When I first learned about HBO Max’s Velma, I thought it sounded like a recipe for disaster. A historically famous kid’s show delivered with a modern-day adult-themed twist that completely removes the original show’s main character didn’t exactly sound like something I wanted. But with the dark side of the internet being feverishly against the show, I thought I should give it a chance. That way, when it turns out to be great, I can clarify that poor marketing made the show look awful, and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for doubting it. With that all being said, HBO Max released the first two episodes simultaneously, so I think it would be best to watch episode one, react, and then watch episode two and discuss how I feel about the show’s potential.
As if Velma was trying to break a Guinness World Record, within seconds of the show’s opening, I was ready to turn it off. With a mix of cliche and rude high school girls fighting half-naked in the shower, all while breaking the fourth wall to excuse what’s happening, the show has instantly lost me. Just because the writers acknowledge a cringy scene doesn’t make what’s happening better. On top of that, the unlikeable characters wouldn’t be so bad, except one of them is Daphne, and last time I checked, that’s a character I’m supposed to be cheering for. With that said, if George Rail Road Martin has taught me anything, the journey of an awful character being redeemed throughout a story can be enriching. And I guess one of the positives the show has going for it is that 3 of the 4 main characters are all very annoying and unlikeable. So if the show has turned those characters around by the end of the season, that’s pretty damn impressive.
So let’s see, I said 3 out of the 4 main characters are unlikeable, so other than Daphne, who do we have. Well, obviously, we have the main character, Velma. Velma is hard to figure out because I can’t tell if her character is unlikeable or if it’s the decision to have her make fourth-wall-breaking jokes every 5 seconds that’s causing me to want her to go away. Hopefully, the constant mention of flawed female characters from other shows or jabs at white privilege will lessen as the show progresses. It isn’t that those types of jokes can’t be funny, but if you’re attempting to make them multiple times in a 30-minute show, even if they land, it starts to feel very one-note. Another character I think is awful and might be the best part of the show, which isn’t saying much, is Fred. He’s terrible, but that’s the point. He’s a selfish, hot idiot who very clearly isn’t the Fred we all grew up with but is someone I could see growing up to become the Fred that’s integral to the Mystery Machine. After all, someone has to drive that van. I laughed twice during the first episode, and Fred was involved in one of them. So because of that, Fred is currently my favorite character. As for “Norville,” he’s okay.
Was there anything about the first episode that I liked? Funny enough, the show inspired by kids (and a dog) solving a mystery every week really nails the mystery aspect of the show. Episode one sets up the crime and the possible suspects and gives the audience a chance to play along from home to figure out who the criminal is. Besides seeing if the show can turn around how unlikeable the characters and overall writing are, I’m looking forward to episode two to know the mystery’s resolution. And as long as the criminal doesn’t turn out to be a character the show hasn’t introduced yet, I’m weirdly confident that, at the very least, this part of the show will be handled very well.
Remember how I said my favorite part of the first episode was the “who done it” aspect? Well, great news! Episode two mostly ignores that. While we spend more time with Fred, who continues to be the only part of the show I enjoy, the rest of the story feels forced and rushed. Everything involving Daphne feels completely unearned and should have been told over the entire season, and anything about “Norville” came off like the writers forgot they needed to include him in the episode.
On top of that, the jokes about women and white men on TV continued to be a punchline that this show clearly thinks is the funniest bit of all time. My only regret about this show is that they didn’t release episode three simultaneously because I would have loved to see if they were willing to go three for three with those “jokes.” And once again, I’m not saying these jokes can’t be funny. If you’re talented and your setup is well-crafted, making fun of white people (especially rich white people) can be hilarious, but when the joke is just “white people,” it just comes off as lazy. And in a moment of complete lack of self-awareness, the show constantly makes fun of how other detective shows have poorly written female characters. At the same time, Velma features two lesbian detectives who are walking/talking stereotypes that are also total idiots. Now, maybe you’re hearing that and thinking that’s the point. Those characters are biting commentary on other detective shows with poorly written female characters. THEN YOU DON’T NEED TO CONSTANTLY HAVE YOUR MAIN CHARACTER BREAK THE FOURTH WALL AND REFERENCE IT! THAT’S WHAT THESE TWO CHARACTERS ARE HERE TO DO.
When I started episode two, I thought I would leave annoyed that they ruined the murder mystery, but instead, I’m left with the episode delivering no progression toward what I can now assume is the season’s main plot. While I can attempt to guess who the killer is, my assumption about them being someone that the show hasn’t properly introduced is starting to feel more and more accurate. This is a shame because if I knew anyone else watching the show, it would be a letdown to see that we couldn’t discuss the most essential part of a ‘who done it,’ which is, of course, who done it.
So, after all of that, will I watch episode three? Do I think the show has any potential to turn itself around? Unfortunately, no. I meant it when I said I wanted to be wrong about this show and write a glowing review about how we were all wrong to ever judge it, but it’s awful. I’ve seen a lot of criticism about the fact that there’s no Scooby-Doo in this Scooby-themed show, but honestly, that’s not even in my top 10 of what’s wrong with this thing. If you’ve managed to avoid seeing the first two episodes, consider yourself lucky and consider this a warning. Do not watch Velma.
I haven’t seen it, but your reactions appear to be the same as a lot of other people: it isn’t good. And, honestly, I don’t have a problem with an adult take on Scooby Doo, or with Velma being a lesbian, or with characters’ ethnicities being changed. All of that could be perfectly fine just so long as the show was actually good. Which, as a lot of people have been saying, it isn’t.
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100% agree.There have been a million Scooby movies and shows. If anything, it makes perfect sense to try and take the IP in a different direction. It’s a shame that they failed as much as they have with this show.
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