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Small Wonder - The Complete First Season


TITLE: SMALL WONDER - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON


Info:

DVD Release Date: February 16, 2010 (Shout! Factory)
Color / 1985-86
MSRP: $34.99
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: approx. 540 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English, No Subtitles; Not Closed Captioned
Special Features: Commentaries with Creator and Cast, Original Episode Promos, and Fan Art Gallery.


Introduction:

La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la- la- la- la- la-LA! She's a small wonder lovely and bright in soft curls! She's a small wonder, a child unlike other girls... Yes, that only means Small Wonder is FINALLY coming to DVD! Small Wonder: The Complete First Season finally debuts on DVD for the first time on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010 from Shout! Factory!

When genius cybernetics engineer Ted Lawson (Dick Christie) brings home his top secret invention, a Voice Input Child Identicant or better known as V.I.C.I. (Tiffany Brissette), life becomes anything but mechanic for the Lawson family. With Ted’s boss and nosy neighbors the Brindles next door, his family must pass off Vickie as a real child. It’s easy for his wife Joan (Marla Pennington) who can’t help dotting on her like a real daughter, but harder for his precocious son Jamie (Jerry Supiran) who uses Vickie to do his homework and ward off Harriet Brindle (Emily Schulman), the annoying redheaded girl next door. The series also has Edie McClurg as Mrs. Bonnie Brindle, Harriet’s busybody mother.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

She's a miracle, and I grant you, she’ll enchant you at her sight. She's a small wonder, and she'll make your heart beat twice... She will indeed enchant you and make your heart beat twice of laughter, because this show is good and funny in a cheesy way. Small Wonder aired for five seasons in syndication (on weekends, on mostly Fox stations) and often reran out of order, to the chagrin of fans (not to mention the writers). All 24 original first season episodes are included here in their intended order!

The episodes are enchanting and in airdate order on this DVD. Memorable episodes include the series premiere “Vicki’s Homecoming,” as genius United Robotronics cybernetics engineer Ted Lawson, brings home for assembly and long-term field beta testing “Vicki,” or V.I.C.I. (Voice Input Child Identicant): a secretly constructed robotic domestic aide in the form of a 10-year-old girl, to whom housewife Joan takes a shine while 10-year-old son Jamie instantly takes advantage of Vicki as a maid to clean his room and do his homework. In the very next episode “The Neighbors,” the Brindles, the Lawson's nosy neighbors, come across Vicki and tries to find out their secret. In “The Suitor,” Warren, the school nerd, drops by and falls in love with the only girl who hasn't smirked at him: Vicki. In sort of a two-part story, “The Adoption,” tipped off on the sly by busybody Bonnie Brindle, Child Services threatens to take Vicki away unless the Lawsons can produce her past -- and she passes a medical exam. The story continues in “Child Genius,” to circumvent Child Services' orders to send Vicki to school and risk exposure, the Lawsons hire a pompous tutor who mistakes her computer abilities for genius. In “The Burrito Story,” before there was Qdoba or Panchero’s, we had Vicki making burritos for dinner and Jamie decides to have her mass-produce them as a business - on credit. In “The Robot Nappers,” when keen-eyed recruitment officers from a rival robotics firm drop by to interview Ted, they suspect Vicki is a robot and plan to "robotnap" her. In “Good Ol’ Lou,” the death of an obese colleague (sounds like a Lou I know) pushes a shaken Ted to throw the family into a rigorous diet and fitness regimen that nearly kills them all. And in the season finale, “The Grandparents,” Ted has the unenviable task of explaining to his unwary Vicki-doting father, who bitterly lost his job to automation, that his new lovely adopted granddaughter is really a robot!

Recurring stars are Paul C. Scott as Reggie, Daryl T. Bartley as Warren, William Bogert as Brandon Brindle, and guest stars include Ken Berry and Kelly Brit.


Packaging:

La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-LA...she's fantastic, made of plastic... microchips here and there... Actually, the packaging is made of plastic certainly but there are no microchips her and there, though! We have a cardboard box holding two plastic slim cases. The box has a full body shot of Vicki in her famous red and white dress with her access panel on her back visible. She better zip the back of her dress before the Brindles come! The color scheme for the set is basically blue. The back of the box has info on the series and set, along with a list of bonus features, a cast photo (with the Lawsons an Harriet) and two still shots from episodes. As mentioned before, inside the box are two plastic slim cases, with no microchips here and there. It would have been cool if we had some microchips here and there inside the box or on the box. I love saying microchips here and there! Anyway, the slim cases are also blue in color. The first slim case has another cast photo on the cover (with the same image of Vicki as the box cover, though). The back of the first case has a disc-by-disc breakdown of episodes on this slim case. We have discs one and two on this slim case and the back of the skim case details the episodes on those two discs. Episode title, synopsis, original airdate, and if there are any commentaries and bonus features. The second slim case has a photo of the kids (Harriet, Vicki, and Jamie) on the cover. The back of the second slim case is similar to the first one but it has details on the episodes on discs three and four.

Inside the slim cases are the discs. The discs are placed on the left and right panels. For example, on the first slim case, disc one is on the left, and disc two is on the right. Same goes true for the second slim case, but that has discs three and four. The artwork on the panels is just a gold background. The artwork on the discs is in different shades of blue and has the show logo and what disc number it is. It looks like a microchip inside the shades of blue. So we have microchips here and there, sort of! 


Menu Design and Navigation:

The menu starts off with some computer oriented transition, maybe a microchip, and then we hear the theme song playing in the background. Each menu on each disc is similar and has a shot of Vicki. Each menu is different in color though. Disc one and two are in shades of blue, disc three is purple, and disc four is green. On disc one before you get to the Main Menu, we have auto trailers for stuff like Punky Brewster and Mr. Belvedere. The options are: Play All, Episodes and Bonus Features. The Episodes menu is simple and easy, it lists the episode title. The Bonus Features lists the bonus features, whether it is audio commentary or original promos (and on disc four we also have Fan Art Gallery). Just a suggestion to Shout! for next time: let’s have the main menu look like Vicki’s access panel (you know, the thing on her back). And then we can choose our options on that. That would have been better!


Video and Audio Quality:

The video is pretty decent. It is not perfect by far, but for a series from the ‘80s, it is as good as it can be really. There is some debris here and there, but there is nothing remotely bad about the video. We should be happy this show is finally on DVD, since it hasn’t aired on TV in many years. In fact, I haven’t seen the series in well over 15 years at least. I loved watching the series as a kid on WNYW Fox-5 in the NY market. Anyway, the audio is also good. It isn’t the good stereo we hear on today’s sitcoms, but it is at a good sound level. We get 4 chapter stops for each episode and each episode is almost exactly the same in length at around 22:17. This series aired in first-run syndication, so that runtime is not edited. Nothing is removed here, as far as I know. Also, after the closing theme, some episodes have the 20th Century Fox logo at the end, but some have the old Metromedia logo instead. Not sure why some have the Fox one. Maybe they are newer prints?

Runtimes of each episode by disc follows:

Disc one
1. Vicki’s Homecoming 22:17
2. The Neighbors 22:17
3. The Sitter 22:17
4. The Suitor 22:19
5. Sibling Rivalry 22:17
6. Spielberg, Jr. 22:18

Disc two
7. The Lie 22:18
8. The Bully 22:18
9. Slightly Dishonorable 22:17
10. The Adoption 22:17
11. Child Genius 22:17
12. Ted’s New Boss 22:18

Disc three
13. Brainwashed 22:17
14. The Burrito Story 22:17
15. Camping Trip 22:17
16. Love Story 22:17
17. Substitute Father 22:17
18. The Robot Nappers 22:17

Disc four
19. The Company Takeover 22:18
20. Good Ol’ Lou 22:17
21. Like Father, Like Son 22:17
22. Vaudeville Vicki 22:17
23. The Real Facts of Life 22:17
24. The Grandparents 22:17


Special Features:

Shout! Factory usually produces good DVD sets and this is another example. We have some ‘enchanting’ bonus features on this set! First off, every episode has the original promo used during its original first-run syndication run! They run about 30 seconds each. I wish they would have put them right before the episode starts instead of putting it in a separate menu. It makes more sense putting it before the episode so we have a preview of it. Oh well, not a big deal...just saying. The runtimes per disc for the promos are 3:12, 3:13, 3:11, and 3:12. Each disc has 6 episodes so if you divide it, you’ll get the average runtime for a promo per disc (e.g. 3:12/6 episodes = 32 seconds).

