Sunday, January 18, 2009

All those gadgets, widgets, and digits

"Go-Go Gadget Copter!!!" That was just one of several catch-phrases on the internationally popular cartoon series Inspector Gadget which ran for a few seasons...churning out 86 episodes. The series had a long history prior to it hitting the air in 1983...I can't recall but I believe three or four pilot episodes were taped before settling on the definitive pilot and voice cast. The show's production schedule was also rather bizarre when compared to most animated programs. Pre-production was handled in Canada, which included the voice work, while the animation/production of the series was handled in Japan and then post-production was dealt back to Canada before airing. The DIC company distributed the series to America and all points of the world.

The series itself was a light parody of a whole mix of spy and secret agent TV shows and movies. Inspector Gadget's appearance, with the trench coat, is a direct parody of Inspector Clouseau, the detective made famous by Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther movies. In fact, there was a cartoon series patterned after the character simply titled The Inspector which featured the voice of Pat Harrington, Jr. The character is human but he's composed with robotic and bionic parts enabling him to do all sorts of things but because he's a klutz, his gadgets are often a curse instead of a blessing. He often calls out a gadget "Go-Go Gadget Skates!" and the copter would pop out of his hat...or he'd be in a situation that called for his mini-copter "Go-Go Gadet Copter!" and his skates would pop out from his shoes...often his gadgets malfunctioned...resulting in hilarious results. He drove what he called the GadgetMobile which was a sleek transformation car that could go from being a high-speed police car to a family van just by shifting the gears.

In the series, Gadget is working for the Metro Police Department and he receives his assignments from Chief Quimby. In nearly every episode, Gadget reads his message, which ends with the line "this message will self-destruct", spoofing the secret agent program Mission: Impossible. Gadget usually tosses the message, almost always finding it's way to Chief's hiding place...blowing up soon after. The evil organization that Gadget is in pursuit of is the MAD Agency. MAD is a spoof of both the SPECTRE crime organization from the James Bond movies, KAOS from the "Get Smart" TV series, and THRUSH from "The Man From UNCLE". The MAD agency is headed up by the never seen Dr Claw. The only thing people see of Claw is the metal gloves that rest on his chair...which often are pounding the desk in anger...or hitting his pet, Mad Cat. Claw can monitor just about everything on his computer...which I believe is a spoof of computers in general and the mystery surrounding them to the public at large. Claw often deploys several Mad Agents to stop Gadget...and this is where we get to the heart of the series.

Inspector Gadget is a bumbler in the tradition of the previously mentioned Clouseau with an added touch of moronic logic obviously borrowed from CONTROL Agent Maxwell Smart from the TV series Get Smart. The star of the show, Don Adams, supplied the voice for Inspector Gadget. This connection seemed perfect because in a lot of ways it was like watching an animated version of Maxwell Smart in a trenchcoat. Gadget's phone wasn't in his shoe, though...Gadget's phone was in his thumb and index finger...a wire would pop out of each finger as Gadget spoke to the Chief or someone else. Gadget being a bumbler and clueless meant he needed serious help in solving his cases. This fell on his niece, Penny, and her dog, Brain. It's also interesting to note that in the early episodes of Get Smart, the dog on the show was known as Fang, aka K-13. The character wasn't featured in many episodes, though. Penny was like the 99 of the show...being the sensible and rational thinker. Penny used a watch and a computer book to help her solve crimes for her "Uncle Gadget". Brain did the leg work...being in disguise...almost always being pursued by Gadget, thinking Brain's in-disguise character was a MAD agent. Penny used her Uncle's clueless nature to enlist Brain with making sure he got her Uncle here and there and everywhere...once Brain was able to lure Gadget to a check-point, the villains of the episode somehow managed to bungle their own operation and end up at Gadget's feet like he had apprehended them...just in time for the Chief to pop out of nowhere congratulating a clueless Gadget on another well-done job.

Each episode of the series ended with Dr Claw's promise of "I'll get you next time, Gadget...NEXT TIME!!!".

Some of the catch-phrases, in addition to Dr Claw's promise were:

"Wowsers!!": an exclamation by Gadget whenever something wrong happened, which was often.

"I'm Always on Duty": this was Gadget's promise to Chief Quimby and a sly reference to Maxwell Smart's pet phrase on the Get Smart TV show when Smart would imply "...And loving It!" upon getting news from his boss about the potential dangers of an upcoming case.

"This message will self-destruct": This one is heard after Gadget reads his mission from the Chief borrowed from the Mission: Impossible TV show.

"Go-Go Gadget...": This was used as a command of sorts for the gadgets he used in the case.

In addition to Don Adams, the series used Frank Welker and Maurice LaMarsche as well as Cree Summer for the bulk of the series. Don voiced Inspector Gadget while Frank was the voice of Brain, Dr Claw, and MAD Cat. Maurice handled the voice of Chief Quimby. I am sure Frank and Maurice also voiced an assortment of MAD Agents, too.

In a bit of pointless or useless trivia and probably only a coincidence but in the GET SMART series, Max's agent number is 86...and that's exactly the number of episodes that were made of Inspector Gadget. The series consisted of 65 episodes during the 1983-1984 season...those episodes re-ran another season, 1984-1985, and then 21 new episodes aired during the 1985-1986 season...bringing the series to 86 first-run episodes altogether.

The series has ran almost forever in reruns...well, I use the word forever loosely. Last year was the program's 25th anniversary. After it's original run it was shown every weekday morning in many TV markets for years and years. The children's network, Nickelodeon, ran the show from 1987-1992. It's aired all over the world since the mid 1980's and shows no signs of slowing down.

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