Season 5, Episode 13: Because They’re Cousins

Okay, everyone, back out of the pool. Towel off and get settled for yet another story where Balki tells someone what they did wrong.  What do you think, y’all: will this one be about sports or about family members?  I swear, if this season doesn’t end with an episode of Family Feud, I’ll…

…shit, my threats are toothless by this point, aren’t they? I’ll watch season 6, is what I’ll do.

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We open at the Caldwell Hotel, with the flourishy music that shows up sometimes and seems to indicate energy and excitement for a new day.  You’re on your own there, show.

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Balki calls for Larry to come to the kitchen, as “Cousin Bartok” will soon be here. Balki’s hung produce around the apartment in an effort to make Bartok feel “at home”. Most striking are the three pumpkins sitting prominently on the breakfast bar.  It’s fitting that Balki has chosen a fruit* with the suffix -kin for his cousin’s arrival.  Also “fruit” is a slang term for homosexuals. And sometimes I make the joke about the cousins being homosexuals. So it’s fitting that Balki chose a fruit. Because I can make a joke about them being gay. Because this blog has jokes in it. And gayness is inherently funny. Because I am still twelve and living in the year 1997.

*ahem*

Cousin Bartok is coming!

And has Larry done anything to prepare for Bartok’s arrival?  Has he helped with the cooking, put on a vest to show family solidarity, perhaps learned a few Myposian phrases of welcome and love?

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Larry smells something putrid and identifies it as coming from the the giant sheepskin from which Balki has been cutting out condoms.

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Let’s check in on ol’ Balki this week. Just how dumb is he?

Balki begins to recount how he and Bartok once threw water balloons on Devo the Butcher. Larry finishes the story, leading Balki to think that Larry was there.

Balki pulls a tick off the sheepskin, which we’re supposed to believe has survived for years.

Larry suggests that they take Bartok out on the town so he can get some of that Chicago deep-dish pussy.

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The cousins have a good laugh about boners.

Actually, why does Larry suggest that? Larry gets the shit beat out of him every time he tries to go out.

Balki warns Larry that Bartok’s pretty milquetoast, and that he’s only lived in Los Angeles for a few months.  But Larry, after four years of hearing stories about broken fingers, unsanitary birthing practices, child soldiers, and cross-dressing, is ready for anything.

This whole scene plays out… well, pardon my lack of profundity, but it feels scripted.  As in, “here is the exposition about Bartok, here is a childhood story, here is Larry being the opposite of a wet-behind-the-ears foreigner, and now here is a thing from Mypos with a funny name, and now let’s put them in the best order we can.”

Now here is a thing from Mypos with a funny name: the Babudigabo** wreath, which is made from the beards of unmilked goats.

Why did Balki wait until right before Bartok got there to put up decorations?

Why do these people never go pick anyone up from the airport?

Have the goats never been milked, or is it that–

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AAAHHH

NO

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STOP

me rn:

 
It’s sometimes unsettling when your dreams come true.  For Larry, it was almost too much. Dumbstruck, he stared at that second pair of thick lips. The same, yes, but maybe, perhaps, what they could do might….  It wasn’t as though he hadn’t considered the possibilities, no, the marble composition books under his bed was proof enough of that, no, he knew this scenario, and knew his lines by heart. “Please,” he wanted to, needed to, must say, “please touch–”

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Bartok begins to leave and reality snaps back into place.  Larry grabs Bartok’s arm.  Oh, did I forget to mention? Bartok speaks with your typical TV-Californian accent.  That is, he uses vibrato when he says “dude”.

Then, at completely different times, Balki and Bartok greet each other.  From what I understand, they’re using matte instead of split-screen, which allows one Bronson to walk in front of or behind the other. But… did the audience have to sit through the filming of each scene twice?

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Balki gives Bartok the wreath, and we get two small clues that not all is right with this cousin.  He doesn’t exude happiness about the wreath.  But more importantly, we find that the Myposian diaspora mirrors the earlier Jewish one. Bartok has shortened his name to Bart.  I’d bet that this probably marks the last time on American television that any live-action character was named Bart.

I’m sorry, I’m getting off-track. where are my manners? I really ought to be making incest jokes.  You see, on Mypos is very simple. The woman is working out in the field, she take a break, she have her baby… and then she goes home and cooks dinner for 11 men who all look alike. One of them is her father. Most of them are her brother. Who knows which one the baby belongs to?

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Bartok and Balki act like Larry’s being silly when he points out how alike they look. HAR HAR because it’s the same guy YOK YOK YOK.  Actually, Mark speaks the line with the same kind of explicitly scripted feel that I was noting earlier.  I wonder if it was just weird for him to stand there and pretend to talk to two people who are standing nowhere near each other.

Seriously, Balki is basically hiding behind Larry, I guess to help the matted shorts work better. It’s completely stupid-looking that Balki would want to stand so far away from a family member he hasn’t seen in four years.

Larry offers Bartok the couch to sleep on, but Bartok knows how this show works: he’s getting one of the beds. He claims he has a bad back–

Larry! Buddy!

Tell him you’ve got that twin bed!

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Tch. Balki offers his somewhere better than the couch for Bartok to sleep: a bedroom with most of the walls knocked out.

Bartok tries to get across to Balki that he’s short on cash to pay the taxi, but he uses slang. And since Balki has never, ever, not even ONCE, NEVER used slang, he doesn’t understand.

Balki sings the Patty Duke theme on the way down to the street. Har har yok yok etc.

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Larry says he’s surprised that Bart is not more Myposian.  Bart responds appropriately, displaying his American-ness physically by declaring eminent domain on the couch and giving Larry a slave name.  Where Balki elongates Larry’s name, pronouncing every syllable in a clumsy attempt to respect every part of his cousin’s heritage, Bart decides that “Larry” isn’t already shortened enough from Lawrence: he calls him “Lar”.

Bart tells us the story of how he came to be the cool guy he is now:

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Bart: Like, wow, gnarly, bummed, dude, bodacious, waves, totally, whoa. So really very.

Nah, j/k, Bart met some guy named Frankie Bathgate who told him he looked like a geek and to wear different clothes. And I’m certain you don’t need me to tell you what all the cool dudes in California wear: Larry-style sweaters.

Bart puts down the Myposian decorations and says he wants to get some of that Windy City slit.  Larry is disturbed by this, even though it’s the exact same thing he talked about not five minutes ago.

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Later, at the Chronicle, Carl Lewis walks by with one of those novelty over-sized birthday cards.

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Inside, everybody’s just standing there doing nothing. We’ve finally come full circle to the days of the Ritz Discount store.

Lydia comes out of the elevator, and it’s obvious she’s going to keep walking past Larry, but Larry talks to her and holds her there.  Why does she come to the basement if not for the cousins?

