When I was growing up, I was intrigued by a television channel called Boomerang, which was essentially a spin-off channel for Cartoon Network that served to move old shows like the Loony Toons shorts away from Cartoon Network to make room for new programming. The channel was filled with dozens of Hanna-Barbera shows that did not leave a lasting impression on me, yet I was interested in how these shows tried to make something new out of recycled concepts. A familiar example would be the dozens of teenage mystery crew shows that Hanna-Barbera created to emulate their classic, Scooby-Doo, like Josie and the Pussycats, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, and Speed Buggy. Those shows listed were all financially successful takes on the Scooby-Doo formula, but one show that was actually created by the original Scooby animators that failed intrigues me to this day. That show is Jabberjaw.
For those of you unfamiliar with the show, Jabberjaw was a short lived animated series that featured a musical group, called The Neptunes, that traveled to different underwater cities to perform, but would always end up in some adventure. The band also had a talking shark named Jabberjaw, who served as the Scooby-Doo copy and as the drummer for the band. What I find so interesting about the show was that the stakes of solving a mystery were often higher than anything to be found in Scooby’s original show due to the villain of the week planning a scheme that could let them rule an entire city or destroy it.
While I love the premise and potential the original show had, watching one episode can make anyone understand why the show only got 16 episodes. Other than Jabberjaw, none of the Neptune band members have a design or personality that makes them stand out from the other Hanna-Barbera mystery shows. It doesn’t help that Jabberjaw’s usefulness as muscle character was outweighed by his constantly annoying dialogue. A running gag of the show would be various places having “shark ejectors” that were essentially robot arms that would throw Jabberjaw out of places. I feel like that image is perfect in describing the quality of the show, along with it being personally satisfying to see Jabberjaw thrown out of a building.
It’s the failure of the original product that makes me think about how to tackle a modern take on this show. There are a-lot of things I would change about the cast, but the main thing that needs to happen is finding the right balance with a character like Jabberjaw. Just making Jabberjaw talk occasionally would go against his namesake given that jabber is in his name. The best solution I can think of is to make Jabberjaw’s constant chatter funny, but he should allow time for other characters to speak and to actually have character.
There is a good chance that Jabberjaw will never be touched again, but with Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated managing to tell a story about Scooby-Doo vs the apocalypse, I think there’s a chance for Jabberjaw to get some respect.