SERIES TITLE: The Haunting of Nancy Drew
NETWORK: The CW
GENRE: Detective Horror Drama
LOGLINE: Set in the summer after her high school graduation,18-year-old Nancy Drew thought she’d be leaving her hometown for college, but when a family tragedy holds her back another year, she finds herself embroiled in a ghostly murder investigation — and along the way, uncovers secrets that run deeper than she ever imagined. When Nancy ends up a suspect in a murder, it rekindles her love for detective work, even though the clues lead her to believe that a long-dead local girl may be the killer…
Pilot Cast: Kennedy McMaan, Maddison Jaizani (Versailles, Into the Badlands), Tunji Kasim (Nearly Famous), Leah Lewis (Sing it!, Station 19), Alex Saxon (The Fosters, The Fix), Freddie Prinze Jr (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scooby-Doo)…
Series Creator: Noga Landau (The Magicians),Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage (The OC, Gossip Girl, Dynasty, Marvel’s Runaways).
Pilot Director: Larry Teng (Supergirl, Animal Kingdom, Elementary).
Producers: Noga Landau, Melinda Hsu Taylor (Lost, Vampire Diaries, The Gifted), Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage.
Studios: CBS Television Studios & Fake Empire.
Ever wonder how TV executives wade through the dozens of pilot scripts they’re pitched each year? They have staff script readers, who provide what’s called “Script Coverage,” an executive summary and a recommendation for each script. Now you too can preview some of the season’s most buzzed about pilots and find out whether we’d recommend them for pickup. Note that all opinions are our own, and all plot, casting and other creative details described here are subject to change.
You’ll Like It If You Already Like: Riverdale, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Veronica Mars, Charmed…
Likely Timeslot: They could definitely use Riverdale as its lead-in. They could also pair it with Charmed.
WRITTEN BY: Noga Landau.
PAGECOUNT: 56 pages
DRAFT: 2nd Network draft 1/13/19
BACKGROUND: Launching a Nancy Drew TV series has been a priority for CBS Television Studios, which has the rights to the the classic YA mystery books originally published by Stratemeyer Syndicate and later Simon & Schuster, for quite a while now. Two versions have already been developed over the past three years. First Drew at CBS, starring Sarah Shahi as a 30-year-old version of the cult character (It was not good), which went to pilot and got close to a series order. Its star later confessed : “I’m very happy it didn’t go. It was not good”. She also said it was considered “too female” by the network: “My response was like, ‘I don’t remember us talking about tampons and our, like, placentas and our cycles on the show.’ So I don’t know what was too female about it.” Anyway.
Then Nancy Drew was developed at NBC last year, this time with a Nancy in her 40s, who has written her own adventures as books, and must now team up with her estranged former friends to solve a murder mystery. It didn’t go beyond the script stage. Both incarnations were from writers Tony Phelan and Joan Rater (Grey’s Anatomy, Doubt) and producer Dan Jinks. They left CBS Television Studios since then for Universal.
At the time, I was wondering why CBS Television Studios didn’t turn the property into a nice little CW show, keeping the central character as a teenage girl or a young adult. It apparently took them 4 years to realize that was the best and most logial option… And they asked Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage to write and supervise the project. They know a thing or two about teen dramas, so that made sense. So, third time’s the charm, as they say?
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: After graduating high school, a depressed, secretive and curious NANCY DREW (18) skips out on college and must face life in the wake of her mother’s death, still living with her dad CARSON, as she begins to solve a ghostly mystery. Her friends aren’t as they seem and trust isn’t something that comes easy to her. After discovering TIFFANY HUDSON murdered with her coworkers GEORGE PHAN (18) and ACE (21) from The Claw dinner, Nancy Drew is back in her crime solving ways, along with BESS MARVIN (18), a new girl in town who quickly becomes an ally. Her boyfriend/secret lover NED “NICK” NICKERSON (19) has his own unbecoming past with Tiffany Hudson that makes Nancy question everything. Did Ned kill Tiffany? Nancy must battle her past in order to uncover and solve this murder case, while LUCY SABLE, a long-dead local girl, starts to haunt her…
COMMENTS: Based on the Nancy Drew mystery stories, this CW pilot is a nice surprise since the previous adaptations were failures that questioned the necessity and the relevance of such a character in the 21st century. Turns out a young woman who solves mysteries can still be a thing in 2019, even when Veronica Mars did a great job a few years ago. Remember, she was often described as “Nancy Drew meets Philip Marlowe” when she arrived on our screens. What strikes me the most with this script, which has flaws to be honest, is that it manages to be both classic an modern, predictable and exciting, funny and pretty scary. It’s easy to picture it around shows such as Riverdale or Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. It almost feels like it’s part of the same universe, like a secret spin-off. Even though I’m not a big fan of those series myself, I’m convinced there’s an audience for his new addition.