Larry asks what she thought of Bart, and here’s another full circle.  Bartok has gone so far in the other direction from Balki’s Myposian ways that he’s come around to the other side of lacking social graces: he’s called Lydia a “babe” and asked how much money she makes.  We’ve been given to believe that this is precisely what Lydia probably wants to hear, but Bart’s basically bereft when it comes to bon behavior with the beauties.

Nah, j/k, Californians have no respect for hard-working people! They’re inherently bad and a cancer on society! For God’s sake there’s a street in San Francisco called “Hate”!!!

If you needed any more proof that Bart is out-and-out evil, Gorpley likes him.

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Balki runs in wearing sunglasses (that Bart gave him) and says “totally tubular”. Like, really, are we supposed to share in Larry and Lydia’s concern for Balki here just on the basis of a pair of sunglasses and some slang?  Like, fuck, Balki already owns a pair of sunglasses, y’all (season 3, episode 10: “Couch Potato”). Like, they’re good for keeping the sun out of your eyes. Like, whoa. But Larry’s got a look on his face like Bartok and Balki have been engaging in elder abuse.

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Balki invites them all to a party for Bartok that takes place after Bartok is supposed to have gone back home. Bartok plans to start a business, so Balki has agreed to let him stay until he (Balki) can start paying for an apartment for him.

I’m going to take a small detour here and mention something I should have a few weeks back.  I was recently on an 80s-TV-themed podcast called Byropod, led by Byron Hussie, whom I’ve been aware of for a few years solely as “the brother of the guy who did Homestuck”. Anyway, they did a podcast on Perfect Strangers and invited me (okay, I threatened lawsuits if he didn’t let me join) to talk about the show. It was my very first podcast and I had fun!  We primarily discussed the first episode of Perfect Strangers, and one of the things that struck me about the episode was how much potential was there, how many different directions the show could have taken, how many story possibilities were pre-packaged within the characters and situations. One in particular was that Larry initially let Balki live with him on a temporary basis. The agreed-on plan was that Balki would get his own apartment.  But this was never discussed again, which didn’t stick out as a problem when I was reviewing those seasons because it was made clear pretty often that the cousins were broke most of the time thanks to Mr. Twinkacetti.  Anyway, wonder along with me at why Larry never encouraged Balki to get his own place, and check out my mellifluent voice on the Byropod podcast.

Balki keeps saying slang he never would have picked up anywhere else, like “stoked” and “dudes”. Man, California is just so weird, isn’t it? Actually, I’m all for Balki mimicking Bart’s way of shortening words. Fewer syllables means fewer chances to get words wrong.

Gorpley is so inspired by Bartok’s freeloading he goes off to call his mother.  Gorpley just grew a pair!

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That Friday night, at the apartment, here’s party #103 already.

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There’s 8 straight seconds of absolutely nothing happening, other than a woman walking behind Bartok and in front of Balki.  Matte-ing must have been a new(ish) way of having the same actor on screen twice, because ABC was sure fucking proud of it.

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Balki’s obviously taking pigs in blankets out of the oven, but just wait, it’ll actually be pig dicks wrapped in pig foreskins. Mypos and its fucking pigs.

The writers for this show have gone to the trouble of scripting an episode where Bronson Pinchot plays two parts. Balki’s funny when he’s foreign, and he’s also funny when he does “American” voices, so why not have a Balki that only does only an American voice? Unlike how Family Matters, in its later seasons, gave more screentime to Stefan Urquelle than Steve Urkel***, Perfect Strangers refuses to take the spotlight away from Balki.  Gorpley, instead of actually talking to Bartok, asks Balki to explain what Bartok’s business idea is.  Evidently, Bart has the marketing rights to an idea developed by someone named John Greeley (Balki here says “a dude from California named John Greeley”, and someone in the audience laughs at the word “dude” again. Jesus).

Mr. Greeley’s big idea is to sell beach towels which are the same color as sand.

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Gorpley: Well move over, Donald Trump.

I don’t know why I’m so diligently recording every time this show mentions him. I guess I just miss my childhood, when he was just a harmless punchline, mentioned in the same breath as ill-conceived novelty items that no one would actually purchase.

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BALKI WHY ARE YOU WIGGLING LYDIA’S FINGER AROUND WHAT DOES THIS ACCOMPLISH

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Bartok hits on Mary Anne (Sagittarius), and by all rights the first interaction they have together should be her mistaking him for Balki, and becoming increasingly confused when she has to talk to them at the same time. My God, she’s the best possible character to use with identical cousins! Instead, we get Larry saying “gosh, gee, wotta resemblance” and Bartok’s dialogue with Mary Anne serving the purpose of letting Bartok say two more slang words (“obliterated” and “heavy”).

Mary Anne, who is dumb–so dumb, in fact, that she thinks monozygotic twins are a baseball team–deflects Bartok’s come-on.  Man, I could watch her express her genetic code all day, though.

Bartok hits on Jennifer too and uses the same line.  What kind of shitty hosts are these cousins? I mean, already, if you’re having a party, introduce people; but if you’re having a party for one guy in particular, coooooooooooome the fuuuuuuuuuuck oooooooon.

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Larry brings a tray with two tiny pigs in blankets on it as a show of dominance.  Bartok calls himself a babe-tician.

I think it’s been more than established by now that he comes up with them from California. Actually I think it’s good to make fun of catchphrases. Cousins should joke more!

Bartok keeps calling her babe, and Larry, little weenie that he is, doesn’t tell him to stop.

Bartok tells Larry that he got an investor for his business and will be getting his own apartment soon (“pad”, in that impenetrable California-speak of his).

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This is treated as though it’s going to be a surprise, but you already know it’s Balki giving him all his money, right?  God dammit how did the cousins not sell those two Lowell Kelly poems? Also, god dammit why is the lighting completely different for these guys?

Perfect Strangers will return after this screengrab!

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Bartok did not stick around to help clean up, because he left to go bang “Miss Kelly from advertising”.  *sigh* Show, you are really deadset on not introducing other Chronicle employees, aren’t you?

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Larry says they need to talk, and since this isn’t an episode where Larry is evil, Balki now does the thing where he speaks first before listening to what someone else says.  It’s okay when he does it. He says that they always have cheddar puffs at their parties, and he thinks they should switch to sausages.

Those were sausages. Those couldn’t be anything but sausages. I think I’m more angry than I should be at this because the props department usually does such a good job.  I mean, they got three whole pumpkins just for this episode!

Larry tries to warn Balki of the giant risk he’s taking, but Balki says that Myposians trust their family members without question.  And here’s an interesting thesis that I’m really not surprised to see the show advancing: Larry says that LA “did something” to Bartok.

