Jerry Supiran, child star of the infamous late eighties sitcom, Small Wonder, is broke and homeless. He played Jamie, the unfathomably annoying son in the home of the family that kept a robot with the form of a little girl in a maid’s uniform as a domestic slave. I consider him within the bottom five worst child actors in television history. He is a contender for #1.
I announced this misfortune to my family, who, predictably, almost all understood the news that I was recounting. My sister-in-law snapped, “Good!” – with her voice inflecting an unmistakable “Serves him right!” pitiless judgment. It’s as though his absolutely horrendous performance on the 1980s syndicated sitcom had finally been accounted for and the child actor whose shouting, whiny delivery of inexcusably awful jokes was now paying the penalty for entertainment atrocities he had committed decades earlier.
Though it went unsaid, I had the same immediate reaction. She knew.
One late wintry holiday night years ago, my sister-in-law and I were running searches on Small Wonder and the entire cast. Since my brother regularly threatens to put in one of his Small Wonder dvds, we can’t really escape it.
Finds included a few insubstantial interviews and almost nothing on Vicki the robot, Tiffany Brissette, except that she seemed to have moved from acting into professional bodybuilding. This is a career transition that I would like to follow more closely, though I believe she has wisely not exploited her robot past. Besides, I don’t really blame Tiffany Brissette. Her monotone delivery of lines and expressionless face made the crazy overacting from the rest of the cast maybe a little more palatable. Vicki and Tiffany are not the issue here, though there is plenty of fine work that fans have produced featuring the enslaved robot at the center of the show.
We discovered some horrifying Halloween costumes, interesting and disturbing fan art, and a very unfunny video about the Small Wonder kids grown up, with Jamie (NOT played by Jerry Supiran) raping the robot to death. Or to non-existence. The video is hardly worthy of a consciousness/life dichotomy Battlestar Galactica discussion, but I will leave it to the reader’s discretion to view it.
After rinsing our minds of said video, we returned to Small Wonder research, which showed that Supiran had been the subject of an urban legend, one that has followed Abe Vigoda for decades: He was dead. Also, he was secretly Smashing Pumpkins head Billy Corgan. I wasn’t sure which was worse, but I certainly didn’t actually want him dead.
But did I want Jamie/Jerry to become homeless, even without knowing so? Why?
There is a certain appeal to a certain demographic in watching television that is just so awful that its awfulness inspires awe.
But how do we feel now, once the awe has worn off and we’re just left with the awfulness? Is there a bitter aftertaste of wasted hours, supremely stupid scripts, and inept actors that inspires something wicked down inside? I feel it emanating from me, and I can’t stop it. Stop emanating!
Jerry Supiran does not help his own case with a tale of losing most of the money to a stripper and another chunk to an embezzling advisor.
- One, I want to hear the stripper’s side of the story.
- Two, exactly how many embezzling entertainment advisors are there out there?
- Three, he’s leaving out past excuses about having his identity stolen – twice.
How many roads to ruin does a child star actually have?
How does the image of him losing job after job at steakhouses over 15 years (is this a career niche?) and finally living under a bridge set off a slight smirk on my face and a round of emails bantering from a circle of friends about how we would or wouldn’t help him? I offered my garage, but the strippers would have to get approval from me first. Someone else had already volunteered to line up the strippers, so I knew that they’d come knocking.
How can I be this callous? I didn’t even like the portrayal of a comedic homeless person on the new web series Burning Love. I work with homeless families on a regular basis. I don’t think homelessness is funny at all.
So why does the idea of Jamie from Small Wonder having to take a shit in a ditch in the rain because he lives under a bridge with all his possessions overstuffed into a ragged duffel bag carve a hideous grin onto my face? Why is my brain now trying to make this even worse?
Jerry Supiran had no acting talent whatsoever. He didn’t deserve to be in an elementary school stageplay about the arrival of spring, much less an international sitcom star. OK, maybe not star, but I won’t budge on international. Much to my chagrin and embarrassment for my nation, I have personally seen Small Wonder in several other countries, including Singapore. Small Wonder was inflicted on viewers literally half-way round the globe. This was before interweb, before I realized that international distribution heavily relied on low-cost programming, making the worst shows the most available. I thought we could keep Small Wonder a national, shameful secret.
We watched, but only in condescension, or I should say amazement – an amazement that people actually got up in the morning and went to a job to create a something that came out as Small Wonder. It makes Saved by the Bell look like 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is schlock of the lowest order. I recall heckling the television as chaos erupted when an evil model of Vicki was introduced. Did I not have some readings to finish? Dishes to do? And if I had to heckle a screen, couldn’t I have raised the bar higher? Suzanne Somers’ syndicated series She’s the Sheriff was on around this time. Even that would have been a step up.
