How I Spent My Summer Vacation: 1991

Bad news, everyone. This post is going to be relatively short, so you’ll actually have to put in close to a full eight hours of work today. Or, hey, maybe it’s a good thing that Perfect Strangers seems to have had a net negative impact on its actors’ careers, because knowing you, you probably took the whole day off and I’m cutting into your LEGO Disney Pixar The Incredibles gaming time.

So let me just clear my throat–

Melanie Wilson

nuthin’

–and we’ll get started.

Rebeca Arthur

nuthin’

Actually, lest I make it look like she was just living a life of leisure thanks to those royalty checks from Opposites Attract, let me put Rebeca’s Circus of the Stars appearance from November 1990 here.

circusrebecacircusrebeca2

That’s it, though. I really can’t make myself care about that show any more than I did before. I was nearly six years old when that year’s Circus of the Stars aired, and I honestly have no memory even of advertisements for it. I don’t think I would have even been up that late to see it. The range of stuff I watched back then was–as I’m sure yours was–pretty damn narrow. It was mostly cartoons, many of them on commercial VHS, stuff like Little Golden Books tapes, or See & Learn.

We had a fixed antenna, meaning we got the about six stations out of Atlanta; I mostly watched Saturday morning cartoons like The Real Ghostbusters, Police Academy, or Beetlejuice. For prime time, I know I watched TGIF, and The Wonder Years, and…

…and the fuck’s that got to do with anything, you’re probably asking. As we’re quickly approaching the end of this blog, I should circle back to my original stated reasons for this blog. Lest you think this whole endeavor is some unquestionably altruistic act (thanks for the compliment, though), let me re-establish that Perfect Strangers Reviewed is as much for me as it is for you. It’s been salutary for me to do research on my own past and figure out what made me the way I am; this blog is an outgrowth of that larger conversation between me and my past. I can’t fault you if you’re not interested in the rest of it, but give me a break, because this time around, even

Bronson Pinchot

nuthin’

Give him a break, too, though. He’s licking his wounds after Second Sight and Jury Duty. He’ll be back soon to amaze us all with his immense (and growing!) comedic talents in Blame it On the Bellboy (and I’ll be ready with some Quadrophenia references)!

bellboy

F.J. O’Neil

Ol’ Rooster Teeth was in the film Guilty by Suspicion playing an advertising agency executive.  The role called for someone who was old, wore clothes, and could talk. The film itself is essentially Woody Allen’s The Front without the jokes; Robert De Niro plays a director who–because of his willingness to stand up to McCarthyism, the bravery we all like to believe we would have had in the face of slavery, Nazism, Civil Rights, or the decision to make a second Flintstones movie–gets blackballed by the House Un-American Activities Committee unless he turns in his friends for attending Communist Party meetings, meaning…

guilty1guilty2

….yeah, it’s boring. Gailard Sartain was in Guilty by Suspicion, though, and my reason for mentioning that will be clear in about 8 months.

Sam Anderson

In addition to another episode of Uncle Buck that I can’t find (man, you’d think after six months, someone would have uploaded it), Sam was on a show called Married People. The show was about multigenerational swingers or something and I don’t know any of the actors in it so who cares.

marriedpeoplemarriedpeople2

Sam also was on three episodes of L.A. Law as D.D.A (Disk Drive Assembly) Graphia.

samlalaw1

1

samlalaw2

2

samlalaw3

3

Anyway, Sam was the deputy district attorney and, as such, ended up playing the hardass foil to the L.A. Law Buddies (I swear that’s what they call themselves, like, 10 times per episode).

As you may have been expecting, Sam was also on a couple of episodes of Growing Pains, and it pains me to see his role growing there HAR HAR HAR and not on Perfect Strangers.  It’s interesting to me to have dipped into a different sitcom that virtually kept pace with mine for most of its run. Species falling generally within the Poaceae family may tend to appear a more verdant hue when considered across great distances–and I suspect that this has a lot to do with Rayleigh scattering–but I can’t help but notice the things I notice because of my current set of thought predispositions.  I’ll get into this further in two weeks, but one thing I’ve noticed about sitcoms getting long in the tooth is that they have, after five or six years, chipped away everything that isn’t the angel, leaving you with the one-dimensional characters that the audience has come to expect.

growingpains1

So in that sense it’s interesting to me that both of the episodes of Growing Pains I watched were a head-on approach to addressing Ben Seaver being written as a “dumb” character. I’m assuming that this was some long-standing characterization of the character, anyway. And Ben’s academic life lead, naturally, to Principal Willis DeWitt having something to say on the matter. In one episode (“Homeschooling”), it’s “Ben has been skipping class for three months”:

And in the other (these episodes were in two different seasons), his part is to be surprised that Ben wants to apply for an advanced placement program. And even if DeWitt were limited to just one scene in each episode to establish only what I’ve told you, that’s far and away better than having him show up at the end of “Duck Soup” to say “Hey, I heard that episode just happened”.  But what’s more, his lines are (relatively) loaded with jokes. Many of them are along the lines of getting to laugh at the miserable life of someone who is remotely “mean” to the main characters (isn’t it hilarious when a man in his 40s has failed so hard at humanity that a woman no longer wants to share a last name with him?), but that’s more than we’ve gotten out of Gorpley in a couple of seasons now.  But what’s more is that he shows up later on in each of these episodes to make the Parent Seavers (I swear that’s how everyone refers to them in the episodes) to make them question their actions and move the plot towards conclusion. I’d argue Willis DeWitt specifically wasn’t crucial to make this happen in either case–it could as easily have been Parent talking to Parent about his/her choices–but in the second of these episodes (“B=MC2”), his bright yellow cycling outfit more than make up for any plot questions.

growingpains2

I’m going to guess that Kirk Cameron’s character had increasingly less reason to show up every week after season 5 or so (it’s obvious he’s no longer living at home in these episodes), but he’s there, he gets good lines, and they even continue his and DeWitt’s antagonistic relationship. I don’t think I’ll have a reason to watch Growing Pains after this blog is finished, so now’s as good a time as any to say I’m also jealous it has a better theme song.

fidodido

Hey, look! It’s Fido Dido! Remember Fido Dido?

Look, I’ve established by now we’re all exactly the same as me, I especially so; so you do remember Fido Dido on 7 Up commercials, or maybe on somebody’s T-shirt somewhere. But outside of sampling that pellucid ambrosia, can you tell me anything that Fido Dido did?

