Some of you probably know that the current Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated will end after 2 seasons, the second of which is being misused by Cartoon Network, but that's another story for another time. Time, then, to take a look back at 43 years of Scooby-history.
*Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (1969-72, 1974-6): To think that after all these years, they originally wanted this to be a rock & roll mystery show?! It's true. The original working title was Mysteries Five, but Scooby eventually got his name thanks to a line in Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night", suggested by then-programming honcho Fred Silverman at CBS. The familiar format would serve well for years to come. Scooby became Hanna-Barbera's last icon of the 60's, and was the only one of the studio's four freshman series in 1969 to have new episodes ordered for the following season, which in those days was pretty rare for a Saturday morning cartoon from H-B. A rock soundtrack, with the theme re-recorded by Austin Roberts, was used for season 2, as H-B wanted another piece of the bubblegum rock pie, after the Banana Splits had been cancelled and the Cattanooga Cats was all reruns and downsized to a half hour for its 2nd year.
The characters' familiar personas emerged quickly. Fred (Frank Welker) was the co-leader, along with bookworm Velma (Nicole Jaffe), but was often paired with leggy Daphne, which left Velma to team with cowardly Scooby (Don Messick) and his owner, Shaggy (Casey Kasem). We can't say for sure if teenage girls became interested in pink or purple nylons thanks to Daphne, oh by the way.
*The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972-4): In answer to ABC's Saturday Superstar Movie, which H-B was contributing to, the studio was commissioned to give Scooby a hour-long series that saw various celebrities (i.e. Sandy Duncan, Tim Conway, Sonny & Cher), other cartoon characters (i.e. Batman, Josie & the Pussycats), and comedy icons (The Three Stooges, Laurel & Hardy) appear with the gang. Of course you know that Batman & Robin's two appearances helped lay the groundwork for Super Friends a year later, only for that franchise to go to ABC. During season 2, Scooby helped welcome Speed Buggy in much the same way that Space Ghost introduced viewers to Mightor, Shazzan, Moby Dick, & The Herculoids during his 2nd season.
And, just so you know, the appearances by the above mentioned celebrities smacked of network crossover synergy. Duncan had a couple of short sitcom runs, Conway was appearing on The Carol Burnett Show, and Sonny & Cher had their own variety series at the time, all appearing on CBS.
*The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour (1976-7): Scooby finally followed the Dynamic Duo to ABC, and was paired with a new hero, Dynomutt, a canine parody of The Six Million Dollar Man, crossed with Batman (personified by the Blue Falcon). Mystery Inc. frequently teamed with Dyno during his half of the show, but the opposite never held true, though I think there might've been one episode that encompassed the entire hour.
*Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics (1977-9): For year 2 with Dynomutt, the series was expanded and reformatted, tucked neatly in the center of ABC's Saturday lineup, in between All-New Super Friends Hour & the returning Krofft Supershow. Continuity, as you'd figure, was tossed out the window in trying to figure out how our heroes found time to solve cases and compete in the Laff-a-Lympics, all in the course of 2 hours. Captain Caveman completed the 2 hour block, but he & Scooby would not share an adventure together until an ill-advised dream sequence in a season 1 episode of Mystery Incorporated.
*Scooby & Scrappy-Doo (1979-83): Some will say the franchise jumped the shark with the introduction of pint-sized Scrappy, and there are two schools of thought on the pug-sized nephew, who proved to be both braver & smarter than his uncle, perhaps to a fault. Season 2 saw Fred, Daphne, & Velma take a leave of absence for whatever reason, as it seemed the network felt the kids would be more comfortable with just 3 protagonists, creating a bizarre comedy act perhaps inspired by the Three Stooges.
*The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries (1983-5): Daphne finally returned, but save for a guest appearance in "The Nutcracker Scoob", a Christmas adventure, Fred & Velma were hardly heard from, and, oh, how fan fiction mavens have missed opportunities to reverse the usual romantic pairings, though some claim there could've been romantic overtones between Daphne and Shaggy.
*The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (September 1985-March 1986): Amazingly, the first Scooby series not to be renewed, and it didn't finish out the season! Reruns of earlier seasons, under titles like Scooby's Mystery Funhouse & Scary Scooby Funnies, helped fill open spaces on the schedule during the mid-80's, a testimony to Scooby's growing popularity. Episodes from 1969-79 were now in syndication at this point.
After nearly a full decade at ABC, Scooby finally got a vacation, as the network cleaned house in 1986. However, the great dane would return......
