- Developed by Charlie Grandy
- Based on the character Velma Dinkley from the Scooby-Doo franchise
- HBO Max
- January 12, 2023 to present
- Velma Dinkley-Mindy Kaling
- Fred Jones-Glenn Howerton
- Norville Rogers-Sam Richardson
- Daphne Blake-Constance Wu
- Aman Dinkley-Russell Peters
- Sophie-Melissa Fumero
- Diya Dinkley-Sarayu Blue
- Donna Blake-Jane Lynch
- Linda Blake-Wanda Sykes
- Victoria Jones-Cherry Jones
- William Jones-Frank Welker
- Blythe Rogers-Nicole Byer
- Lamont Rogers-Gary Cole
- Sheriff Cogburn-Stephen Root
- Dandruff Tuba-“Weird Al” Yankovic
- Olive-Fortune Feimster
- Gigi-Yvonne Orji
- Carroll-Ming-Na Wen
- Brenda-Shay Mitchell
- Krista-Debby Ryan
- Jacques Beau (Jock Boy)-Karl-Anthony Towns
Velma’s origin is explored in this series.
I was originally going to skip Velma. I had little interest in watching a “reimagining” of the character or the entire Scooby-Doo property. My mind was changed by the near universal hatred that this show has generated. It has done what nobody has been able to do and united both sides of the political aisle if only in hatred of his show. Some call it too woke. Others call it transphobic among other things. And there is more as it seems to offer something to dislike for everybody.
There is some praise out there from such outlets as The Mary Sue and CBR but generally people do not seem to like it with a passion. I needed to see why. Am I a hate watcher? Before I turned it off and switched to Vanity Fair Confidential I was. Velma is almost as bad as they say.
I think it is almost undeniable that Velma started out as an original concept with little to no connection to Scooby-Doo. This has so little in common with what supposedly inspired it if weren’t for the names used you would not get the connection. Hollywood is very risk adverse these days so my theory is the names of the original idea got switched to those of the Scooby Gang and that is what they ran with.
Gone is the simple message that was present originally in Scooby-Doo of people from different backgrounds being able to work together. Or that people should look beyond the obvious and dig deeper. Or even ultimately it’s not some mysterious other that’s the real bad, but often just ourselves which is embodied by the reveal of the monster being just someone in a mask.
This show has no appreciation for the source material. At least it doesn’t appear like that despite anything the creative minds behind it may say. The closest you might get is that they found the names useful in order to push whatever they were actually trying to do. What the fans might like (and that’s not the same as what they might expect) certainly was not at the forefront of their minds.
Velma tries to make pop culture references and appoints feels like it’s ripping off Scream, but Scream did it much better than this ever could. And at other points it feels like a generic teen drama with the closest comparison being perhaps being Riverdale. I guess that makes this derivative rather than imaginative.
And what is this need to heavily sexualize the teenage characters in this show? These are underage kids! I’m not talking about just the shower scene but everything that happens during that shower scene and everything that happens after. There’s a strong focus on sex and sexuality to the point it’s kind of creepy since it involves child characters. Porky’s was not even this creepy and they had a peephole for the guys to look through in that! Somehow Velma makes it feel very pedo.
The humor is often mean. It’s not just silly humor. In fact, it’s never silly. It’s mean and at the expense of a particular character. Generally, it seems. This is a show that is equal parts attempting to tear down its source material as well as completely reinvent it into something it never was. But then again, I don’t believe these people had any appreciation for the original for the source material to begin with.
The humor is awful mostly because it is lazy. (Check examples of it out here.) Heck, one of the first jokes we get is two cockroaches boinking. They show up and that’s the joke. And it gets worse from there. I thought comedy writers were working on this.
One of the major problems facing the show is that they get the characters so very wrong. Not a single character is likable in any way. Even the title character of Velma has nothing likable about her. She’s unnecessarily mean to people and just lashes out repeatedly. Some of those moments of lashing out are clearly intended to be jokes but like just about every joke in the show none of them land. Mindy Kaling is perfect voice casting but plays a terrible character.
Daphne is a self-absorbed popular girl who gave a big middle finger to Velma at some point in the past. Once close they are now enemies. She is exceedingly shallow and just mean to all not in her particular clique. And a drug dealer.
Fred is a clueless pretty boy who is so self-absorbed that you can’t stand him when he comes on screen. And what was that voice? It sounds like Charles Nelson Riley! He is barely functional and not in a comedic way. It is done in a way that somebody may create to insult a particular person because it does not generate any laughs.
And Shaggy (referred to here by his proper name of ‘Norville’) waffles between dull as dishwasher water and extremely needy. Who leaves multiple voicemails and can’t stop talking about them as VMs and informing the other person that they are voicemails? That’s just one of his many unfunny traits.
Previously Fred was the leader and a determined detective. Velma was the analyst. Daphne was danger-prone though that was lessened in more recent iterations of the concept. Shaggy was generally a coward more motivated by hunger than anything. If you can see that here I would like to know where.
And at its core the Scooby Gang has always been a family. And they were a family of good and decent people not only to each other but to other people. This show completely changes that. It turns them into mean and spiteful individuals or insecure and incompetent characters. And they are none of that. Or were. They may have had flaws, but they were not anything close what we got here.
It’s not impossible to create unlikable characters that people like. I’m not talking about a villain so evil that you find them engaging but rather I’m talking about what was done with something like Absolutely Fabulous. The two central characters of Patsy and Edie were unlikable individuals yet you found them interesting enough to watch. That’s not really the case here.
Who is this in that anyway? Certainly not the core fanbase which has kept the Scooby property returning show after show for the past several decades. There’s a general anger at just about everything displayed in the series with poorly crafted humor and elements that feel like it’s a show from the early text 2000s attempting to be edgy. And who thought it was a good idea to make a Scooby-Doo show without Scooby-Doo?
Ultimately I think Velma is a show not designed to please fans but to get people talking. It was designed to draw attention to HBO Max and not necessarily please anybody. Hate watching is a thing clearly and I did it to a certain extent here. You get eyes on the service and it makes things look good even if those eyes are not doing so for something pleasing.
I have given Velma far more of my time than it deserves. It’s unfunny and mean-spirited and shallow, and written by a bunch of people that are angry over things and this is their attempt to vent. It misses the point of the material. It’s not a mature reimagining of the property, but rather a different property with names from the Scooby Universe used. It’s not as bad as they say it is but rather it is far worse. Words do not exist within any human language to describe the shear awfulness that professional creators and animators and studio executives put onto HBO Max. Don’t even waste your time.