Saturday, February 22, 2014

How to plan the next Scooby-Doo series

This has been the subject of much debate on message boards, such as ToonZone, ever since Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated was royally screwed over by Cartoon Network, which decided that the 2nd season episodes would be shown in a weekday package, with each 13 episode block airing over a 2 1/2 week period, with no repeats. An utter disgrace to a franchise once worshipped like a god at the network under a different administration.

What the problem seems to be is that it was lacking a specific element to the formula. Humor.

In the warped mind of CN's Stuart Snyder, it was too much of an action show for his liking, and it was too dark and scary for his self-admitted target audience of boys between the ages of 8-14. Scooby's own creators, Joe Ruby & Ken Spears, have been on record stating that they felt head writer-producer Mitch Watson's vision was closer to their own original vision when they first developed Scooby 45 years ago. In my own opinion, Watson had made some mistakes, the biggest of which was perpetuating the notion, established in the 2002 live-action movie, that Fred was a bit of an airhead, which he certainly wasn't in past incarnations of the franchise.

Even though he was the title star, Scooby has always been a comedy character. He and his owner-partner, Shaggy, were used for slapstick comedy in the midst of each episode, but that went the way of the Edsel in Mystery Incorporated. What Watson wanted to do was make Scooby, in particular, more assertive, and less comical. From what I saw in season 1 (never saw season 2), it appeared that he'd succeeded. Unfortunately, serious Scooby doesn't bring the ratings, at least that's how Snyder and his idiot cohorts see it. They essentially buried season 2, and haven't even scheduled a DVD release insofar as I know.

So that brings us to the topic at hand. How do you put the inevitable next incarnation of the franchise together? It has to be a mix of comedy and adventure, much like it has been for most of the last 45 years. Silly slapstick will attract the little boys Snyder covets as his core audience. However, for older fans, the next series has to have the following:

*--Done-in-one mysteries. Part of the reason Mystery Incorporated ultimately failed in Snyder's eyes is that Watson went with the serial format, which was fine and new for the franchise, but Snyder felt it was too much for the kids to bear. As What's New Scooby-Doo demonstrated, a procedural whodunit works well for the Mystery Inc. team, just as it did for Clue Club years earlier. In fact, since the two teams never met, the next series could fix that little problem, since the CC weren't part of that fever dream Scooby had in season 1 of Mystery Incorporated.

*--Reintroduce "lost" supporting characters, specifically, Scooby's relatives, like his cousins, Scooby-Dee & Scooby-Dum, last seen several years ago, brother Yabba, who has been missing in action for more than 30 years, and, of course, Scrappy, who was really screwed over by the internet.

You all know the story with Scrappy. Fans turned away in droves because of his obnoxious but assertive persona, introduced in his first season (1979), which, in turn marked Scooby's 10th anniversary. Scrappy matured as time went on, but the writers of the 2002 movie seemingly ret-conned everything post 1979 out, as the movie was written with those haters on the internet in mind. Watson apparently also followed this logic, as Scrappy was mentioned in passing in season 1 of Mystery Incorporated, and not in a good way.

As for Dee & Dum, they've been missing for way too long. Dum was the Mortimer Snerd-influenced dimbulb who aspired to be a real detective like Scooby, hence the deerstalker cap he often wore. Dee was an actress, which would come in handy if /when she does get used.

*---Guest stars. Watson managed a minor miracle, one that I didn't get to see, by reviving Dynomutt, and ret-conning Blue Falcon into a former security guard instead of a millionaire. He didn't see the value in keeping Falcon a Batman-clone, and I can't blame him there. However, given the way season 2 was scheduled, should it surprise anyone at all that CN isn't interested in spinning the new-look Dynomutt off into his own series, what with his 40th anniversary 2 years away?

I mentioned the Clue Club earlier. Let's take it a step further and reboot the fever dream into something a little more substantial, and have Scooby meet Goober & the Ghost Chasers as well. And, then, there is the matter of returning the favor to Johnny Bravo after the gang paid him a visit in 1997.

*---Continuity. Some ill-informed souls on the message boards don't want to see the romantic subplots from the last series. Here's a newsflash, folks. There are older fans that do want to see Fred & Daphne's relationship develop in a more mature, dramatic fashion. What hurt that angle before was how Fred was written, as a trap-happy imbecile. If you revert Fred to what he was in the first place, as an assertive, mature sleuth, to fall into line with how Daphne's character has evolved from being a damsel in distress to being more assertive. They would be a toon couple on the order of, say, Popeye & Olive Oyl or Mickey & Minnie Mouse. I'd find love interests for Velma & Shaggy, but not with each other.

*---Format. Instead of the usual half-hour, or the 15 minute format CN has favored for their original series these days, I'd go with a 1 hour show in the style of live-action procedurals. That would ensure the "Done-in-one" format is employed.

*---Shopping to networks other than CN. An absolute must, given how CN screwed its audience and the franchise in one fell swoop. I'd shop the show to Nickelodeon and the Hub, or even to CW's Vortexx block. CN? Fuhgeddaboutit, as long as Snyder's in charge.

It will be interesting to see how CN celebrates Scooby's 45th birthday later this year.


magicdog said...

