A wise woman once said, “Velma-behaved women seldom make history.” Wait, that’s wrong. “Well-behaved women seldom make Jinkies”? No, that doesn’t seem quite right either. “Vel-behaved women seldom lose their glasses”? Whatever the phrase might be, it’s never been more true than for a certain member of Mystery Inc. The precocious group of supernatural mystery solvers comprised of Shaggy, Daphne, Fred, Velma, and their beloved dog Scooby-Doo have been getting into trouble for the better part of the last half-century—or, as some might classify it, “meddling.”
Since 1969, the Mystery Inc. gang has tasked themselves with unmasking devious criminals dressed as ghostly specters. The Scooby-Doo franchise has spawned countless television and film iterations over the last 54 years, but rarely has it changed its core focus. The franchise has always been the most concerned with its two biggest stars, Scooby and Shaggy, and their three white friends who follow them around, yelling at them for eating comically large sandwiches when there are mysteries afoot.
So, when Velma Dinkley’s voiceover introduces her character to viewers in the latest franchise iteration, Velma—streaming Jan. 12 on HBO Max—any true Scooby fan should rejoice. Finally, someone had the brilliant idea to push for a series focusing on Mystery Inc.’s real ringleader, the smartest and most memeable of the entire bunch. No disrespect to Shaggy and Scooby, but there are only so many “Ruh-Roh”s and Scooby Snack jokes one can take before an eyelid goes into perma-twitch.
While we’re all stuck with prequel-itis these days, Velma manages to transcend the inherent eye-rolls that come with a reboot, delivering a fresh, winkingly silly take on Mystery Inc. The show is fast-paced and ridiculous; even when it dips with a joke that would’ve been funnier five years ago, there’s another right around the corner. Velma is the perfect example of how beloved franchises can—and should—adapt through time.
“My name is Velma Dinkley, and this is my origin story,” says the voice of our favorite bespectacled heroine, opening the premiere episode. As if anticipating the groans of fanboys clinging onto their favorite childhood intellectual property, Velma quickly skewers how pop culture typically introduces spinoffs, prequels, and universe expansions. “If [origin stories] are about girls, it’s usually, like, “What made this hot chick go crazy?’” (She’s got a Pearl-sized point there!) “This is my story, told my way. And it starts with a murder, bitch.”