New Nancy Drew TV series cancelled, except not, and not really
May 23, 2016 7:46 AM   Subscribe

When CBS announced it was developing a grown-up Nancy Drew series and that the titular heroine would not be Caucasian, people's ears perked up. When Sarah Shahi (born Aahoo Jahansouz Shahi, to an Iranian father and Persian-Spanish mother) was announced as the new Nancy, the buzz grew. But then CBS didn't order the pilot to series, allegedly because it "skewed too female for CBS’ schedule" (CBS Television Studios hasn't killed the show yet, though, and is shopping it to other outlets). The AV Club's Myles McNutt takes a look at why it feels like Drew was cancelled, despite never actually being a TV series in a look at how the Internet has made television development into a narrative of its own.
posted by Etrigan (39 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Beckman offered a collection of “program research homilies” from his time at NBC, including “it’s easier to get women to watch shows intended for men than it is to get men to watch shows intended for women.”

It's amazing -- and depressing -- that it so often comes back to this, the fact that men don't think women are as interesting, relatable, or worthy of subjecthood as other men.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:00 AM on May 23, 2016 [38 favorites]


Beckman offered a collection of “program research homilies” from his time at NBC, including “it’s easier to get women to watch shows intended for men than it is to get men to watch shows intended for women.”

I love when people describe a problem as an explanation for why it's not a problem
posted by beerperson at 8:01 AM on May 23, 2016 [42 favorites]


I hate that there's now cause for me to be angry about CBS rejecting a gritty, NYC-focused police procedural reboot of Nancy Drew, because there are so many good reasons to throw that pitch in the garbage.

(None of those reasons is Sarah Shahi)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:25 AM on May 23, 2016 [21 favorites]


It's very difficult to say whether or not we men will watch a show intended for women if we're never actually given the opportunity to do so.

I'm also bothered by the idea that a female lead automatically means it's intended for women. Yes, Nancy Drew was originally written for girls, just as the Hardy Boys were for boys, but even in the 70s when I grew up I knew boys who read Drew and I certainly watched the series with Pamela Sue Martin.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:27 AM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, men will watch a show intended for women. Then they will give it poor ratings online.
posted by fings at 9:03 AM on May 23, 2016 [19 favorites]


I think there is plenty to talk about in the sexism of pilot testing, but I think this is a not great example as (a) the Beckman piece in the AV Club article was written separately and a couple of weeks before Drew wasn't picked up and (b) the only source for the "skewing too female" in regards to it is something that was "heard" by Deadline Hollywood, which is a relatively decent source as far as these things go but only just . (I'm not saying CBS should be given a lot of credit for flat-out denying the story when it's easy for them to do so, but it's not like it's something CBS has publicly said.)

Also, "a detective [who] investigates and solves crimes using her uncanny observational skills" and/or "re-imagining of a previously successful property" describes basically every returning CBS drama that isn't that a NCIS/Criminal Minds spin-off or Blue Bloods so I can see how they may want to try something different. (Not that the show that "took its spot" Doubt - show about lawyers, is necessarily a breathe of fresh as a show about lawyers, but at least it has Laverne Cox getting some Big Network Money for a while, so that's cool.)

I do think Myles McNutt's piece about how pilot season has changed in the age of social media is great though, and if people's (maybe not completely accurate) response to Drew's non-pick-up mean that networks have to consider more things than the flawed pilot testing process and how demographics skew, then I'm all for being a part of that extra set of very loud eyes on the Internet.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:08 AM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


There might be more police procedural shows airing than time in the day to watch them, but at least the casting was a great idea. Given that nobody else anywhere is ever described as "titian-haired", it's entirely reasonable to define "titian" as "Nancy Drew-colored".
posted by asperity at 9:12 AM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Diversity wasn't the problem I had with in Nancy Drew: making it into yet another police procedural was.
posted by happyroach at 9:18 AM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


That's a really fascinating piece fings, thanks for posting it. I can't say I'm surprised by it, but it's always nice to have some hard numbers.

As for the Nancy Drew thing, I can't say I'm upset that it didn't get picked up. I didn't know anything about the lead actress, but just reading the summary (grown-up Nancy joins the police) held zero appeal for me, and that's coming from somebody who loved the character and devoured the books. The appeal of Nancy Drew was that of a teen reaching into the adult world and succeeding. It was something for young girls to aspire to, and stripping it of those elements just renders it generic.

