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Dec. 2 – Tennessee Tuxedo and his Tales – “The Tree Trimmers”

Original air date November 27, 1965

In the early 1960s, content producers were still trying to navigate the lay of the land when it came to television. Animation had been popular for decades in movie theaters and the big studios knew they appealed to kids, but it was just so expensive to produce that few were willing to try it on television. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and one of the earliest Saturday morning cartoons was a production from Total Television titled Tennessee Tuxedo and his Tales.

Tennessee Tuxedo was essentially the heir apparent to the series King Leonardo which concluded the same day Tennessee Tuxedo premiered. The show was conceived of by W. Watts Biggers and Chet Stover and originally existed to sell cereal, as sponsorship was the name of the game back then (and for awhile) when it came to children’s programming. Education was also a component as well and the show was setup in a fashion that allowed the main characters to learn a thing or two and serve as an audience surrogate in the hopes that the kids watching at home wouldn’t figure out it was really they who were learning a lesson.

The show starred Don Adams in the role of Tennessee Tuxedo, a penguin in a hat and bowtie who lives at the Megapolis Zoo. Adams uses the “clippy” voice he would later perfect on the series Get Smart! and even later as the voice of Inspector Gadget to voice Tennessee. The penguin’s best friend is a walrus by the name of Chumley (Bradley Bolke) and together the two are usually up to something that takes them out of the confines of the zoo and presents a problem for the pair. Tennessee’s catch phrase is “Tennessee Tuxedo shall not fail,” even though he usually does. When the problem gets too big for the pair to manage, they turn to the all-knowing Phineas J. Whoopee (Larry Storch), who is literally the man with all the answers and the way for every episode to write its characters out of trouble. The main antagonist of the show is the zoo director Stanley Livingstone (Mort Marshall) who often threatens to skin the pair. Nice guy!

What a way to close out your opening theme song.

In the early 1990s, few cable networks dedicated significant time to children’s programming. Basically, the only game in town was Nickelodeon, but back then the Viacom-owned network did not produce much in the way of cartoons. Instead, the network was forced to license material to air on its network, but couldn’t pay the big money of the major broadcast networks to attract the best shows. That left Nick with a lot of older material, which is how I was exposed to Tennessee Tuxedo. Not long after the show’s original debut came Underdog, which proved to be the more popular show. In licensing Underdog for syndication, his show would often be packaged with other cartoons, many of which debuted as part of Tennessee Tuxedo and his Tales. These packaged shows would air often on Nickelodeon and I watched quite a bit of them, even though I don’t recall actually enjoying them. It was a cartoon and it was on – those were essentially my standards at the time.

As part of the show’s third season we have a Christmas episode. Tennessee is going to take it upon himself to trim the zoo’s tree, even though Stanley would prefer he not do so. I don’t recall seeing this one as a kid and it’s possible the holiday themed episodes were not included in the syndicated package. After all, networks just want to be able to throw these things on at any time and seasonal episodes can mess that up (if the network cares, and often times, they don’t). When this one first originally aired, it was at the end of November and likely the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a plenty appropriate time to unveil a Christmas episode.

The opening title for this one has a very Mickey Mouse Club feel to it, only it looks a lot worse. The scenes in the opening title also seem to suggest kids are getting a show full of high adventure, which is not how I remember the actual show being. It also ends with Tennessee and Chumley dropping onto the title of the show and then two, giant, gun barrels are pointed at them. There’s an explosion, but no animation of the guns actually firing, before the pair is blasted up and out of the shot. It’s a pretty intense close for a Saturday morning cartoon.

I bet you can’t guess what the eagle’s name is.

The cartoon begins with Tennessee and the gang singing a bad Christmas carol. They’re just singing “Merry Christmas to you,” over and over for the most part before they’re interrupted. Flunky (Kenny Delmar), the zoo keeper, comes running over to tell Tennessee that Stanley needs to see him in his office and Tennessee seems particularly annoyed at being taken away from caroling. When Flunky mentions it concerns the zoo’s Christmas tree, Tennessee gets excited as he assumes Stanley wants their help in setting up the tree.

