A large part of the charm of ’90s cartoons comes from shows that were low on budget and had too few sponsors but storylines and the power to entertain that cartoons of today don’t even try to achieve. Let’s face it; Cartoon Network was beloved because of shows like “Powerpuff Girls,” “Courage the Cowardly Dog,” “Dexter,” “The Tom and Jerry Show,” and, of course, “The Scooby-Doo Show.” Now imagine a 2023 version of our childhood’s favorite gang of mystery solvers who roamed the country in their Mystery Machine van – a group of four kids and the eponymous Great Dane, only this time, the dog is absent. Instead, we get the origin story of Velma, a member of the gang, but in a show that reeks of debauchery and depravity with a sense of humor that sinks lower than the audience ratings of the show with each passing episode.
The 10-episode series feature’s Velma’s mission to find clues about her mother, Diya, who went missing two years before the series started, but sitting through each 20-minute episode shall feel like an experience you don’t want to relive. The series tries to be immensely self-aware, having reimagined the races of every major character except Fred, who has been made into an insufferable clod, but the constant fourth-wall-breaking jokes quickly lose their charm. “Velma” attempts to be on par with Seth McFarlane’s “Family Guy” with the wisecracks directed at the characters themselves and the show’s audience, but proves to be a hackneyed attempt at forcing people to laugh with crass toilet humor. With the last two episodes of the first season dropped today, here’s an earnest recap of the mind-numbingly bad series that’s too stupid to even be considered a snooze-fest.
The series begins at Crystal Cove High School, where all the members of the original “Scooby-Doo” gang go, and features how Velma Dinkley (voiced by Mindy Kaling, also the executive producer), a nerdy and wisecracking teenager who loved solving mysteries way too much even before her mother went missing, dislikes Daphne, the popular girl. Velma and Daphne get into a scuffle, which is broken up when the body of Brenda, another popular girl at the school, falls out of Velma’s locker—minus her brain.
At the police station, Daphne’s two mothers—who are also extremely incompetent police officers—tell Velma, (who has had hallucinations ever since her mother went missing), that she’ll be arrested on the charge of murdering Brenda unless she can apprehend the real killer. Thus, Velma sets out to find the real killer and meets the other members of the eventual gang, including Fred Jones, who’s the heir to Jones Gentlemen’s Accessories, his family business, and Norville, the show’s beloved stoner, but he looks nothing like the original Shaggy, and he’s madly in love with the titular sleuth. Velma learns that Fred might have a camera that has pictures of him killing Brenda, so she asks Norville to drive her to Fred’s mansion—it’s not a random thing; throughout the series, Velma treats everyone so horribly that she shouldn’t be the one being angry at the popular girls for insulting others. At Fred’s house, after dealing with a series of hallucinations, she finally discovers Fred’s camera, but it has nothing incriminating him as the murderer except the fact that he’s a late bloomer. Fred approaches her, and Daphne’s moms arrive and pre-judge him as the murderer and arrest him. After dropping Velma off, Norville finds the brainless body of Krista, another popular girl, in the dumpster.
While Velma is busy finding where her mother disappeared to, we also find out that Daphne is looking for the identity of her birth parents and needs money to hire a detective, so she does what any teen would do to find money: sell drugs. Meanwhile, Velma’s dad, Aman, has been hired as a lawyer by Jones to prove that Fred is innocent, but his job is made easy because Fred is too much of a useless slob to do anything on his own, let alone remove anyone’s brain. At night, when Daphne arrives at Velma’s place after the two try selling drugs all day, the snarky and spectacled girl has another hallucination, so Daphne kisses her, setting off a sub-plot of their love story. As Velma and Daphne spend the next episode trying to figure out their feelings for each other, Norville tries doing therapy on Fred, having learned from his dad, Lamont, the school guidance counselor, who bears the closest resemblance to the OG Shaggy. After indirectly causing a riot in Fred’s prison, Norville discovers from his dad that his grandmother, Dr. Edna Purdue, was locked up in an insane asylum.
When Lola, another popular girl in the high school, is murdered, Fred is declared innocent and let go, while the Mayor and the Sheriff come up with the rule that since only the ‘hot’ girls are being murdered, someone needs to make a list of the 5 hottest girls in the school, who’ll receive police protection. Seriously, even “Game of Thrones” Season 8 had better writing than this! Someone throws a geode through Daphne’s window that apparently came from the closed-down crystal mines, and Norville and Daphne head there, but the spooky atmosphere creeps him out, and he flees, with Daphne close behind. Aman’s girlfriend Sophie gives birth to Velma’s half-sister Amanda, and Norville falls in love with a girl named Gigi.
Velma extracts the information from Norville that his grandmother was Edna Purdue, while Daphne ventures inside the mines to find her birth parents, both of whom are criminals. The sleuth learns from Norville’s mother that Edna was experimenting with the process of removing brains from one’s head and placing them in another’s head, and her lab is under Fred’s mansion, where Velma’s mother had headed to on the night she disappeared. After spending a decent day with her dad for the first time in years, Velma heads to the secret lab with Fred, while Daphne discovers that her parents only wanted to contact her because they wanted to use her as insurance against her cop moms. However, the two women arrive and bust the whole crew—except Daphne’s mom (a plot point for later)—and they tell Daphne how they rescued her from the mine years ago when her birth parents had abandoned her. Elsewhere, Velma has another hallucination, but her dad shows up and rescues her, and she finds a piece of paper inside the lab with her mother’s handwriting.
