Beginnings and endings are never clear, are they?
When does a moment end? When causes cause causes, can it? (Fun game for you: estimate how many years it will take before “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” becomes unplayable.) Any unit of time, any unit of matter, remains divisible. Every moment–say, Balki introducing a new girlfriend, Jennifer and Larry disagreeing about how to handle it–can be cut up finer and finer and still leave questions unasked.
Mark Twain famously said that novels about adults have marriage as their natural end, and Perfect Strangers aimed for the former to coincide with the latter. I think it’s safe to say that Tom Devanney & Co. had no idea whether Perfect Strangers would be picked up for another season, and the news evidence we’ve looked at indicated everyone’s contract was up at the end of season 7 anyway. But even if they had gotten word about renewal before this episode was filmed, this was the point they were shooting for as the end of the show.
I didn’t see this episode as a child. There’s a chance I was following Perfect Strangers until its move to Saturdays in February of 1992: I remember plenty of Family Matters episodes from that year, and I know I was watching Step by Step as well. I had no concept of television shows moving from one night to another, and… well, I was about to say I’m embarrassed that I was seven years old and didn’t know this, but I’m 34 and I’ve written the equivalent of a 1,000-page novel about two men sharing a coat. It’s far too late now (too late now) to redeem myself.
Anyway, all that to say: this wasn’t the end, but they thought it was, and I and other fans assumed it was too. I think it’s fair to treat this episode as though it were a series finale.
Here we are at Houseleasin’ West/Biltspoor Estate/Balkicello/Fortress of Platitude/House of the Seven Seasons/Sheepshank/Stately Wayne Newton/Fallingfrank, where Balki gets the ADR over the establishing shot.
And in this case, I can’t make a complaint out of it. Every other instance felt like the result of not reshooting, or time constraints, but in this case, the episode picks up exactly where the previous left off. On the one hand, that’s a nice thing; “It Had to Be You” and “Get Me to the Dump On Time” aired back to back and spared viewers the “last time” spiel. But the previous episode ended with Balki announcing the marriage, and then going right back to kissing Mary Anne (Sagittarius). We’re left with the impression that Balki made Larry and Jennifer stand there through two sets of credits and a commercial break while he finished checking if Mary Anne had the same number of teeth as the original Dimitri.
Some woman in the audience loses it when Mary Anne says how happy she is to be marrying Balki. What a fucking moron, right?
Balki tells us that Mary Anne is what he’s been looking for his entire life–
There I was in gym help Cousin Larry get buffed for date I as him Cousin Larry why we not ust go to the car wash? It cheaper and they give you a free air freshener! Anyway he ta e me to gym and I thin the machines they loo li e machines my Uncle DaVincios ma e to shear sheep faster I was having fun doing the exercees when I see her She is the girl of Bal i’s dreams! Not only is she have teeth but they are in her head too Bal i can see it she have hips for baby and also can stitch her own clothes She have a woman voice too so Bal i now he not getting tric ed li e by man wearing a wig and selling isses in alleway
–which is a very sweet and romantic thing to say if you follow it up with a story about how you realized that was the case. But Balki’s talking about how it was a mistake for them to have broken up, as though it were an agreement they came to. I’ve never been reunited with any of the exes who left me; can anyone who has tell me how it went when you insulted them the very next time you saw them?
Larry and Jennifer say they’ll start planning everything and shoot for a July wedding. Turns out I can complain about there being no time gap between episodes. In the 20 infinitely-divisible seconds the camera cut away from Balki and Mary Anne between last episode and this, not only did they express their undying love for each other, agree to marriage, and make out, they also decided that they’re going to get married the very next day and Balki has apprised Mary Anne of the entirety of Myposian marriage customs.*
And Balki magnanimously gives his bride lines of dialogue by prompting her to explain these Myposian customs. An engaged couple must marry within twenty-four hours or else be subjected to a battery of tests to see if they’re a good couple however long it takes to fly from Pathos to Chicago the bride will have to bear a goat’s children. I understand not having the budget to call in all the parent and sibling actors for Larry and Jennifer’s wedding, but come on, show, half of Mypos is just Bronson wearing a wig. Do you really need to establish that they can’t make it out there?
