The classic mystery series finds new life with a YTV reboot
While amateur sleuths Frank and Joe Hardy have been through numerous iterations since the prolific mystery book series debuted in 1927, there is one thing that remains constant nearly a century later: their universal appeal.
YTVThe novels for kids and teens, created by publishing giant Edward Stratemeyer (who also created Nancy Drew) and written by ghost writers under the collective pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon, continues to sell more than a million copies annually, and the brothers’ crime-solving skills have been featured in several TV series throughout the years.
In the latest television adaptation, Frank, Joe and their trusty flashlights are back in a family-friendly series shot in Ontario. The brothers and their dad Fenton have landed somewhere in the 1980s—presumably so that Google can’t help them find the clues—and the emotional whodunit is one that hits very close to home: the suspicious and untimely death of their mother, an investigative journalist.
The overall setup of your favourite childhood thriller remains familiar, but the young stars of the show feel like this is not your grandfather’s Hardy Boys. “It’s a completely new revival of the Hardy Boys we used to know,” says Rohan Campbell, who plays 16-year-old, athletic-yet-caring Frank.
YTVHaving grown up reading the mystery novels, Campbell was already a fan of the books, but to his younger co-star Alexander Elliot, who plays 12-year-old Joe, the crime-solving duo was a new acquaintance. “I didn’t grow up reading The Hardy Boys, but as soon as I got this role, I really dove into it,” he says. “Seeing this show, there are a lot of callbacks to the books and it’s playing into the nostalgia. It’s catering to the old fans, but it’s also trying to make new fans. And I think we’re definitely going to succeed with that.”
Young Canadian stars Campbell and Elliot relied on the books to get the feel of these characters, which, in turn, added a little bit to the pressure of taking a beloved franchise and putting your stamp on it. “For me, it was taking a character from a book that meant a lot to a lot of people and doing my absolute best to try and stay true to that in a new setting and storyline and a new universe,” Campbell reflects.
His onscreen brother agrees, although Elliott gave himself more room for interpretation when it came to the snarky younger brother. “The books definitely were a resource,” he says. “But this is a new generation of Hardy Boys. Whereas Frank is very analytical and calculating, Joe kind of represents the new generation, in my opinion. He’s all spunky and fun and crazy. I feel like he is introducing the more adventurous side of Hardy Boys to all these people who haven’t experienced it before.”
With his late wife possibly involved in a dangerous journalistic investigation, Hardy Sr. also sets out on a secret mission to figure out what happened. That dynamic between father and sons was one that piqued Campbell’s interest, when he first picked up the script. “I think it’s interesting to have three different age groups of men dealing with loss,” he says. “The family dynamic changes very, very abruptly in the first episode when they lose their mother and Fenton loses his wife. I didn’t see a lot of that on any other TV shows, really, so I was instantly attached and wanted to know what was going to happen to these three guys as the story went forward.”
It’s their unique take that Nova Scotia-native James Tupper, who portrays the family patriarch, believes will bring the franchise into the future—even if it’s set in 1980-something. “The Hardy Boys was on the way out. It needed a reboot, and it needed to be fresh,” says Tupper, who thinks setting it the ’80s gives it just the right amount of nostalgia. “They went back the number of years, probably, [to when I was] reading it as a kid. They’re welcoming a whole new generation of boys who are hopefully gonna get the same thing that we did out of it—learn courage, get the bad guy and use your logic and use your intelligence to get to the bottom of it.”
The Hardy Boys airs Fridays at 8 p.m. on YTV