Inspector Gadget

Bumbling bionic detective offers worry-free laughs for kids.

What parents need to know

Educational value

There’s nothing educational about the show, but it does incorporate life lessons about safety, sportsmanship, and responsibility.

Positive messages

Each episode ends with Inspector Gadget and Penny highlighting a lesson about personal safety that relates to the story’s content. Although the show casts the Inspector as the hero, the real brains behind the operation is Penny, whose intelligence is the team’s main weapon against Dr. Claw. Good and evil are clearly defined.

Positive role models

Although his clumsiness and naivety often work in contrast to his goals, Inspector Gadget is protective of Penny and always willing to put himself in harm’s way for the safety of those around him. Penny is smart and clever and uses both traits to protect her uncle without him being aware.

Violence & scariness

Cartoon-style explosions, crashes, and long falls are more humorous than scary, as is the frequent peril (speeding toward a waterfall or hurtling down a mountain, for instance) in which the characters find themselves.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable

The show has inspired a few movies.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there’s little to worry about in this classic cartoon about a dimwitted bionic detective. Although the plot follows an ongoing tug-of-war between protagonist Gadget and the evil Dr. Claw, nothing about the show is likely to scare most kids. What mishaps do occur are comical in nature, and there’s very little sense of danger of any sort. The show also promotes positive messages about safety and responsibility, which the characters relate to the story at its end.

What's the story?

INSPECTOR GADGET is the story of a bumbling, accident-prone detective (voiced by Don Adams) equipped with mechanical appendages and bionic tools who’s engaged in an ongoing battle with his nemesis, Dr. Claw (Frank Welker). Gadget’s boss, Chief Quimby (Maurice LaMarche), tasks him with protecting innocent citizens from the threats of Dr. Claw’s M.A.D. organization, but dimwitted Gadget’s naivety keeps him from recognizing Dr. Claw’s minions for the threats they really are, and he often falls victim to their sabotage. Fortunately his genius niece Penny (Holly Berger) and her dog Brain (Welker again) tag along on his cases, lending an unseen hand along the way to help Gadget upstage the bad guys.

Is it any good?


This classic ‘80s cartoon is a fun change of pace from the violence-ridden hero-types that gained popularity in the ‘90s and beyond. The closest thing that Gadget has to a weapon is a snow-blowing finger, and what mishaps do occur (and there are plenty when this goofy protagonist is around) are plenty comical and hard to construe as reality. Even better, it’s obvious to everyone except Gadget that the real hero is bright, tech-savvy Penny, who, despite her youth, always manages to save the day with her quick thinking but allows her uncle to bask in the limelight.

Gadget’s array of bionic tools and stretchy limbs will capture kids’ imaginations, and it’s just plain fun to see how he gets out of the many scrapes in which he finds himself. The show is a worry-free option for kids, made even more appealing by the fact that each episode wraps up with a message about safety and responsibility that relates to the story and is directed at the viewers themselves.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about heroes. Which characters in the show could be considered heroes? Is any one person more heroic than another? Who are some of your heroes? What do you admire about them?

  • Kids: In what ways is Inspector Gadget always prepared for any situation? What kinds of scenarios can you prepare for? What tools or supplies would you need in these cases?

  • This show’s humor is entwined in Gadget’s oblivious nature. When is it appropriate to laugh at someone’s expense? Is it forgivable in this case because he’s a cartoon character? Would it be different if he were a real person? Have you ever been the brunt of a joke? How does it feel?

TV details

Cast:Don Adams, Frank Welker, Holly Berger
Genre:Kids' Animation
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Robots
TV rating:TV-Y
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Inspector Gadget was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 8 years old July 14, 2012
age 3+


Its fine
What other families should know
Great role models
Teen, 15 years old Written byHTFMime February 28, 2011
age 5+
Now I remember seeing this show when I was very young it was on nickelodeon!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old April 14, 2011
age 6+


well some may say "it was slapped together in 5 mins" i DO NOT the show stars gadget penny brain and dr claw we have gadget who is can be very bumbling penny is a good overall inspecter gadget is a very nicely done show
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great role models


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