Monday, October 21, 2013

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries ( 1977-1979 )

Mystery and adventure, and corny good tunes were brought to the small-screen in the late 1970s when three of the most beloved juvenile sleuths teamed up in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. Little girls across America tuned in weekly to giggle and blush at seeing teen heartthrobs Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson solve capers faster than they could paint their toenails ,while fans of Nancy Drew brought out their pocket notebooks and followed the clues to see if they could match Nancy's lightning-fast deductions. Don't even try gals, she'll beat you every time!

The episodes were based on characters created by Carolyn Keene and Franklin W.Dixon, two alias authors in the Stratemeyer publishing syndicate. Edward Stratemeyer was an author who penned quick exciting novels geared for young adults. The Bobbsey Twins, The Rover Boys and Tom Swift were just some of his creations. When he began to get swamped with stories he hired a staff of writers to pen his synopses into novels. He would then edit the completed stories these ghost-writers submitted before they were approved for publication and released under an alias pen name. Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon were two such pen names..and these "authors" became the Stratemeyer Syndicates' most popular sellers. 

Children from all over the world thrilled to the adventures Nancy Drew and Frank and Joe Hardy would find themselves involved in. Each story contained elements that the readers could relate to in their lives, and the characters served as good role models for young readers. 

Hence, the Stratemeyer Syndicate were very protective of the book rights and did not want their little babies to be altered in any way by the wily producers of Hollywood. 

In the late 1930s Warner Brothers managed to purchase the rights to the character of Nancy Drew for use in a series of secondary features starring Bonita Granville. The rights to use any of the stories were not granted however and so new plots were developed for these films. The Hardy Boys were never brought to the big screen. In the 1950s Walt Disney obtained the use of the Hardy Boys characters but once again was not permitted to use any existing story. Instead Disney set his writers to work and they developed two serials for his Mickey Mouse Club program, "The Mystery of Applegate's Treasure" and "The Mystery of the Ghost Farm". 

In the 1960s a pilot TV show of the Hardy Boys based on the story "Mystery of the Chinese Junk" tried to launch but failed and then in 1969 Hanna-Barbara released their Scooby-Doo style musical mystery cartoon series The Hardy Boys. ( insert a quote here from the show ) 

In November of 1974, Joyce Brotman and Arlene Sidaris, two television producers and avid Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew fans, decided to team up and launch a mystery show revolving around the characters. They approached Stratemeyer's daughter who agreed to sell them the option only on the condition that the wholesomeness of the characters and the flavor of the books were retained. Plus, they wanted a TV series and that would be fun and would appeal to all ages of viewers filled with adventure, humor and mystery. 

After a year and a half of negotiations with Universal, the two ladies approached Glen Larson, producer of The Fugitive, It Takes a Thief and Quincy M.D to see if he could help them develop a winning mystery program. He could...and he did. Writers were called in to develop new storylines that would remain in keeping with the original stories and auditions began for the search for the perfect actors to portray the amateur sleuths. Finally, Shaun Cassidy, Parker Stevenson and Pamela Sue Martin were selected for the lead roles.

The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries premiered on January 30th, 1977 on ABC-TV on a chilly Sunday night at 7pm and continued to play each week - same time, same station - until January 14th, 1979. Every week the featured show would alternate between Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys beginning with The Mystery of the Haunted House. 

The spooky and spunky Glen Larson synthesized theme song pulled us, along with Nancy and the Hardy Boys, into the maze of intrigue, suspicious characters, cobwebs and campy chills. The show was all light, fun entertainment and packed in an hour full of mystery highlighted by whiz-bang special effects. It also featured a host of guest stars including Craig Stevens, Lorne Greene, Jamie Lee Curtis, Melanie Griffith, Richard Kiel, Robert Wagner, Monte Markham, David Wayne, Bob Crane, Dina Merrill, and Mark Harmon.

In the fall of 1978 Nancy Drew was cancelled due to its low ratings and The Hardy Boys continued to make little girls swoon for another season before they, too, got the boot. 


Franklin W. Dixon would have been proud of the screen incarnations of the characters he had so lovingly created in the fifty-eight books he wrote. 

David Cassidy was one of the first actors to be approached for the character of Joe Hardy but had turned down the role. He had just completed The Partridge Family and did not want to immerse himself in another television series so soon. His younger brother Shaun Cassidy, however, was just beginning his acting career and tested for the part. The producers liked him from the start. Parker Stevenson had just completed making Lifeguard ( 1976 ) and shined like a rising star, he was a natural for the older Frank Hardy.

