Thursday, October 20, 2005


Think Scooby-Doo saying “Uh-Oh”.  I’ve noticed in recent weeks that this catch phrase has suddenly reentered the pop-cultural lexicon.  

Observed usages:

1.Season 2 premier of “House”.  Said by Hugh Laurie’s titular character when he is caught bringing an unauthorized patient into his hospital’s ICU.  Usage is sarcastic, not a vocalization of worry/concern but rather flaunting a lack thereof.  Is actually said in the Scooby-Doo voice.

2. Last night’s episode of “Veronica Mars” (Green Eyed Monster).  Again said by the titular character, this time as a crazy client is about to ruin her stakeout.  Usage is earnest, expresses genuine concern.  Not delivered in cartoon voice.

3. Today’s edition of Dinosaur Comics.  Hidden in the secret message that accompanies every Dinosaur Comic (leave your cursor over the comic for a few seconds).  Here the usage is also ironic.  Since usage is printed it is impossible to determine the intended vocalization.

In my book three uses (two in popular prime-time TV shows no less) makes a pattern.  Something is going on.

Question:  Why has a line from a thirty-year-old cartoon suddenly emerged as a catch phrase?  We’re well past the ‘70s nostalgia wave that made Scooby-Doo retro-hip in the mid-1990s.  We are also several years past the live action Scooby-Doo films (the films themselves being a belated by product of SD’s retro-hip cache, long since spent by the time the first film hit the multiplexes).  So it’s not like America has Scooby-Doo on the brain.  The license isn’t rattling full bore around our collective conscious.  Why “ruh-roh” and why right now?

The floor is open to hypotheses.

Side Note:  My personal favorite use was in “House”.  It’s a really funny beat in a fast scene with lots of dialogue and information flying around.  It comes out of nowhere and Hugh Laurie gets so animated (npi) when he says it.


Jeff said...

Veronica Mars says "Ruh-roh" in one of those first season episodes I watched with Frank and Sarah. I'm hoping it becomes her catch-phrase, because Kristen Bell is so cute when she says it. She makes me feel funny.

As to why "Ruh-roh" is currently in the middle of a cultural renaissance, I have no clue.

Jeff said...

Could it's use also be an allusion to The Jetsons' dog, Astro? Maybe we're on the brink of a big Jetsons comeback, God help us.

Frank said...

I was about to post about the usage in the earlier Veronica Mars episode, so I'm glad you beat me to it, Jeff. Especially since I didn't have any idea in which of the fifteen or so episodes I watched with my sister last weekend the line appeared. Your input narrows the field. Or validates my observation, anyway.

We should also probably object to the description of Veronica Mars as "popular." When Sarah was telling the cashier at the comics shop about the show on Monday, the customer behind us felt compelled to observe, "Not doing so hot in the ratings, though, huh?"

Jeff said...

Well sure, if you compare VM's ratings with its direct competition's (Lost), then it looks rather bad. Then again, Lost is regularly in the top-three rated shows every week, and if you consider that the ratings for VM's 2nd season premiere were the highest in the show's history, and that UPN is desperate for a show that they can actually snag some critical acclaim and attention(their renewal of the show in the face of horrific ratings pretty much confirms this), then it looks much better.

Frank said...

That's just what I told that mean lady at the comics shop!

Liz said...

You young men are crusaders for truth and justice.

Jeff said...

Now my BOSS has started saying it! Just out of the blue! What the hell?