Psychology sidebar: Inoculation theory. I’m a big fan of when psychological effects are explained by way of biological metaphors.  I personally like it because such pattern-making scratches a deep itch for me, but also because I subscribe to a materialist philosophy of mind. Anyway, William J. McGuire advanced something called the “inoculation theory”.  Similar to how vaccines introduce a weak form of a microbe into the human body to allow it (the body) to safely produce antibodies against it (the microbe), inoculation can happen in the mind as well.  When someone is presented with a weak form of an opposing argument, their mind produces antibodies (counterarguments) that can successfully overcome it. This idea has some substantial implications for any given person’s belief system.  For instance, like I said, I’m a materialist when it comes to the brain. Do I believe this so strongly because I actually have good arguments for it? Or have I simply only conversed with people who weren’t able to sell their opposing belief well? Have I only read authors who didn’t take the time to adequately explain counterarguments?  Inoculation theory can be a scary idea to contemplate, and I encourage you all to be scared with it for awhile.

Anyway, Larry, as we have known him, stands as a weak form of the capitalist, opportunist, American spirit.  He constantly tries to use the labor of a foreigner for his own gain, strives to maintain the appearance of a cultural (and toxic) masculine ideal, and ultimately wants to get more out of the system than he puts in, hoping that the imbalance will resolve itself unnoticed in terms of the emotional abuse he subjects others to.  But his flaw is always quickly discovered: Larry is emotionally stunted, allowing Balki to throw the ideological baby out with its bathwater (pardon the mixed metaphor). Bartok did not benefit from Larry’s (heh) booster shot.

Looking at Balki and Bartok in this way, holding a mirror up to Balki, reveals something unexpected in the background: inherent goodness in Larry.  You see, Larry may often be embarrassed at how Balki acts, but (unless I’m forgetting) he’s never told Balki to be embarrassed about who he is. He tells Balki that he doesn’t think the Myposian way will work, but he never tells Balki to get rid of evidence of his heritage the way Frankie Bathgate did to Bartok.

Larry offers the “duck test” as proof that Bartok hasn’t maintained his Myposian self, and Balki doesn’t understand, even though he came from a place where probably 80% of the metaphors and idioms have to do with animals.

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Then the scene ends.  It just ends.

Later, Bart comes by and calls Larry “broheim”.  This is what I learned this week: that where I’ve always heard “broham”, it’s some alternate form of “broheim”, and like many words there’s no agreement where it came from.

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Larry tells Bart he knows what he’s up to and won’t let Balki empty out his Freddie the Frog coin bank.  Bart assumes that Larry wants in on the ground floor and tells him he’ll let him be an investor as well.

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Balki comes in, excited to write out a puppy check. Did he… go somewhere outside the apartment to get his checkbook? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just have him taking a shit during the past couple minutes?

Larry tells Balki that he decided to a little investigating about Bart’s business connections.

Larry: I called the West Coast…

*pauses the show to laugh for a little bit*

Ultimately, the argument isn’t that no one is going to buy the sand-colored beach towel. It’s that Bartok doesn’t have the marketing rights that he earlier claimed, and cannot get them.

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Even though this is supposed to be a painful, emotional scene, the audience keeps laughing whenever Bart says authentic Californian words like “downer”.

Even though it seems clear that Bartok has been revealed for a fraud (he continues to talk about taking others’ ideas), a fuzzy Balki is still writing out the check.  He says that one should help family out no matter what. Bart notes that the check is made out to “Bartok”, but the bank “knows him as Bart”. Did he not have to provide ID when he opened an account??

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Blah blah blah, Balki reminds Bartok who he is, Casey makes a demon exorcism joke, Bart says he has to keep Bartok inside, Casey rewrites the exorcism joke to be a Gollum/Smeagol joke, be yourself, go back to Mypos, blah blah blah.

What strikes me as odd about this whole resolution is that every single person gets to be portrayed as a basically moral person (except for somebody off-screen).  In fact, Balki gets to have the moral high ground twice in a row: once by helping out someone who might be taking advantage of him, and again when he gets to tell his cousin that he’s not being true to himself.  Plus Balki gets to not be dumb this time around, which… okay, you know, I was about to criticize that, but then I’d be giving lip service to the status quo as much as the show. We’ve seen dumb Balki be manipulated by others who don’t care about him. It’s been done.

The problem’s not so much that Balki’s not dumb, but that Balki gets to be the final moral word on the matters at hand.

Is there really no room for growing as a person? I’m all for integrity and loving who you are, but come on, leave some space for self-improvement. Leave some space for trying on new personas and seeing what fits. (Research shows that, in particular with leaders, success comes as a result of being able to shift into and out of different modes/personas as needed.)  But Perfect Strangers is now displaying one of the things I disliked about Family Matters: characters aren’t allowed to try things and fail.  There’s always some character there to tell them how to live their life, who refuses to allow them room to make their own mistakes.

Bartok: Well, how I can get back?

fuckin’ fuck

You see why I don’t trust Bronson to make jokes? Ignoring the slang and the persistent use of “like”, Bartok’s grammar has been impeccable up to this point. I just… fuck.

how i can stand this show for 65 more episodes?

Well, Bartok’s gone now, and I seriously doubt we’ll see him or ever hear about him again.  I’m glad we got to see him–got to see what could have happened to Balki in different circumstances, which is what the script is basically about.  However, it feels like the episode was just as interested in that as it was in showing off the matte technology, and probably a little more interested in just having an excuse for Bronson to do two silly voices in one episode.  But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see Bartok again, because there is definite potential for what he could add to the show.  Perfect Strangers is already a show built around a wacky neighbor type, but I think at this point it could use its own wacky neighbor.  Bartok could, every few weeks, stop by with another ridiculous invention he’s trying to market.  Hell, it wouldn’t even have to do anything with the plot: Perfect Strangers is sometimes at its best when it takes unnecessary detours.  But I could even see physical comedy bits built around, say, testing a stupid product.  And just think: it would easily set up a dynamic where Balki was trying to be an older-brother type to Bartok.  Balki’s frustrations with him could result in Balki finally appreciating how difficult his antics have been to Larry over the years.  Of course, at this point, Perfect Strangers has given me no indication that it would ever go in this direction or pursue that kind of character growth.  It’s showed no interest in sure-fire comedy neighbors (caustic, sausage-loving Mrs. Schlaegelmilch), little interest in using the neighbors it did retain (the girlfriends), and a strange interest in bringing back characters like Gina and Vince.  But it’s nice to think that, even at this point, even if it didn’t realize it, Perfect Strangers still had potential.

In the final scene, the cousins are at their table, ready to eat cereal without milk, and Balki reads a letter from Bartok. Balki can almost read at normal speed now, and Bartok’s grammar is back.

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Bartok also sent along a business card: he now makes glow-in-the-dark sheep collars.

Larry: Did he say that their main selling point is letting you screw sheep after dark?

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Yeah, fuck up that clock, man!

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Join me next week for “Disorderly Orderlies”!