For that matter, can you tell me anything the Burger King Kids Club kids did? I’m not going to dip into any psychological terminology or developmental guidelines this week, as some of this feels self-evident, but I think it’s safe to say that one-dimensional characterization is some sort of baseline for children’s properties. Fido Dido, to me, was some version of beach “hip” (and with an adult’s eyes, he appears to be emblematic of self-absorption, fashion as personal statement, I’m getting way off track now). I didn’t get to watch The Simpsons in its first few years, but I knew exactly who Bart and Homer were. Whenever I look at the “family portrait” image that was ubiquitous then–

simpsonsalbum

–I still see potential, because there was an attitude, a sensibility there in that structure of personalities. (And saying that, I realize that the disappointment inherent in a review blog of this sort is the near-complete removal of those feelings of possibility.) But the point I’m getting at here is that it didn’t take much for Casey the Kid to accept a character as a character. When my brother was four or so, I drew him a picture of Dora the Explorer; he asked me to “make it move” and I finally realized he made no distinction between paper and screen. Dora was Dora was Dora. Or to put it another way: remember how Season 1 Balki had no frame of reference for placing pop culture into any sort of quality hierarchy, and embraced it all as Americana?

Belita Moreno

crazyfromtheheaert.jpg

Belita Moreno appeared briefly–it’s always too briefly when it comes to these actors–in a made-for-TV movie called Crazy From the Heart.  CFtH, as it’s referred to in numerous internet forums, starred Rubén Blades, and if that’s a cool enough name to make you want to know more about him, listen to his music instead of watching this movie. I promise that’s more worth your while than watching a woman (played by Christine Lahti) risk her social and professional ties for love for the 10,000th time. Belita plays a Texan, and believably; her character is upset about something that happens. I wish I could tell you any more about Belita’s role without having to bother with the movie’s boring-ass plot, but I can’t.

belitacfth

Crazy From the Heart aired on TNT, but hell, we didn’t even get Fox back in 1991. So there’s one quarter of Saturday morning cartoons I didn’t even learn about until I was a teenager (I almost missed out entirely on Animaniacs but didn’t care for its brand of rights-holder-sanctioned “subversion” anyway, so). But that’s maybe beside the point, because we’re talking Summer 1991, between Kindergarten and first grade for me. I was only child, we lived far enough off the road I had no kid neighbors, and most likely I was watching a shit-ton of PBS that summer.

We all watched Reading Rainbow and we all watched Sesame Street and we all watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and my what cherished shows those were and goodness how they gave us a love of reading and learning and loving each other and yeah, and? I say this at the risk of being legitimately exclusionary, but I feel like those three shows are as close to a baseline of early TV exposure for a large segment of my general demographic as you can get, so we really have to move past those for me to tell you how I spent my summer vacation.

Maybe it’s easier to give you a list?

Zoobilee Zoo, The Secret City Adventures, Shining Time Station, Square One Television, 3-2-1 Contact

–and now I have to stop the list because it’s too impermeable to capture what may very well have been some sort of inborn preferences on my part. I only watched Shining Time Station for the Jukebox Band; I’d watch the opening of Mystery! and change the channel once the program started. I never watched 3-2-1 Contact. I watched the intro, sure, because that’s some solid music and graphic design on those logos.

Almost everything else in that intro makes me lose interest instantly (I’ll admit the skeleton on the bike seemed pretty cool), and I think that’s because it’s real world stuff. I could never get into any explicitly educational children’s programming, and that fed into a larger disinterest throughout my childhood for that strain of educational product. Something about the marketing turned me completely off, and I’m trying to put into words here why that was. I can’t come up with any specific complaint, though, other than perhaps that it was all so dry without, say, the personality of a Fred Rogers or a Grover to stand in your place and ask questions, or that it was all so bland, made, I could only assume then, by people who had academic passion but no sense of artful presentation, or assume now, that they were products signed off on by executives with neither. There are examples of both, I’m sure, and maybe it’s more meaningful to say that I could tell who thought like me and who didn’t. I loved Beakman’s World and I hated Bill Nye the Science Guy. The part of my brain that contains politeness theory is centimeters away from all the boogers I currently own, so let’s not pretend that’s not ridiculous. The parts of my brain that can understand science and art and music and language and comedy are functionally even closer, and why not use them together?

squareone.jpg

All that to say Square One Television was probably the best television synthesis of those five things that a kid graduating from Sesame Street had access to in 1991, and god damn was I excited any time I got to watch it. Square One utilized spoofs of cultural touchstones like gameshows, Dudley Do-Right, talkshows, Dragnet, and videogames to teach mathematics concepts; not only was it one of my first introductions to subversion*, it was likely the very first time I saw “Weird Al” Yankovic.

1991 also gave us the premieres of both Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? as well as all the Nicktoons shows**, but first grade was basically starting for me at that point. I’ll have more reason to talk about some of that in a future post, and anyway I’m an adult now and I know about sex and I can watch sex and I’ve even had sex so let’s talk about Cousin Larry putting his penis inside people.

Mark Linn-Baker

bareessentialsvhs

At this point, we know that Mark spent his summers doing theater in New York, so really it’s almost surprising to see him in something else at all.

bareessentials3

Going to the Chapel was the worst wedding movie I’ve seen, Me & Him was the worst talking penis movie I’ve ever seen, and Bare Essentials (Tuesday, January 8, CBS) is the worst “take stock of your life while getting laid a lot on a beach” movie I’ve ever seen. But yawny movies and Mark Linn-Baker complemented each others’ supply and demand, so here we are once again.

bareessentials4

Mark plays some guy named Gordon who, I dunno, does business so much that he can’t relax long enough to pour the coals to his fiancée Sydney (Lisa Hartman) as often as she’d like. They go on an island vacation, their sailboat gets knocked off course, and they’re soon stranded on an island where Bill (Gregory Harrison) has been living, Swiss Family Robinson-style.

bareessentials5bareessentials6

Gordon unsuccessfully tries to enlist Bill in building a raft to get back to the other island–are you bored yet?–and throws out his back chopping trees. While he’s out of commission, Sydney discovers that Bill is more laid-back than Gordon. You’d think that with all that cleavage on the cover of the VHS box that there’d be some heavy fucking, or at least a minute or two of Gordon being forced to slow down and enjoy life, but a full 50 minutes go by with neither.

bareessentials7bareessentials9

Finally, like an hour in, Tarita (Third Actor I Didn’t Know), Bill’s girlfriend, shows up, and then the four of them spend 6 full minutes on a game of Monopoly so the remainder of the kids watching would fall asleep.

bareessentialsmonopoly

Then the characters finally have sex.

bareessentials8

It causes conflict, and it’s quickly resolved, and if there were anything else of note to say about this, I would have. The only reason I spent this much time on Bare Essentials at all is because I want you to experience a fraction of the boredom involved in watching it. I mean, unless the entirety of pornography on the internet isn’t enough for you, and you specifically need to see more of Charlotte Lewis’s skin than I thought they’d show on network TV; or unless you’re a hardcore Mark-Linn Baker fan; I can’t see any reason for anyone to watch this movie ever again.

