The Dilettante's Guide to The Hardy Boys

(Archived from my now-defunct Geocities site. Originally written in 2000.)

I discovered "The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries" in 1999 after the good folks at the cable network TV Land briefly added this gem to their lineup, thus unwittingly filling a void I hadn't realized existed, a gaping chasm in my soul that could only be bridged by a couple of earnest teen boys with feathered shag hairdos and white flared pants. Based upon the time-honored children's adventure books penned under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon, the 1977-1979 ABC series featured Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy as plucky teen investigators Frank and Joe Hardy. Hardy Boy episodes alternated weekly with Nancy Drew episodes, with Pamela Sue Martin as the feisty detective heroine. The show was produced by Glen A. Larson, the unparalleled purveyor of flared-pants-and-feathered-hair entertainment (see "Knight Rider" and "Battlestar Gallactica" for further evidence). Less notably, Larson also composed the spectacularly unhummable theme music.

Let me be clear about something: in many respects, the show is less than stellar. In fact, one could make a compelling argument that it kind of sucks. The dialogue is sometimes cringe-worthy, the plots fluctuate between inanity and incomprehensibility, and the production values suffer badly in comparison with current standards. While I would argue that the amateurish (read: half-assed) aspects of the show actually contribute to the overall viewing pleasure, the bulk of my praise rests squarely on the fluffy heads of the pulchritudinous young stars, Shaun and Parker. Endearing, charming, sharp as tacks, and -- lest we forget -- cuter than baby rabbits, these two turned the show into a deliriously enjoyable viewing experience.

The show itself is pretty chaste (it really wouldn't do to have the Hardy Boys whoring around), but the producers thoughtfully added a jolt of sleaze by dressing the boys in tight bellbottoms and skimpy athletic shorts. Shaun and Parker also seemed to get soaking wet a lot, bless their hearts. There's something undeniably late-'70s about these two in that wholesome yet sort of trampy way, like they'd smell pleasantly of Prell and Tang and cherry lip gloss.

Parker Stevenson
I'm listing Parker first out of a sense of righting past indignities. The seasoned star of a number of respectable early-'70s dramas, the twenty-something Parker suddenly found himself in a second-place position to teen neophyte Shaun, who got better billing, the flashier role, and, one suspects, the larger paycheck -- not to mention a disproportionate number of "Tiger Beat" covers. Ninety percent of the time, Parker's Frank Hardy seems like an earnest yet easygoing fellow, like you could bounce Frisbees off his forehead and he'd smile placidly in response. But then there's that narrow margin where Parker's in another zone entirely, and the darker side of Frank Hardy emerges. Check out the moment in "The Mystery of King Tut's Tomb" when he cheerfully offers to break the female lead's teeth, or in "The Last Kiss of Summer" (pt 2) when he subdues an out-of-control Joe with a well-placed punch in the face.

Post-"Hardy Boys," Parker has etched out a nice career for himself playing a variety of lifeguards and detectives on TV shows and cable movies. In his favor, he manages to throw himself wholly into even the most ludicrous of roles, something which his former costar can't quite bring himself to do. Compare Shaun wincing his way through a bleak "Matlock" two-parter with Parker's buoyant performance in the "aliens-keep-abducting-me-and-stealing-my-sperm" hooey "Official Denial" -- a movie which required Parker to shave off his lovely fluffy hair for no particular reason. Parker's assured, cheery performance in the puerile med school sex romp "Stitches" almost raises it above the bottom-barrel level of exposed breasts and gay jokes. Almost. (Even Parker's upbeat attitude has its limits. He looks flatly miserable in the made-for-cable film "Legion," which is less fun than any low-budget "Aliens" ripoff featuring a fight to the death between Parker and Rick Springfield has any right to be.)

Shaun Cassidy
Sure, half-brother David was a huge teen idol. And yes, the celebrity lifestyles of parents Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones primed him for the spotlight. Honestly, though, this kid could have been raised by Komodo dragons on a remote island in the Java Sea, and Hollywood would have found him. The gold standard of teen idols, Shaun was a slim-hipped fireball of charisma and charm. I'm not the first to point this out, but jeez, he was lovely, like the final product of insidious cloning experiments using genetic material from baby squirrels and woodland elves.

