Does the phrase “Nancy Drew reboot” give you déjà vu? A year ago, CBS attempted to bring the character back to television as a 30-something NYPD detective, but Drew never made it past the pilot stage. Now, Deadline reports that creators Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, the creative team also behind CBS’ short-lived Doubt, are reimagining Nancy Drew again, this time at NBC, with an entirely new twist on the famed teenage detective.
According to Deadline, the NBC show will conflate the fictional character, Nancy Drew, with her (equally fictional) author, “Carolyn Keene.” Keene is not a real person, but a pseudonym used by ghostwriters for the series since its inception and through the present day. This new Nancy Drew will be “the author of the most famous female teen detective book series” who finds herself in the midst of an actual murder mystery. She seeks help from two childhood friends, “who were the inspiration for all those books” and “have a real ax to grind about the way their supposed best friend chose to portray them all those years ago.”
That’s a very different concept from the one that Phelan and Rater conceived for last year’s Drew, which stripped Nancy Drew of all of her fundamental characteristics—her 1930s origins, her age, and even her vaguely Midwestern hometown—and threw the character into a generic-sounding contemporary crime show set in New York City. This time, we’re getting a mystery-writer-turned-mystery-solver concept more in the vein of Murder, She Wrote or Castle, but there is at least one notable quality that both the CBS and NBC reboots have in common: Nancy is no longer a teenager. In fact, in NBC’s Nancy Drew, the character and her friends, presumably Nancy’s longtime sidekicks Bess and George, will be even older, in their 40s and 50s.
This wouldn’t be the first time Nancy has aged for the screen—Margot Kidder played the character as an adult in the failed USA series Nancy Drew and Daughter, which was cancelled after Kidder was injured during filming—but making a show about famously teenaged detective with a middle-aged lead is a strange choice at the current moment. Why not just do a straightforward, contemporary reboot of Nancy Drew as a high schooler? Given the wild popularity of teen mystery shows like Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why, that seems like a no-brainer. Instead, Phelan and Rater’s new show will lean into having middle-aged protagonists; Rater even called the characters’ ages “their superpower.”
“No one notices them when they walk in. It’s a way for them to fly under the radar,” she told Deadline. “They talk about how they feel unseen.”