I thought I believed in full preservation of the entirety of American pop culture; but now I’ve watched Bare Essentials.

Oh, also Mark directed an episode of Family Man, which thankfully I can’t watch.

_________________________________________

Join me next week for another reportage post!

Patrika Darbo count: 0

*along with MAD Magazine, You Can’t Do That On Television, and the 1991 series of Topps Wacky Packages stickers

**all the ones that matter, anyway

_________________________________________

Susan Campbell, RN

Susan, please.

susan1

I don’t care what Bill Maher has to do with it.

susan2

Come home, Susan. Please.

Advertisements

Season 6, Episode 24: See You in September

Jeez, show, I know I have to keep reviewing through the summer, you don’t have to rub it in with the episode titles!

001

As always over the past five (or was it six? this damn memory) seasons, we find ourselves at the Caldwell for our closing episode, wandering through the streets of this town, always silent and alone, seeking meaning in mute facades.

What clues to interpretation can we find here? Perhaps that our window into the cousins’ lives is shutting? That this particular window exists in neither positional state, and further is itself liminal, obscuring boundaries of out and in? That finales on this show have ever been a misnomer, involving more the actions which don’t occur than those which do? The ironic juxtaposition of sliced time and human continuity; the uncrossable chasm between rooftops; this again between between generations; and then laterally, across nations, genders and time itself. Windows, it occurs to me, go both ways, and we have indication now, if not of a reversal, then perhaps a looking through the other way, a closing rather than an opening–

Our most recent season finale has finally made good on the show’s promise of bridges. There, one intrapersonally, between selves (and, it amuses me to note, across man and man’s best friend); and here the show predicts one or more interpersonal joinings at a different liminal point, which you’ll note has softened since the beginning of the season.*

002

I could go on, but I think really what the windows say to us is that these men have owned a god damn house for a year and have never once made mention of the $140,000 they owe on it.

Balki and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) also look for clues as to the arrival of their counterparts, having festooned the apartment with foliage, garlic and toilet paper folded into bows.

003

Jennifer and Larry enter, and Balki confronts Larry with a Polaroid camera, the symbol of the path he didn’t take, indicating… well let’s just say it’s really deep and leave it at that.

004006

Larry asks why Balki put all the leftover props from past seasons on the walls.

Balki: Does the word “six phases of the moon” mean anything to you?

Does it mean you have no grasp of English or astronomy?

Mary Anne says that–according to Myposian custom–Larry and Jennifer have to set a wedding date because they’ve been engaged for six phases of the moon now.

Oh for fuck’s sake! This season has gone out of its way to make sure we understand how much time has passed within so many different episodes. Looking briefly through my screencaps since “The Break Up”, I count 17 different night shots, an additional 58 days having passed according to on-screen, plus let’s be super generous and say they went to LA and got back to Chicago all within a single day. At the very least, they’ve been engaged 2 and a half months.

Also, oh for fuck’s sake! This is the first time that Larry and Jennifer have ever gotten to be by themselves since the engagement, and they come home to this pressure?

Balki tells him that, by the one-drop rule, Cousin Larry is Myposian** and thus must follow marriage customs (and somehow no others).

Larry says that they had planned on waiting at least another year before putting their hands in each other’s back pockets. Jennifer backs him up, saying that she and Larry will “follow American custom”, which involves viewing marriage not as a formal acknowledgment of a deeper bond, but as a status symbol; and that she’s willing to drag her feet through courtship a little longer to see exactly how high up through the professional (ahem) rungs Larry rises to ensure her own economic security.

007

Mary Anne counters that America led the way in adopting formalized timezones, setting the stage for an increasingly scheduled world, and that Jennifer better fucking pick a date because she’s tired of seeing smears of someone else’s poop in the toilet bowl.

Nah, j/k, they don’t say any of that shit. Jennifer has turned down congressmen and football players in her quest to find a man disaster-prone enough to accidentally set their house on fire; and Mary Anne is so dumb she thinks only cowboys have bridal parties.

Balki asks Larry whether he’ll be doing a bunch of other Myposian customs which he (he Balki) didn’t do during his own wedding and which Larry had no way of hearing about other than from him until this very moment: walking down the aisle on one’s hands, singing Snap!’s “The Power” while flinging spoonfuls of rat-milk custard at the guests, and then double-teaming a sheep with the best man.

Larry fumbles around for a bit about agreeing to set a wedding date, finally passing the excuse ball to Jennifer, daring her to admit right then and there that they won’t be happy together.

008

This has to be the most contrived way I’ve ever seen a show come up with to destroy a cake prop: Balki uses a piping bag to write a month on the cake, only for Larry to finish his sentence about how that month won’t work.

Even in just these few lines, there’s loads of potential story. We’ve seen numerous examples by now of good episodes buried under bad layers of comedy.  “Karate Kids” is the first that comes to my mind, and you don’t even have to go back that far this season to find an example. Philip pointed out that “The Sunshine Boys” had a perfectly good Larry story that placed his motivations in completely the wrong place. Even if it weren’t the case that we in 2018 know that Jennifer and Larry get married and (*hastily scans Wikipedia*) throw their newborn child from a hot-air balloon, I think that ending had to have been pretty damn clear to viewers then.

Unfortunately, what we have here are two people who are in no way fit to be part of a married couple, and who for all we know have not even established a strong personal connection with each other, physically or emotionally.  I mean, they were supposed to have played tennis together once, but even that managed not to happen. All we’ve ever seen them bond over is the fact that they’re smarter than the only two other people they bother to interact with more than once a month. Interpret, if you like, their panicked indecision here as an indication that their personalities are similar, but it’s no stronger an indication of that than anything else we’ve seen for the past five years. Hell, maybe Larry’s about to say that he also likes being outdoors and likes to use nail polish, and that will change my mind. But look at the wild desperate hope on this woman’s face when she comes up with “my birthday is in April” as a way to exclude a whole month.

009

They don’t belong together, and they know it. Getting them to admit to that would be a great story. Getting them to talk through their fears would be the okay version of that story. But like always, we only get the briefest of glimpses into that better show.***

Anyway, after Larry and Jennifer have collectively said 11 month names, Balki proves he was paying attention in college and writes “June” on the cake. He tells the couple that they must each eat a piece, and once they’ve each passed it, eat the other’s piece.

