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Posts Tagged ‘Scooby-Doo’

Ruh-Roh

April 5th, 2013 No comments

Laid low today with the head cold that’s been going around, I was able to watch the final two episodes of Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated live. This last week has seen the show carry through with its crazy-as-a-soup-sandwich take on the venerable kids’ franchise.

Remember last week, when we learned that Scooby-Doo was descended from interdimensional aliens? And he visited the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks? Well, this week’s run kicked off with the entire Scooby gang venturing into that same sinister Red Room to meet up with the dancing dwarf, played once again by Peaks‘ Michael J. Anderson.

Oh, and later this week, this happened…

Yes, that’s Scooby-Doo blazing away with arm-mounted gatling guns. And check out the weaponized Mystery Machine.

The whole thing wrapped up in apocalyptic fashion, with a tentacled, Lovecraftian entity collapsing the town of Crystal Cove and eating…well, pretty much the entire supporting cast. If all of this seems rather dark for a show about a mystery-solving Great Dane, that was rather the point. The metaplot of the series was that the entire town–including and especially the various “four investigators and a talking animal” teams throughout the centuries–was tainted by this ancient evil.

It occurred to me about midway through this week that by turning the Mystery Incorporated kids into the latest iteration of an archetypal monster-hunting team, the writers were treading close to The Cabin in the Woods. I began to wonder which of them was The Virgin. (My conclusion: Scooby.)

While the ultimate ending leaned heavily on the reset button–which, come on, it had to once the whole community was fed to a titanic octopus-parakeet–it was a satisfying wrap-up that set those meddling kids back to the beginning and firmly onto the path they’ve traveled since 1969.

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?

March 29th, 2013 No comments

I swear that the programmers at Cartoon Network suffer from ADHD. Shows will disappear in mid-run, pop-up five months later at a different time and day, then inexplicably vanish again with several episodes still unaired. It’s frustrating, and doubly so if the series in question has an on-going story arc.

I’ve written before about Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated, which earlier this week reemerged from a forgotten closet at Cartoon Network headquarters to finish out its long-neglected run in a weekday afternoon burn-off slot. It should wrap up next week, unless the head of programming spots a shiny object.

Perhaps the very qualities that made Mystery Inc. such a compelling series for older fans of the characters are what kept it bouncing around the schedule. It broke from the standard Scooby formula in favor of a two-season, 52-episode long storyline.* It romantically involved Velma and Shaggy, had Daphne (and later Velma) temporarily break from the gang, and revealed that Fred’s adoptive father was a villain who’d blackmailed his birth parents (who were part of a previous Mystery Incorporated team) into giving him up.

Even more remarkably, it introduced elements of real danger. A couple of supporting characters have been killed (off-screen, but still) by the sinister machinations of Professor Pericles, the talking parrot who was the real brains behind the earlier incarnation of Mystery Inc.

Okay, I realize that I have just typed the phrase “the sinister machinations of Professor Pericles, the talking parrot.” This ain’t exactly House of Cards. Yet, the notion that something going out under the Scooby-Doo banner has a murderous bird in it is strange and wonderful.

And then, yesterday, this happened.

Scooby-Doo visited the Red Room (aka the Black Lodge) from Twin Peaks. Okay, it was a dream, but so was the original Red Room. And as the scene involved a metaphysical entity speaking to Scoobs through his dog girlfriend,** I’m willing to accept that yes, Scooby-Doo was in the Black Lodge. Agent Cooper and BOB were presumably in the next room over.

And what was discussed? Oh, just that the reason certain dogs (and parrots) can talk is that they are the descendants of the Anunnaki,*** extradimensional spirits who can only physically exist  by inhabiting the bodies of animals.

Mind. Blown.

Okay, maybe I do understand why this didn’t fly at the Cartoon Network. But that anyone ever allowed it to happen in the first place is as peculiar as any ghost encountered by those meddling kids.

*Thanks to the delays, said storyline will finish out three years to the day from when it began.

**Again, I totally get how ridiculous this seems when I type it out.

***The Anunnaki are a “real” thing, in that they feature in real-world crackpot theories regarding the rogue planet Nibiru (also namechecked in Mystery Inc.) and the end of the world. 

Categories: TV Tags: , ,

Scooby Dooby Doo!

July 26th, 2011 No comments

I’ve always had a soft spot for the ghost-hunting adventures of Scooby-Doo, though I’ve had to admit that–even in their purest, original form–they were never very good.

Yet the characters are exceptionally appealing; 42 years after their debut in Saturday morning’s Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, people still know Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby. Can the same be said for any of the mystery-solving quintets that followed in their wake? Can you name (without looking them up) the kids in Jabberjaw, Fangface or The Funky Phantom?

For four decades, Mystery, Incorporated has been meddling into the schemes of unscrupulous, mask-wearing “ghosts” haunting mansions, gold mines and amusement parks across America.*

But it’s only now that they’ve had a show truly worth watching.

Scooby-Doo: Mystery, Incorporated–which has been airing on Cartoon Network for the past year–is easily the best iteration of the series.** Not only are the teen sleuths characters instead of merely caricatures, there’s romance, legitimate frights, lots of in-jokes and–most surprisingly–a relatively complex meta-plot.

