Velma Review 2023 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
The funny yet only slightly reverent adult animated prequel series “Velma” might not please “Scooby-Doo” purists, if such people exist.
There’s no scaredy Great Dane in sight — since this HBO Max series is a high-school set origin story — and the most compelling adventures are emotional. But “Scooby” fan fiction readers (who for sure exist) will rejoice, since the series treats all three of supersleuth Velma Dinkley’s (voiced by Mindy Kaling) fellow human Scooby gang members as potential love interests.
The show’s ideal audience, however, might be those of us who watched the Hanna-Barbera “Scooby” cartoon’s original run as kids in the 1970s. Nostalgia goes a long way, especially when “Velma” maintains its predecessor’s overarchingly silly tone. But the new series, executive produced by Kaling and developed by frequent collaborator Charlie Grandy, goes further, making good on the progressive promise of the ’70s cartoon’s groovy threads and stoner vibe.
This new show’s lead character is South Asian, and its Shaggy (Sam Richardson), who still goes by his birth name, Norville, is Black and a band geek like Velma, his romantic ideal. In this version, fashion-plate popular teen Daphne (Constance Wu) is Asian and has two moms. Rich white guy Fred (Glenn Howerton), a sexist dim bulb, evolves, at least for a second, after Velma introduces him to feminist literature.
Commentary on the patriarchy and white privilege (ascot-wearing Fred’s family business, Jones’ Gentlemen’s Accessories, uses the slogan “What are you, poor?”) mixes seamlessly with funny throwaway lines about therapists’ cardigans and healing crystals. A basic yet hilarious sight gag has Velma complaining that Norville did not give her a ride home from Daphne’s, before revealing that Velma lives next door to Daphne.
Much of the show’s humor derives from the lead character’s signature Kaling mix — familiar from “The Mindy Project,” Netflix’s “Never Have I Ever” and HBO Max’s “The Sex Lives of College Girls” — of being equally self-effacing and self-confident.
Oft-described as nerdy or dumpy, Velma observes that she usually is most desired as a tug-of-war anchor. Yet she also knows she is the smartest person in the room, and is not especially surprised to become a figure of romantic fascination for both Fred and Daphne. (The show takes a slower-burn approach to Norville’s romantic feelings, which Velma pointedly ignores.)
The dialogue can be racy for a show about teens, but the animation, and 40-year-olds voicing the roles, help mitigate the creepiness factor. Also, we’ve seen two seasons of “Euphoria.” But most of this show’s actual action is fairly chaste, including a lovely scene depicting a first kiss.
When a serial killer targets the most popular girls at school, Velma tries to spring into crime-solving action. But scary hallucinations overtake her every time she mentions “mystery” — a psychological offshoot of Velma’s mother, who wrote bad mystery books and went missing two years earlier.
Neglected by her workaholic dad and his would-be influencer girlfriend (Russell Peters and Melissa Fumero, both sublimely superficial), Velma relies on Norville for emotional support. You understand why she wants him around, since Richardson gives Norville such nice-guy warmth.
Velma’s most fraught relationship is with ex-best friend Daphne, the adopted daughter of two cops (the note-perfect Wanda Sykes and Jane Lynch) with her own abandonment issues tied to her birth parents. Wu lacks the practiced comedic air of the larger cast, which also includes ace stand-ups Nicole Byer and Fortune Feimster. But this particular lack of polish is welcome, since Daphne emerges as the show’s most emotionally authentic character.
Ridiculous humor and abandonment issues are an uneasy mix, but Velma and Daphne at least attempt to work out their issues, in fits and starts, during the eight (of a season total 10) episodes available for review.
Action scenes are relatively few and tend to lack real urgency. But a sequence involving a van (sound familiar?) and unsteady terrain provides some thrills. Although the animated backdrops are sharper and more textured, the visuals here seem less aimed at wowing 2023 audiences than evoking the ’70s cartoon, which they do quite ably.