Reviews: Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated
It's good, but falls short of great.
Let's get this out of the way: Mystery Incorporated is the best entry in the Scooby-Doo franchise since the original series, and arguably since the beginning. It succeeded where most of its predecessors failed: It did new, fresh things with the franchise without abandoning everything that made it appealing to begin with. It could alternate between funny, scary and exciting, and ended on a truly spectacular and bold series finale. With that said, the show was not without its problems. Generally the episodes focusing on the Myth Arc were solid, but the filler material was very hit-and miss, and the quality of the mysteries varied tremendously: Sometimes the solutions were genuinely clever and unexpected (e.g. Beware the Beast from Below, Wrath of the Krampus), sometimes they were so utterly obvious that the writers barely seemed to be trying to surprise you (The Creeping Creatures, The Secret Serum), and sometimes they were only surprising because of how utterly nonsensical and contrived they were (The Siren's Song, The Night the Clown Cried II). The reinvented characters are a bit of a mixed bag. Shaggy and Daphne don't feel too different. Scooby is more likeable here than he's ever been, underplayed compared to other incarnations but unafraid to get into action when it's called for. Velma is usually likeable, but in poorer episodes tends to be characterised as just too abrasive and bitchy. Fred is simultaneously the best reinvention and the most problematic - when well written, this Fred is easily the show's best character, a naive and socially inept young man, who is nevertheless quite intelligent and unequalled in the realm of adventure and mystery-solving. However, the show's poorer episodes tend to just write him as an utter idiot ridiculously obsessed with "traps", and not even that good at making those. This makes him a much more limited character than he should be. The show tends to fall into the DreamWorks trap of trying to be too subversive and above-it-all. Subversiveness works well when it's earned, but when it's overdone in a non-parodic work it results in the show feeling smug and insincere, and that's definitely a problem this show had in its worst episodes. Still, the good stuff is great enough that it's worth suffering the occasional dud.
The franchise finally embraces itself
There's been a trend over the past decade or so where every new piece of Scooby Doo media takes cheap shots at the past—how dated things like the Mystery Machine and Fred's ascot are, and the silliness of the old Catch Phrases, things like that. It'd gotten to the point where it almost seems like the franchise is ashamed of itself, ashamed of its past, which would be fine if it was doing anything to improve on it. Mystery Inc. does a great job sidestepping this. The show is set in an Anachronism Stew, the catch phrases are played totally straight. Because it sees the problem with the franchise in a way recent installments didn't: the issue was never the datedness or how cheesy the old show was. It was that the premise was nonsensical and that the characterizations made planes look three-dimensional. And rather than mocking that it goes in and fixes both, without particularly heavy damage to either. These are still the characters we know and love, doing the things we're used to them doing, but for far better reasons and with much more sentiment. If the show takes cheap shots, it's at Hannah-Barbera's hackery rather than at the franchise itself. There are endless cheap shots at the quantity of rip-offs the show spawned and the endless attempts to "retool" the franchise without fixing anything, and how it came at the expense of moving forward and acknowledging the modern kids-animation landscape. The show embraces the past, but also takes its first steps into a century that has gradually been ratcheting up how much characterization and continuity we let into our kids shows. I hope that this is a trend that continues, that future incarnations of the franchise learn from this installment. Because there's an important lesson here: all you need to do to revitalize Scooby Doo is write it well.
Mystery Inc. Magnum Opus of the Scooby Doo Franchise
In every franchise, a show is created so good, that some say nothing afterward will ever reach its quality. For Power Rangers it Was Power Rangers RPM or Power Rangers In Space. For Superhero cartoons, it was the DCAU. But for this, there is no doubt that NOTHING the Scooby Doo Franchise ever produced or will produce will ever reach what they created in Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated. Planned in a 52 episode story arc in the veins of Darker And Edgier, Deconstruction and Reconstruction, this series is the new gold standard for Scooby Doo products and perhaps even for western animation. Starting with the old cliches of a teenage team of mystery solvers in their City Of Adventure Crystal Cove, things change. Character Development turns Fred into a brave but emotionally stunted trapster, Daphne into a complex character in her love story with Fred, Velma into a Teen Genius who almost reaches Skeptic No Longer with the supernatural (but for good reason), Shaggy and Scooby into people with braver sides. The monsters are far more scary. While most of the mysteries are still the Scooby Doo Hoax, it's tradition. The Animation is smooth and stylized, with its own distinct feel and sometimes using CGI for big groups. Although keeping the classic outfits, there's modern technology, and high brow concepts like String Theory are used in ways younger viewers can understand. Most episodes are scary and intricate. (most) However, the Myth Arc is awesome. Interesting, carrying points from every episode, haunting, and yes, Nightmare Fuel. It's weird thinking about this when the first episodes have romance as the focus outside mysteries, but by the end, the whole show reads like a really good mystery. Ultimately, that's why it's a series that should never have worked. Continuity Lock Out is a major problem in the series, especially in season 2 if you lose track. Further, the cognitive dissonance between this being a scooby doo show and it being a borderline Cosmic Horror Story with murder and death will put off some viewers. However, if you give it a chance (and at least 4 episodes), you'll find a show about friendship, hope, intellect, investigation, and facing down evil. This was the greatest creation to ever use Scooby Doo, and I hope its legend will grow. What else can I say but, Scooby Dooby DOOOOOOO!!!!
