More cowardly than Lassie and more cuddly than Deputy Dawg, a certain Great Dane has remained one of TV’s most popular crime-fighting forces for the last four decades.
It is over 40 years since canine hero Scooby Doo arrived on the cartoon scene along with pals Shaggy, Velma, Fred and Daphne, and he’s still entertaining children aboard the mystery machine.
The brainchild of animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, Scooby Doo has featured in an ever expanding collection of series and one-off film specials based on his adventures.
But Scooby as we know him nearly did not make it on to the screen at all, as creator Joe Barbera explains.
“Originally we had planned to focus on the four human characters and the Great Dane was merely to be a pet and a non-speaking one at that.
“But the head of CBS children’s programming at the time, Fred Silverman, convinced us that as a character the dog had great potential and should be given a more central role in the series. From that moment on Scooby Doo was born.”
However, deciding on a name for the dog was no easy matter. In the end the inspiration came from an unlikely source, no other than Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra.
Barbera says: “We wanted a unique name that would sum up the dog’s loveable and madcap personality. We couldn’t settle on anything ourselves that quite fitted the bill but Silverman hit up on an idea.
“He had been listening to Frank Sinatra’s Strangers In The Night and particularly his vocal improvisation at the end, which included the words Scooby Doo. After that the name just stuck.”
Barbera originally planned to call the show Mysteries Five or Who’s Scared but in the end settled on the title Scooby Doo: Where Are You?
The premise was to feature four hip teenagers and their dog travelling around in a mystery machine van stumbling upon a different haunted house or terrible monster each week.
There was bespectacled Velma who always had the crime solved before the rest of them, strait-laced Fred and Daphne, who always ended up splitting from the rest of the gang and Scooby and Shaggy who were the comic accident-prone duo more interested in eating than solving crime.
But by the end of each episode the gang would expose the real man-made forces behind each haunting accompanied by the villain uttering the now immortal phrase, “…and I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids”.
For Barbera and his partner Hanna, each episode took about a month to make and involved the duo thinking up endless scrapes and one-liners for the gang.
The half hourly episodes proved such a success that in 1972 the show expanded to an hour and became the New Scooby Doo Movies. In all, 24 movies were made, each of them featuring real life guest stars such as Sonny and Cher and Dick Van Dyke.
In 1974 the Scooby format was changed again, when the canine hero was joined by his nephew Scrappy Doo. The series now only featured Scooby, Shaggy and Scrappy with the rest of the gang seeking adventures on their own with the mystery machine.
By this stage the writing team on Scooby had increased and involved a team of animators and producers including Barbera who was still the main driving force behind the Scooby scripts.
Since then, various Scooby Doo series have been screened along with various feature films.
Despite being a dog, Scooby’s appearance has also been tweaked to reflect changing fashion tastes. His original blue neckerchief has now been replaced by a collar and identity tag while his facial features are now plumper than they were in the beginning.
Barbera believes the reason behind Scooby Doo’s continued success lies in his human failings.
“Unlike many cartoon characters he isn’t portrayed as a superhero. He is a rather greedy, cowardly dog.
“Adults love him because he has real human weaknesses and children love him because he is a big softie, a large protective dog who is completely non-threatening in nature.
“I’m always amazed by the effect Scooby has had on so many people. I remember meeting the Duke of Westminster a few years ago and while we were talking his dog ran out and jumped up at him.
“The Duke turned to the dog and said, ‘Get down Scooby Doo’. It was a fantastic feeling.”
10 SCOOBY FACTS
1. The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby Doo film inspired the blockbuster movie Ghostbusters in 1984.
2. Shaggy was the first ever vegetarian cartoon character. This was insisted on by American DJ Casey Kasem, the voice of Shaggy, who was himself a strict vegetarian and requested that his character adhere to the same diet.
3. William Hanna wrote the original Scooby Doo theme tune.
4. Shaggy’s original name was Norville Rogers.
5. Mike Myers, of Austin Powers fame, is a huge Scooby fan. He even paid tribute to the cartoon in his Wayne’s World film when one of the possible endings was called the Scooby-style ending and involved the heroes unmasking a villain.
6. Scooby Doo was not the first Hanna and Barbera success story. The pair were also behind Tom And Jerry, The Flintstones and Top Cat.
7. After the Scooby Doo gang broke up, Fred became a mystery novelist, Velma became a research scientist for Nasa and Daphne became a rich housewife.
8. A Scooby snack is made of oatmeal, cocoa, butter, sugar, vanilla and walnut extract mixed together and baked for 8-10 minutes.
9. Scooby’s ancestral home was Knittingham Puppy Farm, while Shaggy’s was Moonlight Castle in Austria.
10. Shaggy’s character was based on the beatnik icon Maynard G Krebs from American TV programme The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis.
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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