010

If the reasons above weren’t enough to make me wish this story didn’t end with Larry and Jennifer promising in their wedding vows to discuss kissing with tongues someday, Melanie Wilson is absolutely selling her fear. Sure, yes, the fear is there to get her and Mary Anne out of the scene, but even that would have supported the story we don’t get.

011

On their way out, Mary Anne is so dumb that she’s willing to try real-world approaches to battling anxiety, like giving the human brain the resources it needs for decision-making through a balanced diet.

Just like I always do any time I have to fill those dreadful hours between sunsight and sunclipse, Larry starts stress-eating, tapping his foot and laughing weird.

012

Balki says he knows Larry like the back of his colon, and says out loud all the nervous tics that Larry did in the past 10 seconds.

Larry does over/repeats those repetitions back to Balki, an obvious obsessive-compulsive ritual meant to magically remove the distressing thoughts brought about by actual plot possibilities.

Larry briefly does some meta-thinking–doing the job Balki ought to be doing–telling himself the reasons he has to get married and envisioning a good future, before descending once more to the cake. He’s so upset he even keeps Balki from saying his signature catchphrase (“Let’s do physical comedy now instead”).

Larry is worried that Jennifer “thinks she’s marrying a handsome, sophisticated, charming man” but that when they go on their honeymoon, she’s bound to see the purple stretchmarks grooving his inner thighs, the sporadic hair on his shoulders, the recurring folliculitis on his knees, that his butt has developed in a manner which can only be described through comparison to a double chin, and how the pinched toe box of his bargain-bin dress shoes have turned the undersides of his pinky toes into blades; hear him crying over the low water-pressure in the motel bathroom; and ultimately be enveloped by the natural perfume–equal parts ammonia and cheeseburger–he emits during any level of physical exertion.

larryfork

The leg-shaking goes on for a damn long while, but before Larry can “accidentally” gouge out his eyes, Balki takes Larry’s Forkin’ away.

Balki calmly explains to Larry that sometimes vaginas give new meaning to the phrase (strike) word Frito pie; but warns that their ratings haven’t dropped quite so low that they’ll need to call their agents immediately after the set is struck, so Larry needs to get his shit together.

We find again that the grand traditions of Mypos only go back about 50 years when Balki suggests that Larry and Jennifer take the Nupitiki-SATiki. Also, I try my damnedest not to mention most malabronsisms, but this one stands out as particularly odious:

Balki: This test can determine whether or not a marryage should take place beyond a shadow of a snout.

You can’t– the operative word is– you own a fucking house– how did you even–

What the fuck does Balki think he was trying to say?

Speaking of nervous tics: I’ve debated a few times whether to even bring this up, but this is the third time Bronson has done it this season. I don’t even know what you’d call this, but Bronson will move his mouth sometimes right after a line like he’s either trying to communicate slyly with Mark or he’s developed some case of self-echolalia. He did it to Fire Chief Wayne Newton last week. It’s not the only time he does it in this episode. It’s weird.

Anyway, what the fuck, I officially don’t care, Cousin Larry says that most pop psychology tests are bad enough, and one that doesn’t even rest on any sort of sound, researched scientific principles or methodology would be even worse.

013

Mythos having failed him, Balki eschews pathos, ethos, and logos in favor of pothos, pulling his cousin into the kitchen with the cake.

Balki gives Larry some good advice: call Jennifer and ask how she feels.

Oh, wait, no, there were four more words: about taking the test.

014

Larry calls Jennifer and he barely gets out the plot synopsis before she hangs up on him. I’d knock Mark Linn-Baker for saying both “Hello? Hello?” and “She hung up” (as if we all didn’t grow up with the disconnect tone), but we found out from Jo Marie Payton that they would do Q&A with the audience after filming, so he knew he needed to.

Jennifer runs into the apartment, begging for the test, and wouldn’t you know it, these two are perfect for each other because her leg is shaking like mad.

015

Balki reaches for her leg and Larry slaps his hand away. Fuck yeah, Larry! Male characters getting away with groping women by pretending to be clueless is pretty fucked up and no doubt left a lasting impression on my psyche and, as we’ve learned over the past year, that of every other man in America.

016

Two days later, we learn that the test takes not only its name, but also its values, from mid-20th Century America.  Balki asks if Jennifer would get upset if she had cooked dinner and Larry didn’t call to let her know he was coming home late.

017

Balki did the same– there’s like one phone on– the $140,000 house– Jennifer’s out of town like half the–

God damn do I hate these kind of questions; they’re the pop psych equivalent of asking a kid which one is gay: him or his boyfriend.

018

Psychology sidebar: one of the core ideas of social psychology is that people’s behavior is heavily impacted by the presence of others. This means that, until consummate artificial intelligence can devise perfect survey questions and beam them directly into people’s minds, there’s the risk that the person administering the tool will case a “response bias” in the test subjects. If all questions on a measure are worded negatively (“not”, “won’t”, “disagree”), will the subjects answer “no” most of the time? Will they try to idealize themselves and give socially desirable answers (or, at least, the answers they think the researches want)? And can you propagate value systems with the questions? Unfortunately, yes. Kenneth B. and Mamie P. Clark’s study investigating “racial identification” by asking African-American children about dolls was published way back in 1947****, but I see some form of the test still get used today as “proof” of some level of self-loathing among that population. Here’s how it worked: the researchers would show black children aged 3-7 a white and a “colored” doll and ask them questions: “Give me the doll that you like to play with”, “Give me the doll that is a nice doll”, “Give me the doll that looks bad”, “Give me the doll that is a nice color”.  Do you see the message that the researchers didn’t realize they were giving the children? Only one doll could be nice, look bad, or have a nice color. The majority of the children, at every age group, identified the black doll as bad; and the final question on the test (“Give me the doll that looks like you”) reduced a few of the children to convulsive tears when put in the cornered position of having to refer to themselves as bad.

021

Okay, this review is getting dense, so let me give you the plot essentials so you’ll know you’re really not missing much. Balki asks Jennifer questions, and gives Cousin Larry physical tasks. Cousin Larry keeps complaining along the lines of “You had me see how many of my own toenails I could rip off before fainting and Jennifer just gets a question?” or “You had me jerk off beside the mailboxes while singing ‘Dancing Queen’ and Jennifer just gets a question?” We only get to actually see one of each question and task, which is fine, because escalation of a concept really has no place in comedy.

020

I hate to say this, but there has been enough good physical comedy on this show that Larry playing Simon Says feels like the show bought a shovel for the express purpose of setting the bar lower.

