Why am I reviewing a show about a mystery-solving cartoon dog? Because I can. (No spoilers)
While searching for something mindless to watch on Netflix, I stumbled across this latest installment in the Scooby-Doo franchise. I grew up watching Scooby-Doo reruns on Cartoon Network, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I ended up marathoning all 26 episodes of season one in a day and a half.
Am I saying this show is brilliant, Emmy-worthy, and something everyone should watch? No (I am saying that about Orphan Black, however). But if you’re looking for something fun and definitively unserious, I highly recommend Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Incorporated.
The characters are essentially the same as their original incarnations, although some changes have occurred. Fred has been dumbed down quite a bit. In matters of personal relationships, he is almost painfully clueless. He’s obsessed with traps which rarely work. Velma is still the brainiac, although she shares more of the responsibility for actually solving mysteries. For some reason she has bows in her hair. Daphne has substantially de-ditzed and is arguably the second smartest member of the group now. Still, her most defining personality feature is her major crush on clueless Fred. Shaggy and Scooby are the same as ever, although there is substantially less emphasis on their antics than in the original series.
Recurring characters are also featured, most notably the gang’s parents (all of whom seem to be rich, for whatever reason). Special focus is placed on Fred’s dad, the Mayor, who is constantly vexed by his son’s obsessions with mysteries and traps. In a really charming twist, the kids’ parents never want to believe their children’s stories of masked men parading as monsters because they’d rather have there be actual monsters. The show is set in Crystal Cove, which claims to be ‘The Most Hauntedest Place on Earth.’ Every time a new monster pops up, all the town’s adults (particularly Mayor Jones and the Dinkleys, who run the local mystery museum) get excited over the prospect of a new tourist attraction and more revenue for the town.
It’s the most adult of all of the Scooby things I’d seen before. There’s a longer mystery that weaves itself through the standalone episodes of the season. You could watch random episodes of this show out of order without being too confused, but, unlike most cartoons, this show’s episodes actually have a correct sequence. Things develop as the season goes on, most notably, relationships.
Yes, the Mystery Machine crew seem to be all paired up - sort of. Velma and Shaggy begin the series together (although Velma is inarguably more interested in the relationship than Shaggy). Daphne is head over heels for Fred, who is completely clueless. The idea of the four human main characters being in relationships is meant to appeal to an older crowd, like much of the rest of the series.
I really don’t like what they did with Velma’s relationship to Shaggy. She’s a cloying, controlling girlfriend who literally makes him choose between her and his dog. She wants to control everything about him, including how he speaks, what he eats, and what he wears. It’s sort of like feminism never happened.
There is a considerable amount of satire in the show. Not considerable for an adult cartoon like The Simpsons or Futurama, but still, any satire in a show geared for a young crowd makes me happy. The teen vampire romance books Dusk (I wondering what that might be referencing) make an appearance as does a Professor H.P. Hatecraft, in a reference I’m sure most twelve year olds will be quick to grasp.
The show also consistently parodies itself and its franchise. Sample dialogue includes:
“Here’s your problem. You’re engine’s missing. I’m gonna have to order a new one from Crystal Cove. Seeing as that’s over three miles away, it won’t arrive until morning.”
“Arrest them even though I have absolutely no jurisdiction here!”
“Quick, everyone! Into that abandoned factory! We’ll be safe around the dangerous machinery.”
The show features the voice talents of: Lewis Black, Julie Bowen, Linda Cardellini, Mindy Cohn, Gary Cole, Frances Conroy, Harlan Ellison (as himself), Vivica A. Fox, Tricia Helfer, Florence Henderson, James Hong, Matthew Lillard, John O’Hurley, George Segal, George Takei, Jeffrey Tambor, Patrick Warburton, Jessica Walter, as well as venerable voice actors Jim Cummings, John DiMaggio, Tom Kenny, Maurice LaMarche, Frank Welker, and Billy West.
Also, apparently some woman named Amy Acker is in season two. Anyone heard of her?
two and a half out of four Scooby Snacks