Nancy Drew has endured as a cultural icon for almost ninety years and, yet in all this time and to the bafflement of countless fans there has never been a successful Nancy Drew TV series. However, this year that curse took on an unlikely challenger, the CW network, who just launched their first episode of their Nancy Drew Series.
Already, this new Nancy Drew is drawing a lot of comparisons to other spooky teen dramas, including The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Scooby-Doo, and Veronica Mars. But what it will truly give you deja-vu of is the CW’s hit show, Riverdale, back when it was actually good and coherent. Do you guys remember when Riverdale was good? Those were some wild times.
However, the similarities between the two shows are downright creepy, from the small-town scene to the local diner hub (The Claw vs. Pop’s), and even the ominous lighting, it’s probably the most unintentionally eerie aspect of the Nancy Drew pilot and makes it hard to get into this new series. That must be part of the reason show runners decided to throw the supernatural element into the mix with the legend of Dead Lucy, who was murdered nineteen years ago and haunts the town of Horseshoe Bay and, as we saw in the pilot, haunts Nancy too. Though the pragmatic way Nancy handles this surreal situation definitely gave us Betty Cooper vibes.
Yet, it is a relief to see that show runners did not just copy and paste the squeaky-clean classic Nancy Drew from the 1930’s. Instead, they have tried to update the character to the life of an average teenager, and that includes a sex scene with her unofficial boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, five minutes into the pilot. For the die-hard fans of the books, this was a raunchy new take on their childhood hero, but for everyone else in the CW audience, it was a very clear signal that unlike the novels this was not meant for kids. At the same time, it could also be the latest example of a long-standing CW pattern where the network uses teenage sex scenes to fatten up some lean plot lines and make their shows seem edgier than they are. But on this point, we’ll just have to wait and see how much this is used in the rest of the season.
Sadly, the remainder of the pilot episode is pretty much lackluster. Instead of being an upbeat teen in the prime of her life this new Nancy is struggling hard. After the loss of her mother, she gives up her love of solving mysteries, bombs her grades, takes a year off of college, and works as a waitress at The Claw with people she clearly does not like. While it’s completely understandable that Nancy’s grief would cause her to act out, her angst-filled, sometimes downright rude, interactions with everyone, including Nick and her father, really make it hard to root for her in any way.
There is little redemption to be found in the side characters either. As far as the pilot goes, it seems that the CW packed in as many of the cliché teen drama cookie-cutter characters as they could. Including the staple self-obsessed rich girl, Bess, the frenemy from the wrong side of the tracks, George, the nice guy with a bad past, Nick, and of course, the hallmark of tacky one-dimensional characters, the father who cares for his daughter but cannot communicate fully it to her. Really they got all the greats in there. But with such a flat main character and a dry inner monologue, this scarecrow cast is even more unbearable and it makes the pilot hard to get through.
Even the main plot, the sudden murder of socialite Tiffany Hudson, is a bit far-fetched. After discovering her body police immediately zero in on the three girls for a murder wrap for being on the scene, because of course, the most dangerous citizens of your town are three young waitresses, one of who used to actively fight crime. Maybe Nancy became a detective because the police force in her town was this ridiculous. Thought at least this questionable story line is used to quickly get Nancy back into sleuthing, saving us from the constant back-and-forth internal struggles we’re used to from shows on the CW.
If the pilot isn’t sounding great don’t be too distressed because what actually saves this new show is the very last minute of the episode in which we see that Bess is not as rich as we think, George is having an affair with the victim’s husband, Nick had a grudge against Tiffany, and that Nancy’s parents have Dead Lucy’s dress hidden away for some reason. After the grind of those mediocre scenes and all that painful dialogue that last-minute threw all these endearing curve balls at us and made the entire pilot worth watching.
Overall, the pilot may not be great but if you’re into cheesy teen dramas it will be a fun watch, and since the CW does not have a great reputation in maintaining the initial quality of their shows we should enjoy while we can. Fans of the books might not get the Nancy they wanted, but the version we’re given here still has the potential for some serious character growth into someone we might actually like. In the meantime, there are plenty of hidden Easter egg references for all the long-time fans of the novels to enjoy, and hopefully, there may actually be some worthwhile developments in these mysteries to keep the rest of us hooked. Nancy may be on the case but the jury is still out on whether or not the CW can pull off this show. Only time will tell.