When will the '80s die? We need a 'Small Wonder' miracle!


Perhaps no decade has overstayed its welcome more egregiously than the 1980s. The party’s over, your guests have left, your spouse has gone to bed, and yet the ’80s are still jamming in your living room to Starship’s “We Built This City.” That’s not to say that everything from the ’80s was bad. Just most of it. The rest was mediocre. Yet for some reason, virtually every pop-culture property from the Reagan Era has been resurrected in recent years. Just last week, The Thing and Footloose were back in theaters, and though Footloose apparently proved to be harmless fun the second time around, the reimagining of properties already short on imagination has reached epidemic proportions. In the past two years, we’ve seen remakes, sequels, prequels and spoofs of The A-TeamTeen Wolf, MacGyver, Fright Night, Clash of the Titans, Conan the Barbarian, The Smurfs, and Arthur, just to name a few.

Though it’s difficult to pinpoint when our current infatuation with the 1980s began, I’m willing to blame 1999’s Inspector Gadget, one of the early needless adaptations and a template for the quality of recycled entertainment that followed. The Matthew Broderick-starring film was not good, in any respect, but was it even supposed to be? I mean, you remember the cartoon, right?

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. We’re soon to be reintroduced to Red Dawn, Top Gun, 21 Jump Street, Short Circuit, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While other decades have similiarly been resuscitated by nostalgic adults in the studio offices that determine what plays in your local theater, the ’80s seem like a bottomless pit of creative crutches. Recently, though, there have been hints that we’re finally moving on to the ’90s — hello, Total Recall. But I’m not convinced. As long as there’s an Alf or a Goonies there for the re-picking, we can expect more of the same.

In fact I have a theory: the 1980s will not truly be exhausted until they remake Small Wonder. For those of you not familiar, this sit-noncom was about a conventional TV family in which the father (Dick Christie) invented a robot, Voice Input Child Identicant, that he tried to pass off as his daughter, V.I.C.I (Tiffany Brissette). She spoke with a robotic voice, was lightning quick, and had superhuman strength, but conveniently, no one ever figured out her secret.

For four seasons, the show made Mr. Belvedere seem like The Dick Van Dyke Show in comparison. V.I.C.I. would follow an instruction like a robot Amelia Bedelia, hijinks would ensue, the nosy neighbors would suspect she might not be a real girl — but everything would work out in the end. Admittedly, I watched the program occasionally, mostly out of curiosity: Did the people who owned the TV station know that someone was putting this program on the air? Was the station being held hostage while this was going on? Should we call the police?

But now, 22 years after it was scrapped, I urge Hollywood to give Small Wonder another look. Resurrecting the Worst Show of my childhood would indicate to me that there’s finally nothing else left. The cupboard is bare. I grew up in the 1980s once, and it wasn’t that awesome the first time around. It’s time we moved on, so that my own children can grow so fond of their own horrible entertainment that they buy tickets to the big screen remake 20 years later.

Read more:
In praise of a robot named Vicki
The semi-official ‘Small Wonder’ webpage

Comments (104 total) Add your comment
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  • Flip

    The 80s was the best decade, one of the reasons being because that’s when I was born. I hope it never goes away because 80s nostalgia is fantastic!!

    • Ava

      You feel that way because you were too young to remember the 80’s properly. Trust me, it wasn’t as awesome as people want to remember it to be.

    • LOL

      The 80s sucked then and they suck now. Worst decade since the 50s.

      • ks

        I say the 60’s for me :)

      • Tony

        Ahem 90s! Nuff Said

      • John

        The 90s was the worst. 4 Non Blondes and that stupid song of theirs that made my ears bleed for weeks after hearing it.. Thank god nobody plays that crap anymore either.

  • RC

    Google musy be broken again at the EW offices…”We Built This City” is a Starship song.

    • cin508

      I couldn’t believe they got that wrong.

    • JRockBB

      its not even an obscure song….how can they get that wrong?!?

    • EP Sato

      Beat me to the punch, I was about to comment on that..

    • Michael

      HAHAHAHA! You are right RC….how did they miss it? (and how did I?). (sings) Knee deep in the hoopla……….

      • Tico

        And The Thing isn’t 80’s it’s a remake of a 50’s film.

      • Charlie Day

        to be correct The Thing is a prequel to the 1982 film which was a remake of a 50’s film!

      • John

        What a bunch of idiots

    • Charlie Day

      yep about to say the same thing, they still have not fixed it, Jeff, how can we take what you have to say seriously if you get such an obvious fact wrong, Starship, not Chicago, FIX IT ALREADY!

