Go, Gadget, Go!
His namesake body was loaded with an assortment of non-lethal slapstick crime-fighting tools that he could activate by saying aloud "Go-Go Gadget..." and then naming the tool he wanted to use. Among the most prominent were his telescoping arms, spring loaded legs, inflatable trench coat and a hat that contained a helicopter propeller that allowed him to fly. Gadget also had a laser built into his hand, but never used it to actually blast any living thing.
Actor Don Adams provided Inspector Gadget's voice, and much of the inspiration for the character was drawn from Adams' live-action portrayal of bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart in Get Smart. Also carried over from the live-action show was the manner in which Gadget received his orders from his superiors. Chief Quimby would contact Gadget on a built-in telephone and arrange a meeting, giving Gadget his intelligence on a self-destructing sheet of paper. Later on in the series veteran voice actor Maurice LaMarche would take over the role of Gadget.
Gadget's nemesis throughout the series were agents of the MAD organization: a global crime syndicate with operatives just about everywhere who specialized in the looting of national treasures and world financial markets. Swiss gold reserves, the Amsterdam diamond exchange and Egyptian artifacts were just some of the financial and cultural properties targeted by MAD at some point. It also gave excuses to send Gadget and company to exotic locales such as the Amazon River, the Andes Mountains or the African savannahs.
By the second season, the action focused less on traveling the world and stayed localized to Gadget's Metropolis-esque home town of Metro City. These episodes featured MAD scientists (both literally and figuratively) inventing new technologies for MAD agents to commit mundane crimes with a sci-fi twist. A machine that hypnotized normal people into robbing banks, shrink-rays, plant-growing chemicals and a teleporter that sent users though normal phone lines were all featured.
Pulling the strings of the MAD cabal was the nefarious Dr. Claw, a (mostly) never-seen Big Bad who ended each episode defeated, declaring he'd get Gadget the next time.
Much of the actual detective work of the series was performed by Gadget's niece, Penny, and the family dog Brain, who was a master of disguise. The duo would solve the case behind the scenes using Penny's high-tech "computer book" (a laptop before such a thing was invented which could receive data seventeen years before wi-fi became a consumer technology) while Gadget's gadgets would send him careering about the landscape like Remington Steele on roller-skates. Penny would have many close scrapes and exciting adventures of her own. She would oftentimes get captured and either imprisoned or tied up, and require rescue, or manage to escape on her own.
Penny and Brain never took credit for their work, leading others to regard Gadget as a brilliant detective, and several comical attempts on his life were made by MAD assassins. Gadget would invariably mistake these assassins for helpful allies and would always assume the disguised Brain was an enemy agent.
Indeed, Penny's role in the cartoon's plot is so vital that the show actually works pretty well if you remove Gadget himself from it and focus only on Penny.
Despite its many varied locales and plots, the show was Strictly Formula, using the above-mentioned plot elements in literally every single episode, albeit sometimes with creative variations. For example, sometimes Penny makes friends with other kids who help her out with her investigations. Gadget could also show more isolated moments of competence if the plot required it. In fact, if the show were any more formulaic, they would simply show the same episode over and over.
A total of 86 episodes were produced by DiC for syndication between 1983 and 1985. Gadget stayed in syndication well into the 1990s before being largely retired. Maurice LaMarche also made a Live-Action appearance as Gadget on The Super Mario Bros Super Show.
The new century has seen two feature films about the titular detective, staring Matthew Broderick and French Stewart respectively. While they kept much of the whimsy of the classic series, they just didn't quite pull it off as far as fans were concerned. (The Matthew Broderick film made the major mistake of actually showing Dr. Claw's face, instead of keeping him out of the spotlight and relying on Frank Welker's awesomely creepy voice.) There was also a spin-off series called GadgetBoy (& Heather) which shares little in common with Inspector Gadget but bionic implants, and also a more faithful spin-off called Gadget and the Gadgetinis. A Sequel Series was made in 2015, also called Inspector Gadget, featuring Penny as a teenager and agent-in-training and Inspector Gadget and Brain enjoying retirement (until Dr. Claw returns, of course).