Okay, the overarching story isn’t as complicated as, say, Lost. Still, this is a Scooby-Doo series in which clues and personalities from previous episodes resurface as elements of a conspiracy surrounding the original Mystery, Incorporated: a prior generation of ghost busters who seemingly vanished long ago. Our modern-day heroes find themselves manipulated by hints from the corpulent Mr. E (voiced by comedian Lewis Black) and the sinister talking parrot*** Professor Pericles.

There’s a lot going on in the kids’ hometown of Crystal Cove (“The Most Hauntedest Place on Earth”). Daphne hails from a wealthy family of hot redheads, including four identical sisters. Velma’s folks run the local Spook Museum. Fred’s dad is the mayor, and seems fed up with his trap-happy son’s attempts to debunk the tourist-friendly ghosts. (Or is he up to something else?)

Meanwhile, love is blossoming. Over the course of the season, Daphne has managed to hook her trap-obsessed Freddy into proposing to her. And there’s been an on-again, off-again romance between Velma and Shaggy, of all people. The latter has been complicated by Shaggy’s close attachment to Scooby, and the resulting “triangle” has had the side-effect of making Velma come off kinda mean at times. It sounds like much more of a soap opera than it really is, but again, this is Scooby-Doo; the fact that they’re even bringing it up is remarkable.

If cartoon love stories aren’t your thing, there’s also a lot of humor and in-jokery. Mystery, Incorporated draws on past Scooby lore. Vincent Van Ghoul (from The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo) is a recurring character similar to aging actor/horror movie host Peter Vincent from the movie Fright Night. The Spook Museum has statues of 13 Ghosts co-star and kiddie con-artist Flim-Flam (said to be serving 25 years-to-life), as well as the infamous Scrappy-Doo (about whom they’ve sworn never to speak).

This is a show that has had famous curmudgeon Harlan Ellison playing himself, and has built an entire episode as a parody of the Japanese monster movie War of the Gargantuas, complete with a rendition of its classic torch song, “The Words Get Stuck in My Throat.”

Tonight will be the season finale, and I’m psyched for it. Which, again, is pretty remarkable.

*As a kid, it bothered me that the classic Scooby-Doo formula inevitably involved a phony ghost. Not only because I felt that a show about ghosts and monsters should have “real” supernatural elements, but because even then it struck me as very unlikely that anyone would repeatedly encounter villains who believed that the best smokescreen for their crimes was to put on a rubber mask and chase teenagers. Maybe once

**An admittedly low bar.

***Yes, I wrote “sinister talking parrot.”

Categories: TV Tags: ,

The Eternal Question

February 4th, 2008 No comments

If Gilligan’s Island left us with anything to ponder, it was this seemingly simple question: “Ginger or Mary Ann?” Ginger Grant was the cooing, Hollywood bombshell who used her sexuality as a weapon, whereas Mary Ann Summers was the sweet, corn-fed farm girl who forever stood in her shadow. In the decades since the S.S. Minnow washed up on that uncharted, desert isle, “Ginger or Mary Ann?” has fueled many a late-night, dorm-room discussion.

Yet I can’t say that I’ve ever met anyone who admitted to preferring Ginger. Working to Mary Ann’s advantage was that despite being the “good girl” of the two, she frequently displayed a good bit more skin. She rocked a pair of short shorts when Daisy Duke was still in 1st grade.

More important, I think, was that a guy could feel like he might actually have a shot with Mary Ann. Ginger was all promise, no delivery, and once she’d talked you out of the key to the supply hut you might as well go off to the other side of the island, if you know what I mean. On the other hand, while you’d probably never get past first base with Mary Ann, she’d probably let you hang around and lick the leftover coconut cream from her latest batch of pies.

Needless to say, I’ve always been a Mary Ann kind of guy. Most of my real-life crushes were Mary Anns. Yet, to my surprise, when I consider other TV Land “Ginger or Mary Ann?” duos out there, I find that I’ve occasionally preferred a Ginger.

WKRP in Cincinnati: Jennifer Marlowe (Ginger) vs. Bailey Quarters (Mary Ann)

One of Sitcom Land’s most blatant examples of a Ginger/Mary Ann pair was Loni Anderson as buxom, blonde radio station receptionist Jennifer and Jan Smithers as mousy, brunette traffic manager Bailey. Jennifer got all the attention, both within the show and in the real world: a Google image search will draw up all manner of vintage Loni Anderson cheesecake, whereas you can scarcely find a decent photo of Jan Smithers.

Jennifer was very much a Ginger. Big hair, big…you know. She wasn’t a “dumb blonde,” she knew what she had and how to work it. She pulled down a receptionist’s salary without performing any actual duties, and collected expensive gifts while hobnobbing with the rich and powerful.

Bailey, especially in the show’s first season, was “TV plain”: glasses, loose sweater vests and toned-down makeup coded her as the less attractive of the duo. With time her character became more confident, and out came the form-fitting jeans and the “sexy librarian” look.

Oh, did I mention that I married a traffic manager?

