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STUDIO: Shout Factory
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 540 minutes
Original Episode Promos
Fan Art Gallery
A weird middle-aged man makes a child robot. Yeah, umm…how about that?
Dick Christie, Marla Pennington, Jerry Supiran, Tiffany Brissette and Emily Schulman
V.I.C.I. is a robot crafted by the demented mind of Ted Lawson. Taking some materials from his second-rate Cyberdyne employer, Ted decides to play God. His wife and kid are a little apprehensive, then they grow warm to the idea of a child slave. Suburbanites should get to indulge in the pleasures extended to Central African warlords. There’s this fucking ginger kid that shows up and everyone hates her. She didn’t kill herself, as IMDB has her doing other work within the last decade or so. Thus, the long chain of ginger kids killing themselves out of shame has come to an end. Now, if we can just get the rest of them off of smack.
In the year 1985, America had discovered their love of robots. Johnny 5 was a year away from Short Circuiting, but Rocky IV showed the world that even Paulie could have a robot. When Ted Lawson brings V.I.C.I. home to meet young Jaime and his wife Joan, television was changed. Most of America was drunk on Reagan-era optimism, so the neighbors were excused from not noticing the robot kid. What would follow in the first season would help to define what it was to be a robot-based comedy.
Small Wonder is a terrible show. But, it is amazing that it had such a following during its original run. I remember loving it as a child, but feeling sickened for adoring such a thin joke laden shitbox production. From the charming theme song that describes the artificial child, you’re left with a program asking you to love its crutch. V.I.C.I. is nothing more than a deux ex machina. This comes up in most of the episodes that rely on two settings.
The first setting involves episodes where V.I.C.I. is the focal point. V.I.C.I. is often put into slave labor scenarios where she is forced to do academic work, create burritos and babysit the Lawson’s flesh child. There’s bits of special episode drama as V.I.C.I. is mistaken for an old comic’s daughter. Everything’s fairly typical, but it paints the Lawson parents in an unsavory light. Ethical use of sentient robots has always been a troubling issue for this country, but the Lawsons don’t consider V.I.C.I. to be on their level.
The other episodes tend to push the flesh child Jaime into the spotlight. He tries out for the football team, fights a bully and tries to teach his father about love. All the while, everyone laughs and adores what V.I.C.I. has to do as a bit player that week. Jaime’s contempt for the Stepford child never boils into outright violence, but you can see the resentment on his young face. What can a child to do win its parents’ love, when you are constantly fighting your cybernetic better?
When you consider the show’s place in television history, it’s pretty hard to pin it down. How does one measure a truly shit high concept show about robots? It’s not Heartbeeps bad, but there’s nothing to take from shit comedy and bad jokes. The adult actors come across as community theater talent, while the children are creepy and off-putting. The trick is mixing all of this material together and having to take in the nine hours that made up the first season.
end, I think I get the genius of the show. Small Wonder was daring Hollywood to produce something more terrible. What felt like a joke maybe a year before the series launch was now being produced with utmost seriousness. They wanted you to believe that humor could be squeezed from a robot child. In hindsight, there is something to be gleamed from V.I.C.I. and her icy cold stare. The contempt for humanity in her young eyes and her utter distaste for the Lawsons’ commands would come to inform later television robotic citizens. I’d like to think that somewhere out there in TV Land resides a V.I.C.I. Cylon, forever crushing Edie McClurg beneath her titanium hoof.
contains commentaries on select episodes. Did you ever want to hear a cross-section of cast talk about shit they did in the mid-1980s? Well, you’ll hear it here. There’s a collection of original episode promos. But, what stands out more is the fan art. A rather robust gallery of fans crafting images of VICI, the Lawson family and their beloved memories of a show that ended twenty years ago. It’s sad in a beautiful way. The A/V Quality is standard for this era, which means it looks like warmed over video with lots of print noise. The Dolby track holds up rather well, but it’s not like it had a lot to do.