Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was the result of CBS and Hanna-Barbera's plans to create a non-violent Saturday morning program which would appease the parent watch groups that had protested the superhero-based programs of the mid-1960s. Originally titled Mysteries Five, and later Who's S-S-Scared?, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! underwent a number of changes from script to screen (the most notable of which was the downplaying of the musical group angle borrowed from The Archie Show). However, the basic concept—four teenagers (Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley and Shaggy Rogers) and a cowardly, clumsy Great Dane (Scooby-Doo) solving supernatural-related mysteries—was always in place.
Scooby-Doo creators Joe Ruby and Ken Spears served as the story supervisors on the series. Ruby, Spears and Bill Lutz wrote all of the scripts for the seventeen first-season Scooby episodes, while Ruby, Spears, Lutz, Larz Bourne and Tom Dagenais wrote the eight second-season episodes. The plot varied little from episode to episode. The main concept was as follows:
- The Mystery, Inc. gang turn up in the Mystery Machine, en route to or returning from a regular teenage function, when their van develops engine trouble or breaks down for any of a variety of reasons (overheating, flat tire, out of gas, etc.), in the immediate vicinity of a large, mostly vacated property (ski lodge, hotel, factory, mansion, etc.).
- Their (unintended) destination turns out to be suffering from a monster problem (ghosts, Frankenstein monster, Yeti, etc.). The kids volunteer to investigate the case.
- The gang splits up to cover more ground, with Fred and Velma finding clues, Daphne finding danger, and Shaggy and Scooby finding food, fun and the ghost/monster, who gives chase. Scooby and Shaggy in particular love to eat, including dog treats called Scooby Snacks, which are a favorite of both the dog and the teenage boy.
- Eventually, enough clues are found to convince the gang that the ghost/monster is a fake, and a trap is set to capture it.
- The trap may or may not work: More often than not, Scooby-Doo, Shaggy or both fall into the trap and they accidentally catch the monster another way, usually if the plan is explained in detail before attempted execution fails. Invariably, the ghost/monster is apprehended and unmasked. The person in the ghost or monster suit turns out to be an apparently blameless authority figure or otherwise innocuous local who is using the disguise to cover up something such as a crime or a scam.
- After giving the parting shot of "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids" (sometimes adding "...and your stupid dog!"), the offender is then taken away to jail, and the gang is allowed to continue on their way to their destination.
Scooby-Doo emphasizes verbal rather than visual storytelling, and the work of the voice artists was particularly important. Don Messick, the voice of Astro the dog, Dr. Benton Quest and Boo Boo—among others—provided the raspy, mumbling voice of Scooby-Doo using the same voice he provided for Astro, the pet dog on The Jetsons. Radio announcer Casey Kasem voiced Shaggy, young actor Frank Welker voiced Fred (which began Welker's long career in voice work), and actress Nicole Jaffe voiced Velma. (Welker and Jaffe also appeared together in the 1969 Elvis Presley film The Trouble with Girls.)
Indira Stefanianna Christopherson voiced Daphne during the first season, but moved to New York City to marry and start a family before production began on the second season. As a result, Nicole Jaffe's roommate, Heather North, took over the role of Daphne.
The second season featured "chase scene" songs produced by La La Productions, which had originally been contracted to create the music for Josie and the Pussycats, the first of many shows made from the same mold as Scooby-Doo. These songs were written by Danny Janssen and Austin Roberts, and were performed by Roberts, who also made a new recording of the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! theme song for the second season.
Episodes from both seasons contained a laugh track, which was standard practice for American cartoon series during the 1960s and 1970s (a laugh track was even used in the main titles for "A Clue for Scooby-Doo"). It was removed for syndication in the 1980s. Not long after the Turner networks (TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network) began airing the show in 1994, the laugh track was reinstated in 1998.