Was That Real? Small Wonder
June 2, 2015
Nostalgia Critic: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. And welcome to another edition of WTR, a.k.a... Was That Real?
(It cuts to the title card of WTR)
(Cuts to clips from shows like "Dumb and Dumber, "Dog City", "Star Wars: Ewoks", "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and "The Cowboys of Moo Mesa")
NC (vo): This is where we look at TV shows that may be forgotten by some but remembered by others for just how strange they were.
NC: With that said, have you ever wondered what the worst sitcom of all time is? A lot of you are probably getting ideas in your head already. Like...
NC (vo): ...the Geico "Cavemen" show, or that Rob Schneider comedy...Remember "Homeboys in Outer Space"? And how about "Normal, Ohio", the show where John Goodman was gay...and that was the only joke! I don't even get it!
NC: If you look at a lot of lists, some of these shows are on there, some of them aren't, but the one that is always guaranteed to be on there somewhere is a little 80's sitcom simply known as "Small Wonder".
(The title of said series is shown with the theme song, and then the clips)
NC (vo): Was the movie A.I. too funny for ya? Well, this'll fix that right up. It's a sitcom about a father who invents a robotic girl named Vicki. Despite her doing, oh, I don't know, everything to prove that she's a robotic girl, nobody seems to catch on. They don't even question why she talks like a robot or why she looks like one half of the "Shining" girls.
Bonnie Brindle: (to Vicki) Hiii, I'm here to see your mom.
Harriet Brindle: (to Vicki) And I'm here to see Jamie.
Vicki Smith-Lawson: (pointing to Bonnie) You're in luck. (pointing to Harriet) You're out of luck. Jamie's spending the weekend with his friend Reggie.
NC (vo): Now of course anybody in this situation would think, "Holy shit - this man has created artificial intelligence and can change the world." What's he gonna do? Keep it secret, of course! Because...that's just what people in the 80's did!
(showing Elliot and E.T. from "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial")
NC (vo): Got an alien? Keep it a secret.
(showing Gary, Lisa, and Wyatt from "Weird Science")
NC (vo): Made a woman? Keep it a secret.
(showing Dr. Douglas "Doogie" Howser from "Doogie Howser, M.D.")
NC (vo): Got a child doctor, oh no, you can exploit that all you want, but...is he GAY?
NC (vo): Yep, there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to keep her secret, or really to even have her around. It's only to serve the insanity of the plot. And trust me, there was plenty of that to go around! But that's not to say the nosy neighbors ever didn't notice. It's just - D'OH, they could never quite catch them at the right moment to prove it! But that, of course, doesn't stop the daughter, Harriet...who, I swear, is just an older version of Pistol [from "Goof Troop"]...to keep hitting on their son, Jamie!
Jamie Lawson: My father got a new job, Harriet. He's gonna make me go.
Harriet: Oh, he can't! We'd never get married! I've already picked out the dress...
NC (vo): Because, hey! Who cares if they made the greatest scientific discovery of everything ever known everywhere?! Doesn't mean she can't totally ignore it and get some smoochies!
(Jamie opens door)
Harriet: Hi, Jamie!
Jamie: Hi, Harriet.
(Jamie slams door)
NC (vo): So with such a ridiculous, and even kind of frightening scenario, you'd think this show would barely even make a season.
NC: Now, just to give you an idea here, how may seasons did "Veronica Mars" have? (3) Three. How may seasons did "Firefly" have? (1) One...How may seasons did Small Wonder have? (4) Wwwhat the fuck.
NC (vo): Was this show really so good that we needed at least four years of it under our belts? Well, remember this is at a time when pretty much any family sitcom idea was watched by somebody. But then again, four years...I-w-whi-di-wha-HOW? How can I accept that while still believing in humanity?
NC: Well...I have a theory. It's bad, yes, but...it does manage to get a few laughs...(Booing crowd sound effect) Hear me out.
NC (vo): Let's look at the most obviously funny thing about the whole entire show: its tone. This is drenched in 80's sitcom cheese. Just look at this opening. It's a masterpiece of sap.
(theme song starts to play, starting with the title card, then showing Dick Christie as Ted Lawson reading a newspaper then laughing at the camera, then showing Emily Schulman as Harriet Brindle listening through a door with a glass then smiling at the camera, then showing Jerry Supiran as Jamie Lawson starting to bite into an over-sized sandwich then smiling at the camera, then showing Nostalgia Critic as Weirdo Turning His Head and Smiling at Nothing as Weirdo Turning His Head and Smiling at Nothing)
NC (vo): You get all the jokes based around bad green screens an opening like this would suggest. But with this child-friendly tone comes moments that clearly don't fit in with it. For example, there's an episode where the kids take up smoking. It has all the typical clichés you'd see in most non-smoking episodes, but...then it ends on this note.
Jamie: (to Ted and Joan) Remember I told you about Peter Watson?
Ted Lawson: Oh yeah, that big, smart jock who gave you the chewing tobacco?
Jamie: Well he got this sore in his mouth. He found out it's cancer.
Joan Lawson: Oh no.
Ted: Aw, Jamie, I'm really sorry.
Jamie: Boy I'll never smoke or chew again.