Personally, I'm hoping the Anne of Green Gables reboot fails miserably before it hits the air, because honestly I have no desire to see the Breaking Bad version of Avonlea. (Sadly I can't find the exact article I read where the producer compares Anne and Walter. It was dispiriting.)
posted by sardonyx at 9:25 AM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh, damn, I forgot, from McSweeney's: Executive Notes on TV Shows That Skewed "Too Male."
posted by Etrigan at 9:26 AM on May 23, 2016 [16 favorites]


When I first heard of the Nancy Drew show I was really hoping for a spiritual successor to Veronica Mars (who in turn owed much of herself to the likes of Nancy Drew). The more I heard about it the less I was upset about it being round-filed, although "Skews too female" is still the shittiest reason to cancel a project.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:30 AM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


I didn't even know this was going to be a thing until now, when I guess it's maybe not going to be a thing. And I'm pissed. Sarah Shahi makes a fantastic cop.
posted by rtha at 9:50 AM on May 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


Yeah, the premise was not that appealing, but I really like Sarah Shahi.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:02 AM on May 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


How do we stop this slide into irrelevancy? I know, we'll double down!
posted by ODiV at 10:19 AM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


When I first heard of the Nancy Drew show I was really hoping for a spiritual successor to Veronica Mars (who in turn owed much of herself to the likes of Nancy Drew).

This, a thousand times. And I would have also kind of loved the idea of someone who was a nationally known child mystery solver trying to become a real detective. Kind of like cross between V. Mars and Mystery Team.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:09 PM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Arguing that Nancy Drew skews too female is a complete cop-out. As a network, you commission a show to attract a particular segment of the Nielsen panel, which you will then package and sell to advertisers (in the form of a TRP). If you are commissioning a show like Nancy Drew, it is to (hopefully) fulfill your obligation to advertisers who've purchased, let's say, W12-17, or W18-24, or moms with tweens. If there is crossover appeal, then that is a bonus, but commissioning a show targeted at women and then claiming it won't attract enough men is bullshit.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:00 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


And I would have also kind of loved the idea of someone who was a nationally known child mystery solver trying to become a real detective. Kind of like cross between V. Mars and Mystery Team.

As is often the case on TV Critic Twitter, the shows that are being suggested here sound so much better than what we were probably going to get (even if Drew had been greenlit) that it'd be depressing if I didn't already have too much TV to watch already.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:10 PM on May 23, 2016


Yeah, no, Nancy Drew is canonically strawberry-blonde. But if they handwave it by saying she dyed it for whatever reason, that'd be okay.

I just can't think of a good way of making Nancy Drew a procedural detective. What, did she dye her hair to go into the Witness Protection Program maybe? then how did she get into the police force? It's full of plot holes. Also: lazy writing, problematic lead character (she's bound to be since all storytelling is Problematic), and not enough beagles in the supporting cast.

But yeah, because of the given rationale for not picking up this show, I now get to be outraged about what wasn't onscreen instead of being outraged over what was.
posted by tel3path at 2:41 PM on May 23, 2016


She's a fictional character. I don't think it's necessarily weird to cast an actor who doesn't look exactly like the fictional character. And if you need a Reason, then the Reason can be...she just decided to dye her hair, because, no WPP necessary. Women dye their hair all the time for all kinds of reasons, so why not.
posted by rtha at 3:39 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Seriously though, obsessing about faithfulness to a fictional character's looks (whether "canonical" or inferred) functions to keep a lot of actors of color out of work, and to perpetuate the lack of diversity on screen.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:47 PM on May 23, 2016 [11 favorites]


There is nothing important about how Nancy Drew looks. Her physical description is repeated many times, but it was never interesting or with any relevance to the story, as far as I can remember.
posted by cell divide at 3:49 PM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Titian" is an interestingly weird description, but otherwise, yes indeed it's irrelevant. (I gather early volumes used "blonde" and much later ones used "strawberry-blonde", but for decades it was just "titian."
posted by asperity at 4:20 PM on May 23, 2016


Drew didn't sound terribly original or interesting, but then I thoroughly enjoyed Life, which was loosely inspired by The Count of Monte Cristo, so I was willing to give it a shot. I look forward to Shahi's next project.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:54 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, it sounded like Nancy Drew in name only. On the other hand, Sarah Shahi solving crimes is a pleasure to watch.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:53 PM on May 23, 2016


hi metafilter, do you like crime-solving/scifi/ex-spies/murder family/babby AI? friendly reminder that you can catch her currently on Person of Interest, which CBS is unceremoniously shoving out the back door on a weird schedule for its fifth and last season. for example this week there's a new episode tonight and two new episodes tomorrow.

and the first 4 seasons are available on netflix. shahi doesn't get there until mid S2 and becomes a regular S3. (spoilers in the links) also amy acker! and a dog! and some great m/f brotps. S1 is slow, but give it a chance or just watch it for taraji henson. in retrospect i still think S1 is worth it because of the character development of the mains including the, um, AI.