The Scooby-Doo People Should Want
Scooby-Doo was a legend among kids in the 60's and 70's, and the franchise stuck throughout many years. Some of the attempted revivals were a bit lackluster in my opinion, and Scooby-Doo seemed like it was dying down in quality to me. That's when this show came out. This series completely renewed my love for the entire franchise, and I hope future Scooby-Doo productions will follow in its footsteps. My favorite thing about the series was its way of giving a Scooby-Doo series a supernatural story arc, while maintaining the whole Scooby Doo Hoax plot, and taking time to develop its characters. Personally, I think that the gang members may have been a little bland before this series began developing them. Fred's love for traps, combined with his confusion of emotions towards Daphne, makes the character a lovable cloudcuckoolander and bold and brave leader of the gang at the same time. Daphne's character seemed the least developed, but it was also nice to see a relationship between her and Fred finally bloom. Velma was also a good character, as her snarky attitude and constant determination to figure the mysteries out, combined with confusion about her feelings for Shaggy in her earlier episodes, made her seem like a more realistic representation of a female mystery solving girl, or about as good of a representation as I presume one would have in real life. Shaggy and Scooby didn't need to change much, as it was always interesting how their personalities would play out to the Darker And Edgier feel of the series, with hilarious results. We're also introduced to new characters on the show, such as the hilarious Sheriff Bronson Stone, and the villainous Freak of Crystal Cove, who has also been overwhelmed by the secret of the treasure. Overall, this is the Scooby-Doo people should want. It's funny and weird at the exact moments it needs to be. There was only one slight problem. CARTOON NETWORK FREAKIN' SCREWED IT!!! I'm sure I'm not the only one upset by the network's utter neglect for this series. I'm running out of words, so I'm just going to say that airing the story arc important episodes in inconvenient times was not smart, and I'm sure there were quite a few fans who did not get to finish the arc, or at least couldn't fully understand it due to not seeing episodes prior to it. Possibly the best Scooby yet. 9.5/10 Stars!
Love It or Hate It
I avoided Mystery Inc. for awhile and the basis that most Scooby Doo restarts just...haven't been very good, at least to me. This is for two reasons, I think: 1] They were essentially trying to make the same show as the original. 2] The monsters sucked. When I began to watch Mystery Inc., though, I was pleasantly surprised. I had been wary about the style change, but it works well. The characters actually have developed personalities and development. There's actually a reason their town is flooded with monsters. We actually see the gang's parents and other recurring characters. And there's a heck of a plot arc. Another thing I really like is the fact that instead of placing the show in modern day, the creators have kept the 60's/70's aesthetic, but with modern technology. This really works with the show, and makes it really enjoyable to look at. Now the bad stuff: The monsters still aren't very exciting. I wish they were a little less corny, a little more serious. The CG Mystery Machine and other mechanical stuff seems out of place. The plot arc means you need to watch it order, which can be irritating when CN doesn't air reruns in order. There's a bit too much of an emphasis on romance, but it gets better later on. I've seen other people complain about it not being child-friendly [there's some making-out at points], and it just not being the same show as the original. Both are fairly true, but it really depends on how you feel about it. Like I said, I like the fact that it's not the same show; I don't think a copy of the original would work today. Overall, it really is a love-it-or-hate-it thing. If it sounds like something you'd like, I'd recommend checking it out. Just don't expect the same Scooby Doo you've seen before.
Seriously Too Good To Last
Blatant ending Spoilers! Ye have been warned! What makes this show work and incredibly torporific is how the series is self critical of the franchise while supercharging the elements loved from the past. For once, there is an overarching mystery plot and character growth. For once the Villains of the Week are actually terrifying. Though still TV-7 there is so much appeal for older audiences, both for longtime fans and adult viewers. Who could have imagined Scooby Doo could have gotten away with homages to Terminator, SAW, Twin Peaks and more? Complete with beautiful animation and music. What makes the show so awesome…is also what's made it too good to last in the eyes of the executives. This can be seen for how meagerly the show was given attention and the lengthy gaps in a relatively short series. It speaks that there were people at Cartoon Network who weren't sure what to do with this show. It's a cartoon for kids that has immense appeal for older audiences, that takes risks, that is not like any past version of Scooby Doo. Be it early romantic plot tumors or cases of Continuity Lockout, this is a Scooby Doo show that can't be viewed the same way as ones before (mainly out of order). I haven't noticed any outcry from the target demographic, the parents or the media watchdogs, but this is enough for the executives to cancel the third season from lower views and ratings. Although if Cartoon Network knew what they had, there's more incentive to make more seasons. The big Reset Button of the finale paves the way to what most people know Scooby Doo to be: a bunch of teenagers solving mysteries. What with the gang on a road trip to college and with a new Mr. E mentor, this series ending high note begs for new episodes. They don't have to be as plot heavy as the originally pitched two seasons. We've had that story and it was good. Perhaps Season three could have a smaller arc but the show could go back to episodic mystery solving as the gang has new adventures. Keep the characterization, keep the humor and horror and it would work. While I like the show's plot, the breather episodes where the bigger plot did not progress were equally enjoyable and better fit the familiar Scooby Doo standard. Still, if the series is never revived there is still a well done, high quality show masterfully done for its genre of animation.