- Abhorrent Admirer: Gadget encountered one in the episode "Prince of the Gypsies".
- The Abridged Series: Has a short but sweet relatively good one here.
- And a newer but promising one here.
- Accidental Hero: Although Penny and Brain are typically the ones who actually realize what's going on and save the day, Gadget's screw-ups are often an enormous help to them. Of course, he intends to solve crime and stop the bad guys, but he only ever succeeds accidentally (with a handful of exceptions).
- Action-Hogging Opening: The opening shows Gadget being more competent than he is in the actual show. The same goes for Gadget Boy in his show's opening.
- Actor Allusion: The show is practically a cartoon version of Get Smart, so who better to be Gadget's voice than Don Adams himself?
- Adults Are Useless: Were it not for a 10-year-old girl and her pet dog, the world would have fallen to MAD years ago. However, when Gadget knows Penny is in danger, he becomes scarily competent.
- All There in the Manual: Merchandise of the show released in the early 1990s revealed that MAD stands for Mean And Dirty.
- Other pieces of merchandise say it stands for Malevolent Agency of Destruction.
- This is the second time in cartoons that a criminal organization called itself "MAD." The first time was on 1966's Tom Of T.H.U.M.B., a segment of the ABC King Kong show. MAD in that case stood for Maladjusted, Anti-social and Darn mean.
- Where'd Inspector Gadget get those wonderful toys? According to his action figure, the hospital installed them while treating him for injuries he'd sustained from slipping on a Banana Peel.
- This also is explained as where he got the toys in the Live Action Adaptation. Only with a billboard instead of a banana peel.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: At the end of each episode, as per the standard at the time, Gadget, Penny and Brain would teach the kids a generic life lesson like "exercise is good for you" or "always wear a seatbelt".
- Animesque: Seeing that several Japanese studios worked on this series (TMS, Cuckoos Nest Studio, Toei Animation, Nakamura Productions, AIC, Oh! Production, and Sunrise), this is a given. Season 2 more so than season 1.
- Arch Enemy: Dr. Claw.
- Artifact of Doom: The Emerald Duck, MacGuffin of the episode of the same name, which activates a certain Doomsday Device.
- Artificial Limbs
- Badass Family
- Beleaguered Assistant: Poor, poor Brain...
- Subverted in a few episodes when Gadget saves Brain from falling to his death, usually when Gadget thinks he's a MAD agent and is trying to capture him.
- Berserk Button: Doctor Focus reacted badly to anyone who called him a Mad Scientist. And then there was the fact that Dr. Claw would burst into fits of rage whenever he saw, or even simply had to mention Gadget.
- Big Bad: Dr. Claw.
- Bigger Bad: In the episodes "Gadget Meets the Clan", "Gadget and Old Lace", and "Gadget and the Red Rose", we are introduced to Dr. Claw's mentor Les Renowned. He isn't really much of a threat, but considering he taught Dr. Claw everything he knows....
- Bound and Gagged: Happens to Penny frequently.
- Gadget himself is not exempt, although it doesn't happen to him nearly as often.
- Busman's Holiday: Gadget frequently finds himself assigned to cases while off duty.
- Don't forget: He's always on duty!
- Calling Your Attacks: Go-Go Gadget Copter/Mallet/Phone/Scissors/Laser/Skates/Radar/Arms/Legs/Coat/Binoculars/Key/Whatever!
- Cartoon Bomb: Gadget ends up handcuffed to one of these in the opening.
- Cartoon Juggling: In the circus episode, Penny does a true cascade with apples.
- Catch Phrase: Inspector Gadget has "Wowsers!" "Go-go Gadget..." "Inspector Gadget is always on duty!" and "Stop in the name of the law!" Dr. Claw ends every episode with "I'll get you next time, Gadget... Next time!"
- While it's more a generic exclamation than a Catch Phrase, Penny's "OH NO!" is used so recurringly and with the same exact tone it may as well be one.
- Chariot Race: Inspector Gadget helps one of his ancestors win a chariot race in the Time Travel arc of the series.
