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Series / Small Wonder

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This Fantastic Comedy aired in First-Run Syndication from 1985 to 1989.

Ted Lawson, a robotic engineer, had a family like any other in California, except that his daughter, Vicki (or rather "VICI"note ), was a robot he designed and built. Ted, as well as his wife, Joan, and their son, Jamie, continually tried to keep Vicki's identity a secret. This was no easy task, since Ted lived next door to his gloryhound boss, whose daughter, Harriet, wanted to be Mrs. Jamie Lawson.

The series is derided by some for its silly premise and uneven episode plots, some of which some felt were downright uninspired. Due to popular demand, however, Shout! Factory released the first two seasons of Small Wonder on DVD in the first half of 2010. The series' star, Tiffany Brissette, has retired from acting to avoid typecasting. More information about the show is at the Semi-Official Small Wonder "Cabinet of Contents" Home Page.

Antenna TV began rerunning Small Wonder in January 2015.

Tends to be confused with Out of This World (1987), which involves an alien girl who could freeze time and aired around the same time. The premise might sound familiar to fans of obscure 1960s sitcoms as Small Wonder was actually a remake of My Living Doll, a series produced in the 1960s by Small Wonder showrunner Howard Leeds. The big difference between the two shows is that whereas Vicki is a cute little girl, the titular Living Doll was played by Statuesque Stunner Julie Newmar.

