Based on the book by John Holbrook Vance and directed by Buzz Kulik, Bad Ronald stars Scott Jacoby (Murder She Wrote, The Golden Girls) as Ronald Wilby – a socially awkward high school nerd who is picked on by others who loves fantasy and art.
Ronald has a very overprotective mother called Elaine, played by Kim Hunter (Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape From The Planet of the Apes), who needs of surgery and plans for Ronald to become a doctor and cure her illness. Ronald’s father has not been heard from in years, having divorced his mother and agreeing to terminate his parental rights in exchange for not having to pay child support.
One afternoon, while asking out Laurie Matthews (Shelley Spurlock – Happy Days, Cocoon: The Return), he is rejected and then ridiculed by her friends. As he returns home, he accidentally knocks over her younger sister Carol (Angela Hoffman – The Bionic Woman). Carol, like Laurie, taunts Ronald. He pushes her over, inadvertently killing her when she strikes her head on a concrete block. He buries the body and confesses to his mother. Fearing the police will not believe that it was accidental, Ronald and his mother wallpaper the door frame to the downstairs bathroom and convert the closed-off space to a living quarters for Ronald, with a concealed trapdoor in the pantry through which Ronald can escape in an emergency. The plan is for him to hide in the room until the incident blows over. Mrs. Wilby tells the police that Ronald ran away.
Ronald’s mother pays attention to what neighbours and others are saying about the girl’s disappearance, especially the nosy Mrs. Schumacher (played by Linda Watkins in her final role). Elaine tells Ronald that when it’s safe, he can return to a normal life.
One afternoon Elaine is taken into a hospital for gallbladder surgery, from which she unexpectedly dies. In the meantime, Ronald has created a fantasy world in his head consisting of a prince and a princess that live happily until a devil appears and a struggle begins.
Shortly after Elaine’s death, the house is sold to the Wood family, consisting of a mother (Pippa Scott – Outlaws, Ironside, Jigsaw John), father (Dabney Coleman – WarGames, Boardwalk Empire, Recess) and three teenage daughters: Babs (Cindy Fisher – The Blues Brothers, Murder She Wrote), Althea (Cindy Eilbacher – Slumber Party Massacre II, Otherworld, Hunter) and Ellen (Lisa Eilbacher – Midnight Caller, Beverly Hills Cop, Alias Smith and Jones). The Wood’s then move in not knowing that Ronald already lives there…