The buzz about Meddling Kids focuses on its similarity to Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, the 70’s era Hanna-Barbera show about four teenagers tooling around their mystery machine and solving improbable mysteries, which followed a strict formula:
- A [ghost/ werewolf/ vampire/ lagoon creature] is bedeviling the [fairground/ haunted mansion/ local library/ gas station]!! The gang investigates.
- At some point, they split up to look for clues.
- They’re chased by the monster(s), usually some zany way involving corridors or staircases or suits of armour.
- Eventually, the kids realize that the [ghost/ werewolf/ vampire/ lagoon creature] and any paranormal activity is just a hoax.
- They use an overly-complicated Rube Goldberg-esque trap designed by Fred to capture and unmask the villain.
- His identity and dastardly deeds exposed, the villain exclaims, “… and I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!”
The DNA of Meddling Kids definitely owes a debt to the Scooby Gang – Kerri’s glorious red hair (which has a personality all it’s own), is an homage to Daphne’s ginger crowning glory. In Meddling Kids the kids have named themselves the “Blyton Summer Detective Club (BSDC)”, and are famed for solving the same sorts of mysteries as the Scooby Gang, following the same formula (improbably traps and all), and having a large, enthusiastic dog to assist (a Weimaraner as opposed to a Great Dane, but close enough).
Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll spot that Meddling Kids has just as much in common with other teen-detective stories. The town they did their investigative work is named Blyton hills – so named, clearly, for Enid Blyton, author of the Famous Five and Secret Seven series’. In the Famous Five, there are four teens – well, tweens, really, as they are all about 11 to 13 (the same age range as the BSDC when they started solving crimes). They too, have a dog (the indomitable Timmy), they spend their time camping and fishing (as to the BSDC) and Meddling Kids’ Andy is clearly the Latina version of fiery-tempered tomboy George.
The allusions to kid detectives don’t end there – an article written about the BSDC’s exploits has the byline Nancy Drew. I’m sure there were even more references I just didn’t catch, or take note of!
Meddling Kids opens thirteen years after the BSDC’s final case. A case that left them afraid, and damaged. One has died of an overdose, one is a fugitive, one is an alcoholic, and one has committed himself to an asylum. Andy rounds up the surviving crew (and Tim, the grandson of the original excitable Weimeraner): it’s time to return to Blyton Hills, and solve this once and for all.
A crazy mishmash of pop-culture references, stylistic changes, sudden tonal shifts, crafty wordsmithing, Meddling Kids is the “Enid-Blyton-meets-Buffy-meets-Scooby-Doo-meets-Lovecraft” story you didn’t know you needed, but do. The horror is horrifying, the sense of dread appropriately creepy, the dialogue snap-crackle-pops. Underneath it all, beneath the quirk and the ichor, lurks its secret heart: a coming-of-age tale about childhood friendships surviving to adulthood, the anomie of reaching your 20’s and feeling adrift, overcoming your (sometimes literal) demons and finally, maybe, growing up.
Provided by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
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