‘Velma’ is not nervous.  It’s just bad.

‘Velma’ is not nervous. It’s just bad.

In Velmathe adult series on HBO Max Scooby Doo spin-off, familiar faces get involved in all sorts of gritty R-classified activities. Velma (played by the show’s executive producer Mindy Kaling) and Daphne (Constance Wu) sell drugs. Fred (Glenn Howerton) is shot in both legs. Shaggy (Sam Richardson), known by his birth name Norville, tries to sell a kidney on the black market. Scenes of gratuitous violence fill almost every episode: limbs are severed, corpses roll out of dumpsters, prison riots break out.

Nosy kids getting into wacky mysteries with their dog, this show is definitely not it. And in the months before VelmaThe debut of, the creative team seemed to anticipate a backlash to the bold changes they had made. Creator Charlie Grandy argued that the writers’ alterations, including removing Scooby from the gang, reinventing Velma as a misanthropic South Asian teenager, and incorporating grotesque jokes, felt authentic to the spirit of the film. original series. “We wanted to be respectful,” he explained. “We didn’t want to just take these beloved characters and put them in outrageous or gross situations and say, ‘Isn’t that crazy that you did that to Velma?'”

I wish viewers felt the same. Given that Velma began airing on HBO Max this month, audiences have hit the series with negative reviews. Many complaints are, as is often the case with projects that change the ethnicity of originally white characters, racist, knee-jerk reactions to seeing familiar figures in a new context. Other viewers say the show is too vulgar, turning Velma and the gang into characters they no longer recognize. But the real problem with Velma not that their updates do Euphoria look like child’s play; it’s that his nervousness comes at the expense of his own characters and he punishes the audience for investing. Like a certain member of Mystery Inc. rummaging through the dark for his glasses, the series is out of focus, confused, and hopelessly lost.

The problems start with VelmaOver-reliance on meta jokes on TV instead of a compelling plot. The show follows Velma as she tries to find the serial killer targeting high school girls, searches for her missing mother, and tries to overcome the nightmarish hallucinations that occur when she chases cases – narrative beats meant to parody dramas dark teens like riverdale. That concept, however, gets old fast. The characters constantly pause the action to mention and summarize the narrative tropes instead of letting the story unfold. In an upcoming episode, for example, Velma explains her relationship with her father in terms of the TV story before the scene takes place. “If there’s one thing teen dramas get right, it’s that nothing is really a teenager’s fault,” she says. “Really we are all paying for the sins of our parents. Either they are lying to us, or they are trying to change us, or they are hiding some dark family secret. But when it comes to really bad parents, nobody beats my dad.” The monologue is unfunny, unsubtle, and completely unnecessary.

Worse, those moments reduce the ensemble to static joke-delivery machines. Kaling and the rest of the cast give rousing performances, but their animated counterparts never quite come off as actual teenagers or cohesive characters. They make fun of each other by pointing out the stereotypes they embody, squashing everyone into the very archetypes they’re spitting out: Daphne is a hottie obsessed with being popular, Fred is a womanizing rich kid with daddy issues, Norville is a loser who can’t. …t have sex, and Velma is a hypercritical outcast. When the characters grow up, the evolution is inconsistent or just played for laughs. Velma, in one episode, realizes that she “has no idea how to be a woman in a way that doesn’t judge other women”, but in the next installment, she is once again meanly putting down a fellow of class. fred reads The feminine mystique, only for his attraction to “inner beauty” to become a running joke. The show, as a result, doesn’t feel smart; it just feels bad.

In other words, Velma it’s not really reimagining Velma, or Daphne, or Fred, or Norville, at all. Through endless references and half-hearted attempts at self-aware humor, the show seems more concerned with taking apart the original franchise: the ridiculousness of the mysteries, the absurdity of the gang’s efforts, the tropes each character perpetuated. However, in doing so, the series fails to make new observations about Scooby Doo or about the teen drama genre. It just delivers a relentless barrage of outdated pop culture commentary. In all eight episodes I’ve watched, weak jokes come first. Take a scene of Velma and her father heading to a strip club for lunch, for example. The setup could have been an opportunity to examine the awkward relationship of the characters, but it’s done mostly for shock, as well as to make a sick joke about strippers taking their clothes off because they’re still chasing their father’s attention.

Mature updates to revered cartoons can work. HBO Max hosts one of the best: harley quinn, a colorful extension of the DC animated universe that follows the comic’s titular character striking out on his own. What Velma, the show is violent, full of meta jokes, and is concerned with depicting a female character’s journey of self-discovery. but unlike Velma, the series has a clear reverence for the original franchise; he treats Harley with respect, prioritizing his development even in the midst of quick banter. Velma, meanwhile, emphasizes its superficial humor, resulting in a project that struggles to be playful and misreads the appeal of its leading lady. No, reboots shouldn’t be carbon copies of your source material. But they shouldn’t dismiss it either, or make fun of caring viewers.

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