Some changes came about in the book-to-television series transfer : familiar characters such as Iola Martin and Chet Morton took a backseat role and appeared only occasionally to help the boys solve mysteries, most of the time they were on their own. And its no wonder, when you're busy gallivanting to Egypt and Bermuda and Hawaii, its hard to keep up with old friends. Frank did manage to keep his ties strong with "Cassie" his sweetheart, and that's an achievement since her name got changed to "Callie".  He really must of put his detective skills to work to find her! Although she now works as an assistant for Fenton Hardy so perhaps that was too easy a case to solve.

Another change - baby brother, Joe, now has a taste for music. No mystery was too pressing to be solved that he couldn't give time for a break to sing. Sticky and sweet bubblegum favorites such as "Da Do Ron Ron Ron" cropped up as often as clues. While not on set for the show Cassidy did weekend concerts to promote his single recordings.

Nancy Drew wasn't faring all that well on the popularity polls and so the Hardy Boys decided to give her a hand and pulled her into their mysteries. By the third season though, they were once again on their own and the story plots were revamped to make them more appealing to the adult crowd, hoping to snag audience members who favored shows such as Charlie's Angels and The Rockford Files. The Hardys were now working undercover for the Justice Department. In order to convey to the loyal tweens that this was no longer the cute and cuddly Hardys they remembered in years past, the familiar maze opening was ditched in favor of a more spunky one that bore a striking resemblance to Charlie's Angels

This disappointed many fans and the show wasn't the same for them. Due to a writer's strike, fewer episodes were created in the third season and the series lost viewership as well. By the end of 1978 it was evident that the series was floundering. 

Joe Hardy - Shaun Cassidy

One of the Cassidy boys ( the children of Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy ), Shaun did not want to pursue acting but was eager to become a singing sensation like his famous step-brother David..or so he thought. Shaun was but 19 when he began appearing on The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and the show rocketed him to stardom. The spotlight was a bit too much for his shy nature and he was glad to back out of the concert arena during the 1980s. In the next decade he decided to focus on his passion, writing, and has since become a television writer and producer, creating programs such as American Gothic ( 1995 ), The Agency ( 2001 ) and The Invasion ( 2005 ).

Frank Hardy - Parker Stevenson

Richard Stevenson Parker was born on June 4, 1953 in Philadephia, Pennslyvania. He acted in a few television commercials when he was five-years old but his father disapproved of the acting industry and so Parker had no intention of becoming an actor. Instead, he studied architecture at Princeton and was on the rowing crew in the Princess Elizabeth Cup Race at the prestigious Henley Regetta. In 1976 the acting bug returned and he snagged a feature role in Lifeguard, which landed him the role of Frank Hardy. After the success of The Hardy Boys, Stevenson appeared on The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, Matlock, North & South: Book II, and Probe. Married at one time to Kristie Alley, he has two children and continues to act today. 

Fenton Hardy - Edmund Gilbert

Ed Gilbert's face may not be known to many, but his voice certainly is. Although he did a number of television series and bit parts in feature films during the 1960s it was not until the 1980s that he was steadily employed at a voice-over actor. His voice can be heard in cartoons such as The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, Spiderman, Ironman, The Tick, The Gargoyles, The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin. He also did the voice of Baloo in the Tailspin cartoon series. Ed Gilbert passed away on May 8, 1999 at the age of 67. 

Aunt Gertrude - Edith Atwater

A popular character actress throughout the 1960s and 70s, Edith Atwater has appeared in a number of well-known television series such as Knots Landing, Hart to Hart, Ironside, Kaz, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. She also appeared in Grace Morton in the original Peyton Place series and Mrs. Hammond in the short-lived Love on a Rooftop in 1968. Atwater was born on Apr. 22, 1911 in Chicago and was married to actor Kent Smith from 1962 until his death in 1985. She died shortly after. 

Callie Shaw - Lisa Eilbacher

Lisa Eilbacher was born on May 5, 1956 in Saudi Arabia. She was raised in France and then got her start on television, making guest appearances in series such as My Three Sons, Gunsmoke, Bonanza and The Brady Bunch. In the 1980s she reached her peak in popularity as the lead actress in An Officer and a Gentleman and Beverly Hills Cop, two films she is best remembered for. She also appeared in the popular miniseries The Winds of War. Aside from doing a handful of television films in the late 1990s, Eilbacher has stepped away from the cameras for the past fifteen years. 

