Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? is the thirteenth incarnation of the Scooby-Doo franchise, and at best, it is to be considered a soft reboot of the 1972 series titled The New Scooby-Doo Movies, where each episode would feature a new guest star — whether they be real-life celebrities like Cher and Don Knotts or fictional ones like Batman and the Addams Family. Unfortunately, this revival of that premise manages to make some of the same mistakes that the original show made.
The one change this new series instituted that I consider to be an improvement over the original series is in cutting the run-time back to thirty minutes an episode rather than the bloated hour-long ones of the 1970s show. If you’re not going to be funny, at least be short; that’s my motto. This brings me to the major problem with Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? which would be its lack of overall funny material. You can hire comedians like Ricky Gervais and Whoopie Goldberg to lend their voices to your cartoon, but you also have to give them something funny to say or react to, not to mention some of the choices the producers made when it came to casting the celebrity’s voices is downright bizarre. Now, this was also an issue with The New Scooby-Doo Movies where they’d cast someone like Cass Elliot from the folk-rock music group The Mamas and the Papas when I doubt that even kids in the 70s knew who the hell she was — I was six years old at the time and I sure didn’t — and the same problem exists in the reboot, as we get the likes of Australian singer Sia or basketball player Chris Paul as guest stars. I know I’m not the biggest sports fan out there, but was Chris Paul the best they could come up with? Were Charles Barkley or Michael Jordan not available?
Even if such guest stars as Wanda Sykes and Ricky Gervais were an attempt at attracting older viewers, the writers still managed to fail at creating interesting mysteries for them to solve. Casting the likes of Jaleel White to reprise his role of Steve Urkel and Weird Al Yankovic to lampoon his already lampoonish personality is a clear attempt at cashing in on the nostalgia factor such guest stars would hopefully provide, but if that’s all an episode has going for it, then you’ve got a problem. On the plus side, later in the season, they have Mark Hamill playing himself and they actually toss in some nice meta-jokes concerning his time giving voice to such characters as The Joker, which was genuinely clever and funny. Sadly, this was not indicative of the writing for the bulk of the episodes as most of the celebrities they landed were lackluster at best.
When it comes to the guest stars of a more fictional nature — such as Batman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash — the show fares slightly better, but only slightly. The Scooby gang running into superheroes is nothing new, but the series and its lack of any sense of continuity tend to make things a little confusing. In the episode “What a Night for a Dark Knight!” the gang encounters Batman (Kevin Conroy) as if for the first time, when they’d already run into both Batman and Robin years ago in The New Scooby-Doo Movies’s episode “The Dynamic Scooby-Doo Affair,” and in the direct-to-video film Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon, Wonder Woman is depicted as a fictional comic book character, yet she appears in the flesh in the episode “Scooby of a Thousand Faces.”
Easily the episode I had the most fun watching was “One Minute Mysteries,” where we find Barry Allen, AKA The Flash (Charlie Schlatter), wanting to spend time eating with Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker), because these two are the only ones who can keep up with his super-metabolism, but their dinner is constantly interrupted by the rest of the Mystery Inc. who need Shaggy and Scooby to be bait for their latest trap. To keep his eating buddies on hand, Barry dons his Flash costume and proceeds to solve all of Mystery Incorporated’s mysteries using his super speed. Captain Cutler’s Ghost, Miner Forty-Niner, The Creeper, and a half-dozen other classic villains all fall to the Scarlett Speedster, much to the chagrin of Fred (Frank Welker), Daphne (Grey Griffin), and Velma (Kate Micucci) who find themselves feeling rather useless next to a Justice League member. This episode was not only fun but it had some amazing animation as well — the visuals of time slowing down while The Flash manipulated objects was amazing — and it also had some dramatic moments with the gang all about to be blown to smithereens while The Flash runs to the rescue. This was the kind of thing I wanted out of Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? Not so much Steve Urkel from Family Matters and whatever crap he was getting into.
