January 16, 2016

Worth Watching Redux: Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated.

It's been a long time coming, but Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc is the logical conclusion to Scooby Doo. I honestly don't think there's anywhere to go from here but down. See, Mystery Inc isn't like other iterations of the Doo. The original series was fun for what it was, but incredibly shallow with one dimensional characters and predictable plots. My favorite versions of Scooby were from the 80s and 90s, where Scooby and the gang would often have to take down actual supernatural forces. I always really liked the film trilogy staring Scooby, Shaggy, and Scrappy from the late 1980s and the first few revival films of the 1990s starting with Zombie Island. Unfortunately, after Cyber Chase in the early 2000s, the supernatural aspect was dropped again when the cartoon show was revived. Fast forward a decade and now we've got Mystery Inc, a complete reboot of everything Scooby Doo.

This happened once.

The series actually has quite a bit in common with 1985's short lived "The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo" in that it once again has an overarching plot that pits the gang against real supernatural forces. That's one of the aspects that really makes this series shine. Not only is there a classic-style mystery every episode, but nearly all of them contain little nuggets of a larger mystery that's shrouded in, well, mystery! But of course nobody would care if the characters were one dimensional, and thankfully here they're not! For once, Mystery Inc feels like it's made of real people. But let me back up and explain the premise.

Mystery Inc serves to ground the series by giving the whole mystery solving thing a backstory. Here, the gang are high school seniors who live in a town called Crystal Cove that's a renown tourist destination for supposedly being haunted. Shaggy is a slacker with strict parents and an on/off relationship with Velma, a technogeek. Daphne's an average girl with filthy rich conservative parents, and Fred is the son of the mayor and is comically obsessed with traps. Scooby remains a talking dog. Over the course of the series, the gang uncovers the story of the original Mystery Inc that suddenly vanished one day decades ago, all while while receiving clues from an anonymous contact known only as Mr. E.

This also happened once.

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, as the first season ramps up to its conclusion, nothing can prepare you for the final 26 episodes. Things start to really get weird and you all of a sudden realize that the show has an amazing sense of continuity. Remember that one minor thing that happened ten episodes ago? It's back and it's important. This series is like what it would be if you took the red pill from Morpheus. It starts out as typical Scooby-Doo, but the longer you watch the darker and weirder it gets. Characters die. Monsters are real. Ever wondered why Scooby can talk? You're about to find out. And, of course, it helps that the show has some excellent writing that can go from funny to serious and back again without ever being predictable. I was on the edge of my seat watching this one, and came down with a case of "just-one-more" syndrome.

To top it all off, Mystery Inc has the best cast ever in a Scooby series, with the sole exception of Frank Welker as Scooby because he's incredibly hard to understand. Not sure why they didn't go with the excellent Scott Innes instead. Regardless, I loved the music and the cast in this one, which really brought updated art style to life. It all sets a certain kind of mood- my kind. It took 40 years, but it feels like this is what Scooby-Doo was always meant to be. Finally there's a reason for it all. It's a perfectly modernized take that feels like what prior installments had been building up to. Whether you're a Scooby fan or not, this show deserves your attention. It's not just the best Scooby-Doo has ever been, it's an excellent series in its own right. Not to mention that it's one of those rare shows that was actually allowed to satisfyingly conclude without being cancelled.

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