Judge Brett Cullum says "Go, Go, Gadget Criticism!"
Go Gadget go!
I remember Inspector Gadget pretty well from when I was a kid: the detective with Maxwell Smart's voice, robotic arms and legs, helicopter blades from his hat, and fingers that could turn from a cell phone to a flashlight to a water pistol. He could inflate to soften any fall. He was cool, but he never really did much. No, it was the dog and his niece that always one upped the dastardly agents of M.A.D. and Dr. Claw. But does anybody remember that Inspector Gadget originally had a mustache? In the pilot episode of this DVD set he does, but he had to shave it off for the very next show because MGM threatened to sue. Seems they thought Gadget looked a little too much like Inspector Clouseau of The Pink Panther series. Oddly enough, the bumbling bionic detective had drawn from more sources than just the Peter Sellers series. He was robotic like Dynomutt, he was a bumbling operative much like the lead agent in Get Smart (he even had the voice of that series' star, Don Adams), and he had a dog and a smart girl that solved all the mysteries like Scooby Doo and Velma. Inspector Gadget was a man made of many parts cobbled together into a kid's cartoon series.
Inspector Gadget debuted as Nickelodeon's first original cartoon in September of 1983. He had a successful two season run that somehow lasted three years, and even got the honor of a big screen translation in 1999 starring Matthew Broderick (The Producers). The formula for every show was immutable: Gadget gets an assignment from Chief Quimby (who hides in a small space like an oven or file drawer), the Chief gets blown up by the self-destructing mission message, and Gadget sets off to solve the crime with the mad genius behind it. He screws things up, his niece Penny and dog Brain save the day, and Gadget gets all the credit. That's it in every single episode.
Inside Inspector Gadget: The Original Series we get to see the
following twenty-two episodes spread out over four single sided discs:
This is only the first volume of the show, and I'm not sure how Shout! Factory decided to issue these particular episodes except that they are the first. Don't look to Inspector Gadget: The Original Series for any answers on Gadget's origins, or any other character's back story. For some reason the show never explains where Brain came from, why Penny can hang out with her bionic uncle full-time, or how Dr. Claw decided to start his agency of malevolent destruction. The world of Inspector Gadget just popped up one day, bionic detective and all. The show was retooled a little bit for its second season with the addition of Corporal Capeman who joined Gadget sporadically on his adventures. We don't see him here. There were eighty-five episodes produced over the entire run of the series, and these are the initial twenty-two; sixty-three remain in the vault.
The transfers are soft looking full screen with faded colors and no obvious remastering for DVD. The only changes made for the DVD are a title card included at the start of each episode with the series name, and the very last DIC logo has been replaced with a new rendering of the logo (we don't get to see the old one with Gadget on skates and his hat hammer). The mono soundtrack is fine, though not as sharp as it could be. Time hasn't been kind to the Inspector. The show looks more primitive than I remember as a kid.
Shout! Factory has included three special features on the final disc. First up is an interview with the series creators called Wowsers!. It runs shy of ten minutes, but tells the story of the development nicely. Interestingly enough, it reveals that the animation was done in France under the guidance of a man who had fled America and Hanna-Barbera. Second are a couple of early production drawings showing how the animators rendered all the main characters (accompanied by the infectious theme song). The last feature is simply a drawing that was entered in a contest, and I'm not sure why it's here. We aren't told when the contest was held or the name of the winner, but it's kind of cute for child art.
Kids might find Inspector Gadget fun in a retro way. If your child liked the Disney live action movie, chances are they'll enjoy seeing the cartoon. Adults looking to recapture their childhood might be surprised to find how dated the series looks, and how the formula that was fun as a kid proves tedious now. For over thirty bucks as a suggested shelf price, it wears out its welcome too quickly. Still if you're a fan, Shout! Factory at least provides a package with some decent extras. Just be warned: one pass at the menu with the theme song, and it'll be stuck in your head for weeks on end. "Doot doot doot Inspector Gadget! Dootly Dootly Doo—ooo ooo!"
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