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Series / The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo

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The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo is a live-action series that ran on Nickelodeon from 1996 to 1999. The series is about a girl named Shelby Woo (Irene Ng), who lives with her grandfather Mike (Pat Morita) at his bed and breakfast. The first three seasons take place in Cocoa Beach, Florida. After Season 3, the show was retooled, with Shelby and Mike moving to Boston.

The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo provides the following tropes:

  • Absence of Evidence: In "Fool's Gold", the absence of footprints inside the dive shop helps prove that Mr. Pappas actually staged the robbery.
  • Amateur Sleuth: The title character
  • Boyish Short Hair: Sported by Angie.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The case is usually solved when Shelby remembers small details from earlier and discovers a connection between that and clues about the culprit.
  • Clear My Name: Detective Hineline in "The Hit and Run Case" and Shelby in "The Paul Revere Mystery"
  • Cool Old Guy: Mike
  • Conviction by Contradiction: Used frequently on the show
  • Cozy Mystery: Until season four, where she is in Boston.
  • Detective Mole: Detective Waterman in "The Alley Cat"
  • Dude Magnet: Shelby; any time there's a new guy in an episode, he'll very likely end up crushing on her.
  • Enemy Mine: A downplayed example since it's more rivals than anything else but a storyline in one of the tie-in books featured Shelby's Cocoa Beach friends coming to visit her in Boston had them not getting along with her new friends at all, to Shelby's distress. Then Shelby winds up missing and they end up working together to find her.
  • Enfante Terrible: Downplayed in "The Mystery of the Mice that Roared." A brand-new restaurant opens in Boston, but increasingly-dangerous pranks plague the customers, including someone placing mice on a serving tray and spiking the food with chili powder. The culprit turns out to be the preteen daughter of the restaurant's owners, who has felt neglected since they're constantly working and have no time for her. It's clear that the girl isn't evil, just immature, lonely, and acting out the only way she knows how, which explains why both her parents and the cops quickly forgive her.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Used frequently on the show as well, usually just before The Summation.
  • Evil Gloating: In "Mystery in the Wilderness," the thief is about to get away with stealing a valuable computer chip and trapping Shelby, Noah, and Cindi in ropes, but stops to gloat and taunt the kids, mockingly suggesting that Noah's survival guide could help. He promptly clocks the crook in the head with the guide, knocking them out and saving the day.
  • Faking and Entering: Mr. Pappas does this in "Fool's Gold"
  • Fiery Cover-Up: in "The Smoke Screen Case", Dr. Baxindine was burning down houses to hide the fact she was illegally harboring endangered animals inside the houses.
  • Foil: Both members of Shelby's two trios foil their same-gender counterparts. Cindy is a Jumps at Shelby's call type (and in one of the books, is implied to have been drawn to Shelby's unusual nature right away, though then it was Shelby being exotic rather than eccentric) who tends to make less than sensible decisions; Angie is initially thrown horribly by Shelby's ways and is prone to pointing out when a decision isn't well thought through (though she has her moments). Noah is a Sour Supporter who hates getting involved in the plot while Vince is immediately drawn into Shelby's mystery-seeking ways and remains as such; Vince also has a fair amount of Ship Tease with Shelby while Noah's relationship with her is strictly platonic.
  • Gaslighting: An unintentional example in "The Haunted House Mystery." It turns out the noises and odd disturbances going on in the house were being caused by the woman's grandson... because he was secretly trying to find proof of the supposed ghost.
  • Gender Bender Nickname: In "Hot Seats Part 2", Jo Rowan is actually Josephine Rowan.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: In "The Alley Cat", the Waterman pearls were hidden inside the eyes of Tamara's teddy bear.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Shelby has this relationship with Noah, Cindy and Angie. Vince is another matter...
  • Identical Stranger: Noah having one in "Two Faced" winds up getting him kidnapped.
  • Implied Love Interest: Vince and Shelby are constantly hinted to be interested in each other in Season 4.
