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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nancy Drew is based on the classic mystery series, but the show's content is considerably more mature than books'. Nancy is portrayed as college-aged (and played by 22-year-old Kennedy McMann), as are the other main characters. The chief mystery that Nancy and her pals are called to solve involves murder, which seems to be connected with a legendary local haunting. Viewers see imagery connected to both: veiled ghosts, a woman falling off a cliff, another lying dead on the ground. Though dead bodies are shown at length, there's no notable blood/gore. A main character's mom has died; the death isn't shown, but viewers do see part of the funeral and a photo of the mom looking pale and ill. Expect more mature sexual content than was ever in the books; Nancy is having sex with her boyfriend, and a trailer is shown moving rhythmically, followed by characters rearranging their clothing. There's also passionate kissing. Language is infrequent: someone is called a "badass," and another character asks "what the hell?" Characters show courage and perseverance in investigating a mystery, but the messages are muddled by poor characterizations. One character is depicted as a stoner, and others drink beer and wine (but no one looks drunk).
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What's the story?
Based on the series of mystery books for young readers, NANCY DREW joins up with the girl sleuth in present day, when Nancy (Kennedy McMann) is taking an unwanted gap year after high school. Her popularity and her grades slid after the death of her mother, and though Nancy still lives with her father Carson (Scott Wolf), you couldn't exactly call them close these days. To make ends meet, Nancy's pulling waitress shifts at The Claw, the seaside seafood restaurant owned by one of Nancy's old high school classmates, George (Leah Lewis), who also employs stoner dishwasher Ace (Alex Saxon) and slumming rich girl Bess (Maddison Jaizani). But on an otherwise ordinary night, prominent socialite Tiffany Hudson (Sinead Curry) is murdered outside The Claw, and local law enforcement officers suspect someone at the restaurant was the culprit. Can Nancy solve Tiffany's murder and figure out why the death seemed to rile up the restless spirit of another long-dead Horseshoe Bay resident?
Is it any good?
This series, based on the classic girl-sleuth books, has all the elements that would seem to make it a steamy CW teen soap, but ultimately it doesn't generate much heat. The actors seem tailor-made to glower out from a Photoshopped cast photo. There's a dad played by a former teen-girl TV idol (Scott Wolf, in this case) who will immediately make a certain segment of the audience do some math (and yes, at 51, Wolf is well old enough to be 22-year-old McMann's dad). Nancy and the other cast members have been given (forgivable) flaws and a place to hang out (a seaside seafood restaurant called The Claw where most of the cast works). And the old-school Nancy Drew mysteries that frequently revolved around scheming relatives and or greedy business partners have been leveled up to murder with an ancillary haunting.
It all just feels Riverdale-esque, and derivative where Riverdale read as innovative when it came out: it's like somebody made a less-arty version of Twin Peaks. The charm of Nancy Drew was that she was a spunky girl in a time when girls were very much encouraged to not be that, an asker of awkward questions and discoverer of intricate plots. When McMann's Nancy goes charging into a suspect's house with a flashlight and immediately finds a hidden compartment, we feel a stirring of that old black magic. But ultimately the characters feel dull and predictable, the drama feels shopworn, and the supernatural filigree read as shoehorned-in. It'll be no mystery if viewers decide to spend their fleeting free time on another show.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the recent spate of book-turned-series adaptations that includes Riverdale, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and Anne with an E. Why are these types of adaptations proliferating? Do the creators hope that a beloved series of books will come with a built-in audience? Do they hope to appeal to viewers of different ages? What other motivations might there be?
Have you read any Nancy Drew books? If you have, does that background enhance or detract from your appreciation of this show? Is it better to come into a show "cold" or to know something about the characters and settings when you begin watching?
A common modern approach to updating classic books is to increase the amount of mature content: i.e. add sex, drugs, violence. How does the amount of mature content in Nancy Drew relate to the books? How does it compare with other soaps aimed at a teen audience?