Monday, June 6, 2011

Saturday Morning's Forgotten Heroes: Scrappy-Doo (1979)

The legend has it that ABC was threatening to send Scooby-Doo to the ratings kennel after Scooby's All-Stars (formerly Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics) had seen a steep decline in its 2nd season. Desperate to keep its last franchise of the 60's a relevant player, Hanna-Barbera added to the Doo family by introducing Scooby's nephew, Scrappy-Doo, as a 10th anniversary present to Scooby and his fans.

Yes, Scrappy has his haters, and it's clear the writers of 2002's "Scooby-Doo" feature film played to those particular folks by making Scrappy the villain of the piece, a move decried in some corners as being mean spirited and disrespectful, given that Scrappy was exactly the ratings boost the franchise needed.

Scrappy's entrance made Mystery Inc. a sextet instead of a quintet, but that wouldn't last very long, and there would be more changes rather quickly. Actress Pat Stevens, who succeeded Nicole Jaffe as Velma 3 years earlier, left the show after recording 11 episodes, and was replaced by Marla Frumkin. Veteran actor-filmmaker Len Weinrib (ex-Magic Mongo) was the original voice of Scrappy, as you'll hear in the show open below, but was replaced the following season by Scooby's portrayer, Don Messick. Weinrib's on-again, off-again relationship with H-B was off again, and would stay off for a few years.

Speaking of the open, here it is, uploaded by Hewey1972:

The familiar, but still tired, mystery format was discarded after 15 episodes, and Velma, Fred, & Daphne were sent away for a lengthy vacation, putting the spotlight on Shaggy, Scooby, & Scrappy for the next three seasons. Daphne would rejoin them for the 1983 season (The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries), in an effort to bring the traditional mysteries back into vogue after three years of slapstick comedy. Was any real collateral damage done? It's hard to say, really. People will have their opinions. Scrappy brought a renewed energy and an uptick in ratings, but whomever it was that decided that Shaggy and the Doos would be a comedy team on the order of the Three Stooges or Marx Brothers nearly ruined the franchise, not Scrappy.

Rating: B.


magicdog said...

OK, I admit my Scappy hate isn't quite as deep as it once was, but I still blame him (or rather the suits that demanded his inclusion) for setting the stage for the ruin to the original era of the Scooby franchise.

I hated that Fred, Daphne and Velma suddenly became expendable and the format changing so completely. It seemed so much dumber! Not to mention Scrappy being so darned pushy!!

Shaggy and Scooby became babysitters trying to rein Scrappy in while the rest of the gang had little if anything to do.

I agree that the SD series format was getting stale by the late 70s but I don't think Scrappy should have been the solution. The current "Mystery Incorporated" series IMO is a better option, in that it went deeper into the characterization of the gang and had a season long story arc. Had the suits had the guts to do something similar to SDMI, I think it really would have taken the SD franchise to new heights and gather slightly older demos while still entertaining younger ones. Even Joe Ruby & Ken Spears, who created the gang, have said the SDMI is a lot closer to what they originally wanted to do way back in '69.

hobbyfan said...

As I have often stated, continuity was not an important component of Saturday morning cartoons back then. H-B experimented with Space Ghost via the Council of Doom arc that made up the sum of SG's 2nd season output. Challenge of the Super Friends represented the first truly ongoing story arc, setting the stage, really, for the daytime syndicated series to follow in the 80's and beyond.

Where they erred with Scooby was not allowing the characters to grow up a little. I would've reset the series a wee bit differently, with the gang setting up a steady base of operations, in effect, grafting the Clue Club format onto the franchise. That, I think, would've taken some of the heat off Scrappy.

Scoobyfan1 said...

@Hobbyfan: i've said it before at other places, and i'll say it again: grafting a Clue Club format onto the franchise would have been perfect.

And I also think putting Scrappy in the Dottie role would have been as good an idea as having a Clue Club type format.

hobbyfan said...

If they introduced Scrappy today, that might be the best way to go about it.

Given the damage done to the franchise since, however, it would take someone with an old school mentality to bring it back to glory.