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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Small Wonder: The Complete First Season
Small Wonder: The Complete First Season
Shout Factory // Unrated // February 16, 2010
List Price: $34.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Danny Cox | posted March 1, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Series:

Some television shows you may seem to forget about as time goes on and your childhood gets further and further away. Series like Step By Step and Just The Ten of Us are a couple that almost anyone can remember from TGIF nights with the family. Going back a bit further and you can easily recall The Hogan Family or Family Ties. But how about the random series that may have aired for only a couple seasons and wasn't very popular? You know the ones that people mention and your first response is, "Oh yeah, that show was awesome." Well what about the series that saw a man create a human-like robot that looked just like a ten year-old girl and was designed to be a part of his family?

Oh yeah, that show was awesome.

Small Wonder aired from 1985 to 1989 and took on a concept that had not really been seen before in the ways of television history. Ted Lawson (Dick Christie) is a computer engineer that was given a very special project to work on and that he's kind of grown attached to. His expertise is in computer robotics and he seems to be somewhat of a stickler for detail as is apparent by his most recent creation which is the Voice Input Child Identicant (V.I.C.I.) or known to him as "Vicki." Ted wants to make sure that Vicki (Tiffany Brissette) is as lifelike as possible so he sneaks her out of work and into his home so that she may live with him and his wife Joan (Marla Pennington) and son Jamie (Jerry Supiran). There she will be able to live the life of a child and learn the human ways that need to be input into her memory therefore making her as realistic as possible. Ted actually hopes that he can somehow get Vicki to develop human feelings and emotions. The only problem is making sure no-one finds out what she actually is during this little experiment.

I remember this being a much more entertaining series when my age was between five and ten, but then again...I was between five and ten. Most of the storylines are really simple and entail the silliness that goes on from Vicki as she tries to adjust to being a human being and understanding all that comes along with it. Other than that you'll see the nosey neighbors from next door constantly peering into the lives of the Lawsons so that they can spot something fishy going on. That is an arc that gets rather annoying honestly because you will find yourself wanting to punch all of the Brindles just about every time they make an appearance. Otherwise, Ted mainly spends his time covering up the fact that Vicki is a robot from the rest of the world and that usually develops into some sort of comedic hi-jinks.

Somehow no-one ever really seemed to notice that this little girl Vicki was stone-faced at all times and only wore that red and white frilly maid dress. That should have been noticed just once if she wore it; let alone every single day.

Small Wonder really isn't a bad show at all, but it has just become something that is rather archaic and that is not unexpected since it's virtually gotten outdated. Can you imagine if this series was made today? That robot would be so high-tech looking that it would make your head spin. That's something which would even hold true for a simple thirty-minute sitcom. Speaking of sitcoms though, I'm kind of torn after watching the first season of this series again after so long. Today there are so few sitcoms which are actually entertaining and funny enough to fit into the category of "situation-comedies." If you can find one that's good then chances are that it won't be very family friendly and it won't be something to watch with your children. Kids have their own sitcoms on Disney or Nickelodeon that are aimed strictly at them and way too stupid or annoying for adults to even try to get involved in viewing them. Small Wonder simply followed the trend that many sitcoms in the late eighties and early nineties followed. Grab a central character to base the series around and then add in family members and friends as supporting cast in order to fill in the holes.

Small Wonder - Vicki

Family Matters - Urkel

Growing Pains - Mike

Charles In Charge - Charles

The Cosby Show - Bill

Webster - Webster

And of course so on and so forth. Small Wonder may be really corny and quite cheesy at times, but it was the eighties and back then this was considered good family entertainment. If you've never seen it before then you may you end up really enjoying it, but you've got to truly let your mind go and avoid the misconceptions that the series totally avoids. Becoming overly judgmental or nit-picky about a series from the eighties that involves a young girl that is really an android is not how you want sit down and start your weekend after picking up this DVD set. You'll end up bored before too long.

Episodes

Disc One:

~ Vicki's Homecoming ~ The Neighbors ~ The Sitter ~ The Suitor ~ Sibling Rivalry ~ Spielberg Jr.

Disc Two:

~ The Lie ~ The Bully ~ Slightly Dishonorable ~ The Adoption ~ Child Genius ~ Ted's New Boss

Disc Three:

~ Brainwashed ~ The Burrito Story ~ The Camping Trip ~ Love Story ~ Substitute Father ~ The Robot Nappers

Disc Four:

~ The Company Takeover ~ Good Ol' Lou ~ Like Father, Like Son ~ Vaudeville Vicki ~ The Real Facts Of Life ~ The Grandparents

The DVD

Video:

We've really got to all remember that Small Wonder is a very old television series that probably wasn't going to be touched up too much or advanced for the home release. The episodes are shown in Full Frame format and surprisingly look fantastic for a series that is twenty-five years old. Colors are a little drab, but things still look really good considering their age. No static or any kind of compression can be seen anywhere which is also another bit of a shock, but it appears as if the transfer for DVD went off without so much as a small hitch.

Sound:

Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Sound is all we get for these episodes, but they more then do the job. It doesn't appear as if anything has been done to the sound quality at all so don't go expecting much here. Not that there needs to be super mega sound for an eighties sitcom anyway.

Extras:

Audio Commentaries - Marla Pennington, Dick Christie, and Jerry Supiran are along for all five of episodes that include a commentary track. Edie McClurg, Daryl Bartley, and the creator/producer Howard Leeds appear for one episode a piece. It's quite interesting listening to them all after these years because they seem so proud of the work done for Small Wonder. Sure they talk about the episodes at hand a good bit, but it truly appears as if they enjoyed themselves and loved working on the show.

Original Episode Promos - This is exactly what you'd think as there are a handful of original television promos for the show. Kind of cheesy, but fun to check out and see what we were all subjected to some twenty years ago.

Fan Art Gallery - Strange. Odd. Peculiar. Insane. Weird. Creepy, Scary...I'm sure there are other words to describe this particular special feature, but "good" or "normal" isn't among them.

Final Thoughts:

While Small Wonder certainly isn't for everyone out there; it's well worth people in the twenty-five and older range to check out simply for a touch of nostalgia. These really did seem like simpler times when it didn't take much to amuse us. Now if there isn't sex, cursing, drug usage, or a short Italian (?) chick getting punched in the face in New Jersey; then chances are we don't want to see it. So for some old-fashioned good times with a little girl dressed up as a robot then Small Wonder is certainly for you. Recommended

Danny lives in New Orleans with his dog and writes plenty in way of movies, sports, and life over at Examiner, IP Movies, and Associated Content. If you're looking to keep up with all he does though, there's always Twitter or Facebook.

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