Nancy Drew is leaving the dusty shelves of your mom’s old bedroom and coming to a prime-time drama. Deadline has announced that a shelved CBS adaptation would be moving to NBC, keeping producers Tom Phelan and Joan Rater but forcing a significant retooling. This comes after CBS passed on the series in 2016, opting instead to pick up the Nancy Drew producers’ other pilot, Doubt. Both series were developed as a part of Phelan and Rater’s 2 year deal with CBS TV Studios.
Disappointing many, CBS’s Sarah Shahi-led reboot was DOA last year despite positive screenings. According to Deadline, the modern retelling of the intrepid girl detective tested well, but skewed “too feminine” for their lineup…which is, of course, horse shit but that’s the business. CBS needs to make room for six NCIS spinoffs, four shows about shlubby suburban dads, and of course, Young Sheldon.
Once the pilot for Nancy Drew was rejected, CBS TV Studios and producers Tom Phelan and Joan Rater were determined the get the show picked up on another network. Apparently, it took a significant retool for NBC to bite, as the pair of producers changed the premise radically. No longer focused on a 30-something Drew contending with cases in a modern day police force, the show will be a sort of female Castle, where Nancy Drew is a real person who based the Nancy Drew series on her own life. Brought in to an ongoing murder mystery, she decides she needs the help of two childhood friends. Still mad at her for making them simple sidekicks, the three women, all in their 40s and 50s, must pull together and solve the modern day mysteries they have found themselves involved in.
The Nancy Drew book series began in 1930 when Hardy Boys creator Edward Stratemeyer thought the boys needed a female counterpart. After the publisher rejected such names as “Diana Dare,” “Helen Hale,” and “Nan Nelson,” they finally settled on Nancy Drew to be the new heroine’s name. Like all books from the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the books were written by various ghostwriters under the collective pen name “Carolyn Keene.” Since her debut, Drew has appeared in 175 volumes of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series, as well as 124 volumes of the more middle-grade Nancy Drew Files series.
She has also appeared in multiple modern spins, graphic novels, and crossovers with the Hardy Boys. Four adaptations of her adventures were put to film between 1938 and 1939, with a fifth adaptation starring Emma Roberts coming out in 2007. She has not been so lucky on the small screen, with most attempts marred by bad luck or lack of interest, save a 1977 series The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. While the series helped make actress Pamela Sue Martin (later of Dynasty) a teen idol, Nancy never got the full spotlight and by the second season had become little more than a guest star. The new series from NBC will mark her first television appearance since an abortive ABC effort in 2002.
The husband-and-wife duo of Phelan and Rater creating the new series are best known for their work as writers and producers on Grey’s Anatomy, where they served as writers and eventually showrunners in their final three seasons there. Their show Doubt starred Grey’s Anatomy star, Katherine Heigl. Facing mixed reviews and bad ratings, CBS nixed the show after the second episode, with the rest of the series burned off in July of this year.