Friday, August 2, 2013

Season 1, Episode 1: Vicki's Homecoming

Okay, here it is, guys.  The first episode of Small Wonder!  Exciting times lay ahead.  I just realized last time I was like "don't worry if the images aren't DVD quality" and then I realized, the DVDs aren't DVD quality.  Small Wonder is only 480p, it's not like they magically improved it.  Anyway...

So, remember how I was like, "I love Small Wonder, but I'm going to be fair"?  Or some version of that?

Small Wonder has one of the worst pilots of all time.

Full disclosure, I wasn't even 2 yet when Small Wonder came out, so it's not like my brain was fully developed.  I can fully acknowledge this and still enjoy the show.  But, I mean, the only premise they had to set up was "we have a robot daughter, and that leads to some wacky adventures."  I'm just saying, there had to be a better way to do that.  Or maybe not.  Maybe the idea was flawed from the get go.  You know everyone in the 80s was on cocaine.

Anyway, the show immediately starts with the theme song.  I always liked the second version of the theme song better.  The first version is just so... sickly sweet.  You'd never guess this show came out in 1985.  It's like a 70s type theme song.  You want to know how far we've progressed by 1985?

Our introduction to Joan Lawson is while she's in the kitchen.  Oh, typical housewife.

We're also introduced to Vicki the Robot doing housework, which on the one hand makes sense because she's a robot, but on the other hand she's supposed to be posing as a typical 10 year old girl.  I mean, sure, I had chores when I was 10, but so did my brothers.  Their 10 year old son's Y-chromosome prevents him from doing housework, so they built a daughter to do chores?  Is that what happened?

Also, notice her actual credit is in a scene that happens in the kitchen.  Because women belong in the kitchen.  They actually change Tiffany Brissette's credit shots by the next episode, but trust me - they're still in the kitchen.  It's always in the kitchen, until the last season when she finally gets cool.

Emily Schulman, the only other main character female on the show, always has her credit while she's snooping.  I like Harriet, but she's always and forever going to be the snoop, and that's all she'll ever be according to the opening credits.  Emily Schulman won two Young Artist Awards for this show, and they're the only awards the show ever won, but yeah, she's nothing but a snoop.  Sidebar: I met Emily Schulman once, when I was 14.  She was an agent and it was cool.  Highlight of my teen years, I can say that much.

After a quick shot that was so quick I didn't bother to cap it of Ted leaving a building with this oversized silver briefcase thing that looks suspicious, we are introduced to Jamie and Joan.  In the kitchen.  A lot of scenes take place in the kitchen because Joan is always cooking or washing dishes or being a typical housewife that never leaves the kitchen.  This was 1985, guys.  1985.  My mom was a housewife in 1985, but by choice.  Previous to that, she had been in the freaking military, but yeah, this is an acceptable view of TV moms in 1985.  Even Claire Huxtable was a lawyer.

Anyway, in this scene, Jamie laments being an only child because it's lonely, and Joan suggests that maybe his dad will play with him when he gets home.

Oh, look, a conveniently timed knock at the door, which turns out to be Jamie's neighbor Harriet.  Clearly Jamie can play with her and be less lonely!

Or he can slam the door in her face and walk away.  Also acceptable.  Why was it like an 80s staple to hate the neighbor kid?

Joan does call Jamie out on how rude he was, but Jamie says that she's a nosy pest, and goes as far as to call her "a waste of womanhood."  See the quotes?  He actually said that.  He's 10.  For a show whose main character is a female, this show really hates them.  Why do I not hate this show again?  Oh, yeah, nostalgia glasses.

Anyway, Ted comes home and with barely a "hi" he rushes through the kitchen like a bat out of hell.  They have a front door, guys.  I just don't even...  Anyway, at this point in the series, if you didn't know what it was about, you would have to assume Ted is some sort of Russian spy and he's got a hit on him or something.

Jamie notices that Ted is acting super weird and decides it's not a good idea to ask his dad to play with him, and Joan decides that she won't ask Ted to play with her either.  Oh, yes, sometimes I forget how many sex jokes are in this show, probably on account of the nostalgia glasses and being a child the first few thousand times I watched this show.

So, when someone is acting like a spy, you go question them about it and Jamie and Joan follow Ted.  When they confront him, which is pretty much just entering the same room he's in, he decides to reveal that he's working on a top secret project he hasn't even told his boss about.

Jamie is appropriately disturbed by the body parts, and I have to admit, that's some pretty fine child acting.  Joan looks like she's like, "Okay, this is weird, but I'm sure there's an explanation."  That's how Joan reacts to everything.  One of her catchphrases ends up being, "That makes sense..."

After making sure Ted isn't some kind of serial killer, he admits that he's trying to build an experimental Voice Input Child Identicate - VICI, or as we will soon know her, Vicki.  Ted goes on for forever about how important it is, and Joan's like, "Whatever, build your damn robot so I can go back to doing work in the kitchen and being sexy."

Seriously, Ted being all up in an unconscious little girl's face is creepy.

I just wanted to show off the 80s computer while Ted programs Vicki.