Best Episodes

The Mystery of the Haunted House ( Pilot )

Joe and Frank Hardy, suspicious of their father's "fishing trip," follow him and become involved in the search for an amnesiac ex-soldier being chased by killers for some secret he knows. They end up at a club called the Haunted House that has mazes, trapdoors, and secret passageways.

The Mystery of the Hollywood Phantom ( S.2, Ep. 4 )

When the attendees at a detectives convention start disappearing during a Hollywood film studio tour, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew again join forces to investigate. 

The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Dracula ( S.2, Ep. 16 )

Frank and Joe go to Transylvania to find their father, who disappeared while investigating a series of European art thefts. They encounter Nancy Drew and Bess at a festival called Dracula's Castle, and end up joining forces. 

Campus Terror ( S.2, Ep.22 )

The Hardys head east to New England when an old girlfriend of Joe's calls, saying that some classmates of hers have gone missing at Eastlake University.

The Mystery of King Tut's Tomb ( S.2, Ep. 3 )

In Egypt, the Hardy Boys investigate after a young woman denies that the handbag Frank recovered is hers, and he is left holding a golden idol stolen from one of the pyramids. 


Nancy Drew, part-time investigator for her father Carson Drew's law firm, has an insatiable appetite for a good mystery. She finds clues when no one else even realizes a crime has been committed.

Unlike the Hardy Boys, who traveled around the world on capers, most of Nancy Drew's mysteries revolved around River Heights. Mysteries in lighthouses, ghosts in the local theatre, a frame-up involving the college football hero, and her aunt's claim to hearing voices in the wall of her house were the most exciting cases Nancy ever got to put her detective skills to use on. 

Pamela Sue Martin did a stellar job bringing Nancy Drew to life and of all of the screen incarnations of the character, she best embodies the beautiful, quick-witted, and sassy Nancy Drew. In spite of this, the boyish charm of the two Hardy brothers lured in the female television viewers and the Hardy Boys popularity ratings were significantly higher than that of Nancy Drew during the first season. 

In an attempt to boost Nancy Drew's ratings the season two premiere episode found the two sleuths teaming up to solve The Mystery in Dracula's Castle. It worked to no avail. More episodes were planned for the threesome but Pamela Sue Martin stepped out, dissatisfied with the new threesome arrangement and longing to solve mysteries independently once again. 

Interestingly enough, the concept of joining the Hardys with Nancy Drew later found its way to many of the newer paperback novels featuring the characters. 

In order to appeal to the masses some small changes were undergone in converting the book characters to the screen. The show's George Fayne, Nancy's true-blue chum, is a combination of the George Fayne and Bess Martin of the original books with George taking on much more of Bess' scardy-cat nature. Athletic Ned Nickerson, Nancy's part-time date and good friend, appeared occasionally in the book series but was featured predominately in the first season of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, this time as a quiet, serious intellectual with bug-eye glasses. He was dropped in the last episode and then once more reappeared in the second season, now played by rock idol Rick Springfield. Springfield did not quite live up to the Ned Nickerson of the book series either, and was looking quite distracted in his only episode. He was probably still wondering why he didn't get Jessie's girl. 

The Drew's faithful housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, was completely eliminated from the series; most likely because Nancy Drew and her father hardly spend time at home. 

Pamela Sue Martin left the show in 1978 to pursue other acting endeavors. The Hardy Boys continued to uncover mysteries all over the place without her help but they did allow for a new Nancy Drew to step in mid-way through the season to spice up their life a bit. Janet Louise Johnson took over as the girl sleuth and - surprise! - Ms. Drew was now a blonde, just like the original book character. Nancy joined the Hardy Boys in Voodoo Doll, The Mystery of Avalanche Express and Arson and Old Lace before packing up her magnifying glass and calling it a day. Perhaps she went on to help her father full-time with his law firm. 

Nancy Drew - Pamela Sue Martin   

Pamela Sue Martin was born on January 5, 1953 in Westport, Connecticut. In 1972, she was attending high-school and modelling part-time when she heard that Columbia Pictures was auditioning girls for a film called To Find a Man. After a three-month debate, she won the role which led to her being selected by Irwin Allen to perform in his star-studded disaster flick, The Poseidon Adventure. She then snagged a number of roles in television movies before being offered the part of intrepid investigator, Nancy Drew. In 1978, Martin appeared in Playboy magazine ( see below ) in a feature "Nancy Drew : Undraped". After the series ended she returned to television playing Fallon Carrington Colby on Dynasty ( 1981 ). She is currently working on an autobiography entitled "The Spirit of the Matter". What a fitting title for a one-time Nancy Drew!

