Review Date: 1/4/21
Cast: Nicole Jaffe, Frank Welker, Heather North, Casey Kasem, Don Messick
Contains 24 episodes
For whatever reasons, Hanna-Barbera thought it would be a good idea to pair Mystery Inc. with real-life celebrities including Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, Sonny and Cher, Don Knotts, Jonathan Winters, Phyllis Diller, Davey Jones, Don Adams, Tim Conway, Sandy Duncan, Dick Van Dyke, and the Harlem Globetrotters. Other guests from the cartoon world also show up, like Batman and Robin, Speed Buggy, and Josie and the Pussy Cats. The show was expanded to an hour long format, which can make it challenging to watch.
The series isn't very good, and the low budget animation cuts even more corners than the original series. Sadly, the quality drops even lower in the second season. In addition to the high volume of recycled animation, it's a continuity nightmare and every episode has at least one scene where someone's voice is coming out of the wrong person's mouth, or someone will be speaking and no one's mouth is moving. It's usually a mix-up between Daphne and Velma, but Fred's voice gets mixed up with the guests on several occasions. Some episodes have laugh tracks and some don't, and it's unclear why. There are also multiple paint goofs and the backgrounds tend to look sloppy. Each episode usually has a handful of other visual continuity gaffes as well, like people switching positions and villains chasing themselves. I noticed several other continuity problems with characters referring to things that hadn't happened, which could be the result of editing or licensing concerns. Overall, it's a disappointing mess. The longer running time doesn't do the show any favors and just pads out the already thin plots with repetitive fright gags and longer chases. The Harlem Globetrotter episodes are even worse because they simply recycle footage from the Globetrotter's own animated series. I also find it interesting that even though the Globetrotters are considered hero characters, the only way they can win is by cheating. Granted, it's all for the sake of comedy, but the level of humor is extremely low-brow.
The celebrity guest stars are a mixed bag, but most of them are terrible. Another continuity problem creeps in when guest stars show up multiple times, like Don Knotts and the Three Stooges. There's no memory of them ever meeting before, even though each party would be hard pressed to forget the other one after their first meeting. In one episode, Don Knotts is a famous private detective, while in another he's a police officer. And yet, he's Don Knotts the entire time, and that's how the Scooby gang knows him. It's a weird self-aware crossover of pop culture and a strange example of art imitating life imitating art. The episode with Jeannie and Babu is downright surreal because it involves real magic and spirits, which goes against everything Mystery Inc. believes in and stands for. It's also odd that the entire premise of "Jeannie" is that Corey tries to keep Jeannie's identity a secret, yet the Scooby gang immediately recognizes all of them as if they were TV celebrities. It definitely twists your brain.
The writing is especially bad in this series, and I was surprised by Fred's openly sexist and misogynistic remarks. Additionally, Fred and Velma's logic and behavior are wildly inconsistent and can really make your head spin if you think about it too hard. The Batman and Robin episodes are stunning in that Batman is a complete dolt who relies solely on Robin and the Scooby gang to solve mysteries. The Sonny and Cher episode is probably the best written and has some genuinely funny moments, but the non-stop abusive banter between Sonny and Cher is highly inappropriate and politically incorrect. Overall, the only real value the series offers is for nostalgia buffs who want to revisit the innocence of youth and simpler times.