As the 80’s dawned, consumers began to get hip to the idea of home computers. The film WarGames was a massive hit in the summer of ’83, helping make the idea of home computers acceptable to a technology-fearing public. Thus, a home-computing fad was sparked by the media, and the popularity of the subject paved the way for Whiz Kids.
This hour-long series was kind of like a technological-age riff on Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. It was built around Richie, a teenage genius who lived in suburban L.A. and spent much of his free time on his talking home computer (which was named RALF). Richie was also an aspiring detective, using his “hacking” skills and his friends—Ham, Jeremy and Alice—to solve mysteries around town. And when kid power wasn’t enough, they would turn to local reporter Farley or policeman Neil Quinn.
Irene was Richie’s divorced mom, who subscribed to a computer dating service (you can imagine the fun Richie had with that), and Cheryl was Richie’s little sister. In true kid sister form, Cheryl yearned to join Richie’s snoop squad, but she usually ended up consoling herself with the company of her robot, Herbie. A later addition to the cast was Carson Marsh, an intelligence agent who headed the ‘Athena Society.’ He helped the kids by using his connections to get them secret information for their cases, as well as bailing them out when they got into jams.
Unfortunately, the Whiz Kids couldn’t solve the case of how to keep your show on for longer than a season, and the cancellation virus arrived in June of 1984 after 18 episodes. Whiz Kid Alice (Andrea Elson) quickly rebooted and went on to star in TV’s E.T. sitcom, Alf.
USA / CBS – Universal / 18×50 minute episodes / Broadcast 5 October 1983 – 2 June 1984
Matthew Laborteaux as Richie Adler
Todd Porter as Hamilton Parker
Jeffrey Jacquet as Jeremy Saldino
Max Gail as Llewellen Farley, Jr.
Andrea Elson as Alice Tyler
Melanie Gaffin as Cheryl Adler
A Martinez as Lieutenant Neal Quinn
Madelyn Cain as Irene Adler
Linda Scruggs as Ms. Vance
Dan O’Herlihy as Carson Marsh (1984)