One of the iconic characters from Scooby-Doo is getting their own series and it turns out HBO Max is going in a very new direction.
Mindy Kaling presented the first look at her Scooby-Doo spinoff Velma at the Warner Bros Discovery Upfront presentation today, and the reactions are pretty all over the place. On one side, Velma Dinkley of the Mystery Incorporated gang is a pop culture icon and if we are doing spin-off movies and shows on every character imaginable, she absolutely merits it. On the other hand, the first screenshot seen of the show involves Scooby-Doo’s resident brainiac gazing down in horror at a fellow teen whose head has been sawn open and brain removed with cartoon viscera clearly seeping around the wound and several naked, soapy teen girls surrounding here. Releasing this is a pretty big swing and we will let you Scooby-Doo fans see it for yourself:
Back in 2021, it was announced that Mindy Kaling would be voicing Velma in the Scooby-Doo spinoff series for HBO Max (as well as executive producing along with Charlie Grandy, Howard Klein, and Sam Register). Regrettably and predictably, the news that Velma would be portrayed as of South Asian descent (and voiced by an actress of Indian descent) was met with some openly racist social media responses. Additionally, the decision to portray one of pop culture’s best-known nerds as being of South Asian descent was also questioned, given the cultural stereotypes often leveled against peoples of those cultures. More happily, the decision to make an iconic Scooby-Doo character something other than a traditional portrayal has also been applauded in many corners.
All that being said, the question now becomes: was someone asking for Scooby-Doo to be rebooted as an adult-themed series? Velma is being characterized as an origin story for the character, which by necessity creates the idea that before Velma was riding around in a groovy van with a blonde guy in an ascot and a talking dog, unmasking crooked amusement park owners, she was dealing with a serial killer who cuts peoples’ heads open and steals their organs. Maybe she just needed a break from True Detective-style crimes by teaming up with Scooby-Doo.
HBO Max is currently looking to bolster their adult animation offerings, so it makes sense to use the Warner Bros-owned Scooby-Doo property. The streaming platform also ordered a revival of Chris Lord and Chris Miller’s cult MTV cartoon series Clone High (which was a Dawson’s Creek-style soap opera populated by teen clones of historical figures being monitored by a secret government agency), so they are clearly looking to go for some odd ones with their emerging lineup.
Doubtlessly, there are people out there that will feel that Mindy Kaling’s Velma is going unnecessarily edgy with the beloved Scooby-Doo franchise, but there have already been a few reboots that skewed a bit darker than you might expect. As the success of the CW’s Riverdale has proven, there is a market for a sexier, darker version of a beloved bit of American pop culture. At this rate, we are probably only a few years away from a grown-up Richie Rich with washboard abs and a complex about his inherited capitalistic wealth, and honestly, we’re here for it.