The Inspectors is a half-hour Edutainment Show airing on CBS during its Saturday morning "CBS Dream Team" E/I programming block. It differs from other edutatinment shows by combining the Police Procedural format with elements of teenage/young adult drama.
As stated in the opening narration, the show centers around paraplegic teenager Preston Wainwright, a college student at the fictional Jamestown College in Washington DC. It also follows his best friend Noah Waldman, and his on-again-off-again girlfriend Veronica Ruiz.
Preston's mother, Postal Inspector Amanda Wainwright, along with her partner Mitch Ohlmeyer and crime lab specialist Dr. Georgia Darby, solve cases dealing directly with crimes committed involving the United States Postal Service. From time to time, Preston will work with them on a case in his capacity as a USPIS crime lab intern.
This show contains examples of:
- Adult Fear:
- Imagine that your spouse and your child are in an automobile accident that kills the former and leaves the latter a paraplegic. Poor Amanda.
- "What's in a Name": A three day old baby is abducted by someone pretending to be a nurse, who raises the child and keeps her sequestered from a normal social life. The girl doesn't find out the truth for eighteen years.
- One two-episode arc features a massive storm causing a little girl's asthma meds to not be delivered properly and for said little girl to run off to find her mother. Preston goes after her without telling anyone.
- Amicable Exes: Preston and Veronica break up in season three, but stay close friends.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Every episode ends with Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell presenting a summation of the episode's case, with tips on how to avoid the crime in question.
- Better as Friends: Veronica breaks up with Preston on Valentines Day in season three for this reason.
- Big Brother Mentor: Preston commonly fills this role when he's around younger kids.
- Black Best Friend: Noah, to Preston.
- Childhood Friend Romance: Preston and Veronica, who met in preschool. In one episode, Veronica admitted she'd been in love with Preston after he started treating her kindly in grade school.
- Discretion Shot: Whenever inspectors have their guns drawn, they're always held downward, just barely outside of frame, and the viewer never sees them clearly. This is ostensibly to help the show keep its TV-G rating.
- Dream-Crushing Handicap: Preston's paraplegia holds him back from his dream of being a postal inspector. In earlier seasons, he's confident that he'll overcome the injury and walk again, but by the end of season two, he's resigned himself to the fact that he's not making any headway in his therapy, and decides to seek out a college degree in law instead.
- Epic Fail: One suspect tries to escape by climbing a fence, but does it so poorly that Mitch takes a second to laugh at their misfortune before he arrests him.
- Everyone Can See It: They lay this trope on pretty thick with Preston and Veronica, mostly for drama. In one episode, the host of a Newlywed Game-style game show points out how perfect they are post-breakup. Even Preston's Romantic False Lead Emma, who barely had one conversation with Preston about Veronica, deduced that he was still hung up on her.
- 419 Scam: Veronica's grandmother gets caught up with one of these in season three.
- Genius Cripple: Preston is this, a paraplegic college student studying law.
- Invasion of the Baby Snatchers: "What's in a Name" begins in 1999 with the abduction of a three-day-old infant girl by a woman pretending to be a nurse.
- Jury and Witness Tampering: A witness in a trial against a bank robber has a threat sent to him in the episode "Witness Intimidation."
- Laser-Guided Karma: An upperclassman in charge of the college news studio sees no problem with running a potentially libelous story and belittles Veronica for showing honest journalism and integrity when she keeps her discoveries about the kidnapping in the A plot a secret per Amanda's instructions. Preston and Noah record him saying that integrity and fact-checking have no place in journalism which gets him thrown out of his position and in MASSIVE trouble with the school. Meanwhile Veronica replaces him and gets to break the real story behind the kidnapping.
- Lethal Chef: Preston handles all the cooking in the household, because according to him, Amanda is the type that can burn cereal.
- Local Hangout: Preston, his friends, and most other Jamestown students hang out at a local coffee shop called "University Grind."
- Mistaken for Gay: Flipped. Veronica tries out for a part in a student play as a love interest. She initially assumes that it's about a straight relationship, as the other lead character has a Gender-Blender Name. During a read-through of the script, when Veronica gets to a kissing scene and asks which guy she'll be playing against, she is momentarily surprised when the female playwright (and other lead) tells her that the play is actually about a lesbian relationship.
- Posthumous Character: Preston's father Henry, who was lost in the same car accident that crippled Preston. Occasionally, whenever the narrative calls for it, Preston will remember some advice his father once gave him.
- Recap Episode: They do this every once in a while, usually with Georgia's actress Charmin Lee out of character, presenting quick recaps of previous episodes. Erica-Marie Sanchez later presented two full reruns in a similar manner, recapping each episode's plot after each commercial break.
- Side Bet: When Amanada has to do self defense training with Mitch, her coworkers start making bets on how she'll go down.
- In another episode, Mitch and Amanda see if who can bait a catfisher first.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Inspector Eric Lin, for Mitch, for a brief time in season three. Mitch's actor Terry Serpico is missing from a few episodes, and lines that are clearly meant for Mitch are given to Eric instead.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: The typical story structure. The "A" story will feature the case at hand, and the "B" story will feature Preston and his friends. Occasionally, the two storylines will intersect.
- Whole Plot Reference: The season three episode "Window Washers" is one for Rear Window.