So, when I had cable a few years back, “Teletoon” used to show episodes of “The 13 Ghost of Scooby-Doo” arpund Hallowe’en. Unfortunately, it ran at a time when I couldn’t reliably watch it, so I only got to see a few episodes of it. Now I have access to it through Shomi, and so decided to watch it. And, for a Scooby-Doo show, it’s pretty good. And much better than another show that I can watch through Shomi, “What’s New Scooby-Doo?”
The show, in concept, is a dramatic shift from the typical Scooby-Doo show, to its credit. It’s a comedy-horror cartoon as opposed to a mystery cartoon, and the ghosts are actually real. The basic premise is that the gang — which consists of Daphne, Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy — get lost and end up in the Himalayas, where a Chest of Demons is kept which contains 13 very evil ghosts. Two incompetent and unintelligent ghosts manage to trick Shaggy and Scooby into opening the chest, letting the ghosts out. Because they were the ones that let the ghosts out, the warlock Vincent Van Ghoul says that they’re the only ones who can return them to the chest, which sets them off on their journey, with a young con artist Flim-Flam in tow and Vincent Van Ghoul in an advisory role.
One of the best things about this series is what it does for Daphne. Not only does she have a more appealing character model, she actually has a role here, which she didn’t in “What’s New Scooby-Doo?”. Flim-Flam invents schemes, Vincent Van Ghoul provides the sage advice and mysticism, Scrappy provides the bravado, and Shaggy and Scooby provide the comic relief, so this means that Daphne gets to play the “One Sane Person” role, and perhaps “Team Mother”. Compare that to “What’s New Scooby-Doo?”, where Velma provides the plans, Scooby and Shaggy provide the comic relief and … there’s really nothing more for Daphne to do, except be vapid. And when they give her stuff to do, it leaves Freddy with nothing to do. Here, on the other hand, she’s an important character without being pigeon-holed into a specific role. She can figure things out if Vincent Van Ghoul is unavailable — as he has to be at times to avoid making things too easy — and can make plans, and for the most part keeps the team moving.
Part of the reason this works is that you don’t need a specific reasoner in this show, because the show is about capturing ghosts, not about solving a mystery. So, in general, they’ll get a mission with most of the parameters filled in, and then have to figure out how to capture that ghost. So there isn’t a lot of reasoning to do, other than with specific details and plans.
This also gives the show a lot more freedom. By the second season of “What’s New Scooby-Doo?”, even the characters were lampshading the trite and repetitive nature of the show, which was forced on it because of the focus on solving a mystery, and specifically how they solved mysteries. Here, each ghost can have a unique approach, and that gives the show the ability to do a wide variety of things. They had episodes where they were in a horror movie, where they were in comic strips, and where they were facing a “It’s a Wonderful Life” situation for Scooby. It also let them mess with the format, dropping musical numbers in the middle — instead of relying on the chase scene with a background musical score — and doing all sorts of pop culture references and parodies without it feeling like a deviation from the structure of the show. In fact, the show very much comes across as throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Not all of it works, but enough of it does that the show is pretty entertaining.
I also have to mention that Vincent Van Ghoul is played by Vincent Price. It at least one episode, he really seems to be having fun with the role … but then this wouldn’t be the first time he was involved with a horror parody.
“The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo” only lasted one season, and its premise limited how long it could go without seeming stupid (did they let the ghosts out again). But it was a good show, and was a good use of the property.