Sunday, 11 April 2021

Reboot of crimefighting ‘Hardy Boys’ comes with a new twist




‘THE HARDY BOYS’ ON HULU

This is not intended to be a history lesson, but it has to be noted that “The Hardy Boys” books have been around for almost a century, going back to prolific ghostwriters, under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon, churning out teen pulp fiction.

The series of mystery stories about two teenagers who are amateur sleuths solving cases that adults couldn’t handle were certainly popular in my youth. Following the adventures of Frank and Joe Hardy in print was always enjoyable.

In today’s culture of the Internet, Facebook, Instagram and all forms of social media that don’t tax anyone’s attention span, I have no idea if the books are still popular with the target audience.

Up until now, the most identifiable fulfilment of “The Hardy Boys” in the television medium was the 1970s series on ABC that starred Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy as the sleuthing teens who were often joined by Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy Drew.

Hulu has rebooted “The Hardy Boys” for a 13-episode run that is now streaming, with the Hardy siblings at a younger age than the stars of the ABC series but no less resourceful in the business of investigation.

Frank Hardy (Rohan Campbell), a 16-year-old athletic star on the high school baseball team, and his brother Joe (Alexander Elliot), a 12-year-old prodigy with an uncanny ability to pick locks like a professional thief, enjoy a wonderful family life until tragedy strikes.

This may be a spoiler to inform you that their mother, Laura Hardy (Janet Porter), who had been an investigative reporter, suffers a fatal automobile accident only minutes into the first episode.

However, the mystery surrounding the demise of the Hardy siblings’ mother is the catalyst for the sleuthing adventures of the boys taking it upon themselves to launch their own investigation into her death.

After this family tragedy, Frank and Joe are forced to move from the big city located in a seemingly unspecified New England location to their parents’ hometown of Bridgeport for the summer.

Without much explanation to the boys, the patriarch Fenton Hardy (James Tupper), a veteran detective with the Dixon City police department, embarks on a secret overseas mission to search for answers that might be found with one of the last people to have seen his wife.

Meanwhile, the boys stay with their Aunt Trudy (Bea Santos) in the sleepy seaside small town where it seems time is frozen in the Fifties rather than the actual era of the 1980s, in part because the town kids hang out at an old-fashioned soda fountain joint.

In reality, Bridgeport is not a conventional small town. The Hardy boys’ grandmother, Gloria Estabrook (Linda Thorson), a woman of considerable wealth and power, is an enigma to her own family and a mysterious figure with considerable sway in the community.

For instance, what is Gloria’s connection to a fishing boat that is destroyed at sea and on which several crew members are killed by the nefarious Tall Man (Stephen R. Hart) anxious to get his hands on a mystical ancient relic?

What about J.B. Cox (Atticus Mitchell), a shady character who pulls a D.B. Cooper stunt by jumping out of an airplane with a mysterious package and is later found by Joe and his pal Biff (Riley O’Donnell) camping on the beach in a tent made from a parachute?

Intrigue lurks everywhere, even when Frank is encouraged by Gloria to take the entrance test to the elite Rosegrave Preparatory School and later finds out that the Dean (Frank Licari) had a close connection to his mother that he’s afraid to talk about on the school grounds.

After completing the Rosegrave exam, Frank partners with his friend Callie Shaw (Keana Lyn) to work together to solve the exam’s last puzzle to escape from Gloria’s study, only to discover another secret room with a connection to the relic being sought by the scary Tall Man.

Intrigue also comes to the Bridgeport Public School when Frank befriends the new girl in town, Stacy (Rachel Drance), who is deemed by Callie to be suspicious either due to jealousy or a reason more sinister.

Binge-watching “The Hardy Boys” over a series of nights is an option, and the early going may seem a bit sluggish at times, but I am more than half-way through and there are enough mysteries beyond the mother’s death to warrant attention.

While “The Hardy Boys” is an American creation, most of the actors in this Hulu Original series are Canadian as the filming occurred north of the border, and yet the setting is unmistakably as American as apple pie.

Potential viewers may assume that this production of “The Hardy Boys” is targeted to the demographic most likely to read the books. Au contraire, the mysteries and intrigues that abound cast a wider net of interest.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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