Anyway, Ted programs Vicki to do some stuff and it turns out she's operational and that's kick ass.  Actually, it is.  It's not like there's robots as advanced as Vicki yet.  The ones that are getting there though look like adult women, so maybe Small Wonder warned science about how creepy it is to have a 10 year old slave girl.

So Ted introduces Vicki to the family in the kitchen because of freaking course it's the kitchen, that's where women belong.  Notice it's dinner time, because Joan can never get a break.  The family freaks out, because apparently when Ted said he was building a robot, they thought he was joking.  He works at a robotics company, so... that makes sense.  Oh, crap, now I'm doing it, and Joan barely says it for the first time in this scene.  Really, they should just be happy he isn't a serial killer carrying around chopped up kid's body parts in briefcases all the time.

Jamie and Joan soon warm up to Vicki, and Jamie is excited to have a new toy.  Jamie even asks if he can keep Vicki in his cabinet with his other toys and Ted's like, "Yeah, sure, I have no problem with our slave sleeping in your toy cabinet.  She's supposed to act like a typical child, but there's no reason to treat her like she's a real person."  Joan has a problem with this, because she's the only voice of reason, but since she's a woman, Ted's like, "shut your mouth, she's sleeping in the cabinet with the toys."

Then he shows off Vicki's panel for the first time, just to cement that it's totally cool to treat Vicki like she's not human.  God, no wonder they eventually drive this robot to cry.  I'm surprised she doesn't try to fry her own circuits in a cry for help by the end of the series.  Anyway, this panel is nowhere near as cool as the permanent one Vicki gets later.

Harriet shows up just in time in the window to not see anything important, but still be curious about this girl that wasn't there before.  Jamie also immediately breaks Vicki right in front of Harriet, but then he hits Vicki like she's a TV and it fixes her.  Also, Ted keeps calling Vicki "it" in this episode.  At least he'll break that habit; the kid-bot already has it rough.

There aren't even any other toys in that cabinet!  Jamie's a liar.  But that's where they keep Vicki for the entire series.  Anyway, it's Ted and Joan's anniversary, and Jamie decides to use Vicki to help surprise them.  First, he has to get dressed so he asks Vicki to turn her head.

Of course, she takes it literally.  Oh, robot!  But guess who managed to see it that time?

That's right, it's Harriet!

Anyway, while they're making breakfast, because Jamie's surprise is breakfast in bed, Harriet comes over and asks about the weird little girl that she saw.  Commercial break!  Because, yeah, Harriet wanting to know who Vicki is is super dramatic.  It's not like she mentioned that she saw her go all Exorcist or anything.

Anyway, after the break, Jamie tells Harriet that it's his cousin, and then slams the door in Harriet's face.  It's only been 12 minutes, and you feel really bad for Harriet.  Jamie then tells Vicki that from now on, if anyone asks who she is, she's supposed to say she's his cousin.  Then he painfully programs her how to smile.  I just... I couldn't bear to show you.

Vicki takes the breakfast up to the parents, which was already in the opening credits so I don't need to show it again.  However, Vicki misunderstands when Jamie says "give it to them" and drops the breakfast all over Ted and Joan.  That darn robot!

Jamie gets angry and decides to go out to buy his parents an anniversary gift to make up for it.  Even though he's grounded, he says he's sneaking out.  Vicki isn't supposed to leave the house, but since Jamie just taught her that it's okay to sneak out, she inevitably follows him.  Her first interactions with the real world are... odd, to say the least.

Some guys come along and shut down the display and they put Vicki in a closet with it.  Because it's real easy to mistake a little girl for a circus clown.  Anyway, Jamie has to use cunning to get Vicki out of the closet - he tells her to get herself out, and she knocks down the door.

Jamie and Vicki get caught trying to sneak back in through the kitchen, because apparently they don't have a living room.  Seriously, the living room never shows up in this episode.  Harriet comes back and asks if Jamie's cousin can come out to play, and Ted says no, and Harriet reveals that she's told her dad about Vicki, but won't say what.  This is actually concerning because of the whole she saw Vicki literally turn her head thing, but nobody knows that.  Ted wants to get mad at Jamie, but Jamie's like, "She's a freaking snoop!"  Ted says to be more careful in the future.  Because Jamie can control the next door neighbor looking in through the windows.

Jamie gets really pissy with Vicki and locks her in her cabinet.  Jamie starts to wonder if it's his fault, and tells Vicki to come out of her cabinet.  And since jokes have to be used more than once, she knocks down the door.

And that's it.  End of episode.  Not even a satisfying conclusion.

Like I said, it's a horrible pilot.  Plus, this show does not even acknowledge that it's the 1980s and not the 1960s until, like, 1987.  And much like this episode, I will not have a satisfying conclusion.  But, I will take a page from FHR and mention the firsts.

Firsts: Ted, Joan, Jamie, Vicki, Harriet, Harriet snooping, Vicki taking things literally, Joan catchphrase "That's cute", Joan catchphrase "That makes sense", Vicki's panel, Vicki's cabinet, Vicki shows off her strength, someone sees Vicki do something weird


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