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Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0); Bartok (1)

Catchphrase count: Balki (let’s say 1.5); Larry (0); Bartok (1)
*I subscribe to the fruit/root division, as opposed to fruit/vegetable.

**Try and tell me that’s not a Pokemon

***someone answer me how the hell Stefan had a different last name

****At the end of the episode, Balki promises Larry to never call him “dude” again. I mention this solely so I can scream about it when Balki does it again.

Season 5, Episode 12: Everyone in the Pool

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We open at the Caldwell.  Depending on how you look at it, we’re either at the zenith or the nadir of season 5.  The fact that it’s night now is a mark in the nadir column…

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…and the fact that it’s written by Tom Devanney is a mark in the zenith column.  (Where Lance’s column wound up, only Mr. Burns knows.)

Balki has rushed home from his college classes to tell Larry a joke, and we see that Balki is stuck in two different ways.  For one, he’s still referring to it as “night school”, which usually denotes high school.

For another, he can’t get a joke right. He spoils it by getting the punchline correct, but he’s pooched the setup. It’s the “I just flew in from __________ and boy are my arms tired” joke, but Balki uses the word “drove”.

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Fuck.  Show, am I really going to have to break this down?

I praised the show a little while back for how “The Newsletter” gave Balki something new to misunderstand that still mostly worked for how long he’s been in America (not to mention how long he’d been in a workplace).  But this one’s really pushing my willingness to overlook such things. Pushing it hard. We’re talking a level of pushing akin to, say, that of the of the object of the Salt-N-Pepa song “Push It”, assuming they were compliant with the song’s exhortations.

This episode aired on December 15, 1989, four days before my fifth birthday.  By that point, I was a real kid on the go. I was in preschool. I could write my own name, identify cars by their hood ornaments, use a fork and knife, do somersaults. I could use the toilet on my own. I could tell short stories. I could tell short stories about how I pooped in the tub by accident.  I watched Real Ghostbusters, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (and yes, at the cousins’ behest, I watched Beetlejuice). Hell, I would start watching Perfect Strangers pretty soon (one of the few episodes I remember is later on this season).

I could understand jokes, and I could tell jokes. By the time I was five, I most certainly had heard the “boy are my arms tired” joke, and I understood enough about birds and airplanes to get it.  Balki, on the other hand, knows it’s a joke, but he doesn’t understand the humor in it!

Look, show. I get it.

I get that Balki needs to misunderstand things. I get that it had to have been a hard balance to try to strike by halfway through season 5. I’m fine with Balki Ricardo. I’m fine with Roger Rabbit Balki. Shit, give me Foreign Sexual Predator Balki.  But don’t try and pass off a Balki that is fucking cargo-culting jokes.

They try to be funny, though, don’t they?

Anyway, the fact that Balki is telling Larry where he was all evening is proof positive that these two are still in an abusive relationship.

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Larry, a better man than I, opts to just ignore this week’s brain damage and instead talks about how he’s making selections for the football pool at work.  Balki pops a boner at the mere mention of the word “foot” and says he wants in.

Speaking of types of jokes Balki makes, we’re treated to the first variation of this type:

Balki: Well, feed me garlic and call me stinky!

Then Balki says “wwwow” (God help us all, one word counts as a catchphrase), and then he does some alliteration, and then he says “get out of the city” (yet another catchphrase I’m proud to have only mentioned twice so far).

Anyway, where was I, is there a plot here?

Oh yeah, Balki, lured by the prospect of winning $65, says he wants in and gives Larry a dollar.  Okay, so at least Balki knows that 65 is more than 1. But I bet I could still get away with trading him five pennies for one quarter.

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The next day, Balki chases some guy we’ve never seen before into the basement, trying to tell his stupid joke again.

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His second attempt at making the joke has failed. He knows something’s wrong, but not what.

The camera pans left to find Larry at his desk and Lydia kind of just standing by the elevator like she’s, idunno, waiting for a cue or something.

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Because Balki has never once been overly-excited about something new, and isn’t the kind of person who would, say, play the lottery and eagerly watch the drawing on television to find out if he won…

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…we must have Gorpley come in to announce that Balki won the football pool, having picked every team correctly. But this is more than just an issue of Balki having not watched the games; Gorpley has to tell Lydia how many outcomes she picked correctly.

Is this how sports pools work?  Do most of the participants plain not watch the games at all? I’m by no means a sports fan; in fact, the only sport I seek out to watch is roller derby, and that’s because most of the players have nice big hips there are few enough rules I can actually follow the game. But isn’t part of the fun in betting on games the promise that you could be right? That you know enough about the sport and its teams and players that you could predict who could beat whom? I suppose theoretically you could approach betting solely with a knowledge of past scores and statistics, which I would believe of Larry, who up until season 4 was depicted as the type of undergrown weenie who avoided contact sports at all costs. But that approach would be like deciding to vote based on FiveThirtyEight’s predictions.  Larry does try to convey to Balki that picking teams is “difficult”, indicating he has some sort of thought process, but that’s as far as it goes.

But that’s Larry; nothing about Lydia’s personality (and thank God I actually have one to reference) indicates that she would be into football at all.  But this show is obviously more willing to bring in a brand new character for Balki to yell a joke at than it is to have one actually participate in the story.  Show, you’ve pushed out little kids, old women, young women, black men, white men, fat men, even dogs, just so the cousins can do a pisspoor job of making jokes that weren’t that funny in the first place.  Congratulations, show!  Your equal opportunity approach would make Tumblr proud.

At any rate, I’m left with the impression that Larry and Lydia participate in this just for the money, which seems like a slap in the face to the people who actually give a crap about football.

Everybody takes a turn saying “Balki won the football pool” because, hey:

Gorpley doesn’t want to give Balki the money because he’s a garlic-scented foreigner, but Lydia threatens to publish the letter that Gorpley’s ex-wife sent to her advice column.

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The air grew thick with tension. Sam Gorpley, a man who had made a name for himself, not as a manager, but as an ex. Ex-husband, ex-son, ex-banking associate. An X, all points, always jabbing in every direction, keeping anyone from getting close.  Lydia Markham, a tornado of emotion, but every now and then you’d catch a glimpse of the cruel intelligence that lay inside.  Over the years they’d circled, fired shots across each other’s bows, built planters to hold the dirt they had on each other, feinting and parrying in balanced dance. But would Lydia go that far? Would she break the cardinal rule of the advice column and out a reader? Or… could her withholding of advice have contributed to his messy divorce?  Lydia was a wild card, sometimes black, sometimes red.

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The cousins could sense that they were on the edge of something big, something deep, like a chasm, or perhaps hot, like a fire on the other side of a closed door. The moment passes and Gorpley hands Balki the $65.

