Inspector Gadget: The Hero with More Gadgets than Smarts

Inspector Gadget is an animated television series that originally ran from 1983 to 1986 and remains popular today. The show centers around the adventures of a bumbling cyborg police inspector named Inspector Gadget as he investigates crimes and fights villains alongside his niece Penny and dog Brain.

Inspector Gadget first aired in 1983 as a syndicated cartoon show produced by DiC Entertainment. It was created by Andy Heyward, Jean Chalopin, and Bruno Bianchi. Set in Metro City, each episode followed Inspector Gadget, Penny, and Brain as they went up against the criminal organization M.A.D. led by the evil Dr. Claw.

Despite being panned by critics, Inspector Gadget was a smash hit with young audiences during its original run. The iconic theme song and lovable characters like the oblivious Inspector Gadget made the show a pop culture phenomenon at the time. Reruns introduced new generations to the series and allowed Inspector Gadget to remain popular even decades after it went off the air. Its lasting appeal is a testament to the show’s charming retro animation style and enduring sense of humor.

Character Overview

Inspector Gadget is the titular character and protagonist of the popular 1980s animated TV series Inspector Gadget and subsequent spin-off media. He is portrayed as a cyborg police inspector who is filled with an arsenal of gadgets that he can summon from his body, although he is clueless about how to properly use them.

Inspector Gadget’s real name is John Brown who was a normal human police inspector before receiving cybernetic implants that make him part machine. His gadgets include spring legs to jump high, a hat helicopter to fly, elastic waist extender arms, an inflatable coat for swimming, skates in his shoes, a digital communicator watch, a laser finger, and other tools that emerge from his fingers, palms, elbows and elsewhere on his body. He is typically dressed in a brown trenchcoat and black hat in the style of a detective or inspector.

Despite being equipped with all these high-tech gadgets, Inspector Gadget is incompetent and clueless when it comes to actually utilizing them properly. He is portrayed as bumbling and incompetent and often oblivious about what is going on around him. His niece Penny and intelligent dog Brain usually solve the crimes while Inspector Gadget takes credit.

Inspector Gadget’s personality is defined by his clumsiness and incompetence. He is perpetually distracted, unable to focus on his cases, and always messes up despite having advanced gadgets at his disposal. His attention span is short and he is oblivious to obvious clues. He is well-meaning but too absent minded to ever solve a case properly on his own. His catchphrase in the show is “Wowzers!”, which he utters when surprised by something.

Supporting Characters

Inspector Gadget is surrounded by a cast of memorable supporting characters that help drive the show’s humor and adventure.


Penny is Inspector Gadget’s precocious niece. She is the one who truly solves each case and saves the day, all while letting her uncle believe he has done it himself. Penny is very smart for her age and often more competent than the adults around her. She keeps a computer disguised as a book that allows her to monitor her uncle’s activities. Penny secretly helps Inspector Gadget behind-the-scenes, staying out of harm’s way thanks to her quick thinking.


Brain is Penny’s loyal pet dog. He assists Penny with keeping Inspector Gadget safe during his missions. Brain wears a collar that allows him to communicate with Penny through a built-in computer terminal. He is highly intelligent and resourceful. Brain uses disguises to avoid detection while helping Penny orchestrate the real solutions to Inspector Gadget’s cases. He is Inspector Gadget’s true hero, even if the inspector himself does not realize it.

Dr. Claw

The villainous Dr. Claw is the leader of the evil M.A.D. organization. He is never fully shown on screen, only appearing as a pair of mechanical hands. Dr. Claw speaks through a computer with a distorted voice and manages a cadre of henchmen. His plans involve various schemes to terrorize Metro City and eliminate Inspector Gadget so that M.A.D. can take over. But Dr. Claw’s plots are always foiled thanks to the secret efforts of Penny and Brain. Dr. Claw’s catchphrase “I’ll get you next time, Gadget!” clues viewers in that he will return with another nefarious plot in the next episode.


Inspector Gadget takes place in the futuristic, high-tech city of Metro City. This fictional metropolis is full of towering skyscrapers, robots, advanced computers, and other cutting-edge technology that was ahead of its time when the show first aired in 1983.

Metro City has a bright, vibrant look with shiny metal and glass buildings. The architecture has a retro-future art deco style. Sleek monorails, maglev trains, and self-driving cars fill the streets. Video phones and wireless technology are commonplace.

