(art by Aireen Arellano - to view larger version, click here)
SHOW: Small Wonder
EPISODE: “Vicki’s Homecoming”
FIRST AIRED: Sept. 07, 1985
Delving into the history of syndicated television is like bargain hunting in a shady thrift store that smells like week-old meat, but offers shelves of tchotchkes that hum with novelty and history. Syndicated programming, which thrives in the off-hours of daytime and late night, has served as company to countless insomniacs, waiting room wanderers, stay-at-home parents, nursing home denizens, kids home with the flu, and dorm room loafers.
It’s the exact opposite of appointment television because it’s not designed to be talked about or, in some cases, even watched. While some of these shows, sold to local TV stations on an individual basis as opposed to broadcast networks, have been cultural touchstones – Baywatch, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy! tops among the examples - most are produced just to provide content, to fill the hours, and, simply put, to be there.
Small Wonder was a gross and freaky syndication mainstay from 1985 to 1989. Many viewers alive during that time can probably remember watching some Small Wonder episode sometime somewhere, as hazy as the specifics might be. Revisiting the show in the harsh light of modern day, the best and worst of the show come back into sharp focus. Vicki the Robot was a cute oddity, the sloppy and weird character dynamics made for some strange implications, and the terrible jokes burned right through the bottom of the sitcom barrel. The biggest tragedy of the show is that, had the creators assumed that intelligent beings were actually watching and following the show, it could have been much more than the sum of its microchips here and there.