Small Wonder is an American science fiction television sitcom in first-run syndication from 1985 to 1989. Although the show was created under Metromedia Productions, the rights to the show were acquired by 20th Century Fox Television in 1986.
Ted Lawson, a professional roboticist
architect, has secretly built V.I.C.I (Voice Input Child Identicant
), a domestic robot
. V.I.C.I. (Vicki) was engineered to perform house work at superhuman
speed and designed in the guise of a 10-year-old Caucasian
female. Ted had originally intended for V.I.C.I. to help out the lives of disabled veterans
Vicki’s developmental robotics technology falls short of Ted’s scientific aspirations, chiefly in the fields of pattern recognition and emotional intelligence. Ted's boss at United Robotics, Brandon Brindle, is a man who often passes his work to underlings like Ted, yet rushes to take credit for Ted's hard work. Fearing that his fraudulent boss will once again plagiarize his achievements, Ted conceals the V.I.C.I. Project from The Powers That Be by claiming her to be his adopted daughter.
During the pilot episode (Episode 1, Season 1 - September 7 1985), Ted brings Vicki home to his wife Joan and their pre-pubescent son Jamie. Coincidently, Brandon Brindle, Ted's boss at United Robotronics, lives next door, along with his wife Bonnie and their young daughter Harriet. These invasive, often spiteful neighbors, led by the madcap Harriet, foster much of the show’s Situation comedy and narrative formulas. For example, "Vicki’s Adoption" (Episode 10, Season 1 - November 9 1985) has Bonnie notifying child welfare of her suspicions and encouraging them to probe the Lawson household. The Lawson family deceives authority by dressing Jamie in drag (V.I.C.I. drag would become a recurring gag), telling labyrinthine lies (another recurring gag), forging adoption papers and utilizing Vicki's robotic powers. In addition to Ted's, Joan's and Jamie's struggle to suppress Vicki's personal identity (or lack thereof), much of the show's humor derived from Vicki's literal interpretations of language.
- Victoria "Vicki" Ann Smith-Lawson (Tiffany Brissette) - A robot modeled after a real human girl. She has real hair and realistic skin. She possesses super human strength and speed and runs on atomic power. Vicki has an access panel in her back, an electric socket in her right armpit, and an RS-232 serial port under her left armpit. Vicki's artificial intelligence is not perfect. She is incapable of emotion, speaks in a monotone voice, and interprets most commands literally. She does manage to blend in to the real world to a point. Vicki attends school, and no one but her family members and a few trusted friends know her secret. Occasionally VICI had rare abilities that seemed to only appear in one or two episodes, such as elongating her neck to reach a door's peephole, shrinking her size to become as small as a doll or making herself ten feet tall to get noticed by everyone. One recurring theme was that VICI had a superpowered learning system which enabled her to improve upon something such as a new detergent or to greatly increase the gas mileage of cars, to which Ted and Jamie see it as a chance to get rich quick, only to find her improvements were not perfect. Vicki lives in a large cabinet in Jamie's bedroom, and becomes more human over the course of the show.
- Ted Lawson (Dick Christie) - Jamie's father. Vicki's creator. A robotics engineer. He originally created Vicki as a domestic servant whose girl-child appearance was only meant to be a selling point.
- Joan Lawson (Marla Pennington) - Ted's wife. Joan regards Vicki as a real person more than anyone else on the show does.
- Jamie Lawson (Jerry Supiran) - The 12 year old son of Ted and Joan.
- Harriet Brindle (Emily Schulman) - The young and nosy little neighbors' daughter who has a crush on Jamie.
- Brandon Brindle (William Bogert) - Harriet's father. Becomes Ted Lawson's boss after stealing Ted's ideas.
- Bonnie Brindle (Edie McClurg) - Harriet's mother. Written out after the second season.
- Ida Mae Brindle (Alice Ghostley) - Brandon's outspoken, know-it-all sister, who is nearly identical to his wife Bonnie.
- Reggie Williams (Paul C. Scott) - Jamie's best friend.
In 2002, Robert Bianco, TV
critic for USA Today
, listed it as a contender for one of the worst TV shows of all time, , and according to the BBC, it "is widely considered one of the worst low-budget sitcoms of all time."
References in other television Series
- Family Guy: In the episode "Brian Goes Back to College", Tiffany Brissette is seen at the Small Wonder booth at a convention of fans of 1980s TV series.
- I'm With Busey: In the episode "Technology: Rise of the Robots", Gary Busey is fooled into believing that a young girl, dressed and acting like V.I.C.I., is actually a robot. Series regular Adam de la Pena includes a short explanation describing Small Wonder and Brissette.
- Gilmore Girls: In the episode "Those Lazy Crazy Hazy Days", Lorelai says to Rory that she has had the theme song of Small Wonder in her head all day long.
In the United Kingdom
, the show was screened regionally on the ITV
Network and in the early 1990s on Sky One. In Italy, the show appeared in the mid-1980s on Italia 1
network and was titled "Super Vicky". In France, the series was shown as "Petite Merveille" on Canal+
, starting in November 1985. In India, China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other Asian countries, Small Wonder
was syndicated on the Star TV Network
in the mid-1990s. In Latin America, the show appeared on TV Globo
and, later, TV Record
in Brazil and was called "Super Vicky", VTV (Venezolana de Television) in Venezuela between 1987 and 1990, Canal 13
in Argentina, and Frecuencia Latina
in Peru, where it was called "La Pequeña Maravilla". In the Philippines, it also formerly aired on GMA Network
in the mid-1980s, and on ABC