Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated (SDMI) is the best animated mystery series ever, and if you haven’t watched it, you need to.
Okay, if that’s not enough to get you off your duff and logged on to Netflix, or Amazon Instant, or heck, even YouTube, then here’s the thing: I’ve been an evangelist of this show since its first run, three years ago. And just this week of summer, my oldest son decided to binge watch the show after having heard me go on about it so much. And every other hour he comes into the room saying “I just watched so-and-so episode. OMG! Head asplode!”
Yup. That’s about right.
Original Scooby Doo, and all the incarnations that have come after it fit in a mold (at least the ones who get it right): there’s a monster, terrorizing people; the Scooby Gang is nearby for some random reason and hear about it; they investigate; musical chase montage and trap sequence; person faking the monster for person gain is revealed. The plots aren’t as important as the iconic team-up of the five characters who seem oddly grouped: kind-of jock with a trap fetish, cheerleaderish girlfriend, nerdy smart-girl, slacker guy and his slacker dog. And yet, the represent such an amazing place in our cultural zeitgeist. So many other shows reference that team-up. They are, in a sense, mythic.
But what the never really were before (not even in the movies), was literate. Or well-plotted. Dramatic. Part of a larger universe. Meta.
Which is where SDMI comes in. Here’s some of what I wrote back when the show was new:
It’s a half-hour animated series with multi-season meta-plots. There’s something going on with pieces of an ancient artifact that may lead to a treasure. And a former teen sleuth with mixed motives, who manipulates people. And the bad guys from previous episodes aren’t always really bad, and are seeking redemption. And Shaggy and Velma dated, but broke up. And so did Fred and Daphne, but Fred can’t get over her, even when she’s going out with a Taylor Lautner clone.
Plus, the actors: Holy carp! Let’s get past the fact that Frank Welker, whose first acting job was doing Fred on the originalScooby-Doo, still does him perfectly (as well as Scooby). Patrick Warburton voices the sheriff of their home town, Crystal Cove. And this season, we’ve already had Mark Hamill, Vivica A. Fox, and Lewis Black in guest roles, with many more to look forward to.
And two vitally important points: first, all the monsters are fake, as it should be in the Scoobyverse; second, who the baddie turns out to be at the end isn’t always as easy to peg as it was in the original series. These writers grok the Scoobyverse and while they are always faithful to its spirit, they’ve added huge amounts of texture and richness.
All that’s true, but there’s more. The show references other shows that actually own some of their existence to Scooby, like X-Files, Buffy, and Twin Peaks (and even get a few of the actors from those shows to do voices). And as for the meta plot that sits on top of all 52 episodes (2 seasons of 25 half-hour episodes each), it actually explains why so many people fake being monsters, and takes Scooby to a whole new dimension. Once you wrap your head around it, you’ll never watch Scooby Doo the same way again.
So this is my soapbox. If there’s one show I can convince you to try (especially if you grew up with those classic Scooby Doo cartoons, and are also a Buffy/X-Files kind of geek), then it’s Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated. It’s well-suited to binge watching, too, since you’ll pick up on the running themes and the meta story more quickly.