Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is basically what The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby-Doo should have been like…maybe toned down somewhat for ABC’s Saturday morning requirements, but still darker with less fourth-wall breaking. A lot less, but I’ve done that discussion already. What you may not know is that this isn’t the actual name of the gang. No, I don’t mean “Scooby-Doo Detective Agency” like in A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, though that was the first time the gang was seen as actual detectives instead of four young people and a talking dog who come across villains using fear tactics to hide their criminal operations or seek revenge on people. “Mysteries Incorporated” used to be a programming block on Cartoon Network where Scooby-Doo, Speed Buggy, and shows that followed their style would be grouped. I believe the Boomerang version was called “Those Meddling Kids”, but more Scooby-centric. Somehow it became the unofficial name of the group until this series came out. That’s a little trivia from an old fogey.
I want it on record that I do not hate this show, I do not have any issues with this show in general (though I have my nitpicks) and my reason for not enjoying the show are entirely personal. I’ve only watched a few episodes and the series just never drew me in. For everything they did right there were a few things I wasn’t thrilled with. However, I fully understand people loving this incarnation and more power to you. It’s not an insult to the franchise but in its own way is a tribute to Scooby-Doo and shows like it while still being it’s own entity. So to speak. And the intro captures the show perfectly.
If you never saw a Scooby show before this introduces the cast and their personalities within this incarnation. Scooby and Shaggy are…still Scooby and Shaggy, Velma continues her research and computer skills, Fred is obsessed with traps (I’ll come back to this), and Daphne is obsessed with Fred, something that actually started in the direct-to-video movies, not the TV shows, as I’ve explained already this month. The art style works for what the show was going for, though what interests me is everybody is back to the classic look, right down to Freddy’s ascot that had been missing in the direct-to-video and previous TV shows since What’s New Scooby-Doo. Now this is their official look even in current video movies and the TV shows to follow.
The theme song also really captures the style of the show with how mysterious the music is. I think it’s the first theme song since the pilot of Scooby-Doo Where Are You to not have any dialog either from a singer to characters talking. Yeah, there’s Scooby doing his catch phrase at the end, but the rest of it is silent except for the music, which really makes the tone seem spookier. One of the things a good intro does is draw the viewer into their fictional world and this one does a great job of that, even more than the cold open.
The idea that the usual fake monsters combined with real supernatural horrors, to the point that the latter was the cause of the former, is actually an interesting take. There are some issues with execution though, at least with me. Fred being obsessed with mysteries would fit into his character. Fred being obsessed with traps to the point that a magazine about traps is like porn to him? That’s a bit too weird. Fred’s crazy traps in the early years, with all the simplicity of a Rube Goldberg device, kind of faded away but they did have to capture the bad guy (or girl) to unmask them somehow. Even Fred’s more recent years obsession with the Mystery Machine, confusing when you remember for a time Fred let Shaggy have it before it disappeared in The 13 Ghosts, doesn’t quite fit. Fred should be into solving mysteries and helping others, and that’s not what the show did.
I already discussed the whole Velma and Shaggy situation in the article linked to earlier, so let’s go over the other quibbles. There’s an episode with Blue Falcon and Dynomutt and I actually like the origin they came up with, even the connection to Jonny Quest, but why did they give him a “Dark Knight Returns” makeover? The episode where Scooby has a fever dream (done in the classic HB style to set it apart from their “real world”) could have been a nice homage to the so-called Scooby-Clones but I’m not sure it really homaged the title mascot characters properly. It meant well but for me personally I remember not being as impressed as I wanted to, though that could just be what I’d like to see in a team-up rather than anything they did wrong.
Also, for all they kept the same from classic Scooby, like restoring Fred’s ascot, there were other changes I wasn’t into. We finally meet the gang’s parents. After so many years of just seeing uncles and grandparents we finally meet their parents…and they’re all kind of jerks. Yes, I do know that there was some entity below Crystal Cove (changing the Pup Named name for the the gang’s town, Coolsville, which I kind of prefer) but it’s still our introduction if you hadn’t seen A Pup Named Scooby-Doo and it’s not very flattering, especially with Fred’s parents being evil if memory serves. These are all minor nitpicks but in the end it just wasn’t the version of Scooby I was personally into, even if it was well-done and deserving of its fanbase. And for completeness…
Yes, there is a version where “Hot Dog Water”, who I just learned was named Marcie Fleach (and voiced by Velma’s actress in the James Gunn movies, making a reunion of sorts with Matthew Lillard, who by this point was officially Shaggy in the shows as well as the movies) but everyone wants to call her by that dumb name, replaces Daphne in the intro, but only in part of it. I guess it was too hard to replace her in the opening shot of the gang in the van, but it really doesn’t tell you anything about her beyond her dumb nickname. Yes, I know how she got it now, and I still don’t care. Why not use her real name even if, according to the research, Velma was the only one to use it? Still, the attempt is at least appreciated to show at least for that episode she was part of the team. I do appreciate when intros go that extra mile, like Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes changing their roster in the intro to match the selected heroes for that episode.
I guess this is a show I should like but it goes into areas that I’m just not that into and makes changes I can support and some I can’t. The next show in our journey however I should really hate. And yet I think it’s underrated.