Lar?y, still not fully healed from his tumble down the steps and forgetting vast swathes of season 4, asks Balki if funny wedding customs involve a funny list; Balki says that all they need is one funny word. He lets Mary Anne explain this week’s funny word, the bititatoutitaratatatouille (Larry repeats it), which is a necklace that every Myposian boy gets upon reaching majority and never takes off except to shower.
Balki and Mary Anne share a laugh over this because lol Myposians don’t bathe.** Seriously, though, calling on someone to recite something instead of doing it yourself is some bullshit. I’ve had teachers, Sunday school leaders, coworkers and therapists pull that on me. It’s a really bad look.
My most cherished Goatclench,
I had penned a draft of a message to you a few weeks prior, delayed unfortunately by my own round-the-clock efforts enticing my set of writers to prematurely give up on belief in their abilities to construct a solid story. Now that you are enjoying a brief respite from labor, I hope you can pause your celebratory feast long enough to turn some small attention on my efforts. I’ve succeeded in duplicating my show’s most despicable aspect–the celebration of genetic misfire and unreasonable persistence as human ideal–with a mechanical simulacrum, as well as convincing my writers to indulge in that geriatric disease called the “fantasy” episode in a sitcom’s third year. I’m veritably priapic with delight.
But I digress. I had originally drafted a letter to you advising restraint in your efforts to add artistic flourishes to the final year of your show, lest you lose Our Father’s current agenda of priorities amidst embedding a shaky sense of cohesion and consistency across episodes. It was touch and go there for a bit, but I see I needn’t have worried. A constant pulling of the rug out from under the viewer, following half-decent sequences with weeks of hollow fantasies.
But the most beautiful aspects are what you achieve in regards to telling the young sacks of meat with their dripping probosces pressed up against their televisions what to expect from a relationship. To the boys, you promise that following a woman’s rules is the only way to marital bliss, and forecast for them a life of struggle puzzling them out, with the result that they self-flagellate for not being as brainless as the foreigner. To the women, you prescribe an abdication of mental engagement and vesselhood for their husband’s thoughts.
Nice trick, that, hiding in plain sight that the writers felt no need to situate their efforts from the ditz’s perspective. If the show is renewed, have them remind themselves how well they depicted her.
Your affectionate cousin,
Balki pops a boner about having a honeymoon on Mypos (don’t ask about the Magic Fingers beds). Larry starts thinking out loud about all the planning they’ll have to do to pull this off by tomorrow and runs over to the other side of the room to grab his Ameritech PAGESPLUS phonebook.
Which he keeps on a side table, away from the phone, evidently for leisure reading. There’s an extended bit with the same punchline three times in a row where Mary Anne says a thing she’ll need, Larry flips through the phonebook, and Jennifer exclaims she knows who to call. Within seconds, Mary Anne has a dressmaker who thrives on working through the night on rush orders, a reverend who loves last-minute additions to his schedule for people who worship troll dolls, and a venue: Chapel by the Shore.*** And while they’re pretending that this event is going to be attended by more than the three people they know, why not throw in a reception hall (the Beekman Hotel) and a band we won’t see?
Jennifer and Mary Anne excuse themselves for most of the rest of the episode, and Balki snuggles up nice and close and bacheloric to Larry one last time.
You may want to put on a diaper, or at least sit in your bathtub for when I say: getting the women off-screen makes perfect sense for this episode. This is another Tom Devanney script, and he finds an interesting way for Balki’s wedding to impact the cousins’ relationship. It can’t be that Larry is in danger of losing touch with Balki: these two will be buried next to each other (not because they’re good friends, but because Balki accidentally locks them in a casket). If you had asked me during Season 2 or 3 what would have been the ideal emotional arc for Larry upon Balki getting married, I might have suggested a father struggling with the loss of his role as caregiver and teacher. That Larry would be trying to instill in Balki every last bit of misguided know-how and outdated booksmarts and having to be happy with what he did accomplish, and what he got out of it.
But the long-term change for Balki has been from wacky uneducated sheepherder to braindead eccentric child. Some weak form of “we sure helped each other out, haven’t we, cousin?” is still possible but would feel like an uninspired repeat of “College Bound”. What Devanney settles on here is an actual reversal of something we’ve seen a lot of the past two seasons. Where Balki begs or demands to be included in Larry’s stories, Larry resigns himself to the fact there’s no place for him in Balki’s.
Well, except maybe calling all the guests, getting the rings, arranging catering, asking Balki who he wants as groomsmen, renting tuxedos for them, procuring plane tickets for the honeymoon, and offering to talk with RT (Reception Toast) Wainwright about Balki taking some time off, but you know what I mean.
You want subversion? You want a Season 2 Larry? This episode delivers. Instead of faking its way into a reason for Larry to take over wedding planning, the show gives Larry one more tragic childhood story. He guilts Balki a little, but it’s mostly self-directed bitterness. When he was 7 years old, no one woke him up on Christmas morning. He had only ever been important as the Christmas Boy the previous year, a delivery mechanism for everyone else’s pleasure. Larry starts pouting and crying his way through “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, prompting Balki to start making up fake Myposian traditions so Larry can feel needed.
It’s such a good idea that it excuses everyone forgetting Balki’s first wedding. It’s not only a correction to the lack of focus on the Cousins’ dynamic over the past few episodes, it’s a return to the glory days of when that dynamic was a relationship, back before Perfect Strangers settled on “Larry is mean and lies and Balki doesn’t like it”. This role reversal is maybe the sweetest, smartest, most show-history-encompassing idea that we could have gotten from a series finale for this show.
I mean, the next season would go back to being so odious that it got virtually cancelled before it even aired, but for a moment it’s easy to believe that Perfect Strangers could have a good future ahead of it.
Retrieved from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, snapshot of www.rapnroll.com taken Wed 28 Sept. 2008 01:43:38 GMT
Return to Part 1 View on single page
Enright: Who the fuck cares what happened to him? There were, what, 900 murders a year in Chicago in the 90s, right? Call him #732. Probably tried to hug a mugger. Fresh corpse Balki B. Who gives a shit about some fucking newspaper? Hand me that mirror.
Cameron: You’re not going to believe this, but, well, the scene was changing, right? What Enright was doing was nothing compared to what came after. Not going to name any names, but the genre had proved itself as marketable and new groups were popping up left and right. What’s the bigger crime, putting talent and good looks together and paying them both? Or signing on any group of angry inner-city guys without either? Dig through endless albums of singers who didn’t realize they ran out of stuff to say halfway through. Anyway, you’re not going to believe this, but I was there at the Chicago Chronicle that day, I had headed into town with my portfolio. I wanted to get a little more serious. I wasr across the street, I saw it go up.
Appleton: Sure, sometimes I still see him. Not… I… well, you see. We usually would come to work together, but that morning I had walked in on him and his beautiful… He was there, that day, drawing his cartoons. I had stepped out to interview an alderman. Real interviewing. Not this mess you’re doing. Huh. Worrying how many “likes” you get. Has anyone ever put you in jail for writing about, about Madonna kissing someone? Huh. Anyway so but everyone got out. Everyone, even that ass in spo–we–they–all got out. Good signage. Good staircases. I see him sometimes. I tell myself I see him sometimes. I think he traveled back to Mypos. That’s certainly–I flew there once. He was–I’m sure. Sure of it.
Rap N Roll was unable to reach Mary Anne Bartokomous, Balki’s (former?) wife, for comment.