- Climb Slip Hang Climb: Repeatedly happens, most notably in the opening sequence of "The Coo-Coo Clock Caper."
- Comic Book Adaptation: Back in 2011, one made by Viper Comics surfaced, and is closely based on the original TV Show.
- Conservation of Competence: For the bad guys, many of the henchmen are incompetent, and for the good guys, Gadget, who is usually only competent when Penny and Brain are captured.
- Context Sensitive Button: Penny's watch.
- Continuity Nod: In the episode "The Amazon", we are introduced to Professor Von Slickstein, the scientist that gave Gadget his gadgets. He later returns in the episodes "Tyrannosaurus Gadget", "Gadget's Roma", and "Gadget's Clean Sweep" to help Inspector Gadget, Penny, and Brain go back in time to prevent M.A.D. agent Thelma Botkin from killing Gadget's ancestors, although in those episodes Slickstein has a different voice and his name is pronounced differently(Slick-STEEN instead of Slick-STINE).
- In "Funny Money", Gadget mentions wanting to cook his specialty using blueberries and cabbage, which he previously tried to do in "Gone Went The Wind".
- Conveyor Belt O' Doom: Near the ends of the "Quimby Exchange" and "A Star is Lost" episodes.
- Cool Car: Gadget's minivan transforms into a police interceptor car, and also had built-in gadgets.
- And the MAD-mobile, which could transform into a jet or a submersible. And packed weaponry to boot.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Dr. Claw crept into this territory in a few episodes. MAD would set up perfectly legitimate businesses like dairies or hotels, and then the Evil Plan would be to wipe out the competition by some underhanded means.
- Cowardly Sidekick: Subverted in the later episodes of Season 2, where the cowardly Gadget gets a cocky caped man named Corporal Capeman (who can't fly) as a sidekick, at which point some say the show Jumped the Shark. Worth noting that Gadget is pretty dumb, but Capeman is even dumber.
- Covered in Gunge: Happens to Gadget, almost as often as Penny getting Bound and Gagged. Milk, cheese, Dutch chocolate, mud, crude oil; you name it, he's probably been covered in it at some point.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Dr. Claw invents numerous super advanced technologies to... rob banks and steal valuable objects.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: ...or at least your intelligence.
- Da Chief: Quimby.
- Darker and Edgier: Disturbing Robot Chicken spoof is disturbing...
- Death Ray: In the episodes "Unhenged" and "The Ruby".
- Death Trap: Countless types used by MAD in every episode, although no one dies from them, and they often backfire on MAD agents.
- Defective Detective
- Depending on the Writer: The extent of Gadget's bumbling, in some episodes he nears success if not for one particular blunder or misunderstanding, in others he's outright Too Dumb to Live.
- Brain can also be a rather cheerful and enthusiastic assistant when not suffering under Gadget's aforementioned incompetence, or a Nervous Wreck driven to wit's end by his abuse. It's worth noting these two character examples were sometimes actually reversed in a few early episodes, with Gadget being semi competent and occasionally annoyed by Brain's bumbling.
Gadget: Never take your dog to the olympics.
- Detective Animal: Brain.
- Deus Ex Machina: Gadget personified this.
- Development Hell: A Darker and Edgier Continuity Reboot was planned to premiere in 2009, but so far nothing has come of it except for some concept art.
- It may have been scrapped due to DiC getting bought out by Cookie Jar Entertainment around that time.
- Diabolical Mastermind: Dr Claw.
- Disproportionate Retribution: In episode 1-6 "Health Spa", Gadget looks in his rearview mirror and sees someone (Brain) on a scooter following him. He automatically assumes it is a MAD agent and fires missiles and uses an oil slick against despite the fact that the only thing this person is "guilty" of is being behind him on the road.
- Damsel in Distress: See Bound and Gagged above.
- Doomsday Device: The Crystal Weapon, the earthquake machine, the weapon in "The Japanese Connection", etc.
- Do Anything
- Dub Name Change: Penny and Brain are named "Sophie" and "Finot" in the French version of the show.