Sarah Shahi makes a fantastic cop.

not to mention a great grumpy, queer, neuroatypical assassin and lover of guns, food, and did i mention the dog oh i did huh
posted by twist my arm at 9:13 PM on May 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


twist my arm: "Person of Interest, [...] the first 4 seasons are available on netflix."

Dang not on Canadian Netflix; sounds good.
posted by Mitheral at 9:25 PM on May 23, 2016


twist my arm: I hope "Person of Interest" finishes on a strong note. I thought Shahi did a great job in the few episodes I've seen so far.

I was definitely intrigued when I heard about Shahi being Nancy Drew. Upon hearing more -- yeah, I wish the premise was Nancy as a civilian detective and this hadn't been a police procedural, and yeah, the reason for rejection is infuriating and depressing.

I've always loved detective/mystery stories, and as a kid I especially loved reading about kids being the detectives... I read Nancy Drew as well as Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, and McGurk books, and also remember enjoying a book or two from The Spotlight Club series (which unfortunately is out of print now). The Three Investigators was my favorite series during that time and I remember reading those books over and over again. It would have been so cool if there'd been a detective series character who happened to be a female POC.

Anyway, this reminded me of the delightful "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"-related art I saw last year by tumblr user celestedoodles (I had it in my browser bookmarks where my tags included "detective" and "wow" and "yes please"):
"Amy Santiago and Rosa Diaz star in their own 60s teen detective series"

I'm so glad it's still online. And hey, new bonus art from just a few days ago (something to help with what happened to Abbie on "Sleepy Hollow"):
"It’s funny how Sleepy Hollow just disappeared as a television series some time in the 2nd season and resurfaced as a ya novel supernatural mystery series..."
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 2:50 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Thanks to this thread, I started watching Person of Interest finally after hearing about it for years and was pretty immediately invested, though any show where you have to "settle" for Taraji P. Henson until the actress everyone is talking about shows up was pretty much a guaranteed slam dunk for me anyway.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:52 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sarah Shahi makes a fantastic cop.

She was a fantastic cop on Life with Damien Lewis.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:15 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Shahi's intro episode on Person of Interest is such a great one.
posted by ODiV at 9:16 AM on May 24, 2016


> She was a fantastic cop on Life with Damien Lewis.

Yes, exactly! One of my favorite shows, ever.

And Amy Acker in POI is just delicious and marvelous. I'm currently re-watching the series while procrastinating watching the most recent episode because I can't bear for it to end.
posted by rtha at 10:10 AM on May 24, 2016


Wait, POI has Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker?!

Also, Life was fantastic, although I really wish it didn't get cancelled after almost a full season of hide-the-pregnancy scenes for Shahi.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:13 AM on May 24, 2016


> Wait, POI has Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker?!

Yes! And Taraji Henson! Go, go begin your binge!
posted by rtha at 10:42 AM on May 24, 2016


Go a bit easy on it at first. It takes a little while to find its footing.

I would be incapable of this, but others have suggested jumping it at a later point. Opinions vary, but I've heard people suggest episodes 7 to about 10 as ones to start with.
posted by ODiV at 10:46 AM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes! And Taraji Henson! Go, go begin your binge!

I've actually never seen anything with Henson other than three episodes of Eli Stone that I don't remember her from at all, but I hear she's very good!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:02 AM on May 24, 2016


i think it's important not to ignore black female characters and black women, which is the only reason i'm saying this: i was deliberately underselling henson because reasons. detective carter is everything and henson is a badass. i'm glad you're enjoying it already and i hope you'll agree, when you catch up, that i'm also not overselling shahi. good luck, you're in for some shit. a peek into your future-- fandom, current mood: not ready for this but just fUCK ME UP.

for the already-fans (because spoilers) here's a great behind the scenes look into the music score. it's long (17min) but man it made me appreciate intellectually what i've been reacting to emotionally for years now. all the strings are real instruments (14:30). important characters have their own themes and there's examples of how they play with the themes for different situations, like humor, lurve, and dueling themes. and the asian woman, co-EP/writer denise thé? she's got writing credits on the famed if-then-else (4x11, you know that one), shaw's S5 centric, and the series finale.
posted by twist my arm at 11:06 AM on May 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Shahi's intro episode on Person of Interest is such a great one.

