Though simple and formulaic, this cartoon series continues to amuse me...
Once again, it's time for me to take a trip down memory lane. Of the many TV cartoons I grew up watching, Inspector Gadget is one I particularly remember. I may have been as young as five years old when I first heard the Inspector Gadget theme song. I would really watch the show in more depth years later on Nickelodeon. The appeal of show is its simplicity. The basic plot in each episode could be exactly the same and I would still not get bored with the humor, excitement, adventure, and fun.
The title character, voiced by Don Adams of Get Smart fame, is a bumbling bionic police inspector. He has many built-in gadgets, including his Gadget Coat that inflates, Gadget Arms that stretch, Gadget Legs with long springs, and Gadget Copter that emerges from his hat. The use of any gadget is always preceded by the utterance "Go Go Gadget" and the name of the gadget. Given these capabilities plus a bunch more, not to mention his Gadget Mobile that can convert between a van and a police car, Inspector Gadget sounds like someone the bad guys should fear.
Yet, here's the funny part. Inspector Gadget is essentially a secondary character. When he is out investigating a case, he really is doing it blindly with little to no logic, ultimately leading him nowhere close to uncovering the mystery. He does have a niece named Penny and a dog named Brain. These two supposedly secondary characters are, in a way, the actual main characters. While Gadget goes in a wild goose chase, which may often put him at risk, Penny and Brain are doing the real investigative work. When it's all over, the police arrive and Gadget gets all the credit.
This is exactly what happens in every episode. I especially remember how each assignment Gadget gets is presented in the exact same way. Gadget, Penny, and Brain are doing something together when he gets a phone call in his hand. ("Wowsers. That's the top secret Gadget Phone.") Gadget answers the call. ("Is that you, Chief? You're where?") Then Gadget finds Chief Quimby hiding in a cramped place (a lot like Agent 13 on Get Smart). Quimby presents a paper from which Gadget reads his next assignment. However, despite the conclusion of the message saying that it will self-destruct, Gadget crumples the paper and tosses it back to Quimby, who suffers as the message explodes.
As for the villain, you might say it's inspired by the world of James Bond. Inspector Gadget's arch nemesis is Dr. Claw, whose face is hidden but has his Mad Cat as a pet (a lot like Ernst Stavro Blofeld from the Bond movies). The evil organization is known as the acronym MAD (very much like SPECTRE from the Bond movies). In each episode, MAD agents are trying to carry out Claw's next scheme and stopping Gadget. They are foiled by Penny and Brain while Gadget has no idea what's going on.
Inspector Gadget is a fun show because there's a new exciting adventure each time. Gadget, Penny, and Brain could be up against schemes that involve mind control, achieving wealth, thievery, impersonating the good guys, and many others, and it all goes on within their hometown of Metro City and in places around the world. Each episode generally presents something new to see. That's all you need to have an entertaining show, even if a basic formula is applied rigidly each time.
For more information about Inspector Gadget, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my review for the live-action film adaptation Inspector Gadget.