- For some reason, the characters bear their French names in the German version too.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Gadget, while still bumbling, was far more competent in the pilot, and used his gadgets with clever, deadly accuracy as well. This interpretation reappeared in a handful of early episodes (eg. "Haunted Castle") but ultimately faded in favor of his Inspector Oblivious persona.
- Edutainment Show: Inspector Gadget's Field Trip
- Efficient Displacement: If Gadget crashes through a wall, the hole left behind will even include his hair.
- Fridge Brilliance: His hair is cybernetic as well.
- Expy: Gadget himself is an expy for his voice actor's most beloved role: Maxwell Smart Agent 86.
- When Gadget is electrocuted during one of the end of episode safety tips, he even gets out a, "Would you believe..."
- And Dr. Claw is, of course, an expy of James Bond's faceless, cat-stroking arch-nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
- On the DVD containing the first 32 episodes, Andy Heyward (character creator) commented that Gadget and Brain are Expies of earlier characters called Blue Falcon and Dynomutt. BF was a bumbling superhero; Dynomutt was his hyper-competent dog.
- Executive Meddling: In the pilot episode, "Winter Olympics", Inspector Gadget had a mustache. DiC Entertainment had to remove the mustache for the rest of the series after MGM threatened to sue them for Gadget looking too much like Inspector Clouseau. In later airings of the pilot, a scene was redubbed explaining that Gadget's mustache was fake.
- Expressive Hair: Gadget's hair droops when he's sad, disappointed, or surprised. For example, when Gadget goes through in-universe Mood Whiplash in the episode M.A.D. Trap.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Dr. Claw.
- Evil Plan: Dr. Claw has a new one every time.
- The Faceless: Dr. Claw in the cartoon. Bodiless, too. The only parts of him that were ever shown were his forearms.
- A Dr. Claw action figure was released during the 1990's that showed his face, as did the Super NES game released by Hudson Soft.
- In one episode, set in Japan, we see Claw's shadow, but it's a generic, blob like shape that gives no indication of what he looks like. However, another shot of the same shadow later on suggests that he seems to be wearing a hood/cloak of some kind.
- Fake Brit: Gadget in the Pilot. This was dubbed over with Don Adams' rendition in later airings.
- Fan Boy: Corporal Capeman, who pretty much personifies the word down to the dorky demeanor, extreme clutziness and geek glaases.
- Fearless Infant: Gadget was shown to be one in a flashback of the final episode, where he is seen as a baby witnessing crime boss Spuds Malone gun down people with his potato gun the Red Rose and being completely unfazed by the chaos.
- Film Felons: MAD once used a fake film production as an excuse to spy on a military base. (Hey, they were filming!)
- The Fool: Gadget often obliviously keeps himself out of danger, and in some cases, even outright saves the day, due to well timed slapstick bumbling.
- Forgotten Superweapon: Oh, once an episode a loyal viewer can think of a gadget Gadget could have used which would have saved him some time. The Gadget laser is one incredibly underused gadget, but it is a kid's show.
- Fur and Loathing: An actress has a white fox wrap, and she's a MAD agent.
- Genre Savvy: Quimby will panic EVERY time he receives a message ending with "This message will self-destruct." When Gadget pulls this trick on him, The Scottish Trope comes into play.
- In one episode, he even tries to deliver Gadget's assignment in a helicopter, landing on a ledge to keep Gadget away from him. Needless to say, this backfires on him.
- In "M.A.D. Trap" Brain tries to get Gadget to follow him by disgusing as a crook, knowing he will once again mistake him for the real deal and give chase. Ironically it takes a while for Gadget to notice.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Gadget uses his middle finger as a flashlight in the opening sequence.
- The "Movie Set" episode, in particular anything involving Lana Lamour.
- Actually happens quite a bit. In "Race to the Finish", Inspector Gadget gets drunk when a M.A.D. agent gives him a funny drink. In "Busy Signal", he comes across a woman in a bathrobe, who calls him a "pervert".
