Scooby-Doo has been around and popular for more than four decades, an amazing feat for anyone, much less a talking canine. In 2010 he got his eleventh TV series, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. Airing on the Cartoon Network, this new series maintains a lot of the essence of the familiar characters and situations while bringing some of the episode structure and conventions into the 21st century. The first season ran from July through October of 2010, and the first four episodes now are available on DVD as Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated Season 1 Vol. 1.
Whenever a classic cartoon relaunches in a new decade, there’s the fear that the new incarnation might change so much that it’s unrecognizable from the original and beloved version. Conversely, there’s also the chance that not enough will have changed to warrant the updated version, and a retread of the old material won’t play well to new audiences. Scooby and his pals manage to tread the thin line between too much and too little with this updated recreation of the animated series. Mystery Incorporated brings back all the old familiar faces. Scooby (voiced by the prolific Frank Welker) is as scared and bewildered as ever, and Matthew Lillard resumes his role from the Scooby-Doo movies as Shaggy, the role I’m convinced he was born to play. Fred, Daphne, and Velma complete the quintet of investigators.
Some other notable actors join the cast for this incarnation, including Gary Cole as Fred’s mayorial father and Patrick Warburton as the town sheriff. Comedian Lewis Black voices the shadowy Mr. E, while series veteran and former Shaggy voice Casey Kasem returns to play Shaggy’s dad. John O’Hurley and Vivica A. Fox are among the rest of the notable guests making vocal appearances throughout season one.
The essence of the show remains true to its roots. Each episode presents the gang with a new mystery to unravel, and the kids bubble and sleuth their way through to the eventual unmasking of the villain. Unlike the previous series, Mystery Incorporated connects each episode through a gradually revealed mystery about the disappearance of a previous group of four detective teens and their pet. The addition of the ongoing mystery gives the show more depth and cohesion than it previously had. Many will argue that part of the appeal of Scooby-Doo is its madcap silliness, but I’m such a fan of continuity and plot that I love the new series’ connectedness, even if it does occasionally come at the sacrifice of some of the prior silliness.
Also introduced in this version are some new romances among the group. Fred and Daphne always have been the Scooby-Doo couple, and that’s even more prevalent here. Fred remains clever with setting traps and coming up with sleuthing plans but is fairly clueless in the realm of love as he constantly misses Daphne’s hints and advances. Perhaps a bit stranger is the new romantic interest between Shaggy and Velma. I was fine with the updates to Fred and Daphne, but hooking up the other two kids seems forced and bizarre to me after a lifetime of being convinced that Velma really had a thing for Daphne.
The first season of the show ran for fourteen episodes, but this new DVD release only includes the first four. The episodes are fun outings, but I really would have liked to see a complete season set instead of several separate DVD releases to break up the season. This first volume of episodes released on January 25, which more installments to follow.