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The Case Files of Inspector Gadget
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Notes on the Infamous Second Season
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Inspector Gadget returned with 21 new episodes during the fall of 1985, two years after its original debut (and after more than a year of repeats). Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the new season was that every three episodes were linked together. While each half-hour show was still a self-contained adventure, each trio of episodes shared either a common theme, or a villain hired by Dr. Claw who wasn't caught until the end of the third episode. Many stations that aired Gadget originally ran these new episodes Monday through Wednesday and then ran first season repeats on Thursday and Friday. These second season offerings pale in comparison with the original 60+ episodes of the '83-'84 season, and they prove the old superstition that bad things happen in threes! Of the original voice cast, only Don Adams (Gadget) and Frank Welker (Claw, Brain, Mad Cat) returned. Cree Summer (Penny) left the series and was replaced by Holly Berger. Chief Quimby was voiced by a different actor, and it seems all of the usually nameless MAD agents (whose voices seemed to occasionally switch around from episode to episode in the first season) were now being brought to life by a completely new set of actors. Voices weren't the only things that sounded different in these shows: All of the sound effects for Gadget's gadgets were startlingly different. Even the sound effects during the opening sequence had been changed and some were now slightly out of synch with the onscreen action. Other changes were in store for the characters, too: Gadget, Penny, and Brain had apparently said goodbye to the cozy little cottage they called home in the first season, and were transplanted to a near-mansion-size house, completely automated with numerous Gadget hands and other labor-saving devices. Penny added a few items to her wardrobe: While she still sported the patched green pants and her red and white striped shirt, she could occasionally be seen wearing a varsity jacket or a vest as well as carrying a tote bag. And a new cast member was added: The idiotic, seemingly borderline-retarded "Capeman" (who Gadget inexplicably referred to as "Capman"). Capeman was a short, dumpy fellow of indeterminate age with glasses, buckteeth, and a ridiculous superhero outfit. He idolized Gadget and even managed to move in with him! Why this patently unfunny character was introduced is anybody's guess. Yet it gets worse: Second season episodes seem to have been produced on a much smaller budget than the first season--the colors were not as bright, the animation not as lavish, the writing not as sharp (Dr. Claw would occasionally act out of character--one episode shows him in bed! ), the voices sounded as though they'd been recorded in a tile bathroom, and the vocal direction wasn't nearly as tight. If Adams gave the wrong emphasis or inflection on a line in a second season episode, there was no second take--it stayed in. And then there was the unfortunate "Heathcliff Influence". DIC produced a half-hour animated series in 1984 called Cats and Company (also known as Heathcliff and The Catillac Cats) where half of the show was devoted to George Gately's comic strip creation "Heathcliff"*. DIC's character designers did a fantastic job mimicking Gately's drawing style for the characters on Cats and Company. Almost all of the humans have sort of cutesy, rounded, ultra-cartoony features with two pupils sharing one big eye. This was fine (and accurate) for Heathcliff's neighborhood, but not for Metro City. However, when Gadget resumed production for its second season, apparently those working in character design at DIC had gotten lazy or just too used to drawing in Gately's style, and hence, almost all new Gadget characters were completely interchangeable with characters from Heathcliff's show. Perhaps in a misguided effort to get away from the very formulaic nature of the first season episodes (and to entice stations to buy this new syndication package), 1985 episodes of Gadget had some very unusual plots (Gadget travels back in time, Gadget heads off into outer space, etc.). While some of these were interesting, it seemed an unnecessary change to the overall feel of the show and even these new, gimmicky episodes were not enough to offset the effects of lower budgets, cast changes, and the overall decline in the quality of the show. Inspector Gadget may still have been "always on duty" throughout the second season, but it sure felt like he was just going through the motions.

*Inspector Gadget fans who watched Heathcliff might remember that Gadget himself appeared constantly in cameos--on signs, on billboards; and almost invariably whenever a TV set was on, Inspector Gadget was what was being broadcast.
The Case Files

First Season

Second Season



Copyright 2003 Andrew Sylvester.