Tennessee and Chumley head over to Stanley’s office ready to help trim the tree. Stanley, who always seems irritated, informs Tennessee he’s to do no such thing! Stanley tells the pair that the mayor has set up a tree contest and that he intends for the zoo to win. He’s hired professional tree trimmers to handle the decorating and wants Tennessee and Chumley to show the decorators where everything is while he’s out fetching the mayor. Tennessee protests a bit and insists he and Chumley can handle it, but Stanley refuses to entertain the thought. Once gone though, Tennessee tells Chumley they’re decorating that tree. Chumley, who speaks in a classic dimwitted voice where every line begins with a “duh,” reminds Tennessee that Stanley forbade them from doing so, but Tennessee insists that they should because it’s the season of giving and decorating the tree will be their gift to Stanley.

This is going well.

Outside of the zoo’s auditorium the pair find a massive tree that Stanley wants setup inside. Tennessee and Chumley each grab one end of the tree which knocks Tennessee flat on his back prompting him to instruct Chumley to, “cut the comedy!” They then try to bring it inside with Tennessee dragging the tree from the top and Chumley from the bottom, only the tree gets stuck about 3/4 of the way through the door. Tennessee tells Chumley to trim off some of the bigger branches so they can fit it in. He does as he’s told and the tree fits, but now the first 8 feet or so of the tree’s base is bare.

The two then go to set the tree up, only the top scrapes the ceiling. Chumley tells Tennessee the tree is too tall, and Tennessee indicates it’s not a problem as they can chop some off. Considering that the bare portion of the tree extends beyond the pair’s head, the viewer is likely supposed to assume Tennessee will cut from the bottom, but he does not, and cuts from the middle. When he’s done, the tree is much smaller, and Chumley remarks that it now looks like a dust broom. Tennessee, once again, assures him it’s fixable as he trims off the “handle.” Chumley then tells him it looks too wide and points out that a Christmas tree should be pointy at the top. Tennessee then takes some clippers and re-shapes it. When he asks Chumley if it’s not the ideal shape for a Christmas tree Chumley agrees, but notes it’s not the biggest tree he’s ever seen as it’s now about a foot tall.

Still less pathetic than Charlie Brown’s tree (which premiered less than two weeks after this episode).

Baldy, an eagle, and Yakkity Yak (both voiced by Kenny Delmar) enter the auditorium to ask what’s going on. Tennessee shows them the tree, and the two immediately start to panic as they know Stanley is going to be pissed when he sees what Tennessee did to his tree. Tennessee Tuxedo, turning to his catchphrase about never failing, tells them not to worry as he’ll just chop down another tree. We then jump to the new tree being setup and it’s actually quite lovely. Now, they need to trim it. Tennessee heads up a ladder and instructs Yak to start tossing him ornaments, only Yak’s aim is terrible and they just smash on the floor. Yak then decides it would be better to simply hand him the ornament and Tennessee places it at the top of the tree. He’s so enamored with the ornament’s beauty that he descends the ladder to admire it and promptly falls onto the other ornaments, breaking half of their allotment.

Tennessee places the rest on the tree and searches for compliments, but Yak is honest in his assessment that it’s pretty bare. He assures him it will look better with lights on it and turns to Baldy, who is about to plug in a string of lights to test them. As he does so, Tennessee examines the string and notes there’s a missing bulb. He sticks his finger in the socket right as Baldy plugs them in and is soon electrocuted. The effect is super basic as Tennessee just slowly flashes different colors before a cloud of smoke explodes.

Electrocution gags will get a lot better over the years.

With the tree bare and lacking lights, the only thing that can save it now is the star. Tennessee heads up the ladder once again to place the star at the top, only the ladder starts to shake right as he reaches to place the star in its rightful place. Despite Chumley telling him to be careful, Tennessee predictably takes a tumble right into the tree. The whole thing comes down and Yak quickly notes that now all of the ornaments are broken. Tennessee, with the star stuck on top of his head, rises from the shattered tree and tells Chumley it’s probably time they go seek the aid of Mr. Whoopey.

