The Dark Herald Recommends: Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated

The Dark Herald Recommends: Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated

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(On the off chance that being reminded of the existence of Scooby-Doo has you interested in actually watching a modern comedy that is based on affection and not the perverted ramblings of a woman whose hatred of something as innocent as a seventies kid show has lead her to try to poison as many memories of it as she can reach, I dragged up this review from my old blog.)

Scooby Doo Mystery Inc. season 1, was a $5 clearance bin find, that one of my kids snatched up right before a four-hour road trip.  I ended up paying full price to get season 2 and I don’t regret it in the least. This is an affectionately, hilarious send-up of 1970s Hanna-Barbera cartoons in general and the Scooby Gang in particular.

But it is also surprisingly intelligent and very well written while remaining true to the spirit of the original characters.

Scooby-Doo Where Are You!* premiered on September 13, 1969, and remained a going concern, in one form or another, for the next fifty years. This puts it in Star Trek and Doctor Who territory. This kid’s show about a talking dog and a group of teen stereotypes from the late 1960s has a cannon that covers fourteen series and thirty-six movies spanning half a century. (And a godawful unwatchable disaster on HBOmax.)

This was a show that only lasted three seasons, yet somehow it became something with a lasting cultural impact

Three generations of kids grew up watching it and it’s one of the few pop-cultural touchstones that Generation X, the Millennials, and the Zoomers have in common. When others from that time have fallen into oblivion.

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“Dad, I’m not getting half the jokes you’re laughing at.”.

And yes, that scene is in Mystery Incorporated.

There have been several attempts at updating the Scooby gang over the decades. Yet, they always default back to their original incarnations.

So, it was a touch of genius on the part of the creators of Scooby Doo Mystery Inc to set their series in a world that is apparently locked firmly and forever in 1970. A world where Harlan Ellison is still the hot new writer and Don Knotts still looks like Mister Chicken.

The individual episodes are still ‘fake-monster of the week’ but the two-season run is a self-contained storyline and the course of that time period follows the three-act play structure.   The individual episodes, kinda sorta allow the characters of the Gang to grow a little.  Though not too much.  After all, no one really wants them changing at all.  The show also answers a number of long-standing questions that nobody ever asked in the first place.

Crystal Cove, California, or possibly Florida, I’m not sure which, was founded by Spanish Conquistadors who vanished mysteriously.  Then a Spanish mission was established on the site until it vanished mysteriously.  Then Crystal Cove itself was established as a mining town and mostly hasn’t vanished…yet.  Although, bits of it disappear from time to time.

Regardless, Crystal Cove remains the hub of many supernatural occurrences.  And time after time, through out the centuries, a group of four young people with a talking animal mascot band together to try and solve them.

This world is perpetually stuck in the 1970s, the poor bastards will never reach the Eighties.   Hilariously authentic Seventies Bossa Nova music is played at the local tiki bar.  Cameras with flashcubes are everywhere as is the aforementioned Don Knotts.  Honestly, the Easter eggs are going to be the real selling point for any Gen-Xer couple watching this with their kids.  However, that isn’t the shows only selling point.  It’s actually funny.  Deliberately and comically funny. Yet it still maintains the spirit of the original series.   The few guest stars it has are appropriate to the show’s motif.  And yes, Harlen Ellison was my favorite.

The art design and animation are both kind of impressive given the budget.  But the real selling point is the story of the Scooby Gang and their two season-long quest to discover the fate of their predecessors, Mystery Incorporated and the identity of their mysterious benefactor, Mister E. They decipher their connection with that vanished group of teenage mystery solvers.

The show was carefully plotted (take note Game of Thrones) and the characters were consistent with themselves. Something to take note of is the explanation of why Scooby can talk and more importantly, why is no one freaked out about it. This series has fifty years of fairly inconsistent canon to incorporate and yet somehow they did it.

For the most part.

The voice talent did an excellent job on recreating the characters original voices. Although in the case of Frank Welker, he was the original voice of Freddie Jones. Casey Kasem on the other hand really wasn’t up to sounding at all like Shaggy when this series was produced so instead played Shaggy’s dad. It was his last TV role.

Taken as a whole Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated is a funny, charming, and nostalgic show aimed at the Gen-Xer with kids.

The Dark Herald Recommends with Enthusiasm.

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*Grammarly keeps insisting that I should replace the “!” with a “?” and you know, it does have a point. This is clearly meant to be a question. And one that I never considered for fifty years.

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