If you were a kid in the 90’s, you would probably be a huge fan of the following: gross, disgusting humor from TV shows like Ren and Stimpy and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. Horror and thrillers from books and shows like Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? Shows that discussed science in a fun way like Beakman’s World, Bill Nye: The Science Guy, and The Magic School Bus. Funny, laugh out loud adult humor from shows like Rocko’s Modern Life and Animaniacs. Re-imagining of classic Disney cartoons like Talespin, Darkwing Duck, Ducktales, and Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers. Watching action packed superhero cartoons like Batman: The Animated Series, X-Men: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Spiderman. Or seeing shows for teens and adults like Beavis and Butthead and South Park even though you weren’t suppose to. Then there’s also the mystery craze that started from books like Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and Encyclopedia Brown. The craze exploded like wildfire due to the 1992 PBS mystery series Ghostwriter. 


 

The show was about a group of kids who solve crimes and mysteries with the help of a mysterious invisible ghost. The show lasted for 3 years ending its run on February 13, 1995. Around that time, there weren’t a lot of mystery shows for kids. The only one that was running at the time for kids were the direct to video mystery series The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley that ran from 1994-1997.

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So Alan Goodman, the man who was helped launched MTV by developing the now iconic logo, partially responsible from saving Nickelodeon from bankruptcy back in 1984, co-creator of Nick at Nite, and the co-creator of Nickelodeon show Kids Court, had decided to create a mystery series for Nickelodeon. That show was called The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo which debuted on March 16, 1996.

 

The show was about an Asian girl named Shelby Woo (played by Irene Ng) who lives in an inn with her grandfather Mike “Grandpa” Woo (played by Pat Morita) at Cocoa Beach, FL. She works as an intern at a police station doing leftover paper work and odd jobs at the office. Whenever a crime or a mystery comes about, Shelby and her friends Noah Allen (played by Adam Busch) and Cindy Ornette (played by Preslaysa Edwards) work together to solve the case. However, the detectives who work at the station don’t appreciate her solving the case since she’s an untrained teenager and wishes for Shelby and her friends to not get involved. Also Grandpa Woo isn’t thrilled in Shelby solving cases since they’re not detectives, they’re innkeepers. “We are not detectives with warrant badges, we are innkeepers with brooms” was a sentence he would constantly tell Shelby throughout the entire series. Nonetheless, Shelby and her friends are always on the case.

 

 

Throughout every episode, there would be a different mystery to solve. The case would be explained by a witness or a suspect, they would travel to the scene of the crime and pick up clues, and would always narrow the suspects down to three people. Throughout the show, it would keep people guessing on who was the suspect. Then at the end, they would find the suspect and explain on the clues that led to that conclusive decision. Some of these cases were quite clever. In one episode, Shelby finds a calendar that only has the months July, August, September, October, and November that belonged to the victim. While putting that and the remaining clues together, she was able to find the culprit. By lining up the first letter of the remaining months of the calendar, it spelled out a name.

 

July

August

September

October

November

One of the suspects of that case happened to have been a guy named Jason and he was caught for his crimes.

Around Season 4, Shelby and her grandfather moved into Boston, Massachusetts. Shelby worked at a new police station and met some new friends named Vince Rosania (played by Noah Klar) and Angie Burns (played by Eleanor Noble). She continued to solve cases alongside her new friends.

Similar to The Secret World of Alex Mack, there were books that contained original stories from The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo not seen in any episode. However unlike Alex Mack, a few of the books were written by Alan Goodman himself.

A few other writers wrote original stories for the Shelby Woo series, including one of the writers from the show named Suzanne Collins.

Wait, what? Suzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games trilogy and The Underland Chronicles was a writer for The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo? Yes, she was. Before becoming the well-known author she is today, she had worked as a writer in other Nickelodeon shows such as Clarissa Explains it All, Little Bear, and Oswald. Interesting fact, indeed.

The show lasted for 4 seasons ending its run on October 25, 1998. Some of the actors went on to do other projects while some faded into obscurity.

Irene Ng has been in other movies and TV shows like Teen Angel, The Sterling Chase, Law and Order, Spirit Warriors, and The Jury II. She’s currently married to a man name David Rosa.

Pat Morita has appeared in other TV shows, movies, and voice acted in shows like Spy Hard, Mulan, King Cobra, Inferno, Shadow Fury, The Last Shot, Only the Brave, Spongebob SquarePants, Robot Chicken, 18 Fingers of Death, and Royal Kill. He passed away on November 24, 2005 due to kidney failure. He’s survived by his wife Evelyn, his three children from a previous marriage, two grandchildren, and his four siblings.

Adam Busch has appeared in other TV shows and indie movies like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Leon, Law and Order, Point Pleasant, The Jury, Sugar and Spice, Back to You, Book of Danny, House, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, American Dreamz, I’m in the Band, Grey’s Anatomy, and Men at Work. He’s currently on an online series called MyMusic portraying a character called Indie, who’s a modern day hipster and CEO of MyMusic.

The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo was praised for many things when the show first came out. The creativity and originality of the show was something never seen before in Nickelodeon. At the time, it was the only mystery series for kids until The New Ghostwriter Mysteries and Sherlock Holmes of the 22nd Century debuted. Also what was praised were the inclusion of Irene Ng and Pat Morita. As most of you probably know, Pat Morita was Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid series and was one of the most well known actors in the 80’s. However, in the 90’s, he had been in a few bad movies such as Miracle Beach, American Ninja V, and The Next Karate Kid. When he was on The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, he was introduced to a new audience and had made quite a comeback as his role as a brilliant actor.

As for Irene Ng, who had played a minor role in Heaven and Earth, she was the very first Asian girl to star in a Nickelodeon TV show. Sadly, there would be fewer to no other Asian characters in other Nickelodeon shows afterwards, especially starring roles. Overall, the show was pretty good. While it can get a bit monotonous at times with a new case being in every episode and some of the outcomes are a bit predictable, it was always exciting to put the clues together to find out who the culprit was. The show took a bit of a downfall in the 4th Season when Shelby and her grandfather moved to Boston. The new characters introduced in that season felt more like replacement characters from the previous seasons than well-developed ones.While not one of the best teen shows to ever air on Nickelodeon, it was truly a unique one.If you’re a fan of mystery shows, check this show out sometime.

That’s all for now. Tune in next time as we review Nickelodeon’s very first movie Harriet the Spy.


Wow! We must be going through a mystery theme or something.

Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.

-Patricia

 

 

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