Rants & Raves

Why CBS’s Nancy Drew Adaptation Is All Wrong

CBS just announced they’re developing a drama series based on the iconic Nancy Drew novels. It will be a contemporary take seeing Nancy in her 30s working as an NYPD detective.

Please excuse me while I go throw up.

In elementary school I read the shelves of our library’s Nancy Drew section dry. Then I went to city library. I scrounged every garage sale and bookstore clean. I loved her, I lived through her. And then I grew up and became a mystery writer. It is not an overstatement to say that the stories of Nancy (and George and Bess and Ned and Carson and Hannah) changed my life and shaped me into the person I am today. This is why I can state, with utmost certainty, that Nancy Drew would never work for the NYPD. At least not the Nancy that I know and love.

Nancy is an amateur sleuth. Cases find her, not the other way around. She occasionally works with the local police, but has no credentials. She never accepts payment. She doesn’t carry a gun or need a warrant. Nancy hops towns and sometimes countries to solve the crime du jour, always relying solely on her wits, charm, and friends. (What, is Bess an NYPD secretary? George her tough and jaded former partner, fresh out of rehab and back on the beat? Ned… oh, where will sweet, bland Ned fit in this new adaptation?) Her unofficial capacity always granted her the ability to sleuth how she saw fit — and when she got in trouble, she had no badge to back her up. She relied on people underestimating her. Now if someone underestimates her as an NYPD detective, it will be only because she is a woman.

I have no problem with a reimagining of the series. Of course Nancy should be in her 30s! We spent so much time with her as teen and in her early twenties, we’re hungry for the next chapter. But solving crimes on a police force? I don’t think so.

You know where Nancy should be? In a small town, middle of nowhere, hiding from the mystery that brought her to her knees. She should be uncertain of her future, a little bit broken, and traumatized by the mistake that killed her father or Hannah or Ned. (Don’t tell me she can be in the NYPD this way, that’s just Beckett from Castle.) Maybe she’s dusting a centuries old rocking chair in the small antique shop she manages when the bell above the front door jingles and she looks up to see Bess: pregnant in a frilly pink dress, but ashen and crying. Will Nancy be able to forgive herself and help her friend? Can she solve all the secrets of her adopted home, River Cove? And where, for the love of haunted showboats and secret attics, is George?

I want more than anything to go on new adventures with Nancy. I want to travel to new locales, chase down missing heirlooms, be thwarted by charming magicians, sneak through pirate ship portholes and find hidden hallways. I don’t want Nancy answering to her tough boss, bickering with her will-they-or-won’t-they co-worker, or peeking under sheets laid over dead bodies on the streets of NYC. We’ve seen that a million times.

Nancy is different. Nancy is exciting. Nancy is not a CBS procedural. Producing this version of Nancy Drew (without the heart or soul of the story and character the world has loved for 85 years) proves CBS is only interested in brand recognition and a built-in fan base. Oh, network of the Columbia Broadcasting System, you already have Sherlock and a dozen CSIs, why oh why won’t you give us the Nancy we love, the Nancy we deserve.

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