NC (vo): Yeahh, enough of that shit. We need to say our finishing line with an applauding audience while somebody shrugs to a freeze frame!
NC (vo): Ha ha, a child is dying of cancer! Small Wonder! And there's other things that clearly wouldn't fly in today's more PC world that just sound really funny coming out of a child-friendly 80's show.
Jamie: Awesome? You said it.
Vicki: So did you 3 weeks ago when Reggie showed you a Playboy magazine.
NC (vo): Yeah. You heard right. Playboy. They didn't make up a name, or call it adult books or anything. They named a specific porno magazine you can buy anywhere.
NC: Get 'em started while they're young, I guess?
NC (vo): There's also a scene where Vicki starts reading one of the neighbor's romance novels.
Vicki: Terrence took Felicia into his strong muscled arms, and crushed her against his heaving chest ohhhhhh (fans herself with the book as the audience laughs)
NC: That's just weird.
NC (vo): The bizarrest is when the parents are deciding weather or not to make love while Vicki is sleeping in the cupboard. Yeah, it's... pretty fucking out there.
Ted: What's the problem?
Joan: It's Vicki. I think she can see us.
Ted: Don't be ridiculous. No she can't.
Vicki: Yes she can. Goodnight, honey.
NC (vo): Scenes like this are just so awkward that it's surprisingly hard not really to laugh at them.
Ted: Vicki wet the floor? She hasn't even wet the bed yet. (Jamie and Reggie come in) Hi guys.
Reggie: How ya doin Vicki?
Vicki: I haven't even wet the bed yet.
NC: What can you say to that?
NC (vo): Somewhere between child friendly fluff and enjoyably uncomfortable a joke like that just can't find a home. That's part of what makes it so fascinating 'cause there's a lot of scenes like that.
Ted: Do you like it, Joanie, I mean would you rather have a redhead? (takes off Vicki's wig)
NC (vo): I don't know. Is this adorable or scary as shit? It's one of those rare sitcoms that's just so hard to get a grasp on. Is it smarter than it looks like 3rd Rock From The Sun or just accidentally getting a laugh like Full House? Nobody could really figure it out. Whenever you get a painful groaner like this...
Ted: With the datapack hooked into a self organizing sastainic processor!
Joan: That makes sense.
NC (vo): You suddenly get a kinda funny moment like this.
Vicki: (Standing by Ted and Joan's bed with a tray of breakfast). Happy Anniversary from Jamie and me and to give this to you. (throws the tray on the bed)
NC (vo): One of my favorites has got to be when she enters the talent competition. There's some legitimately funny scenes when they're trying to defeat their neighbor's kid in a competition and clearly use her programming to cheat. (girl plays "When The Saints Go Marching In" on the flute badly) After this obviously talentless kid performs Vicki goes up playing the piano at a slightly unrealistic level. That's funny enough but then they top it with this. (Vicki starts singing Habanera. Ted and Joan smile while Bonnie eyes are wide in shock)
NC (vo): The look on her [Bonnie] face sums up the show. What the hell can you even say while looking at it. But that's still not the end. The final topper comes when they find out that the kid, with the least talent, is the person who won.
Host: We would like to congratulate Ellen Sue on her victory, and we would also like to congratulate her parents, who happen to he the owners of this beautiful shopping mall (people groan) and also our judges.
NC (vo): That's actually kind of legitimately funny. I'm sorry. It's a clever buildup, delivery and payoff. So yeah, for as corny as it all seemed, there did seem to be a fair amount of effort that was thrown in.
NC: For a while.
NC (vo): There was a point when even Small Wonder jumped the shark. It was around Season 4 when any sense of effort stopped and they just threw whatever shit came out of their asses. Like there's an episode where Vicki's evil twin wants to be a star while visiting Hollywood. So she locks her family in a studio set dungeon. Who would put a functioning lock in a studio set dungeon? And how is that the biggest thing that bothers me?! But by far, the greatest fail in the show's history comes down to one simple joke. It's when a Russian builds a robotic boy named Godunov to go up against Vicki in a test of intelligence. When the father discovers this by looking him over, he calls him out on it.
Joan: Our kid happens to be a cybernetic engineer.
Russian Engineer: I ain't Charles Dickens. You couldn't leave Godunov alone?
(studio audience gives a loud grown)
NC: Have you ever heard a studio audience reject the joke they were given? I mean that wasn't like laughing politely or not laughing at all leaving a bit of silence, that was verbal disgust!
NC (vo): They usually just dub a laugh track over it or edit it out so it sounds like not that many people were laughing, but no, they let this in for some reason. Like even they knew this was embarrassing to put out there and they just didn't care.
Russian engineer: You couldn't leave Godunov alone?
(studio audience gives a loud grown)
NC (vo): That was the audience for Small Wonder saying, "You know what, we deserve better than this. And seeing how we already set the bar so low for you to begin with, that's saying a lot." (studio audience gives a loud grown) Needless to say, this was the last season that ran, and if I was just going by that season, maybe I would've seen why people would call it one of the worst sitcoms ever.
NC: But with all the stuff that came before it, I have to say I don't think it's deserving of that title.
NC (vo): It's bad, but it feels like it had fun with how bad it was. (shows "Glee")
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic and... sleep well. (walks offscreen, Vicki's eyes glow red)