Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

The Trouble With “Velma,” Plus More Super Joe

The PopCulteer
January 20, 2023

So HBOMax’s latest attempt at rebooting the Scooby-Doo Franchise, Mindy Kaling’s Velma, may be one of the worst-reviewed things in the world in recent history. At Rotten Tomatoes, the critic’s score was below 50% positive, which is bad, but the audience score is only 6% and dropping, which is atrocious. If Velma was a publicly-traded company, NASDAQ would have delisted it by now.

It’s pretty hard to defend. The show fails on almost every level. If you could somehow harness the power created by a swing and a miss, Velma could conceivably power a small European country for over a year.

Let me be clear here, I am the farthest thing from a Scooby-Doo purist you could find. I was seven years and one month old when I excitedly tuned in to watch the debut of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! on CBS back in 1969. I’d seen ads for it in comic books, and wanted to see if it was any good.

I sorta liked it. It was funny and fast-paced and I was seven and didn’t know any better, so I made it a point to tune in the next Saturday to watch.

And I clearly remember, to this day, what happened. The second episode of the show had exactly the same plot as the first one. I was disgusted. It was the first time in my life that I can remember realizing that my intelligence had been insulted. They just crapped out the same story with a different villain and pretended it was all-new.

From that point on, I viewed Scooby-Doo with no small amount of contempt. I still watched to see if they had diverted from the plot (they hadn’t) and I watched The New Scooby-Doo Movies simply because of the guest stars, like Batman and Robin, Sonny and Cher and The Harlem Globetrotters, but even those still used the same old plot of somebody pretending to be a ghost or a monster to scare people away (belated spoiler alert there).

Over the enusing decades there were a few bright spots. One short season of The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, with Vincent Price tagging along, was pretty good, as 1980s television animation goes. In 2010 Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated began a very well-done 52 episode run on Cartoon Network.  It was actually clever, engaging and smart–something that was not the norm for Scooby-Doo cartoons.  For the most part, however, Scooby-Doo always struck me as a pretty pedestrian concept that was never really that great. I’m always a bit surprised when somebody says they liked it.

So I’m not put off by the idea of a reboot. And I’m not bothered by the new diverse cast, or the adult-humor aspect of Velma.

I am put off by the gigantic pointlessness of it all.

It’s okay to change the race of three of the five lead characters. It could even be okay to totally omit the main character (there is no dog in Velma). What’s so mind-numbingly baffling is that they completely changed the personalities and interpersonal relationships of every single character.

There was no reason for them to bother with this reboot when the only thing they kept was the names of the four supporting characters. The characters retain none of their distinctive characteristics, aside from some visual trappings of the original show.

The adult humor aspect completely falls flat. The Venture Brothers did the “Adult Swim” take on the Scooby-Doo gang a decade and a half ago, played with it for eight minutes, and having exhausted every possible joke out of the idea, tossed it aside, never to revisit it.

Velma based a whole series on that flimsy premise.

There was no burning need for this. Mike Tyson Mysteries (with the same executive producer and animation studio) cranked up the level of absurdity and did this so much better without all the cringeworthy failed attempts at humor.

In this series, which purports to be an “origin story,” Velma, instead of being highly intelligent and competent, is a clueless, oblivious idiot who just happens to be of South Asian descent. Daphne is an Asian “mean girl” who apparently deals drugs on the side. Fred is a stereotypical rich White kid with sexual dysfunction. And Shaggy, called here by his real name, Norville, is a Black anti-drug crusading, super-intelligent school newspaper editor.

It’s like the Bizarro World Scooby-Doo, only it’s as lame as the original series was.

And even that would be forgiveable if the damned thing was remotely funny. The real sin of Velma is that it’s imitation cutting-edge. Every joke in the show has been done better, usually a decade or more ago, on The Venture Brothers, Harvey Birdman: Attorney At Law, Robot Chicken or Rick and Morty.

And the execution of those familiar jokes is piss-poor. They crack so many humorless lines about how diverse the cast is that you wonder if the writers have some kind of FOX News anti-diversity agenda.

Velma is awful enough that it’d be more at home on FOX Nation than HBOMax. The show is poisoned by its self-referential, “Look how clever we are” comedic tone.

It’s not the worst adult-oriented cartoon ever made. Allen Gregory and El SuperBeasto still out-horrid it by miles, but it’s just so self-absorbed, derivative, unfunny…unnecessary that you really have to wonder how this show managed to survive Warner Brothers Discovery’s budget axe. Certainly, it would contribute more to the world if it were merely a tax write-off, locked away in a vault, never to be seen by human eyes. Even much of the animation design and style is ripped off from The Venture Brothers.

This is the kind of project that people pay to have removed from their IMDB profile.

So…I don’t really recommend it. I hope all the talented people involved quickly move on to other projects. I try not to be overly negative in this blog, but a person has their limits.

More Super Joe Unlimited

My second Super Joe Unlimited figure arrived, and I promised photos.  For the main story, check yesterday’s post.

The African American Super Joe Unlimited Commander, in the red jumpsuit.

An action pose, showing off the dark versions of the chestplate and helmet. And yes, those are Action Boy boots. I had them handy.

That’s this week’s PopCulteer. Check back for all our regular weekend features and fresh content every day!

1 Comment

  1. Thomas H. Wheeler

    From what I’m seeing, with regard to “Velma”, you left out the godawful sloppy character design. This is hardly uncommon these days. Some of these entertainment companies need to hire people that at some point in their lives, learned how to draw.

    Thanks for the additional Super Joe pictures!

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