Season 3, Episode 12: To Be Or Not To Be

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The show gives us a panning opening shot, from the top to the bottom of the Chicago Chronicle building, showing us that this path remains empty thanks to the heroic efforts of the Carin’ Cousins Suicide Prevention Squad.

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Lydia runs in from the parking garage messing with her earrings. Hi Lydia! Hi!!!

She brings the cousins news of the world, heralding the coming of Director Joel Berry. This name doesn’t register with the cousins, so Lydia tells them that he’s trying to find a Chronicle employee whose constitution would be appropriate for a commercial. Which he’d… um… post… tribunes?

I tried.

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Harriette comes down in the elevator, and they’ve got the same dress on!  Oh no! They get super catty about it! I guess it is true that women are the biggest obstacle to feminism!

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Belita Moreno really sells that she’s supposed to be wearing a tight, uncomfortable dress by hobbling up the stairs. Bye Lydia!!!

Balki tries to convince Larry that fame is now within reach, because, um, yeah, Larry’s long-term dream is acting, let’s go with that. Then Balki starts in with a pretty good Robin Leach impression that goes on way too long. Have you ever worked with that guy? The guy who doesn’t just want to say a quote from the Godfather, he wants to say one of the monologues? And there’s pauses in it, and you don’t know if he’s expecting you to do a call-and-response or what, because you’ve never watched the Godfather? Are you going to do this the whole show, Balki?

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Hey, look, Customer #1 from the very first episode has found fame as a Hollywood Director! Director Joel Berry comes in complaining about how he had to look at a loading dock and then he’s all like “what, a basement set is supposed to be a step up from a discount store? What kind of sitcom does that?”

Balki gets excited, thinking that Director Joel Berry might know Wayne Newton. AGAIN with the Wayne Newton! Kinda makes me miss the first season, when Balki’s interests were more varied and he liked both Wayne Newton AND Dolly Parton. But all this thinking about the first season just makes me think about… her *sniff*.

Director Joel Berry does that framing thing with his hands because that’s what directors do and stares at Balki  Director Joel Berry asks Balki to give Larry mail again. Simply because Director Joel Berry has found the only two people in the building doing actual work instead of sucking up to him, he feels that he has found his stars! Now that they have begun their career in acting, Balki and Larry start practicing their Thalia and Melpomene faces.

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Hey, by the way, go back up a couple of screenshots. That looks like a publicity/press photo on the wall back in what I assume is Gorpley’s office? Is that by any chance Sam Anderson from another role?

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Then Lydia and Harriette appear at the top of the stairs singing Reason #12 You’re Not Going to Get Seasons 3-8 on DVD, So Quit Asking Me Like I Would Know Or Something: “Together (Wherever We Go)” from the musical Gypsy.

And yeah, sure, that’s a joke, let’s go with that to end the scene.

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Back in the apartment, both Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) are present to receive the Sacrament of Exposition. Balki makes a joke about Larry being a lesbian, and…

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…and, yeah, okay, I’ve seen one or two that look like that.

Jennifer looks at her watch and says that if there’s no more exposition, they’ll be going…

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Larry starts in about how if he becomes a big Hollywood star, he won’t forget the little people. He won’t let anyone leave the room and finally Jennifer tells him that they’re seriously 👏 only 👏 paid 👏 to 👏 listen 👏 to 👏 exposition 👏

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Larry says that he’s got to prepare Balki for the big commercial shoot the next day.  Oh boy!  “Larry makes Balki rehearse a plan” scenes are my favorite!

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It’s been four weeks, but Larry’s finally got his ego back from the repair shop, and it’s running so nice, he’s got it up to about 65, which is a great cruising speed for this model of Appleton.

There’s dialogue here to the extent that Balki sees his upcoming role as very simple–just do what you always do.  You walk in, you say the line in your funny accent, and you’re done.  Larry counters that there’s depth to acting:

Larry: Tomorrow, you’ll be an actor playing the part of a person delivering the mail. Two completely different things. One is a job; the other… is acting.

I’m not even going to let this one come to a boil, I’ll just go ahead and say I’m really not sure if I’m supposed to take this as a commentary on these two actors.  Linn-Baker is the serious theater actor who went on record saying that doing this show is what gave him the finances to pursue that career. Bronson Pinchot is the actor who talked with a funny voice in a movie, which he parlayed into talking in a funny voice on a TV show, and people liked it so much he decided to start buying expensive paintings. But I’ve never once gotten the impression that these actors didn’t like each other.  I’ve yet to read any stories about fallings-out on set, or hard feelings after the fact. But it was Robert Blair’s first writing credit on this show, and this is around the time that most shows start commenting on themselves in a bigger way, so… yeah, I see it? But I’ve been wrong before (ask me about my metatextual interpretation of Die Hard 3 sometime).

Anyway, back to “Larry’s a Jerk” scene 87, take 2:

Larry think’s he’s hot shit because he built the sets for West Side Story in high school, so Balki sings Reason #13 You Should Just Stop Asking About Season 3 Through 8 On DVD, Really: “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie.

They practice, with Balki delivering the mail, and Larry just yells “wrong!” at him. It’s been something like 30 episodes since the last instance, but finally somebody remembered to put in an instance of Larry repeating instructions over and over and using hand gestures.

Larry: Concentrate… on relaxing.

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…concentrate…

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…on relaxing….

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Balki stumbles towards Larry, getting more and more wobbly as Larry gives him more instructions on how to walk. It’s like one of those old cartoon bits where somebody is told how to golf.

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Larry tells Balki to emphasize “mail” because, yeah, that’s the key word when you’re advertising a newspaper, let’s go with that. The cousins just say “mail” at each other for awhile.

