Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. As such, it was no surprise when the show ‘The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries’ started airing. However, the show in which the plucky teens unraveled mysteries has its own fair share of surprising truths.
The 1977 show followed Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy Drew, and Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson as Joe and Frank Hardy.
The shows were set in the fictional towns of Bayport, Massachusetts, for the Hardy Boys episodes, and River Heights, New Jersey for the Nancy Stories.
Jamie Lee Drew
One of the actresses who auditioned, albeit unsuccessfully, for the role of Nancy Drew was Jamie Lee Curtis. This might have been a lucky break for Curtis, as she would go on to star in ‘Halloween’ just a year later, and be catapulted into stardom.
Curtis would, however, guest star in one episode of the show in 1977. Funnily enough, she shared the screen with another classic horror actor, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ star Robert Englund.
Shaun Cassidy earned a pretty solid salary for his time on ‘The Hardy Boys’, making $15,000 a week, which comes in at just under $64,000 at today’s rates. However, Cassidy’s biggest windfall came from the show’s merchandise.
The Hardy Boys had their faces on watches, lunchboxes, posters, and much more. You name it, the Hardy Boys were on it. Thanks to this lucrative vein of merch, Cassidy was making millions of dollars on top of his salary. Not a bad deal for a 19-year-old.
A historic meeting
For a while, the show would follow the sleuths separately, airing a Nancy Drew episode one week, and then a Hardy Boys episode the week after. The season 2 premiere brought with it a historic crossover, as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys met for the first time across any medium.
Funnily enough, despite the books being published by the same company, none of them ever involved a similar crossover. However, once the TV show proved successful, crossovers would eventually occur in the books as well.
On and off
‘The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries’ was never a major hit, but it scored respectable ratings for most of its run. Despite this, the network made the decision to cancel the show halfway through its 3rd season.
Supposedly, the decision was made because ABC were hoping to achieve better ratings in that time slot. However, this plan was unsuccessful, and it would take ABC years to recover from the serious hit they took to ratings.
Joe Hardy was played by Shaun Cassidy, who was already something of a teen heartthrob due to his already established music career. He continued to make music while working on TV, and certainly received a boost in the charts thanks to his role as Joe Hardy.
Throughout his music career, Cassidy scored 4 top 40 hits on the Billboard charts, managing to reach number 1 with his cover of The Crystals’ song ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’.
While the casting of the Hardy Boys went fairly smoothly, finding the right actress for Nancy Drew was much harder. The producer of the show, Arlene Sidaris, said that it was difficult to settle on who should play Nancy because everyone involved had such a fixed image of what the character should look like in their heads.
Nobody wanted to present an iconic character through an actor that audiences would simply fail to identify with Nancy. They lucked out with Pamela Sue Martin however, who the creators of the show thought was perfect for the role.
A full day of shooting
In his attempt to get the show greenlit, creator Glen A. Larson took a somewhat unorthodox approach to creating a presentation. Told that he had to produce a 1-day pilot to offer the network, Larson took their words somewhat too literally and shot with the cast and crew for almost a full 24 hours.
Although that technique would not be replicated in future, the pilot secured network approval, and the 24 hours they spent together provided an excellent bonding opportunity for the cast.
Given their careers as sleuths, the Hardy Boys are a little smarter than your average teenagers. However, Parker Stevenson really did have the credentials to back it up, having graduated from Princeton University with a degree in architecture.
Before joining the show, Stevenson had been planning on going to business school in New York, but enjoyed acting so much that he decided to pursue it as a full-time career. Nice to know the people of Bayport, Massachusetts were in good hands!
The fame game
Although Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy greatly enjoyed their time on the show, they also had to deal with the slightly dicier aspects of fame. As teen idols, the two would be mobbed by hordes of screaming young women wherever they went, often having to run away from legions of girls, or travel incognito.
While it might have been nice to have so many adoring fans, we doubt the studio would have wanted to put production on hold because the main actors had been put in traction by a swarm of Hardy Boy enthusiasts.
