I grew up on Nancy Drew. There’s still a shelf in my family’s house lined with the original yellow hardcover stories of the girl detective. My sisters and I obsessively played the Nancy Drew computer games made by HER Interactive, clicking around for clues, questioning suspects, and exploring the settings that ranged from Venice to a snowbound castle in Wisconsin.
I even gave the later series like the 80s’ Nancy Drew Files and the early 2000s’ Girl Detective series a try; though, despite their modernized settings, their depictions lacked the spunk of the original Nancy. In 2007, I watched and loved the movie starring Emma Roberts, although it also took quite a few departures from the source material.
All this is to say that I sought out all things Nancy Drew as a kid. Yet when I saw that the CW had a Nancy Drew TV show that started airing in 2019, I had my reservations. I wondered if it would be given the same treatment as Riverdale, another CW show based on a nostalgic childhood property, the Archie comics. Riverdale is known for its soap opera plots and cringey dialogue, the most-memed being this exchange:
PRISON INMATE: I dropped out in the fourth grade to run drugs to support my nana.
ARCHIE: That means you haven’t known the triumphs and defeats, the epic highs and lows of high school football.
Needless to say, I decided to wait and see if Nancy Drew went down the same road as Riverdale. Time went by, and I forgot about it until sometime in the fall of 2020 when I stumbled across it on the CW website. I hadn’t heard many negative reviews and I had just finished another show, so I decided to give it a try.
Right off the bat, there were some noticeable differences from the original series. In the show, Nancy is out of high school, but when her mother dies of cancer, she decides to stay in her hometown of Horseshoe Bay, Maine, (not midwestern River Heights) instead of going off to college. In the meantime, she’s hooking up with Ned (Nick) Nickerson, who went to juvie as a teen, and waitressing at a restaurant run by George Fan, who Nancy clashes with. Bess Marvin and Ace Saxon also work at the restaurant, but the group is nowhere near the tight group of “chums” that appear in the original series. Instead, they are thrown together as murder suspects when a woman is killed outside the restaurant. A ghostly presence that appeared at the scene then complicates things.
Although it might seem like a dramatic set-up, the show stays away from soapy plotlines and over-dramatic dialogue. The dynamics between the characters and the introduction of supernatural elements were enough to get me hooked, and I watched all the episodes that were already out and then waited each week for the new episodes to come out.
While the original books did often include supernatural elements that were revealed to be the work of humans, the show takes it up a notch with actual ghosts—the Drew Crew suspects a local ghost named Dead Lucy to be the killer—although the appearance of supernatural phenomenons is often linked to secrets of the town’s past. The mixture of sleuthing and the supernatural works quite well, in my opinion.
Another thing I really love about the first season is that the platonic relationships are developed over time, and they are done well. Although the group starts out reluctantly working together to clear their names, they learn to trust each other and work out their differences, leading to real friendship. The relationship between Ace and Bess (who is a lesbian) also introduces the wonderful new term “plat-anchor.”
The show also has one of the best portrayals, in my opinion, of the delicate topic of underage relationships: George became secretly involved with the thirtysomething Ryan Hudson while she was still in high school. Rather than romanticizing this relationship, as Pretty Little Liars infamously did with a student-teacher relationship, Nancy Drew deals with more of its real-life implications. Over the course of the first season, George stops being defensive over the unhealthy reasons she got into the relationship and starts to learn what a healthy relationship should look like.
Because of subplots like this one and others, Nancy Drew stays grounded in the real world, even despite the inclusion of supernatural elements. It’s definitely worth an unironic watch.
Lauren Cole (’20) graduated with a major in English and minors in French and psychology. She grew up in Grand Rapids and wants to live as she wants to die—surrounded by trees. She loves adding books to her TBR, but actually reading them is another matter.