Season 1, Episode 6: Happy Birthday, Baby

This episode has what is probably the quickest establishing shot of the Ritz Discount exterior. Was ABC trying to respect its audience’s ability to associate the location with the show? Or did they need to shave off a couple seconds so that Balki could make that pained smile one more time?  Read and find out, dear friends…

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And look at that!  There are four customers all at the same time in the store! (I’m not dense, there’s actually someone behind Larry that you can only barely see in this shot.)  A subliminal hint that the store–and hence the show–are popular.  This was the show’s last shot at selling audiences on this modern take on the classic Aesop Fable “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse”, so I’m sure this episode will be a no-holds-barred tour de force.

Now that we’ve spent two episodes with Balki fulfilling his dream of filling out paperwork given to him by bureaucrats and bank tellers, it’s high time we returned to Larry pursuing his dream of becoming a photojournalist.  He’s waiting on a call from the newspaper, but oh no! Balki wants to use the phone!  Cousin Larry lets loose with what should have been a catchphrase formula:

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Just think how this would have enhanced the previous episodes!  “Write a check, I break a neck.”  “Fail the driving test, I punch a chest.” “Make me dance, I’ll fucking cut you.”

Larry gets a call from the Photo Editor at the Chicago Weekly Gazette, who wants to print his photo of a burning building.  I think I might have an idea how that fire got started.

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Well, shit, dream accomplished, Larry.  Let’s do the Dance of Joy and hit the bars.

danceofjoy

Oh, wait, no, there’s still 19 minutes of time to fill, so we find out it’s Larry’s birthday.  Balki wants to know what Larry got him, and Larry just unthinkingly walks right into the catchphrase when he asks Balki if he’s ever heard of the way they do birthdays in America.

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Even though Balki exudes the level of excitement that a child would about Larry’s birthday, I’m going to let it pass for two reasons.  1) It’s a fitting joke about how he’s from another country where they do things differently and 2) his excitement is justified because it’s the first American birthday he’ll experience. So I liked that bit.  Oops, sorry, I forgot for a second I’m supposed to trash this show for being shitty, so, uh, hey, where are you from, Balki, Mypos or the fucking Shire?

*whew* close one

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Twinkacetti comes in and makes what I’m 100% certain was the very first “Tweedledum and Tweedledumber” joke ever.  This show has historical value, people, which fully justifies my reviews (I’m looking at you, Harvard University Press).  He adds insult to insult by foretelling that Larry will spend his life selling discount clocks to extras until the day he dies.

Larry, undaunted, rushes out the door to make his appointment with the Photo Editor.  Seriously?  For all that the show sells Mr. Twinkacetti as the basest type of taskmaster, his employees sure do leave the shop at a moment’s notice for anything.  I mean, Larry doesn’t even ask Balki, “Hey, do you need to take a quick dump or anything before I leave?”

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Then Susan shows up with someone named “Tina”, whom it is implied that Balki and Cousin Larry have already met.  Nice try, show, but I don’t even have to look online to know she’s not sticking around.  I’m maybe 33% disappointed by this, because she dresses like a grown-up Kimmy Gibbler, and I’m a Gibbler Groupie from way back.  But, honey, you’re going to need to dial back that eyeliner if you want to get picked up for the fall on this network.

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Balki, Susan, and Tina set up a surprise party for Larry, and bravo to whoever in the props department who was clever enough to make letters on the banner look Greek-ish. And they’ve got bags of chips, too, but it’s probably too much to expect that someone would have closed the circle on this season by having pink lemonade instead of punch.  But check it out, though, Tina must have gotten a hot tip from Gus that Balki likes shoulders.

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Anyway, who cares, it’s party time!

noisemaker

Balki comments that to get the same aural effect in Mypos, they had to squeeze a frog.  Rustic!  Larry comes home early (surprising the surprisers… cleverrr) and they all rush to ready themselves.  Balki pours peanuts in his pocket & puts the bags of chips under the couch cushions in what I’m sure is yet another Myposian tradition.

