"I have an MBE but nobody ever wants to talk about that - they only want to know about the day I campaigned to bring Scooby-Doo back when I was 11. I am never going to be allowed to forget it."
They say that everyone knows where they were. I certainly did. When that little bastard first appeared in the Scooby Doo cartoons. I was still out of breath having ran the mile from school to our television as fast as my eight and a half year old legs would carry me. Children’s hour they called it - a fleeting window of opportunity to catch Tom & Jerry, the Flintstones, Wacky Races, and on Thursday evenings at twenty past five on BBC One - Scooby Doo Where are You? By the time the news came on at quarter to six, we’d had our fix, and had fled the house to frolic in the pre app and social media great outdoors.
For the uncultured few who know nothing, Scooby Doo – Where are You? was a hugely popular 1970s cartoon featuring four college-age friends (Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, and Shaggy Rogers) and a dog called Scooby Doo. The gang travelled around the USA in a van called the “Mystery Machine” to abandoned manors, fairgrounds, and the like in which a ghoul of some description ran amok. Series one began on Saturday September 13th, 1969 with an episode titled "What a Night for a Knight.” The plot was the blueprint for every other episode, whereby the gang set about solving the “mystery,” as follows:
Shaggy and Scooby are scared witless, and although the rest of the gang are sceptical – they aren’t yet fully convinced the monster is fake
Fred hatches some half-arsed plan to catch the ghoul, which requires the gang to split up
Daphne is kidnapped, or trapped by her own stupidity and Velma loses her glasses
Scooby and Shaggy spend their time eating snacks, being chased, and falling victim to the very traps they help set
When the ghost is eventually caught, it turns out it’s not a ghost at all – it’s the caretaker who is trying to cover up an insurance scam or a Ponzi scheme, and if it wasn’t for those pesky kids, he’d have gotten away with it
Not exactly Chekov, but it was enough to keep me hooked even though I knew the caretaker did it right from the start. Everyone knew – except Scooby and the gang. After three seasons and thirty one episodes, they still had to go through the rigmarole of looking for clues, being chased through mazes and setting elaborate traps before realising it was the bloke with the stoop and the comb-over all along.
Scooby and Shaggy could be forgiven, they didn’t know what day of the week it was half the time and were more interested in toast than ghosts. Fred’s jaunty red cravat, Daphne’s outrageous go go boots and Velma’s geeky determination, however, promised so much more. But alas, they were all as thick as Marmite with the personalities of a white sliced loaf. Season two jazzed things up a bit with the addition of a different pop tune in each episode to accompany the gang as they were chased through corridors, but the songs never bore any relation to the plot - one of them was about falling in love with an ostrich.
Nevertheless, Scooby Doo remained hugely popular, so much so that when the BBC tried to pull the plug on it in February 1971, they sparked a national outrage. Kids took to the streets in protest in Dundee, and more than 30,000 children signed a petition. Eleven-year-old John Duncan was part of a group of activists who demonstrated outside the BBC offices in Glasgow. When it looked like it might get ugly, someone from the BBC cunningly told them that if they ran home, they might just catch Scooby Do on TV which was about to start fifteen minutes later.
Reflecting on the protests many years later, the now 50-year-old policeman said:
"… I have an MBE but nobody ever wants to talk about that - they only want to know about the day I campaigned to bring Scooby-Doo back when I was 11. I am never going to be allowed to forget it."
I should think so too – MBEs are two a penny, but not everyone can say they rescued Scooby Doo. In hindsight though, it may well have been best had the plug stayed pulled. Not long after the Glasgow Scooby Doo riots, the Scooby Doo Allstars came to our screens. The series was faithful to the original format, but also featured well-known TV, sports, and film personalities of the time such as the Harlem Globe Trotters and The Three Stooges. It wasn’t ideal – but some of the episodes weren’t too bad – especially if you were a fan of a particular guest star. But the real hammer blow came when without warning or backstory, Scrappy Doo first appeared in a brand-new series titled Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo. In the opening sequence, a steam train approaches from a distance, and as it hurtles through a station, a box is flung from one of the carriages (probably by his parents) and lands at the feet of Scooby Doo waiting on the platform. The box moves around for a short while, then a miniature version of Scooby identifies himself as Scooby’s nephew. Inexplicably, Scrappy was accepted into the gang without question. I knew all I needed to know about Scrappy’s character just from this first episode. No! this is not how it works. Until the ghost is revealed as a fake at the end, you’re scared of it, and you don’t keep challenging it to a fight while shouting “Puppy Power.” Stupid dog! It could have been much, much worse. When Scooby Do was in its the concept stage, Hannah Barbara’s top story developers, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears were thinking they could take Scooby in one of two directions: either a large cowardly dog or a small feisty one. I break out in a cold sweat to think that Scooby Doo could have been replaced by Scrappy Doo all along.
Scooby Doo had been a safety blanket for as long as I could remember – something to cling on to when parents, brothers, teachers, and the rest of humanity were unfathomable. Yes, it was formulaic, and yes, we knew who’d done it in the first two minutes, but it was none the worse for it. The ensemble acting of the original cast was as good as gets, and although the characters were by no means perfect, at least they had a modicum of humility. Most importantly though, they had the decency to be scared of the ghosts, ghouls and monsters the guys with the shifty eyes had gone to so much trouble to create. But that attention-seeking twat had no fear or self-awareness, and no idea of his own limitations, not to mention a catchphrase that still sends shockwaves through my body to this dat. In short, Scrappy Doo, and his “Puppy Power!” ruined my childhood.
Except he didn’t. While fact checking this blog post, I made a startling discovery. It was, in fact, not until 1979 when Scrappy Doo first appeared on our TV screens - the same year Margaret Thatcher executed her master plan to screw the working classes in all their holes. As the free milk was snatched from their mouths, “Puppy Power” was unleashed on the nation's kids. But I wasn’t one of them, I was eighteen, not eight.
Perhaps it was the Thatcher-induced shock, or all the weed I was smoking at the time that addled my memory and placed the trauma of Scrappy Doo slap bang in the middle of my childhood? Whatever it was, I think it’s time to lay the whole sorry debacle to rest.
In a 2011 episode of Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Fred Daphne stumble upon a statue of Scrappy. It catches Daphne’s eye, causing Fred to intervene: "Look away, Daphne! We all promised each other that we'd never speak of him. Not EVER," and for once, I think Fred has the right idea.