Nancy Drew the short straw
Although the Hardy Boys were well appreciated by the studio, Nancy Drew was not receiving the same kind of love. When the shows started crossing over, Nancy’s role was increasingly minimized, prompting Pamela Sue Martin to drop out from the role.
Despite finding Janet Louise Johnson to play the role, the show eventually cut Nancy’s character altogether, and simply focused the show on the Hardy Boys. That’s no way to treat one of the world’s premier teenage sleuths.
To be Frank Hardy
Parker Stevenson, who played Frank Hardy, had never had ambitions of being an actor. Although he had been in one or two commercials when he was young, it was not even on his radar as a possibility, until ‘The Hardy Boys’ launched him into the career.
Since the show, Stevenson has starred in several films, including ‘Stroker Ace’ and ‘Not of This Earth’, as well as making numerous TV appearances, in shows such as ‘Falcon Crest’, ‘Baywatch’, and 2018’s ‘Greenhouse Academy’ to name a few.
Shaun Cassidy got pretty lucky with ‘The Hardy Boys’, as it was only his second audition ever. His first one was for 1976 John Wayne western, ‘The Shootist’, for which he lost out to ‘Happy Days’ actor Ron Howard.
Luckily, however, he was a shoo-in for the role of Joe Hardy, as the producers were looking for someone akin to a young David Cassidy for the role. Great luck for Joe, as he just so happened to be David’s younger brother.
Traveller Sue Martin
Pamela Sue Martin would go on to star in another historic TV show after leaving ‘The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drews Mysteries’, landing the role of Fallon Carrington Colby in smash hit show ‘Dynasty’. Martin would only play the role for four seasons however, leaving to take some time out from acting.
Martin decided to travel around the country in a VW campervan, before eventually settling down in the town of Hailey, Idaho, where she participates in community theatre.
Glen A. Legend
The creator of ‘The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries’, Glen A. Larson, has had a career in TV that most people could only dream of. As well as ‘The Hardy Boys’, Larson created the iconic TV shows ‘Battlestar Galactica’, ‘Magnum P.I.’, ‘Quincy M.E.’, and ‘Knightrider’.
These shows ranged from cult hits to roaring successes, and to this day remain well loved with dedicated audiences. A few of them even spawned reboots, some of which managed to eclipse their originals in popularity and success.
A hard sell
It was not easy for Glen A. Larson to get the show made, however. The rights to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew belonged to Harriet Adams Stratemeyer, daughter of the original creator of the characters, Edward Stratemeyer.
Adams was reluctant to allow use of the characters, after having been displeased with previous adaptations that had been done of the books. Eventually, she agreed to give Universal Studios the rights, on the condition that she have full script approval.
‘The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries’ were not the first time that either property had been adapted for the screen. An animated series, ‘The Hardy Boys’, premiered in 1969 and featured the crime-solving brothers touring the country with a band and solving mysteries.
It was short-lived, only running for 17 episodes. Nancy made her silver screen debut in the late 1930s, in a series of B-movies. The films were controversial for significantly altering Nancy’s personality, making her character very different to the book version.
Report Card-y boys
Some fans of the show took it a little too seriously, assuming that Shaun Cassidy really was a sharp-minded sleuth akin to the one he played. Cassidy would receive report cards from his fans, expecting him to bestow the blessing of a Hardy Boy upon their results.
While we’ve no doubt Shaun Cassidy was a smart young man, we don’t think he went into acting just so he could spend his weekend marking report cards.
Given the success of Shaun’s sleuthing show, networks decided to see if they could recreate that success with another Cassidy. In 1978, NBC would air ‘David Cassidy: A Man Undercover’, starring Shaun’s older brother David as a detective who infiltrated a high school.
The show was conceived after David guest starred on an episode of the police drama ‘Police Story’. However, ‘A Man Undercover’ was an unmitigated failure, lasting only 10 episodes before being canceled.
