Thursday, December 30, 2010

41 years of Scooby-Doo...

Last summer I wrote about an up-coming new series of Scooby-Doo cartoons that were to hit the airwaves beginning in the fall of 2009. No doubt, over a year later, those familiar with all things Scooby are well aware that the series didn't exactly make it on the air until the fall of 2010. That series, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Inc., initially aired in April 2010 but didn't debut on a regular basis until July 2010. The program's home, Cartoon Network, continues to air the entry into the series that's like nothing seen before. In this particular version the familiar concept of solving mysteries is still there but there's a much more realistic approach to each of the characters that was lacking in all versions of the program, except perhaps the original run during 1969-1971. In fact, publicity centered around the idea that this latest series was to be a continuation of the 1969-1971 era when the four teenagers were treated as teenagers instead of as adults in teenage clothing.

In the latest version there's a romantic overtone that was lacking in other versions...and I think this romantic element being inserted into the series is a direct result of the internet culture where people, for whatever reason, romantically link Fred and Daphne as well as Shaggy and Velma. There was always this romantic connection between Fred and Daphne, going back to the original 1969 episodes...what with Fred typically more concerned whenever Daphne would get into trouble or vanish. In an episode from 1976 titled "The Frightened Hound meets Demons Underground" Daphne is taken prisoner by one of the demons. Upon realizing this seconds later, Fred shouts out something like: "Daphne!!?! Quick...we gotta find her!!". So, yes, there was always a subtle hint that Fred and Daphne were boyfriend and girlfriend...but it was never an in-your-face distraction.

This sort of romantic insertion, personally speaking, was always troubling to me because it shown irreverence toward the crux of the series: mystery solving. Those familiar with all the different versions of the series will certainly get a shock when they see Scooby-Doo: Mystery Inc. for the first time...the series has it's great moments, though, but I find the romantic edge a distraction which plays more to a fan-fiction crowd than anything else. I prefer the traditional story of ghosts, monsters, goblins, and other assorted demons terrorizing the area and the teenagers, and Scooby, stumbling onto the mystery and solving it. This isn't to say that there's no mystery solving in the latest I remarked, there's plenty of it...but having the romantic overtone is the equivalent of eating ice cream topped with pencil shavings (something Scooby and Shaggy may find incredibly appetizing). There's an on-going sub-plot in this series where the gang continues to find clues as to the whereabouts of another gang of four mystery solving teenagers and their dog who've long since disappeared.

In a rating scale of 5 stars, with 5 being great, I give the series 4 and a half. If the romantic element would be dropped I'd give it 5 stars.

This is the 11th individual series based on the original Scooby-Doo: Where Are You? concept. As the title of this blog entry suggests this is also the 41st year of Scooby-Doo. Here is a look at the various Scooby-related programs that have been on the air since 1969. This list doesn't include the home video/DVD market which have issued direct-to-video movies regularly since 1998...

1. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?; 1969-1971
2. The New Scooby-Doo Movies; 1972-1973
3. The Scooby-Doo Show; 1976-1978
4. The Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo Show; 1979-1980**
5. The Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo Show; 1980-1982**
6. The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show/The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries; 1983-1984***
7. The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo; 1985
8. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo; 1988-1991
9. What's New, Scooby-Doo?; 2002-2005
10. Shaggy and Scooby-Doo: Get a Clue!; 2006-2008
11. Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated; 2010-present

**- there were 99 seven minute episodes produced and they aired as part of the package shows, The Richie Rich/Scooby-Doo Show and The Scooby and Scrappy-Doo/Puppy Hour. 34 hour programs {21 of the former, 13 of the latter} were produced altogether. In the second series there was a segment that featured Scrappy-Doo and new characters, Yabba-Doo and Deputy Dusty, solving cases with a western setting.

***- this series featured Scooby, Scrappy, Shaggy, and Daphne. There were 52 eleven minute episodes produced...2 eleven minute episodes aired per half hour...26 half hour episodes were produced altogether, 13 each season. The series went under the name of The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show in 1983 and The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries in 1984.

