Too Much Screens | Issue 18
Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated 2010-2013
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.