Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank in to obscurity.
This week, we revisit “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo“!
- Aired from 1985 – 1986
- Aired on ABC Network
When the Cartoon Network was created in 1992, for almost five years, the channel aired literally nothing but classic episodes of Hanna Barbera cartoons. Occasionally they were interrupted by episodes of Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry, but the channel dug deep in to their library to fill time slots. They aired everything from “Banana Splits,” and “Wait ‘Til Your Father Gets Home” to “The Impossibles.” And Of course they aired their library of seemingly endless Scooby Doo iterations.
For Hanna Barbera, Scooby has been a cash cow since 1969, a consistently popular presence who’s basically the Mickey Mouse for their company. Scooby Doo has experienced endless revivals, almost never disappearing from television entirely. From his first incarnation, “Scooby Doo Where Are You?” there was everything from “The New Scooby-Doo Movies”, “The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour”, “Scooby’s All-Star Laff-A-Lympics”, “Scooby’s All-Stars,” “Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo,” and “The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show” (later retitled “The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries”).
The fifth iteration of the franchise was titled “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo” and it co-starred the one and only Vincent Price. After the failed experiment that was the introduction of Scrappy Doo, Hanna Barbera repackaged the series yet again to focus on characters Shaggy, Scooby, and Scrappy. And this time they made up for their error of excluding the former members by including Daphne Blake for this go around (Freddy and Velma wouldn’t return until “A Pup Named Scooby Doo”).
The results make up what is a creative but very limited premise that wound up in a run of only thirteen episodes, ironically. Shaggy, Scooby, Scrappy and Daphne now roam the world flying around in the “Mystery (Flying) Machine” (how they could afford a plane is anyone’s guess) and end up in a village in Nepal. Stranded there, they meet young Flim Flam, a con artist and clever boy who aides the group in getting out of the town. Little do they know that the town they’re stranded in is filled with denizens who turn into werewolves when the moon is full.
There the group meets the great Vincent Van Ghoul, an illusionist who is also foretelling the release of thirteen dreaded ghosts. Two wacky minion ghosts Bogel and Weerd hatch a plan to trick Shaggy and Scooby into opening the mythical “Chest of Demons” that contains the thirteen ghosts. After facing off against the werewolves in the village, the chest is opened and the ghosts scatter across the Earth. Now the group has to find them and trap them once and for all.
In a decade where “Ghostbusters” and “Indiana Jones” were still wildly influential, “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo” seemed like a perfect new spin on the formula of the series. Not only does the show involve the group tracking down and trapping the ghosts, but they also face off against actual monsters, to boot. Daphne even becomes a werewolf in the pilot episode, forcing the group to work around hurting her or allowing the curse to keep her trapped as a perpetual monster.
After the horrendous reception of Scrappy Doo, his return in “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo” is all but minimally annoying when compared to Flim Flam. Flim Flam is a brutally irritating side kick who really does nothing but pander to the younger audience Hanna Barbera were trying to lure to the new series. It doesn’t work, especially as Shaggy, Scooby, and Daphne tend to often play background fodder for the sake of allowing Flim Flam and Scrappy Doo to steal the show. Daphne Blake, despite her new eighties makeover, is the damsel in distress once again, either falling victim to the monsters, or becoming someone the group has to save time and time again.
The new direction in where the group does battle with actual monsters, rather than men in rubber suits works, and the lack of canned laughter from previous iterations is also a big plus. That said, the caveat is the property’s heavy reliance on repetition as Vincent Van Ghoul appears for a few scenes, leaving the heavy duty work to the bumbling teenagers. The combined efforts of the gang results in them having to track down the chest again and move to a new international locale.
Price and his character Van Ghoul is allotted much more screen time in the final episodes of the series, and the writers even include a few horror nods including Van Ghoul having a best friend named Boris Kreepoff. “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo” was fine iteration of Scooby Doo that featured a new spin on the series before the company would infantilize the show with “A Pup Named Scooby Doo” in 1988. Despite the stiff writing and Flim Flam, the concept and premise works so well it could work as a great series with or without the Mystery Inc. gang.
Sadly, the series was cancelled before the group could catch the thirteenth ghost, leaving the storyline pretty much unresolved for over thirty years. That didn’t stop “Scooby Doo” from consistently being resurrected to large fanfare, including a heavy stream of charming spin offs and animated movies. After so many decades, Hanna Barbera is reviving the series for Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost in 2019, featuring the gang meeting up with Vincent Van Ghoul once again and seeking out the evil thirteenth ghost. It promises to be a fun book end, especially with Maurice LaMarche portraying Vincent Van Ghoul.
Is It On DVD/Blu-Ray? The complete series is still available on DVD, and is still streamed in various places like Amazon, iTunes, Youtube, and many more streaming services.