Shaun Cassidy’s music career started out strong, helped out later by his role on the show. However, it would take a fairly sharp decline, with his albums selling less and less until his 4th album failed to chart at all.
Cassidy’s 6th and last album, ‘Wasp’ was a much more experimental project, comprised mostly of covers of famous songs in a New-Wave musical style, designed to make Cassidy seem more like an adult star. Unfortunately, the effort was largely ignored.
A new calling
However, Shaun Cassidy would eventually leave singing and acting behind for the most part, beginning a very successful career as a writer and producer. Taking a cue from Glen A. Larson, Cassidy would go on to write for and stand as executive producer on numerous shows…
Including horror series ‘American Gothic’, sci-fi series ‘Invasion’, and procedural drama ‘Cold Case’. He currently writes for the medical drama ‘New Amsterdam’, which premiered in 2018 and was recently renewed for a 2nd season.
The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books display names on their covers, of authors Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene respectively. However, neither of these names are real, as neither series of books had one singular author.
Rather, the books were written by ghostwriters, who were paid a minimal fee of $125 by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Numerous different people wrote for the series, with one of them even being Harriet Stratemeyer, the daughter of series creator Edward Stratemeyer.
Still on top
To this day, ‘The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries’ remain the most popular incarnations of the characters. In 1995, a new show titled ‘Nancy Drew’ began airing, and was once again paired with reboot series, ‘The Hardy Boys’.
However, both shows were canceled within 1 season due to low ratings. Since then, the 2007 film ‘Nancy Drew’, starring Emma Roberts as Nancy, was released, and a new series featuring Nancy is planned for release in 2019.
The same frustrations
Starring in such a phenomenally successful show may sound like a dream, especially for a young actor just starting out in showbiz, but Cassidy saw things differently. He didn’t really expect The Hardy Boys to lead to a pilot, much less a full-fledged series.
“We both feel the same frustrations,” he later said in an interview about his and Parker Stevenson’s experiences working on the show. Despite questionable scripts and relatively low ratings, ABC still renewed the show – if only so no other network could steal it – which left Cassidy tied to his contract.
The age gap
Any fan of The Hardy Boys books knows that the elder brother Frank is 17, while the younger brother Joe is 16. Any fans of television shows like Beverly Hills 90210 or Dawson’s Creek, however, would immediately be able to tell that the two leads were way too old to be playing teenagers.
With the case of Shaun Cassidy it wasn’t so bad, as he was 19 when the show first started – technically still a teen! Parker Stevenson, however, was a different story. He was 25, and as we’ve mentioned a Princeton alum.
Low budget in L.A.
The show had some lofty plotlines, but rarely had the budget to make them truly to come to life. That led to some… creative compromises. For example, one episode saw the teen detectives traveling to Kenya, even taking a boat ride down a jungle river.
Since airfare to Africa wasn’t in the budget, the whole thing was shot at the San Diego Zoo! In another instance, the desert mountains of New Mexico were actually green hills in southern California. Finally, a shiny new Los Angeles cemetery stood in for the ancient French Quarter burial ground of New Orleans.
Not their first adventure
The show portrayed a budding romance between the characters of Frank Hardy and Nancy Drew. If all that puppy love felt quite believable, it might be because actors Parker Stevenson and Pamela Sue Martin, who played Frank and Nancy, had done it before.
It’s actually quite ironic, as both Stevenson and Martin had precious few screen credits to their name before the show. One of them, however, was a movie called Our Time, released in 1974 but set in the 1950s. They played… teen lovers!
New Ned, not the same as the old Ned
TV shows sometimes have an odd habit about having new actors come in to replace other actors in playing the same character, or getting rid of a certain character altogether. Improbably, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries was a shining example of both – simultaneously!
In the first season, actor George O’Hanlon Jr. plays Nancy Drew’s Ned Nickerson. In season two, however, the role was recast with another teen idol, Rick Springfield. Fair enough, right? Well, we forgot to mention that the Ned Nickerson played by Springfield was an entirely new character, who Nancy had never met before!