Your ornament sucks, Whoopey.

We find Mr. Whoopey casually seated on his desk as Tennessee tells him about their dilemma. Before he can finish, he remarks that Mr. Whoopey has a really fine tree in his office. This sets Mr. Whoopey on his instruction for the day as he tells them how to make shitty ornaments out of paper. The guy loves paper as most of the ornaments and garland he recommends begins life as a piece of paper, which seems really dangerous considering the lights utilized in the 60s were those giant, colored, bulbss that got super hot after about five seconds. He also tells them they can put cookies and candy on the tree as ornaments and shows them how to string popcorn and cranberries using a needle and thread. These guys can’t even work a ladder without destroying a tree, I don’t think they should be allowed to string anything with a needle. The advice all seems terrible, but Tennessee disagrees as the pair enthusiastically head back to the zoo.

Oh Stanley, you’re in for a treat!

We then see Stanley leading the mayor and his wife to the auditorium. As Stanley opens the door, he boasts about hiring professional decorators to trim the tree, but then looks at his tree in horror. He runs in wanting to know what happened to all his ornaments, but soon realizes the tree looks pretty good. And it does, and it magically has non homemade ornaments on it as well as the popcorn garland. They also apparently found more lights. The mayor’s wife really likes it and declares it the prettiest tree she’s ever seen prompting the mayor to inform Stanley they’ve won the contest. Tennessee then doffs his cap (which has switched back to his normal, yellow, hat) to wish everyone a merry Christmas and the whole gang assembles in front of the tree (and Tennessee’s hat has switched back to his red stocking cap) to resume the awful carol the episode began with.

Looks like it’s time to start singing again.

As they all sing, the other zoo animals start popping their heads out of their homes. They all react favorably to hearing the carol as they all start to leave and descend upon the auditorium. They enter and the carolers inside appear happy at their arrival and soon we have a large group shot of everyone singing the song. Tennessee, who now has his yellow hat again (this is insane!), acts like he’s conducting their choir or something. The cartoon closes on an external shot of the auditorium at night and then zooms in on the Christmas Star which sparkles in the night.

And now everyone gets involved!

“The Tree Trimmers” feels like an episode that was written in all of five minutes. Someone must have got the mandate to do a Christmas episode, and the writers quickly came up with Tennessee and Chumley struggling to properly decorate a tree. Even the educational segment was rather weak as Mr. Whoopey gives lazy advice on how to cut paper into half-assed ornaments. Seriously, if your kid came home from school with one of those you’d probably feel cheated. Everything turns out fine in the end because it’s Christmas and it has to. At least the song, even if it’s mediocre, appears to be an original rather than some public domain Christmas carol.

Being a cartoon from the 60s intended for television, it’s probably no surprise to hear that this one is pretty rough looking. The animation is very basic as the characters only move when necessary and they just sort of slide across the screen with no bounce in their step. There’s no wasted movement or embellishment anywhere. I can at least appreciate that they made the effort to put everyone in mildly festive attire with Tennessee and Chumley ditching their usual hats for winter ones. The vocal cast is okay and I do like how Adams plays Tennessee and Stanley is a well-acted antagonist, even if he’s barely in this cartoon. The show wisely lets Adams dominate every scene as the other actors really aren’t asked to do much more than just set Tennessee up for whatever comes next.

The final shot rests on a star. I would have preferred Santa.

It probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this in 2021 (and beyond) that Tennessee Tuxedo and his Tales is not airing on any network these days. I don’t think it’s even streaming anywhere. The show was made available on DVD by Shout Factory in 2012 so if you want to own this episode, and every other episode, you can. It’s out of print though so it’s not exactly cheap, but also it’s not the sort of thing that has become insanely expensive. It can basically be had for around 30 bucks brand new, which is probably right around the original MSRP. If you were to find it used, maybe you could get it for 20. I don’t think it’s worth it, but at least the option is available for those who do like this show or just like to amass a large collection of animation. This episode can also be found on the internet for free, if that’s your preference. It’s not likely to bring about those lovely Christmas feels, but it’s certainly a Christmas themed episode and since it’s only about 10 minutes you probably won’t feel like you wasted your time. At least not much of your time.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 2 – Toy Story That Time Forgot

When the credits started to roll in 2010 signaling the end of Toy Story 3 I think most who were watching it assumed this was “good bye.” The toys which had captured the hearts of movie-goers going on two decades were saying good bye to their former owner and playmate, Andy, and so too were…

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Dec. 2 – Robot Chicken’s ATM Christmas Special

This is going to be a bit of an experiment. These recaps the last few years have basically focused on cartoons or live-action shows in which a story is told over some duration. I have so far avoided sketch shows, not purposely, but it’s definitely been in the back of my mind that doing a…

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Dec. 2 – The Simpsons – “Grift of the Magi”

Talk to any fans of The Simpsons and they’ll likely have an opinion on when the show ceased to be great. For most, that occurs sometime after Season 8 of the now 30 season show. Some will argue that, while it may have been past its prime, it was still watchable, reliable, programming for a…

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Dec. 20 – Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas

Original air date December 4, 1992

Once upon a time, Hanna-Barbera ruled the cartoon television universe. The company was one of the first to prioritize television over film when it came to cartoons, and it was a strategy that worked quite well. Come the 80s, cartoons were a Saturday morning staple and were taking over the weekday afternoon as well. Hanna-Barbera had been challenged by other companies, but was still holding strong. Then along came a little French company called DiC. DiC had a few shows airing in France, but wanted to expand to the US. In order to do so, it would hire ex-Hanna-Barbera story writer Andy Heyward, who would go on to create the character Inspector Gadget.

Inspector Gadget was DiC’s break-out hit in America. The cartoon was about a cyborg detective tasked with stopping the nefarious M.A.D. which was lead by the villainous Dr. Claw. The catch was that Inspector Gadget was an idiot completely oblivious to what was going on around him. His gadgets, while neat, were prone to malfunction and Gadget would find himself in perilous situations he would either rescue himself from via dumb luck, or with the help of his niece Penny and her dog Brain. Penny is a smart kid who comes with a lot of tech while Brain is apparently a super-smart dog capable of everything a human is save for speech. Brain would basically shadow Gadget to keep him safe while Penny did a lot of the real sleuthing. Gadget would inevitably spy Brain in one of his disguises, mistake him for the real crook, and somehow Dr. Claw’s plots would be foiled. Every episode would end the same way with Gadget getting the credit and Dr. Claw flying away in his car screaming “I’ll get you next time, Gadget! Next time!”

The theme song is definitely the most fondly remembered part of the show, for me.

The show is basically Get Smart for kids, with Gadget even sounding a lot like Maxwell Smart. That’s because he pretty much is! Don Adams played Smart on Get Smart and is also the voice of Inspector Gadget. Since this happens to be a cartoon, Gadget’s spy tech gets to be a lot more extravagant than what Smart had. The old shoe phone is now a phone embedded in Gadget’s glove, for example. It also looks pretty great for an 80s TV cartoon since DiC had the fortune of partnering with Tokyo Movie Shinsa for the animation. TMS would utilize its connections to outsource the animation to various satellite studios, but it means Inspector Gadget looks better than pretty much everything Hanna-Barbera was doing. DiC would eventually take over animation in an effort to cut costs (those in the business often referred to the company as Do It Cheap) so the era of TMS DiC cartoons on US television was brief.

A lot of people who worked on the original series were willing to come back for the special, including writer Jack Hanrahan.

