Judge Dan Mancini thinks Scrappy-Doo should be put down.
Once upon a midnight dreaming,
Scooby-Doo cartoons ran in one form or another, first on CBS and then on ABC, from 1969 until 1986. The final of these original run series, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, ran for a single season on ABC, beginning in 1985. Any description of its plot is bound to make it sound utterly insane because…well, it plays like the creators tossed off its premise while in the midst of a mescaline binge. In the series' first episode, "To All the Ghouls I've Loved Before," Shaggy, Scooby, Daphne, and Scrappy-Doo's trip to Hawaii ends in the Himalayas because the two human characters apparently thought it was a reasonable idea to leave the travel arrangements up to the canines. When their plane—The Mystery Flying Machine—crash lands in a quaint little town (that looks oddly Bavarian), they meet up with a young grifter and snake oil salesman named Flim Flam. The kid leads them to a nightclub where the entertainment includes a vampire who does cringe-worthy covers of Julio Iglesias tunes and a fortune teller named Vincent Van Ghoul (voiced by Vincent Price, essentially playing himself). The night's entertainment is interrupted when all of the club's patrons (including Daphne) turn into werewolves. Hauled before a local magistrate, the gang is ordered to leave town immediately. That's a problem, however, because bumbling ghosts Weerd and Bogel (they're modeled after Abbot and Costello) have stolen the Mystery Flying Machine in order to trick Scoob and the others into opening a chest that contains 13 ornery ghosts. Scooby and Shaggy eventually fall for an elaborate ruse in which the two ghosts stage a paranormal version of Let's Make a Deal inside a haunted mansion, tricking our none-too-bright heroes into opening the chest. And so the premise of the series is established. Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne, Scrappy, and Flim Flam must travel the world, recapturing the 13 escaped ghosts. Just a crystal ball call away, Vincent Van Ghoul acts as their paranormal help desk, setting up missions and providing you-gotta-be-kidding-me levels of whack-a-do exposition. Various hijinks ensue—few of them entertaining.
Since I was well into my teens when it hit the air, I entirely missed The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo. I'd never even heard of the show until this set arrived at my doorstep. I wish I could report that the series is top-notch Scooby-Doo mystery entertainment, but its problems are legion, going well beyond its nonsensical premise (designed, no doubt, to cash in on the success of Ghostbusters, released the previous year). The first sign that the series won't reach the heights of cheese-tastic fun achieved by Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is the absence of Fred Jones and Velma Dinkley from the Mystery, Inc. crew. That the cravat-wearing Big Man on Campus and the bespectacled uber-nerd girl are replaced by Scrappy-Doo and Flim Flam—arguably the two most annoying animated characters not created by Seth MacFarlane—only adds insult to injury. In fact, the show might just as well have been called The 13 Ghosts of Scrappy-Doo and Flim Flam because the grating duo dominates the plots of most of the episodes. Scooby, Shaggy, and Daphne are mostly second bananas.
The show retains many of the musical queues as well as the charmingly shoddy visual design and animation from Scooby-Doo's heyday in the late '60s and early '70s. Daphne and Shaggy have been updated slightly for the '80s, but the changes are negligible—Daphne wears a purple pant-suit instead of a micro-mini, and Shag sports baggy blue jeans and a pink T-shirt instead of his traditional green and brown ensemble. Voice performances are consistent with old school Scoob adventures: Casey Kasem plays the high-strung Shaggy, Heather North plays Daphne, and Don Messick voices everyone's favorite talking Great Dane as well as everyone's least favorite Great Dane puppy. But these textural similarities to Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! aren't enough to save The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo from the gag-inducing precociousness of Scrappy and Flim Flam; lame-brained episodes involving real paranormal events instead of an old crank in a rubber mask foiled by the gang's meddling; a mountain of bad puns; and ham-fisted ventures into light postmodernism such as a segment in which Scrappy and Flim Flam give the ABC censor a hard time.
This two-disc set contains all 13 episodes of the show:
The episodes are presented on DVD in an acceptable, albeit unremarkable, full frame transfer. Colors are mostly accurate. The prints from which the master was created were in good shape, though minor flecks are prevalent on the image throughout. Audio is a single-channel presentation of the show's original analogue mono track. It's tinny and cramped, but clean.
The only extra in the set appears on Disc One. "Don't Feed the Animals" is an episode from Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!, an anime influenced but otherwise execrable show from 2006.
There's a reason that The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo marked the end of the animated pooch's original 17-year television run: It's not a good show. Those with fond childhood memories of the series should enjoy this budget priced no-frills set. Everyone else should steer clear.
Guilty as charged.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Bonus Episode
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