I’m going to assume you see where these ridiculous questions–and Balki deliberately giving them a bad score–are going. I’ll admit that forcing a couple to say “fuck this, I love you anyway” is clever enough for this show even if I did see it coming a mile away.

023

The problem, though, is that this episode forgets who Larry is. Used to, we’d get a progression where Larry’s theory-based claims of mastery over adult life buckle under their own weight, leaving him no option but to beg for the Myposian way. Here, the show has forgotten that that was once Larry’s whole character. He and Jennifer are desperate for any sort of affirmation that they’re doing well, stating answers as questions, asking if they answered right. When Larry expresses discomfort with the test, Balki makes it clear Larry’s fate rests in his hands. He lays it on thicker than a Casey in an opening shot.

Perfect Strangers Reviewed will be right back after I send an email to OKCupid letting them know how they should change their matching questions.

025

Later, some guy points at the Caldwell, and the camera follows his arm. Just think, if he’d pointed any other direction, I wouldn’t have to watch the rest of this.

026019

I complained that we only get to see one question and one feat of manly strength, but honestly there’s simply no time for it. Bronson decided this scene called for a suddenly pompous demeanor and that dragging out his lines makes him sound smart and condescending. Exactly what viewers tuned in for, right? Balki seems to oscillate more wildly these days between “incredibly competent” and “wears a hat”, and these past two weeks might be the furthest sweeps of this phenomenon. He’s neither talking nor acting like the Balki we first met; is this the same guy transfixed by a shaking leg five minutes ago? You can argue that Balki is acting this way to play on the mood of the scared couple, but come on. This whole test would still work with a playful, loving Balki at the wheel, holding his cards close to his chest and matter-of-factly dismissing any skepticism.

Balki is bordering on smug, which makes it feel like Bronson is also smug for thinking this is the right direction to take Balki.

024

I’ll give him this: the plot does allow it to be clear, albeit after the fact, that Balki is playing a role. But the script breaks Balki in a different way when it tries to establish his credentials as a “Nupitiki Dr. Ruthiki”.

The fucking fuck? Why is it never enough that Balki did something on Mypos, but that he also must be the best at it? Balki was supposed to be 21 years old when he arrived in America (at MOST he was 22 if you want to fold season 1 into season 2) and he was a pre-marriage counselor, even though brides are a birthday gift when you turn 25? Don’t get me wrong, I love math (my credentials: I got highest individual score in a middle school intermural math team competition), but god damn I hate having to waste it on this shit. Further, I have to imagine that Balki’s dad is never once going to be mentioned on the show, and I suspect that Bronson wanting nothing to do with his own father had a lot to do with that. Most of the audience wouldn’t have known that, but in addition to Balki not mentioning any authority other than a title, I’m left wondering how in the fuck a teenage Myposian wouldn’t get soundly ridiculed by people even a few years older for trying to act like an expert when he doesn’t even get to observe his own parents’ relationship. I mean, I don’t care how constantly babies shit, I sure wouldn’t trust one to advise me on purchasing the best toilet.

027

Larry repeats Balki’s title, and then repeats Balki’s clarification of same, which is the type of stellar writing you only get when you give a room full of writers ten whole months to come up with good jokes.

And now they’re just talking about sheep and pigs happily fucking and–

028

AAAHHH! Sorry, the way Jennifer just jumped up like that startled me. Completely forgot she was there.

Jennifer: Just because the test has never been wrong before doesn’t mean it can’t be wrong now.

Poor thing, they really don’t let her on stage enough or she’d know that Balki is Never Wrong™.

029

Luckily, irony isn’t a total blind spot for this show, as Larry says he’ll still marry Jennifer… after a couple of years of intense study.  For all this episode’s faults, that one line still lands beautifully. Since the quick escalation to five years’ postponement is misplaced from the better version of this episode, it only functions here as padding. (And why the fuck did the show wait until now to even bother to remember these people have parents?) But that split-second of hope that Larry figured out the lesson before reverting back to avoidance was the only part of the episode that actually had a positive emotional effect on me.

030

Balki tells them that their last hope is to take the “Nupitiki Spic ‘n’ Spanakopita” (Larry repeats it), the “marriage cleansing ritual”. In case you didn’t catch the joke, Balki then all but turns towards the audience and tells them that Spic ‘n’ Span is a cleaning product.

031

It was obviously night outside the windows in the previous scene, which means that Jennifer and Larry did not take any time to talk to each other about this on their own. Fine, whatever, this makes them the perfect couple, I guess! Let their house be full of the blandest furniture, let them always give up on food discussions and order pizza, let them pass up every career opportunity, let them forever be scrambling to guess what the other doesn’t necessarily like or dislike, let them not name their child until it turns eight. I don’t care.

Balki, in Exidorean robe, has bid the couple stand in a plastic kiddie pool.

032

Jennifer: Balki, it looks like the prop department really dropped the ball this week to the extent that I have to take a wildly improbable yet correct guess at the shape of your pendant which, by the way, the script has me, a woman, refer to as a medallion.

033

Balki: You’re right Jennifer, it is in the shape of a lambchop, which coincidentally is also the shape of the island of Mypos. It’s enough to give you an overactive theory of mind, huh?

Balki points out his hometown of Podunki and fuck you and there’s a Six Flags over Mypos and fuck you and the blue part is a mood stone based on the state of Jennifer and Larry’s relationship and

034

YOU OWN A HOUSE GOD DAMMIT

Balki dumps brown liquid over Larry and Jennifer’s heads. What does it symbolize? Reader, if you don’t know, I haven’t taught you anything.

035036

Balki declares the test a failure, that New Tina was doomed from the get-go, and that Larry and Jennifer should resign themselves to lives of solitary masturbation. Larry and Jennifer start blaming each other, and Balki encourages the discussion of their emotions.

Larry admits he’s afraid Jennifer will realize he’s not sophisticated; and Jennifer admits she’s afraid that Larry will learn she doesn’t necessarily have a personality.

037

They affirm their mutual tepid feelings for each other, decide to marry in September, and tell Balki to shove his test.

Balki tells them they’ve passed the test, which is probably the only time I’ve seen the “learn your lesson and still get your reward” trope work. But then Balki reveals that he–he Balki, the man who never lies, not even once, no never–made up the part about drenching them in Ex-Lax’s final form because they were more neurotic than any couple he’d ever tested on Mypos. So, what, were the 100 other Myposians that Balki has told Larry stories about to illustrate Larry’s errors all made up too?

What if both of them had personalities that led them to believe in the power of tradition/organized religion, or just didn’t want to rock the boat? If they both back out of the marriage on that basis, wouldn’t that suggest a good match? You can’t set up traditions or parts of your state religion that you reveal to be false and admit that you were using it to get a certain emotional response. You give the whole game away, and this tactic makes it even more jarring that Balki was a marriage counselor years before he could even get married.