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Larry enters, and it’s obvious he plans to celebrate his birthday Larry-style: being upset about something that happened off-screen and doing Bismol shots.  It turns out that the paper chose someone else’s photograph of the same burning building.  Man, here we are at the end of the first season and Larry hasn’t achieved his dream yet?  Am I looking at seven more seasons of this incremental buildup to Larry working as a photojournalist?  Like, at the end of season 2, does he get a picture into the paper, but they crop it in a way that Larry thinks ruins the composition of the shot?  Cripes.

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Larry fails to hang his coat.  Remember this. This is important.

Cousin Larry decides to give up on his dream because he’s already behind on his master plan, which included winning a Pulitzer Prize by the time he was 24.  Bitch, I looked it up, you’re 31.  At least Full House had the decency to have Jesse’s age be John Stamos’s age.  You’re probably wondering why I’m homing in on this kind of thing, given that the majority of TV shows and movies have it done it.  But I’ve been a media consumer since childhood.  At every stage of my development, I’ve watched actors who are older than me play characters who are supposed to be my age.  As a result, I have long felt a strange disconnect when I observe the world around me.  Was everyone in my hometown just a runt? In high school, why were we not all the same height as the kids on Saved by the Bell? It’s something that’s only clarified as I’ve gotten older, too; I work at a university, and the freshman always look like babies. Yet college students on television are always perpetually just shy of 30.  I will never stop hating the practice. It seriously messed with my self-image growing up; it seriously screwed up the Tank Girl movie.  Anyway, we return now to Perfect Strangers, which is already in progress.

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Balki gingerly shifts position on the couch so as not to make too much of a crinkling noise.  I don’t think Cousin Larry would think twice about it, bro:  he knows what you do to those sofa bed sheets at night.  Balki suggests a party to cheer Larry up, but Larry says he’s got to get back on the street setting building fires; in fact he just got a hot tip about an old lady two blocks over who’s been saving newspapers since the Eisenhower administration.

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Larry fails to throw a throw pillow onto a chair.  He turns down Balki’s party idea because he hates to think of how he’ll have to explain to everyone that he failed at achieving his master plan.  Larry, baby, they’re your friends. They got over you being a loser a while ago.  But someone knocks on the door. Oh no! the partygoers!  Now that we’ve established what an unsolvable pickle Balki’s in, there’s an act break.

And it actually picks right back up in the next act!  I was so sure that Larry was going to come in the Ritz the next day, telling Twinkacetti about how he beat up all the party guests and spent the night in a holding cell.  Balki opens the door long enough to say “Go away” and slams it.  It’s often the small, detail-level jokes that do it for me (which is why I’m probably the only fan of the film Don’t be a Menace…), so someone’s extended noisemaker getting stuck in the door got a big laugh from me.

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Balki keeps opening and shutting the door on the party guests, and Tina’s understandably upset.  She still thinks she has a shot if she can just stay on screen.

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Larry says he’s hungry and Balki offers him the peanuts from his pocket.

Larry: Why have you got peanuts in that pocket?

Balki: Because I have a squirrel in this one.

I really like this payoff because it’s a moment of self-awareness on Balki’s part that he can get away with having the crazy shit he says go unquestioned because he’s a weirdo foreigner.  Shoot, I’m liking the show too much again. You can’t see it because I only really single out the jokes I like, but trust me, there’s plenty of crummy jokes on this show.  Mostly the show relies on cheap physical humor to try to get laughs, like right now.  Observe the following endless sequence. Balki locks Larry in the closet and then shoos away the guests.

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This gives Larry a chance to use his catchphrase one more time before the season’s out.

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Then they argue about whether Balki locked Larry in the closet and they engage in some more physical comedy and it’s obvious the writers didn’t know what to do.

Anyway, who cares, it’s padding time!