Ned Nickerson - George O'Hanlon Jr.  

Six foot tall, George Samuel Phillip O'Hanlon III was born on December 7, 1953 in Los Angeles, California. He was the grandson of the prominent vaudevillians Sam Rice and Lulu Beasley and the son of George O'Hanlon, an actor who appeared in over a hundred movie and television roles but is most famous today for his Joe McDoakes shorts and for voicing George Jetson on The Jetsons from 1961 until his death in 1989. O'Hanlon did a handful of television movies and small bits on TV series before landing the role of the bespectacled Ned Nickerson. His portrayal of Nickerson was the complete opposite of the ... Today George O'Hanlon Jr. is still acting on television and in occasional bit parts in feature films. 

George Fayne - Jean Rasey 

Spunky Jean Rasey was born on Sept. 19, 1954 and got her acting start while in her teen years. It was after her performance in The Hindenburg that she was selected to be George Fayne in the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, a role which remains her most memorable to date. After Nancy Drew, Rasey appeared as a guest performer in a few more television series ( Lou Grant, Barnaby Jones ) and today continues to act in commercials and theatre productions.

Carson Drew - William Shallert 

One of the most prolific actors on television, William Shallert has appeared in several hundred shows and films throughout his long career. Born in Los Angeles, California on July 6, 1922, Shallert made his film debut in 20th Century Foxes "The Foxes of Harrow" ( 1947 ). After small roles in Written in the Wind, The Incredible Shrinking Man and Pillow Talk he began to focus on television. His most famous roles are Martin Lane, Patty Lane's father in The Patty Duke Show, Admiral Hargrade in Get Smart and Nilz Baris in the classic episode of Star Trek...'The Trouble with Tribbles'. In addition to his myriad television performances ( over 650 episodes! ) he has done numberless voice-overs for cartoons and other programs. At age 91, Shallert still continues to act and says that he "never gives retirement a thought".

Best Episodes

The Mystery of the Pirate's Cove ( Pilot )

Nancy Drew and her friends see a beam of light coming from a supposedly abandoned lighthouse, and a professor tries to convince her that it is haunted. The local sheriff thinks they're imagining things, so it's up to Nancy to solve the mystery.

The Mystery of the Diamond Triangle ( S1, Ep.2 )

Nancy Drew and her girlfriend, George, see an automobile run off the road, but the sheriff tells her that the road has long been closed and there is no trace of the accident. 

The Secret of the Whispering Walls ( S1, Ep. 3 )

A burglary at her home leads Nancy Drew to investigate her aunts' attempt to sell their farm, which someone is apparently trying to make them believe is haunted. 

A Haunting We Will Go ( S1, Ep.4 )

When Nancy Drew and her friends revive a 20-year-old play to raise money for a youth center, they are astounded when five members of the original cast return to perform in it, especially when the theatre is supposed to be haunted. 

The Mystery of the Ghostwriters Cruise ( S1, Ep. 6 )

Taking a luxurious ocean cruise, Nancy and her friends go into action when a famous mystery writer on board receives death threats that follow one of his own plots. 


As with all popular shows of the 1970s, a slew of collectibles were issued for fans of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. Some of these were quite unique and today are considered rare among the collector's circles. Probably the most popular of all of the promotional items released were the Shaun Cassidy/Parker Stevenson pin-up posters. Teeny-boppers were even treated to full issues devoted to the boys in Tean Beat and Tiger Beat magazines.

If full-color pictures of the Hardy Boys weren't to your taste, then you'd probably be a Nancy Drew fan, in which case the Nancy Drew "Undraped" cover of Playboy would have caught your eye instead. 

Or is that too mature? Well, then in that case a Nancy Drew wristwatch would be on your Christmas wishlist. This one came complete with a color image of Pamela Sue Martin featured on the face, along with plenty of footprints for her to follow.

The success of the television series even inspired Scholastic Books to release new paperback editions of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, this time with newly created stories that were "inspired" by the series, which was inspired by the book series in the first place. Things do go 'round. 

Armada Books, a UK publishing firm, re-released several of the original Carolyn Keene Nancy Drew books with new covers featuring Pamela Sue Martin and Tempo, a division of Grossat and Dunlop, came out with a lovely series of Nancy Drew puzzle books as well. 