      • Charlie Day

        thank you!

      • McFly

        Well, they fixed it finally. It’s funny when the 12 year old writers at EW use something as a point of reference and get it wrong.

    • Jeff Labrecque

      Ugh, my error pains me! I originally had Chicago’s The Power of Love in there, and failed to make the complete change. My apologies.

      • Charlie Day

        Sorry Jeff, but you still woud have been wrong, “The Power of Love” was done by Huey Lewis and the News, were you perhaps thinkig of “The Glory of Love” sung by Peter Cetera former lead singer of Chicago?

      • Charlie Day

        You guys need a fact checker, I just lost my job, sign me up, where do I apply?

      • Gavin

        Um, Jeff, that would’ve been wrong as well. Huey Lewis and the News performed The Power of Love, not Chicago, unless you’re thinking of The Glory of Love, but that was actually just Peter Cetera, not Chicago. Hmmm, it may be sad that I know this.

      • Gavin

        Oops, sorry, Charlie beat me to it.

      • Charlie Day

        Wow Gavin a full five minutes after I posted my comment, deja vu!

    • Anthony

      Seriously. How could they get this wrong? I really find this disappointing, and that’s coming from a child of the ’90s.

      • Hey

        Go easy on Jeff, guys. They’re still trying to adjust his meds.

    • Shizzle

      Who cares – it was, is and shall always be a TERRIBLE SONG! Giving it proper credit is WAY more than it deserves!

  • raprilc

    I used to watch this show every Saturday morning. It was Small Wonder, then Gummi Bears, Smurfs, Alvin & the Chipmunks, and then Soul Train. Also, the Kid n’ Play cartoon while it was on. Growing up in the 80s was fun!

  • Nun

    “The kids of today should defend themselves against the seventies”

    • Charlie Day

      The seventies were probably the best decade ever for the medium of Film, the list of classic in all genres are endless and include The Godfather, Jaws, The Conversation, Young Frankenstein, Star Wars, The Exorcist, Serpico, Network, Annie Hall, Taxi Driver, Grease, Rocky, Apocalypse Now etc. I could go on and on, your statement is ridiculous, I wish the films of today were of that quality or were half as original!

      • Charlie Day


      • ks

        70’s bring back bad clothes and pet rocks :) I do love my 71 charger tho…

      • Elle

        Movies in the eighties can hold their own. In 1986 alone there was Top Gun, Crocodile Dundee, 9 1/2 Weeks, Aliens, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Heartbreak Ridge, Labyrinth, Peggy Sue got Married, Platoon, Pretty in Pink, Ruthless People, Short Circuit, Stand By Me, Three Amigos, And Children of a Lesser God. Pretty diverse and overall not bad.

    • KJN

      The 70s really did have awesome movies that will hold up forever. I’d add The Deer Hunter to that list above. I still love 16 Candles and The Breakfast Club, though. The best part of the 80s was definitely in the early years when New Wave was big and music videos were cool. The mid-80s were the worst. So cheesy. It got better again towards the end, around ’88.

      • Charlie Day

        Don’t get me wrong the 80’s had it’s share of classic films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghostbusters, Blade Runner, Poltergeist, The Color Purple, Blue Velvet, Airplane, Private Benjamin, The Shinhg and the John Hughes classics you mentioned, but the 70’s films just seem grittier and more artistic..and just more interesting…it really is regarded as the best decade for film!

      • KJN

        Absolutely, the 80s did have some really good movies. As someone mentioned above Aliens, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ruthless People, Platoon, The Color Purple and Stand By Me are all classics that I made sure to share with my daughter. Also, Back to the Future, Gremlins and E.T. But for what ever reason, she hated E.T. That seems to be a common sentiment from people her age (19) that have seen it. We loved that movie so much and cried our eyes out, but they just seem to think he was “gross”. Weird. But, yeah the movies in the 70s just had something special about them. They weren’t just movies, they were cinema art.

      • John

        The 80s had way better movies than the crap they are peddling to us as entertainment today. Give me a break guys.

  • Heather

    I can’t believe you crediting “We Build This City” to Chicago. Egregious!

  • cate

    I jammed to “We Built This City” in my living room too, but I’m pretty sure it was Starship who sang that song.

    • KJN

      That has got to be the worst song ever recorded. When I think of bad 80s music, I think of Starship. Oh, and power ballads. God, how I loathe power ballads.

      • Charlie Day

        I would not say the worst, but it is up there, my nominations for the worst would be either “The Safety Dance” by Men With Hats or “Susidio” Phil Collins somewhere they are playing in an elevator in hell!