- In "Race to the Finish", Gadget has his pen come out his middle finger, and flips some people off in the process. The people even react as if Gadget intended to flip them the bird!
- Girlish Pigtails: Penny.
- Grand Finale: Inspector Gadget's Last Case.
- Only for the original series however, as this served as a lead up to Gadget and the Gadgetinis. Inspector Gadget's Biggest Caper Ever seems to take place last chronologically so far (despite a few continuity issues).
- G-Rated Drug: In "Race to the Finish" at a pitstop a MAD agent gives Gadget a mysterious liquid that makes him drunk.
- Hammerspace: The only explanation for how all those gadgets fit into Gadget's body, plus where Brain must keep all of his costumes.
- Heel Face Turn: Nervous Nick Defecto in "The Quimby Exchange", The Grappler in "Gadget Meets the Grappler".
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Who better to voice a bungling, inept police agent than the man who played Maxwell Smart?
- Penny was also one of the first roles for Cree Summer. She would later voice Penny in a Robot Chicken parody of the show. (It sounds a lot more like her recent roles, though.)
- Frank Welker as Dr. Claw. The voice he uses here is actually a little electronic modulation away from the voice of Soundwave. He uses the exact same voice for Soundwave in Revenge of the Fallen.
- Highly-Conspicuous Uniform: Agents of M.A.D. often wear jumpsuits with the M.A.D. logo emblazoned on the chest in public. Despite this, Gadget never realizes that they are his enemies.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: One episode where Doctor Claw entered the MAD Mobile in a race against Gadget and the Gadgetmobile had him successfully drug Gadget and win the race, only to get himself disqualified after he switched to jet mode and left the track.
- Another episode involved the device that a MAD agent had given Gadget that caused his gadgets to go haywire every hour caused the destruction of the agent's own clock factory when Gadget's gadgets went crazy while he was in one of the agent's deathtraps.
- Hollywood Density: Averted; Penny realizes that a gold brick is a fake because she can lift it.
- Hollywood Mirage: In Arabian Nights.
- Hyperspace Arsenal: Apparently, many of Gadget's gadgets, such as the Mallet, the Sail, the Copter, the Phone and many more are actually all kept in his hat. And then there's Brain, who seemingly carries around an array of disguises despite being a dog with no visible means of holding his outfits.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Penny, who really doesn't care where the credit for the victories go, as long as her Uncle Gadget (and the world) is safe.
- Brain is this for Penny as well, as the dog always manages to get the job done, no matter how difficult things could be.
- Idiot Ball: Brain in the pilot. When Gadget is sensibly trying to dispose of some dynamite, Brain keeps bringing it back to him.
- Idiot Hero: If Inspector Gadget was real, frankly, you'd wonder how he even works those gadgets without somehow finding a way to fatally impale himself on the spoon he eats cereal with.
- In the Style Of: Just for fun, a dubstep remix of the opening theme. Go Go Gadget Subwoofer!
- Inspector Oblivious
- International Coproduction: Between DiC Entertainment in both the USA and France, Nelvana in Canada (first season only), TMS Entertainment in Japan and Cuckoos Nest Studio in Taiwan.
- Invincible Incompetent: Gadget thwarts Doctor Claw again and again, almost solely on the strengths of his Hyper Competent Sidekicks and his own slapstick luck.
- Kid Detective: Penny.
- Kidnapped Scientist: M.A.D. seems to do quite a bit of this...
- Kill Sat: The evaporator ray in Focus on Gadget.
- Kindhearted Simpleton: Gadget means well in his antics and is trying to save the day, he's just completely inept about it.
- Lampshade Hanging: In Last Case.
(after Gadget figures out Claw is behind the recent crime wave) Penny: "Um... Uncle Gadget, Claw's been behind every crime this city has ever had."
- Laughably Evil
- Laugh with Me: An inversion; Dr. Claw frequently punishes his cat for laughing with him.
