I am constantly in search of family friendly TV shows that I can watch with my kids, and if I can find something that isn’t animated, I consider that a major bonus. To be honest, there aren’t a ton of current shows that fit the bill so with all of the “classic” TV shows now showing up on DVD, I’ve picked a couple on Netflix and we’ve watched them together. We worked our way through 5 seasons of “Charles in Charge” which proves that we aren’t looking for award winners here, just something that is mildly entertaining and keeps the kid‘s interest. Hence, when “Small Wonder” came up on the recently released list, it was a must have. First of all, “Small Wonder” was what my group of friends and I considered a very obscure sitcom reference. I didn’t think anyone besides us had seen it, let alone recall plot lines and characters. The poor, height-challenged, gal down at Arby’s that waits on us regularly has been labeled Small Wonder for years now and I am sure she would have no clue what we were talking about.
Plot wise, this series is about a small family who’s father figure works at a robotics lab. He brings home his latest invention, Vici, a little girl/family helper robot. Vici stands for “voice input child identikit”, yeah, they struggled with acronyms in the 80’s. The dad has a whole closet full of flashing lights and Commodore 64-esque computer equipment which is reminiscent of no-budget shows of the 80’s. He also programs her with a ribbon cable using computer commands like “wiggle your nose”. So technically, this sitcom was light years ahead of its time. There is a nosy neighbor, of course, and the whole point is to see if this “smart” robot can learn human emotions. The show is very family friendly although the mother often wears the super sexy one-piece, shoulder-padded, jump suits that leave plenty to the imagination. Humor-wise, my kids find it mildly amusing, but make no mistake, she is no “Punky Brewster”. Everything is very cutesy and their little life lessons are absolutely cliché, but if you look, the darker undertones are there. The question on everyone’s mind throughout the series has got to be, how would Vici do in battle? I think a direct comparison with robots of her time is the only way to really answer that.
She does possess somewhat super human strength but still doesn’t really measure up to the T800 model of terminator in any other way, although she does sound like a lot like Arnold using mostly mimicry and single syllable words. Catch phrase-wise, it is a toss up. The Terminator is an infiltration unit, part man-part machine. Underneath it's a hyper-alloy combat chassis, microprocessor controlled, fully armored, very tough. But outside it's living human tissue. Flesh, skin, hair, blood, grown for the cyborgs. Vici is composed of mannequin rubber over a moderately complex series of pullies and levers. She can lift a vacuum with one hand, and even the little Lawson boy, but I seriously doubt she could punch a hole in anyone’s chest.
As for ED-209 or even Robocop himself, I think she is a little lacking in the firepower department. Sure, she lacks human emotion, so she could kill easy enough, but she wasn’t ever programmed with a malicious instinct. For instance, ED-209 gives you a menacing growl before unloading 60 rounds into your chest. Even if Vici was handed an automatic weapon, hearing her say “You have 20 seconds to comply” just doesn’t evoke the same kind of fear.
Robocop was part man, part machine….all cop. His human flash-backs and “directive 4” made him vulnerable and almost cost him a sequel. Vici is all robot, so I give here a slight edge over Murphy here. He is also programmed to uphold the law which can really get in the way during crunch-time. I can totally envision Vici shooting first, asking questions later. Miranda rights would never cross her mind. She also comes in a cute package, which means her ability to infiltrate the rebel’s base (and heart) is much better assuming no scanning technology is used.
I can’t really say that this sitcom has stood the test of time, but it keeps the kid’s interest… unlike Star Wars. My 10 year old daughter has even asked if we can watch more episodes, and since they are only 20 min. long, it isn’t too painful for me either. As for Vici’s usefulness as a cybernetic killing machine, I just don’t think she has what it takes. Maybe she could get some unsuspecting mother figure to take her in and then, while inside the hideout, open fire and wipe out the resistance. But other than that one, far-fetched scenario, I don’t think she would offer much more than the element of surprise, and against a worthy adversary like ED-209, Robocop, or the T800, Vici just better go back and hide in her cupboard.