Small Wonder provides examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Harriet makes it clear that she loves Jamie. Jamie does not love her back.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: A non-lethal example; Vicki tends to zigzag through this depending on the episode.
  • And Starring: "and Tiffany Brisette as Vicki the Robot"
  • Artificial Family Member: Vicki who is a robot built by Ted and who his family pass off as part of their family.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Harriet, in spades. Jamie can be this way, too, at times.
  • Camping Episode: "Babes in the Woods" combines this with Girls vs. Boys Plot, with Joan and Vicki competing with Ted and Jamie for the better camping trip. Naturally, everything goes right for the girls, while the boys get disaster after disaster.
  • Catchphrase: When Ted says something scientific that she doesn't understand, Joan usually replies, "That makes sense..."
  • Caught Up in a Robbery: In the third-season episode "Bank Hostages", while Ted and Brandon are laid up with measles, Joan sends Jamie, Vicki and Harriet on an errand at the bank. While the kids are at the bank, two clumsy robbers arrive and hold them hostage.
  • Celebrity Lie: Ida Mae is a subversion. With the sheer amount of celebrities she claims to know, and that she supposedly gave them all the advice that made their careers, she almost had to be lying... but then Lyle Alzado shows up (see below) and validates her entire story (about him, at least).
  • Celebrity Star: Lyle Alzado, Art Linkletter and Jesse Ventura, among others.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: At the start of the episode "Smoker's Delight", Ted tells Joan that an efficiency expert at work has made him nervous enough to start smoking.
  • Coat Full of Contraband: In the episode "The Hustle", a street vendor calling himself Discount Eddie tricks Jamie into buying a portable TV set that doesn't work properly. Later, Ted confronts Eddie and is sold what appears to be a fur stole.
  • Conveniently Unverifiable Cover Story: In "Vicki's Adoption", Ted and Joan had Vicki write two letters, in different styles of handwriting, claiming that Vicki was born in the Seychelles (hence her being named Victoria), her birth parents had died while traveling, and she was raised in a convent before being brought to the United States.
  • Creepy Child: Vicki's not only an intentional example (quite unlike most creepy children in 1980s sitcoms), but also a comedic one!
  • Crack Defeat: Vicky and Harriet vie for the title of "Little Miss Shopping Mall", and the other competitor doesn't seem to be of much trouble since she keeps dropping her baton. Vicky seems to have the advantage over her neighbor. But in the end, the baton girl wins simply by being the daughter of the shopping mall owners.
  • Dark Horse Victory: It occurs in "Little Miss Shopping Mall." The winner of the titular pageant was not Vicki or Harriet, but a girl with a baton, who just so happened to be the daughter of the mall's owners.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Despite lacking emotions, Vicki became known for her snark.
  • Delusions of Doghood: One episode has Vicki hypnotizing people into acting strangely, including making one guy think he's a dog.
  • Divine Race Lift: "Babes In the Woods" has Joan and Vicki competing against Ted and Jamie on a camping trip, with everything going swell for the mother and daughter and rotten for the father and son. When Jamie asks his father why men always have bad luck when they compete against women, Ted can only suggest that God must be female.
  • Don't Eat and Swim: An episode had Ted stage his own drowning by cramps to get rid of his Nosy Neighbor's alleged life debt.
  • Double Vision: In the episodes revolving around Vanessa, Tiffany Brisette plays her as well as Vicki. They get a body double for when the two of them have to interact in the same scene.
  • Dream Episode: In the episode "My Robot Family", Jamie dreams that his parents have become robots like Vicki, and that he is the head of the household. Of course, he isn't quite ready to handle being the head of the house...
  • Drop-In Character: Harriet and her parents frequently visit the Lawsons.
  • Drugs Are Bad: In "Vicki and the Pusher", a schoolyard bully tries to get Vicki addicted to narcotics. Vicki takes the drugs home, but she just hides them in a flowerpot. Later, the Lawson family help the police conduct a sting at the school.
  • Effortless Amazonian Lift: Vicki can lift and carry Ted around easily.
  • Embarrassing Relative Teacher: In "My Mom the Teacher", Joan becomes the substitute teacher for Jamie's class. In this and later episodes, Jamie wreaks all the havoc he can at school when his mother is teaching, but she's just as strict in the classroom as she is at home.
  • Emotionless Girl: Played straight during the first two seasons, but subverted in two cases. At the openings, Vicki grins and winks to us, and in an episode where a computer with which she was smitten is deactivated, a tear trickles down her cheek. Starting late in the series' second season and progressively through the rest of the series, Vicki talks in a normal voice and shows emotion more often, to the point where she becomes more "humanized." (This was in part to compensate for actress Tiffany Brissette aging into puberty.)
  • Evil Twin: Vanessa, successor to VICI