Hey, you know, the Perfect Strangers DVDs haven’t been released yet, and who knows?  Maybe they won’t actually get the rights to all these songs, and they’ll cut out these tiny scenes. At any rate, you’re listening to Casey Roastem’s Myposian Top 40, and here’s #34, that hot little number from the musical Cabaret, “Money”. Balki shakes his ass.

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Larry asks Balki how he managed to pick all 13 winners. Balki claims it was his “sheepherder’s intuition”, and then he proceeds to explain how it wasn’t intuition at all, but reasoning based on the names of the teams.

Balki: Obviously, a bronco can beat a colt. And… a lion could beat a Bengal.

I was hoping for a capper with two teams that weren’t animals, and the show delivered with the Bills and the Chargers.  It actually got a chuckle out of me, probably even moreso because I only know the football team from where I grew up (the Atlanta Braves).

Larry is peeved that Balki won. He talks about the time he spent watching the games, keeping track of injuries, previous games between those teams, whether the game is home or away (and how well they do at either), the weather predictions for each city, basic offensive/defensive strengths and weaknesses, how good are the coaches, whether any of the teams had a “bye” week the week before…

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Nah, j/k, Larry hasn’t done any of that shit, he’s just peeved, no reasons given. Maybe he’s peeved because Balki’s going to buy a dozen Takara brand Rock’N Flowers and blast the radio all month.

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Who knows?  None of these writers even know what a football is!

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Here we are at the Chronicle in the early evening.

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Gorpley comes out of his office and gives Larry a pick sheet. It was one of the few joys he had left, but now, as with every other part of his life, he’s just going through the motions. He knows what he’s losing this Christmas.

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Hey, look, the maybe-she’s-Latina woman is going to lose money to Balki, too!  Hooray!

Since Balki has won the pool for the past five weeks, Larry is calling Gus so he can find a bookie to make bets.  Gus tells him to call “the Mole” and yeah, I’m with you, Larry, that’s a weak joke.

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Balki comes in and tries his “tired arms” bit again; he fails again.  Show, are you taunting me with bad jokes now? You seem pretty proud of the fact that Balki can get away with not making a joke multiple times and still get laughs from the audience?

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Larry should be telling Balki the correct form of the joke, but the handprints on Balki’s shirt are a warning sign to him that he’s being cuckolded by someone else who is constantly covered in ashes or motor oil.  Balki’s explanation is that he told the “guys in the press room” that he won. Here’s something you might not know about guys who work in press rooms: their form of retribution is to very carefully and deliberately make distinct handprints all over your PALE BLUE SHIRT WITH NO FUCKING VEST.

*ahem* sorry

The gunk on his pants is from Millie (one of the cafeteria ladies) throwing up upon hearing the “tired arms” joke.

Lydia sees Balki about to fill out another pick sheet and breaks the point off of his pencil.

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Oh no!  They didn’t have pencil sharpeners back in the 80s! What now?

But Lydia’s action is a very subtle play on words by the writers: Balki doesn’t get a point, leading him to get the point: everyone is angry at him because he keeps winning. (Those poor souls! They lost a total of $5 each! I may weep openly.)

Larry doesn’t give a shit, because he wants to know Balki’s picks. When Balki says he won’t ever, ever do that football thing again, Larry tells him he has a commitment: to America.

Long-term readers of this blog should know by now that America=Capitalism.  If this season has been trying to tell us anything, it’s that sport serves as a symbol of how capitalism places the cousins (and we are all cousins) at a remove from from the natural world. Of course, it’s one of many: see the golden machinery in the background; see the tiny windows; allowing only enough sunlight for small plants; see Balki become physically marked–overwritten, perhaps–by the medium of recorded thought. But I digress.

We’ve seen roller-skating as an abstraction of males fighting for dominance over a female; tennis as a stand-in for physical intimacy; golf as a polite-society way of showing respect for the elderly (and as a polished version of its earlier incarnations).  I’m not going to pretend you need to be told that sports teams at any regional level are simulations of tribal war, or even suggest that contact sports are safe spaces for acting out unacknowledged homosexual desires (gay jokes? me? faugh!). Sports teams have their own special kind of abstraction: in most cases, some animal as a symbol of their strength. But this two-layered abstraction seems to have become its undoing.

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If this episode has a central thought, it seems to be that being disintermediated from the natural, physical world is a method of overcoming capitalism. By treating sports abstractions as he would their real-world counterparts, Balki has more than beaten the game: he has unmasked it. In so doing he’s revealed something too unsettling for the other players to countenance: that capitalism is a fixed game.

Much has been said of the current era of television in terms of TV dramas being the “new” literature. However, this episode alone surely earns Perfect Strangers the right to consider itself literature.  “Everyone in the Pool” would no doubt function as a companion piece to Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan, which featured a man who had built his wealth by investing in stocks whose ticker symbols matched the text in the Book of Genesis.

Ultimately, Balki does respond to Larry’s appeal to his commitment to America.  However, what Balki realizes (and Larry does not) is that Balki must give up the game to maintain his (and everyone else’s) place in the American economic system.

One thing I probably don’t point out enough is how some of the show’s real-world references (usually to celebrities) place it in a particular point in time.  An angry Larry suggests that Balki burn the flag “while the law’s still vague”. This reference to Texas v. Johnson places the episode’s writing & filming at some point between March and June of 1989.

One thing I get tired of pointing out, though, is just how irresponsibly dumb Balki is written sometimes.  Larry finally convinces Balki to play on the basis that everyone wants a chance to win their money back, and even though Balki used the word “beat” with the specific meaning of “winning against” earlier in the episode (not to mention its copious use in “Hello, Ball”), he misunderstands it here.

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Later, at the Caldwell, DAMN is Mary Anne (Sagittarius) looking good.

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Mary Anne asks Balki what the episode summary is up to this point.  After, she suggests that Balki simply pick the losing teams and let the others win.

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Balki: Mary Anne, that’s brilliant!

GOD DAMMIT BALKI LISTEN TO YOURSELF

Just four weeks ago you had a shitfit when Larry asked you to play golf badly! “You made me a cheating loser”, you said!  It was a “really stupid” idea, you said!! Fooey!

Balki pops a boner but Larry comes in, demanding that Balki fill out his fucking pick sheet already.

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He does it.

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Balki and Mary Anne (who is so dumb she thinks a pooch kick is animal cruelty) leave for the movies, and Larry calls up “The Mole”.  God that’s such a terrible bookie name.

Larry bets $1,000 per game on 10 games.

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The “oh no!” music comes on.  As in “oh no, instead of having Balki’s knack prove unsustainable in the long run, they’ve decided to just make him magic!”.

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The next night (?), Balki and Mary Anne are actually watching a football game! They celebrate Balki’s complete and total loss.

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Larry, we are told, went to a sports bar that was showing all the games, so it makes perfect sense that he arrives at the apartment a mere 10 seconds after the last game of the night ended.

Larry comes in looking like he just got scared by one of his own farts.

