Too Much Screens | Issue 18

Too Much Screens | Issue 18

Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated 2010-2013

Before Mystery Incorporated, the Scooby-Doo franchise had the dubious honour of being much loved, but without any real examples of greatness. The previous series had a lot to love about them, but they firmly existed in an episodic world, designed to keep kids entertained on a parent’s bleary Saturday morning. The most recent incarnation, however, takes all the best things about the series — its long history, fun mysteries, cartoon logic, and familiar characters — and roots them in a world you can actually get invested in. Let it be clear, this is the very best version of Scooby- Doo we’re going to get. It’s hilarious, frequently subversive, and uses the world it’s created to its fullest advantage.

Building on the franchise’s legacy in satisfying ways while constructing a rich world like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon never could, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is very much the Golden Age of Television version of Scooby-Doo. Audiences these days, even (or perhaps, given that we live in a world where Adventure Time is a smash hit, especially) the audiences of children’s shows, expect a degree of serialisation and character development, which Mystery Incorporated delivers surprisingly well. To a degree, the show even presaged live-action drama’s move towards filler-busting limited series with definite end-points like Fargo and True Detective, by signing up to make 52 episodes to be aired over two seasons. This allowed the show runners to tell an overarching story, pace it properly, and not have to tread water too much.

The writing of the show is great fun, with smart, silly gags everywhere. But what’s really impressive is the show’s structure, which mixes stand-alone episodes, “myth-arc” episodes, and stand-alone-episodes-which-turn-out- to-be-myth-arc-episodes to great effect. Over the course of the two seasons, the show establishes the personalities and relationships of the main cast (who now have families we get to know, and romantic relationships between them), builds a strong cast of side characters, many of whom have their own well-defined arcs, and establishes the show’s setting (the mystery-filled town of Crystal Cove). It does all this while constructing a fun, surprisingly deep mythology, planting countless hints in early episodes, and eventually paying it all off in a perfectly whacked-out endgame. Basically, whoever decided to instigate this revival loved Lost, and wanted to tell a story as ambitious as that within the Scooby-Doo universe, while trying to avoid the pitfalls that earlier show could occasionally fall prey to.

Don’t let my enthusiasm mislead you, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is, unsurprisingly, not perfect. The most disappointing thing about the series is that it eventually gives up the idea that everything that happens can be explained by a very liberal idea of what science might be capable of, an idea which really helps ground the show near the beginning, and is a nice reference to the fact that just about every episode of the classic series ends with what seems to be a supernatural beast ending up to be a nefarious guy in a suit.
This article first appeared in Issue 18, 2014.
Posted 9:43pm Sunday 3rd August 2014 by Sam Fleury.