Interestingly, while he was adorable, Shaun has never been cuddly. There's a frosty remoteness to him that surfaces mostly during cheesy, drawn-out emotional moments (oh, yeah, "The Hardy Boys" has more than a few of those). As originally conceived, Frank Hardy was supposed to be the brainy, rational one, while younger brother Joe was the more reckless, emotional sibling. It never really worked out that way; Shaun's too wry and calculating to be believably impetuous.

Somehow, Shaun also managed to find the time to be a hugely successful pop star, touring the country on the weekends while wearing a variety of skanky satin outfits and selling millions of records. He got a Grammy nomination, too (and lost to Debby Boone. 1977 was a weird year in music). Following the show's cancellation, Shaun starred in the short-lived series, "Breaking Away," then retired from the public eye for much of the '80s to raise his young family. He re-emerged briefly in the latter half of the decade with a short stint on "General Hospital," a handful of TV guest appearances, and some crappy made-for-TV movies (rent "Texas Guns," with Willie Nelson. Better yet, don't) before fleeing television acting for good.

The weird thing is, he's smarter than anyone who has ever appeared in public wearing pink satin pants has any business being. Currently, he's got a lucrative multi-year contract as a writer/producer with Studios USA. The 1995 series "American Gothic," which he created, wrote, and produced, stands as one of the most innovative and well-crafted shows of all time. I'm usually a harsh critic of actors who receive extensive script development deals; Shaun, however, earns his paycheck. Shaun has said that in later episodes of "The Hardy Boys," with Glen Larson's encouragement, he began rewriting his dialogue. It shows. Consistently, Joe gets all the good lines.

Enough small talk. On with the episodes. Yes, I know this is not complete. My apologies for omissions. If TV Land ever gets around to showing them again (broad hint), I will fill in the gaps.

Season 1

The Mystery of Witches Hollow
The series gets off to a shaky start with this early episode, in which Frank and Joe, plus their trusty sidekick Callie (a pre-"Beverly Hills Cop" Lisa Eilbacher) and their loser buddy Chet (Gary Morton, doing his best in a lame-duck role) take the boys' Scooby-Doo-esque van to search for Callie's missing uncle in the Massachusetts back woods. Along the way, they evade panthers, befriend an illiterate mute kid (cute Marc Vahanian), and uncover a diabolical scheme to, uh, steal supplies from construction sites. The show is obviously still trying to find its legs in this one; it's also before Shaun and Parker get all glammed out, so they're stuck with uncool short haircuts and dorky plaid shirts. The episode is largely suspense-free; no amount of discordant music and spooky lighting is going to convince anyone that Joe's in danger of falling off that gradually-inclined cliff (especially since young Mr. Cassidy decides to deliver panicky dialogue in a coolly conversational tone: "Help. Frank. I can't hold on much longer." Jeez, kid, have the grace to pretend to be terrified, willya?).

The Disappearing Floor
This one opens with a shot of Frank and Joe playing chess, in a soon-discarded attempt to make them seem brainy. Renowned detective Fenton Hardy (Edmund Gilbert) graciously lets his sons assist him with a case; as this involves having the boys prowl through dark woods in the dead of night while Fenton sleeps, I think Dad's getting the better end of the deal. Frank and Joe encounter a UFO (sigh) and other strange happenings, all of which is caused, naturally, by iconoclastic government experiments with hologram technology. Also naturally, a couple of Russian spies are somehow involved. The continuity is overwhelmingly screwy in this one. Just for fun: using the boys' outfits as a guide, try to figure out the order in which the scenes were originally intended to be shown.

The Flickering Torch Mystery
While investigating the disappearance of a sound engineer, the boys uncover a scheme to blow up Special Guest Star Ricky Nelson. The former heartthrob doesn't have much to do other than sing a few numbers, wear a succession of increasingly bizarre outfits (culminating in a horrendous fluffy fur coat), and look mortally embarrassed that his career has come to this.