*A Pup Named Scooby-Doo (1987-91): For the first time, Casey Kasem & Don Messick got star billing, and a then-unknown actress, Kellie Martin, was cast as a younger Daphne. Pup is a prequel to the earlier series, purporting that the gang had been together since childhood, forming the Scooby-Doo Detective Agency early on in their careers. Kellie Martin would go on to a string of primetime successes, including Christy, Life Goes On, and a stint on ER.
For the next 7 years, there would be only reruns, as Scooby was off network television again. Cartoon Network debuted in 1992, and ultimately would be the only place to find Scooby. It got to the point where network programming nerds, obsessed with the ratings generated by the reruns, would fill every available hole in the schedule with Scooby. In 1998, Hanna-Barbera, in one of its last major projects, launched a direct-to-video movie series that continues to this day. The first film, "Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island", was also the first Scooby project without Messick, who'd passed away a year earlier, and without Kasem, who had left. He wanted Shaggy to adopt a vegan lifestyle to mirror his own, it seems. However, despite getting a current A-list voice actor to succeed Kasem in Billy West (Futurama), it just didn't seem right. They also failed in casting Scooby. Scott Innes essayed the role in the first four films, and doubled as Shaggy beginning with 1999's "Scooby-Doo & The Witch's Ghost". In "Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders", Innes, as Shaggy, performs a musical number, which might've been the only advantage he ever had on "Mr. Top 40", as Kasem, who recorded some vocals for the 1976 series' theme song, was not exactly rock star material himself. However, Innes might not have struck enough chords with fans.......
*What's New Scooby-Doo? (September 2002-February 2005): After 11 years off network television, Scooby returned, this time on Kids' WB!. Casey Kasem returned as Shaggy, and Frank Welker now essayed a dual role as Fred & Scooby, something that some might think should've been a no-brainer four years earlier, given that Welker, now a pre-eminent expert on animal voices, might have been a protege of Don Messick's for all those years. Granted, Neil Fanning, who voiced Scooby in 2 live-action features, the first of which preceded What's New by 3 months, wasn't too bad, but....!
The Canadian rock group Simple Plan recorded the show's theme song, and the producers marked the 30th anniversary of the movie series by casting the occasional guest stars, including Simple Plan and baseball star Mike Piazza, then with the New York Mets. However, carrying over from the live-action "Scooby-Doo" was the dumbing down of Fred, who now was a fanboy who marked out meeting people he'd read about and admired. It would only get worse. They also did a callback to the Scooby/Shaggy/Scrappy era, minus Scrappy, in an episode where Scooby & Shaggy were working with some younger kids at a camp that was supposedly haunted. What a shock.
*Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue (2006-8): Flash animation just didn't work right, and the producers obviously didn't learn thing one about leaving Fred, Daphne, & Velma behind. Scott Menville took over as Shaggy, but unlike the previous series, where Kasem & Welker got star billing, no such case here. There was an ongoing storyline, negated by the lame notion of nanite-infused Scooby Snacks giving Scoob some superpowers. I'd say it would be the worst incarnation of the franchise......
*Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated (2010-present): Cartoon Network fumbled this one real bad.
For starters, head writer and producer Mitch Watson decided to reboot the franchise from scratch for a new audience. Problem was, he messed with the formula big time, deciding that Fred was kidnapped as a baby from his "real" parents, and that the Mayor of the gang's hometown, Crystal Cove (as opposed to Coolsville in traditional canon), was a corrupt, money hungry weasel. CN ran the first half of season 2 over 3 weeks this summer, in the afternoon, because they were so slow in putting the show back on the air. Watson was trying to be all things to all people, including playing to fan fiction fans online by playing up not only the predictable Fred-Daphne romance, but also a pro tempore Shaggy & Velma coupling. Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy in the 2 theatrical features, and even interacted with the ol' Shagster (as voiced then by Casey Kasem) & Scooby in "Looney Tunes: Back in Action", succeeded Kasem, apparently getting the seal of approval from the radio legend, who now plays Shaggy's disapproving father.
The fact that the gang's respective parents disapproved of their interests in mysteries (and Fred's new obsession with building traps, making him even more of a geek than previously imaginable) bothered me. So, too, did Watson's royal mishandling of the Funky Phantom. While he's attempting to gather as much H-B history together in one box by creating a whole H-B Universe in homage to the studio's founders, and I admire his initiative, he needs to take into account that it shouldn't just be one fan's perspective (his), but taking also into account 40+ years of history encompassing Scooby's run, and how all fans might perceive it. He might have the seal of approval from creators Joe Ruby & Ken Spears, but he has alienated more than a few people. Unfortunately, with production ending on this series, Watson's next project may be cause for much cringing. He's reportedly on board for Beware the Batman, due next year. Let's see if he gets it right this time.
I am not sure what the future holds for Scooby after Mystery Incorporated ends its run, but, trust me, it has to be better than it is now.