- Lawful Stupid: Gadget to a 'T', so much that he thinks childish students sticking out their tongues are suspicious, and that the high-school chemistry teacher is training students in making explosives. He could be stopped in his tracks if MAD agents did something as simple as putting up a red traffic light in the middle of nowhere. Capeman as usual was even worse, once calling a tow truck on the Gadgetmobile for being illegally parked while on a case. Naturally, the truck driver is a MAD assassin who puts the two into a Death Trap.
- Leitmotif: Examples include the main theme (Gadget's theme), Penny's theme, Brain's theme, Claw's theme, the Cuckoo Clock theme, the chase theme, and several Recurring Riffs not associated with a particular character or event. Some of the more commonly used background music shared something in common with some background music from She-ra, Princess of Power. Not surprising since both shows had the same composers, Haim Saban and Shuki Levy. Several pastiches of real songs were used, in fact the main theme is based on In The Hall of the Mountain King.
- "Petite Sophie" from the French soundtrack is Penny's theme with lyrics added.
- Let's Get Dangerous: Very, very rarely, Gadget showed competence and was able to avert disaster all on his own. This tends to happen particularly when Penny is in danger.
- Lost Superweapon: In the "Emerald Duck" episode, the Wave Motion Gun-like Crystal Weapon, which can level mountains and, if left uninhibited, destroy the entire planet. It even turns on Dr Claw himself.
- Magical Database: Penny's computer book knew everything.
- Magic Trench Coat: Despite spending an inordinate amount of time on his head, Inspector Gadget's trench coat almost never falls down around his body, but instead stays up near his knees. Just watch the opening sequence.
- Manchurian Agent: "Going my way?"
- Man in a Kilt: Brain wears a kilt most of the Loch Ness episode, and you can see up the kilt many, many times. He's not wearing anything under it, but then he is a dog.
- Meaningful Name: Brain, of course. Averted by the French version, where he's given the generic name of "Finot".
- Actually played straight, written "finaud", it means a sneaky person under a harmless or dumb appearance.
- Penny's French name, 'Sophie', is a French variant of the Greek 'Sophia', which literaly means wisdom
- Mooks: MAD agents wore suits with the word "MAD" on them!
- Monster of the Week: Dr Claw had a new special MAD agent almost every week, who would try to carry out their assignment, get arrested, and never be seen again.
- Mr. Exposition: Chief Quimby.
- Mushroom Samba: The Crazy Gas in "NSF Gadget" causes astronauts to hallucinate and see visions of space monsters.
- My Name Is Not Capman
- Nephewism: Penny.
- Set to be averted in the upcoming Son of Inspector Gadget.
- Never Say "Die": "Finish off", "Destroy", "Put to sleep permanently", "Dispose of", etc. were used in place of "Kill". Occasionally subverted, for example, when Dr Claw offers Rick Rocker "a life or death contract", while he's Strapped to An Operating Table.
- Not always used. One memorable example:
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Go-Go-Gadget!
- Granted being Gadget, they were only useful to the plot in a handful of instances.
- Nice Hat: Gadget's hat contained a personal helicopter, police lights, etc. The hat was also partially sentient, as it could be seen using a robotic hand to stop and warn Gadget about impeding danger or a bad decision, all by itself.
- No OSHA Compliance: The record factory from "A Star Is Lost". The conveyor belt that carries Gadget, Penny, and Rick Rocker is an especially notable example; there's absolutely no reason for the conveyor to begin at any point before the actual record press (To say nothing of the size of the press itself). Ditto for the ice factory in "Quimby Exchange"
- Non-Fatal Explosions
- To the point that in one episode, Gadget survives a friggin' volcano eruption. To picture this correctly: he was standing on top of the volcano, leaning on the edge of its mouth and gazing inside it.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Brain.
- Notable Original Music
- A Nuclear Error: One episode features an attempt to fire an American nuclear missile at a city. See the entry for the reason why this is nonsense (said episode has said missile stationed in a farm silo as sort of a parody.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Brain's French name of "finaud" and the lyrics of the French version of his theme song both allude to his hiding his competence behind his harmless outward appearance.
