As the 80s approached, it became clear to the folks at Hanna-Barbera that the tried and true Scooby-Doo formula was getting a little stale, and if nothing was done, the show was facing cancellation. Things had to change. In an attempt to shake things up, they released a primetime special called Scooby-Doo Goes Hollywood in the hopes that this parody would breathe some life into the flagging franchise — it didn’t, and as a parody, it failed at being even remotely funny — so with ABC threatening to pull the plug, something extreme was necessary — enter Scrappy-Doo. Love him or hate him, if this piece of puppy power hadn’t come along, there was a good chance that Scooby-Doo would have been doomed to be nothing more than a piece of nostalgic memory.
In this fourth incarnation of the Scooby-Doo franchise, the addition of Scrappy-Doo as a “new element” to the cast was in the hopes of restoring the public and network’s interest in the show. Unfortunately, not a lot of thought went into the character. We don’t get much of an origin story for Scrappy-Doo, as he’s not so much introduced as plopped full-formed onto a railway station platform, in a cardboard box, for his uncle Scooby-Doo to find. Why was he in that box? Did his previous owners get sick of “Puppy Power” and shipped him off to Scooby-Doo in the hopes of never seeing this runt again? Later in a 1980s episode titled “Scrappy’s Birthday,” we see that both Scooby and Shaggy were seen to be in attendance at Scrappy’s birth, but I’d like to assume they quickly fled the scene to escape this obnoxious pup. Of course, it was in vain as this annoying creature dropped in their lap via the United States Postal Service.
What many modern viewers won’t understand is that Scrappy-Doo was well-loved at the time, with numerous retail stores stocking tons of Scrappy-Doo merchandise and spin-off comic books, and his popularity was clearly evident with but a glance at the show’s boost in ratings. It wasn’t until years later that fans became more vocal about their dislike for this pint-sized terror as the internet lent a much larger platform to air such grievances. Many of these criticisms were levelled at the show for radically changing the format — the introduction of the idea of real ghosts and monsters — but what is interesting to note is that in this first season of Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, the classic format of dudes in masks was maintained.
I myself lived during this era and even at a young age I was not a fan of Scrappy-Doo, but as I was thirteen years of age at the time I was probably no longer the target demographic as I’d rather spend my time watching the adventures of the Superfriends than suffering through Scrappy-Doo’s showboating, while Fred, Daphne and Velma got pushed into the background. It was this change in cast focus that bothered me a lot more than the show’s later introduction of real ghosts — which has been done multiple times since then and to varying degrees of success — but with the introduction of Scrappy-Doo, the group that once made up Mystery Incorporated basically got trimmed down to a trio with Shaggy (Casey Kasem), Scooby-Doo (Don Messick) and Scrappy-Doo (Lennie Weinrib) being the stars of the show while Fred (Frank Welker), Daphne (Heather North), and Velma (Patricia Stevens) were slowly relegated to bench-warming duties.
• Scrappy-Doo being a rather loquacious dog kind of makes his uncle Scooby-Doo look rather simple-minded in comparison.
• The pilot episode “The Scarab Lives” clearly borrowed the look of its character from the Blue Beetle comic book hero.
• The Blue Scarab alarm is the sound of the Martian death ray from George Pal’s War of the Worlds.
• The episode “The Night Ghoul of Wonderland” has the gang tackle an amusement park full of robots in an obvious homage to Michael Crichton’s Westworld.
• Scrappy-Doo often hones in on Fred’s territory by creating “Scrappy Traps” to catch the villain.
• In “I Left My Neck in San Francisco,” we get a rare episode where one of the Scooby gang is a suspect. In this case, it’s Daphne because she failed to have a reflection and thus was suspected of being a vampire.
• The final episode “The Ransom of Scooby Chief” could be considered a test run for the following series as Fred, Daphne, and Velma are pretty much absent during this mystery.
There is no love lost between me and Scrappy-Doo as his addition to the franchise sidelined some of my favourite characters in favour of an obnoxious little twit whose annoyance was only matched by his punchability, but to be fair, he wasn’t as useless as, say, the likes of the Brady Bunch’s Cousin Oliver. Any time I hear “Lemme at ’em!” or “Puppy Power!” I’d quickly reach for my remote. To me, Scrappy-Doo will forever symbolize the drop-in writing quality that would send the series spiralling downwards for years to come and though the original Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo is far from the worst the franchise has had to offer over the years, it did harken the dark times to come.
Scrappy-Doo’s introduction may have saved the Scooby-Doo franchise from sliding into obscurity, but it also foisted onto the world one of the most divisive characters in television history. The first run of Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo maintained much of the mystery element of the original Scooby-Doo cartoons, but sadly, that was not to last very long.
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 Scrappy-Doo (1979)
Series Rank - 6/10
As a Scooby-Doo cartoon, this particular incarnation upheld many of the elements that made the original mysteries so beloved but the addition of the insufferable Scrappy-Doo was a bitter pill to swallow.