How I Spent My Summer Vacation: 1987


Today marks the 30th anniversary of the first time Balki and Larry didn’t kiss on national television.  Anniversaries are arbitrary, and really, how precise can you get with an anniversary? Do you celebrate simply the half-hour in which the show aired?  Is it the whole day? Is it the calendar day, or are we basing our calculations on true revolutions around the sun?  Because we have to correct for that every four years (and even that, if I remember correctly, doesn’t catch the entirety of the offset), and let’s face it, 30 doesn’t divide evenly by four, even on Mypos.  And besides: when did they start filming these episodes? Do we count the anniversary of when the pitch for the show was first given? When the actors were chosen? When the first script was written? Anniversaries are really just exercises in trying to recapture some long-lost feeling related to a point in time which, quite honestly, you may have romanticized in the interim, boats against the current, borne (as Balki might say) sneezelessly into the past.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I used a version of this speech once in a long-term relationship, and the reason now is the same as it was then: I didn’t buy you a present, show.

Luckily, other people have legitimately fond memories of Perfect Strangers, and one of them is putting on a livestream of episodes (is it legal? don’t be ridiculous…) this coming Sunday.  This whole sentence is a Facebook link with the details of the Perfect Strangers 30th anniversary livestreamed event.* I’ll try to be there for at least part of it, riffing on the episodes in real time.**  Check it out! SEE the beautiful young shepherd from the far-flung isle Mypos!  EXPERIENCE the terrors visited upon his  misguided undergrown cousin! *cough* dancing girls, etc.

Anyway, Hello Happy Birthday Baby This, Perfect Strangers!

Now, on to what I’d like to become a recurring between-seasons feature…

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

One of the most interesting things to me about Philip Reed’s ALF reviews is how basically you’re getting the rare view of a trainwreck from the inside.  It’s one thing to see a train derail, crash, and burn, destroying the lives inside it. But you usually don’t get to know those lives!  Even without watching ALF myself, it’s easy to get a looming sense of dread.  You see actors, stuck in an awful situation, and you know that they basically never did anything of huge import in the entertainment world again.  One got an eating disorder; one ended up sucking hobo dick for crack. Others just disappeared.  These are real people, and you see the long-term impact the show had on them. You have to ask whether it was worth it just to be the set dressing for an alien joking about Reagan.  Hey, speaking of aliens joking about Reagan:

Balki Bartokomous and Larry Appleton share a tender moment

I’m very curious to see what Perfect Strangers did (if anything) to the actors that were a part of it.  So here’s something I’d like to do between each season, and also once this thing is done (there’s only, what, a thousand episodes left?): I want to see what kind of roles these people were able to get.  We’ve seen that Pinchot was already letting the fame of Beverly Hills Cop and the first season of Perfect Strangers go to his head.  He knew damn well he was a hot commodity.  And we’ve also seen that Mark Linn-Baker was doing this show to feed his theater-acting habit. But I won’t be looking at live shows, just TV shows, TV movies, and Hollywood films.  Also, I won’t really be watching these things in full; just enough to get a sense of what each actor did.

Rebeca Arthur / Mary Anne (Sagittarius)

Rebeca Arthur is my favorite

Rebeca Arthur appeared on one episode of The Charmings, a show about Snow White and Prince Charming living in the suburbs.  She played Rhonda, a hairdresser, who was going to go on a date with Luther (one of the seven dwarfs).  Arthur had more lines here than in any episode of Perfect Strangers so far; but somehow she had even less personality. (An artificial Rhonda, if you will).

Melanie Wilson / Jennifer


Belita Moreno / Edwina Twinkacetti

Belita Moreno is also my favorite

A little bit past the summer, but Moreno did an episode of Full House where she plays the director of a commercial for Danny’s TV show. I know I’ve seen it before, but given that Full House Reviewed didn’t even have a screenshot of her, she seems not to have been in the episode for very long.  But the character’s role was to be overbearing and pushy, so ABC knew who to look to.

Ernie Sabella / Donald Twinkacetti

Ernie Sabella is my favorite also I have three favorites

Ernie Sabella went on to enjoy a long and fruitful career in television. Since Perfect Strangers, he’s done a lot of bit parts (Hunter, She’s the Sheriff, Married… With Children, Roxie) as well as recurring roles. Most people probably remember him best as Mr. Carosi from Saved By the Bell.  But did you know what Sabella was also Pumbaa in The Lion King? I sure didn’t, but voicing that warthog has been something like half of his CV since 1994.  Also he was the naked subway guy on Seinfeld. I’m sure that the top search terms leading people to my blog will now be “Ernie Sabella nude”.

