You know what I like? SCOOBY DOO. You know what I hate? That new show MYSTERY INCORPORATED. Why? Because it’s just an unbelievable stupid and badly written show! But wait, hasn’t SCOOBY DOO always been pretty stupid? And I wouldn’t call any of the scripts Oscar worthy. Shut up, you idiot! What do you know? Why am I even trying to fool anybody into thinking I’m talking to someone, although we all know that this is no real conversation? I didn’t even bother with formatting it like one! MYSTERY INCORPORATED is an insult to the franchise! Yes, even more than THE 13 GHOSTS OF SCOOBY DOO or SHAGGY & SCOOBY DOO GET A CLUE. Just because it tries so hard to be the definitive version of SCOOBY DOO, but doesn’t reach above badly written fanfiction level.
Yes, the concept behind SCOOBY DOO was always very simple. A group of teenagers and their dog stumble across ghosts and monsters, start to investigate and in the end it always turns out to be a man in a mask, who tries to cover up a crime with his spooky hijinks. During its run SCOOBY DOO, WHERE ARE YOU never really changed this concept. It didn’t have to. Everything worked so well. The characters weren’t deep. Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby Doo were just a jock, a pretty girl, a highly intelligent nerd, a goofball and a dog, who hang out with each other. But they were likable and even back in 1969 developed enough, to let audiences all over the world fall in love with them, even though we never saw their families and they never talked about their feelings. The gang never had to. They were instant classics like James Bond or Stan & Ollie (I think we can be sure that the characters Laurel & Hardy played were not themself). During the last 41 YEARS, the show has been re-tooled and/or spun-off so often, that nobody should care about Scooby anymore, but people still do.
The franchise suffered from failures like THE NEW SCOOBY DOO MOVIES, in which every week a new celebrity (like Don Adams, Dick van Dyke, The Three Stooges or even Sonny & Cher) or cartoon character (like Batman & Robin!!!) joined the ghost hunt. Or the SCRAPPY DOO years, in which three of the main character disappeared without any explaination, just to have Shaggy & Scooby team up with an obnoxious puppy, that is today mostly known for being the butt of unnecessary-character-addition-jokes. THE 13 GHOSTS OF SCOOBY DOO brought Daphne back, added a creepy kid named Flim Flam to the team and let them catch real ghosts all over the world. Without Vincent Price’s wonderful voicework as helpful wizard Vincent van Ghoul, this show had seriously no redeeming value. Not to mention SHAGGY & SCOOBY DOO GET A CLUE, which is not just painful to watch because of its horrible character design, but also because of the lame superhero plot, in which Shaggy & Scooby have to stop a mad scientist from taking over the world.
At least before GET A CLUE came out, more specific in the wake of the two James Gunn scripted live action movies, a show named WHAT’S NEW, SCOOBY DOO came out. This one was a pretty faithful update of the original concept. No real ghosts, the full gang was back, but without Scrappy or any other unnecessary characters. It did almost everything right. Like shaping the characters a little bit better without really changing them. I’m not just talking about a re-design, although they did a very nice one, that modernized their classic look, in a very natural way. They also gave them some quirks and likes, without changing their character. Velma became a huge ice hockey fan and had in more than one episode a crush on a celebrity. Fred became…many people claim he became dumb, but in fact, he wasn’t dumb. A little bit more naive maybe, but that also made him more enthusiastic for many things. Okay, Daphne probably became a little bit too obsessed with fashion, but it’s not that they made a shallow, fashion-obsessed person out of her. Just someone who puts emphasis on looking good. The two characters who changed the least over the years were of course Shaggy & Scooby and that’s a good thing. And they are the two characters that not even the people behind MYSTERY INCORPORATED dared to change.
