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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

History Incorporated

It’s no mystery that I am a purist.   I love my favorite shows and movies right where they were, in the past.   Remakes. Adaptations.  A purist craves not these things.  That’s how the blog started.   Someone in Hollywood was making a remake or something and I felt a great disturbance in the pop culture force.  I opened an email and began typing furiously to… no one.  Then, I joined blogger and shared all the crap that’s inside my head.  Now, five years later, you’re all worse people for enjoying it.  ;)

However, there are few times when something gets remade or rebooted and it is phenomenal.   It doesn’t happen very often.  It’s about as frequent as Haley’s comet around here.  But it happened recently and I cannot be happier with the results.

Let’s go back to the 60s. 

A little cartoon came along about a mystery solving gang and their beloved Great Dane.    Scooby-Doo Where Are You? debuted in 1969 and has run in some incarnation all the way through 2013.   That’s 44 years.    And while some instances weren’t all that great, *cough*Flim Flam*cough*Scrappy-Doo*cough* the show has managed to maintain a central theme since the original show.

It’s one of the few shows I have been able to enjoy all over again, thanks to my kid and DVD collections.  She loves the old episodes along with the Blue Falcon ones, as well.  But when Mystery, Incorporated came on Cartoon Network in 2010, I was skeptical.   It was the first time a Scooby-Doo show didn’t take place on Saturday Mornings.  Not only did it not serve as a continuation of the original series, more of a reboot, which angered me, but it also introduced elements of relationship drama that never existed before.   It used to always be the running gag that Fred would go off with Velma and Daphne, leaving Shaggy and Scooby to fend for themselves, cementing Fred’s pimp status.  And if he didn’t take Velma, it was a joke that she was a nerd and therefore, Fred wouldn’t be interested anyway.   However, in the new series, the relationship between Fred and Daphne is laid out, humorously at that and the real triangle occurs between Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo, oddly enough.  Nothing disgusting, more a “Bros before Hoes” mentality.

I gave it a shot, though.  My daughter and I would load up some OnDemand Doo and watch.  While she just enjoyed the show, I carefully scrutinized the plot and the connection to the canon of Scooby-Doo.

I.  Became.  Hooked.

Not only was this new incarnation smart and witty, but it dovetailed into the old series nicely and stood as a companion to the old episodes.   The only thing that changed was the timeframe for Mystery, Inc. coming together.  They made nods to every old “guy in a rubber suit” character and even self deprecated themselves by calling out how bad Scrappy-Doo and Flim Flam were perceived by fans.

The show also makes a lot of pop culture references to other movies and television shows that aren’t so blatant that you go “I see what you did there”.   It’s more like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe they worked that into the plot.”  For example, a recent episode saw Scooby-Doo attending a side-kick competition with all of the other Hanna Barbera side-kicks like Jabber Jaw and Speed Buggy.  There are other cross-over episodes, just like the older series, but with a twist.  Instead of the usual Blue Falcon persona, we are given a somewhat bad ass  ex-security guard turned vigilante.  The real twist is that Dog Wonder’s cybernetic components are a product of Quest Laboratories.  He still retains the somewhat dim personality.    In the same episode Zin shows up. 

Even the voice casting is a reference in and of itself.   While Matthew Lillard reprises his Shaggy from the Live Action films, Casey Kasem plays his Dad.  Grey DeLisle reprises Daphne, and Mindy Cohn reprises her role as Velma, but Linda Cardellini, who played her in the movies, becomes the hilarious Marcy Fleach/Hot Dog Water.  Jeffry Combs from the Re-Animator shows up as H.P. Hatecraft.  Even Vincent Van Ghoul comes back, albeit voiced by cartoon everyman Maurice La Marche.

The show also introduces an arc, which crosses the complete series.  A mysterious artifact seems to be tied to the history of Crystal Cove as well as the emergence of mystery solving teens, complete with an animal companion, in various decades.   There is even an overall villain, the previous Mystery Solving Club’s anthropomorphic side-kick, Professor Pericles, played by scenery chewing Udo Kier.

In the end, though, the storyline comes to a close and manages to effectively tie in all the history surrounding the various incarnations of the show.   They’ve been here before.   In each generation, the mystery solving group has never been able to free the demonic entity controlling their fates.   Much like the ridiculous plot to LOST, the latest version of Mystery, Inc. serves to meet that end, and they do.  But they also defeat the demon and reboot their own history.   All of the bad things never happened.  All of the masked monsters never got caught because they were not brought together to solve mysteries.  They were just kids in a town that was no longer the Most Haunted Town in America.  Except that Harlan Ellison, playing himself noticed, as did they.   He said they changed something that affected them remembering the alternate timeline.   He asks them to come to… get ready for it… Miskatonic University.  So, in essence, they set out on the road, just like they did in every iteration of Scooby-Doo.   Sometimes they are with Fred and Velma… sometimes they are with Flim Flam or Scrappy-Doo.  Sometimes they are with guest stars.   In any case, the explanation for all the different versions of Scooby-Doo cartoons are contained in this one episode. 

Pure. Genius.

I usually hate this kind of thing.   You know.  The turtles are aliens.   Yeah, but it totally works in this fashion.  In fact another full length movie that came out recently was very well done.    Mask of the Blue Falcon went for that crossover feel once again, but sort of went meta on the fact that Blue Falcon was a television show in their world, but not an actual superhero that the gang interacted with, when in fact the first episode of Blue Falcon indeed had the gang helping Blue Falcon catch the same villain in this film, Mr. Hyde. 

Jeff Bennet provided the voice of an elderly Owen Garrison, a play on the name Gary Owens, the original voice of Blue Falcon.   His take sounded so much like Adam West, that I In fact thought it was Adam West.

The references to HB properties are a plenty as Frankenstein Jr. and the Herculoids make an appearance at a ComiCon style convention where Blue Falcon was featured, signing autographs and waxing nostalgic about the good old days.  The theme builds on the apathy towards remakes of old cartoons and comic books that I feel every day.

As much as I don’t like my childhood being rebooted and retconned.  I like the direction some of these folks are taking.   Perhaps one day, we can catch Hollywood in a complex trap and they can give up their crappy ways, while exclaiming they would have gotten away with it if it weren't for us pesky pop culture kids.

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