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Mary Anne misunderstands that “can” is often used when really “may” is meant, kisses Balki, and then leaves.  Gee, I wonder if those two are dating.

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Larry is on the verge of either screaming or crying as he tells Balki about the money he owes to a bookie.  On Mypos, there’s a bookie called “Jimmy the Geek” (which is a good joke name for a bookie), who will shave your head if you lose on the sheep races and don’t pay.  But Larry is worried that someone’s going to break his legs. Here’s a good line:

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Larry: He knows my name. He knows where I live. He knows where I keep my knees.

Larry wants to bet another $10,000 on the next night’s game and Larry tells Balki to pick the winner for him.  Balki tells him to never, ever do that (betting) again. Cousin Larry agrees, but then Balki tries to put a rider on the bill for Larry to take him to Disney World.

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Balki says he needs to relax for his sheepherder’s intuition to kick in.

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Larry lays him on the couch, dims the lights and brings him Dmitri. If you just made a masturbation joke to yourself, I’ve taught you well.

The team playing the next night will be the Packers and the Browns. If you just made a buttsex joke to yourself, ew, that’s gross. You are a gross person. Go away.

Some of you may have noticed that, occasionally, once every season at the most, I’ll slyly avoid writing a new joke by repeating an old one and passing it off as a “running” joke.  The show does this, too: Perfect Strangers has Larry yell something repeatedly at Balki’s face. Isn’t it funny?

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And despite Balki being the more emotionally savvy of the two, he never got any practice on Mypos in dealing with someone shouting in his face.  What he should do is set a boundary and tell his cousin that such behavior is a conversation dealbreaker for him, but Balki just gets scared of Larry’s behavior and apologizes.

Balki picks the Browns and… we already know at this point that Balki’s right, because there’s no way this show is going to let a $20,000 bet to a bookie carry over into the next week.  All I really care about now is what funny way Balki thinks that “browns” beat “packers”.

Are there stakes here? I can’t help but compare this episode to one from The Simpsons, “Lisa the Greek”.  There, Homer learns that Lisa has the ability to correctly predict football game outcomes, and similar to Larry, exploits that ability to make winning bets.  And like Balki, Lisa discovers Homer’s ulterior motive.  However, in the climax of that episode, Homer is backed into a corner and cannot bet, as Lisa has tied the outcome of the game to the question of whether she still loves him after what he did to her.  In “Lisa the Greek”, the stakes are suddenly high and all too real for the relationship between father and daughter.  And given that The Simpsons had by that point in its run 1) established Homer as someone who, if you’re feeling particularly cynical, arguably doesn’t deserve love, and 2) established Lisa as someone who occupied a higher moral stratum than her father, and who believably was in a place to pass that kind judgment.

Here… Larry could lose some money, but he won’t. A smarter version of Perfect Strangers might even find a way for him to lose $20,000, and then quickly reverse it (upon entering the apartment, The Mole exclaims “why, a complete set of Moogli carvings! I’ve been trying to get my hands on these for years!”).  But Larry won’t lose the money.

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While watching the game, Larry positions Balki’s head for one last blowie before The Mole cuts off his penis with garden shears.

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I may be stepping out on a limb here by saying this, but I get the feeling that having two characters watch television is not the best way to build tension.  Mark Linn-Baker seems to intuit this and completely overacts by tossing Balki around.  If you’ve ever had someone tell you that sports like football act as catharsis for our violent feelings, here’s your counter-argument.*

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The Browns win.

The cousins do the Dance of Joy.

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No, I’m not giving you a gif. You know what it looks like.

So, in the end, the show seems to be happy with this version of Balki, a Balki who is always correct/able/knowledgeable to the point of incredibility. The Sirens of Titan gets away with its Bible-directed stock investing because it’s science fiction (science fiction cum philosophical novel; many of Vonnegut’s science fiction ideas are directly symbolic). Here, the cousins are supposed to be living in the real world, where people have shortcomings. People have hangups leftover from their formative years; people seek out respite from their neuroses in the arms of others; people get stuck in the mindset of wanting to win because of how much they’ve personally and perennially lost.

You can chart a definite arc when it comes to Balki’s sports acumen.  He was secretly good at baseball because there was a game on Mypos that consisted solely of batting.  In retrospect, it’s an ass-pull, but an ass-pull that conceivably could have worked with a better script.  Then we had Balki and bowling.  Balki was good at bowling because of the way it was played on Mypos (okay enough), but then he still managed to be better than everyone else despite not being able to see clearly.  More recently, Balki’s obviously suspect method of golf still resulted in a great score.  And here… well, Balki’s method is just perfect without question.

And I mean literally without question. Does the show tell us why Balki picked the Browns over the Packers? No. Instead, the sportscaster tells the flying/tired arms joke.

I mentioned at the top of this review that “Everyone in the Pool” aired on December 15, 1989, four days before my 5th birthday. I find a couple more things significant about that week.  The first is that, on that same night, on the fledgling sitcom Family Matters, a young man named Stefan Q. Urkel made his debut. I deliberately didn’t talk about Urkel’s characterization when I didn’t review Family Matters, but it bears mentioning here. Urkel, like Balki and the daughters from Full House before him, is the character that young viewers will identify with. Because ABC was well aware of who it was marketing TGIF to, these characters are always in the right. Except in those rare cases where, say, Stephanie Tanner drives the car into the house, it is always the adults who must make amends to the children. Larry apologizes for manipulating Balki. Uncle Jesse apologizes for putting his own needs ahead of Michelle’s. Carl apologizes for disliking Urkel out loud.

But in each of these cases, the children get away with murder. The Tanner children are allowed to be self-centered brats at school functions. Urkel is allowed veto power over Laura’s decisions when it comes to dating. And Balki is allowed to spend a whole episode not getting a joke right (as well as having the space to be morally relativistic depending on who’s telling him to deliberately lose).

The second significant event that week in 1989 was on December 17, when “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” aired.  I’ll admit I’m pattern-making out of a small number of pieces, but at the moment, it’s hard not to see that significant milestone in my own childhood also being a significant moment for television.  Within two days of each other, Urkel and the Simpsons were introduced to millions of viewers, and each represented a different direction for sitcoms.  On the one hand, you’ve got the ABC model of seemingly-loving families who are kind of jerks to outsiders and each other; and then there were shows on Fox where the characters were also jerks, but they were honest about it (see also Married… With Children and Get a Life).** Also the Simpsons was a very smart show; Family Matters had Urkelbot.

Where does Perfect Strangers fit in?  Think of Perfect Strangers as a concept car, testing out ideas and formulas and structures before putting them in the main product line. Or think of it as a regular old car, traveling down dirt roads, making dual depressions in the dirt that would eventually become ruts. Either way it’s a car.

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Is it just me or was this a terribly uninteresting episode?

Join me next week for “Because They’re Cousins”!

