Welcome back! I hope you’ve all recovered from last week’s thrashing.
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–
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
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.
Show, you can’t… that’s not… if you…
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.
Later, at the Caldwell, Larry has the camera pointed at Balki’s room.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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?***
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…
…Balki says he always wears vests.
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.
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.
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!”****
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Balki puts Larry in front of the camera and turns it on (look, the tape was in their VCR, so how…? fuck it, nevermind).
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”!
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!