The Hardy Boys





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Frank and Joe Hardy have a mystery on their hands.

That, paradoxically, is no mystery. In fact, it’d be weird if they didn’t. The brothers have solved literally hundreds of mysteries in their long literary history, cracking cases related to everything from diamond smuggling to medical malpractice to, of course, murder.

But now, the boys are sleuthing on Hulu. And this time, the mystery is very, very personal.

What Happened in Bridgeport

The brothers—16-year-old Frank and pre-adolescent Joe—are still reeling from a terrible tragedy: Their mother was killed in a car crash while driving to one of Frank’s baseball games.

Fenton, the boys’ grief-stricken dad, can’t raise the lads all on his own. So he and the boys move down to the small town of Bridgeport (motto: “Where friends meet”) to live with Aunt Trudy and for all three can start over.

But it’s not so simple as that. They’ve barely had time to unpack when a mysterious stranger shows up and tells Fenton that his wife’s death wasn’t an accident: She was murdered. The former journalist was still working, apparently—much to Fenton’s surprise—and she’d found something big.

Might it have something to do with the boat that recently exploded offshore? A boat that had recovered a chest with a bevy of strange artifacts in it? A boat that just so happened to be owned by Gloria Estebrook—the Hardy boys’ well-to-do grandmother?

Yep, pretty mysterious, all right. But perhaps the biggest mystery is just how Frank and Joe Hardy can be nearly 100 years old and still be in school.

The Hidden Hulu Mystery

The Hardy Boys began their long history of sleuthing back in 1927—three years before Nancy Drew pulled out her own magnifying glass. Since then, literally hundreds of Hardy Boys mysteries have been published (all ghostwritten under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon). To my knowledge, they’ve never failed to solve a case.

Hulu’s version of Frank and Joe Hardy looks a little different from the original models, who were 18 and 17 years old, respectively. Frank’s a high school baseball star researching colleges. Joe’s still waiting for his voice to change. It’s set in the 1980s, too—as if the makers were trying to give the show a bit of a Stranger Things nostalgia vibe. And, of course, devoting a whole season to an overarching mystery departs from Hardy Boys’ typical quick, clean mystery solving.

But in a way, this reboot still hews closer to the spirit of the original mysteries than CW’s version of Nancy Drew does.

Nancy and her pals are far less innocent on their television home, and sometimes the mysteries seem to take a back seat to sensual, teen-centric melodrama.

It’s early yet in the Hardy Boys’ run, but the show’s TV-PG rating suggests that Hulu hopes to keep this more of a family show, and to keep the boys on a more age-appropriate track. Surely, romance will be part of the picture as the show trundles along, but the show doesn’t feature more than a quick kiss now and then. We also see quite a bit of violence. But even when people die (and they do, with alarming frequency) the grotesqueries are kept at a distance. Even the language has been refreshingly clean. Instead of going for the whole, “The characters you loved are back, only sexier” vibe that CW gives its reboots, The Hardy Boys simply says, “The characters you loved are back.” And that’s pretty great.

The Hardy Boys are indeed back—getting younger, oddly, as their franchise wears on. But for viewers being introduced to these sibling sleuths for the first time, that’s a good thing.

Episode Reviews

Dec. 4, 2020: “Welcome to Your Life”

After their mother dies in a tragic car crash, Frank and Joe Hardy—along with their policeman father—move to quaint Bridgeport. But when a strange man grabs Joe during a town-wide get-together, and a strange woman visits their father and tells him that his wife was murdered, the brothers realize that there’s more to Bridgeport than just clean streets and good ice cream.

On the day of Mrs. Hardy’s deadly accident, she tries to drive away from a car that’s driving waaaay too aggressively. The surviving Hardys see the crash site, including Mom’s overturned and smashed-up SUV. Elsewhere, baddies shoot and kill several people aboard a boat, then set the boat on fire. (It explodes shortly thereafter.) Joe’s temporary kidnapper holds a knife and threatens the kid with it. The Hardy boys’ father, working undercover, hits a suspect in the face. (The suspect was quickly arrested for bribery.) Several people attend a funeral.

Frank kisses his girlfriend before leaving town (much to the annoyance of some). Joe can be a bit exasperating: He lashes out and blames Frank for his mother’s death. He’s going to summer school because he failed algebra. He taunts some bullies by kicking their ball a long way away (necessitating a hasty departure).

He kicked that ball, by the way, after one of the bullies called him “farty.” The brothers call each other names, too, including “butt head” and “barf bag,” but that’s as bad as the language gets here.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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