- Off-Model: The first season split most of the animation between TMS and Cuckoo's Nest (some episodes were animated by AIC and Toei Animation, with minor work by Oh! Production). The second season's animation was largely done by DiC themselves with help from some minor Japanese studios that were never heard from again. This trope, of course, comes to play because of this.
- Once an Episode: Chief Quimby has the self-destructing message blow up in his face.
- Papa Wolf: When he knows Penny is in danger, Gadget becomes virtually unrecognizable (and unstoppable) as he becomes the superhero he is supposed to be.
- This is pretty much the entire plot of the SNES game, in which Penny gets kidnapped and you have to rescue her.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Both Brain and the MAD agents use these regularly. Penny can generally see through them, but Gadget NEVER can. (This is why he always thinks Brain is a MAD agent, and never realizes he's his own dog!)
- Gadget himself did this once. His disguise consisted of a fake mustache and glasses. Everyone saw through it. EVERYONE
- Chief Quimby would sometimes wear one when giving the secret message to Gadget.
- Plot-Driven Breakdown: All the time. At least once an episode the wrong gadget will activate, a gadget will outright not work when he needs it, or do something else.
- In fact, it was a surprise whenever a gadget worked correctly.
- The malfunction often involved, instead of whatever gadget was requested, a big hammer coming out of Gadget's head and bonking either him or some other object/person in the area (which occasionally actually turned out well).
- Parental Obliviousness: Gadget has no idea that it's his neice solving his cases and saving the world.
- Plucky Girl: Penny.
- Police Are Useless: Gadget, despite being hailed as Metro City's best detective, has never come close to actually solving any of his cases, and on the rare occasions where other police or military personnel get involved, they aren't much better.
- Power Crystal: The ruby in "The Ruby", and the weather control crystal in "Weather in Tibet".
- Putting a Hand Over His Mouth: Often happens to Penny when she gets captured.
- Psychopathic Manchild: The Grappler.
- The Renaissance Age of Animation
- Revival: Gadget and the Gadgetinis
- Right-Hand-Cat: Mad Cat.
- Sanity Slippage: The rages Dr. Claw flies into whenever one of his plans is thwarted, or even when he simply has to mention Gadget's name seem to get worse as time goes on.
- Saving Christmas
- The Scottish Trope: "This message will self-destruct."
- Shoe Phone: Well, the phone itself is in his hand...
- All three main characters have one of these: Penny has a watch phone, and Brain has a collar phone.
- Silent Snarker: Brain, and occasionally M.A.D. Cat.
- Sinister Surveillance
- Smart Ball: Gadget, who could show competence whenever it was necessary to advance the plot. Several of MAD's attempts to derail the train in Basic Training were thwarted by Gadget himself, while in The Ruby Gadget defeated the tigers Dr. Claw sent after him on his own.
- In one episode, Dr. Claw's so fed up with Gadget ruining his plans that he enlists one (or more, not sure) agent with specifically killing him. Gadget is lured into an abandoned warehouse full of death traps; Penny is aware of the death order issued by Claw but both her and Brain are unable to directly intervene to save Gadget from the traps. The inspector though picks up the Smart Ball and counters each trap or attempt at killing him, managing to escaping the warehouse in the end, all traps deactivated or destroyed. And he was perfectly aware of the situation, all along!
- Since you actually control Gadget in the SNES game, he's only ever as stupid as the player. But this might be justified by the fact that the plot involves Penny being kidnapped.
- During the pilot episode, Gadget had the Smart Ball glued to his hands all the time, at the point he's completely unrecognizable.
- Also in the Grand Finale, "Inspector Gadget's Last Case". He's still somewhat bumbling, but significantly less so than usual. Penny and Brain get less screentime.
- Snooping Little Kid: exactly what Penny is, as she is frequently wandering around in the enemy's current base of operations in her attempts to stop them
- Spanner in the Works: Despite being a complete and total nimrod, Gadget often helps Penny and Brain save the day through his clueless bumbling.
- A literal case of this is when he becomes trapped inside a giant robot Loch Ness monster. He finds the inner workings, and while attempting to make some 'minor adjustments', he gets caught inside and makes the robot to go haywire.