  • Exiled to the Couch: A discussion between Ted and Joan about their flaws ended with Ted sleeping on the couch.
  • Face on a Milk Carton: The episode "Girl on the Milk Carton" fits the spirit of the trope, as Vicki learns that Chrissy, the new girl in class, was previously reported missing.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: The episode "Latchkey Dreams" has Jamie claim that Ted and Joan have separated, hoping to get him and Vicki on a ski trip for Thanksgiving.
  • Feghoot: One of the later episodes pits two robotic children against one another- the protagonist Vicki, and Russian rival Vladimir Godunov. At the very end, Vladimir's robotic nature is exposed, and his creator is left to protest "You couldn't leave Godunov alone?" That one was so bad, even the studio audience could only moan at it.
  • Fun with Acronyms: VICI stands for Voice Input Child Identicant.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: In "Smoker's Delight", Jamie and Reggie experiment with tobacco in hope of becoming more popular in junior high school.
  • Halloween Episode: In "Haunted House", the Lawsons think a ghost has invaded their house after the electricity goes out, so they call a pair of bungling ghost hunters named Dickens and Fenster. No one seems to be aware that an electrified Vicki is responsible.
  • Hand Wave: VICI is upgraded in Season 3 to look older, since Tiffany Brissette had grown into a young teenager later in the series. Also, she's designed to eat food (to help pass for human) and liquids she consumes work as coolant.
  • Happily Married: Ted and Joan never have any marital problems on the show.
  • Human Hummingbird: Vicki acts like one in "Vicki and the Pusher".
  • Hypno Fool: In the season 2 episode "Look into My Eyes", Vicki learns to hypnotize by watching a professional hypnotist on TV, and gets the family to do weird things at mention of a code word. The first one she hypnotizes is Joan, whom Vicki makes act like The Vamp.
  • Just a Machine: Ted's attitude toward Vicki, and his usual response to Joan thinking of Vicki as a real girl.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Vicki competes against a Russian whiz-kid named Vladimir Godunov. At the end of the episode, the family discovers that Vladimir is actually a robot like Vicki. His creator complains, "You couldn't leave Godunov alone." The studio audience groaned.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Averted in later seasons when Vicki wore more normal clothing.
  • Literal-Minded: Much of the show's humor came from Vicki interpreting commands and figures of speech literally.
  • Machine Monotone: This is Vicki's normal mode of speech. By the final two seasons, this was downplayed somewhat as she began speaking in a normal girl's voice (due to upgrades and to help her pass as human).
  • Maintain the Lie: Throughout the series, the Lawsons have to pretend that Vicki is a member of the family and not a robot, and they sometimes go to great lengths to do this.
  • Mood Dissonance: "Girl on the Milk Carton" features a plot about Jamie and Reggie writing a class paper about the new girl in class who has apparently been kidnapped by her father. When the teachers follow up on this, the father is spooked and once again runs off with the daughter. Even before the plot is solved, Ted and Joan act oddly cavalier about the whole thing.
    Jamie: I feel so bad about Chrissy...
    Ted: Well, you guys are gonna feel a lot better when you bury your faces in a piece of that cake, eh?
  • Motherly Scientist: Ted invented VICI, and also has to pretend that she's his daughter to prevent her from getting into the wrong hands.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Justified in series due to Ted developing new upgrades for Vicki, some of which don't always work correctly.
  • No Ending: In "Big 'J', Private Eye", Jamie has to do a book report, and ends up doing his report in the form of a short film. The book is a murder mystery, but Jamie decides to end the movie right before the culprit is announced, telling the class that if they want to know who did it, they should read the book themselves.
  • Noir Episode: In "Big 'J', Private Eye", Jamie did his book report in the film noir style.
  • Nosy Neighbor: The Brindles, full stop. They proved to be so obnoxious that the Lawsons once come up with a plan to force the Brindles to move away. It didn't work.
  • Not So Stoic: One episode has Vicki become attached to a home computer that loved her. When the computer was deactivated, Vicki sheds a Single Tear.
  • Now You Tell Me: A phrase Vicki often uses after she does another command in her own way.
  • Of Course I Smoke: In "Smoker's Delight", Jamie tries to become popular at school by becoming a smoker. Cue the anti-smoking message.
  • One-Neighbor Neighborhood: Aside from the Brindles, none of the Lawson's neighbors are ever shown.
  • Percussive Maintenance: In the pilot, Jamie fixes a malfunctioning Vicki by slapping her, remarking that it's how Ted fixes the stereo. In the third-season episode "Bank Hostages", Vicki herself performs this on an errant ATM: "That's how my father fixes me."
  • Pick Your Human Half: Vicki looks just like a human and acts 100% mechanical.
  • Product Placement:
    • Actually, sort of a reversal. There were posters in Pizza Hut restaurants that tied the series into its "Book It!" school fund-raising program. What the connection was between robots and books is anyone's guess.
