Follow TV Tropes


Series / Small Wonder

Go To

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 Brindle
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: A non-lethal example; Vicki tends to zigzag through this depending on the episode.
  • Amusing Nonhuman
  • Artificial Family Member: Vicki who is a robot built by Ted and who his family pass off as part of their family.
  • Black Best Friend: Reggie, Jamie's best friend.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Harriet, in spades. Jamie can be this way, too, at times.
  • Catchphrase: When Ted says something scientific that she doesn't understand, Joan usually replies, "That makes sense..."
  • The 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.
  • Creepy Child: Vicki's not only an intentional example (quite unlike most creepy children in 1980s sitcoms), but also a comedic one!
  • Dark Horse Victory: It occurs in "Little Miss Shopping Mall."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Despite lacking emotions, Vicki became known for her snark.
  • Do-Anything Robot
  • 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.
  • Drop-In Character: Harriet and her parents
  • 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
  • Fantastic Comedy
  • Fun with Acronyms: VICI stands for Voice Input Child Identicant.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: A lot of Harriet's attempts to (unsuccessfully) flirt with Jamie. For instance, in one mid-season 3 episode:
    Harriet: (acting like Jamie's cheerleader when he says he and the boys are going to play basketball) Jamie, Jamie, he's divine! He can slam-dunk me anytime!
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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?
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands
  • Noir Episode: In "Big 'J', Private Eye", Jamie did his book report in the film noir style.
  • 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).
  • Pun-Based Title
  • Reading Ahead in the Script: Vanessa, posing as Vicki, does this in the series finale, much to the director's chagrin.
  • Reset Button: After every episode, almost everything is forgiven and forgotten. Only sometimes do some details prevail.
  • Robo Speak
  • Robot Girl/Robot Kid
  • 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.
  • Sidekick Ex Machina
  • Sitcom
  • 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.
  • 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.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: