This week, Hulu gave THE HARDY BOYS their sixth(!) television adaptation. This 1980s-set mystery series follows Frank and Joe Hardy as they investigate a family tragedy, with their friends and loved ones sometimes helping. The case is surely spread out over the entire first season, as each episode finds the boys getting just a clue or two to the bigger picture.
I was not expecting to like this show, nor was I eager to watch it. I’ve never read a single book from THE HARDY BOYS series, despite being a big reader, because I just wasn’t interested. I love many CW shows, but I did not care for the recent Nancy Drew reboot, and the two are often lumped together (and have been on television as one in the past). So this seemed like another program I’d suffer through a pilot and type out a review for without ever giving it a second thought.
Instead, THE HARDY BOYS is intriguing and engaging right off the bat, and I immediately went straight into a second episode. I probably would have kept going if I’d had the time, and I do plan to go back to it this week. It’s a slower starter, which makes sense for the tone. But by episode two, it quickly seems to sort itself out with a structure and order that I would expect to continue through the rest of the season.
The boys are a bit further spaced in age than they are usually portrayed. Athletic and brainy Frank (Rohan Campbell, Virgin River) is a teen, while tech whiz Joe (Alexander Elliot) is a bit younger. This provides separate friend groups and different focuses for their investigations. It may seem a bit odd that the locals in the small town the boys move to for the summer are so friendly and immediately sign on. Then again, the family is already known in the area, and there is an impression that not much usually happens around these parts.
Further splintering the story are the scenes, admittedly fewer, that follow their father, Fenton Hardy (James Tupper, Men in Trees), as he investigates the case internationally. Himself a police detective and their mother a journalist, the Hardy boys come by their skills honestly. It’s no wonder they dive into the work when the right motivation prompts them to.
Essentially, by splintering the case out into three distinct plot threads, THE HARDY BOYS gets kind of a Stranger Things structure, with the teen group keeping most of the focus (rather than the younger crowd in that show), and the adults reduced to the smallest chunk. (Though the coming together to share information at times feels a bit forced and expedient.) Admittedly, THE HARDY BOYS is a lot more grounded than that Netflix series, with not even the whiff of anything supernatural happening, though the spy antics are a bit of heightened reality. Still, the comparison is favorable, and is likely to appeal to a broad overlap of audience.
The 1980s setting isn’t strictly necessary, but I would assume it’s done to eliminate the internet and smart phones from the mix. Probably a wise idea, given the investigative style the franchise is known for and wants to recreate. Nothing will be gleaned quickly, and the slower pace fits well in what appears to be a simpler time. I think it works for them.
THE HARDY BOYS is an entertaining watch in the mostly-family-friendly mystery category, and it likely has a place in the current television landscape, as this type of show isn’t all that prevalent. Nostalgia will bring some in, the target demographic likely to be those millennials who grew up with tales of the duo. The ease of viewing will likely also serve potential new fans, as that age group can watch this with their kids.
The first season of THE HARDY BOYS is streaming now on Hulu.