Season 3, Episode 9: Future Shock

First things first: the quality of the video for this episode is different? Also there’s a shorter version of the theme song, and the singer hits some different notes at a couple of places.

Only I notice these things.  To quote Arlo Guthrie:

I’m not proud…

…or tired.

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Balki, Larry, Jennifer, and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) are all playing charades in the cousins’ apartment. Balki signals “movie”, and the others immediately guess “Bambi”. The joke is that Balki always picks “Bambi”.

I have a younger brother, and I can remember when he was about 3 and we’d play hide-and-seek, that he would always pick the same places.  It wasn’t that he didn’t know of a variety of places around the house that he could hide.  But even after I would hide in places that he hadn’t thought of, he would then hide there too.  He–and here, Balki–had not learned yet to try to think from my perspective.

Mary Anne: Boy, when the four of us get together, we sure do have fun, don’t we?

Does she mean like the time a dinner party at the apartment devolved into a catfight? Or the time two meals at a restaurant ended up with Larry getting into a fight? The time they almost died of hypothermia? Or how ‘bout when they stayed up all night just to watch Larry die?

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Mary Anne prompts Jennifer to tell her “news”.

Jennifer: The airline is giving me a promotion.

Oh, cool, what’s the new job?

Jennifer: …and I’m moving to Los Angeles.

Okay, at least “the airline” gives some indication of what she’s doing, so I can finally just give up on her ever mentioning Reuben’s Perfect Body again. But… what comes after “flight attendant”? Chief Purser, I guess? So, like, the same job, but she doesn’t have to do the lifejacket demonstration? And why does she need to move? Mary Anne will not moving to Los Angeles because she has allergies.  (Mary Anne’s so dumb that she thinks it’s a good idea to care about her health.) Anyway, Larry very sadly asks her when she’s moving, but Jennifer is indecisive:

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Jennifer: It’s a good career move, it’s more money and the weather is great, but…Chicago is my home.

Mary Anne asks what Larry thinks:

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Larry: It’s a good career move… more money… the weather is great.

Then, two lines later:

Jennifer: I guess if it’s a good career move… and it’s more money… and the weather is great, well, what’s keeping me here?

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Then the women run away because all they really had to do this week was say out loud the one-sentence summary that would also run in TV Guide. And I thought I was awkward at the end of dates!

Feel free to tune out for this paragraph, because I’m just going to talk about Garbage Pail Kids stickers for a minute.  I was born just a little too late to experience them initially, but I discovered Garbage Pail Kids when I was maybe 6 or 7, and I finally got my hands on some when I was about 10 or so.  If you’ve never looked at any, go look at some of the very first series. Initially, the sticker cards communicated a very simple concept: Cabbage Patch Kids are the epitome of cute, so let’s picture them as various things that are not cute. Vampires, demons, monsters, punks, old people. But artist John Pound brought a lot of skill and flair to these things.  Now, eventually, the concepts got more complex, less immediate, and other artists (thankfully mostly from the same underground comix scene) came on board. The initial run died a slow death, beset by parent protests, a lawsuit, and a thoroughly awful movie (which I will never cease loving). But in 2002, once the nostalgia cycle was ripe–that is, when those former children began to have disposable income–the  franchise was revived, and many of the original artists had plenty of other work on their plates. New artists were brought in, often working off of concepts from the original creators. The problem with many of these new painters is that they hewed so closely to the concept sketches that the final art came out shitty–shitty enough that many fans were understandably upset.  Many of the new artists brought very little of their own touch to the work, and the final product suffered.  What I’m getting at here is that whoever wrote the script for this episode took the basic summary (Jennifer is offered a new job in another city but Larry doesn’t know how to tell her he wants her to stay), and then proceeded to rephrase it in as many ways as possible until the scene was over, flat-out refusing to add any depth to the plot summary.  Jennifer’s indecisiveness boils down to “Well, I hear that they have sunshine in LA, but all my mail comes to the apartment in this building!”

Why am I wasting more time on this than the writer did? Suffice it to say “this sucks because less effort was put forth than a different thing that sucked because little effort was put into it”.

Then Balki lays into Larry for trying to support Jennifer, because this isn’t a show about following dreams or anything.

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Larry’s sure if he tells her how he feels, she’d laugh in his face.  Larry starts hitting the Bismol hard. If only there were any other people in Chicago who had vaginas and aren’t Mary Anne!  But because sitcom characters cannot face their problems while awake (or maybe because showing a character sleeping takes up 30 seconds), Larry dreams.

Voiceover Balki says that Larry will be a lonely old man a lonely old man A LONELY OLD MAN

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Hey, Larry looks pretty good for an old man!

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Nah, j/k, that’s just Mary Anne (Sextagenarian).

Balki comes in all suave.  Okay, I liked it when he did that back in season 2, so maybe that’ll help me get through this dream sequence.

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Balki has evidently been so financially successful that just that very day he bought a shopping mall and two hotels.  So Balki is successful in business because he told a woman how he felt?  I’ll be right back, I’ve got to send a few dozen messages on OKCupid.  Then there’s a disturbing joke about how Mary Anne gets wet because Balki has the mind of a child, so let’s move on already.

