DVD Review: The Hardy Boys (Season Three)

Often times critics talk about the time Miami Vice became darker in look and tone. Rarely do they mention a precedence for such a shift came from The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries. For the third season, the producers took the teen novel detectives into the world of heroin, murderers and dead wives. Joe (Shaun Cassidy) and Frank (Parker Stevenson) were no longer tagging along on dad’s cases that were barely a step up from Scooby-Doo mysteries. The previous season had Pamela Sue Martin quit her role as Nancy Drew. She slammed the door shut by posing for Playboy and making The Lady In Red, an R-rated film for Roger Corman. Martin wasn’t returning to 7 p.m. on Sundays. Janet Louise Johnson (King of New York) was brought onto the show to play Nancy in a few crossover episodes with the Boys. The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries wasn’t doing too well in the ratings smashed between Wonderful World of Disney and 60 Minutes. The producers streamlined the show by just making it The Hardy and pumping up the crimes. The Hardy Boys: Season Three contains the short lived experiment to make them Hardy Men.

“The Last of the Summer Kiss” announces quick that Joe and Frank are no longer exist in the pages written by Franklin W. Dixon. Joe hasn’t merely fallen in love with a gal, but they go through with the marriage. Before you fear that this season was going to become Hardy Boys and Wife, Joe’s car gets into a wreck with a drunk driver. His wife is dead. Even though Joe tracks down the drunk, the government refuses to bust the guy since he’s part of a criminal underground under investigation. Mills Watson plays a fierce mobster which stands in contrast to his goofy Deputy Perkins on The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. In a complete shock to viewers, Kevin Tighe (Lost) offers no assistance at the car wreck. He had just wrapped up playing Roy DeSoto on Emergency! Joe refuses to stand down in his pursuit of his wife’s killer. He sets up a giant sting to not merely catch the guy, but crack the government’s case. Anne Lockhart (Battlestar Galactica) is the killer’s girlfriend. At the end of the episode, they get offered a gig at the Justice Agency to be undercover agents. Jack Kelly (Forbidden Planet) becomes their gruff boss.

“Assault on the Tower” takes the boys to England in search of their missing father (Ed Gilbert). Seems that dad has stumbled upon a major plot involving the crown jewels. The guest cast involves thespian jewels including Dana Andrews (Laura), Ian Abercombie (Army of Darkness), Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) and Pernell Roberts (Bonanza). Macnee has a little fun with his John Steed persona from The Avengers. “Search for Atlantis” puts the boys undercover on a Greek island. They’re looking for a heroin connection in the relics. This isn’t really Greece, but a beach in California covered with cheap columns. John Colicos (Battlestar Galactica), Lloyd Nolan (Hannah and Her Sisters) and Gino Conforti (Here’s Lucy) are suspects at the dig.

“Dangerous Waters” sends the boys down below as they hunt for a missing treasure diver. Did the ghost of pirates get her or maybe Robert Loggia (The Sopranos)? June Lockhart (Lassie) gets in on the booty hunt. “Scorpion’s Sting” turns Joe and Frank into bodyguards for a senator’s daughter. They’re protecting her in Puerto Rico from an assassin codenamed Scorpion. It turns into a bit of cat and mouse as the killer toys with the boys while lining up his target. Legendary guest star Joseph Ruskin looks like a killer.

Soft rock superstar of the ’70s David Gates of Bread brings the mellow on Defection to Paradise. He plucks out his theme to The Goodby Girl. There’s a plot involving Gates. After performing in Russia, Gates flies to Hawaii for a gig. One of his speakers is missing and the Hardy Boys get the call to prevent an international incident. What they don’t know is that the speaker is missing because a Soviet official’s daughter smuggled herself in the speaker case. Former teen heartthrobs Edd Byrnes (Grease) and Vann Jones (Doomsday Machine) are part of Gates’ entourage. Unlike previous episodes, Joe and Frank appear to be in Hawaii and not merely being cut around B-roll of Honolulu. “Game Plan” unleashes a revenge plot after a scam and a police roadblock goes bad. Mary Louise Weller (National Lampoon’s Animal House) turns on the heat. “Life on the Line” is the end of the line for the Hardy Boys. This last case makes them one more bodyguards. The daughter of a mob fink needs their help during her motocross rally. There’s a contract out on her. Making matters worse is Frank has a woman stalking him. Shame Nancy Drew wasn’t around to guard his body.

The Hardy Boys: Season Three going darker and more adult makes it the best of the series. Joe and Frank aren’t just a couple of gee whiz teens tagging along with their dad. They have government orders to solve mysteries. Sadly this transformation to manhood didn’t click with viewers since the show was yanked halfway through the season. This was a shame since they were like a young Barnaby Jones and Frank Cannon on the small screen.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers appear to be off the video broadcast masters so the resolution is down, but you can still feel the details of Shaun Cassidy’s hair. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. You’ll get good levels for the classic Bread tunes. The episodes are Closed Captioned.

There are no bonus features.

The Hardy Boys: Season Three matures Joe and Frank Hardy by getting them involved with killers, narcotics and mobsters. This aren’t solving innocent crimes. The lack of Nancy Drew doesn’t hurt this short lived adjustment. The final season of the ’70s sleuths is the best of the batch as they join the Justice Agency and drop the kid play.

Shout! Factory presents The Hardy Boys: Season Three. Starring: Shaun Cassidy, Parker Stevenson, Jack Kelly and Edmund Gilbert. Boxset Contents: 10 episodes on 3 DVDs. Released: February 12, 2013. Available at Amazon.com