The Mystery of the Flying Courier
This is the episode that launched Shaun's pop-star career into high gear, as he sings what appears to be his entire debut album at a local club. It also starts the trend of Frank hastily leaving the room whenever Joe bursts into song. My sympathies lie with Frank here; the kid's a doll, but by the time he breaks into "Da Doo Ron Ron" for the SECOND time, I'm ready to give him an ice cream bar if he'll just stop singing for a minute. There are huge chunks of non-Hardy-related plot involving pirated records, runaway flight attendants, and corrupt disc jockeys, but honestly, I tend to skim any scene not featuring one or both Hardys.

Wipe Out
My only explanation for this episode is that the cast and crew got to Hawaii, then realized they left the script back home. Continuity errors, repeated use of the same shots (how many times do we see the boys drive up to their hotel?), some highly-suspect dubbing, plus some weirdly obvious body doubles only add to the charm of this deliriously hooty episode. While in Hawaii for a surfing competition (Frank being one of those relatively rare competitive surfers from Massachusetts), our boys return to their hotel room and find they've been robbed of their money and plane tickets. The resourceful lads ineptly infiltrate the ring of hotel thieves (led by wonderfully nasty surfer bum Shelley Novack), all while romancing a couple of amiable bikini-clad floozies. Despite this flurry of activity, Joe still finds the time to perform a rousing medley of Beach Boys tunes at an impromptu beach concert. Among other highlights, this episode features Joe, clad only in soaking wet white shorts, crawling on hands and knees through the surf, valiantly rescuing Frank from about four inches of water; this should be a cheap thrill, but I found myself wishing Shaun's mom had been on the set to tell him to put some clothes on. Frank's innate mistrust of women asserts itself here when he somehow gets it into his pretty head that their girlfriends are conspiring with the gang of thieves, despite precious little evidence to support this. Best moment: Frank sternly tells the bad guy, "We didn't just fall off the banana boat." The camera lingers on the boys for an uncomfortably long time: Damned if they don't look like they just fell off the banana boat...

The Secret of the Jade Kwan Yin
While snorkeling, the boys discover a jade statuette and subsequently unearth a gem-smuggling ring within Bayport's surprisingly large Chinese community. While not a standout episode, it's got enough action in the form of enraged kung fu masters and exploding boats to keep things lively. The boys spend an inordinate amount of time gathering fingerprints, which led my dad to wonder whether fingerprints collected by spunky teen detective Joe Hardy would really hold up as evidence in court. Frank and Joe do much of their investigating while wearing hooded sweatshirts and tiny jogging shorts, which is a terrific look; unfortunately, later on, Joe's awful green argyle vest almost brings the episode to its knees.

Season 2

The Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew Meet Dracula" (pts 1 & 2)
The first crossover with its sister series. Pamela Sue Martin guest stars as icy detective Nancy Drew in a plot that leads the boys in a merry romp across Europe searching for their missing father. The trail leads to Transylvania, where Joe sings his little heart out at a rock festival, as Parker and Pamela desperately try to manufacture some sparks between them while snooping around Dracula's lair. There's an undeniable Scooby-Doo charm to this two-parter, especially with Lorne Greene camping it up as the creepy inspector who just might be... Dracula! Guest star singer-songwriter Paul Williams performs his terrific song, "The Hell of It," which goes a long way towards making up for Shaun shimmying his way through "Teen Dream" ("Teen dream, teen dream, whoo-oooo-ooo, oh yeah...").

The Mystery of King Tut's Tomb
Frank and Joe go to Egypt, and apparently forget to pack sunblock and a decent conditioner: the indestructible Hardy hair shows distinct signs of strain. Frank, letting his hormones be his guide, tries to come to the aid of a loopy American girl (Taryn Powers), who gets the boys mixed up in a plot about fake Egyptian treasures. Most notable for Joe's venomous diatribe against the state of Texas.

