Perfect Strangers (1986–1993)
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I have been watching this show since I was around 7 years old, and in my experience, it has only gotten better with age. As a youngster, I think I enjoyed it because of the character of Balki-the naive sheepherder from a small developing island, faced with a massive culture shock when he arrives unexpectedly at the door of his distant cousin, Larry. I laughed along as Balki was dazzled by Western technology, taught Larry his bizarre Myposian rituals, made endless failed attempts at popular American sayings, and had his good nature taken advantage of time and time again. I must admit that at the time, Larry was just a character that was around so Balki could exist, and I really took little notice of him. But now that I am older, it is Balki that has begun to fade into the background. The character of Larry seems kind of straightforward-an average guy in his mid 20s who, despite himself, comes to learn many life lessons from his eccentric cousin. I would have thought they could have gotten any old actor to play someone like that, but now I see that I was wrong. Mark Linn Baker is subtly brilliant as Larry Appleton. He portrays Larry's neurotic, on-edge personality, without becoming tacky and predictable in his mannerisms. And despite being "the normal one", his use of physical comedy is hilarious. The 2 lead actors bounce off each other perfectly, and make this show work.
This show is pure fun, but also made a nice statement about morality, which made you care about the 2 lead characters. At the age of 20, I still shed a tear when Balki moves back to Mypos and he and Larry have to say goodbye. And when Jennifer accepts Larry's unrehearsed marriage proposal, over the proposal her new attractive, wealthy boyfriend. And I still laugh when I see Larry and Balki sneaking into Jennifer and Maryanne's apartment at night to swap Jennifer's engagement ring, fix up a house and accidentally get stuck in a chandelier, or dancing to the reworded limbo rock as they attempt to bake 3,000 "Bippy Bobkas".
As a disclaimer, I must warn that this show isn't exactly high-brow, to say the least. The story lines are often far from believable, the dialogue isn't always as funny as the raucous canned laughter would have you believe, and a "straight guy meets wacky guy" comedy isn't exactly cutting edge. But in all honesty-so what? This show may not be the height of intellectual viewing, but when you're just looking for a show to veg out in front of and forget your troubles for half an hour, then look no further. This show always leaves you with a smile on your face, and is a refreshing change from the myriad of recycled reality shows they beam to us at every opportunity.
Since this show was cancelled, a lot of shows have come and gone that I have loved for various reasons, but I have yet to find another sitcom that can hold the flame to this one. I prey that they will release this series on DVD. And if not, then I hope the reruns I recorded back in the 90s will last long enough for me to show to my children.
Later, some priceless episodes were: when Larry and Balki meet Jennifer and Mariann in the health club, the camping trip, the ski trip, learning karate, the guys 're-doing' the girls' upstairs bathroom plumbing, etc... I started watching when I was newly married and then, as I had kids, I really appreciated the wholesomeness of the show. The comedy was very physical (sort of ala "I Love Lucy"), yet there were no profanities or sexual references that are so prevalent in today's prime time lineup.
I SO wish these were out on DVD!
In this case the characters are Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot), a naive and very foreign shepherd boy from Mypos (pretty much but technically not really a Greek island) who immigrates to the land of the free America, in the city of Chicago, to build a new life. This is much to the chagrin of "Cousin Larry", his (distant) American cousin who is a wannabe photographer who had no idea Balki was coming. Apparently it's customary in their family that they should just take each other in for unknown periods of time.
Cousin Larry obviously has reservations until he's moved by Balki's plight and his kindness and opens his doors (and apartment) to the foreigner. The two work in a nick-knack shop, then at the Chicago Tribune newspaper (after Larry makes it as a photographer/news man), and all along the way they go through the weekly ritual of know-it- all Larry announcing "I have a plan!" then forcing Balki, who knows what they should actually do but is too innocent and taken in by Cousin Larry's confidence to object, to get into trouble before clumsily lucking their way out of it. They also have crushes on their two upstairs neighbour girls, beautiful stewardesses, who they pursue (and finally get) during the series' entire run, even buying and fixing up a house. Obviously the plots and situations wear thin by the end (the last season was not very good in my opinion) but even then the characters and simple, fun premise stayed entertaining and just plain fun!
The only really remarkable thing about this show is how enduringly popular it was as it lasted a surprising number of seasons/years (like 10!) and huge numbers of people loved it during its run on ABC's (or was it NBC's?) "TGIF" Friday night lineup.
Definitely a family friendly show too, if that is something that concerns you (kind of why we watched it).
Starting with the sixth season though, things started to go downhill. All of a sudden, Larry goes from being money-grubbing, but still somewhat redeemable, to this pathological greedy liar who would never learn any better. Balki goes from being naive but very intelligent to just flat-out stupid.
Also, I detested their girlfriends, Jennifer and Mary Anne. I liked the red-haired girl Susan from the first two seasons. I thought it was so cute when Balki would throw himself at her and Larry would have to keep him from making a fool of himself. I guess the blondes were added to provide sex appeal, but to me it just seems like a sell-out. Susan was a real, down-to-earth and intelligent woman whereas Mary Anne and Jennifer were just superficial and shallow.
