1 9 8 5 – 1 9 8 9 (USA)
During the height of the mid-80s computer craze, while Apple was doing battle with Commodore for the exclusive rights to ‘Missile Command’, a smart new sitcom capitalising on the technology trend debuted on syndicated television.
Small Wonder centred on the Lawson family, whose patriarch, Ted (Dick Christie), was a cybernetics engineer at United Robotronics. His piece de resistance was a robot built to resemble an adorable 10-year-old girl.
Since the bot came complete with a built-in Voice Input Child Identicant, or V.I.C.I., the cybernetic one became known to the world as Vicki.
Ted and Joan (Marla Pennington) Lawson pretended that Vicki was their goddaughter, the daughter of family friends who were killed in a crash and that they were making good on a promise to take care of the child. This explained her sudden appearance in their lives and household (at 16 Maple Drive, Los Angeles) should inquiring minds want to know.
Their real child was 11-year-old Jamie (Jerry Supiran), a pudgy, good-intentioned junior high school student, who imagined himself a star at sports and a hit with the young women at his school, though he was hardly either.
Most of the show’s plotlines depicted the misadventures and humorous situations the two kids would get themselves into as they tried to conceal the true nature of Vicki’s background.
Outfitted in a lacy, red dress, patent leather pumps, white knee socks and a ponytail, Vicki (Tiffany Brissette) looked like a young maid, which was exactly what Jamie used her for. Since she was, in fact, a robot, Jamie had no problem exploiting Vicki and her android abilities, employing her to clean his room, do his chores and finish his homework for him, which she would complete in record time.
Vicki also had superhuman strength, which came in handy when she needed to defend herself, and sometimes even to defend Jamie. Vicki lived in Jamie’s closet and spoke in a robotic monotone, though no one ever seemed to question why.
The Brindles were the Lawson’s ultra-annoying next-door neighbours. Brandon Brindle (William Bogert) was also Ted’s wimpy boss at United Robotronics and was always trying to steal Ted’s ingenious ideas so he could pass them off as his own.
His wife, Bonnie (Edie McClurg), was a nosy know-it-all who constantly snooped around the Lawson’s house, perchance to discover something unusual to tell her husband about.
Unfortunately, Bonnie’s negative traits rubbed off on her daughter, Harriet (Emily Schulman), who could often be found peeping through Jamie’s window, trying to discover Vicki’s secret.
Harriet also had a crush on Jamie, despite the fact that Jamie despised her and had a girlfriend of his own. Jessica (Lihann Jones) was the girl of Jamie’s dreams and Reggie (Paul C. Scott) was Jamie’s best friend.
The 96 episodes of Small Wonder were produced for weekly syndication by five different production companies rather than by one network, which allowed the show to be scheduled at various times in various markets. This actually worked to the show’s advantage and played a large role in the continuing success of the show over its four-season run.
And no, Virginia, the role of Jamie was not played by the Smashing Pumpkins‘ Billy Corgan, as urban legend would have you believe (Jerry Supiran played Jamie).
Vicki the Robot
Ida Mae Brindle
Paul C. Scott