The aging, bitter childhood detective

CBS will welcome detective Nancy Drew to its programming lineup soon, but not the Nancy Drew you might remember from the dusty shelves of your elementary school library:

The drama, which is in development, is described as a contemporary take on the character from the iconic book series. Now in her 30s, Nancy is a detective for the NYPD where she investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills, all while navigating the complexities of life in a modern world.

And, promises the network, she will not be white; Drew could be Brazilian… or Chinese… or somethin’ weird. It’s the age, though, that Katrina Trinko of Acculturated has an issue with: “[I]f Nancy’s ethnic and racial background was irrelevant, her age and independence were not. And that’s what the new TV series completely misunderstands.” Trinko points out the appeal of Nancy Drew books to girls in the elementary-to-middle-school age range, offering a role model in the wise-beyond-her-years sleuth able to outwit the adults in her life.

Yet the new Nancy Drew allows CBS to offer kids an important lesson: No matter how full of promise your life seems, eventually the weight of adulthood crushes us all. Your dream job as a kid will turn out to be a dreary, soul-sapping endeavor that bleeds a little more hope from your reservoir each day.

Why should CBS stop with Nancy Drew? Maybe the clean-cut Hardy Boys could go for a gritty, modern reboot. Older brother Frank would have his act together and boast a cushy, if uninspiring, job monitoring crime statistics in the Bayport mayor’s office. Younger brother Joe would run what had been their late father’s detective agency, but now with a low-life clientele who pay him to tail cheating spouses or dig through trash cans looking for reasons to evict tenants. Their lives would intersect when a city council candidate asks for Joe’s help doing shady opposition research, and he stumbles on a corruption scandal that goes all the way to city hall. (Rhea Perlman would make guest appearances as Aunt Gertrude.)

Does anyone think Encyclopedia Brown would have kept solving crimes for a quarter a day (plus expenses)? Flash forward to see Leroy Brown running IT for the Idaville police department while secretly pining in vain for police chief Sally Kimball. The neighbors on his cul-de-sac include Bugs Meany, who has trained his dog to do his business on Encyclopedia’s front lawn, and shady investment banker Wilford Wiggins, who constantly tries sell Encyclopedia suspect financial products or recruit him into one of his several fantasy football leagues.

And who wouldn’t want to see a surly, middle-aged man-child version of Nate the Great – unemployed, living with his parents, and constantly catching flack from his successful cousin Olivia?

Maybe CBS is onto something here.

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