I really don't understand why TPTB at CN are sabotaging their own channel! Must be some tax write off scheme because all they do is have potentially good programming and then bite the hands of those providing it. It wasn't bad enough to mess with SDMI, but doing the same to DC properties like their own "DC Nation" block. This channel is almost unwatchable now.

SDMI, IMO was the best incarnation of the SD characters since the very first series (especially since you can't have one without the other) and offered up so much more that any incarnation in between them. I know part of the reason for American toons being stifled was due to the TV violence restrictions, but they also suffered due to the short sightedness of creators and network suits. They thought toons were for kids and should be dumbed down. I didn't get to see what American shows could do until BTAS came along to show character depth and development - not to mention bad guys getting pummeled again and intelligent writing. It's further insulting to think a serialized format can't be followed by viewers.

SDMI was a great way to get back to basics (and Ruby/Spears were on target with their observations) poke fun at the show, HB in general and still take some serious steps to characterization in the process. I loved the whole concept - though I agree on Freddy having been portrayed in the first season (don't worry - he got better in season 2!). The ratings might have been higher if the network had bothered promoting it more and played repeats. At best we got a few marathons to lead us into a premiere, but fans often ended up missing it - sometimes seeking out the show in other venues (PM me on TZ, I can show you where you can see the show in its entirety - legally!).

For the next installment, I'd rather not see the 70s characters like Scrappy, Yabba, Dumm, etc. They were designed for another time and series. I'd rather the new show take some cues from SDMI and make it so the "you know what" gets real! I want to see danger, risk, character development and a sense of fun in the mysteries the gang will solve each episode. I'm one of those viewers who would also like to see Fred and Daphne having a relationship. That never bothered me as long as the "will they or won't they" aspect is left out. I also liked Velma in SDMI - she was snarkey and dare I say the prettiest animated incarnation to date. Mitch Watson described her as a "cute, Comic Con girl" and I can buy that - although in SDMI I didn't get to see her "Comic Con" side so much. If we had, she'd have been to a convention with Shag & Scoob or spent time playing video games, etc. As for her dating Shaggy, I'm open to it, even if that means they risk becoming "the spare couple" that HAS to be together because Fred & Daphne are. I had hoped Velma and Shaggy would have resolved their issues in the 2nd season of SDMI, but it didn't happen. If the show had been allowed to go a third season, perhaps it would have happened then.

Whether or not to add crossovers with other mystery solvers from the HB stable is also up in the air - depending on the incarnation they have in mind. Perhaps the cameos can be subtle like in superhero shows (YJ and DCAU toons did this a lot, so why not?) or more brazen. Personally, I hope to get a "CSI lite" sort of series, in which the gang is older, working and using their individual talents to get to solve a case.

hobbyfan said...

That's another possibility, one I raised with my twist ending to a fan-fic I wrote at TZ a couple of years back.

I figured Watson had missed the boat, and badly, at that, and I decided that there was a way to create a salient ending that made sense, so I mixed in the Wonder Twins (themselves being a bit older) and Batman, and made Shaggy more assertive. Plus it wasn't taking 26 weeks to get to the conclusion.

The story ended with what was purported to be the "original" team (Pericles, Brad, Judy, et al) actually being the NEW MI team, trained by Fred, who would now be a college professor. My vision was that Fred would mentor the new team, and have his mates join in periodically. I may return to that concept down the road.

Scoobyfan1 said...

@Hobbyfan: I did see that actually, and it was a great idea.

I actually don't mind romance, and guest stars, in addition I loved the ongoing storyline, as it made you want to keep tuning in each day or each week to see what would happen next(the hallmarks of a good television show, as it keeps you guessing and all that).

Incidentally, Cartoon Network is rerunning the show again, but at 8:30 AM pacific time(which I guess would be the same time in the Eastern Time Zone); although, who knows how long CN will keep the show's reruns on the schedule this time.

In addition, ideally I would like to see Fred, Daphne and Velma as they were in the classic series(1969-1978 especially), but maybe show they can be funny on occasion as well; same with Shaggy and Scooby, maybe have them be themselves, but be a little more assertive and brave.

Also(and this is key, at least for me), any future Scooby series if it does feature real monsters, maybe include a few friendly ones and have Fred, Daphne and Velma make friends with the friendly ghost or creature, or whatever.

Lastly, as far as a network, it's really too bad Cartoon Network is the one who runs Warner Brothers shows, as if this was the 80s or early 90s, a new Scooby series could be run in syndication very easily(along the lines of the syndicated runs of the Jetsons and Jonny Quest).

But of course, because of Warner Brothers owning the Hanna Barbera library, and Warner Brothers shows having to run on CN because of contracts and all that, we have to suffer through Cartoon Network's mistreatment of Warner Brothers properties.

I honestly wish The Hub or Nickelodeon could figure a way out to run new shows produced by Warner Brothers, but unfortunately I think that's in the category of the Chicago Cubs winning the world series anytime soon, needless to say not very likely.

Although it is fun to wish and dream and all that.

hobbyfan said...

8:30 (PT) = 11:30 (ET). I'm at work either way, so I'm still screwed.

Actually, since there is so much disconnect between Time Warner divisions (which WB, CN, & DC are three of), it'd still be a safer bet to have WBA shop future projects to other networks and not have to be beholden to Stuart Snyder and his myopic vision. The Hub would be the best place to go.