Reviews: Inspector Gadget

A strange mixture of two opposing genres

Inspector Gadget is a truly strange show if you really think about it. On the face of it, it's about a man who has all these built-in gadgets in his body, allowing him to do things like summon binoculars over his eyes, stretch his arms and legs, use a built-in helicopter propeller and handles to fly, and a whole bunch of other things. A lot of potential there, so what does Gadget do with these abilities? Almost nothing! The man instead stumbles around, mistaking his enemies for friends, and causing a big mess wherever he goes. He usually doesn't even advance the plot.

In a way, the show is really about Penny, his niece, along with her pet dog, Brain. Brain basically watches after Gadget and keeps him alive, and sometimes saves Penny's life as well. Penny, on the other hand, is the true main hero, at least speaking plot-wise.

Penny snoops around and explores the enemy's hideouts, tries to figure out what's going on, and tries to stop it with the help of her own gadgets: a watch that doubles as a communicator, a map, and has a built-in laser, and a "computer book", which tells her any information she needs to know, with a built-in map of its own, recording device, the ability to hack into almost any system or even vehicle in existence, and even more features.

The show follows Penny as she sneaks about, tries to make sure her uncle Gadget doesn't notice her doing her own investigations, sometimes makes friends that help her solve the crimes, gets into and out of danger, and basically has her own little Hardy Boys-esque adventure. Well, that, and the remaining 60-70% of the screentime was devoted to Gadget's "mistake bad guys for good, and accidentally cause disasters" antics.

And that's what makes the show so strange. Gadget himself was a "sideshow clown", so to speak, yet he gets the title. Even so, my third grade self was watching the cartoon to see Penny's adventures, which were the minority of the screentime, but that I felt were far more interesting and compelling.

That's the problem with creating a show that tries to be two totally unrelated - even possibly opposing - things at once: you split the fanbase. Do you like Gadget's comedic stumbling? Or Penny's adventurous sleuthing? Chances are, you're not a huge fan of both. It's like they're totally opposed to each other.