You ever buy pizza from a supermarket?
The cheese doesn’t cook right, the toppings aren’t spread out right and the base is kind of papery. And then there’s the bite, you sink your teeth in and what you get taste like pizza but it doesn’t hit the same way the pizza you’d order in would taste. But its a Wednesday night, you’re tired, works been crap and the weekend is still an age away so something that’s warm and carby with a whisper of flavour will do for now.
That’s how I feel about the new Nancy Drew TV show
Who the hell is Nancy Drew
Nancy Drew might not be a familiar name to the audience this new CW show is trying to court but then again that’s kind of the point. She was a girl detective in books as far back as the 1930s, she’s been through so many iterations in this time but the heart of the character has always been an inquisitive intelligent girl getting to the bottom of mysteries.
In a way she was ahead of her time, headstrong and active main character it’s easy to see why she had an enduring popularity that spanned over a 150 books, tv shows and movies.
She’s a pop culture touchstone at this point and the inspiration for many female detective characters although as we progressed as a culture you can kind of see how- like many characters who had their heyday in the 1950s- she was relatively twee for her target audience now
Why reboot Nancy
I vaguely remember a couple of years ago they were floating around a Nancy Drew pilot where she was a cop in New York city, this was after the success of the Sherlock Holmes reboots in both Elementary and Sherlock. Nancy seemed like a logical reboot character we’re living in an age of constant reboots so why has Nancy never been given the same courtesy.
The first Nancy Drew reboot was during the 1990s featuring Nancy Drew as a criminology student in New York city and lasted a season, there was another failed pilot in the late 80s and the aforementioned recent pilot. But Nancy Drew never really captured the TV viewing audience.
But then the age of the reboot really got underway, Fuller House,90210 X-Files, Twin Peaks everything is coming back. An element of history made you sit up and take notice, there’s some studies about the eternal nostalgia of millennials that makes shows that have a backing behind them do well. There are very few shows these days that are entirely original, without at least a novel or a comic book as their main hook even if said TV show is entirely different.
Which brings us to our guy Riverdale, the gritty reboot of the Archie comics is a full on success with a connected Sabrina series attached. Nancy Drew seems like an obvious addition, an easy update to 2019, what could go wrong?
Nancy Drew for the CW
So we get to the pilot and our girl detective is retired. After the death of her mother she hung up her magnifying glass and graduated high school. She’s now working in a diner in her tiny hometown stuck. She’s in a casual relationship with Ned Nickerson and her frenemy George is now her boss. Nancy Drew is depressed and repressed and going nowhere fast.
And even before we’ve got a mystery this is where we run into our first problem.
Nancy Drew was brilliant, annoyingly so, in every iteration of Sherlock we saw a total embracement of this behaviour even if it was dickish. These guys were brilliant and new it straight off the bat, here at every turn Nancy Drew is seen apologising for what she’s doing and what she’s figuring out.
But why is this show hitting like this? In my opinion they seem to be following what works from it’s kind of cousin show, Riverdale. But Riverdale works with Archie as a kind of bland leading character because the world is supposed to make up the colour in Nancy’s world she’s supposed to be the colour. Here she’s conflicted about her mother’s death and overall just stuck, if we don’t know her history then Nancy doesn’t seem interesting at all which brings me to my next point.
The Nancy before
Although there hasn’t been a proper Nancy Drew TV reboot in the last, a girl detective became part of the cultural lexicon in a way that would define the genre. Veronica Mars. A neo-noir interpretation of a high-school girl detective, Veronica Mars drew the inevitable, um, Nancy Drew connations and readily embraced them for the new century. This version of a girl detective was smart, sassy, funny and a little dark, Veronica Mars became a cultural touchstone in her own right. So did the creators of this show not want to copy their kind of not really predecessor? They left this version of Nancy broken and a little loss as she tried to find her way. would it have really been so terrible for this Nancy to embrace her power in the same way as Veronica, Sherlock or the original Nancy Drew?
In this version of Nancy Drew the driving plot of the story is the murder of Tiffany Hudson at the diner where Nancy Drew works. Nancy, Georgia, Bess, Ned and Ace are all suspects in her death and Nancy and her gang must work to find the real culprit. At the same time we’re presented with a twenty year old murder of former Sea Queen (homecoming queen watevs) Dead Lucy who may or may not be haunting the town.
Now we encroach on my main issue with this show…
To say I’m a connoisseur of good TV would be a god dam lie I watched every episode of Pretty Little Liars after all. But I do like a good mystery and for a good mystery you need a good victim.
In this version of Nancy Drew our main murder victim is Tiffany Hudson- who to the best of my knowledge isn’t even a character from the series (if she is feel free to send me hate I deserve it) the spoilt wife of Ryan Hudson, a kind of shady character who seems relatively removed from Nancy’s life. The character herself is a bored, overtly fancy wife of a character named Ryan Hudson who seems to have more of a relation to the characters however even here we’re left hanging for information.
We see Tiffany Hudson for all of two minutes within the pilot, she’s a caricature of a spoilt rich woman and she has no effect on anyone’s life so we don’t feel especially bad when she dies. This isn’t the best opening to a mystery.
If you look at similar shows, from Twin Peaks, Riverdale to Pretty Little Liars and Veronica Mars, hell even Broadchurch the death or disappearance was felt throughout the community which is why a small town murder mystery works so well. Lauren Palmer, the dead prom queen, Jason Blossom, the brother of the popular girl, Pretty Little Liars; the popular girl and Lily Kane…it’s all the mystery of this person that we find appealing and it gives space for the characters to grow without an overtly critical eye because hey they’re uncovering a mystery.
Here there may be a smattering of motive to kill her but no one grieves this character, not even her husband, the town isn’t moved by this murder. We don’t care that she’s dead because no one else does.
Which is why I think it shoehorned a plot about a dead prom queen which would of worked for the main plot but adding a prologue and occasional reference to her just seems like forgotten emotional labour.
The flicker of a good show
I regret not using Nancy Drew book puns as subtitles, if you’re writing something similar please Dm me and we will brainstorm.
This frozen pizza of a show does have some good points. Mainly acting, int his show mainly take place in one or two locations without much call for action leading the bulk of the interest to fall on the dialogue and the four main actors do a fantastic job. There’s genuinely chemistry between them and the campy, sarcastic and fun version of this show seems apparent when the four of them are together in the diner. I would hit the guys who play Ace and Bess as standouts.
It’s also a very slick TV show, it’s gorgeous to watch with a great colour palette and even though there seems to be only a few locations but everything about them is beautiful and it’s genuinely nice to watch.
I will keep watching, mainly because I’m a goblin with no tastebuds but also I want to see how this story progresses and how they cultivate those initial hurdles. There are some big names behind this show so I doubt my issues are just growing pains but rather integral points of the show as a whole.
Let me know what you think or what I got wrong in the comments down below…