P.T. Barnum is Become Death, The Destroyer of Worlds: How Velma Ate Your Hatred and Crapped Out a Season Renewal

There are few things on this earth worth caring about less than Scooby-Doo. As mentioned on the Twitter, Scooby-Doo is entertainment for bored children of the 1960’s -70’s who didn’t huff enough Carbona to sit through H.R. Puffenstuff. It’s a cut above other Hanna-Barbera product of that time, such as Honeymooners, BC and Atomic Age Blondie, because it was actually sort of doing it’s own thing (unless you want to make a big deal about citing Dobey Gillis as a reference, and no one under the age of 50 even knows what you’re talking about). Fab Hippie Kids and a Semi-Talking Dog Debunking Southern Gothic has a silly kind of energy to it, even if you’ve seen all the episodes you need to after the first one.

And there isn’t really a whole lot to say about Mindy Kaling. She was amusing enough on the American version of Dunning-Kruger: The TV Show, especially if you find nonwhite women auditioning for the remake of Valley Girl endlessly hilarious. She went on to leverage this success into her own show, Doctor Has Sex. She’s done other things, all at about that level, picking up producer credits as she goes. She’s in the biz, doing the grind, girlbossing away. Good for her.

So you must understand that I have no interest in dragging Velma. In the first place, I have no interest in the integrity of Hanna-Barbera product, or the people producing it. In the second place, the rest of the internet is doing it for me. Rotten Tomatoes can’t get this thing above 50%. It’s so bad that people on Twitter are accusing Kaling of being a crypto-right winger, deliberately sabotaging the So-Important attempt to make Velma brown and gay. When even Entertainment Weekly can’t be bothered to give you a fluff, you done shat the bed. Everyone hates Velma.

And because of that, it’s going to be back.

Warner Bros. and HBO Max opting to get the ball rolling on a second season of Velma early would not exactly be surprising. After all, while the show has divided critics and proven controversial among audiencesVelma‘s first season debuted to strong viewership numbers. In fact, the bloody Scooby-Doo prequel can officially boast having had the biggest premiere day for any HBO Max original animated series. “Thank you everyone for watching!” Kaling wrote in a tweet announcing the news. Still, it remains to be seen if and when HBO Max will publicly announce Velma‘s Season 2 renewal.

-“Warner Bros. Primes Velma for a Season 2 Renewal”, Comic Book Resources

I think we all know what this means. It fundamentally does not matter if product is good. It matters if it is seen. Assuming HBOMax isn’t fudging it’s viewership numbers, then this turd was a hit, precisely because the Internet howled about it. Notoriety is the same as fame in this business. There is no such thing as bad publicity. Five bucks says they make at least a rhetorical attemp to mollify fans with the new season, as Amazon has done with Rings of Power.

Let’s stipulate a couple of things here. I have no direct evidence that HBOMax or Mindy Kaling are deliberately trolling their audience, using hatred to stoke viewership. It’s entirely possible that they just stumbled into creating the Must-Hate TV show and are reaping the rewards for their incompetence. After all, the business model for the last several years has been studios buying existing IP’s and turning writers loose on them:

Freeform’s Simran Sethi thinks existing IP can also attract more than a network. “In a world where there’s growing competition for writers and actors, being able to attract talent to work on something is part of it, too,” she said. “We’re absolutely buying property so we can give writers something cool to work on.”

To that end, Sethi later discussed the upcoming Marvel’s New Warriors series. While Gish noted the character Squirrel Girl could likely carry her own series, this version is based on Zeb Wells’ books and will be written in a more comedic tone using an ensemble. That meant Freeform could get more actors/writers involved (and have room to possibly fit pre-existing partnerships).

-“Why are so many pre-existing IP’s turning to TV? It’s Complicated“, Ars Technica

The above article is from 2017. This has been the strategy from the beginning: buy something with an audience, attempt to expand that audience by having writers play with something they didn’t create, dump it on streaming and see what happens. If it fails, keep banging on it until it succeeds, or something else comes along and steals your thunder. What Fans WantTM is the least important thing.

Aesthetic production today has become integrated into a commodity that can be sold, consumed, regurgitated, and sold again. The economic urgency of producing fresh waves of the same thing at a greater turnover rate is the culturally logical move of late-stage capitalism as art—with no intentions of being either good or bad—is now a product to be sold and consumed.

-“Is Netflix Creating a Cinematic Hell That We Can’t Escape?” -No Film School

It’s unfair to blame Netflix entirely for this. And the phrase “late stage capitalism” reflects deep ideological blinders. P.T. Barnum was trolling people out of their money 150 years ago. But it does capture the gist of what’s happening. There’s no reason for That 90’s Show to exist. No one wants it, no one asked for it. It exists anyway, because enough of us have been conditioned to care about Narrative Brands that we’ll watch even if we suspect it’s not going to be good. Because it could be good, right? And then we can have conversations about how good it is. We can make YouTube reaction videos and video essays about it. We can make tier-lists. We can participate in the brand consciousness. Everyone else is.

Enjoy your fandom, suckers.

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