Let’s meet the new versions of those familiar characters first. So, Nancy is 18, she’s in grief since her mother died, she’s living the worst version she could picture of her life: stuck in the small town she grew up in, with very few friends around her, a reputation that she’s not always confortable with and a job as a waitress that really doesn’t fulfill her. This Nancy is sexually active, she’s into hook-ups and we meet her as she’s having sex with Nick, her secret flame that she may be ready to share a real relationship with. Nick is a former high school athlete with a mysterious past, who should be on full scholarship to a top university. Instead, he’s working as a car mechanic. What they have in common is a feeling that their lives are not going into the right direction and that’s something they can escape from when they’re together. If there’s chemistry between the actors, that should work fine.
The new George is a tough, tattooed girl from the wrong side of the tracks who felt personally wronged by Nancy in high school. But now they are both suspects in the killing of Tiffany Hudson, the two nemesis are forced to team up to track the culprit and clear their names… and it just may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. But we’re clearly not there yet! Their current dynamics made of nasty jokes and little humiliations is too good to abandon so quickly. Then there’s the new Bess, a refined young woman whose wealthy background sets her apart from Nancy but here again, the investigation to find the real killer help them connect, while Bess is doing whatever it takes to keep her own dark secrets hidden. Those three women at the center of the show are really the main draw. They form some sort of sorority, created by the circumstances, that is more complex than it was in the books. The other male lead is Ace, a charming dishwasher with a philosophical bent, whose provocative insights on the murder investigation will lead Nancy to conclude that there’s much more to this supposed burnout than meets the eye. I wouldn’t be surprised this turns into a love triangle trope between Nancy, Nick and Ace. That wouldn’t be the most innovative idea…
The Haunting of Nancy Drew has something charming going on for it. It may be the town of Bayport, a fishing village that feels like Riverdale but with the ocean, with its traditions and a melancholia that comes with the views. For now, it’s the main street, the police station, the dinner, Nancy’s house, the bluffs and Bayridge Drive, the part of the town where the rich folks live. It’s enough to get a sense of what life is for Nancy over there. Most of us would love to live in such a place, or at least go there for vacations, for her it’s hell. We’ll see what the director will make of the scenery and for once, Vancouver, where it will be filmed, matches with how it’s supposed to look like. Yay! But what’s interesting is that it becomes progressively scarier. The more the investigation progresses, the more it becomes clear that it’s not exactly the idyllic town we thought it would be. It smells like death, there are ghosts and we end up with a medium in a motorized wheelchair for a spiritism seance! I’m not a big fan of the fantasy/horror part of the show, but at least it’s properly introduced. So it won’t just be about murder mysteries being solved every week. In fact, it seems like the whole first season will revolve around the same story and it’s good news, especially if they’re aiming at shortened seasons of 10-13 episodes. There’s one story about Nancy’s past and her parents’ that’s particularly intriguing. Are they murderers themselves? Maybe that’s the thing that will make me stay around a little bit more.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: The Haunting of Nancy Drew has found a way to be faithful to the character and its famous adventures, to update her status as a feminist icon who lives in our era, to capture the atmosphere of a strange fishing village and to fall within the framework of the recent teen noir dramas that became worldwide phenomenons such as Riverdale. It’s the best version The CW can get of a detective show, with wit and charm. That’s why they’d better give it a chance.
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] PASS
[ ] CONSIDER
[ X ] RECOMMEND