Yes, as you could figure out because of the last sentence, that new Scooby show changed a lot. Technically change isn’t a bad thing, especially not when something is as simple as Scooby Doo. And MYSTERY INCORPORATED stays true to the main core and introduces every week a new villain in a ghost costume. (Although they have now a seriously lame story arc about a mysterious „Mr. E“, but I will come back to that later.) Matthew Lillard, who is now the official voice of Shaggy, after Casey Kasem retired from voice acting last year, is seriously good. Visually it’s maybe the most breathtaking cartoon on TV right now! Well, at least in terms of background design and colour pattern. Because the characters look now seriously ugly. They are all very rectangular and Fred has such a huge chin, that (Insert Jay Leno- or Bruce Campbell joke here: _______________________________________). Velma became way too skinny (Yay, anorexia!) and now wears some silly bows in her hair . Also her pullover got even tighter and her boobage became surprisingly (I don’t wanna say „awesome“, because talking about the awesomness of cartoon boobs is more something for 4Chan and the current rs.net board, but this way I can re-use the „awesome boobage“ tag from the Tomb Raider Soundtrack article. Yes, new WordPress tags are expensive.). The character design is not nearly as awful as in GET A CLUE, but it says a lot that Velma looked there a lot cuter than here. But they not just changed the gang from the out-, but also from the inside!
Fred became an idiot. I mean a real idiot. They seriously dumbed him down as if the writers only know him from A PUP NAMED SCOOBY DOO (a surprisingly good working Scooby spin-off from the late 80′s, in which the gang were turned into little kids and the humor became a whole lot sillier and cartoony). In one episode he tries to play an 8-Track tape on a turntable! That’s how dumb he is now. He spents 6 ½ episodes with not getting any hint from Daphne, that she wants to be more than just his friend and when he realizes that he has feelings for her too, he is seriously asking himself if he can still be a man, now that he has feelings! And did I mention his creepy obsession with traps? In the original series, he always was the guy who came up with the traps that caught the villain in the end. And the people responsible for MYSTERY INCORPORATED decided to crank this up to 11, by making him a weirdo who can’t think about anything else than building new traps. He even has a real bear trap standing in the middle of his room and in one episode built a trap, just to catch the mailman! Daphne did so far nothing else than trying to flirt with Fred and pouting when he doesn’t get hint #1.254.865.452. And Velma…don’t get me started with Velma. I hate what they did to her. She is now an angry, mean-spirited, shallow sitcom character, who hates everything about her boyfriend (who happens to be Shaggy)! She also isn’t apparently that smart anymore, because in one episode she can’t figure out a very obvious anagram and in another she can’t even translate a very easy latin sentence. To be honest, I can’t remember one occasion in this show where she uses her brain at all. But what she does is getting jealous over Shaggy’s friendship with Scooby, critizising the way he eats, the way he talks and the way he dresses! She has no respect for authority (To be fair: The authorities in this show are pretty dumb.), desecrates in one episode a cemetary because Shaggy tells her he don’t wanna go on a prom with her (I’m serious! She kicks two tombstones in a row!) and right in the first episode she explains to a group of people how all the creatures from earlier episodes, like ‘Space Kook’ or ‘Miner 49er’ were so unbelievable lame, because they were fake. Way to go, writers of MYSTERY INCOPORATED. Let’s make the fans happy by telling them right in the beginning how lame everything was.
But well, at least they acknowledge the earlier adventures of the gang, instead of ignoring them completely, like every other Scooby show or movie, with the exception of the 2nd live action movie, did. But judging by the rest of the show and how they treat the characters, it’s just a cheap gimmick to lull the fans. Y’know, like Malibu Stacy’s brand new hat! I’m very sure none of the writers has ever watched Scooby Doo. Maybe they just read a few Wikipedia articles, to find some good stuff for shameless fan service. Vincent van Ghoul re-appears, although he is now the star of some cheesy horror films that Shaggy and Scooby watch on TV. And in one episode Shaggy’s love for ventriloquism is mentioned. Something that was completely forgotten since the WHERE ARE YOU years. Yeah, sounds nice, but all in all, the show just feels like a badly written fanfiction.
