You pop in the DVD and as soon as the theme song begins, you’re awash in a sea of nostalgia. Suddenly you’re a kid again and it’s Saturday morning. You’re sitting about three feet away from the TV on your parents’ living room floor in your pajamas, watching cartoons with a bowl of cereal in your lap. How easily it all comes flooding back to you. In this, Flatiron Film Company’s Inspector Gadget Megaset is something of a time machine, transporting you back to a time when the entire week seemed to build up to Saturday morning. Because let’s face it, there was nothing better than Saturday morning cartoons!
I emphasize the word “was” here though, because Saturday morning television is no longer that magical time when kids took over the airwaves. It needn’t be. After all, we’ve cable on demand, Netflix and things like the Inspector Gadget Megaset making such dedicated network programming blocks unnecessary. And where they do exist, they certainly don’t seem to be promoted in the same way they once were. It’s just TV per usual. It’s no longer an event.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just different. While I do lament the bygone days of Saturday morning cartoons, I also welcome the opportunity afforded me by such companies as Flatiron to share these memories with my son as they release the Inspector Gadgets of our pasts on DVD. In fact, when he’s old enough, I intend to program a weekly Saturday morning cartoon line-up for the Burnham household. And we’ll sit on the floor with bowls of cereal in our lap watching The Real Ghostbusters, Garfield, and now Inspector Gadget! And in some ways it will be more fun than when I was a kid.
Returning to Inspector Gadget as an adult has been an interesting experience to say the least. Sure, it takes me back to nostalgic memories of my childhood, but I also find that the series is in fact quite different from how I remember it. For starters, watching the pilot for the first time ever, I was surprised to find Gadget had a mustache and Brain, the dog, talked like Scooby Doo. These are minor things, sure, but seriously, who knew?
Furthermore, as someone who has since my childhood studied media and communications, I was surprised to find the series possessing a wonderfully rich, if complicated, message of female empowerment. After all, although Gadget is the title character, he only ever saves the day with the help of his niece Penny and her dog, Brain. Penny can be interpreted as a positive role model for girls in that she is intellectual and, in reality, the hero of the series, but one could just as easily read the series in such a way that it suggests girls never take credit for their successes and therefore relegate themselves to subservient roles. So it’s complicated—far more complicated than my young mind could imagine.
The Inspector Gadget Megaset includes all 86 episodes of the series two seasons, as well as the 90-minute special, Inspector Gadget’s Last Case.