Scooby Doo and those meddling kids did it again (for 350th time)

How's this for a winning story formula? Four young people and a dog solve a succession of mysteries, and get themselves into the record books in the process.

How's this for a winning story formula? Four young people and a dog solve a succession of mysteries, and get themselves into the record books in the process.

You might be forgiven for thinking of Enid Blyton's The Famous Five, but in fact the success belongs to the American cartoon Scooby-Doo, which has just displaced Homer Simpson from the top spot.

Late last week, Scooby-Doo was officially named title-holder of the Guinness World Record for the most episodes of a cartoon comedy series, with the airing of the 350th episode since the show began in 1969. The Simpsons was the previous title-holder, with 335 episodes. Scooby-Doo may not quite have grabbed the artistic plaudits accorded the stories of Homer and his semi-functional family from Springfield, Middle America, which are often regarded as having faithfully captured the US zeitgeist at the end of the 20th century. It does not touch on social issues as The Simpsons does, and features fantasy rather than realism in its plots.

But it seems to have hit on a formula that is indeed a winning and enduring one: four teenagers, Fred (hunky), Daphne (cute), Velma (bespectacled and intellectual) and Shaggy (constantly panicking) set off to solve mysteries and have adventures in the company of Scooby, a large Great Dane of questionable moral fibre.

Their opponents in almost every episode appear at the outset to be fearfully freakish beings, or, as they put it in their American dialect, "ghosts, monsters, and other scary stuff". Yet they invariably turn out to be minor characters from the edges of the plot, in disguise - a disguise which is usually ripped off them by the Great Dane's teeth.

The 350th Scooby-Doo episode, Scooby-Doo Halloween, is being screened on British television, on the cartoon channel Boomerang, on Friday and again on Sunday. "It's a great honour to have taken Homer's crown," said Boomerang's Richard Kilgarriff.

Seen in over 160 countries, Scooby-Doo was recently voted second in a list of cartoons which today's adults enjoyed as children. The Great Dane himself, whose proper name is Scoobert, is always seven years old. Other iconic cartoon capers lag behind television's top dog and the antics of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie.

There have been 209 episodes of Tom and Jerry, 166 of that modern Stone-Age family The Flintstones, and 120 episodes of Disney's classic Mickey Mouse.

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