We also have five episodes that have audio commentaries! These are completely in different tracks, so you have to go to the bonus features menu to see and hear these. They are not located in the episodes menu, only the actual episode minus the commentary is on that menu. The first audio commentary is for the premiere episode “Vicki’s Homecoming.” Commenting is creator Howard Leeds, Dick Christie, Marla Pennington, and Jerry Supiran. This track actually runs 23:57 as Howard Leeds keeps on talking after the episode ends, so we get nearly two minutes of more info since the actual episode is 22:17! Among the things we learn here is that the show was originally for NBC, but they passed. The second audio commentary is for the episode “The Suitor,” also on disc one. Commenting on this one are Dick Christie, Marla Pennington, Jerry Supiran, and guest star Daryl T. Bartley. This one doesn’t go over in time, so it still runs 22:19. The next audio commentary is for the episode “Ted’s New Boss,” at the end of disc two. Commenting here are Dick Christie, Marla Pennington, Jerry Supiran, and Edie McClurg. Nice to hear from the always funny Edie McClurg! Moving on to disc three, the same team from the previous commentary return to comment on the episode “The Robot Nappers.” So that is Dick Christie, Marla Pennington, Jerry Supiran, and Edie McClurg. The final audio commentary is on the final disc for the season finale, “The Grandparents.” Commenting here is Dick Christie, Marla Pennington, and Jerry Supiran. This one also runs a bit long, as they talk for a bit at the end, so this runs 22:25 instead of the actual 22:17. It’s too bad Tiffany Brissette was not on any of these. Maybe she declined or wasn’t available? It would have been nice to have Emily Schulman as well. Anyway, we learn a lot of tidbits on these commentaries. You’ll even learn how to pronounce Jerry Supiran’s last name. Even Dick Christie finally learned how it is pronounced.

The final bonus feature is pretty weird, I think. It is creative, but some of the images are strange. We have a Fan Art Gallery. It’s good to see the work of fans on this set, though. I think that is good promotion for the DVDs to have fans contribute. That makes fans want to buy it more, especially fans who contributed to this. I’m no artist, but I liked the back of Vicki image with the access panel on a disc. They should have used that for the disc artwork! But maybe then they would have to pay the fan that did it, so maybe that’s why they didn’t. Anyway, this is a fun and quick view. Some images are scary, though.


Final Comments:

She's a small wonder, brings love and laughter everywhereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee... It certainly brought love and laughter to me as I had fond memories reliving these episodes! I have no idea why people think this is one of the worst shows ever. I think they have never watched an episode and just go by the show’s premise. Yes, it is cheesy and very ‘80s, but so what? It’s entertaining and the jokes are still funny. It never made itself to be Emmy material like Cheers or anything. This show is no different from other ‘80s family hits like Diff’rent Strokes and Silver Spoons, but this show never gets the respect. Maybe because it was not on a network in primetime, since it aired in first-run syndication. It is a shame the show hasn’t been seen on television here in the U.S. in like 15 years, but I’m so glad Shout! is finally starting this series on DVD. Let’s hope they release all four seasons in a timely manner. As for this set in particular, it’s a good start by Shout! I liked the episode promos and audio commentaries. We should definitely have those on every remaining season. I’d like to see a featurette or cast interviews, though. It would be nice to see how everyone looks now, including Reggie. I know we had a very short reunion last year on The Morning Show with Mike & Juliet with Tiffany Brissette in the studio surprised by Marla Pennington, Dick Christie, and Edie McClurg via satellite. But that was short and ended abruptly, not to mention not everyone was there.

I also hope Shout! does a more creative job on the packaging. It is good here, but very simple. We need some microchips here and there! Or at least we should have the back of Vicki with her access panel as the main menu. Anyway, this set is good. Good episodes, good extras, and of everything is originally presented! If you’ve never seen the series, well then you will be enchanted by Vicki’s sight and your heart will beat twice -- so order it today and see that happen! Shout! has brought love and laughter everywhere to all fans of the show by releasing this series finally on DVD! And let’s hope they continue to do so everwhereeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 2.5/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by pavanbadal on 01/27/10

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005JOQZ/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

Questions or comments about this set? Post on our message board:

http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=260923


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