- Spin-Off: Gadget and the Gadgetinis.
- Spinoff Babies: Gadget Boy and Heather.
- Speech-Impaired Animal
- Spot the Imposter: Dr. Claw hired a Master of Disguise named Presto Changeo to infiltrate a police conference disguised as Gadget to eavesdrop as a spy. When the real Gadget confronts Presto Changeo in the conference room, no one can tell who the real Gadget is until our hero stands next to Chief Quimby. Gadget's mallet activates by itself and bonks Chief Quimby on the head, and the Chief immediately orders that the other guy be arrested, since the one next to him is obviously the real Gadget.
- Stage Magician: The Great Wambini and The Lesser Wambini from the episodes "Magic Gadget", "Wambini's Seance", and "Wambini Predicts".
- Strange Salute: Gee, no wonder Dr. Claw's henchmen are so stupid: punching themselves repeatedly in the head and all...
- Strictly Formula: Albeit played with in several episodes. Sometimes Gadget shows competence, sometimes Penny is kidnapped and doesn't contribute at all, sometimes Brain openly accompanies Gadget, sometimes Penny has another Snooping Little Kid helping her, sometimes Dr. Claw intervenes directly in the action, and so on.
- Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Dr. Claw seems to have cameras everywhere, including Gadget's house.
- Swiss Army Appendage: Gadget, in all versions.
- Talking to Himself: Frank Welker plays both Dr. Claw and Brain. (This is why Dr. Claw sounds just like Soundwave from The Transformers; in fact, in about four G1 episodes and Revenge of the Fallen, the vocorder fails, and he really sounds like Dr. Claw.)
- Technology Marches On: Modern viewers raised on cellphones, laptops and wireless internet probably don't see what's so special about Penny's computer book or communicator watch.
- Theme Song Power Up: Penny gets these a lot.
- The Walls Are Closing In: Occurs in at least two episodes: "The Curse of the Pharaoh", and "Haunted Castle", the latter involving Spikes of Doom.
- This Page Will Self-Destruct: Chief Quimby gives Gadget the mission each episode, Gadget reads said line, and then gives the message back to Quimby. Cue the explosion.
- Too Dumb to Live: Even with the anonymous help of his niece, Gadget sadly defines, nay, personifies this term.
- Here's an example from the Christmas Episode:
The Gadgetmobile is dropped through the air by a plane.
Gadget: Go-Go Gadget Plane!
Gadget emerges from the car in helicopter mode.
Gadget: Not Gadget Copter, Gadget Plane! Gadget PLANE!
The copter goes back into his hat, and the mechanical hand throws out a paper airplane.
Gadget: Not...exactly what I meant.
- To be fair, at the end of one episode, he was shown as alarmingly competent. Not only does he show awareness of what's happening to him, but he also manages to save Penny AND Brain, PLUS his gadgets were working perfectly. If he showed this level of competence all the time, he'd be a force to be reckoned with.
- Tricked-Out Shoes: His hat deserves all the credit it gets, but Gadget's shoes shouldn't be overlooked. They can turn into everything from roller skates to skis to ice skates to magnets on command.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Bounces around with Gadget himself. Sometimes no one seems to notice Gadgets obviously strange appendages, sometimes onlookers stare with a confused expression. However no one freaks out or asks questions.
- When Penny appears to her uncle at the end of an episode, Gadget says "Penny?" but never reprimands her for not staying home - even if he's on the other side of the world from Metro City.
- Villain Exit Stage Left
- Weather Control Machine: "Weather in Tibet".
- We Will Meet Again
- Where Does He Get All Those Wonderful Toys?: ...and where does he keep them?
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Metro City (Not that one. Or that one. No, not that one either.)
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Putting aside the actual snake episode, Penny and Brain are afraid of ghosts, which gets the better of them when they investigate a MAD base in Dracula's Castle. Penny gets over it with the help of Gadget, but Brain doesn't and stays afraid of ghosts through the whole series.
I'll get you next time, Gadget... NEXT TIME... MMRRREEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAOOOOOOWWWW!