Rembert Explains the ’80s: Small Wonder

Welcome back to our series Rembert Explains the ’80s. Every so often, we’ll e-mail 25-year-old Rembert Browne a video from the 1980s that he hasn’t seen. Rembert will write down his thoughts as he’s watching it, then we’ll post those thoughts here. This week’s installment was selected by Hollywood Prospectus editor Mark Lisanti: the first episode Small Wonder, “Vicki’s Homecoming.” If you have an idea for a future episode of Rembert Explains the ’80s, e-mail us at hollywood@grantland.com.

Lisanti’s note: “Time to give the people what they want.”

0:01 I don’t know why Small Wonder is what the people want, but I guess I’m excited?

0:12 This dude “Dick Christie as Ted Lawson” works at a robotronics company. Ha. You could tell people anything in the ’80s.

0:22 “Marla Pennington as Joan Lawson” is sort of fly. Is she supposed to be a hot mom? ‘CAUSE SHE IS.

0:29 I can already tell I’m going to be annoyed by “Jerry Supiran as Jamie Lawson.” He’s either a know-it-all or a Dennis the Menace character. There’s no way he’s quiet and obedient. No way.

0:40 “Tiffany Brissette as Vicki.” Interesting. No last name. Confused. Is she just some 10-year-old girl that hangs around the house? Does she have a family? Curious to learn more about “Tiffany Brissette as Vicki.”

0:47 “Emily Schulman as Harriet” looks like a living, breathing Cabbage Patch doll. No way she has any friends, then or now.

0:52 This theme song is miserable. It’s like the opposite of Living Single.

1:18 This little kid, Jamie, is smart. And he’s voluntarily eating a carrot. I knew I’d not like him.

1:33 Jamie just called out his mom for not giving him a sibling quick enough. My mom would have punted me across the room if I came with that lip.

1:43 Jamie just answered the door, saw that it was some girl named Harriet, then slammed the door in her face and went back to eating his carrot. This kid is a BO$$.

(Coffee shop just starting playing “Someone Like You.” Five-minute break.)

2:04 Back. Dad just stormed through the house. NOT IMPORTANT, because I just noticed the mom is wearing the flyest one-piece jumper. Yeah. I’m in love.

OMG stop looking at me, girl, I can’t take it:

2:29 This dad is a little off. Absent-minded professor. Always flustered. I’m going to like him.

2:43 Oh, OK, the dad has a decapitated and de-limbed baby doll in his suitcase. That’s normal.

2:50 “Gee, Dad, a grown man playing with a doll at work.” Punk son to sad dad. This kid is out of control.

3:02 Pops is upset because his robotronics boss wasn’t interested in his doll. Go on, dad …

3:08 Sayeth “Dick Christie as Ted Lawson”: “Joanie, honey, this is not just a doll. It’s an experimental VICI.” Wow. Joanie is dumb. How dare she not look at a doll with all its arms and legs missing and not immediately identify it as a VICI. Divorce her and take the kid, “Dick Christie as Ted Lawson.”

3:13 VICI = Voice Input Child Identicate. Basically, the doll is a robot baby that responds to voices. Wow, is this about to be another ’80s show that involves some kind of alien or non-human thing? Was there nothing else to talk about for 10 straight years?

3:31 Oh, cute, Ted wants to use the baby robot for good. If the plot of this show is anything other than a baby robot army starting because the original VICI “got in the wrong hands,” I’m going to be furious. I love when things “get in the wrong hands,” mainly because that puts so much of the blame on the hands and not the person. Damn you, evil hands!

3:41 This kid is the worst. I’d rather have a demon-seed robot baby than this kid. Just the worst. Maybe that’s why dad is trying to make a robot baby, to make up for his first attempt at fatherhood. The whole “robot baby for good” is a complete lie. I respect that, pops.

4:07 So the dad just lost a point. Hot mom was trying to talk slightly dirty to him and he didn’t reciprocate. She was trying to go all Clair Huxtable on him and he refused to hit her with the Heathcliff. Come on, man. Always hit ‘em with the Heathcliff.

4:20 Wait, I can’t tell who this child is, but it looks like he’s dressed up a robot baby like a little girl. She’s lying on a table and looks dead, so I hope it’s not a real human.

4:24 Dad is typing in commands into his studio apartment-size computer that seem to be related to the dolled-up robot girl.

4:25 Types in “blink eyes.”

4:26 AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

4:29 AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

4:30 AHHHHHHHHHHHH!

4:35 Next input: “Wiggle Nose.” It worked. She wiggled.

5:00 Last input: testing the voice command. Please work. For his sake. He’s highly unstable.

5:10 It worked. This is so creepy. Shockingly creepy.

5:20 He’s pumped. Please let her be evil.

5:24 Yes, dreams come true. Pops told her that “she’s fantastic” and robot demon-seed girl responded with “I’m fantastic.” Yes. It’s like Manimal all over again. If I’ve learned one thing from the ’80s, it’s that if a human creates a robot, the robot will be terrifyingly arrogant. I love that.

5:37 Mom is so sassy. I love her. I think I love her more than her robotronics creepy husband that turns dolls into cocky robots.

5:44 The dad and son and evil robot should move out and let me move in with the mom. She’s way too cool for them. They’re holding her back. Stop settling, hot mom.

5:48 He named her “Vicki.” Interesting. I’m not comfortable with this relationship. Why not name her “robot girl”? “Vicki” is a little too real, and sounds like a girl from his past. I don’t like this one bit.

5:53 Wow. OK. Vicki came from VICI. OK, I take back some of my previous statement, but I’m still not convinced he didn’t have a fling with a girl named “Vicki” one summer in Montauk.

6:05 Oh yes, the son has just met his match. I bet Vicki and Jamie beef so much. Either beef or fall in love. There is no middle ground. No friend zone. Love or H8.

6:10 Vicki speaks, which freaks out the son and causes the mom to drop dinner on the floor. Nice, pops. Way to ease into it.

6:36 Vicki is about 100,000 times smarter than Jamie, which is awesome for me because Jamie and I are beefing.

6:42 Jamie is a fan of her right now. He touched her face. She didn’t reciprocate. She’s playing hard to get. Classic demon-seed robot girl.

6:55 This hasn’t gotten less creepy. Not one bit.

7:00 AHHH THE HAIR IS A WIG!

7:01 NO NO NO PLEASE DON’T ZOOM IN.

7:02 AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

7:16 If this doesn’t ruin their marriage, I don’t know what will. My only goal in life now is to not be the husband that spends his family time building a demon-seed girl robot that wears wigs, tells time, and is named after a girl I spent a few wild weekends with during college orientation.

7:24 Oh, this is just the worst:

Mom: It’s suddenly like having another child in the house. [Understandable comment.]
Dad: Yeah, but this time I gave birth [No no no no no no.]

7:50 But for real, mom, why did you marry this guy? Why? Do you hear the way he’s talking about this doll? There had to be signs that this day would come, when a doll would break up the family. I refuse to believe you were blindsided by this. Just listen to him.

7:59 Further proof for the beginning of the end:

Mom: Ted, how do we treat her?
Dad: Like a normal child.

Poor Jamie. I actually feel bad for him. I’m an only child, and while I would have welcomed a sibling, I’m definitely not trying to share the attention with a dolled-up robot. That’s unacceptable, but obviously the dad doesn’t realize this because he’s falling in love.

8:06 Dad: “I programmed it to do everything that a 10-year-old can do.” I want to see this list. If “Beat Donkey Kong Country in 45 minutes,” “Eat two full boxes of Teddy Grahams in one sitting,” and “Not understand subtraction” are missing, his research methods are completely flawed and he deserves nothing short of public ridicule.

8:24 Jamie and Vicki are interacting, and Vicki’s simply repeating everything that Jamie does. Who knows, maybe they’ll get along. I hope not, but maybe it’ll be the one thing to keep this family together.

8:45 First dad is saying that it’s like a child, now he’s saying that it’s OK to lock Vicki in a cabinet because it’s an “it.” Pops is confused. He needs to get his emotions in line before this robot turns on him.

8:50 Jamie: “She’s got wires inside instead of gizzards.” Wow. He’s like a 75-year-old man.

9:05 PEEPING TOM SNITCH ALERT. HIDE YA KID ROBOTS.

9:07 TOO LATE.

9:08 The girl saw the robot move and run into a wall. If she runs away and tells the streets, the streets are going to have questions. The last thing you want when you have a robot child is questions from the streets. Trust me on this.

9:30 The dad was freaking out because running into the wall made her voice act up, but like a chip off the old nerd block, the son fixed the problem by slapping her on the back. Well done, Lawson men.

9:44 The peeping tom is Harriet. Harriet’s dad works at the same company as pops. Apparently, it would be bad if Harriet’s dad found out. Well, next time you unveil a robot baby in your house, it wouldn’t hurt to close the blinds. The secret’s out.

9:58 New scene, with Jamie being awakened by his alarm clock. What small child has an alarm clock? What’s it for, his reminder to eat cereal before Saturday-morning cartoons? What an old little man he is. Still don’t like him.

10:13 That’s messed up — they’re keeping Vicki in a closet, standing up. At least lay her down under the bed or something. Standing up sleeping in a closet for eight to nine hours is not fun. Even for a robot. Trust me on this.

10:24 Right on schedule, Jamie starts ordering Vicki around to clean his room. I can’t lie, I’m not mad. Super rude, but not mad.

10:39 SNITCH ALERT, ROUND 2. WILL SOMEONE PLEASE CLOSE A WINDOW.

10:49 Whoa, Vicki and Jamie. Don’t be so narrow-minded:

Jamie: “Do you know what marriage is?”
Vicki: “Men and women get married and have babies.”
Jamie: “Right.”

10:57 OK, I now love Jamie. He just asked Vicki if she knew how babies were made. That’s such a good question. She didn’t have the answer, but there’s no harm in trying. You’ll learn one day, Jamie.

11:14 The amount of girl/boy tension between Jamie and Vicki is wild. No one’s first love should be a robot. Poor Jamie. He’s screwed for life. Also, why did Vicki have to be a girl robot that looks to be the same age as Jamie and is the same height? Another poor fatherhood decision by pops. Dude does not love his family.

11:15 Jamie asks her to turn around while he gets changed.

Her face looks weird.

They wouldn’t.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I KNOW, BRO. AHHHHHHHHHH!

GIRL, GO TELL YOUR DAD AND GET THIS FREAK OUT THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

I’m done here. There’s nothing more to say. Bye.

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Rembert Browne is a staff writer for Grantland.

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