Velma is the newest project spearheaded by Mindy Kaling, who voices the titular character. Airing on HBO Max, the show’s premise is an adult-themed, raunchy version of Scooby-Doo with a focus on reinventing the classic Hanna-Barbera characters. While there was no real reason for me to feel dissuaded by the premise, in practice, the execution of Velma is a disappointing reminder that some IPs are better left untouched.
There are many changes from what audiences know about the world of Scooby-Doo that make it difficult to connect to this vision of the mystery gang. For starters, there is no real mystery gang. Velma and Daphne (voiced by Constance Wu) hate one another. Fred (voiced by Glenn Howerton), often characterized as a loveable pretty boy, is a rude, cold, and self-absorbed popular boy. Shaggy (voiced by Sam Richardson), reinvented to go by his first name Norville, has even lost his charm as the always hungry, chill friend with everyone’s favorite dog, who isn’t in Velma at all. Any fan of Scooby-Doo will be used to a new slate of characterization and storytelling between hit shows like Mystery Incorporated and What’s New, Scooby-Doo? However, there’s always the core of the gangs’ friendship that allows time and culture to ebb and flow with the different iterations of our favorite meddling kids.
Velma fails to deliver likable characters with Velma being entirely too cynical, judgmental, and self-interested. Daphne is thrown into the mean and popular girl role, which feels disingenuous to what audiences will expect of her character. Her introduction from the show is a very dated-sounded discussion about how there seems to be more gratuitous violence and nudity during pilot episodes of shows. It’s meta-commentary lost and muddled as the scene unfolds in a locker room filled with naked, showering high schoolers being sexualized. The jokes don’t land and what’s usually an endearing quirk of any Scooby-Doo project feels like a sad attempt at timely commentary that feels a couple of years too late.
The first couple of episodes tries to tackle a wide range of ideas. From the backstory of Velma’s mother leaving her family because of her deep unhappiness to Daphne and Velma selling drugs to their fellow high schoolers, I’m not sure if I’m describing an entertaining season of Riverdale or a very confused reimagining that didn’t need to be connected to the Scooby-Doo brand at all. With a plot that doesn’t make any sense, I wouldn’t be surprised if people turned off Velma in the middle of episode two.
I was initially very excited to see a new take on such a classic group of friends. Instead, Velma decides to lean into the current trend of cynical adult humor that other shows do well and leaves a bad taste in the mouth of fans. Edgy, more gruesome, and lackluster in style, HBO Max’s Velma did not need to be attached to such an iconic group of friends. For the morbidly curious, you can check out the first two episodes, streaming on HBO Max. But truthfully, Velma doesn’t need to exist, and it is a disappointing start to its first season.
Velma Episode 1 is streaming now on HBO Max with new episodes airing every Thursday.
Velma Episode 1 — "Velma"
Airing on HBO Max, the show’s premise is an adult-themed, raunchy version of Scooby-Doo with a focus on reinventing the classic Hanna-Barbera characters. While there was no real reason for me to feel dissuaded by the premise, in practice, the execution of Velma is a disappointing reminder that some IPs are better left untouched.