Velma on HBO Max is officially awful — Rotten Tomatoes audience score is 6%

Velma (voiced by Mindy Kaling) is thinking, and images of numbers float over her face, in HBO Max's Velma episode 2
(Image credit: HBO Max)

HBO Max's Velma has proven to be one of the most divisive shows on TV as of late, but one metric is definitely showing that many fans are giving it a big thumbs down. In fact, this score is so low that we don't know whether to yell "RUH-ROH!" or "ZOINKS!"

The series, a reboot of sorts, currently sports an amazingly low 6% Rotten Tomatoes Audience score (opens in new tab). And that low-low number may have happened for any number of reasons. This could partially be a review-bombing from fans of the classic who were upset that Shaggy's been recast as a Black character, or that Velma is now brown-skinned. We're not ignoring that possibility — and we have seen a racially-charged comment or two on that page (though they're a rarity).

That said, having seen Velma for myself, I'm not at all shocked. Why? Because Velma is, to put it simply, a bad show. It's currently my least-favorite thing I've seen on TV in a while. I'll go so far as to say the Lord of the Rings show Rings of Power (which I didn't like at all), was better.

Why people don't like Velma on HBO Max

Some of these user reviews are cries of anger from fans upset about canonical changes. Itz Adriel S gave it half a star and wrote "Where tf is scooby doo 2. Why did they make fred a idiot i miss it when he made traps 3. When was the show actully [sic] funny -2/10 ruined my childhood." 

While the use of the phrase "ruined my childhood" may be exaggerated or over the top, this review points out one of the biggest issues with Velma: it's a Scooby-Doo show without Scooby-Doo. Fred's actually (in this writer's opinion) one of the more interesting characters on the show, so your mileage may vary about that change, but Velma is a show that seems constantly eager to alienate those tuning in.

(L to R) Velma (voiced by Mindy Kaling) is shocked, while Daphne (voiced by Constance Wu) looks at her with an annoyed expression in Velma, on HBO Max.

(Image credit: HBO Max)

A review I'll highlight as an actually-correct take, from user J C, states "This was just bad, ineptly written, lame jokes trying to be edgy by referencing culture stereotypes, a plot and storyline that makes no sense. A true disservice to the original cartoon and all the other works of Scooby doo/Mystery Inc."

Other rapid-fire takes include John M's "Just baddd. Could [sic] even make it through the entire 1st episode," and Adrian L's "The comedy was absolutely horrible, not to mention some of the useless plot points in the episodes and the meta-humor is shoved down your throat."

Adrian S, though, argues that Velma can't even appeal to the adult animation audience, writing "I assumed all the reviews online we a little hyperbolic in how bad the show was. I was wrong, if anything those reviews were too kind. Raunchy humor isn't my favorite but I appreciate my fair share of Superbad type movies and I love South Park. The difference, those actually contain humor. Not sure I actually laughed a single time watching Velma. Also why would anyone like or relate to Velma? She is a horrible person who hates everyone, even the people nice to her. As a show Velma is absolutely terrible, as a Scooby-Doo show, Velma is an unrecognizable disgrace."

Twitter's not happy about Velma either

Oh, and Velma detractors aren't just on Rotten Tomatoes:

Twitter user Jessie Earl (@jessiegender (opens in new tab)) broke the issue down properly, noting that the show's writing — not the changes to Shaggy and Velma's skin tones — is the real problem.

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Twitter user @tommyboy_1989 (opens in new tab) didn't realize the negative feedback online was true, until he watched it:

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Outlook: Why I'm not watching more Velma

As noted above, the attempts at humor in Velma are not actually funny. While I can try and watch a show I know will get better, Velma is a show that continuously hammers your ears with un-funny jokes. Its failure to be funny is best exemplified by this line from Norville (Velma's renamed Shaggy by his government name).

Norville (Sam Richardson) says "Damn it! This is exactly what happened to my vlog about Lil Wayne." in Velma.

(Image credit: HBO Max via Twitter/@Stupacabra)

As noted above, a Scooby-Doo show without the titular dog is definitely an odd choice, but it's Velma's brand of edge-lord humor that doesn't work for me. And that's coming from someone who can actually find some enjoyment out of Rick and Morty.

That said, as Rotten Tomatoes user Hel M said "Stop hate watching it so they don't think it's a success." Because according to Kaling, Velma has been a relative-hit for the service:

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That said, we look at this declaration with a bit of suspicion. HBO Max doesn't do a lot of animated shows, and there's no other data about what it's being compared to. We're very curious if Velma will continue to do well (in any way) for HBO Max. If a silent majority of audiences are enjoying it, a Velma season 2 seems possible. But if this early success is about hate-watching, a drop-off may sink its ship if fans don't come back in the coming weeks.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.