Oh yes, the title is a clear indication of what I’m going to be looking at in this Thanksgiving-themed article.
Try not to cry.
You know, I shudder whenever I think about how dumb television producers were in the 1980s. If hours of non-educational cartoons have taught me anything, it’s that brain matter is not necessary.
And then there’s this.
Brain matter no longer exists.
Somebody decided quality, quality entertainment, good acting, good direction, good writing, good quality, and well, quality in general were non-essential to all life function when they decided Small Wonder needed to be a thing. Running in first-run syndication from 1985 until 1989 – yes, four seasons, people – I’ve seen better shows cancelled far sooner than that.
Let’s not go into The Whispers. I’m still angry about that.
If you were old enough to witness this show in the 1980s, you know the premise of it (or rather, it’s nonsensical plot) – it’s about a typical suburban family, The Lawsons, with a not-so-typical suburban family secret…they have a “daughter” who is actually an android named VICI (or Vicki, as they call her). The theme song in the first two seasons was decidedly 1950s chique, if the 1950s were in fact stylish in 1985. And since they weren’t…
They tried to have 1950s style shenanigans…and since that didn’t work….
They just used bad special effects, acted badly, and spoke dialogue, that was just…you get my drift. Bad. So bad.
And most people (at least, the ones born in the 1990s) would never have believed this show existed. And yet, it did. For four glorious years.
I want to make this up, people. Really, I do.
So anyway, being that we’re in the Thanksgiving swing of things, and well, today is Thanksgiving and all, I figured I’d take a look into the vault of Thanksgiving nostalgic strangeness (not to be confused with the nostalgic strangness this blog parades around the rest of the year)…and talk about the time the Lawsons (or, more specifically, their bratty son, Jamie) learned the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
You can’t see me right now, but I’m laughing at the fact that you’re reading this. Because you’re probably thinking this is a nice Thanksgiving recap of a sitcom.
Again, stop crying. Things are going to be fine.
So, it’s nearing Thanksgiving in the suburban hell that the Lawsons occupy, the dark recesses of suburbia you don’t live in, and the Joan is having Vicki help her prepare a shopping list of authentic Thanksgiving Day foods, as the Lawson family is planning to celebrate like it’s 1621…sans plague and death. That’s not celebration-worthy.
Joan asks Vicki to write the list faster…so she does. And the speed causes smoke. Trust me folks, this is only the beginning of the episode, and my mind is already going numb from the non-logic behind this.
The Father from the Depths of Sitcom Hell, better known as the unfunny Ted, arrives home from work and reads the grocery list. Of course, he has to crack a joke…a bad joke.
Oh, and the list calls for 91 Indians. You can thank sweet little Vicki for that one. Oh, and she also reminds the Lawsons that 23 turkeys were bought to the first Thanksgiving…complete with a gobbling sound. It’s a “joke” that will be repeated later in the episode.
I can’t figure out what passes for a joke on this show. Or, at least, a funny one.
And not too far behind Ted is the epitome of annoyingness known as Jamie Lawson, Joan and Ted’s actual child, the one that isn’t plastic and fantastic. More like flesh and…not so fantastic. And he won’t eat venison, since it’s Bambi and his relatives. I think I’ve found something to agree with Jamie on – I refuse to eat venison. Oh, and veal. I hate veal. But give me five minutes to agree with Jamie on something – I may change my mind.
And a knock at the back door reveals the Red Headed Nightmare known as Harriet Brindle…wearing a turkey costume. And she insists she’ll be immediate family when she marries Jamie.
Jamie’s friend Adam shows up at the house to fix Jamie’s bike…and get hit on lovesick Harriet. Good lord, little girl – enjoy your freedom while it lasts. Relationships aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Ok, some relationships aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. They’re aight.
Jamie’s friend Adam tells Jamie about his life as a latchkey kid while the pair are fixing Jamie’s bike. And the kid playing Adam is a hell of an actor…until he gets offended for no damn reason. He starts yelling his lines about how he hates when people feel sorry for him. It’s like someone told him to project, but he decided to just put on a display of bad acting, coupled with projection. Try not to think too much about how much sense that makes.