  • Nancy Drew Mystery Mazes
  • Nancy Drew Detective Logic Puzzles
  • Nancy Drew Secret Codes
  • Nancy Drew Mystery Puzzle
  • Nancy Drew Secret Scrambled Word Finds
  • Nancy Drew Clever Crosswords

When you were tired of reading mysteries and solving puzzles then it signaled the time to get a friend hooked on the series. This way you would have someone to leave your Dixon/Keene book collection to in your will. The best way to go about spreading the word on what great detectives they were was by sending greeting cards out. Hand-painted ones - painted just like the actual process used in animated cartoons. And since they were appropriate for ages 7-70, Grandma could help you paint them. Provided she is under 71 of course...over that and "Hands off Gram!".

Didn't have anyone to send greeting cards to? Well, you needed to carry the Hardy Boys lunchbox and matching thermos to school and then you'd have friends galore! No child could resist knowing a super-cool amateur detective who owns a Shaun Cassidy plastered plastic lunchbox. Perhaps owning one would have even helped you solve the ultimate daily-recurring mystery, "What did mom pack me for lunch?"

And finally, the collectibles category would not be complete without JIGSAW PUZZLES. And what better picture to have on the front of a puzzle than a couple of puzzle-solvers like The Hardy Boys. American Publishing Corporation released two separate puzzles in standard cardboard boxes and another ( ultra-rare ) in a canister container. 

For more information about the show and for links to other great Hardy Boy/Nancy Drew sites visit The Unofficial Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Fansite. 


  1. Oh gosh, we're crushed. Almost five months to the day since we posted this article and not a single comment! ( The spam mail we deleted doesn't count ) Is there not one Hardy Boy/Nancy Drew fan still out there?

  2. HI :) Just came across this article. I recently started watching the series and was sad that there were so few Nancy Drew episodes compared to the Hardy Boys. I am a big fan of both but wish there was an equal number of episodes. Still, the show in my opinion was great!!!

    Thanks for the article. It was really very interesting and informative! :) :)

    1. Thanks for commenting! We're glad you liked the article..and how true, there should have been more Nancy Drew episodes made. I think if Ned Nickerson had been written to resemble the book character more, he would have drawn in more of the female audience that the show needed. Not that George O'Hanlon wasn't appealing but they needed a heartthrob like Parker Stevenson on the show ( although having the Hardy Boys team up with Nancy sounded like a great just didn't work out ).

    2. I feel the same way! and I just found this article to. I absolutely love Nancy drew and this is awesome. I loved when the Hardys and Nancy worked together and I loved it when rick Springfield was Ned.

      this was informative and I might just bookmark it!

    3. Thanks Samantha! We're glad you enjoyed our look at this classic 1970s bubblegum show. :-)

  3. I LOVE The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries show! :-) I'm also a long-time fan of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books. Thanks for posting this awesomely cool and informative blog post. :-) :-)

  4. Love 'The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries'! I just recently bought the DVDs, and my husband and son have been enjoying them with me! There's a cosy, feel-good nostalgia about them. Thoroughly enjoyed your article!

    1. Yes, there certainly is a feel-good nostalgia about the show. Our family loves watching them during the autumn months, when the skies begin to turn grey and the leaves start to fall. It was a great show, but how disappointing that Nancy Drew was caught off in her prime...I would have loved to seen more episodes with Pamela Sue Martin.

  5. I've been reading Nancy Drew for most of my life, and I binged this whole show once I discovered it. It's pretty corny, but it would've been nice to have been alive to see it in its heyday.

  6. Hi, I came across this and I'm an avid Hardy Boys fan and have been doing research on the various TV incarnations and found this very helpful.

  7. Hi, I too just came across this article. Thank you for putting this up. I'm a real fun of this tv series, especially Nancy Drew, and I think Pamela Sue Martin portrayed the role of Nancy Drew very well. It was really sad when she left the show. It would have been nicer if Nancy Drew has the same number of episodes as the Hardy Boys. There is really something special and unique about the two shows. I really think that Shaun Cassidy, Parker Stevenson and Pamela Sue Martin are the best choice to play the leading characters. I liked the crossover show, except for the part that they put PSM as guest star instead of same billing as Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson, considering it is a Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew tv series after all so it just makes sense that they do so.

  8. Great article. I think Nancy Drew got the shaft. First mistake was creating the "George Fayne" character but giving her traits of her cousin "Bess Marvin." Second mistake was letting Jean Rasey go as George. She was terrific. Third mistake, those cross over episodes. Nancy seemed like she could eat Frank and Joe for lunch!