Scooby-Doo is a franchise that had the same formula in each incarnation but added something new to spice it up in each incarnation. 2010’s Scooby-Doo Mystery Incorporated was easily the peak of the franchise. Prior to this, the characters were simple with often the same gags: Shaggy and Scooby had the munchies and ran from monsters on sight, Velma was the brainiac who often lost her glasses, Fred was full of heart but sometimes dimwitted leader, etc. This series, however, redefined the character with new relationships among each other.
The show still has the traditional goofy fun with the characters that it always have had which still shows that the heart of the franchise is still there. The episodes alwayshad some monster of the week but it also framed an overarching single mystery that ran throughout them. This built up and developed the characters over the series. When it comes to the crook of the week there’s also the usualself-aware aspect to the past goofiness of the series.
The show also had some very clever continuity nods. For instance, in one episode titled The Siren’s Song, Fred and Daphne are seen in a museum containing the costumes of Mystery Inc’s past villains. This is a clever reference to the museum in the second live-action movie Monsters Unleashed but it also reveals a statue of Scooby’s nephew, Scrappy-Doo to which Fred reminds Daphne that the team promised never to speak of him again. This is a nod to the 2002 live-action movie where Scrappy was the villain and is furthered by the appearance of the Luna Ghost from the opening of that movie in the show’s pilot. Harlan Ellison as himself appears in the series as well which is a clever nod to the New Scooby-Doo Movies in the 1970s guest starring celebrities.
Much likeShaggy’s love for food, at the start of this series, Fred has a love for traps.This is a gag that runs throughout the episodes to the point that he isblissfully unaware of Daphne’s love for him. But as the series progresses we learn more about Fred’s family and what happened to his mother evolving this joke into something genuinely moving. Velma is not merely relegated to being a brainiac but in this show has a sense of cynicism that leads to some funny and sometimes emotional moments.
The aspect that sets this show apart from the other incarnations is the premise. We find out that much like them, 20 years ago there were similar teens (and their own talking animal) investigating mysteries. They disappeared one day never to be seen nor heard from again. This gives a great deal of spookiness to the show as in this series our heroes are doing the same and they are going into the unknown.And the truth leads to some devastating consequences. The first season finale ends on a surprisingly grim and mature note built up well by the episodes. The gang finds out what happened to the original Mystery Inc. but the gang falls apart. Fred winds up breaking up the gang and his engagement to Daphne upon learning the truth about his family, Shaggy is being sent away to military school, and Scooby to a nice farm, and Daphne and Velma go their separate ways as the latter is blamed for not telling the truth about Angel.
Even though it only ran for one more season after this, the series finale also ended on a deep note (and even killed off some characters in the process). The gang defeats the evil entity but create a whole new timeline in the process: one where the evil entity never influenced anyone and the gang is living great lives. Ellison who is the one person who knows of their actions and enrolls them in his class. This was a good note to end the series on but Ellison’s message to them about there being more mysteries and meddling would have been nice to see translate over to another season.
Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated proved to be the last good incarnation of the series. What could have easily been just another incarnation with the same formula with a gimmick, proved to have gone the extra mile in its story and characters. With the show once again going back to celebrity guest stars this year we can only hope the show manages to regain its sense of mystery.