October 10, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Nancy Drew”


NANCY DREW:  Wednesday 9PM on CW

Although NANCY DREW doesn’t hail from CW’s go-to producer Greg Berlanti (its showrunners are Gossip Girl‘s Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who created the show with Noga Landau), the series is clearly meant to follow in the path of Berlanti’s Riverdale as an “adult” (i.e., sexualized and violent) update of a venerable piece of children’s IP.  That includes the casting of a former teen icon–here, Scott Wolf as Nancy’s dad–in a supporting role, and a central mystery that may or may not have supernatural layers.

Thus the show’s Nancy (Kennedy McMann) is a post-high school waitress whose mother has recently died of cancer, and who solves crimes with the help of boyfriend Nick (Tunji Kasim) and co-workers George (Leah Lewis), Bess (Maddison Jaizani) and Ace (Alex Saxon).  They’re searching for the murderer of the wife of local rich guy Ryan Hudson (Riley Smith)–and all of them are potential suspects as well–which may connect to the mysterious disappearance years before of the town’s prom queen.

Riverdale is far from perfect, but it can take credit for being fully committed to its over-the-topness.  Nancy Drew is less wholeheartedly pulpy and considerably blander.  As with Riverdale, if the characters didn’t bear their source material names, they’d hardly be recognizable as transgressing their family-friendly roots, but while Riverdale is modeled after the inimitably strange Twin Peaks, Nancy Drew seems to be aiming for a more rococo Veronica Mars.  (Nancy even provides wisecracking narration as that show did.)  The murder itself is none too interesting at first glance, despite the attempt to suggest ghostly involvement, so there’s not much to grab one’s attention.

The cast doesn’t seem much more than competent, and their characters, despite carefully planted secrets that are mostly revealed in the closing moments of the opening episode, have little dimension.  Although Nancy and Nick have a vigorous sex life and she discovers that her father has been sleeping with a local cop (Alvina August), a relationship that may have begun before her mother’s death, there’s little heat on display.  The atmospheric moments of Larry Teng’s pilot direction have the familiar look of low-budget VOD thrillers.

The ratings standards on CW are so low that it’s hard to tell what separates a hit from a miss–earlier this week, the fact that All American‘s season premiere scored a rating one-tenth of a point higher than last year’s was deemed worthy of an instant order of extra episodes–so Nancy Drew, which has the compatible Riverdale as its lead-in, may well be deemed a success.  There’s little here, though, to suggest a mystery viewers will be desperate to solve.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."