The Mystery of the Hollywood Phantom" (pts 1 & 2)
Whilst in Los Angeles to attend a detectives' convention (?), Frank and Joe again team up with Nancy Drew (Pamela Sue Martin, bringing her usual blast of ice and vinegar to the proceedings) to uncover the identity of the Hollywood Phantom, a masked apparition who has been abducting convention attendees. There's a welcome amount of skin in this one, as Frank indulges in the single most gratuitous shower in television history. Not to be outdone, Nancy falls into a lake while wearing a filmy nylon dress, then later, flings open her door while shirtless, to the complete befuddlement of Frank. Joe manages to keep all his clothes on, but he does get bound and gagged by the Phantom, which leads him to thrash about wildly in an attempt to free himself. Merry Christmas. Frank is forced to spend much of the episode mooning after Nancy, and gets smooched by guest star Jaclyn Smith for his pains. (Why is Nancy so perpetually icy and snappish, anyway? And I have no knowledge of the working relationship between Pamela and Shaun, but frost forms around the edges of my television set whenever these two share the screen). The episode is a delight, with cameo appearances by Robert Wagner and Dennis Weaver, and random oddness such as Casey Kasem playing an actor playing Peter Falk playing Lt. Columbo. Got it?

The Mystery of the African Safari
Fenton and the boys are in Kenya, investigating widespread poaching at a wildlife preserve. This provides Frank and Joe with the opportunity to dress in a variety of kicky safari outfits, though I would have left the white bellbottoms at home, were I planning on tromping through the mucky African bush. Frank and Joe move into the home of chief suspect Stuart Whitman, where Frank promptly begins putting the moves on Whitman's daughter Anne Lockhart. As my dad pointed out, there are good reasons not to let the Hardy Boys move into your home.

The Creatures That Came on Sunday
En route to Vegas (who the hell drives to Nevada from Massachusetts, anyway?), the boys detour to a small mountain town to track down the missing boyfriend of scatterbrained friend Bonnie Ebsen. She's convinced that aliens are somehow involved; on this show, it's a distinct possibility. While on the prowl for the lost boyfriend, the boys get stalked by a couple of creepy hit men posing as Feds. Complicating matters still more is the crusty sheriff, who doesn't exactly cotton to snoopy pretty boys stirring up trouble in his town. Frank and Joe get tossed in jail, and later, get kidnapped by the hit men (no one on this planet makes a better damsel in distress than Shaun Cassidy; he's got that slightly pissy worried chipmunk expression down to a science). Despite the UFO nonsense, this is actually a pretty well-done episode: It moves along at a nice clip, Shaun and Parker are in fine form, and the dialogue is wittier than usual. Tony Dow surfaces briefly in a cameo appearance as an air traffic controller. The boys flunk Teen Investigating 101 when they mistake an army helicopter for a UFO (hey, it's a natural mistake...).

The Strange Fate of Flight 608
A plane carrying a full load of newly-trained stewardesses goes out of control after the pilots are knocked out by some drugged coffee. Luckily, the Hardy Boys are on board to take charge of the situation (actually, Frank manages to crash the jet in the Bermuda Triangle. Details, details). The boys and the flock of stewardesses find shelter on a deserted island, where they're stalked by jewel smugglers looking to recover some missing loot. There are a few loose ends in this episode; Frank helpfully voices over the huge chunks of plot we don't get to see. The fabulous Hardy hair manages to stay feathered and fluffy after a rough night adrift at sea. What's more, their white bellbottoms remain fresh and crisp. These kids have perfected the art of remaining glamorous in a crisis.

Acapulco Spies
Frank and Joe rush off to Acapulco to find their father, who has disappeared (yet again) while in the middle of an investigation. Despite the urgency of the situation, they take the time to pack wide-collared dinner suits and hair dryers; it's this kind of forward thinking that puts them in the Glamorous Detective Hall of Fame, right alongside Charlie's Angels. In Acapulco, the boys are targeted by a couple of gorgeous American freeloaders; through a series of highly contrived misunderstandings, Frank and Joe think the girls have information about their father (watch for Frank's mistrust of women to surface again), while the girls think the boys are demanding sex as repayment for freeloading. Gosh, no.Eventually, after a perilous hang-gliding sequence, the boys manage to foil the bad guy (here, Fenton loses still more ground in the "Father of the Year" competition for blithely delivering his sons into the hands of his enemy) through Joe's butt-dumb system for transferring fingerprints via strategic use of Scotch tape (Joe explains his system in excruciating detail three complete times; yep, we got it, Joe). Frank and Joe stage a daring prison break to free their father; at one point, Joe takes off in a different direction, and every thug in the place decides to follow the fleet-footed cute little guy instead of the slow-moving, gimpy, middle-aged prisoner they're ostensibly guarding. Makes perfect sense to me.