Inside Inspector Gadget’s home, the décor continues the high-tech theme. His furniture has buttons, control panels, and robot arms. He has elaborate contraptions and computers to analyze clues and communicate with Chief Quimby. Even Gadget’s body is equipped with futuristic gadgets and gizmos that aid his crime-fighting missions.

The advanced technology of Metro City contrasts sharply with the rural countryside surrounding it. The high-tech city almost seems out of place next to the rivers, forests, farms, and simpler rural communities that live nearby. This juxtaposition serves to emphasize Metro City’s futuristic qualities.

Overall, the setting of Inspector Gadget’s world allows the writers to imagine and include any type of complex, imaginative technology they want for visual interest, plot devices, and humor. The futuristic Metro City provides the perfect backdrop for Gadget’s high-tech shenanigans and crime-fighting adventures.

Notable Episodes

Inspector Gadget is known for many iconic episodes that have stood the test of time. Here are some of the most notable:

Mad in Moonlight

This episode follows Inspector Gadget as he travels to Transylvania to investigate a mysterious castle. He encounters ghosts, vampires, and other supernatural phenomena, all while the villainous Dr. Claw tries to stop him from foiling his evil plans. This episode features all the classic Inspector Gadget hijinks and humor.

The Ruby

In this episode, Inspector Gadget must protect the rare and valuable Ruby of Ruckusville from being stolen by Dr. Claw and his henchmen. Lots of fun contraptions and gadgets are used as Inspector Gadget tries to keep the ruby safe. Penny and Brain ultimately play a key role in saving the day.

The Capeman Cometh

Inspector Gadget takes on the role of a superhero in this episode as he tries to stop the Capeman, a mysterious villain stealing gold. Of course, Penny and Brain are the real heroes behind the scenes, helping Gadget prevail over evil once again. This episode highlights Inspector Gadget’s bumbling but determined attempts at being a crime fighter.

Winter Olympics

Inspector Gadget heads to the North Pole to provide security for the Winter Olympics. Dr. Claw plots to sabotage the games. Lots of winter sports action and snowy scenery make this an exciting episode, with Brain skiing his way to victory. Inspector Gadget thinks he’s the hero, as always, but it’s Penny and Brain who save the day.

Gadget’s Replacement

In this episode, a new crime-fighting robot named Officer Gadget emerges, leading Inspector Gadget to believe he’s being replaced. Lots of funny malfunctions occur as Gadget tries to prove he’s still the best inspetor there is. Of course, the new robot turns out to be a scheme by Dr. Claw that Gadget ends up thwarting.

Impact and Legacy

Inspector Gadget has had a lasting impact on pop culture since its debut in the 1980s. Some of the key aspects of its legacy include:

Pop Culture Influence

  • Inspector Gadget introduced the clumsy cyborg detective character trope that has been used across various forms of media. The show’s blend of action, comedy, and mysteries solved through gadgets also became a popular formula.

  • Elements of the show like Gadget’s trenchcoat and gadgets were parodied and referenced frequently in other TV shows, movies, comics, and video games.

  • The show’s iconic theme song became ingrained in pop culture. Several popular musicians like Eminem and Too Short have sampled it in their songs.

Later Adaptations

  • Inspector Gadget remained popular after its initial run thanks to reruns. It paved the way for future animated shows combining action and comedy like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

  • Disney produced an animated direct-to-video sequel in 1999 called Gadget 2. There have also been two live-action Inspector Gadget films in 1999 and 2003.

  • The franchise was rebooted in 2015 with a new animated series simply titled Inspector Gadget. This updated the character and animation while staying true to the original show’s spirit.

Why It Remains Popular

  • The slapstick humor and over-the-top gadgets provide timeless entertainment for each new generation of viewers. The show is still relatable for kids today.

  • Nostalgia keeps the show popular among adults who grew up watching it. It provides a fun escape for all ages.

  • Inspector Gadget is an iconic character on par with famous pop culture heroes. His bumbling charm endears audiences as much as ever.

The legacy of Inspector Gadget lives on through continued syndication, references in pop culture, and modern reboots. At its core, the show’s adventurous spirit and humor remain irresistible.

Theme Song

The iconic Inspector Gadget theme song is instantly recognizable to generations of fans. Composed by Shuki Levy, the song was performed by Levy’s band, Shuki Levy and the Picture Show.

