Scooby-Doo and the iconic group of meddling kids from Mystery Inc. are celebrating theirs 50th Birthday today, sparking a celebration around one of Hanna-Barbera’s biggest success stories. And isn’t it ironic that it is set on Friday the 13th?
Among the celebratory tweets, fan art, and an overall appreciation for the mystery solvers, the most common topic is discussing the best memories and moments spent with the gang.
From favorite movies to classic jokes, Mystery Inc. has given fans endless hours of content and memories over the years, both good and bad.
But since we are celebrating the impact a talking dog and rag-tag group of teenagers have had on our lives, I wanted to reflect on what I think is the best representation of Scooby-Doo. Obviously this is going to be subjective, but as someone who grew up watching the gang and has seen every show and movie, I feel comfortable with my decision.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is still the best representation of Scooby and the gang
50 years of the Doo and fans had to wait until 2010 to get what, in my opinion, is the best the gang has ever looked.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is the perfect marriage of classic Scooby and the newer stuff too. As the eleventh incarnation of the franchise being made for television, this was also the first time the gang wasn’t specifically being forced to cater to Saturday morning audiences.
Because of that change, the show directors, Victor Cook and Curt Geda were given a lot of freedom to play with the franchise’s history and really carve out a story that Scooby-Doo was not known for. And it was a much needed change that, I think, really helped the brand in a strange time.
Around the same period, Warner Bros. was really struggling to give the gang anything good to work with. Between when Mystery Incorporated started airing in April 2010 and concluded in April 2013, the company released five movies, with only Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur really standing out as an entertaining product.
In my opinion, from the release of Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! in 2006 until 2015’s Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness, there were only three good films made with the Doo on the cover, and all three of them were just mentioned.That is nearly a decade of bad movies, which is why Mystery Incorporated is so important.
The show returns to a simpler time in the gang’s history, when they are just starting out and keep busy by solving mysteries in their hometown of Crystal Cove, which is different than the original town of Coolsville, Ohio that the series typically refers to. It doesn’t rehash anything just for the sake of doing so, instead, introducing each character in ways that play up their stereotypical mannerisms in a new light. And Fred Jones is the perfect example of this.
Fred is a trap enthusiast, which is taken to a new extreme as shown by his subscription to a monthly magazine and catalogue on the subject. And he isn’t just played up as the lovable, doofy leader of the group either, despite how it may seem early on.
Throughout the show, Fred is just trying to do his best to help the rest of his small group of friends, despite never knowing how to properly do so. And a subplot around Fred’s relationship with his Dad, focused on how the trap lover wants to please him despite his father, the Mayor of Crystal Cove, not approving of the mystery solving hobby.
The writers also flipped the trope of Fred’s relationship with Daphne Blake on its head by having the red-head be the one enamoured with the group’s leader. Which of course, he is completely oblivious too, at least until later on.
And Fred isn’t the only one who is more complex either.
Daphne is much more capable of a character, relying less on her friends and more on her own intelligence and skills to get our of sticky situations. Velma Dinkley isn’t just the smart one anymore, she is also in love with Shaggy Rodgers, who, along with Scooby himself, are the only two who didn’t receive a character makeover.
That isn’t to say the two are lacking in the character department though, since they are usually the highlight of each episode. Especially when we get moments like this:
These are just some of the many changes the series made to its core cast, which helped give them much more than the shallow, one dimensional personalities that have been at the forefront of the franchise for so long.
But it doesn’t just forget about the vast history of the franchise either, no, I think Mystery Incorporated does the absolute best job of any Scooby-Doo property at paying homage to and building upon its lore.
From bringing back fan-favorite characters like the Hex Girls and Vincent Van Ghoul to bringing back the original voice actors like Casey Kasem (Shaggy) one last time before he passed away to voice Shaggy’s father, the show has it all.
It was also host to several cameo appearances from other characters Hanna-Barbera Captain Caveman, Jabberjaw, The Funky Phantom, Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, and more, which never really feel like they are forced. In several instances, those characters just feel like strange parts of this new story, fitting into the plot perfectly.
Mystery Incorporated was smart without being overly complicated, focusing on a simple plot that expanded like all good mystery stories do.
The gang finds themselves living in the self-proclaimed “Most Hauntedest Place on Earth” and having to uncover the mysteries of their home’s long history of strange disappearances and monster sightings. They end up at odds with most of the adults in the series, namely Fred’s father, as he notices their mystery solving is driving down tourism.
This is the theme that resonated with me the most, as these teens are forced to face their loved ones and other townsfolk lying to cover up various parts of either their personal or Crystal Cove’s history. The gang, especially Fred are left to cope with a lot of information as they continue to follow the cryptic clues left by the mysterious Mr. E.
This all culminates in season one ending in a dark place for most of the characters and real feeling of suspense left to settle over fans as they waited for the second season. And when that second season came around, it upped the stakes even higher, and ended on the perfect mix of a satisfying conclusion and potential for more.
Unfortunately, a third season was never meant to be, as the series was officially cancelled after two seasons and 52 incredible episodes of masterful, mystery storytelling. But even if it felt a bit short-lived, Mystery Incorporated is still where I point people who want the best of Scooby-Doo.
This is the absolute best performance of long-time voice actor Frank Welker in both his role as Fred and Scooby. The emotion he brings to the character Fred after playing him for more than 40 years at the time was incredible and has yet to be matched.
It was also the first time Matthew Lillard voiced Shaggy, taking over for Kasem. Lillard, who famously played the role of Shaggy in both of the early 2000’s live action Scooby-Doo films does an incredible job in his major role as the character.
What makes this show so special is its ability to tackle adult themes like single parenthood and depression, while also giving long-time fans of the show a good kick in the nostalgia. It also helps that Mystery Incorporated was able to play on things like the works of H. P. Lovecraft, various mythologies, and more in order to weave together an overarching plot that always left me wanting to know more.
Mystery Incorporated can be parodying old horror tropes one minute and then make the viewers feel a heavy sense of dread the next as the gang delves deeper into the mysteries left behind by their predecessors. Oh yeah, it also builds its own lore about the group’s name, Mystery Incorporated that is both deep and extremely satisfying.
If you haven’t given this show a chance yet and you are a lapsed fan of Scooby-Doo or just a fan of a good mystery story, I think this show will prove worth your time.
Or you could just watch Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery and enjoy just how far the writer’s can stretch a story without it totally collapsing in on itself. And there is that new movie coming out next year too!
Happy 50th Birthday Scoobert, and here is hoping for many more mysteries shared in the future.
At the time of writing this article, you can watch on both Boomerang and VRV, with seasons available for purchase or to rent on most digital platforms.