So, I recently watched the new(ish) Scooby-Doo series, Scooby-Doo: Mystery, Inc. with my girlfriend.
It was… bizarre. (Disclaimer: I hated Scooby-Doo growing up, didn’t like the original series, didn’t like the late 70s team-ups, didn’t like A Pup Named Scooby Doo, 13 ghosts, really anything, until the the late 90s Scooby movies. And I would begrudgingly admit that despite its awful opening theme song, What’s New Scooby Doo was watchable.) Very bizarre. It was the most ridiculous Scooby-Doo I’ve seen but often had a penchant for taking itself very seriously, especially in the second half, which was kind of jarring.
On one hand, you had Velma struggling with her failed relationship with Shaggy before ultimately coming to terms with her sexuality and coupling* with the geeky girl who, despite not being drawn in an unattractive manner, was constantly shat on by everyone over the course of the series because she was poor (her nickname, Hot Dog Water, came from the fact that her family used recycled water). Then on the other hand, you have a Freddy who’s been flanderized beyond all rational humanity.
The basis for the show is that the gang is from “the hauntedest place on earth”. As they investigate rubber-mask monster mysteries around the town, they are both guided and harangued by an earlier incarnation of Mystery, Inc. and discover that multiple groups of mystery solvers (always 4 humans and a talking animal) had been drawn to the area in search of a legendary cursed treasure.
The cursed treasure is actual eldritch space entity that has exerted its influence so that it might be found and released from its prison. This influence both draws the parties together, draws them to the treasure, and drives them mad. It also makes everyone else in the area a bit crazy, hence monster masked criminals.
The climactic conclusion of the series features:
-A rather disturbing homage to Twin Peaks
-Shaggy and Scooby wearing Kerberos Panzer Kop protect gear and fighting against an army of evil robots
-a journey across the four elemental planes
-Most secondary characters getting killed onscreen in dead-for-real ways
-A crazy final boss battle that is Die, Vecna, Die! levels of crazy
-A reality bending denoument that retcons the show into being a prequel to the original series
Basically, it feels like someone turned their D&D campaign into a Scooby-Doo series, and the ultimate results are better than one might expect. Oh, right, yeah. I almost forgot. One masked monster was a D&D player who was getting revenge on his gaming group or something, dressing up as the big-bad from campaign. If you can sit through some of the worse episodes and be patient with how stupid a few of the characters are written (“YOU NEVER GO FULL RETARD!”), there’s really a lot of great ideas at work here to steal. Zombie Ska band.
One last thing: I’m not entirely sure if the HP Hatecraft character (played by Jeffrey Combs) was intended as a parody of the geek media that constantly tries to include Lovecraft stuff in such a way that comes off as “Hey, check it, Lovecraft, right? Pretty awesome and nerdy, huh!” and how tired it’s getting or if it’s merely a straight example of it in its tiredest form. Because seriously, as a Lovecraft fan, I’m actually sick of seeing things try to work Lovecraft in everywhere. But Harlan Ellison is a character in the show, and he is portrayed as a ridiculous and arrogant asshole, which is actually pretty funny considering that he’s voicing himself.
*:this is literally shown with *wink