Mark Linn-Baker / Larry Appleton


Bronson Pinchot / Balki Bartokomous


Boy, those movie offers were just pouring in for Pinchot in 1987, weren’t they?

Lastly, let’s check in on where Susan (*sniff*) went after “The Rent Strike”:

There is no Lise Cutter

Susan, having managed to escape from the prison that was the Caldwell Hotel, sets out to lend a helping hand to others behind bars.

There is only Susan Campbell

She ends up making out with Robert Carradine, who was in prison for some reason.

the RN stands for replaceable never

But they got into a real big argument about whether Lewis Skolnick actually committed rape in Revenge of the Nerds, so she took off, heading further west.

come back susan

She tries her damnedest to free another soul from a physical–and metaphorical–prison.

I miss you Susan

She ends up doin’ it with Alex McArthur, but he leaves, and Susan is sad.

life has no meaning without you

1987 was certainly an emotional roller coaster for Susan Campbell, Medicine Woman.

Okay, so, admittedly, that wasn’t much of a post! I’m experimenting! It’s my life, and my blog!

But to be honest with you, I wanted a little bit of a breather before I dive into season 3.  Maybe we need to ease ourselves into it by seeing if the new opening credits tell us what Balki and Larry did during their summer?

Balki and Larry share a tender moment

We start out with Balki and Larry on a boat.  And you know what? For those who had been watching the show up to this point, that’s a pretty good statement that, despite learning the same lessons over and over again, the cousins have actually made some progress. There’s a tentative synthesis here – Balki’s still on the boat, but it’s in Larry’s city.  And look! The logo’s shiny now. Don’t you just want to touch it?

I want to touch it

I’m guessing ABC simply didn’t want to lay out the dough to film anything in Chicago for the first two seasons, but after the executives bought their fill of coke, New Coke, Ice Cream Cones Cereal, higher-end VCRs, Burger King Burger Bundles, and hookers, there was enough left over for a few on-location shots.  There’s some seriously shortened backstory for the cousins.  Balki’s still got his America or Burst box, and travels on a boat; but Larry just pulls out of a driveway after which he instantly gets to Chicago.

Boating Fun Balki comes with Dmitri in Admiral OutfitLarry go right

Balki and Larry run in the park!

Run Balki Run

Balki touches a horse!

Bronson Pinchot with unidentified horse 1987

The cousins face an obstacle!

they dont call it the windy city fer nuthin

The cousins run out into the street!

Balki and Larry share a tender moment

The cousins just fucking stop in the middle of the street, daring someone to run over them.

Balki and Larry continue this particular tender momentthe chicago cubs share a tender moment

Because we really needed to see Larry hand Balki that ticket in addition to them running toward Wrigley Field, and Balki wearing a baseball shirt, and a hat, and holding a tiny bat.

The cousins do that bit with the revolving doors, foreshadowing that there might be a LOT of covering the same ground this season.

what comes aroundcomes around

The cousins straighten their ties without the aid of mirrors. I’m guessing they’re going to do physical comedy out in front of the Chicago Theatre with an upturned hat on the ground in front of them.

no sunburns yetlets all do a physical comedy bit in the lobby

Basically, this opening says “here’s two guys who are from different places who sure do have a lot of fun in Chicago, but they probably never get laid”. But all I can think about is that we just saw six potential episode premises that probably won’t happen this season. Just imagine–Balki gets a job chauffeuring a horse-drawn carriage because he wants to wear a top hat, but he keeps saving the horseapples so he can celebrate a Myposian holiday. Larry keeps standing up at the baseball game to verbally trash the umpire until Jerseyman beats him up (Jerseyman 3: Assault & Batter’s Box). Or just a whole episode of Balki and Larry running through the park (it’d be better than that Christmas episode, let me tell you).

What can I say, folks. They got renewed. Not a damn thing’s going to stop them now. God help us all.

Join me next week for another Perfect Strangers review!

*It’s called “accessbility”, you assholes. Get with the 21st Century!

**7-second delay for West Coast viewers


3 thoughts on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation: 1987

  1. Me too. I remember this opening better as well. Though to be fair, I don’t recall seeing much of these in syndication, and I was young enough to not have formed memories of a lot of these earlier episodes.


  2. Also, I noticed that everyone who was not feeling like they were “made in the shade” went out and wisely worked during their time off. I guess Wilson, Pinchot and Linn-Baker figured they didn’t have to, but nobody else tossed their eggs all in one basket. Frankly, acting feels like the sort of job where you never know how long it’s going to last, and taking on other jobs in the meantime seems like the smarter choice.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s