Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gotta Solve That Mystery

My son woke up not feeling well, so he and I have given our morning over to a marathon of Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated. Because I'm me and thus constantly analyzing all fiction I come across, I've spent a lot of my viewing time trying to figure out what it is that makes this my favorite Scooby Doo series to date.


Looking at the various renditions of Scooby Doo is an interesting exercise in concept versus execution. The feel of each series is different despite the basic set-up being the same, ie a group of kids and their talking dog solving mysteries and unmasking monsters. There's always an element of humor and at least a dash of the ridiculous, but the nuances shift.

I asked my son why he thought I like this version more than the ones that were on when I was a kid. (I didn't like Scooby Doo much as a child. But it was the Scrappy Doo era, so...) He said, "I think it's because it has a wider target audience."

Let's take a second while I bask in how freaking proud I am that my nine-year-old talks like that.

I pointed out that jokes aimed at parents are hardly a new thing for Scooby. They've always been there. And jokes aimed at my generation of parents (as opposed to my parents) are all over What's New Scooby Doo, which even has some halfway decent alt rock tossed in on the soundtrack. Yet, I think he has a point. Something about this makes it target both him and me, to the point that I'd watch it without him. I like What's New Scooby Doo, but not enough to put it on just for me. That's unique to Mystery Incorporated.

The look of the show is clearly different. The screen shots don't look like a kids show, but like a comic book. That's undoubtedly part of it, but there are two other factors that I think weigh more. 1.) Scooby isn't the only main character and 2.) The kids all have lives outside of what's happening in this episode.

Yes, I can hear obvious objections to both of those points.

I'm aware the entire gang has been in most, though not all, incarnations of Scooby. But more screen time was given to Scooby and his sidekick Shaggy than to all the others combined. (Except for the ones which went so far as to remove the other three humans all together.) For the most part, I find Scooby more annoying than amusing or interesting, so it certainly helps to see the cast more balanced.

And, as for two... Yes, there was always an implication that there were things going on outside the episode. The crew would roll into town because somebody's uncle's best friend's former roommate invited them to his creepy mansion, thus telling us that these kids have families somewhere. But we didn't see their parents or their siblings or their school or even their town except the parts directly involved in the mystery du jour. In contrast, Mystery Incorporated has a thriving background full of recurring secondary characters, a series plot arc in addition to the episode mysteries, and evolving relationships inside of Mystery Inc.

I'm sure many people are annoyed by those last two elements. Many people don't want to need to watch multiple episodes, in order. But this isn't one of those shows where you are completely lost if you missed last week's broadcast and the continuance makes the characters much less static than the used to be. Personally, outside of pure comedy (like, say Family Guy or The Simpsons), I place the possibility of character development over the convenience of watching things out of order.

And while a lot of people want to vomit just thinking about teenage relationship drama, as a writer of YA romance, I'm obviously not one of them.

On a slightly different note... I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the makers of the 2002 live action Scooby Doo for making certain that Scrappy Doo can never, ever be brought back into the Scooby-verse. Cause, really, anything that doesn't have Scrappy Doo in it is an improvement over anything that does.

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