Inspector Gadget was a direct-to-syndication show that only produced new episodes from 1983 to 1986. It was quite popular though so it remained on television in various markets for pretty much the entire duration of the 1990s. When I was a kid, the show felt inescapable. I watched a lot of Inspector Gadget as a result, though it was never one of my favorites. It was just on. Well after the show ended production, DiC went back to the well and produced a Christmas special for 1992. Titled Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas, DiC was able to get Adams back to voice the title character as well as the other mainstays Frank Welker and Maurice LaMarche. Hung Long Animation Company was contracted to produce the animation and was likely fed a bigger budget than a typical episode. It premiered in prime time on NBC on December 4, 1992 before heading to VHS were it was probably sold for an obscene amount (television shows and Christmas specials were often 25 bucks an episode in 1990 dollars) and then eventually forgotten. I don’t recall seeing this re-aired much at all after 1992 as the Inspector Gadget craze was apparently over. At least until a movie was made in 1999.

This is Santa, and he’s about to have a not so great day.

The special begins up at the north pole. It’s early in the morning, and Santa Claus (Frank Welker) is seated in his control tower as he rouses the elves awake. He’s a pretty traditional looking Santa; short, fat, big beard, kind eyes. The elves are roused from their slumber and they’re also pretty typical looking. They’re not little old men, save for at least one, but instead look quite young, and they all pretty much look the same. There’s a lot of inbreeding up there. They have mostly green outfits with tall hats that curl like a candy cane and end with a bell. They wake up quite happy and sing their own version of “Jingle Bells” with the lyrics altered to just describe what they’re doing.

These guys looks pretty happy considering they have a boss who literally possesses a machine to extract them from their beds and put them to work.

Unbeknownst to them all, Dr. Claw (Welker) has infiltrated the work shop and he’s up to no good. His trusty M.A.D. Cat (Welker) is at his side looking a little off model from what I remember, as he dawns a Santa outfit of his own. This is quite possibly the most we’ve ever seen of Dr. Claw as he rather famously avoided the camera during the show. We get to see his fully body with only his face obscured. He whips out a little device that when turned on activates a hidden, mind control, device in the bells of the elf hats. The elves enter a zombie like state and cease their wretched singing. Santa is confused, and then even more confused when a mechanical claw on the ceiling grabs him, pulls him from the command tower, and dumps him into a frozen dungeon. Why does Santa have a dungeon?

Dr. Claw is now Santa Claws. It writes itself.

Dr. Claw then enters the command tower and begins taking over. His plan is to sabotage the toys of Christmas and ruin Santa’s reputation. The elves start dismantling the toys on Claw’s orders and reassemble some into horrible toy abominations. As Dr. Claw enjoys the view and strokes his cat, he informs us only one man can stop him, and he’s deployed his highly ineffective M.A.D. Agents to stop him!

Christmas comes to…Gadget Land…All right, I confess, I have no idea where they live.

We then head to the home of Inspector Gadget (Don Adams). He and niece Penny (Erica Horn) and dog Brain (Welker) are busy decorating their home for Christmas. As they do, a corny Inspector Gadget theme plays that just sounds like a parody of other spy properties. Why they didn’t just use the catchy theme from the main series, I do not know. While the song plays though, we see Claw’s agents attempt to take down Inspector Gadget, only every one that tries gets tossed aside by a completely aloof Gadget. One bounces off of his springs, another gets accidentally gift-wrapped, and we also see the classic ice gag of an agent cutting a hole around Gadget as he ice skates only for the rest of the ice to fall away freezing the bumbling henchman. It ends with Gadget getting launched into his own logo as we get a second title card.

I don’t recall Gadget possessing a child-like demeanor. Maybe the cancellation of his show broke his brain?

