The most devoted fans of the Nancy Drew mystery books may not be the primary target audience for the new Nancy Drew TV series that launches next Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on the CW.
For the rest of us, and for those fans willing to give Nancy Drew 2.0 a shot, it’s pretty cool.
Just as the CW overhauled Archie comics into the atmospheric TV series Riverdale, this Nancy Drew has a much darker story than old-timers may remember from their youth.
Nor is this Nancy, played winningly by Kennedy McMann, the totally wholesome all-American girl of the mid-20th century.
This Nancy is riddled with trauma over the death of her mother, estranged from her lawyer father Carson (Scott Wolf) and schizophrenic about her seeming boyfriend Nick Nickerson (Tunji Kasim). That ambivalence doesn’t stop Nancy and Nick from having the kind of intimate relations that were not a big part of the original Nancy Drew character.
Several foundation premises remain, including Nancy’s skill as a detective. She’s always been naturally curious, she explains, so when she sees a situation where some behavior or event doesn’t logically follow, she can’t help herself. She wants to know why.
That curiosity complicates one of her first assertions in this series, which is that she’s out of the sleuthing game. No, really. Seriously. Absolutely. For sure. She’s done.
The Nancy we meet here has just turned 18. She had hoped to attend Columbia, but then her Mom got sick and died and she put everything off.
That’s painful for her and good for the TV audience. She’s working as a waitress at the local restaurant, The Claw, where she insists she doesn’t have any real friends, but in fact she quickly forms a de facto posse.
That includes her sardonic boss George (Leah Lewis), with whom Nancy has some not entirely pleasant history from high school, dishwasher Ace (Alex Saxon), and fellow waitress Bess (Maddison Jaizani), who seems to be a rich girl taking a gap year to see how real people live.
It’s not the classic A-team, exactly, but when a rich patron is found dead in the parking lot and Nancy starts parsing what could have happened, they all want in on the action. Especially since the police at first suggest that they could all be suspects.
We also learn that one of the cops, Karen Hart (Alvina August), may have a second connection to Nancy, and not necessarily, from Nancy’s perspective, in a good way.
The CW does some of its best work when it keeps its dramas clean, making main characters interesting enough so we’re happy to spend most of our time with them.
Nancy Drew fits nicely into that pocket. Much of the first episode is driven by her narrative voiceovers, and while those may diminish once we need less filling-in on her backstory, her sharp-edged, self-aware and often wryly humorous tone make for an engaging ride.
Nancy Drew doesn’t start off as a procedural, where she solves a case every episode. The parking lot murder, and the role of the victim’s handsome, well-connected husband Ryan (Riley Smith), remain wholly unexplained and unsolved at the end of the first episode.
Which is fine. It gives old-school fans a little more time to establish their own closure with the Nancy Drew of the past.