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The audience has a good laugh over how Cousin Larry interrupts Balki’s aged, successful boner.

Cousin Larry has somehow aged 30 years more than Balki. We then find out that Balki owns the building; so why is he still living…? OH. I get it. He wants to make sure there’s always someone to come over and interrupt so he’ll have an excuse not to do his husbandly duty. Larry has brought the rent check, and then because this is a dream about how Larry can’t get up the nerve to tell Jennifer he likes her, he and Balki fight over whether Larry has to pay, and then they fight over how much Larry owes Balki.  Yep, this is a nightmare alright!

Larry owes Balki $35,000 and the tense pre-commercial music comes on.

That’s not… that’s not an act break conflict. Oh no, Larry owes money to a friend in a dream! How will he get out of this one?

Then, because this is one of the few episodes that a second person recorded, we get part of a Rockettes Christmas special commercial.  I mention this because, 1, goddam lookit all them Santas, and 2, this unintentionally makes this feel more like a real dream. Anyway.

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When we come back, Larry’s going on about how much he loves Jell-O.

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Larry: I love Jell-O, always have.

Fuck me, but that’s the best joke in this whole episode.

Mary Anne got a letter from Jennifer, who is coming to visit.  Evidently, she hasn’t visited Mary Anne in 37 years?  I thought these two women have been friends since they were 8 years old?  Success turned Jennifer into a tall, stone-cold bitch who doesn’t necessarily like men because they have muscles.

Then the picture wobbles, the dream music comes on, and old Larry dreams within his dream?

018

Nope, nevermind, same dream. A pantsless Larry stands in his dark apartment in front of his fireplace shrine to Jennifer, replete with framed photos from Melanie Wilson’s unused stack of headshots.  Bismol, his one true compatriot throughout the past 37 years, still with him.  But the bottle is empty.  Stacks of newspapers and empty Bismol bottles litter the apartment.

020

There’s also cardboard cutouts of Jennifer in her stewardess outfit in the background that have more personality than Jennifer. But Balki is suave and pronounces everything correctly and doesn’t make any Balki-isms.

You know, I complained about laziness earlier, but this show is working overtime to make an episode about Jennifer not be about Jennifer. But the level of detail and thought the props department put into this one shot makes me kind of want to stay here.  On the other hand, it’s an episode about Larry’s feelings for Jennifer, and Larry dreaming about what those feelings would do to him–and in the dream, it’s him and Balki having the same argument they had when he was awake–that Larry needs to talk to Jennifer about his feelings.

It reminds of when I was in middle school, and I saw the Brady Bunch Movie, and at the time, I–no, no, wait, I made a decision earlier. This sucks more than another thing that sucked, for similar reasons that I won’t go into.  Anyway, the cousins are fighting, Jennifer is there, Larry is stalling.

Then Balki Ricardo comes on strong, and goddam do I want only ever this Balki. Then Larry says some stuff in Myposian, even using the word babasticky.  That’s a nice little touch.  Larry, even when he’s not in old man makeup, is already an old Jewish man, so it’s nice that they found a way to make him sound like one.  Atoms collide around, and eventually they form useful molecules, don’t they?

Jennifer’s likes and wants are only ever translated through Balki, even in Larry’s dream.  Remember how Balki said that Jennifer thought Larry was sort of cute?  That same thing happens again, where Balki tells Larry that Jennifer wants to see him.  Jennifer’s desires are merely rumor.

Balki tells Larry to fan the flames of desire…

Balki: fffffan it, man, fffffan it

If you remember from back in “Snow Way to Treat a Lady”, this is a vocal tic of Larry’s. Is this an indication that the cousins finally achieved transfer of their qualities after 37 years?  Even if we didn’t have Jennifer as a hollow pivot point for this story, this is actually exactly how things would pan out.  The show was supposed to be about cultural exchange, but then switched to Balki always being right–always gaining, while Larry barely managed to keep his crap together, barely managing to learn not to lie, or whatever.  Balki has become the successful merging of his culture with America–he the successful businessman with a whole su-it, Larry, even when he does get his pants on, still short by one suspender.

Larry finally accedes to seeing Jennifer, and Balki wants to do the Dance of Joy.

danceofjoyold

Okay, that was hilarious.  Again, the physical comedy on this show is best when it’s limited by space or physical abilities.

021

Larry continues to dream, writhing around in bed.  Rather than the rest of the episode taking place at a sleep specialist’s office so Larry can get treatment for his Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, we get the further adventures of Little Larry in Slumberland.

Larry hopes that Jennifer has aged and is at least half as ugly as him.

023

Nope, Jennifer looks exactly the same!  And I guess that’s another accurate prediction.  I mean, this episode takes place in 2024, right? We’re already to the point where it’s easy to hide one’s age. I can’t really tell how old older women are if they have enough money to have work done, and really, the hair’s about 60% of figuring out age for white women. So… this could be a fair prediction?