Off to the mall, the most sacred place at Christmas time, where Gadget is seated on Santa’s lap reading him an exceptionally long list of Christmas wants. Only, this Santa isn’t the real Santa, but Gadget’s boss, Chief Quimby (Maurice LaMarche), in disguise. He tries to tell Gadget who he is, but Gadget is an idiot so Quimby calls him instead to relay the ruse. Gadget is then confused why Quimby called when he’s presently seated on his lap and I have no idea how Quimby hasn’t just snapped and murdered Gadget at this point. He hands Gadget a note, that will self-destruct, and details to Gadget how Dr. Claw has kidnapped Santa and dispatched M.A.D. agents to take him out. Gadget is confused why the agents never came for him, but declares he’s always on duty and tosses the note aside before heading out. As is always the case, the note finds a way back to Quimby, this time bouncing off of the trash can and landing on his pipe, where it explodes. Serves him right for smoking around children.

What a dope.

Gadget, Penny, and Brain then head for the north pole. They take some giant airplane that can carry the Gadget mobile, or whatever it’s called, and also flies itself. Gadget informs the plane it can drop them where they are, and the A.I. takes Gadget literally and drops the car. Gadget tries to summon the Gadget Plane, but his Gadget Copter activates instead and whirling propellers pop out his hat and remove him from the car. A calamity of errors follow, with Gadget deploying his parachute, then the copter again, which just cuts up the chute. Penny is the one who saves the day activating the plane function of the car. Gadget plummets through the roof no worse for ware, though he declares there’s a lump in the seat. That’s just Brain though, whom Gadget landed on. He doesn’t seem concerned, and now I’m wondering if Gadget has just been playing dumb all of these years and really harbors a secret hostility towards the dog.

Inspector Gadget: the agent so dumb he wouldn’t know his nemesis if they were face-to-face.

The trio then enter Santa’s work shop, and Dr. Claw is understandably irritated to see Gadget is still alive (though really he should expect it). Gadget uses his extendable legs to approach the control tower where he introduces himself to Santa Claws. Gadget is, again, a moron so he doesn’t see through Dr. Claw’s disguise. He’s so dumb that he’s even fooled by M.A.D. Cat’s antlers and thinks he’s a tiny reindeer who does a mean cat impression. While Gadget and Claw exchange pleasantries, Penny and Brain take note of how odd the elves are acting. She soon realizes that something is off, and then spies Dr. Claw in his Santa suit. Gadget informs Santa he’s going to inspect the work shop to make sure everything is operating smoothly. Penny approaches and tries to tell him what’s up, but before she can the ceiling hook grabs Gadget and takes him away.

If Brain could speak I bet he’d have a Brooklyn accent.

Penny tells Brain to keep an eye on Gadget, while she investigates what’s going on with the elves. Meanwhile, Gadget thinks he’s on a tour of the facilities and begins his inspection. Unfortunately, this is set to a rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” LaMarche takes over as Gadget’s singing voice and the audio quality dips. Maybe this was recorded last and on the cheap? LaMarche is a fantastic voice actor, but he can’t save this horrible song. It mercifully ends after five days with Gadget dumped into the same dungeon as Santa. Upon seeing the real Santa, Gadget does what you would expect: he arrests him.

I expected no less.

Brain dresses up as an elf to take a look around while Penny hides in a giant jack-in-the-box to observe what’s going on. She realizes the elves are sabotaging the toys and figures out what Dr. Claw is up to pretty quickly. She radios Brain with her Apple Watch (not really, but the similarities are pretty insane) to relay her findings, while he informs her that her uncle has been imprisoned with the real Santa, and has arrested him. She takes the news well as she’s apparently used to this sort of thing. Unfortunately for her, the elves take notice of her and slam the lid the shut on the jack-in-the-box. They’re just as inept as Dr. Claw’s usual minions though and fail to alert him of what they found.

If this show were to come back, they’d have to get creative with Penny’s tech if they want her to stay ahead of the curve.

The elves place the box in a warehouse with the real toys. Penny radios to Brain that she’ll be fine, but he needs to get the key to the cell to free Gadget and Santa. And that key is currently dangling off of the antler of of M.A.D. Cat. Dr. Claw watches the presents getting sabotaged and relays the predictable news to the audience (via talking to his cat) that he wants to ruin Santa’s reputation because he didn’t get the toy he wanted as a kid. It’s always that. As he revels in his own villainy, we see Brain lurking in the rafters.