The lyrics introduce audiences to the titular character, describing Gadget as “a master of disguise” on a dangerous mission where he “knows what’s going down.” The song’s upbeat, high-energy melody evokes Gadget’s frenetic and slapstick-filled adventures as he takes on villains like Dr. Claw.

Key lyrics celebrate Gadget’s endless gadgets and gizmos like his “Go-Go Gadget Copter” and “Gadget arms.” The song also highlights his niece, Penny, and her dog, Brain, who secretly help Gadget behind the scenes. The theme song was a catchy, memorable encapsulation of the show’s premise and characters. For many fans, hearing it immediately transports them back to eagerly watching Inspector Gadget’s cartoon exploits as kids.


“Go Go Gadget!” is Inspector Gadget’s most famous catchphrase that he says when activating one of his gadgets. Though clueless and bumbling, Inspector Gadget frequently finds himself in dangerous situations requiring his gadgets to save the day. His iconic phrase “Go Go Gadget!” signals the start of another wild set of antics from his gadgets.

Some other memorable Inspector Gadgets quotes and catchphrases include:

  • “Wowsers!” – His exclamation of surprise.

  • “Don’t worry Chief, I’m always on duty.” – His motto that highlights his dedication, despite his incompetence.

  • “This message will self-destruct.” – His sign-off phrase used at the end of messages from Chief Quimby.

  • “Penny, why is it always you who finds the clues I miss?” – Highlighting how his niece Penny is the smarter detective.

  • “Silly me, I made a mistake.” – His go-to phrase when realizing he has messed up.

  • “Gadget mobile, go!” – Said when activating his multi-functional vehicle.

  • “Gadget helicopter/arm/skates/etc., go go!” – Variations on his famous phrase used for different gadgets.

  • “Gadget, gadget, gadget!” – Repeated when frantically activating gadgets.

Inspector Gadget’s simple but memorable catchphrases underscore his charming and oblivious personality. For generations of fans, phrases like “Go Go Gadget!” instantly evoke nostalgia for the iconic cartoon character.


Inspector Gadget became a hugely successful franchise that spawned an extensive range of toys and merchandise.


  • Action figures were released by various toy companies, with Inspector Gadget often packaged with his gadgets and Dr. Claw as the villain.
  • Inspector Gadget board games were created, such as Inspector Gadget Operation Mad Dash published by Parker Brothers.
  • Toy vehicles like the Inspector Gadget Pat Pat Rollercopter allowed kids to recreate scenes.
  • Plush dolls of Inspector Gadget and Penny were also popular items.


  • T-shirts featuring Inspector Gadgets, Penny, and Brain were common merchandise items.
  • Pajamas, underwear, and Halloween costumes allowed kids to dress up as the characters.
  • Backpacks, lunchboxes, thermoses, and other school supplies frequently had an Inspector Gadget theme.

Other Products

  • Inspector Gadget watches and walkie talkies let kids pretend to be secret agents.
  • Stickers, coloring books, puzzles, and activity books expanded the Inspector Gadget world.
  • Food items like Inspector Gadget cereal capitalized on the popularity.
  • A huge range of additional Inspector Gadget toys, games, home goods, and novelty items filled store shelves during the peak years.

Conclusion: Why Inspector Gadget Endures

Inspector Gadgets has remained a beloved pop culture icon for over 30 years thanks to its wacky characters, gadgets, and theme of good versus evil. At its core, it’s an endearing story about an earnest detective who repeatedly saves the day, even when oblivious to the help he receives from his clever niece, Penny, and dog, Brain.

Though the animation and references may seem dated today, there’s a timeless appeal in the show’s themes of family, loyalty, and justice. Kids identify with Penny’s mixture of intelligence, bravery, and innocence as she guides her bumbling uncle through his missions. And Inspector Gadget’s relentless dedication despite his obvious flaws makes him a lovably quirky hero.

While the franchise has evolved across various reboots and films, the original series from the 1980s remains a nostalgic favorite for many who grew up watching Inspector Gadget defeat Dr. Claw time and time again. Though simplistic compared to today’s shows, it had enough mystery, action, and humor to capture kids’ imaginations. The iconic characters, catchphrases, gadgets, and theme song cement its reputation as a classic animated series.

In the end, Inspector Gadget endures because it brings us back to the wonder and excitement of Saturday morning cartoons. We can’t help but hum the theme song and root for Gadget, Penny, and Brain to win the day. Though the world has changed, Inspector Gadget retains its lighthearted charm and sense of adventure that families can continue to enjoy together.

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