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And why hasn’t Larry been doing this with things like his last name?

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Then they do the stumble-wobbling thing again until their peepees touch.

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In the next scene, they’re rehearsing the commercial and just in case you wanted to see it again, we get more of Balki wobble-walking.  The director asks whether his legs are all right, and Balki informs us that his supple calves got the whole population of Mypos wet on a daily basis.

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Larry tells Director Joel Berry that he should remind Balki “less knees, more hips”. You can tell that Director Joel Berry thinks these guys are totes gay, but he’s a professional and keeps it to himself.* So Director Joel Berry tells Balki to forget everything Larry told him about acting. Balki delivers the mail successfully, and is just so very excited about it.

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In the next take, Larry tries out this dumb sonorous voice and starts putting in narration about the Chronicle. It’s almost like someone told him that’s the voice you’re supposed to use when you’re acting.

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Uncle Joely tells Larry to cut it out, but then Larry just does the same shit again with the voice, and keeps adding to the script.

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This is really exciting, right? A whole episode of everything repeated, right down to the director slapping the mail into Balki’s hand. I guess one guy in the audience is laughing really hard, so it must be good!

*sigh* yeah let’s go with that

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They try it again, but Larry says “cut” and the director yells at him**.  Larry starts making a big fucking deal about how Balki changed one word, since they’re “sticking to the script”. And, okay, remember how I came around a little back in “Hello, Baby”, when we were shown how Larry’s a little kid too? Larry the Kid now wants the adult to make things fair because Balki got a bigger piece.

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Director Joel Berry takes his whole crew one foot off to the side to have a private “creative meeting” and Larry butts in to let them know you have to go a whole two feet to not be heard.

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Speaking of repeating things, the women are at the apartment again, but the Chinese takeout boxes have turned from white to red, and if you’ve Googled your Chinese theatre colors & their meanings like I have, you already know how this change symbolizes the basic arc of every Perfect Strangers episode.

Because they all sure do have fun when they get together, Jennifer and Mary Anne decide it’s time to leave. Then the commercial comes on and Larry says “we don’t need to see that”.

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I was kind of expecting a “telephone call for Mr. Herman” kind of result for both of the cousins, but Balki gives the spiel and Larry just has a deer in the headlights look.

And seriously? The Chronicle approved their article writers looking like they’re idiots who just stare into space?

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Mary Anne asks if Larry was in it. She’s so dumb, you guys!

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Jennifer tries really hard to take care of Larry’s feelings. It’s one of those times where sitcom people are far less able to hide their emotions than real people are, but Jennifer’s just happy to have some lines for once. Then they leave.

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Larry starts in on the Bismol, which Balki actually comments on as a problem.

Larry is upset that he promised everyone he was going to be a big star, but he ended up being just a bit player. And holy crud do I wish I could ask Mark Linn-Baker how he felt about this episode, because seriously, that is the arc this show has taken so far. Please, if anyone knows anything, speak up.

Balki tries to mitigate Larry’s upset but fails too. He says that his friends (all three of them) don’t see Larry as a jerk. Balki says that they see the other parts of Larry–that he’s a good friend, kind, supportive, that he’s always there. Shit, I wish that they hadn’t originally aired these episodes out of production order, because that would’ve been nice to see.

Larry is happy for Balki since his face will be on every bus in Chicago, because sure, all directors are also photographers, LET’S GO WITH THAT.

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But–a surprise! Larry’s face is on the side of that horse from the opening!

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Nah, j/k, Larry’s also on the side of the bus. And that’s pretty good advertising, really. I mean, wouldn’t you like to be touched by these friendly fellows? Whatever they’re selling, I’ll take two!

But… does Larry not remember having his picture taken? Or did the biggest newspaper in the US put a ton of money into having a grainy blown-up film frame on the side of every bus in Chicago?

And somehow, after all that repetitive padding, we still haven’t met the run time, so the cousins just stare at the bus for a whole minute, then we get to watch the bus pulling away too.

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Oh wait, I spoke too soon–the bus drives right into the side of the Chicago Sun-Times building, erupting in a fireball, starting what, according to Wikipedia, is a six-episode arc about the Newspaper Wars.  Next week’s episode, “My Lips Are Sealed”, is the one where Balki is tricked into telling the Chronicle’s strategy to a mole.

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

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

*I am not a professional.

**Because he’s a professional.

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8 thoughts on “Season 3, Episode 12: To Be Or Not To Be

  1. “It’s almost like someone told him that’s the voice you’re supposed to use when you’re acting.”

    …I was going to type a whole thing about the commentary from the Pam Doove sketch but you were making a direct reference to it after all you fucker.

    I remember laughing really hard when they riffed on the idea that she’d talk that way whenever she lied, to, as lying is a form of acting.

    God I need to rewatch those commentaries.

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  2. Did they actually send Linn-Baker and Pinchot to Chicago to film a short scene at the end of the episode, or are they standing in front of a mock-up, and they spliced in second-unit footage of the bus?

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  3. I’m going to guess that, once per season, they’d take a trip to Chicago to pet horses and run out in the middle of the street. FWIW there is an “East Wacker” street in Chicago.

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  4. Do you not know Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc.? He and his friend Sully are in a commercial for the company that they work for, and when the logo comes up, it completely covers Mike. When watching it for the first time, his friends start to sympathize, because Sully is not covered at all, but you can’t see Mike. However, Mike is ecstatic. “Did you see me? I’m on TV!”

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  5. No, I got the whole thing with Larry being green and round and disgusting and only having one good eye, but I had never seen the movie and didn’t know about the commercial. Thanks!

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