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The CW is moving forward with its Nancy Drew mystery spinoff Tom Swift, starring Tian Richards in the title role.

The Viacom-owned CW gave a straight-to-series order for the show, which centers on a young Black, gay billionaire inventor. The team behind Nancy Drew, including showrunner Melinda Hsu Taylor and series creators Noga Landau, Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, are all involved in the spinoff.

Tian Richards as Tom Swift on Nancy Drew. Colin Bentley/The CW

Tom Swift — which, like Nancy Drew, has its roots in a series of 20th century novels for young readers from the Stratemeyer Syndicate — will follow the title character (Tian Richards, Burden) who’s thrust into a world of sci-fi conspiracy and unexplained phenomena after the shocking disappearance of his father.

“Tom takes to the road on a quest to unravel the truth, leaving behind the comforts of his usual moneyed lifestyle while fighting to stay one step ahead of an Illuminati-scale group hell-bent on stopping him.” (From press release.)

Richards made his first appearance as Tom Swift in a May 2021 episode of Nancy Drew. Cast as the voice of Tom’s A.I., Barclay is LeVar Burton.

Although Tom Swift is a much lesser-known character than the core Drew crew or the Hardy Boys, The CW still seems to be confident in the spinoff’s appeal based on the reaction to the backdoor pilot episode. In addition, the network has taken an unconventional approach to shows like Nancy Drew and Riverdale, both of which deviate significantly from the plots and overall tones of their source material. Tom Swift has a similarly labyrinthine premise that promises conspiracies and twists beyond those that appeared in the books.

Now, Tom Swift features a Black, gay lead in a genre that has historically centered around white characters, presenting an exciting opportunity for diversity that Richards himself highlighted back when the character first appeared. Read the CW’s official synopsis for the spinoff below:

Tom Swift follows the serialized adventures of the titular Black, gay, billionaire inventor, who is thrust into a world of sci-fi conspiracy and unexplained phenomena after the shocking disappearance of his father. Tom takes to the road on a quest to unravel the truth, leaving behind the comforts of his usual moneyed lifestyle, all while fighting to stay one step ahead of an Illuminati-scale group hell-bent on stopping him. Tom’s missions will require his genius and flair for innovation guided by love, romance, friendship and the mysteries of the universe yet-unsolved.

From press release
A Tom Swift novel

Interestingly, in the over 100 Tom Swift novels published between 1910-2021 the character’s ethnicity isn’t mentioned.

Edward Stratemeyer, founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, conceived the character of Tom Swift about 1910. Many of the books were written by him and his daughter Harriet Adams. They and other ghostwriters used the collective pseudonym Victor Appleton. Here the character’s history.

Tom’s early adventures were inventions he made at his parents home. Later, he became an industrialist (Swift Enterprises), had an inventor son, and eventually enjoyed space-faring adventures on a starship.

The fan term for Nancy Drew and its spinoffs is “Drewverse”.

The CW series is scheduled for 2021-22 season, Wednesdays at 9:00PM.

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David Raiklen
David Raiklen

David Raiklen wrote, directed and scored his first film at age 9. He began studying keyboard and composing at age 5. He attended, then taught at UCLA, USC and CalArts. Among his teachers are John Williams and Mel Powel.
He has worked for Fox, Disney and Sprint. David has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2004 American Music Center Award. Dr. Raiklen has composed music and sound design for theater (Death and the Maiden), dance (Russian Ballet), television (Sing Me a Story), cell phone (Spacey Movie), museums (Museum of Tolerance), concert (Violin Sonata ), and film (Appalachian Trail).
His compositions have been performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the first Disney Hall. David Raiken is also host of a successful radio program, Classical Fan Club.

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