Haha, had you going for a minute! When you get right down to it, Larry can’t imagine what Jennifer will become. There’s no trajectory for Jennifer, because there’s no starting point.  This is simply what Larry assumes people look like after 37 years of “more money and great weather”.

024

They all sit down on the couch and Larry has trouble sitting down because of the Elephant-Man-like mass of hemorrhoids that used to be his ass.

025

Because the four of them sure do have fun when they get together, Balki and Mary Anne instantly say they have to leave.  Balki bought the Cubs, and he always likes to throw out the first ball.  I wish I could say that this was a continuity of Balki wanting to play baseball, but no, this is just because you have to work in somewhere that they live in Chicago.

Then Larry and Jennifer sit down to talk and Jennifer says she has to go away to Monte Carlo because Larry can’t even imagine anything else she’d say.  Larry says he “likes her a lot”.  Jennifer says she “likes him a lot”.

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On that basis–that weak, flimsy basis, Larry says that they can start over and have lots of kids.  Larry says he feels like he’s 60 again! So, let’s see 25 plus 37… Larry feels like it was just two years ago!

But because she has nicer, more expensive things to do in places with great weather, she gets up to leave. She even gets to deliver a punchline, but it’s too little too late. Larry lost his chance.  Larry grabs her leg and cries. And I thought I was awkward at the end of dates!

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Larry wakes up and screams.

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He runs around the apartment, doing the equivalent of those kissing-the-ground scenes, saying he loves everything about the apartment–the Myposian artifacts, his hair, the picture of his mother. He keeps knocking Balki around, and then he realizes Balki isn’t old and fondles Balki’s young, supple lips.

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He puts on his robe, reaches into the pocket, and pulls out Zuzu’s petals  And holy shit that’s a good joke, but I guess we’ve broken reality for Larry as well as Balki.  He runs off to Jennifer’s apartment, because nothing gets the ladies excited like crazed guys in their pajamas banging on their door at 3 in the morning yelling about how “they like you a lot”.

Larry tells Jennifer that he really likes her, and Jennifer does that “awww/ohhh” thing that women do that I really hate where maybe they’re touched by what you said, but it feels a little like they pity you?

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Jennifer: I like you, Larry… as long as you like me.

That’s right: Jennifer flat-out refuses to have a trait unless she gets something out of it. Anyway, she’s decided to stay, so Larry starts making a bunch of promises:

Larry: We’ll have fun, I’ll do nice things for you…

031

A befuddled Larry just waves his arms until one of the writers wakes up long enough to remember one of the season 2 episodes, and

Larry: You want a pizza?

That’s right! I forgot about that!  It has twice been heavily implied that Jennifer ate pizza!  *whew* Another solid episode in the can, boys!

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Jennifer kisses Larry, because that’s how these episodes are supposed to end.

Larry tries to push for sex, and Jennifer tells him to go back to his apartment.  He falls down the stairs on his way there.

(Jennifer and Mary Anne live in apartment 306.)

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When he gets back to the apartment, Balki is still standing exactly where he was before.  The episode ends with Larry saying he thinks he broke his leg.

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Better to enter into the kingdom of Gettin’ Some with one leg than to have both and live with Balki the rest of your life.

You know, we all sure do have fun when we get together, so join me next week for “Couch Potato”!

____________________________

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

Boner count: Balki (1); Larry (1); Mary Anne (1); Jennifer (1)

Dance of Joy running total: 10

(P.S. This copy I have of this episode also ends with Mark Linn-Baker giving the old “Perfect Strangers is a Miller-Boyett Production” over the credits, and between this and the Rockettes commercial, this is the first that I felt anywhere near like I was really watching this show on TV. It’s nice to have little touches of reality, here in this episode where we find out that Larry’s dream woman is a cardboard cutout.)

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5 thoughts on “Season 3, Episode 9: Future Shock

  1. Pretty sure that old-ass Balki bought the building because old-ass Larry needed a place to stay, and Larry has become Balki’s pet. The show keeps trying to convince us that Larry is the stable one, while simultaneously dancing around the fact that Balki is far more stable and way less manic.

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  2. Wow! I can’t believe that this post isn’t ancient! Lol. Everything I find about Perfect Strangers these days is so out of date. I just got the series as a gift, I had seen the majority of them as a kid but just rewatched them all again and it was wonderful! I’d forgotten how much I adored this show (especially Balki) so it’s nice to see there are still others out there who appreciate it after all this time. Thanks for sharing all your thoughts on this episode, I quite enjoyed it! Your comment about Jennifer not visiting her best childhood friend for 37 years cracked me up! I also think the best part of this episode was them attempting to do the Dance of Joy in their feeble state.

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  3. Welcome, Julia! I only have vague memories of Perfect Strangers myself (a handful of Balki-isms and the episode where Balki loses a bird), so please don’t spoil which episode it is where Balki and Larry finally kiss. With a few exceptions (see “The Unnatural”) I’ve really enjoyed watching and reviewing this old thing, and I hope you continue to enjoy the reviews!

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