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

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

Dance of Joy running total: 16

*psychology sidebar: both the playing and the watching of football are not cathartic; rather, they are both a reinforcement of it, especially the latter, being literal practice of violence

**no, YOU’RE ignoring Roseanne!

Season 5, Episode 11: Home Movies

Welcome back!  I hope you’ve all recovered from last week’s thrashing.

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I’ve mentioned before that Perfect Strangers is the only family comedy in the TGIF block that doesn’t feature a family (not to mention being the only workplace comedy that doesn’t feature workplace stories), and I think this is key to understanding the general trend here in season 5.  Perfect Strangers usually waits until the end of the season to have stories with the cousins’ family members, but here we’ve already gotten both Larry’s and Jennifer’s dads, and we’re not even halfway through.  I have to imagine that there was a push from above to tell family stories since TGIF was a formalized thing at this point.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that, for a few seconds, the show fooled me into thinking we were about to see Balki’s mom.  We hear him from the parking garage talking to her, preparing her to see his work space, but–

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Nah, it’s just a fakeout, Balki’s got a camera. I should have known.  I mean, after all, Balki’s the one who’s into cameras, right?

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He starts recording Larry’s desk, inventorying all the items on it.  Good thing Larry comes in before Balki started opening up the drawers, which is where Larry keeps his nipple clickers (for special meetings with the boys upstairs).

Balki touches Larry’s face for the sake of those who will watch and be unable to do it themselves.

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Balki explains that he is the guest of honor at that year’s Bartokomous Family Reunion and Jamoboreeki.

We’re getting indications that any words imported into Myposian from English are given an “iki” at the end.  Doesn’t that make you think of the future, of how hundreds of years from now dictionaries will give English roots for words? It doesn’t? Well, fuck you. Let’s continue.

Larry: So you’re finally leaving and I can masturbate at the dining room table again?

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Balki: Everyone will ask “Is it Balki or is it Memorex?”

They’ve been leaning hard on that “where do I come up with them” catchphrase this season, but I absolutely refuse to add it to my count.  Balki has too many.  Besides, we all know where he comes up with them (throwing chicken bones).

The show, realizing I am now sick and tired (or, as Balki might say, “I’ve had it up to her”) of trying to guess at Mypos’s technological capabilities, has the cousins discuss the topic explicitly.

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Balki begins by saying that he already took off the lens cap.* Larry starts to explain VCRs, but Balki says that Mama rented one from Vito Vavoomiki’s Video Land and Sheep-Shearing Emporium.  She got her 50” rear-projection television set from Pochnoch the Peddler.  This  further cements in my mind that the Bartokomous tribe is now the richest on the island after getting the electric shearer, but the cousin’s conversation completely evades the question of what the hell Mama plugs these appliances into.

Larry: Well, you’ve got the technology. You can rebuild him.**

Balki wants to run the camera for 24 hours straight.  Jeez, that’s a lot to ask of your whole family! 24 hours without the woman going out into the field or cooking for 11 men?  But I can understand the drive for completeness: his family was used to him taking a shit in the fireplace, and they’ll wonder what’s wrong if he edits out his bathroom time.

Balki records his work table, detailing each piece of mail.008009

Lydia comes in, and Balki hides the camera, saying it’s the thing that frightens her most (continuity!!!).

She asks if it’s a copy of her driver’s license photograph, the one piece of evidence she had yet to get rid of.  Try as she might to persuade them—through offers of money, of promotion, of her body—the workers at the DMV possessed too strong a sense of ethics to turn over the old photograph.  Years ago, all she cared about was split ends.  Now it’s loose ends that worry her.

Lydia says she’s been working with a therapist with a new Russian technique to overcome her fears.  Interesting joke setup, let’s see where this goes…

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She talks with her hand, which has nothing to do with Russia, but it’s just loopy as hell and I love it.  It’s not a flattering direction to take Lydia in, but it’s a far sight better than having her having sex with everybody and their brother.***

Larry explains that Balki isn’t imagining how this will actually look with all of the fast motion, closeups, and swift turns. He says Mama Bartokomous will barf when she sees it.

Larry offers to help, since he has experience with filmmaking. I know that my meticulous detailing of the continuity successes and failures of Perfect Strangers is everyone’s favorite part of this blog, so I know you’ll agree this is the best paragraph in the whole review.  Larry’s filmmaking experience evidently has doodly squat to do with him studying to be a photojournalist in college: it’s because he was the audiovisual monitor in grade school.  However (you’re gonna love this), isn’t this something that would have come up in “To Be Or Not To Be”, when Larry tried to ingratiate himself with Director Joel Berry?

Larry tells Balki they will make his Mama proud.  His first suggestion is to put a damn tape in the camera.

010

Show, you can’t… that’s not… if you…

*sigh*

It was fine when you had Balki joke about already having taken off the lens cap. But what you’ve done here is say “we’re not going to tell that joke” and then proceed to still tell that joke. I don’t think I trust you anymore.

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Later, at the Caldwell, Larry has the camera pointed at Balki’s room.

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The show doesn’t mention this explicitly, but the cousins are operating with different visions of “24 Hours in the Life of Balki Bartokomous”.  Larry wants to record Balki eating his breakfast (show), but Balki wants to describe every feature of the kitchen (tell). And perhaps counter-intuitively, Larry’s version involves a script.

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Larry gives in to Balki and lets him talk about all the appliances. As an aside, Balki mentions that his Mama has to take her frozen foods to the top of Mt. Mypos (look, if the food can get to her frozen, can’t she…? nevermind).

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I know that my meticulous detailing of the different cereal brands in the Perfect Strangers shared universe is everyone’s second-favorite part of this blog, so I’ll point out that Balki’s box of Sugar Booms has a black-haired Cap’n Crunch on it. Larry insists on Balki eating BranOats, but Balki always has his Sugar Booms on Saturday (look, if these knuckle knobs want to capture a typical day, why pick…? nevermind).

Balki protests that he only eats bran when he gets constipated.  Unfortunately, that’s not how it works!  Everybody acts like eating prunes or bran is going to make you shit your pants within hours, but it’s not going to do anything for the impacted stool stuck there at the gate. That is, so I’ve heard. (Fun fact: John Kellogg used to use yogurt enemas on his patients.)

Balki is really embarrassed to talk about his bowel habits, since it’s kind of like being seen putting your makeup on. He doesn’t want to spoil the mystery for Larry.

Here’s the crux of the (cereal) biscuit, as the episode presents it: Larry wants to capture the “essence” of Balki’s day, arguing that it captures a larger truth, even if it isn’t honest moment-to-moment.  Balki, of course, sees this as lying.  Larry says some fancy words and Balki comes around.

Luckily, there’s precisely the right amount of of BranOats for one bowl.

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Then Balki dumps the whole sugar bowl on it!  Was he planning on not having any milk? Who is this monster?

