Velma always seemed like a bit of a strange experiment, a reimagining of Scooby Doo in adult animation format where the danger is real and the jokes grosser. It could have worked, but for all intents and purposes it doesn’t. Not at all.
The first two episodes of Velma have arrived on HBO Max. They didn’t really impress critics, but audience reviews? They are cruel.
Currently, Velma has a very-bad-for-HBO-Max review with 50% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and has only 9% of hundreds of ratings.
Before you jump in and say “well, these are people bombing the show because it made the cast more diverse,” that’s… one of the weirdest things here. Velma seems upset both sides of his potential audience here. Sure, there will be the usual “diversity recasting” haters, but when you watch the show itself, it feels like it’s almost have fun from shows that do diversity casting or social posting. It has led to what you might have assumed would be a more left-wing fan base for the show to accuse creator Mindy Kaling of actually making a bit of it conservative project, as people cite past comments she’s made and things like her appreciation for recent JK Rowling tweets as evidence of her personal opinion.
Above all, it feels like the humor just doesn’t resonate with every audience. The show feels like it’s trying to annoy everyone who watches it, and the Scooby Doo IP seems almost secondary to the whole concept. Scooby Doo has enjoyed great success over the years as a children’s cartoon and live-action feature film, and while it’s possible that an animated adult version of the concept could have worked, this iteration seems to have all potential audiences in the wrong way shot. This is a show where Daphne and Velma finally share a kiss, and yet the would-be liberal audience writes it off because of how hostile it all feels.
It’s a shame because this is a really great cast here. Constance Wu, Sam Richardson, Glenn Howerton. And I’ve definitely liked Kaling’s work before, whether that be in The Office, The Mindy Project, or most recently Never Have I Ever. But Velma? Something has gone profoundly wrong here, and it’s roasted harder than pretty much any new show I’ve seen since The Witcher: Blood Origin on Netflix. Though even that eventually climbed to a 13% audience rating. At this point, Velma really has nothing else to compare itself to in terms of how poorly it scores, and it can’t blame a politically driven bombing campaign given that both sides of the aisle don’t like it for several reasons. What a bizarre situation.
Update (1/15): Time hasn’t improved this as more people have watched the show, which HBO now says is the most watched Max original animated series premiere ever (not that there’s much else to compare it to, even Harley Quinn premiered on DC Universe).
- With nearly 3,000 ratings, Velma has a 7% viewership rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Velma has a 0.4/10 in user reviews on Metacritic (a 59/100 from critics).
- Velma has a 1.4/5 in viewer ratings on Google.
- With nearly 9,000 votes, Velma has a 1.7/10 on IMDB.
In short, Velma has hit the holy trinity: It’s basically bombarded by right-wing viewers complaining about “awakened” content. And yet, unlike other series that do this, left-wing viewers don’t find the show defensible, and they are also score low. Not because of “awakened” content, but because it’s just… bad. And then you have the third pillar, Scooby Doo fans who love the classic series and IP and hate it being used in this way for a bad adult cartoon. That is perhaps the largest group, judging by the reviews I read online.
Mindy Kaling continued to spark online ire for Velma, with many citing her constant “self-involvement” in her series, with the repeated theme of an Indian girl desperate for white attention also present in her other shows.
But it’s also been brought up that Charlie Grandy is actually credited as the creator of Velma. Grandy has been a frequent collaborator of Kaling’s and in the wake of Velma’s troubles, was accused of being a “nepotism” case, the son of a former Love Boat star and congressman, with his mother a Hollywood TV writer. It’s gotten pretty personal with both, and many are looking for explanations as to why Velma is this one bad.
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