The Hardy Boys on Hulu: Should You Watch It?
Hulu launched The Hardy Boys last week with fairly little fanfare. If you weren’t looking for it, then you might have missed it. But I took a look at it, and about halfway through, here’s what I think.
Read Him? I Hardy Know Him!
I don’t recall ever reading a book in the Hardy Boys series. I don’t think it’s necessary for the show, anyway. I always thought of the series as “like Nancy Drew, but for boys,” and that’s pretty much what it is. (Well, it’s the other way around, really, since the Hardy Boys series came first.) Both book series were born in the late 20s/early 30s, so the first thing you notice is that the names are quite…vintage. (As with classic superhero stories, everyone’s named something like Biff or Chet or Bruce.) Also, the original versions are wildly racist.
And as with Nancy Drew, there have been TV adaptations of the Hardy Boys books before. The most well-known version is probably the 70s series, which starred Parker Stevenson and your mom’s crush Shaun Cassidy. That show, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, started out as a crossover between the two storylines before they rudely jettisoned Nancy altogether in the last season.
The Hardy Boys on Hulu: What You Need to Know
image via Hulu
First of all, as with all the iterations before them, the basic premise is that two brothers, Frank (Rohan Campbell) and Joe (Alexander Elliot), solve mysteries. (Note: I’m not going to go into detail, comparing and contrasting the books and this show. Book readers should get to discover the surprises, and if you didn’t read the books, then you might not care. One difference I will mention is that they altered the ages and age difference here. Frank, for instance, is 16, while Joe is 12.)
Frank and Joe are living an apple pie Americana life with their mom, Laura (Janet Porter), and their dad, Fenton (James Tupper). Then their mom dies in a car accident. Fenton, a police detective, takes a leave of absence from work and moves the boys to his hometown for the summer, where they stay with his sister, Trudy (Bea Santos). Their maternal grandmother, Gloria (Linda Thorson), also lives there.
The boys aren’t in Bridgeport for long, though, when they find trouble. Or rather, trouble finds them. They start to realize that there might be more to their mother’s death than they originally thought. Looking into that pulls them into a mystery with many layers. New friends like Callie Shaw (Keana Lyn), Biff Hooper (Riley O’Donnell), Chet Morton (Adam Swain), and Phil Cohen (Cristian Perri) aid the boys in their quest to find the truth.
What I Think So Far
image via Hulu
As I’ve mentioned, I’m still watching this first season. I thought I would bang it out quickly, but it’s not really built for binging. It’s 80s-set like Stranger Things, but it’s not as loud and fast. For one thing, it doesn’t have the urgency of monsters to push it along. Instead, the monsters are just people, and they have their own reasons, good or bad, for what they do.
And while Nancy Drew is the closest analogue to The Hardy Boys, the show Nancy Drew is not. That show is darker, more for teens and adults. Tweens could watch this show, provided they’re okay with the relatively mild violence and the sometimes upsetting themes. (Like the boys losing their mother in the first episode.) With that, I can see families watching this show together, especially if mom and dad enjoyed the books or the previous incarnations of this story.
As for me, I’m cautiously enjoying it so far. It’s really nothing I haven’t seen before and it’s not the most thrilling show, at least for me. However, the central mystery, which becomes more complicated over the season, is intriguing enough for me to keep watching. The dialogue is a little exposition-heavy, with characters sometimes restating something we’ve already heard, just to make sure we get it. But that’s a small quibble, I guess. So if you’re missing Supernatural, then you might want to check out another show about two brothers taking up the family business.
The Hardy Boys is available now on Hulu. I’ll be back soon with my thoughts on the season as a whole.
And be sure to let us know what you think, in the comments or on our social media.
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.