Though I found the episodes starring DC superheroes to be some of the more entertaining entries, which is not surprising considering the rather uninspiring field of guest stars the show had to offer throughout the season, one of the more interesting entries was when the gang ran into Penn and Teller, the notorious bad boys of magic, in the episode “The Cursed Cabinet of Professor Madds Markson!” In this episode, we find that the Scooby gang was offered a million dollars if they could stay in Las Vegas’ most haunted hotel — clearly a nod to William Castle’s The House on Haunted Hill — with Velma eager to debunk the idea of real ghosts, but what makes this episode great is that they’ve teamed up with Penn and Teller who are renowned for exposing fakery. It’s a charming episode with Penn Jillette truly wanting to be scared but has become jaded over the years.
• In the episode, “Peebles’ Pet Shop of Terrible Terrors!” there is a dog resembling Bandit from Hanna-Barbera’s Jonny Quest. Could this show be considered a prequel? Or did Jonny simply get rid of Bandit at some point?
• In previous incarnations of Scooby-Doo, the character Sherlock Holmes has been treated as if he were a real person, but in the episode “Elementary, My Dear Shaggy!” he’s considered fictional and thus the Scooby gang doesn’t even meet the “real” Sherlock Holmes. Instead, he’s just some nut-job impersonator.
• It’s never made clear why in “What a Night for a Dark Knight!” the Joker impersonated Man-Bat to kidnap Alfred, and with the real Man-Bat easily identified as still being in Arkham, it didn’t even work as a good misdirect.
• Though voiced by Kevin Conroy, this Batman drives around in Adam West’s Batmobile for the 60s Batman television series. That was kind of cool.
• In the episode “Scooby of a Thousand Faces,” the Scooby gang does their best to stop Wonder Woman from slaying the Minotaur because they know it’s always a guy in a mask. That they were able to stop Wonder Woman from doing so is the real mystery here.
• The final villain in “One Minute Mysteries” is unmasked to be The Joker, but when The Flash points out that Joker is a Batman villain and not one of his rogue’s gallery, a second mask is pulled off revealing it to be the Trickster, voiced by Mark Hamill, which is brilliant as he has played both characters in the past; Joker for the Batman: The Animated Series and The Trickster for the live-action Flash television series.
• The show mostly follows the classic format of “Man in a Mask,” yet in “A Mystery Solving Gang Divided,” we do get an unmasking of a regular crook, but there is also an actual supernatural element in the form of the Funky Phantom from the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon the Funky Phantom Crew, which was a blatant clone of Hanna-Barbera’s own Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! so having them show up as a rival mystery-solving gang was rather clever.
As for the show’s overall tone, it was kind of all over the place. There were a few episodes that had the self-referential aspect of Be Cool, Scooby-Doo where they’d point out some of the sillier tropes of the classic mysteries, but for the most part, this aspect was quickly set aside for your standard Scooby-Doo plots and half-assed attempts at comedy. As to the look of the show, the animation is on par with What’s New Scooby-Doo? and is fairly decent as a whole — if you ignore some glaring animation mistakes like the Mystery Machine suddenly appearing in a shot as if by magic — but it’s definitely a step back from the likes of Mystery Incorporated with its stunning art designs, nor did it have the more stylized fun of Be Cool Scooby-Doo. There just isn’t anything special about Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? as it simply tries to capture some of that nostalgic feel by tossing in several celebrities of note, most of whom will cause younger viewers to scratch their heads and ask questions like, “Who in the hell is George Takei?”
Note: I love George Takei. I actually got to spend an afternoon with him and he was as funny and as charming as one could have hoped for, but he’s certainly not a celeb your average kid is going to connect with.
You can find all my reviews of the various Scooby-Doo shows and movies collected here: The Wonderful World of Scooby-Doo.
Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? (2019-2020)
Series Rank - 6/10
The saddest part of watching Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? is in the knowledge of how much potential is being squandered by the writers of this show. They dance to the edge of some nice Meta humour but then the next second they back off and give us Jim Gaffigan eating a taco. I’ll admit this is better than The New Scooby-Doo Movies but being that show is five decades old that’s nothing to brag about.