Most of all, it shakes me to the core that there was another Small Wonder demographic out there, besides the one that actually held ritual bongfests beforehand in preparation to fully stun themselves at how bad television could be. Was there an audience out there who found the show humorous – as in the jokes were funny? The actors really nailed it? The premise – of creating a child robot with some degree of self-awareness and sense of morality, only to shove her into an demeaning maid uniform and force her to perform menial tasks all day?
Shit, right now I have never felt so sympathetic toward Cylons – especially the Toasters.
Fuck. The child robot with consciousness drives me into A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the 2001 film that started with Stanley Kubrick and ended in Steven Spielberg. Haley Joel Osment played a heartbreaking robot character with all the naivety and vulnerability of a child buckled into the wiring of a machine. The actor has had his own troubles since his child stardom. Why does this make me feel sad instead of maliciously happy? Is it because he could act? Because he did some arguably fantastic films? I don’t want to see his mug shot again, much less a news story about him living under a bridge.
Vicki would have fit in with the sad set of robots of A.I., used up and casually thrown away by the humans who possessed them. Did Vicki have artificial intelligence like the Mecha robot played by Haley Joel Osment, who was used to fill a crushing void in a grieving family and was subsequently sent to the trash heap after a real child entered the home?
Jamie was the real child in the Small Wonder home, the real one that counted, not the freckled, faithful robot slave. The character was not only portrayed by a heinously untalented actor, Jamie was duplicitous, lazy, shrill, and selfish.
We knew the truth.
Small Wonder makes me angry! Angry at the people who produced it. Angry at the idiots who laughed at it. Angry at myself for thinking that I needed to bike home faster so that I didn’t miss the fucking 1950s-esque theme song at the start of the show.
It’s the ugly side of popular culture. I actually do want retribution for Small Wonder, and when it comes, I can’t shake the Schadenfreude.
Do I really want Jerry Supiran living under a bridge? No. Does the envisioning exercise that I cannot seem to regulate bring me pleasure? Yes.
Jerry Supiran actually only exists in my world as Jamie Lawson and the child actor who played him, and I hate them both. The steakhouse/stripper/Billy Corgan period between then and now is irrelevant to me. I cannot divorce him from Small Wonder, which embodies the vapid wasteland that has dominated television nearly since its inception.
Now there exists higher quality, much smarter programming, and I believe most of it is healthy for me. Small Wonder does seem a world behind me. Can I set it free and not look back?
Television is unquestionably better than it was in the late eighties, but really, all those fucking Real Housewives shows today? I’d way rather watch Small Wonder. No shit. That’s how much I despise reality programs. They are a calibre below Small Wonder.
Wait. Now I am starting to feel better. I want Jerry Supiran to get a solid job at a new steakhouse, one where they forgive his past crimes and accept him for who he is now: not dead and not Billy Corgan. Can I grant absolution? To Jerry, not to Jamie. I can never let go of the hurt that Jamie has visited upon me.
Instead, I want immediate release of my reality show hatred. I want to see a Biblical plague of misfortune rain down on the producers, the non-stars, and everyone else associated with the genre. I won’t shed a tear for that fucking Snooki – whose name I know only from the magazine covers – if she has to dig through a dumpster to find food and must beg for change at intersections with her own hard-luck story edited down to whatever a permanent marker can fit onto a piece of cardboard. I want to see The Bachelor, whoever the fuck he is, spend his days in a public library staring into the through the stacks into the emptiness of his life while mothers direct their children away from the scary, smelly man sitting in the defunct periodicals section. I want to see his face when he trudges down the sidewalk to discover that his car, where he had been living for six months, had been towed away by the police for having three flat tires and not moved for street cleaning. I want them to pay – now.
I don’t want to worry about any statute of limitations I might feel as time passes. I want castigation without delay. I’ll stop at public flogging and leave it at homelessness. But with no cameras trailing. Just hunger and cold and fear.
My, I feel so much better about myself now. Jerry Supiran, child actor and adult-in-dire-straits, the best of luck to you! We’re settled, square and fair.
Letting go of the anger was the hardest part. Now I have to simply redirect it at housewives mistaken for stars and plastic bachelors and the skanks that vie for the chance to win a reality show by conforming to whatever they think he wants. My rage is there and I need to keep it focused.
Besides, there are other Small Wonder concerns rumbling. L.A. Lady wants all this hullabaloo about Jamie to stop right now. She’s only interested in doing something for Harriet, whether Harriet wants assistance or not. Emily Schulman, leave that door unlocked. Help is on the way!