Larry says he’s arranged a get-together for later in the day for all of Balki’s friends to come over. Balki starts talking in a very Hollywood kind of voice (I mention this for a reason; you’ll see).

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Why does Larry give a shit? There hasn’t been any dialogue to indicate that he’s going on a power trip, or living out some teenage fantasy. Every damn week Larry gets into a fight with Balki about something. Why does he lean into this stuff? Why not just let Balki be one type of annoying for a whole day and then be done with it?  Doesn’t he get tired of the weekly struggles? Doesn’t he get tired of seeing the same shit play out exactly the same way, time after time after time?***

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Blah blah blah camera as tool of capitalism blah blah co-opting experience blah blah depersonalization blah blah Bucks Fizz reference the fucking point is Cousin Larry is LYING, Larry is a LIAR, psychology sidebar: psychological manipulation Larry just wants some FUCKING CONTROL

Larry tells him to put on a pale blue shirt for the party, and because Balki has never, EVER worn a pale blue shirt without a vest, not even ONCE, NEVER…

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…Balki says he always wears vests.

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Larry picks up the phone and asks if Gus has successfully gathered up ten actors to come over and play Balki’s friends. Rented camera, rented VCR, and now: rented friends.

If Larry had to hire actors to play his own friends, I’d understand, because it would be in keeping with past episodes.  But Balki should honestly still be friends with everybody in the apartment building (that can stand him). Even if they didn’t like Balki, wouldn’t it have been cheaper to just pay them each $10 to come to a party rather than seek out an acting agency?  That would have made for a good episode.  Honestly, at this point, all of Balki’s friends should be complaining that they’re constantly being invited over for a party.

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Here we are at the party, and hey, look at that, there are actually 10 people there. The episode finally got one thing right.  I absolutely love that they’re all at least 15 years older than Balki.

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They all yell surprise for Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius).  A couple of guys in the audience are popping major boners for Mary Anne’s legs and yell “Woooo!”****

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Larry tells the women that Balki’s friends don’t “pop” on film.  Mary Anne doesn’t quite understand what he means but goes along with it.  I mean, after all, she is so dumb that she thinks a casting couch is something wealthy fisherman sit on.  But don’t you dare try and tell me Schlaegelmilch doesn’t pop.

Larry pumps up the actors for Balki’s entrance. Balki enters with the traditional celery-poking-out-of-the-grocery-bag and is forced to hug a balding man.

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A woman comes up and plants a kiss right on his mouth and Balki starts walking off to fuck her.  Isn’t it funny how Balki would betray his girlfriend right there in front of her? (Good detail work: Rebeca Arthur mouths “Who is that?” to Jennifer.)

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I’m still peeved that no one bothered to give Larry any motivation, but I am into the fact that this is sort of a perfect capper to all those times that Balki invited strangers over to make toilet wine or spill amniotic fluid on the rug.

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Gorpley is there too, just abusing a bowl of potato chips. Balki tries to rub up on Gorpley’s leg, but Larry pulls him away to say hello to “Lydia”.

I’ll admit that this sequence—minus Balki trying to fuck a stranger—is actually pretty funny, and having someone else there to be Lydia is a nice continuity touch.

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Larry starts filming Balki with the girlfriends and criticizes Jennifer for straying from the script. Then Larry starts being bossy, like they’re not in an intimate relationship, and Jennifer says she’s going to beat him up.

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Balki tells Larry that he should let Jennifer speak from her heart.

Balki: This… is not my life.

Ah, but it is, Balki!

I really hope that Larry is letting the camera run through all this.  Reality television shows, through the way that they dishonestly depict the lives of their stars, actually hit on a different kind of reality. Sure, the people on reality shows exaggerate their own personalities, but that reveals something about them.  It reveals their dreams of what they wish they were, their fears of how they think others might view them, their real selves when they fail.  If Larry is catching all of this on film, it’s definitely capturing the “essence” of what we see each week.  Mama Bartokomous would see that Balki lives with a manipulative person who doesn’t give shit one about his cousin’s desires, that Larry talks down to his girlfriend, and that he does anything he can to keep Balki from getting fresh vegetables all the way to the fridge.

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Later on, Balki shows his finished film to Jennifer and Mary Anne. Larry walks in partway through and watches in the background.

We get to see it too!  This is the furthest left we’ve gotten to see past the fireplace, and the only time we’ve ever gotten to see what the fourth wall looks like.

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Balki lowers the camera during Mary Anne’s segment, so Mama will know she has hips that can withstand birthing at least 8 children. Balki pops a boner about it. Videodrome‘s got nothing on this!

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On her way out, Mary Anne (who knows the deep and secret things) indicates that she was willing to believe that the blonde woman with the facial work was actually Lydia.

Larry says that the film looks good, but you can tell he’s upset about what he did.

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Balki puts Larry in front of the camera and turns it on (look, the tape was in their VCR, so how…? fuck it, nevermind).

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The music comes on and Larry talks about how Balki takes care of him.  The cousins kiss and the episode ends.

Nah, j/k, that was a line from my fanfic.

Join me next week for “Everyone in the Pool”!

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

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

*Behind the Scenes: You have to use a lot of tricks to write a good comedy blog.  Balki here employs one of my favorites: avoiding a joke by explicitly mentioning that you’re avoiding it.  It makes you sound smart and eschews coming across as hackneyed! Another free tip: use fancy words like “eschew”!

**Behind the Scenes: There are two writing “tricks” on display here. One is making you think that Larry said something he really didn’t. The first sentence was actually said, the second wasn’t.  Why did I add it? The first sentence was very close to a quote from the introduction to The Six Million Dollar Man, and the second sentence is also from that introduction.  Adding in references to pop culture like this will almost always guarantee a smile on your readers’ lips.

***Behind the Scenes: An important aspect of being a good comedy writer is to develop your own voice.  Use of idiom is one profitable shortcut to achieve this.  You may be a little confused at the idiom here, “everybody and their brother”, because, you ask, aren’t all the brothers already included with the word “everybody”?  Well, worry not!  The reader will quickly realize that the illogical phrase serves to exaggerate—and thus confirm—that indeed “everybody” was included.  And if the reader was already familiar with the phrase? They’ll just respect your command of the language even more.

****Behind the Scenes: Something that really opened my eyes as a writer was the notion that one sentence could refer to two different things at once.  I hate to spoil the magic for those of you out there in Blogland, but this is something I’ve employed many, many times to insinuate that the cousins are gay.  Go back and read some of the past reviews now, and I’m sure you’ll have a deeper appreciation of them (not to mention getting a second laugh, too!). In this case, I’m using these questions about Larry to refer to my own experience as a writer. Ultimately, the double entendre makes what those in the mental health profession refer to as a “cry for help”.

****Behind the Scenes: Me too!