My pick: Mary Ann

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Cordelia Chase (Ginger) vs. Willow Rosenberg (Mary Ann)

Willow started out as not only a Mary Ann, but a Bailey. In fact, all of producer Joss Whedon’s shows have included one or more Baileys, characters meant to be “nerds” played by actors far too attractive to comfortably fit the role. (See: Kaylee the mechanic on Firefly, Angel‘s science geek Winifred, and fellow Buffy alum Xander, who pulled off a Speedo for cryin’ out loud.)

At first, Willow’s dress sense was said to have come from “the softer side of Sears.” She had to be coaxed into wearing a mildly revealing outfit for Halloween midway into the second season of the series. (Not so actress Alyson Hannigan, who posed for FHM.) But by season four, Willow had transformed into both a powerful witch and, less convincingly, a lesbian. (Yes, yes, I know that they previously hinted at the possibility when Willow’s evil, alternate-universe, vampire twin turned out to be bicurious. But come on, the gal spent three and a half years depicted as sincerely and exclusively boy-crazy. So it was a bit hard to accept when she abruptly went all girl-on-girl.)

Cordelia was initially the stereotypical prom-queen-in-training, complete with a cadre of “mean girls.” Early on, I couldn’t even figure out what made her a series regular, as she had so little interaction with the main cast of “outsiders.” Cordy was quick with the barbs, but as time went on, she softened and found herself falling for Xander the self-proclaimed “butt monkey.” By the time she exited the spin-off series Angel, she had become downright (and improbably) saintly.

My pick: Mary Ann

Friends: Rachel Green (Ginger) vs. Monica Geller (Mary Ann)

Monica wasn’t really supposed to be a Mary Ann. Her backstory was that she’d been overweight in high school (nickname: “Big Fat Goalie”) but had slimmed down into a hottie. They even went so far as to put Courteney Cox in a fat suit for the flashbacks, but that joke became less funny as Cox herself grew ever more skeletal.

Rachel wasn’t quite a Ginger either. She had the looks and the hair (and goodness knows that Jennifer Aniston got the media attention), but her persona showed an appealing vulnerability. She was the object of gawky paleontologist Ross’ fancy, so there was a big dollop of nerd wish fulfillment there as well. (At least, until Ross became so insufferably self-absorbed that I began to root for Joey to land Rachel instead.)

Oh, and did I mention that when I was a kid, I wanted to be a paleontologist?

My pick: Ginger!

Scooby-Doo: Daphne Blake (Ginger) vs. Velma Dinkley (Mary Ann)

Here’s where I may just have to admit that at times I can be just as superficial as the next guy. When it came to cartoon ghost-hunters, there was never any contest. Daphne was a leggy redhead; Velma was stumpy and frumpy with a shaggy blob of alleged hair. (Granted that she came off better in the live-action version, but there she had the benefit of being personified by “TV plain” gal Linda Cardellini.)

By the way–and I’m not suggesting that you look for yourself–a Google search for “Velma Dinkley” results in a number of pornographic fan-art images that I truly wish I could unsee. Jinkies!

My pick: Ginger

Charlie’s Angels: Jill Munroe (Ginger) vs. Sabrina Duncan (Mary Ann)

Maybe it’s the hair. Farrah Fawcett, who played Jill Munroe in the first season before breaking away for an unremarkable film career, was for a brief time the “it” girl with her long, tawny locks. Her best-selling, benippled poster image was the only T-shirt design I can recall being banned from my junior high. And I had no interest in her whatsoever.

The funny thing is that I didn’t really go for the designated “smart” gal of the Angels either. I did like Kate Jackson by the time of Scarecrow and Mrs. King, but her Angels incarnation left me cold. I really think it was the hair.

I split the difference and went for Jaclyn Smith.

My pick: Er…Mrs. Howell?

30 Rock: Jenna Maroney (Ginger) vs. Liz Lemon (Mary Ann)

Jenna, the fictional star of 30 Rock‘s show-within-a-show, was originally played by ex-Saturday Night Live performer Rachel Dratch. However, someone at the real NBC felt that Dratch wasn’t quite credible (read: blonde) enough to be the star of the fictional NBC series, and the part was recast with Jane Krakowski. Dratch got the consolation prize of appearing in a number of bizarre walk-on roles in the first season, something which I felt better played to her strengths as a sketch performer. (She’s disappeared completely as of this season.)

I do think casting Krakowski was a good call. She’s a funny actress, and provides a bigger visual contrast than Dratch would have.

Liz Lemon is played by 30 Rock‘s creator, Tina Fey. And while Tina Fey based Liz on her own experiences as head writer for SNL, she certainly resisted any urge to paint the character as an idealized version of Tina Fey. Liz (Tina Fey) Lemon is thoroughly neurotic; slovenly in both dress and domesticity; and unlucky in love. Completely unlike the real Tina Fey.

My pick: Tina Mary Ann (oh, like you didn’t see that coming)

At this point, you may be thinking that I’ve put entirely too much thought into pondering Gingers and Mary Anns, and you are most likely correct. But in my view, there are two types of people in the world: those who offer lengthy comparative analyses on Ginger and Mary Ann, and those who wish those other people would shut the hell up.