Considering all the elaborate monster outfits used this show, Judge Clark Douglas suspects that either Jim Henson or Ray Harryhausen is the villainous mastermind behind all those dastardly deeds. Jinkies!
Are you brave enough to join Scooby-Doo's team?
During the 1980s and early 1990s, one of television's most peculiar trends hit the world of cartoons. It suddenly became popular to recreate popular cartoon shows with a new spin: turn everyone into babies. Before long, there were baby Looney Tunes, baby Flintstones…everyone's favorite characters were suddenly in diapers! These shows were typically much friendly and far less interesting than their grown-up companions, and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo was no exception…or was it?
Facts of the Case
A Pup Named Scooby-Doo didn't take things quite as far as other, similar shows, turning the characters into elementary-school children rather than babies. Freddy is bossy, dense, and uptight, Velma is quiet and smart, Daphne is friendly and easily grossed out, and Shaggy is not high nearly as often as before. That infamous canine Scooby-Doo is more or less the same as before, just a tiny bit smaller (he can hardly be called a "pup"). Together, these five friends solve mysteries, fight monsters, and…well, just those two things, actually.
A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: The Complete First Season features thirteen episodes spread across two discs:
• "A Bicycle Built for Boo!": Shaggy's bicycle is stolen by a giant green monster. The team suspects a local bully is involved, but that's unlikely when you consider the bully's name: Red Herring.
• "The Sludge Monster From the Earth's Core": The gang goes on the hunt for a monster that has robbed a local bank.
• "The Schnook Who Took My Comic Book": Shaggy's extremely rare first edition comic book is stolen by a villainous monster at a comic book convention.
• "Wanted Cheddar Alive": Every single Scooby Snack in the entire world is stolen by a giant cheese monster…oh, the humanity!
• "For Letter or Worse": A game show is being haunted by the ghost of "Al CaBones," and the team has to figure out what is going on.
• "The Babysitter From Beyond": Shaggy decides not to leave his baby sister with the suspicious-looking new babysitter. Meanwhile, a three-headed monster is on the loose.
• "Now Museum, Now You Don't": Some rare Samurai swords are stolen from a museum, which is also being haunted by a fierce Samurai ghost.
• "Snow Place Like Home": The gang's pleasant ski vacation is interrupted by the presence of an evil ice demon.
• "Scooby Dude": A surfing monster terrorizes a local beach community.
• "Ghost Who's Coming to Dinner": A friendly ghost is suddenly replaced by a vicious, evil ghost, and the owners of the haunted house consider leaving.
• "The Story Stick": A Native-American community is being disrupted by the appearance of a totem pole monster.
• "Robopup": Scooby-Doo's job is threatened by the invention of an incredibly talented robot dog, aptly named "Robopup."
• "Lights…Camera…Monster!": A famous movie monster is involved in a series of crimes, and the police rather densely suspect the actor who plays the monster in the movies.
Honestly, I didn't expect much out of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. Classic animated kid's shows such as Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones, and The Jetsons all have their charms, but the television/DVD/theatrical spin-offs of such shows tend to be limp imitations at best, bogged down by either an overload of weak pop culture references or a general lack of inspiration. At first glance, it seems that A Pup Named Scooby-Doo might just be more of the same. But you know what? This is actually a funny, clever little show that goes just a bit beyond the expectations for Saturday morning kiddie fare. Sure, the intelligence level is aimed at very young viewers, but I was surprised to find myself beginning to have fun after a while.
The show has a rather uncommon blend of sincere messages and stories mixed with self-aware jokes and a gently self-deprecating attitude. The first few shows spend time establishing the show's clichés…er, trademarks. Every time there is a clue, Velma says "Jinkies!" Every time the gang wants Scooby-Doo to Scooby-do something, they have to bribe him with Scooby snacks. Every episode, Freddy suspects the never-guilty-but-always-suspicious Red Herring. Then, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo starts to have a lot of fun with its conventions and becomes increasingly witty and fresh as the season progresses. After a while, all the characters become familiar with the show's formula, and are constantly chiding each other (not to mention those working behind the scenes) for failing to follow it. "It's time for the chase scene…don't forget to start the wacky saxophone music!"
The great thing is, as the season progresses, jokes build upon jokes. Just when it seems like a gag is starting to get tired, the show starts spoofing the gag of the gag, and then spoofing the gag of the gag of the gag, and before you know it, we're right back where we started. The result is a show that never threatens to become too repetitive over the course of the 13 episodes. Now don't get me wrong, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo is by no means on par with, say, Buster Keaton, but it's nonetheless far funnier and more engaging than it has any right to be.
Interestingly, during the season's second half, the show also decides to take on more than mere giggles and mysteries. It actually starts to offer message episodes on such topics as drugs ("Scooby Dude") and ethnic stereotypes ("The Story Stick"). Sure, these may be a little bit on the preachy side, but you won't find me criticizing a children's show for offering healthy messages…especially considering the general lack of such qualities in so many of the kid's cartoons of today. This show is also generally stronger and more basically friendly than the subsequent film/television/home video incarnations of Scooby-Doo, which have tended to focus a bit more on action and PG-rated scares.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The music in the show is a rather annoying element, mostly consisting of 1960s-style doo-wop featuring female singers going, "Scooby-dooby-dooby-doo-ba-dooby-scooby," and so on, and so forth. This gets very tiresome. Every villain also gets his or her own original song, along the lines of "Hey, hey monster, you're chasing those kids, you're so bad, what's wrong with you?" Meh. The music and the rest of the mono sound in general is far from impressive, as is the flat video quality. There are a number of very brief featurettes included on the DVD (most of which feature comments by producer Tom Ruegger), but they're presented as part of an interactive map and are annoyingly time-consuming to access. Plus, nothing is labeled, so you never know what you're going to see when you click on one of the many different locations on the map. Each featurette runs no more than two minutes, so having to find each one and click on it is a bit of a pain.
It's funny, fresh, good-natured, and manages to be faithful to the spirit of the original show while also going in its own engaging direction. You could do a whole lot worse than picking up A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: The Complete First Season for your kids. A pleasant surprise, indeed.
Ruff! Ruff! Rot Ruilty! Rourt Ris Rajourned! Rooby-Dooby-Doo!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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