How do they know which one is Rudolph?

In the cell, Gadget continues to interrogate Santa. He has a long list of qualifications he expects Santa to possess, but they’re unreasonable demands as, for instance, he wants Santa to descend a chimney, but there’s no chimney present. There are reindeer, which just look like a palette swap of Brain with antlers, but Gadget remains unconvinced. He then declares it’s time to get rough, but don’t worry kids, he just deploys a bird from his hat which supplies a feather for cartoon torture: tickling. Santa is apparently exceptionally ticklish as Gadget doesn’t even remove a boot and just tickles the jolly, old, man’s beard and achieves the desired effect.

Poor kitty.

Dr. Claw enjoys watching the torture via his monitor which provides the perfect distraction for Brain. As he hangs from the ceiling by his feet, he extends a candy cane to try and slip the key ring off of M.A.D. Cat’s antlers. Instead, he hooks the elastic portion of the antlers which is around the cat’s neck. As he tugs, the cat gets strangled. Dr. Claw is completely oblivious though as Brain continues to yank on it. Brain bites the candy cane in half freeing the cat and also letting him snatch the key. M.A.D. Cat winds up on Claw’s face, and when he removes the cat he also removes his beard and hat which end up on the cat. How cute? Claw notices Brain though and orders…someone…to go after that elf. As he bangs the terminal, poor M.A.D. Cat gets knocked off.

Gadget has officially moved into “bad cop” territory. He’s assaulting Santa!

Back in the cell, Gadget has now begun trying to remove Santa’s beard. He’s got a foot in the poor guy’s belly while he tugs all the while taunting him for not actually being Santa. This is pretty damn cruel. Brain arrives dressed as a guard and unlocks the cell. Gadget is happy to finally see some security around here, but when Brain grabs Santa and takes off, he assumes he’s just an accomplice to Santa’s crimes. Gadget deploys his lasso, which actually works perfectly and entangles both Brain and Santa. Gadget then leaves the two bound together to go tell the “real” Santa he’s cracked the case.

A job not well done for Inspector Gadget!

Gadget then helps Dr. Claw load his sleigh. He’s confused that no reindeer are hooked up to the sleigh, and even names a few using incorrect names (the real Santa must have supplied the real names to no effect earlier). Dr. Claw tells him he’s taking care of things himself this year to make sure nothing goes wrong. Back in the jack-in-the-box, Penny has figured out how Dr. Claw is controlling the elves. She did so by looking in her computer book thing that’s basically magic. She then deploys the creepy “jack” she’s been stuck with which pops the box open and sends her sailing into a pile of teddy bears.

Thankfully, the real heroes are on the case, no thanks to Inspector Gadget.

Back in the cell, Brain is trying in vain to free he and Santa. He disappears into a classic cartoon cloud complete with whirling sounds only to emerge each time in a different sort of knot. Penny radios him to relay the info and Santa is initially confused to hear a little girl’s voice coming from the dog. They then realize Brain has actually untied the knot. Santa then summons his first four reindeer (I’m guessing they didn’t want to draw all eight) as they head for Dr. Claw hoping to catch him before he takes flight.

I can definitely relate to that elf smiling happily pulling on Gadget’s right foot.

Topside, Gadget has finished loading the sleigh and is trying to convince Dr. Claw to let him come with. Claw is finished with Gadget though and he orders the elves to seize him. True to his character, as the elves ineffectively grab him he just assumes they’ve grown attached to him. Meanwhile, Penny storms the warehouse alongside Brain. They’re being pursued by elves, which are pretty slow. The ones who have Gadget though are basically pulling him apart now like a torture rack, though he still isn’t bothered. Penny slips into the command tower and finds Dr. Claw’s mind control device and disables it. Immediately, the elves resume their stupid rendition of “Jingle Bells,” but at least they stop dismantling Gadget. Actually, I wish they had been successful.