Anyway, Adam tells Jamie about a trip he is going on with other latchkey kids sponsored by the community center, and how he had to fill out an application. It’s a ski trip, and of course, the wheels are turning for Jamie, who thinks this is a far better Thanksgiving than the one he will have with his family.
Kid, get over the fact that you’re not an only child with a robot for a sister. It’s the second season, you can’t possibly still have issues about this!
So Jamie (and Vicki in tow) talks to his father about their Thanksgiving plans, which consist of sleeping in, eating, then sitting on the couch, watching football…and falling asleep. Jamie doesn’t feel like this is very exciting, and overacts his bratty self to the kitchen.
He then comes up with a great plan to go on the ski trip, and takes Vicki with him…by posing as a latchkey kid and teaching Vicki to be “very sad.”
And make her fake cry terrible special effects tears.
Jamie tells a sob story about how his dad went to pick up pizza, and never came back (and they never saw the pizza either, according to Vicki), how their mother works alot…and how their dad is on a milk carton. So the gullible community center director, Mr. Beck, falls for the “sappy” story, and tells Jamie he will follow up with him by phone…except he doesn’t have a phone.
Back at the Lawsons, Vicki is cutting firewood for the cozy fire Joan wants to have in the fireplace for Thanksgiving…but just rips a tree out of the ground instead.
The doorbell rings, and it turns out to be Mr. Beck, overacting his way into following up with Jamie’s mom. And all the comedic misadventures that follow…are typical of a show this bad. Ted shows up, Jamie makes a bunch of ridiculous faces, overacts, and acts like a brat in general. Long story short – Jamie gets in trouble.
And Vicki cries those fake tears. Again.
Still better acting than everyone else on this show. But only because we know she is playing a robot.
Vicki suggests a good punishment for Jamie – tie him to a tree, cover him with honey, and let the ants eat him for Thanksgiving. You know, exactly what the Indians did. It’s an impressive punishment. But Jamie just gets grounded and deprived of Thanksgiving dinner, since it was punishment for him to have to enjoy a boring Thanksgiving with his parents.
The next day…
Jamie decides to repent for being unhappy about his boring Thanksgiving, so Ted and Joan decide to give Jamie the Thanksgiving he wanted and don’t set a place for him, but then immediately (like, two seconds later) feel guilty about their actions.
With Jamie grounded in his room, Harriet breaks away from her family’s celebration of “death wish turkey” to wish her “main squeeze” a Happy Thanksgiving. His parents come into his room, and decide to forgive him…but Jamie decides to take his punishment. Um, Brat…I mean, Jamie – they forgive you. There’s turkey to be had. Take the forgiveness!
And in the biggest about face ever, the family forgive their son, and Jamie declares his thankfulness for his family. What he’s not thankful for? Harriet pressing her face against the back door.
The Lawsons decide to include Harriet in their Thanksgiving celebration. And while she’s grateful for Jamie’s kindness (after all, he invited her), like the first helping, Vicki informs Harriet “don’t go far, this won’t last.”
And then we close out on the smiling Lawson family (including Harriet) enjoying Thanksgiving dinner.
And that’s the story of the Lawsons, a family from the side of suburbia you’d rather not live in, and the Thanksgiving they taught their son a lesson…in forgiving his brat-like nature five seconds after grounding him. It could have been a nice story about inviting a “latchkey kid” for a nice Thanksgiving dinner with family, but since this was Small Wonder, and the child needing the important lesson was Jamie…that wasn’t going to happen. Logic would have written this episode differently, but there was no logic. Just the apparently comedic misadventures of bratty Jamie Lawson.
Oh, and incredibly fake tears.
I never said this was going to be a heartwarming Thanksgiving episode. I never even said this was going to be an inspiring post about a heartwarming Thanksgiving episode. I never even said this would be inspiring on any level.
You’ve visited here before. Inspiring posts are a whole other thing on this blog.
I guess we can be thankful for sitcoms that truly aren’t this terrible existing anymore. Let’s face it, there are some questionable sitcoms out there, but none that are quite on the level of Small Wonder.
Something for us all to be thankful about.
Have a happy, healthy, and enjoyable rest of your Thanksgiving!
Still the best acting on this show.