The Silent Scream
Frank and Joe finally make it to Vegas, where Joe promptly falls for a beautiful deaf girl, who happens to be the only witness to a plot to blow up a casino. After she gets nabbed by the bad guys, Joe comes charging to her rescue. The rescue hinges on Joe's slow and painstaking attempts to sign escape plans to her; this is sweet and all, but as it's kind of a matter of life and death, and it's been amply proven that she reads lips quite well, thank you very much, wouldn't it be faster to, you know, MOUTH THE WORDS? Note to all guys out there: Joe's highly contrived makeout technique only works if you look like Shaun Cassidy, and even then, it's a stretch. Special kudos to the producers for taking Shaun to Las Vegas and not letting him sing.

Oh Say Can You Sing
While Joe performs with a rock group in a small town, the boys unravel a treacherous web of drug deals and attempted murder. Sort of. The plot really serves as an unimportant backdrop to a musical showcase for Shaun, who performs a hair-tossing, shoulder-shimmying rendition of "Hey Deannie," as well as some very long duet with repeat guest star Debra Clinger about livin' and lovin' and laughin' and cryin'; Shaun, honey, it's a good thing you're brainy.

The House on Possessed Hill
I have nothing positive to say about this dreary mess, in which Frank and Joe try to protect a psychic young woman from angry townspeople, and end up unraveling a years-old murder. Guest star Melanie Griffith delivers her lines very... slowly... while Parker looks like he'd like to crawl off in a corner somewhere with a blanket and a mug of TheraFlu. So did I, by the time I was done watching this.

Sole Survivor
A glorious, gloppy Velveeta souffle of an episode, this humdinger opens in Hong Kong, where a gravely injured (or perhaps simply napping) Joe Hardy is rushed into an emergency room. When he regains consciousness, he's informed that he's been in a coma for a year following an accident, and that Frank and his father are dead. Joe promptly bursts into tears, though it's unclear whether this is from the tragic news, or because creepy guest star Diana Muldaur keeps sticking cotton balls in his hair (don't ask). Naturally, this coma hogwash turns out to be the diabolical plot of a gang of East German spies, who, apparently under the impression that they're dealing with a worthy adversary instead of Joe Hardy, plucky teen detective, go to a truly insane amount of effort and expense (doctored newspapers and news broadcasts, forged letters from home) to get Joe to spill the beans about plans for an upcoming defection from China; not to be callous, but I think breaking a couple of his fingers would have worked just as well, at a fraction of the cost. Gullible Joe spills his guts faster than you can say "cockamamie plot twist." The East Germans then deviate from standard evil spy procedure by not killing Joe outright, but instead loosely tying him to a gogeous Hong Kong babe and locking him in a department store.

Meanwhile, Frank and Fenton Hardy -- very much alive, albeit kind of glum -- carry out their part in the defection plan. They're promptly captured by the East Germans; however, Joe comes charging to the rescue. Warm fuzzies all around, although I wish they'd shown the scene where Joe has to explain to Frank and Dad that, gee, he just had to blab about the defection, because he could have sworn he'd really been in a coma for a year... (Sidebar: when my intelligent, sensible parents visited me at Christmas, we spent a huge portion of their visit watching these episodes, entirely at their request. Look, I know why I love the show (something to do with raging hormones); I still have no idea what they were getting out of it. Anyway, after viewing this one, my folks made one demand: No more episodes where Joe bursts into tears, ever. Refer to my earlier notes about Shaun being no damn good at displaying melodramatic emotion for elucidation).

Mystery on the Avalanche Express
The boys and Nancy (Pamela having been replaced by the lovely and, er, lovely Janet Louise Johnson) are on a train chock full o' former teen idols (Fabian, Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, Troy Donahue, Vic Damone) heading to Austria from Hungary. Nancy unwittingly becomes the target of a ruthless band of thieves, while Joe gets muddled in yet another defection plot. This is kind of an erratic though good humored episode, providing Parker and Shaun ample opportunity to show off their cute ski bunny ensembles. Question: on an episode bursting at the seams with past and present pop stars, why is the rousing musical number provided by... Nancy's chum George?

