Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Scooby-Doo: Where are You? (Seasons 1, 2 & 3)

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete First and Second Seasons  
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete Third Season

My childhood memories are replete with cartoons.  Cartoons after school were good but nothing could touch Saturday mornings.  My younger brother and I would get up at stupid-o'clock in the morning, fill our bowls with sugar saturated cereals and watch until we couldn't stand it any more or until the show "Timeout" started.*  One of the highlights of this gluttony of animation was always Scooby-Doo.  Over the years Scooby and the gang have returned and been reinvented dozens of times in dozens of different combinations and with the exception of one stretch of anathema** my brother and I would gladly watch them all.  Scooby-Doo and the Laff-O-Lympics?  We'll give it a try.  Scooby-Doo and Don Knots?  Um, sure?  Scoody-Doo and the gang are all little kids?  Fortunately this version came out well after I stopped watching. Scooby-Doo and a nephew called, he-who-shall-not-be-named?*** Forget it, turn the channel.    But even if you discount these wide ranging variations, there were still several different versions that were just the standard group of five characters, driving around in the Mystery Machine, solving mysteries.  And on Saturday mornings when Scooby was about to start, you would wait for the opening credits to start hoping that what you would see was the bats coming out of the spooky looking house that signified the beginning of the original and best, Scooby-Doo: Where are You?

Recently I received season 1 & 2 as a gift and not long after that, I bought Season 3 for myself.  As and adult, I've been able to see again many of the shows that I watched as a kid and sometimes it's quite painful.  Some shows simply do not hold up and you are better off leaving your fond memories of them alone, because attempting to watch them again means risking seeing just how horrible they really were.****  I'm glad to report that in general, Scooby-Doo: Where are You? holds up wonderfully.  The Bear and I quite enjoyed watching them together.

Season 1: This is where it all began and truth be told this is where the show is at its best.  The villains, while not really creepy or scary are still "bad" enough that you can suspend disbelief and feel like the heroes might actually be afraid.  Scooby is still essentially a dog***** and the plots, while simplistic at times, make sense.  These are the seasons in which Fred is always trying to trap the villain with some strange version of a Rube Goldberg machine that even when I was very young I knew would never work in real life.  (But then again they rarely worked on the show either.)

Season 2: There are really only eight episodes in season 2 and it is almost as good as season 1.  The biggest difference is that the opening credits have been re-recorded with a new band playing/singing and that band has a song in every episode that plays during the chase sequences.  The songs aren't bad, but they rarely (if ever) have anything to do with the plot or what's going on.  They're more of a sudden side jaunt than anything else.

Season 3: In truth this isn't really the third season of Scooby capers.  In between Season 2 and 3 six years or so have passed.  During that time, Scooby-Doo came out with twenty-four more stories that appeared during the Scooby-Doo & Dynomutt Hour and some that were shown during the Hanna-Barbera Laff-O-Lympics shows.  These all followed the traditional mystery format, but for whatever reason where not called "Scooby-Doo: Where are You?".  After those episodes, they went back to having Scooby and the gang on their own show and went back to calling it Scooby-Doo: Where are You?  The passing of the years did not improve the show.

Some of the villains in season 3 are so moronic that they are more laughable than anything else.  As two examples, the villain in the episode of The Diabolical Disc Demon looks like a reject from the band Kiss and the warlock from the Warlock of Wimbledon looks more like the Disc Demon's sad side-kick than a villain. You really expect Fred, Daphne and Velma to fall over laughing and certainly not to run in fear.  Gone are Fred's odd traps, instead in season 3 more often the villain ends up trapping themselves while chasing Scooby and Shaggy.  Most of the plots make absolutely no sense and Fred and Velma make insane leaps of logic when they later describe what was going on.  Physics which was flexible in season 1 & 2 is completely tossed out the window****** and Scooby is now more a person with dog-like qualities than a dog that's slightly anthropomorphic.  I enjoyed a Scooby that could say "Rutt ro, Raggy" in season 1.  The Scooby that can operate a fishing pole and talks as well as Fred Fenster******* in the Usual Suspects isn't nearly as fun.  In an effort to expand the villain options that gang is often in other countries: China, Italy, Spain and Puerto Rico******** to name a few.  But the best part of them going to other countries are the accents.  None of them sound in the least like the accents of the country they are supposed to be mimicking.  I'm pretty sure the casting call for the parts went something like this:

Director: Are you French?
Potential Voice Actor: No.
Director: Well, have you been to France?
Director: Have you ever heard a French person talk?
Director: Do you even know where France is on a map?
Director: Why should we hire you for this part?
PVA: I had French Fries for lunch?
Director: You're hired.

If you are looking to indulge in a little childhood nostalgia, let me strongly recommend Seasons 1&2.  And unless you are a die-hard Scooby fan, leave season 3 on the shelf

Scooby-Doo: Where are You?  Seasons 1&2: A-

Scooby-Doo: Where are You?  Seasons 3: C+

* - which was at noon, the official end of the cartoon goodness.
** - see below
*** - Sorry Hanna-Barbera, we were willing to endure Johnathan Winters, but there has to be a line somewhere and with this you've gone way over it.  Also, I'm pretty sure they knew this and they just added the "S" to the front of his name in an effort to hide the obvious.
**** - Sadly the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon is one example of this.
***** - More no that in a minute.
****** - I realize it's a cartoon, but even as a young child suspension of disbelief is hard to maintain when people are falling out of airplanes with no consequence.
******* - Benicio Del Toro's character.
******** - Yes, I know Puerto Rico is part of the U.S.

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