Back at her home, Velma finds out that the annual Fog Fest—Crystal Cove’s annual prom for all ages—is set to be hosted, and while she tries to explain that there’s a serial killer outside, everyone else believes it’s the ghost of Edna, so nobody cares about the curfew that had been set in motion. As it turns out, the inhabitants used as much logic as the showrunners when they sat down and planned this travesty. With everyone heading to the Fest except Velma, she tries unearthing the meaning of ‘Jinkies’ – her catchphrase – from the piece of paper until she realizes there’s a hidden number in the paper and calling it reveals that the killer is in Fog Fest. So Velma heads there, dressed as a man named Manny, and woos every woman, especially Daphne, until her identity is revealed by Fred. Later, as Velma and Daphne are talking, the killer attacks, but Daphne kicks him away, and he later captures Fred.
By now, it’s Episode 8, and Daphne, Velma, Gigi, and Norville are stuck in a cave with a rock between them as they argue whose fault got them here—it was bad writing, but the showrunners will disagree—while Fred finds himself in a room with three jars containing the brains of the girls who’d been murdered. Velma and Daphne make their way into the room to find Fred, but an avalanche causes Velma to almost fall into a crack until her mother, who had been missing for two years, arrives magically and saves the trio. Back at the surface, Daphne and Fred are no longer popular because the brains, who’ve retained their rancid personalities, have declared the two uncool, while Diya is declared to be amnesiac. To keep her happy, Velma tries the charade of claiming that Amanda is her and Norville’s daughter instead of admitting that her dad had an affair and a baby, but the plan falls flat soon. She accuses Lamont of being the murderer because of a welder’s mask in his office—the same one the killer wore—but it turns out that the severely emasculated dad of Norville was just making a sword for his son. Finally, Norville stands up to the extremely selfish Velma and severs his friendship with her, while Diya gets her memory back and realizes she was the serial killer all along.
In the season finale, Diya is carried away to death row by Sheriff Cogburn, while Daphne tells Velma that she has discovered that whoever the killer was had a pocket watch that Daphne’s birth mother left behind for her. Velma also realizes that she had been hypnotized by the killer to have hallucinations whenever she tried to uncover the mystery. Velma identifies that the pocket watch had the symbol of Fred’s family business and also finds out that Norville has changed schools and spends the afternoon listening to his voice messages. She then heads over to the mansion and goes down the secret passageway after sending a voice message to Norville, thanking him for being her best friend. Velma finds Daphne and Fred tied up, disarms the killer, and ties her up.
In a throwback to classic Scooby-Doo fashion, she unmasks the killer to realize it’s none other than Fred’s mom, Victoria. She wanted to remove Daphne’s brain and put it in Fred’s because she found Daphne smart enough to run the business empire, and she needed her brain because her own son was a bumbling idiot. She reveals how, after her father left, she married Fred’s father, created Jones Gentlemen’s Accessories, and then brought in Fred’s hypnotized dad to attack the gang. They manage to break free and chase after Victoria, who’s about to shoot them, but Norville arrives in time, and a loose rock falls and crushes the serial killer to death. Things aren’t cool among the members in the days that follow, and a lot of arguments take place. Velma and Diya throw Aman, Sophie, and their infant daughter out to enjoy a movie night; Daphne finds a marked letter with a bloody pentagram drawn on it; and Lamont introduces Norville to marijuana. Velma solves the case, officially acquitting Diya of the murders, and the unwatchable mess comes to an end.
A 10-second post-credits scene depicts Sheriff Cogburn in the library of unsolved crimes, which he visits to store Diya’s case file in the solved case cabinet. However, suddenly, a news clipping about Edna Purdue falls to the floor, and Sheriff Cogburn spots something terrifying in the basement. In the very next shot, a scream is heard as if someone has been murdered. This hints that there’s still a serial killer on the loose, and it’s possible that the ghost of Edna Purdue wanted to draw the sheriff’s attention to the fact that her death’s mystery remains unsolved still. With the gang assembled, we might get to see Velma and the gang try and solve this murder in Season 2, and they might even find Scooby-Doo along the way.
“Velma” is what happens when a group of people get together and choose a show that’s globally adored and decide the worst way they can destroy it is by making a remake. It’s understandable that this is an origin story, and they’ll probably find Scooby along the way when they form the team, but why did they have to take the protagonist and make her into the most unlikeable, annoying, rude, and selfish female character in recent TV history? Velma is constantly shooting down other people, treating everyone like they’re subhuman, and then complaining that nobody likes her. She completely ignores Norville’s thoughts and treats him like the vehicle to fulfill her wishes, finding her mother supersedes everything else around her. Even when her childhood best friend and potential love interest, Daphne, approaches her with her own problems, Velma has little time to deal with mundane issues like Daphne’s need to find her own parents, and her own problems take precedence over everything else.
The entire idea of the original show was mystery solving, and that makes up about one hour of the series; the rest is just Velma acting morally superior over everyone else and every member of the series being the furthest from how any normal human would be. The closest to sanity is Norville, but horrible dialogues ruin him as well. Fred is little different from a toddler drooling out the mouth of a handsome teenager’s body. The only character who’s more or less likable is Daphne. The less we talk about the so-called jokes in the series, the better because misspelling Velma’s mom’s name Diya as “Doodad” is what passes as funny here. Lastly, driving Aman and his family out is supposed to be a power move that shows Diya and Velma are better off without the bad father, but throwing out a baby because Diya doesn’t like her mom really doesn’t make her the most loveable character, either. Overall, any classic Scooby-Doo watcher won’t be able to sit through the first episode itself, but in case, by some miracle, the show gets renewed for a second season, we can only pray that it’ll be something less awful.