We started this season with the image of a torn, mangled chair unsuccessfully stitched back together, and it turns out to have been an apt metaphor. “See You in September” is simply the latest in a series of examples of the writers putting the available parts of the show in different ways from what came before. They hold together well enough within the episode, but try to place the weight of the show’s memory on them, and pieces fall off. Perfect Strangers is no longer quite the same show.

But you, O my readers, remember sometimes thy little Balki that was.

Cousin Larry pours the shit on Balki.

039

Join me next week, when I’ll take a look at what these actors did between seasons!

040

_____________________________________________

Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)

Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0)

Cut for syndication: At the very end of the episode, Tess walks in, pulls a lever, and a 16-ton weight drops on Balki, Larry, and Jennifer. Ain’t she a stinker?

*Which, as you may remember from Professor M’s review of “Beautiful Dreamer”, began as a symbol of fear

**Balki claims Larry is 1/64 Myposian

***The Man in the Tight Cousin

****Clark, K. B., & Clark, M. P. (1947). Racial identification and preference in Negro children. In E. E. Maccoby, T. M. Newcomb, & E. L. Hartley (Eds.), Readings in Social Psychology (3rd ed., pp. 602-611). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

041

Season 6, Episode 23: Great Balls of Fire

Welcome back!

001

We open at the Chicago Chronicle, where once again the Brinks armored truck drives by, and I’m struck by the sense of deja vu I had near the end of season 2, of avenues we’ll never explore, parts of the world cut off to us.

The Brinks truck, for instance. What a weird object! There must be some way to tackle this obstacle… ah, yes: the vehicles on this show have often served as symbols. They exist right outside the cousins’ world. At home, they signify the individual fame (Carl Lewis on the single-person bike) and mass marketability (the Vitner’s Snacks truck); here, we see a separation between the cousins’ workplace and financial viability. The astute reader will note that it never stops at the Chronicle, and that the armored door from the beginning of the season is no more. Larry’s Fortune, after all, nearly died in captivity; why lock up something that no one would steal?

The even more astute reader learned back in season 3 what great and utter bullshit all this symbolism talk is.

002

We open in the basement, which is almost certainly right underneath the Burger King, to find that Balki has been keeping one of Larry’s Fortune’s horseappletons on the floor as a keepsake.

They’ve run out of money for music rights at this point in the season, there’s nothing for him to cook, and no one has said anything for him to misunderstand. Balki, desperate for some way to be annoying, jumps up on Larry’s desk and hovers like a gargoyle.

003

Larry was typing away at an article on a tiny table*, strangely without any books around for research.  I wonder what he was working on?

We don’t find out.

Balki: If you were me, and you wanted to get you to do something that was really hard, long hours, and no pay… how you would get you to do it?

Larry: Depends on whether this is an even- or odd-numbered episode, Balki. The former, I’d misstate. The latter, I’d obfuscate.

Nah, j/k, Larry says he’s willing to listen to facts and statistics in order to make his decision, but makes it clear that his answer is going to be no in this particular instance. It’s a good tactic for Larry, though his style is a bit rude.

004

Balki storms off, upset that Larry won’t even fight with him about—as he lets slip—being a volunteer fireman.  The show once again trots out one of its favorite dialogue structures: Larry keeps agreeing to it while Balki gripes about Larry saying no to it.

Balki says that Larry should feel, after six years of knowing fewer than a dozen people in Chicago, some commitment to the community. We’re led to assume this is Balki’s reason for volunteering.

Larry says RT (Red Truck) Wainwright wants a human interest story, but this reason isn’t good enough for Balki. I’ve had this happen to me before, where I was given an ultimatum and the giver was not prepared for both contingencies. But this is different: Balki is now actively protesting what he was obviously prepared to wheedle Larry about for days. And when Larry states his commitment to the community completely straight-faced, Balki starts crying. I sense something different, something deeper going on here. That’s right, y’all heard right, I done sniffed out one a’them

Psychology sidebars: Eric Berne’s Games People Play has come up a few times over the course of these 119 episodes, and so has the game called “Uproar”. Games are tactics people will use to get some social or personal benefit without putting the proper effort in. Uproar is the game where couples (or any two people) make up and escalate fights to avoid the intimacy they’re afraid of (or repulsed by); each gets to tell themselves their avoidance is justified because the other has acted so objectionably.

005

What’s key here is that Larry has stopped playing. At least, I assume that Uproar is what’s going on. Otherwise, what kind of fucking joke is Balki crying supposed to be?

006

Later, at the Noparking Community Fire Department, the audience cracks up at the promise that this episode will end with the cousins throwing a dead, burnt baby around while bouncing on a life net.

007

Balki is so delighted by the fireman’s helmet that he makes the same face I did when I grabbed a cookie sheet right out of the oven and decided to keep going until I set it down on some other surface. On Mypos, he tells us, is very simple: they use watermelon rinds as fireman helmets.

Suddenly, Fire Chief Newton slides down the firepole and introduces himself to the cousins. Was he busy taking a shit? Can anyone just wander into the fire station and steal equipment?

008

This is as good a time as any to tell you my theory about wacky characters: if you must position one as a main character, they work better when the world around them is slightly off as well. Someday I’d like to write about the Ernest films to unpack this a little more, but suffice it to say that there is a sharp tonal divide between the first four Ernest movies and the six that followed. In the earlier films, Ernest isn’t the only wacky guy. Chuck and Bobby are (almost) always there to illustrate that Ernest comes from an entire off-kilter stratum of the world; and much of the comedy revolves around Ernest trying to ascend from that layer of society to a more respectable one. He never does, and it’s his own cartoon world that becomes his refuge (Miak, f’rinstance). In the later movies, he’s no longer a representative of some strange subset of humanity.  Sure, in Ernest Goes to Africa he puts on brownface, and that was far past excusable by 1997; but that’s not as severe a breaking of that world as the fact that he had no excuse for being as cartoony as he was. He was a lone man constantly ignoring the rules of society, and that turned him into an annoying asshole. Conversely, in Ernest Goes to School, Ernest gets hit in the head with a fire extinguisher; that’s all well and good for Ernest, but what about the normal high school boy who threw it?

Balki is our only true window into Mypos, and even though he’s built a world through individual jokes about the island, his approach to situations borders on the assholish, or at least the very childish.  Here, though, it’s saved by Fire Chief Newton commenting that all new volunteers are into having a neat hat.  Suddenly—like when I found out that many guys my age start losing the hair on the back of their calves—Balki is a normal person again.