  • Impostor Forgot One Detail: In "The Big Cheese Mystery," a criminal dresses up as Cheese Louise, a popular kid's show character, to rob banks. Shelby solves the crime when she notices that the Cheese Louise crook is wearing green gloves—the actual character always wore red ones. That knowledge helps her realize that the guilty suspect is a red-green colorblind woman who's been making mistakes based on red and green hues throughout the case.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: In "Mystery in the Wilderness," a thief plants a stolen computer chip in Noah's bag before he, Shelby, and Cindi go out camping, then retrieves it later in the trip, after the girls insist that Noah get rid of some of the many, MANY items he insisted on bringing. The crook gives herself away when she comments on a stain remover that was originally in the bag; that remover was the only thing Noah threw out, meaning that only someone who had looked inside the pack before he changed its contents could have known about it.
  • Is It Always Like This?: Angie is a bit unnerved when her new friend (Shelby) acts in a confusing and erratic manner. She adapts eventually, though she never quite stops being distressed when Shelby's investigations get them into uncomfortable and/or dangerous situations.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Detective Hineline and Noah, though more the former than the latter.
  • Mystery of the Week: The basic premise of the show.
  • Papa Wolf: Mike is fiercely protective of Shelby, as is Detective Hineline.
  • Potty Emergency: Shelby has one of these in "The Smoke Screen Case" from all the water she drank(due to how hot her Pearl the Safety Squirrel costume was)and she ends up having to use a bathroom in a deserted house after Detective Hineline finishes checking it for suspects, he then ends up getting knocked out from behind by the suspect(who then sets the house on fire) while Shelby is using the bathroom upstairs and she ends up having to wake him up and help save him from the burning house.
    • Angie has one in "The UFO Mystery" when she is trying to hang up a "Back in 5 Minutes" sign at the video store she works so she can relieve herself only to be interrupted by a customer(who turns out to be one of the suspects) searching for a copy of a video she does not have right when she's about to lock the door, Angie repeatedly tries tell him of her need to pee so she can relieve herself but he keeps interrupting her about the video and finally Angie is able to get him to go away and as soon as he leaves she immediately makes a mad dash offscreen to relieve herself.
  • Power Trio: Shelby always had a male and female ally.
  • Rule of Three: Each episode usually featured three suspects, one of whom was almost always the culprit.
  • Sand In My Eyes: Inverted in the Wilton era Christmas episode. When the food at the restaurant that someone has been sabotaging all episode gets spiked with chili pepper, Angie, a server there, gets some in her eye. After Shelby reveals who the culprit is, she watches the culprit reconciling with her parents but then suddenly notices Angie's eyes getting redder and starts fussing over her friend, assuming that the chili powder is further irritating her eyes. Angie chokily informs Shelby her eyes are fine; she's just crying.
  • Smokescreen Crime: A string of arsons on abandoned houses draws the attention of the local police enforcement. It is later discovered that the culprit is a local veterinarian who is trafficking exotic animals by hiding them in the abandoned houses, and the purpose of the fires was to destroy any material evidence. Fittingly, the episode is titled "The Smoke Screen Case".
  • Sour Supporter: Noah. He snarks at Shelby and Cindy like no tomorrow but in the end, he's a dedicated friend who'll come through for the team. Especially if the girls are being threatened.
  • Throw the Book at Them: How Noah defeats the crook in "The Wilderness Mystery," with the help of his oversized guide to camping. For bonus points, said crook suggests that the guide could save the kids during some evil gloating, which gives Noah the idea in the first place.
  • Token Trio: Gender inverted and minorities played with- Asian female hero with black female and white male sidekicks.
  • True Companions: Shelby has this relationship with both duos of friends she has over the course of the show; she has a tendency to freak out if they're in danger or hurt and they're guaranteed to have her back and fuss over her if she's hurt or in trouble.
  • Unfazed Everyman: Vince manages to be this, seamlessly adapting to Shelby's eccentricities.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Shelby has this with Vince in Season 4. Sadly, the show ended before we can get a definite answer.
  • Yandere: In "Wipeout." The culprit framed the suspect to keep him in jail so she could see him whenever she wanted.