My son Will has been obsessed with Scooby-Doo lately. Obsessed is putting it mildly actually. He was first exposed to Scooby-Doo during a trip to Cape Cod this summer while the Cartoon Network was running a Scooby-Doo marathon. It's been all about Scooby since then, and old friends like Curious George and Thomas the Tank Engine have been mostly forgotten.
Since we don't have cable I tend to splurge a bit on DVDs for the kids. I bought Will Scooby-Doo Where Are You! The Complete 1st and 2nd Seasons, which features all of the original Scooby-Doo episodes. That was a big hit, and Will soon needed a new Scooby fix. I was a little skeptical as to whether he would like The New Scooby-Doo Movies, with its early 70s era guest stars as much. To my surprise these have become some of his favorite episodes. I have to chuckle when I hear Will call out "Hurry Daddy! Don Knotts is on!" or "Look Dad! It's Mama Cass!"
Though I loved Scooby-Doo myself as a child, I had remembered it as being kind of a crummy show with poor quality animation and cookie-cutter story-lines (every episode ending with "...and I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling kids.") In truth, it's not nearly as bad as I had remembered. The animation is cut-rate, but not without its charm, and the stories are actually more varied than I had thought. While an adult could easily pick out a number of continuity errors in any given episode, they aren't really that important.
Though often derided for lacking educational value, I've come to the conclusion that Scooby-Doo is actually a healthy show for kids. If nothing else, it teaches them not to jump to conclusions, but rather to look for evidence that can help you assemble a deeper explanation for the things you see (and the things you think you see). It can also help foster a healthy sense of skepticism. Frankly, a lot of adults could use an occasional reminder that most people peddling super-natural explanations turn out to be two-bit charlatans looking to make a quick buck.
It was also a pleasant surprise to me that there is occasionally some pretty good music in these episodes. For the show's second season Hanna-Barbera hired songwriter Danny Janssen (who had previously written the theme for The Partridge Family, as well as some songs for Bobby Sherman) to write some songs for Scooby-Doo, and a new animated series called Josie and the Pussycats.
Josie and the Pussycats deserves its own entry someday, but season two of Scooby-Doo Where Are You! featured some very groovy Janssen-penned bubblegum nuggets performed by Austin Roberts during chase sequences. Like most of the chase songs, "Daydreamin'" has absolutely nothing to do with whatever demon, phantom, zombie or ghost is chasing Scooby and the gang, but it's irresistibly catchy.
The insanely catchy "Pretty Mary Sunlite" was originally featured as a chase song performed by Austin Roberts, but also reappeared in an episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies featuring guest star Jerry Reed. Reed--the original guitar man--performs the song a number of times during the episode, including this nice acoustic rendition. Unfortunately, this episode is not available on DVD, but there is a clip of it (including a different performance of the song by Reed) up on YouTube.