Death Surf
Hands-down winner of best episode title. This one finds Frank and Joe in Hawaii once again, where Frank becomes weirdly obsessed with a drowned girl ("Battlestar Gallactica" knockout Maren Jensen). Naturally, she's not really dead, but merely on the run from a former employer. While Frank moons over Maren, Joe nervously fends off the advances of an amorous cocktail waitress with a penchant for the young stuff. Best line: the waitress asks Joe if anyone's ever told him he has beautiful eyes. A world-weary Joe sighs, "Not today."

Arson & Old Lace
Nancy Drew (Janet Louise Johnson again. Come back, Pamela, all is forgiven) has been missing for the past, um, six months. Frank and Joe (who've apparently been too busy surfing and singing to start the investigation any sooner) come to Los Angeles, and manage to track her down over the course of a lazy afternoon. She's being held prisoner by an eccentric tycoon (Joseph Cotten, a long way from "The Magnificent Ambersons") in his downtown high-rise penthouse. The boys' daring rescue plans are complicated by spunky arsonist Cathy Rigby, who cheerfully firebombs the building, while Frank rushes to save Nancy and Joe protects a small child from the flames (sometimes this show is shameless. I'm surprised Joe didn't find a nest of baby raccoons to single-handedly save). A decent episode, except for an unbelievably boring seven-minute discussion between Nancy and Cotten. Seven minutes! In television terms, that's a lifetime! Shaun was going through an unfortunate scruffy phase: unshaven, with non-fluffy hair and waaaay too much undereye concealer. (Digression: why, oh, why do incredibly attractive men feel the need to do this to themselves? Like when Johnny Depp was going through that "just because I'm on '21 Jump Street' doesn't mean I'm not a rebel at heart" phase, complete with all kinds of weird facial hair and lank, greasy locks. Why can't the pretty boys of the planet resign themselves to looking luscious? It's a difficult job, fellas, but you can do it).

Campus Terror
The boys visit a small Eastern college campus (actually, it's my despised alma mater, USC. The prominent palm trees are kind of a giveaway) to investigate the kidnappings of a group of sorority girls, all belonging to the same house as Joe's loony-tunes ex-girlfriend, Valerie Bertinelli (one of those rare actresses who doesn't wither away in comparison to Shaun's phenomenal beauty; they're like a pair of really sexy Hummel figurines). Phone calls made by the kidnapper refer to Frank and Joe by name; despite this, it doesn't occur to them to suspect the one person on campus who knows them, i.e. Valerie. The boys adopt the ingenious cover of MIT grad students (no sense doing things halfway, huh, fellows? I'd be skeptical if they said they were transfer students from Bayport Junior College) to track the kidnapper. At one point, Valerie clings to Joe, telling him, "I still love you, Joe." Long silence. Joe: "You've had a long day..." After this completely inadequate response, it comes as no real surprise when, a few scenes later, Valerie dresses in black leather, kidnaps Joe at gunpoint, and makes him call her "Sir." She's planning on killing him, but since they're conveniently in an abandoned amusement park, she decides to take him on the Ferris wheel first (to stun him with motion sickness?). Joe gets schizoid Valerie to revert to her boring good-girl personality by grabbing her face and yelling at her; I'm pretty sure most psychiatrists would not regard this as the preferred method for dealing with gun-toting schizophrenics. There are plenty of other gems in this episode (talking computers! disfigured frat boys! biker brawls!); however, everything flees from my mind at the sight of Valerie pointing a gun at Shaun and telling him to call her sir. Television simply doesn't get much better than that.

Season 3

The Last Kiss of Summer (pts 1 & 2)
This episode kicked off the final season, and featured the adjustment of the title to simply "The Hardy Boys Mysteries." It was also the debut of what I like to think of as the Charlie's Angels Disco Extravaganza opening (must be seen to be fully appreciated), in which Shaun and Parker run around in stop motion wearing tuxedos while stuff explodes around them. Parker and Shaun, incidentally, appear to have spent the preceding summer at Hardy Boy Spa Camp: they're both tanner, blonder, leaner, and more scrumptious than ever. 