009010

But then Balki won’t give up the damn hat, so fucking nevermind my attempts to rehabilitate his image. God damn this place must be hard up for volunteers for this guy not to instantly throw him out.

011

Larry, who has been writing articles for four (or three? who fucking cares) years now, thinks he’s going to do an unscheduled interview with a Fire Chief and whips out his notepad.  Balki then tries to do a bit where he messes up something that Fire Chief Newton said. FCN responds the way most people would if these two guys rolled up and started in on their respective bullshits:

012

After years of doing the same thing every week, sometimes you want to refine your craft, try something different, break new ground. So it’s understandable that this far in, Bronson is finding new ways to overdo how dumb Balki is by acting like he was just hit in the head:

balkiface

Mr. Sam Scorchley shows the cousins all of the props they’ll use to add minutes to the episode, (fire) chief among them a prop from the old Batman show that they dug out of storage.

013

Mr. Twinkasetonfire loads the cousins up with gear and refers to the hose as a “water delivery apparatus” which is by far the smartest writing this whole season. The pry bars—this week’s overt phallic symbol—prove too heavy for the cousins to pick up. Keep that in mind going forward.

014

Because Balki seriously cannot stand to have any joke be funny on its own, and not about him, he now says that the outfit is exactly what he wore to his elementary school graduation. It’s been since I was in middle school that I’ve heard anyone that unable to be funny that they’ll just say “yeah, uh, me too” when someone else cracks a joke. I look forward to season 7, where I’m sure we’ll get some form of similar revelations:

Destitute naked man wearing a barrel with straps – Myposian lingerie

Pagliacci costume – Myposian prom dress

Hollywood Blvd Uncle Fester impersonator – Myposian social worker

Plague doctor outfit – Myposian pop star

Hazmat suit – Myposian cassock

FC Flamewright demands the cousins run up and down a “flight” of stairs, ignoring their requests to practice with a piano.

015016

Back at the Scaldwell Hotel, Balki makes a joke about something that Fire Chief Newton would never have said.

017

Larry, succumbing finally to equine lung disease, lies prone on the couch they’ve always had; prone, as ever, to failure, and now choosing it before it finds him.  Balki asks “what about your commitment to the community?”

Larry calmly, pronely, explains that he is doing his community a greater good by expediting the quasi-evolutionary process whereby only those suited to firefighting remain in those positions. After all, he asks, would Balki put his life in Larry’s hands? If the Chicago Chronicle ever, oh, idunno, blew up or something, would Balki trust Larry to save the lives of that maybe-Latino woman, or Walt?

018

Oh, wait, no, Larry says he’ll write about something else and Balki yanks Larry’s hair because he lied. Balki says that he’s going to keep volunteering so he can try to sneak his penis into the hat when Fire Chief Newton isn’t looking.

Balki goes off to the bedroom because some other reason for Larry to break that big red machine is about to show up, and if Balki knew about it right that minute it would mess up the rest of the episode.

019

Jennifer comes by to confirm the rumors floating all around O’Hare International Airport that Larry has become a volunteer fireman.  Larry says he was going to tell her during their scheduled phone call three months from then, but Jennifer is too excited to wait for that.

Jennifer’s obviously embarrassed about what’s on her mind, and Larry assures her that they’re on at 9:30 now, everyone at home has switched over to NBC to see if there was a new Wings episode that night, she could say whatever she needed to.

For some goddam reason, Jennifer forgets that the most Larry and Balki are ever separated is when they’re in different sections of a revolving door and launches right into talking about how often she drenches her bedsheets fantasizing about firemen.

The fantasy involves being saved by an axe-wielding fireman who then sets her down beside a firetruck, where “the rungs of his ladder pressing against my back” bring her to orgasm. I’d go into lengthy description of what all those symbols might mean, but let’s cut to the chase: girl has only the vaguest notion of what a penis is or how it’s connected to a person.

This being the first time since Mrs. Bailey stole his springform that Cousin Larry has gotten anything close to an erection in Jennifer’s presence and he begs her go on.

Jennifer says that up until just then, the fireman had always been faceless (jesus, she dreams in “—“!); and, as luck would have it, that describes Larry perfectly, so it’s all coming together for her.

020

Jennifer lunges with her rubbin’ perfect body, but before Larry can uncoil his delivery apparatus, she has a short, quiet orgasm and leaves.**

021

They did it! They put some effort into giving Jennifer a personality and it led to an organic way for her to leave a scene after one minute!

022023

Balki comes back out with a list of firefighting “prose and cons” for Larry***, and after Bronson remembers the second part of his line, Larry agrees to return. There’s no building comedy on how Balki once again didn’t get the argument he wanted, not even a joke to close out the scene.

Perfect Strangers Reviewed will be right back so you can see how the cousins add minutes to this episode.

024

Two days later, Larry’s used to more liberally-greased poles and takes forever to slide down.

025026

Jesus, look at this, Balki no longer understands physical space or the relative permanence of solid objects.  What the hell is going to be left for him to misunderstand in the next two seasons?

Before Fire Chief Newton can tell Balki to shut up about the fucking hat again, an alarm goes off.

027

Fire Chief Newton has to physically pull Balki off the truck as Balki shouts about how badly he wants to ride. But the remarkably self-aware “it’s been my dream since yesterday” can’t hide the fact that this show wants to have things both ways.  It wants to maintain Balki as the self-righteous corrective to Larry’s self-centered schemes and as a eternally-youthful free spirit. I’d call it a double standard if it weren’t for how utterly evil Larry’s plan—to put in physical effort and time that might save actual human lives and property—is.

Instead of sticking around for what would have been a perfect teachable moment, Fire Chief Newton and the only three firefighters in the city leave.

Larry leaves to make coffee in the next room, and then Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) show up.

027b028

Larry doesn’t even make it over to the coffee pot before seeing them, and runs off to put on his gear. He starts making fire-related sex puns (“towering inferno”, etc.), which saves me a lot of work this week.

029

You know, I give Melanie Wilson a lot of shit, but really it comes down to what the writers actually let her do.  Here, we see them playing to her natural talent of standing slack-jawed and silent.

030

Even though we’ve watched Balki ignore every other command from Fire Chief Newton, he’s following his most recent one—“sit”—assiduously. (Ass-sit-uously! Get it? Do you get it?)

031032

Jennifer’s sprinklers have come on, and after readying his battering ram, Larry recites the Postal Service motto, promising swift completion. I was going to rip on the show for portraying hyper-sexuality as kissing someone for longer than a millisecond, but that actually fits for Jennifer. I shouldn’t complain; it’s really nice that the show took some time to establish physical attraction between these people three episodes before they get married.