Frank Welker voices Fred in all of the incarnations of the series except for A Pup Named Scooby-Doo in which the characters were all small kids...even though Casey Kasem returned as Shaggy and Don Messick resumed his role as Scooby for that series. Casey was the voice of Shaggy in all incarnations of the series except Shaggy and Scooby-Doo: Get a Clue! and the latest, Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated. Don Messick was the voice of Scooby in all incarnations of the series through 1991. Don retired in 1996 following a stroke and passed away in 1997 and since then the character had been voiced, first by Scott Innes from 1998-2001, and then by Frank Welker starting in 2002. Innes was also the voice of Shaggy during 1999-2001, prior to Casey returning to the role. The Scott Innes characterizations are found on the various home video/DVD/video game releases since there was no television series in production at the time. Heather North, the second voice of Daphne but the actress who held the position the longest, joined in 1970 and remained with the series on and off through 1997. The original voice of Daphne was an actress with the unique name of Stefanianna Christopherson during the initial 1969-1970 season. Mary Kay Bergman held the role from 1998-2000. The current voice is Grey DeLisle...she took over the role in 2001. Velma has had several voice actresses through the years...most notable are Nicole Jaffe, Pat Stevens, and B.J. Ward. The current voice, since 2002, is Mindy Cohn, the face actress known by millions as Natalie on the 1979-1988 TV series, Facts of Life.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Hee-Haw: 1969-1992, Part Six...

This Life in the Kornfield book was released in 1996 and as far as I know it was never re-issued and so the only way an abundance of people were to get this book is if they bought it brand new at the time. It's available on the Amazon marketplace and it may be available on eBay...but it's long been out of print. 2011 will mark the book's 15th would be nice if the book were to get re-released in 2011 and have additional chapters focusing on Sam and the cast's thoughts about the success of the DVD's that Time-Life released in the mid 2000's and the thrill of the show getting a TV Land award a few years addition to the program's re-airing on RFD-TV...exposing the show to yet another generation. This book has a few flaws, though...those who get bent out of shape if a song might be referred to with a slightly different title or if 100% accuracy is a must you may find the book inferior. A slight inaccuracy is mistakenly crediting Gunilla Hutton as being a former cast-member of "Green Acres" instead of "Petticoat Junction". This sort of inaccuracy, though, would only be caught by those who are devoted fans of those two shows or know Gunilla's career history. The general public always mix-up those two shows because they both take place in the same town and have the same ensemble supporting, to all the nit-pickers, cut Sam some slack, okay?

This book contains an episode-by-episode's always been a fascinating part of the book...reading the names of all the celebrities that appeared from 1969 through 1992. This feature has added significance with RFD-TV airing the show in chronological we can see ahead of time when one of our favorite singers are to make an appearance. Last night's rerun on RFD was from 1972 and it featured Jeannie C. Riley and Johnny Bench. That particular episode originally aired February 5, 1972. Looking in the episode breakdown I know that next Sunday night's rerun on January 2, 2011 will feature Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton. The episode originally aired on February 12, 1972 of course.

The Hee-Haw 10th Anniversary celebration took place in 1978 as a 2-hour special that aired separately from it's weekly time-slot. This special was taped at the Opry, with a jam-packed audience, and it featured the cast and a lot of country singers stopping by giving their thoughts and memories of the show in addition to performing their current hits. One of the recurring features of the special was to air earlier clips of the cast prior to their current appearance. Tammy Wynette was saluted in a series of clips that spotlighted her various hair styles. Loretta Lynn appeared via video-tape and discussed her fondness for the show and they aired several clips of her and later she introduced Conway Twitty. All in all it was a fun celebration...and it included exclusive sketches performed live for the audience. They did a 20th Anniversary special in 1988 but for whatever reason it was never issued on DVD. In hindsight Time-Life should have issued the 1978 and 1988 anniversary specials together on one DVD. There were a few serious moments on the special...Grandpa Jones was featured sitting alone with a home made fishing pole discussing the murder of fellow cast-member, Dave "Stringbean" Akeman, which led into a video tribute of Stringbean's contributions to the show. Grandpa and Stringbean were close friends in real life. In another tribute, Buck Owens did a medley of his own hit songs as a salute to Don Rich, the leader of the Buckaroos band and an important figure in Buck's career. Don appeared on Hee-Haw every week as part of the Buckaroos band until his 1974 death at the age of 32.

Hee-Haw: 1969-1992.