The episode opens in Malibu, where financially-insolvent teen Joe Hardy rashly proposes to his blonde bombshell summer fling. After she accepts, they frolic interminably on the beach while that Bread song about a picture painting a thousand words drones on in the background; it's actually kind of a relief when a drunk driver plows into them on the eve of the wedding, killing the fiancee and providing Joe with a few glamorous scrapes. In the hospital, Joe sniffles, "She was beautiful today, wasn't she?" Frank sadly replies, "You both were."

It turns out that the drunk driver, Jocco (played with zest by Kevin Brophy), was involved in a robbery and murder; as the FBI is trying to get him to lead them to the hidden loot, they won't arrest him for the hit and run. This bit of news is the impetus to turn the once sunny and upbeat Joe into a petulant little monster. After blithely blowing the cover of undercover Fed Kevin Tighe (who cheerfully offers to break both Joe's legs), Joe sets himself up as a shady Malibu rich kid, complete with Porsche and a fabulous beach house with a swell hi-fi system, two decks, and a sand-filled den; clearly, Joe knows how to mourn in style. Joe quickly earns the undivided devotion of Jocco, who, in a fun homoerotic twist, moves in with Joe -- with jealous girlfriend Anne Lockhart in tow -- and tries to feed Frank to the sharks.

Part one, after the dreary opening sequence, zips along at a merry pace, complete with groovy beach parties and the mesmerizing spectacle of Joe as an out-of-control little sociopath (watch for the scene in which he yells at Fenton, "It's my life and I can do what I want!" before flouncing out of the room). While Shaun is kind of a cold fish during the frolicking-happily-on-the-beach scenes, he's oddly compelling as a bratty, manipulative rich kid (hmm...).

Alas, part two lets the lunatic energy flag, except for a standout scene in which long-suffering Frank gives his brat of a brother a richly-deserved punch in the face, and some nice chemistry between the coolly-calculating Joe and the head-over-heels infatuated Jocco. Unfortunately, a mind-blowing number of flashback sequences (more frolicking on the beach) bring the episode screeching to a halt every five minutes or so. Suffice it to say, Jocco gets his comeuppance, and the FBI is so impressed with the stellar work the boys did on the case (?), they give them special jobs working for the Department of Justice (??).

I get a little queasy at the thought of my tax dollars paying Frank and Joe's salary; personally, I was kind of hoping the FBI would toss Joe in the slammer for obstruction of justice, or at the very least give him a sound spanking. Life is full of disappointment.

Dangerous Waters
While on a routine missing persons case in the French Caribbean, Joe manages to get himself kidnapped by a motley group of slave-trading pirates (presumably, the Department of Justice is already regretting its decision to put these two screwups on the payroll). While this is a promising development, the episode quickly loses all credibility when the pirate boss decides to kill dewy young Joe; any slave-trading pirate worth his salt would instantly recognize the high market value of a captive Hardy Boy. Joe is rescued by Frank and perennial cool guy Robert Loggia (sporting a beret and a highly suspect French accent). There's also the usual nonsense about buried treasure; when you've got pirates, buried treasure follows as a matter of course. Joe wears a flattering cornflower blue sweatshirt with super-flared jeans; he makes very fetching pirate bait, though he's actually looking a tad emaciated, like he's been living off a steady diet of Ry-Krisp and steamed kale. A special thumbs-up to the wag who murmurs, "Ooh la la!" when our scrumptious boys enter a scruffy waterfront dive searching for Loggia. High point: Frank shouts, "What is your problem?" at Joe. I think we've all wondered that at some point, Frank.

Life on the Line
One of the rare Parkercentric episodes; too bad it's such a dud. The plot revolves around an attempted kidnapping on the motorcross circuit; alas, this leads to long, dull, eyeball-numbing sequences of motorcross racing. The episode is also shot in a visually exciting palette of mustard yellow and dirt brown. Parker's wholly gratuitous shirtless scene is the only thing keeping this from being a complete bust. Thanks, Parker. I owe you one, buddy.