When I'm feeling down, thinking about Shaw stuffing a stun grenade inside her attacker's gas mask never fails to bring a smile to my face.

I'm a sucker for AI stories in general, so I probably would have liked Person of Interest regardless of the cast, but Henson, Acker, Shahi and Emerson really make it something special, along with some good guest stars, such as Saul Rubinek in an excellent two-parter near the end of season 3.

Also, Life was fantastic, although I really wish it didn't get cancelled after almost a full season of hide-the-pregnancy scenes for Shahi.


Yes, though I was pleasantly surprised how well Gabrielle Union's character fit into those episodes, especially as she wasn't a cookie-cutter replacement for Shahi while still being a good foil for Lewis.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:04 PM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


apologies for the hijack Etrigan. on topic: The CBS Fall Line-up Has a White Male Problem. in our rush to decide whether a one sentence description of Drew is our cup of tea without seeing even a 2 second clip, i thought it might be fair to see the "first look" videos of everything CBS decided to go with. well, except the one female-led new show that got pushed back to 2017. if you can make it through all of them i'll buy you a coke. but i refuse to replace any screens that you punch through during the sitcoms.
CBS's six new shows this year all star white men (except for the Katherine Heigl–led Doubt, coming in 2017, which was barely mentioned at the Upfront, and for which a trailer has not yet been released). In terms of sitcoms, CBS has three on the docket: Kevin Can Wait, starring Kevin James with another attractive wife (played by Erinn Hayes) as a beleaguered dad in retirement; Man With a Plan starring Matt LeBlanc as a beleaguered newly stay-at-home dad; and The Great Indoors starring Joel McHale as a beleaguered man at the office! In each trailer, our protagonists are perplexed by the new world they find themselves in, populated by emasculated stay-at-home dads and Millennials. The world is so different!...

The dramas repeat a similar formula, except this time, they star white men as exceptional geniuses. In Bull, Michael Weatherly plays a young Dr. Phil (here renamed as Dr. Jason Bull) who runs a trial-consultation firm, and is able to read how jurors will vote. Then there’s Pure Genius, starring Augustus Prew as an aggressive “billionaire genius” and Dermot Mulroney as a "maverick" surgeon, as they fuse technology and medicine together to create a cutting-edge new hospital. There’s a MacGyver reboot starring Lucas Till, and to cap it all off, Training Day, a remake of the Denzel Washington–Ethan Hawke film, with the roles flipped: Bill Paxton headlines the show as the dirty cop, and Justin Cornwell, the one person of color on this lineup in a major role, plays the rookie.
if you click on the link you'll also get to read the paragraph where a white CBS exec dressed as a pimp (helpful visual) greets the audience with "what's up bitches" and (white) james corden does a hamilton spoof backed up by PoC, neatly missing the entire point of hamilton. "It was the only time you actually saw people of color speak during the rest of the presentation."

there's a lot that pissed me off about the original article and this thread didn't really help. for all the complaints about yet another police procedural, bad pitches and getting nancy drew wrong, watch the fucking videos of shows that are actually going to air and tell me Drew hasn't been held to a higher standard. oh, for actresses i like to have the opportunities of kevin james mediocre white men.
posted by twist my arm at 12:45 PM on May 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


That's a great but also horrible link, twist my arm. It's like the smoking gun in the mystery where Drew being shelved was the first clue that I was sadly too willing to overlook. (Not that I thought there wasn't a problem, just that it wasn’t any more CBS-specific than any other not-ABC network). For them to say they needed to choose between the two women-led dramas that had made earlier cuts while serving up four new, very similar ones with dudes is some serious bullshit and I feel shitty about any devil's advocacy I may have inadvertently done earlier upthread.

(And we’ve not even mentioned yet how they shuffled Supergirl off to the CW for next season too, which sucks no matter how okay I am with Monday being a Supergirl/Jane The Virgin power block.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:04 PM on May 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


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