As you can read in this press release, the writers promise to portray the gang as “real teens with real problems, dealing with situations that arise in their families and personal relationships within the group“. Well, that sounds good on paper. Although there was not much wrong with the way the characters were portrayed so far, I like the idea of adding some focus on their life outside of their occassional monsterhunting activities. The problem is just that I have apparently a whole different idea of “real teens, dealing with real problems“ than the writers! All the promised character development is non-existent. Unless you count stripping everything away from them that made them likable and turning them into soulless plot devices, who only act to either create lots of hackneyed teenie-love-drama or the next silly joke, as character development. The only ones who have at least still some personality left, are Shaggy and Scooby. Especially Shaggy, whose attempts to find a balance between his relationships with his girlfriend and his best friend have been so far the best part of this show’s „character development“. The rest of the gang is just stuck with repeating their brand new sitcom personas episode for episode, unless the writers decide to spice things up with lame plot devices like „I heard a short part of something you said, that was totally ripped out of context and now I think you hate me, although you said the opposite“ or „you seem to love your best friend in the world much more than you love me and because of that I’m totally jealous“. Dear writers: just because every second fanfiction is full of stuff like that, it doesn’t mean that the fans wants to see it every week in a TV show!
Oh, you think it can’t get any worse? Do you remember that „Mr. E“ that I mentioned above? Well, in a lame attempt to catch viewers, the producers decided to give the show a story arc. I don’t have a problem with story arcs either. As an avid TV watcher I know that you can have lots of fun with properly written story arcs. But at the same time I know that they can also be a REAL party pooper, when they are badly executed or doesn’t deliver satisfying (or any) closure. I won’t talk about LOST here, because I’m sick of discussing it, but instead I go back to the 90′s, when THE X-FILES suddenly became the new standard for serialized television. Suddenly every other show either turned into a bad mystery show (Worst offender: Season 2 of BAYWATCH NIGHTS. Worked surprisingly good with its new broad stroke of mystery: KUNG FU: THE LEGEND CONTINUES) or introduced a mysterious story arc, just for the sake of it. (MARTIAL LAW anyone?) Not to mention all the new shows, with a long winding, mysterious story arc, that became more and more ridiculous with every episode and then just ended without providing any closure, when the show got suddenly cancelled. (Will we ever find out if Jared could destroy The Centre and re-unite with his family? I don’t think so.) And it still happens! Just ask the fans of REAPER! Yes, I say a story arc usually provides more frustration than joy. Even though I recently had a discussion with someone who claims that a story arc alone makes a good story. I’m sure they make MYSTERY INCOPORATED for people like him (no offense).
To be fair, this story arc had no chance to really go overboard yet. We just saw seven episodes and in two of them it didn’t even play a role. It just feels completely unnecessary. What is it about? Well apparently the home town of Scooby & Co (Which is now „Crystal Cove“ and not „Coolsville“.) has a dark secret and since Daphne found a necklace with a photo in it, a creepy guy who calls himself “Mr. E“ (Oh. Yeah. Got it? “Mystery“. Clever.) gives them hints and orders to help them uncover it. Or he isn’t helping them, because the show plays the good ol’ game of „is he good or is he evil“. Oh, and apparently a token black radio Djane with the faux Blaxploitation name „Angel Dynamite“ (Wow, the writers have such a talent for original ideas.) is somehow involved with this too. But I don’t care, because it’s a real showstopper. During the few first episodes it happened more than once that the show worked for a few moments. Moments in which our heroes weren’t acting dumb or busy with turning the show into a telenovela, but just solving a good old fashioned mystery, when suddenly Mr. E entered the story and made me cringe. We don’t see him, we only know his voice and he only appears maybe once per episode, but for me, he is this show’s Scrappy. Someone who is completely unnecessary and just destroys the dynamic of the show. And something tells me that in the end the whole Mr. E story could have been solved within two, maybe even just one episodes, but like so many other story arcs of the last 20 years, they had to stretch it without a good reason.
Okay, let’s recap: I like, no I LOVE the idea behind SCOOBY DOO: MYSTERY INCORPORATED. A new Scooby show that promises to be more spooky without making the ghosts and monsters real, puts the gang into a more „realistic“ environment that includes their families and school and turns Velma and Shaggy into a dating couple? Hell yeah! That must be the show all fans have waited for! Unfortunately it suffers from bad writing, bad characterisations, ugly character design, an unnecessary and forced story arc and an overall lack of understanding of what made Daphne, Velma, Fred, Shaggy and Scooby so popular for now more than 40 years. But well, it’s not the first bad Scooby show and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Let’s just wait and see what the next show will bring us. I for myself don’t bother anymore with watching it.