Here come the reindeer!

It’s too late though, as Dr. Claw is in his M.A.D. Mobile ready to take off. That is, until Santa appears! He deploys the reindeer with a “Go-go-Santa’s reindeer!” As Claw speeds away with Santa’s sleigh hooked up, Santa jumps into the sleigh and disconnects the cable. Gadget sees the cable go by and connects it to a giant candy cane pole (perhaps THE north pole) in a bid to help Santa keep his odd looking car from getting away. Santa then orders the reindeer to “bash away all!” since Claw’s vehicle is resting on ice. The reindeer use their antlers to smash the ice allowing for Dr. Claw to simply drift away. They basically just let him go for no good reason. Claw calls out as he often does that he’ll get Gadget, only he drops the “next time” since this is evidently the end for this series.

Once Claw calms down he’s just going to disconnect that cable and fly away. Sure seems like they wasted an opportunity to finally nail him here.

Santa then thanks Gadget for his help. Why? I have no idea. Surely the old man remembers how awful Gadget treated him in the cell, and he should be aware of how he didn’t really contribute anything to take down Claw. Chief Quimby parachutes in to congratulate Gadget on solving the case and to declare that Inspector Gadget has indeed saved Christmas, as the title of the cartoon promised. Gadget has no time for congrats though as he instructs the reindeer to take off with a “Go-go-eight-tiny-reindeer!” Santa takes to the sky with Penny and Brain in the sleigh with him. Gadget soon joins them and we’re treated to an accurate depiction of Santa’s sleigh, complete with 8 reindeer, as he passes by a full moon. We return to the sleigh itself for one final shot of the whole gang wishing us a merry Christmas as we say goodbye to Inspector Gadget.

Time for the usual end of Christmas special pleasantries.

Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas is essentially a holiday themed exclamation point for the old cartoon series. It stays true to the spirit of that show with Gadget being comically inept while Penny and Brain save the day, with some help from the real Santa Claus. And in keeping with most Christmas specials, the writers and animators happily turn to song to kill some time and basically keep it in the public domain so there are no significant added costs. The story is super basic and adds nothing to the Santa legend, but at least it doesn’t contribute with ugly elf designs or something.

First up is the moon shot. Very nice!

The animation is noticeably different from the main series, but is largely acceptable. Some characters appear slightly off-model when compared with the old show, and Gadget’s coat looks slightly “off” to me, but for the most part I have no complaints. Gadget gets to deploy his most popular and recognizable gadgets, even if most are crammed into the one segment of Gadget falling from the sky, though it also doesn’t get to add any fun ones. At least they didn’t give him a love interest for a “Go-Go-Gadget-mistletoe” sequence. The special is so true to the spirit of the show that it’s even super familiar for someone like me who hasn’t watched an episode of Inspector Gadget in probably 30 years.

Followed by the standard farewell. Nice job, folks!

And that’s basically the crux of Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas. If you have fond memories of the old cartoon, then you’ll probably be okay with this. All of the old voices, save for Penny, are here and the special follows the usual beats. Few will probably enjoy the musical moments, but at least there’s some slapstick involved with them. Even if the slapstick isn’t particularly inventive. For me, this special mostly reminded me how annoying I found the character of Inspector Gadget. He’s so impossibly dumb, but also dangerously arrogant, that I actively root against him and wonder why any of the characters around him actually enjoy him. At least we get to see the elves attempt to dismantle him, though he unfortunately seems impervious to pain.

As always, the cat was the best part.

If you wish to set aside 20 minutes or so for Inspector Gadget this Christmas, this special has been released a few times on DVD. The first version contains some bonus episodes of the original series while a stand-alone version also followed. It’s cheap too and shouldn’t even run you ten bucks, should you wish to own it. It’s also available to stream for free online without any need for piracy. Sometimes, just being easy to watch is enough reason to take in a Christmas special if you have the time.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

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