“I’ll get you next time Gadget, next time…” – Dr Claw
Inspector Gadget is a famous cyborg police inspector with a seemingly endless amount of gadgets he can summon by saying “Go-Go-Gadget” then the gadget’s name. The word “Gadget” is actually part of the name, as hinted at in some episodes, (i.e. Gadget copter). Although he has all this equipment, Gadget is ultimately incompetent and clueless (in a manner similar to Maxwell Smart of Get Smart – who was also played by Don Adams – and the Inspector Clouseau character of the Pink Panther series), and overcomes obstacles and survives perilous situations often by sheer good luck. He is also helped by his niece, Penny, and intelligent dog, Brain, who both secretly help him solve each case. His gadgets often malfunction, which usually causes Gadget to exclaim that he needs to get them fixed.
Almost every episode of the first season follows a detailed and set formula, with little variation (though many of these elements were tinkered with in season 2). The formula is as follows.
- Gadget, Penny, and Brain will be doing something together.
- A phone rings, which Gadget identifies as the Top Secret Gadgetphone.
- Gadget answers the call with his hand, into which the Gadgetphone is built. The calls consist mostly of the following conversation: “Is that you, Chief? You’re where? Right away, Chief.”
- Gadget has a rendezvous with Chief Quimby, who is usually either hiding or in disguise. He receives a brief containing his assignment, which ends with “this message will self-destruct in n seconds.”
- Gadget accepts the mission, usually with the exclamation “You can count on me/Don’t worry, Chief, I’m always on duty!” He then crumples the message up and tosses it back toward Quimby, apparently forgetting the self-destruct warning. The message blows up in Quimby’s face, after which he usually asks himself, “why do I put up with him?”
The episode then usually takes Gadget to some exotic locale and somehow Penny and Brain find a way to accompany him. Brain keeps Gadget out of trouble from M.A.D. agents (who Gadget usually mistakes for friendly locals; ironically, Gadget often takes the disguised Brain for a MAD agent), while Penny solves the case.
Frequently, Penny herself lands in trouble with M.A.D. agents – most of whom truss her up and leave her in a “Death-Trap” or similar perilous situation. She occasionally extricates herself at the last possible moment, but more often she is forced to call Brain who rescues her in the nick of time. With the help of Penny and Brain, Gadget inadvertently saves the day, Dr. Claw escapes, and Chief Quimby arrives to congratulate Gadget on a job well done.
Each episode ends with Gadget (and usually Penny and Brain also) giving a public service announcement – in direct contrast with his dangerous job and risk-taking behavior in the show, with most of the tips having a connection with problems Gadget had experienced during the episode. For example, in one episode, Gadget tries to hitchhike saying he hopes the approaching motorist doesn’t mind him doing so, with the ending PSA making very clear how dangerous hitchhiking can be. In another, Gadget and Penny use the story of the Trojan Horse to relate the danger of dealing with strangers.