Larry shouts for a while, makes some sort of nonsensical joke about Anthony Perkins, Balki fields a call from Larry’s mom, unsuccessfully refuses the birthday cake delivery, fails to throw the cake out the window, and then has to cover it up.

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Sheesh. The end of the scene should have been Larry going to bed, but similar to the discographies of Wilson Phillips or Asia, there were more “hide the party” jokes after the initial stopping point than before it.

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Later on that night, Cousin Larry tries to wake up Balki and says, hey, all that padding was fun, let’s do some more of that. But he has trouble waking Balki, so he does a wolf howl and Balki shits the bed.  Larry has come to the conclusion that Twinkacetti was correct about being stuck in retail the rest of his life and then proceeds to pule and whine about nobody having wished him a happy birthday.  He even specifically mentions that Tina didn’t say anything; dude, have you even seen her more than twice?  Larry starts shyly & haltingly asking a question, and Balki disgustedly hands him Dmitri, the Myposian masturbatory aid.

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Later on that SAME night, Balki wakes up Larry. Larry, having forgotten that he shares an apartment, comes out of his room armed.  But it’s a good thing that Larry didn’t have to use the trophy as a weapon (“I may have just bought it at the discount store, Balki, but it was my trophy! I grew up with 8 brothers and sisters and we had to share our achievements.”), because it’s party time again!

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Balki has rounded up all of the people in a 100-yard radius who were awake: Max, from the bus stop newsstand; Officer Finley and the person standing right next to him who, gee, I dunno, must just be really friendly and not have a name; Sandra from the donut shop; Snake (he’s the one with the snake tattoo, if you must know); and a wino bum.

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And there it is! There’s that pained smile! The same one I make when my hands are dry and cracked and I put hand sanitizer on them. Also Larry puts down Balki in a way Balki won’t understand one more time.  They’re just packing it in at the end here. (gaaaaaay)

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Larry opens his present from the group and it’s crullers!  I give that joke a 6. You’ve got the “k” sound at the beginning, but, eh. Call me old-fashioned, but I would’ve gone with strudel.

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That previously unnamed guy is “Lou” and which writer seriously thought that this was going to be a good visual punchline?  Who isn’t going to have put two and two together already about the guy standing right next to the cop?  This was the worst joke of the whole season, hands down. I mean it, you two, put your hands down, it’s a shitty joke.

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Anyway, we’re at the end of the episode, so let’s see what the lesson is. Cousin Larry learned not to give up on his dream of being a photojournalist because you can’t put schedules on dreams or something like that.  Balki learned that he should start switching out Larry’s liquid antacid with sedatives.

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The homeless guy comes out of the bathroom saying that they’ve run out of ice.  Homeless people sure do have their priorities straight: any time you have access to a bathroom, you start right in on that next batch of toilet wine.  Let’s hope he joins the cast for season 2; Tweedledum and Tweedledumber could learn a lot from this guy.

Hey, wow, end of season.  Next week I’ll do a review of Season 1!

_____________________

Catchphrase count: Balki (1), Larry (1)

Boner count: Balki (0), Larry (0) (a moment of silence, please, for all the unborn boners Larry would have popped over Tina)

Dance of Joy running count: 3

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5 thoughts on “Season 1, Episode 6: Happy Birthday, Baby

  1. “He adds insult to insult by foretelling that Larry will spend his life selling discount clocks to extras until the day he dies.”
    Hi, Pot. It’s Kettle. You’re black!
    ” Oops, sorry, I forgot for a second I’m supposed to trash this show for being shitty, so, uh, hey, where are you from, Balki, Mypos or the fucking Shire?”
    Despite its obvious logistical problems, does anyone else think Hobbit birthday customs are awesome, and should be implemented right away?
    “Then they argue about whether Balki locked Larry in the closet and they engage in some more physical comedy and it’s obvious the writers didn’t know what to do.”
    This is one of my biggest fears about writing: when you reach a point where you don’t know what to write next, so you just put something in (ANYTHING!), and it’s obvious, and now everyone knows you’re a fraud.

    Like

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