Since I have some extra time not making sex jokes out of jargon, let’s talk about bad grammar for a minute.

Larry: [The fire pole] may look deceptively simple, but….

But what? It’s not deceptive at all and is actually simple? I make a point of never, ever letting my own pet peeves about anything come up on this blog, but I decided to make an exception just this once. Larry, knowing that Jennifer’s into inert columns of metal, brags that he now can offer her the biggest one in the city.

033

The episode spends an inordinate amount of time on the fire pole, and then the women leave. On their way out, Mary Anne remarks on Larry’s abnormal head shape and Jennifer ponders the impending ruination of her vagina.

034035

Larry boasts to Balki about how he’s going to be Jennifer’s pipeman (how he’s going to use his redline, that he’s not afraid of a backdraft, maybe it’ll escalate to a three-decker, if nothing else he’ll save her basement, sorry, I couldn’t help myself). and Balki comments that it smells like smoke.  Oh no! The director forgot to let Larry get all the way over to the coffee machine to turn it on, meaning it’s been on for too long now!

036

Oh no! A normal, everyday kind of household mishap that at least one of these men must have encountered before, and right next to a sink!

The cousins, positioned here equidistant from both a water cooler and a fire extinguisher, are nearly faced with a Buridan’s ass-type dilemma. Larry makes sure this isn’t a burning-bush scenario.

037

They decide that, since nothing’s on fire yet, they’ll add minutes in the other room. Larry dials 911 and–

balkishake

Balki, buddy, careful with the set—and Balki answers the other phone, so maybe it wasn’t 911 after all the show wants us to ignore the rest of the city once again.

038

Larry grabs a water delivery apparatus and runs back to the coffee pot, which is now putting out less smoke. When the cousins realize they’re both holding the end of a limp hose, Balki puts the tips together, which really sets me up nicely for some symbolism analysis in a minute here.

039040

The rest of the sequence is the cousins repeatedly thinking they’ve put out the fire to find that it’s grown in size (rinse and reheat, as Balki might say). On paper, it sounds like the scene would work in much the same way as season 3’s “Pipe Dreams”. To revisit the discussion from there briefly, these man-against-appliances bits follow this escalation: something breaks or poses an obstacle, but when the hapless hero figures out a rule and fixes it, the rules change; and they keep changing no matter what the guy does.

041042043044045046

But with water pipes, even if it’s any sort of simplification, they’re all connected somehow, somewhere. It’s easy for the viewer to understand the physics at play: that the water has such force it will come out however it can. Unfortunately fire doesn’t work that way; it’s not waiting on the other side of reality looking for ways to break through. It simply doesn’t get so hot inside a cabinet that it would combust, and fire can’t magically leap through solid matter like so many (fire chief) neutrinos.

047

It’s a good thing that anytime something doesn’t make real-world sense on this show I can be a clever asshole and say “it’s symbolic”, because otherwise I’d just spend my time describing the taste of my tears.

048

Season 6 has been a succession of Balki’s attempts to trap Cousin Larry in the life they’ve been living for the past six (or five? who fucking cares) years, luring him into rabbit snares, magician’s boxes, or the dim, locked room of his own mind. Despite hating every decision Larry makes, Balki refuses to not accompany him; ultimately rejecting singleness in any professional, social, religious, or political endeavor he might try out.

049

Balki’s repeated complaint—that Larry’s reasons are not good enough—rings hollow here, and for good reason: it’s Larry’s reasons for leaving their union that Balki cannot accept. Seeing the small fire of Larry’s love affection relationship lines of dialogue alternating with Jennifer’s in the script more often, he’s tried now to pull Larry back into the world of men, the world of the physically heroic, of poles and hoses, of seeing their colleagues pose half-nude for a fundraising calendar.

050

But quashing it there caused fire to erupt even stronger in Jennifer’s vagina. After that point, the symbolism began to escalate. Hose ends touching to a household fire extinguisher to, finally, giant novelty glandes penis spewing jizz.

051

Look, you might be tired of the gay jokes at this point in the blog, and maybe even the tongue-in-cheek analysis, but Balki’s spraying directly onto Larry’s back, so what the hell else can I do?

Larry calmy, conely, returns Balki’s gesture, subtly letting him know that their love will—as it always has, as it always must—stay at the symbolic level.

052

Anyway, these flamers stand something like 20 feet away from the fire until the scene ends.

053

While Larry and Balki slip into reverie about how the firemen will come back and be so proud that they’ll give them honest, callused handjobs, here’s something that sitcoms do every once in a while that bugs me.  It’s common knowledge that ABC sitcoms were filmed in front of studio audiences, yeah? So when they don’t laugh until the camera pans out for the home audience, it makes me think about them instead of the story. Did they politely wait to hoot and holler until they knew I could see the reveal?

054

Actually, the more I think about it, the more the possibility suggests itself that the majority of this episode may not have been filmed in front of an audience.  There’s a giant divider in the middle of what appears to be a larger set than the apartment or the Chronicle basement, and I can think of reasons why they might not have wanted to mess around with fire in the regular studio (for instance, fire burns things). Point is if you want me to believe that there’s a live audience, don’t make me think about them.

Anyway, two days later, Mary Anne consoles Balki for being thrown out of the volunteer program. Balki won’t shut the fuck up about the hat.

055

I guess Larry is holding the newspaper to indicate that he did manage to get an article out of the experience because this audience wouldn’t remember what his job is otherwise.

These four decide to continue the fun they sure do have when they get together at a restaurant. Even though I’m supposed to assume that every time they go out to eat, Balki pulls some dumb shit, and Larry apologizes for him constantly and makes things worse, Larry picks that very moment to whip out a fucking fireman’s hat he missed a payment on his $140,000 house to buy from Fire Chief Newton.

056

Join me next week for “See You in September”!

__________________________________________________

Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (1)

Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (2); Jennifer (2)****

Cut for syndication: Tess sneaks into the Chronicle building and introduces numerous spelling errors into the typesetting for Larry’s article

*Look what technological advances the 90s brought to the movable typewriter field! And if you don’t get that callback, hey, fuck you!

**This being the best shot we’ve ever gotten of Jennifer’s butt, and given that many of you have also read Full House Reviewed, you may have some expectations for me to engage in some comparative criticism here in regards to Lori Loughlin. Unfortunately, Jennifer barely appears to have a butt, so it’s a moot topic. Seriously, more jeans than butt there.

***I forget how much fun these callback jokes can be, I should do more of these!

****I usually refer to these as “coners”, but that would needlessly complicate the cone symbols