Be-Cool, Scooby-Doo! deserved better – look beyond the art style to stellar writing, humor
Let’s face it — Velma is a disaster. Mindy Kaling’s HBO Max series reimagining the brainy meddling kid and her human cohort has been universally panned, and is now the worst-rated series according to IMDB. Whatever questionable aims it set out to achieve, it has failed miserably.
The Velma series, an adult cartoon perhaps best described as a mystery-horror-comedy, eliminates the canine Scooby-Doo character from the gang entirely (ostensibly because this is a prequel) and relies more on the gritty realism you’d expect of an HBO mystery drama, procedural or thriller.
The one good thing HBO’s problematic Velma series has achieved is focusing attention suddenly on an overlooked entry in the Scooby canon: Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! — which, until Velma came along, was the major focus of Scooby fan ire on the internet. That’s because it used a goofy animation style that was a radical departure from previous entries in the venerable franchise. BCSD also relied more upon humor, often of the slapstick or ridiculous variety, than other recent Scooby incarnations — but the comedic moments of this series rarely missed the mark. The writing was outstanding for what it was, and it really holds up now that we’ve seen the depths to which the iconic Scoobyverse can be dragged.
Sandwiched between the kooky, darker and more arc-driven narrative of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated and the more traditional Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? with its modern celebrity guest spots and classic character styles, the Cartoon Network and then Boomerang series BCSD was largely a “mystery of the week” affair (though some threads are revisited or continued later in the series). The stakes are usually low, and the gang is in the van solving mysteries around the world, just like in the old days. It’s a feast for nostalgia with a contemporary spin, and it doesn’t let decades of canon get in the way of telling a funny story.
If brainy mystery solving is what you’re looking for, you’ll find plenty of Velma in BCSD — in fact, all the Mystery Inc. kids get their due — but a standout in terms of humor and stellar writing is the character of Daphne, who has a different defining personality quirk in each episode, and it’s always objectively hilarious. She takes a more central role akin to Fred’s trap-obsessed antics in Mystery Incorporated, but the joke doesn’t get old as quickly because her hang-ups are fluid. From puppet obsessions and awesome beards to canonizing Darth Vader in the world of Scooby-Doo, this is the way to treat a 50+-year-old cartoon that otherwise would have overstayed its welcome — self-referential and reverent at the same time, neither taking itself too seriously nor going too far in the other direction like The Simpsons.
Be-Cool, Scooby-Doo! is streaming on Boomerang and HBO Max.