What Can Velma Do in Season 2 to Stop the Hate?
Do you remember Velma? It’s hard to forget the controversy surrounding Max’s adult-oriented take on the beloved Hanna Barbera classic, Scooby-Doo. The show’s self-awareness, convoluted jokes, and antagonistic view of the original franchise left a sour taste in many viewers’ mouths. Despite this, Velma has been renewed for a second season, leaving many wondering if the show has genuine fans or if it’s simply being “hate-watched.” As production of season two begins, it’s time to consider how the show can improve its negative reputation and stop the hate.
For those who need a refresher, Max’s Velma takes place in an alternate continuity where we follow Velma Dinkley (Mindy Kaling) before the formation of Mystery Incorporated. After the disappearance of her mother, Velma finds herself juggling high school, the search for her mother, and the mysterious murders of teenage girls. Fred Jones (Glenn Howerton), Norville “Shaggy” Rogers (Sam Richardson), and Daphne Blake (Constance Wu) only complicate matters, with each one linked to both Velma and the surrounding murders in different ways. Despite being a Scooby-Doo series, the titular talking dog is nowhere to be found.
One of Velma’s biggest issues is its lack of clarity in what it’s trying to accomplish. Is it a critique of the original series? Is it an attempt to modernize classic characters into bitter, self-centered adults? Making radical changes to an established property can be jarring, but a second season presents an opportunity to refine the show’s vision and bring it closer to what Scooby-Doo does best.
Another issue with Velma is its writing style. The show’s attempt at meta-humor comes across as lazy and cynical, leaving viewers feeling talked down to. By toning down the meta-humor and self-awareness and focusing on the story, Velma has the potential to be compelling. Fans of Scooby-Doo still love Zombie Island for its similar ideas of splitting the gang apart, reuniting them under a genuine threat, and introducing actual stakes to the mystery.
Despite its negative reception, Velma remains Max’s highest-viewed animation debut. While it’s easy to tear things down, it’s much harder to build them up. By refining its core vision and embracing a slightly-less-cynical style of humor, Velma can sway public opinion in a more positive direction. Let’s hope that Velma trends towards the latter on its second go.
Remember Velma? How could you not? To say that Max’s adult-oriented take on Hanna Barbera’s cash-cow was less than warmly-received would be a hilarious understatement. Arguably one of the most reviled shows in recent memory, Velma somehow turned Scooby-Doo into a show without Scooby-Doofitted with a cringe-worthy self-awareness, jokes that are overly-wordy, and a weirdly antagonistic view of those who enjoyed the original franchise. It was the talk of the town for a month or two, before quickly fading away in exchange for other nonsense.
But someone, somewhere, likes Velma enough to justify a renewal for a second season. Whether the series has genuine fans, or it thrives solely off of those who “hate-watch” it, remains to be seen. Likewise, whether the show will be affected by the ongoing writer’s strike is also in question. But as season two enters production, it may be productive to figure out what can be done with this controversial animated series in order to improve its negative reputation. In practical terms, what can be done with season two of Velma in order to stop the hate?
What Is Velma Trying to Do?
If you need a refresher, Max’s Velma took the classic Hanna-Barbera series in a wild new direction. Taking place in an alternate continuity, we primarily follow Velma Dinkley (Mindy Kaling) prior to the formation of Mystery Incorporated. After the disappearance of her mother, Velma finds herself juggling responsibilities between high school, a search for her mother, and the mystery surrounding the vicious murders of teenage girls.
Fred Jones (Glenn Howerton), Norville “Shaggy” Rogers (Sam Richardson), and Daphne Blake (Constance Wu) only complicate matters, with each one linked to both Velma and the surrounding murders in different ways. Despite being a Scooby-Doo series, the titular talking dog is nowhere to be found.
Any comedy show is bound to have growing pains, but Velma especially suffers from an issue of ambivalence and ambiguity perhaps only solved with time: what exactly is Velma trying to accomplish? Is it trying to be a critique of the original series? Is it trying to modernize these classic characters into bitter, self-centered adults? What exactly was the goal in making so many radical changes to an established property all at once? The whiplash from these changes was so severe, it spawned speculation surrounding Velma‘s true origins — that it may have been a completely original series before being crudely shoehorned into the Scooby-Doo-verse.
A second season gives Velma an opportunity. Now that the initial “shock” of Velma existing is over and negative reception of the series has quieted down, we have a chance to see a more refined vision of what Velma is trying to accomplish. If everyone judged Greg Daniels and Michael Schur’s Parks and Recreation based on its first season, it would’ve never been nominated for 14 Emmy Awards. A re-tooling of Velma that brings it closer to what Scooby-Doo does best may be all that’s needed in order to sway the public jury.
While we can adjust to the new vision Velma has for the Scooby-Doo franchise, the show’s writing style is unfortunately not-as-easy to acclimate to. It’s simple to say flat-out that it’s “bad,” but it’d be more productive to look at why it sparked such a negative response from its audience.
There’s an obnoxious trend in adult animation wherein acknowledging a show’s laziness within the show itself is somehow meant to be both funny, and an excuse for said laziness. You don’t have to be witty or creative if you tell the audience that you aren’t. As long as you acknowledge that what the audience is seeing has been done before, that supposedly makes it funny. It’s the kind of dull, bitter cynicism that makes watching shows like Velma feel like being talked down to. It feels as if it’s above worn-out ideas while also cramming in endless jokes about small genitalia, other television shows, and topical references. Oh, and celebrity names: not jokes about celebrities, just references to them.
Would it really be an issue to have Velma take itself just a smidgen more seriously? Maybe tone down the meta-humor and self-awareness in favor of focusing on the story it’s trying to tell? Underneath long-winded jokes are some interesting interpretations of established characters, and their newfound roles in a genuine murder mystery has the potential to be incredibly compelling. Fans of Scooby-Doo still love Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island for similar ideas tackled in Velma: splitting the gang apart, reuniting them under a genuine threat, and introducing some actual stakes to the mystery. Although, Zombie Island had the benefit of having real zombies in it.
Velma remains Max’s highest-viewed animation debut to this day. Regardless of how you feel about the series, people are watching it. In a cynical way, that’s all that really matters. Though there may be some fewer eyeballs pointed at Velma‘s second season, refining its core vision and embracing a slightly-less-cynical style of humor may be all that’s needed to sway public opinion in a more positive direction. It’s always easier to tear things down than to build things up. Let’s hope that Velma trends towards the latter on its second go.