All in all, it was a great show in the beginning, but it just ran way too long and was unrecognizable by the end.
Not much to say really, it's just a simple premise like any buddy comedy on two very different people living together and trying to make it together. I really like both characters they have really good back and forth, both actors Bronson Pinchot and Mark Lynn Baker are really solid it's too bad both didn't have much else afterward. Both characters are well rounded and are easy to emphasize with.
Larry (Mark Lynn Baker) he is bit of a workaholic, ambitious but very insecure at the same time. I can emphasize a bit with him because even I'm a bit of a workaholic, and his insecurities at times are something we all feel sometimes, and they really aren't always misplaced some of his insecurities are justified. What I really like about him is how ambitious he is, he's always trying out things or starting up ventures to get more money, get a step up, or whatever else in life. And he does actually win sometimes but what's funny is how he loses sometimes, not just from not having the luck of the draw but just letting his ambition cloud his better judgement or letting things get out of hand.
Balki (Bronson Pinchot) is my favorite character, I can sort of emphasize a little with Balka as he's an outsider, he's has sort of childlike sensibilities but what I love about the guy is he's not afraid to be himself, he really puts his home country sensibilities and whatever he loves in life out there. It may seem strange to anyone else, but he honestly doesn't care what anyone else thinks he just want to do his thing. He really is a good for Corson as he really helps bring fun to his life which he probably never has much of and even helps guide him on the right path likewise for Corson sometimes. I really like the theme song which is an honorable mention if favorite themes songs in my book. It's memorable and perfectly reflects the show.
And these two just get into all kinds of crazy crap, there are a lot of funny memorable episodes like one where they make a crazy amount of pastries called Biba Badkas which is once again another one of Larry's fast business ventures the results well I won't tell you but it's hilarious. Balki dressing up as a ninja and both Larry and him playful fight which is funny but really addressed the ninja craze back in the 80's. Or one where they are invited to a club but overdo it on the tanning and they look like walking oranges, though to me the highlight was seeing them move which was hilarious as even the smallest and simplest movement is painful.
Overall if you're looking for vintage buddy comedies this is a show to check out, it's a perfect good time.
Rating: 3 and a half stars
Why keep such talent under wraps? Put out the DVDs for this series already! There is so much DVD product produced that falls so far below the quality of Perfect Strangers.
Who holds the strings to getting this out on DVD anyway? and how can the average individual fan influence the process? Is there any means to influence getting this series to DVD? Who needs to be convinced that they will reap profits from their efforts here?
Some of the best comedy of the current era and it's left to catch dust. How very frustrating.
Personally, I can't think of a better classic family program than this (well, actually 'I Love Lucy' is the only one I can think of). The concept isn't altogether unfamiliar. A little 'Odd Couple' and a little 'Laurel and Hardy', Perfect Strangers designs it's own unique formula by adding to the mix the concept of culture shock. The characters gradually become more fleshed out in later seasons, while their more endearing qualities established early on endure throughout.
This, by the way, was one of the shows that began the original 'TGIF' lineup that would later spawn such classic TV hits as Step By Step, Full House, and Famlily Matters.
This show is good fun for all ages, and I heartily recommend it!
Bronson Pinchot is truly magnificent in his role as Balki Bartokomous I would consider his portrayal of this role as perhaps his best performance to date and perhaps one of the best comedy performances of all time. Mark Linn-Baker is also a truly wonderful and talented actor who plays his role to perfection and provides his character with a degree of liveliness and enthusiasm that is truly first class. Together they form one of the best comedic duos in modern comedy. A strong supporting cast further enhances this already wonderful particularly Melanie Wilson and Rebecca Arthur in their respective roles as Jennifer and Mary Anne. Each and every member of the cast provides their respective characters with a great deal of depth, dimension and realism that only enhances the quality of an already excellent show The humor in this sitcom is truly priceless and would often have me in fits of hysterical laughter. As well as this, the dialogue between the characters flows naturally and the plots of each episode are both easy to follow and hilarious in how they unfold.
"Perfect Strangers" was a highly enjoyable, entertaining and wonderful comedy. I wish there were more like it in this day and age.
I would watch TGIF religiously from its start to its end. I watched this show 'til the series finale in 1993. After that, TGIF had some great shows come and go, but this was one of the finest.
It is now on TGIF at 4 AM Eastern. I am watching it right now. It is the episode where they quit the Second Hand shop and get a job at a Diner. The episode is hilarious. As are all of them. I am cracking up.
Despite what some say, it DOES pass the test of time. It's timeless.
"We so happy! Now we do the dance of joy!"
When Balki would speak Meposian or sing an American song, pure comedy gold.
Balki: "I love this machine.. it does Shrimp too.." Larry: "Balki, we don't serve Shrimp." Balki: "I know, but if we did, this baby would fry their little tails off."
Balki: "They're pulling the parking meters out of the ground!" Larry: "Oh my Lord. It must have been a Hockey Game."
Perfect Strangers. Perfect Ten.