Anonymous said…
I watched the series every week when it was on, I am in love with Shaun Cassidy, I'm still head over heels for him, I still get excited when I hear about him or see him, like the time he was on Regis and Kathy Lee talking about American Gothic and when he was on Regis and Kelly with his brothers Patrick and David talking about Ruby and The Rockets. Every now and then when I see a collective issue of People magazine "Remembering the 70s" I buy one and just melt when I see Shaun Cassidy in the book. A long time ago I found a thin hardcover book about Shaun Cassidy an a library, I've never had that kind of luck again.
I'll have to admit, it is kind of cheesy when you compair it to CSI Miami or NCIS but it wasn't at the time, all the crime shows where kind of like that, now they are more voilent and show disgusting scenes that you'd see in horror films. I was a devoted fan of the Hardy Boys. I even saw Shaun in concert in Hershey in 1978 and glad for that because it was a great concert, he looked soooo gooood.
Morgan Richter said…
I'm sorry I missed Shaun and his brothers on Regis & Kelly; he's a smart guy, and it's always interesting hearing what he has to say. There was something very good-natured about The Hardy Boys -- the production values were terrible and the plots never made much sense, but it had good energy behind it, and everyone seemed to be having fun. That's more than half the battle.
capodo01 said…
HOLY CANOLI... This is some of the most witty and wonderful bit of writing I have read in some time! I laughed often not only because of your wording but also because of HOW RIGHT you were!!

Don't get me wrong. I love the Hardy Boys. Then again, Shaun could've fallen off a cliff and I would've been just fine seeing Parker as Frank all by his lonesome. You can tell my favorite by that no?! ;)

Thank you for bringing back wonderful memories and laughs from a show that probably was really cutting edge at the time!
Morgan Richter said…
Aw, thank you so much for the nice words, capodo01! The show is sheer cheesy, silly fluff, but such a joy to watch -- I can't really say it's held up well over the years, but the entertainment value is off the charts.
Cheryl Kraynak said…
I'm happy to discover that I can get Seasons 1 & 2 thru interlibrary loan, so I will be watching these soon!

Some of your plot descriptions sound so familiar, like I just watched them and time hasn't passed, but I didn't remember the assortment of guest stars, so I can't wait to see Valerie Bertinelli, and especially my alter-ego Jaclyn Smith!

Since Shaun's "Born Late" LP was my first record ever, I have those tunes totally memorized, I'll just sit there and laugh watching his gyrations.

By the way, look what's on YouTube:

I hope I can tolerate Parker Stevenson through an entire DVD set. Things with him and me just went from bad to worse after he replaced the original (blond and adorable) Billy Hazard in "North & South." For the sequel ("Love & War"), Billy has to be more "firm" and "stern" for all the soldier scenes, so I guess that's why they picked taller and darker Parker.
Morgan Richter said…
Cheryl, that Shaun/Goldie Hawn duet is too cute for words. So much feathered hair!

I'm so glad they finally got these episodes -- the first two seasons, at least -- out on DVD. It's sheer fun. Both Valerie Bertinelli and Jaclyn Smith do themselves proud in their guest spots.
Dinah said…
Oh, wow, thank you so much for this. *wipes eyes* This is one of the funniest things I've read in a really long time. As guilty pleasure TV goes, this is right at the top of my list, up there with Scarecrow and Mrs. King and WKRP in Cincinnati. Your commentary is spot on and absolutely hilarious. Can't wait to read more of your blog.
Morgan Richter said…
Thanks for the nice feedback, Dinah! Ah, Scarecrow & Mrs. King. I haven't seen that since it originally aired -- it might be one for my Netflix queue, just to see if/how well it holds up. I'm all about guilty-pleasure television.
jhon said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Well, all three seasons are now out on DVD. I would LOVE to see you do a complete review of the entire series. I had lost this bookmark years ago and a friend GRATEFULLY found it for me. I am a fan of Shaun's and this is so well written. Please continue!
Morgan Richter said…
Thanks, Maryfrances! The time might be almost right to start finishing up reviews of the entire series...
Anonymous said…
I'd love to see you do all three seasons, too, now that S3 is out on DVD. I'm waiting for your take on "Game Plan". Y'know. The one where Frank finally pulls a gun on his brother. ;)
Morgan Richter said…
Zenfrodo, finishing up season three is definitely on my to-do list. I have no excuse for why it's taking me so long to get around to it, other than my chronic lethargy. Someday, though...

Popular Posts