    • The episode involving the "Book It" plug, "Big 'J', Private Eye", involved Jamie (not having read or even selected a book until the last minute) doing a videotaped report so the class could go on a pizza party (at Pizza Hut, of course).
  • P.O.V. Cam: In "The Rip-Off", this was done when Vicki, connected to the hotel TV, showed how the robbery really happened.
  • Quicksand Sucks: In "Babes in the Woods", Ted walks into quicksand on a camping trip, and Vicki can't save him due to being ordered not to use her powers for the rest of the trip. It then turns out that the quicksand is only three feet deep.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The episode "Ripped Off" had Brandon, Harriet, and Jamie telling different versions of a foiled robbery. Although she can no longer talk, Vicki provides the real story when Ted connects her to the hotel TV set.
  • Reading Ahead in the Script: Vanessa, posing as Vicki, does this in the series finale, much to the director's chagrin.
  • Rearrange the Song: The first two seasons had a bouncy pop tune as the theme song. The last two seasons has a more techo-style theme with the same lyrics.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Ted and one of his co-workers are vying for a promotion. Co-worker's daughter secretly makes suggestions to Vicky to make his competitor look bad. Vicky takes the suggestions quite literally, and the co-worker wins the promotion. And then it turns out to be a transfer to Iceland.
  • Reset Button: After every episode, almost everything is forgiven and forgotten. Only sometimes do some details prevail.
  • Series Continuity Error: For one scene of the episode "Vicki's Exposé", Vicki is unaware of the fact that she is a robot. In said episode, a tabloid prints a story claiming that she's a robot; Vicki reads the story and (inexplicably showing emotion and speaking in a regular tone of voice) asks her "parents" if she is indeed a robot. This is contradicted by the rest of the entire series, where it is very clear that Vicki is aware of what she is.
    • Vicki started out as a failed prototype that Ted created at work. No one is able to figure out that Vicki is a robot, even though her father is a robotic engineer; this includes people from Ted's office who would have known about the project (and seen the demonstration of the prototype!).
      • It can be inferred that Ted must have been working alone on the VICI project, and that said project got canned before he ever revealed it to his bosses. Otherwise, someone else in the company would have to know about Vicki.
  • Singing Telegram: One episode is called "Singing Telegram", in which Jamie and Reggie run competing singing telegram services.
  • Stage Mom: Ted and Joan pretend to be a pair of stage parents in an attempt to get Vicki removed from a cereal commercial after they learn that the product is comprised mostly of unpronounceable additives.
  • Styrofoam Rocks: In the series finale, when Ted gives a literal meaning to the term Cardboard Prison. He offers to pay for the damage, but the movie director says there's no money in the budget for it.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: The kind of denials Vicki gives when asked what has she seen/done.
  • Teasing the Substitute Teacher: In "My Mom, the Teacher", Jamie does all he can to humiliate his own mother when she's a substitute teacher for his class.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Played for Laughs in the pilot when Jamie first meets Vicki:
    Jamie: She looks just like a real girl, Dad! [sniffs] and she SMELLS like a girl!
    Ted: Yeah, I used some of Mom's perfume.
  • Token Black Friend: Reggie, Jamie's best friend. In the earlier seasons, he's written as a normal kid. In some later episodes, Reggie picks up some stereotypical Token Black Friend behavior. He's sassier, and one episode has him rapping for a school project.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: A late season four episode reveals Vicki doesn't know she's a robot, due Ted wanting to see how human she can become.
  • The Trouble with Tickets: Subverted in the episode "Vicki for the Defense": Ted parks illegally in hope of teaching Jamie a lesson about not perverting justice, and doesn't resist arrest. Unfortunately, he has a little trouble actually getting a ticket.
  • Trying Not to Cry: One episode had Vicki falling for a computer that had to be deactivated due to a faulty program. When asked if she's okay, Vicki says that she isn't programmed to cry, but the final shot is a close of her face with a tear running down her cheek.
  • Unwanted Glasses Plot: The basis of the episode "Vicki's Glasses".
  • Very Special Episode: The one where Jamie learns about the dangers of tobacco, both smoking and chewing.
  • You Go, Girl!: "Babes in the Woods", where Joanie, Harriet and Vicki go camping with the guys and prove superior in pitching tents, fishing and cooking - even at the end, it rains on the guys' camp and not the ladies who are five feet away.


Video Example(s):



When Vladimir Godunov's nature as a robot child is exposed, his creator, Boris, makes a pun so bad, even the studio audience can't help but groan.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / Feghoot

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