      • Charlie Day

        my bad that would “Men Without Hats” kinda blanked it out!

      • KJN

        Oh, no! I love The Safety Dance. It’s so wonderfully weird, but fun. I agree with Sussudio. Yuck. That song is just plain stupid.

  • Aura Lee

    A friend of mine has had an 80’s theme for every party she has thrown in the past decade. She even through another friend an 80’s themed bachelorette party. I feel like if I get one more invite to “80’s Night!” Im going to punch her. At some point you have to admit the 80’s weren’t that great. The fashion was terrible, the music/movies was cheezy (for the most part). Move on.

    • Aura Lee

      Ugh wrong spelling of threw! Please ignore my error.

    • derek

      Yes, the fashions were terrible, that’s what makes 80’s nights so fun. What you should do is invite your friend to an 80’s party of your own, but let everyone else but her know to wear something that wasn’t really an 80’s trend. Like half the people at the party wear blue arm bands or something. Have a game where you have to guess 80’s movies, but just make them up.

  • EP Sato

    This sitcom was typical of Fox before the Simpsons. Aside from “Married with Children” and maybe “Duets”, most of what I remember from Fox was awful sitcoms. This one was particularly bad. I still remember the stereotype laden episode where the dude’s wife and robot daughter pretended to be JAPANESE!

    I’ll think the 80s has hit its lowest of the low when the remade “Leave it To Beaver” ends up as a movie, with an 65 year old Jerry Mathers playing a grandfather and Ken Osmond as grampa Eddie Haskell. Yeah, I know they did it in the 90s, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the 80s revamp…

    • Charlie Day

      The first Sitcoms on Fox were “Married With Children”, “Duets”, “Mr. President” with George C. Scott, and “The Tracey Ullman Show” in which “The Simpsons” were developed, I think what you are talking about is your local station whicjh became a Fox affiliate and showed syndicated shows like “The New Leave it to Beaver” which is not and never was a Fox show same with “Small Wonder” not a Fox show!

      • KJN

        Yep, you’re right. Our local channel that showed syndicated programing like Small Wonder became our Fox affiliate. Remember when they only had programming for a couple hours on Sunday nights? 21 Jump Street, baby! I remember it was predicted that they would never have enough original programming to become a full-fledged network. So weird to think of that now. But Jump Street and Married With Children became hits, then The Simpsons came around and the rest is history, lol.

  • Kari

    Small Wonder was probably the creepiest thing on television for awhile. Remember the red haired girl with the ribbons? Shudder.

    Anyway, it’s good to know that EW writers are watching 2 Broke Girls.

  • Voodoo

    I cannot believe this is actually an article. Anway, I grew up in the 80s and remember them fondly. The same goes fo the 90s. I think the real question here is, why are people so obssessed with everything 80s/90s? Apparently so far, the new century hasn’t been that great…

    • Charlie Day

      it happens in every decade, people in charge grow up and look back fondly on their youth, look at the 70′ s everything was about the 50’s “Grease”, “Sha Na Na” etc. ..what I have noticed is there has not been a lot done bout the 90’s yet, we keep going back to the 80’s when it is really the 90’s turn!

      • Rachel Green

        It’s coming…everything comes around again 20 years later. Like you said, in the seventies a lot of shows were about the fifties. In the 80’s (blame the big chill) things shifted back to the 60’s. Because the people in charge of our entertainment dollar grew up then and want to relive it. The 90’s revival should start any day now. But I have to say, to me, the 80’s were original. The 90’s just wanted to be the 60’s. The 80’s were totally awesome in my opinion.

      • Charlie Day

        When I think of the 90’s I think of Seattle Grunge, flannel shirts, Quentin Tarentino, Friends, Seinfeld, Titanic, Adam Sandler, and Celine Dion, and some of that was fun, well maybe not Celine Dion..lol

  • Trekkie Gal

    I used to watch Small Wonder every Saturday morning when I was a kid. Max referred to it last night on 2 Broke Girls. It’s been years since I thought about this show, and now there are two references to it in two days? Sheesh! :)

  • Reno

    2 Broke Girls mentioned this show last night… I think you’re wish is about to come true.

  • S

    I guess someone was watching 2 Broke Girls last night.

  • Captain Average

    There’s a series being developed about an interracial couple [Jewish/Chinese] and their robot. Is that close enough?

  • knowing


    • cj

      I loved this show. Granted I was 6 years old, but Small Wonder and that show where the girls dad was stuck in a crystal or he was an alien or something were tv gold to me at the time.

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