Balki offers Larry the role of Piggliwiggliki. Cousin Larry starts listing off the things he needs to do, but when Balki tells him all the Piggliwiggliki does is walk the groom to the altar, Larry cries again. It reads as silly, but it’s also a moment where the actors show through a little. I wouldn’t say that Mark Linn-Baker is phoning it in, but it doesn’t read as though Larry is having an actual reaction here, and Bronson smiles for a split-second. For a brief moment, it’s just two old colleagues enjoying doing silly things in front of each other.
Goddammit, said Devanney, he spent a whole hour on the toilet coming up with that word, so Balki gives Larry the honor of guarding the bititatoutitaratatatouille until the wedding. David Rose’s “The Stripper” begins to play as Balki removes layer after layer of clothing–
Nah, j/k, he doesn’t keep it on him, silly, you always did have memory problems. Balki grabs it from a box inside a piece of furniture they never had before, and explains its import: the placing of the bititatoutitaratatatouille around the bride and groom symbolizes their unity, their oneness, and the impending hot’n’heavy fuckinnnnnnnn.
I’m just going to keep gushing about how much I like this sequence, because it might be the last good one we ever get: all the times that Larry fooled Balki pay off with Balki obviously stumbling over his words and making silent supplication to Wishniki as he hands off the priceless necklace to the guy most likely to lose it. Balki hastily makes up a ritual, speaking gibberish to the tune of the Hokey Pokey and manipulating Larry’s limbs.
It’s really baffling how just flapping someone’s hands arounds works when it’s the best Balki can come up with, and not when it’s the best a room full of writers can come up with for a physical comedy setpiece. I guess sometimes things are funny, and sometimes they aren’t.
Later, the audience hoots when they see Larry in a tuxedo with an undamaged dermis, and again when Balki comes down the stairs dressed like Aladdin.
In another bit of retrocausality, the disappearance of the necklace results in Larry being super-smug about how well he protected it over the past 15 hours. Balki makes Larry a true Myposian best man by slamming the box lid on his fingers.
O Cousin! my Cousin! the necklace dear is lost,
We’ve search’d in every sofa crack, the cushions we have tossed,
The wedding near, the bells I hear, your trust in me resulting
In sorrow’d cries of grim appeal: your wrath you would be sparing;
But O fuck! fuck! fuck!
O the wife will have my head,
Where in the fuck’s that necklace gone?
Find it, or love dead.
O Cousin! my Cousin! does this count as a bit?
I throw—and each falls on your foot—you yell with every hit,
For you bouquets and marriage oaths—in store for you, some humping,
For me your full and braying wrath, you give my face a drubbing;
Here Cousin! look Bronson!
This prop inside the door!
An albatross around your neck?
Your movie career dead?
My Cousin does not answer, unhangs my coats but still
My Balki does not find his chain, his cries turn hoarse and shrill,
His grip encircl’d my throat ‘round, the irony so grand,
His gems erased but in their place, a necklace from a hand;
Exult O audience, and soar O Nielsens!
But I avert with dread,
To miss the rage in Cousin eyes,
Wishing I were dead.
Larry says that someday we’ll all look back on this and laugh, and you know what, it’s been a quarter-century, I think we can call that one.
Larry retraces his steps, and recalls how he was engaged in the consumption of his annual one piece of fruit simultaneous with carrying the necklace. He was on his way to throw out the orange peel, but could not manually tell the difference in weight between a handful of hollow vegetable matter and an eight foot metal chain. He placed the orange peels in some bowl by the kitchen door, and the necklace in the trash.
If you’re wondering why he didn’t just find the orange peels in the box, or how he didn’t remember never putting anything in that box in the first place, how dare you. How fucking dare you trample roughshod over the sweet childhood memories of literally thousands of fans! If you hate this show so much, why waste so much of your time every week trying to push your agenda to get the rest of us to hate it? It’s better than all the sex and violence they show on TV these days. I can barely turn on the television without seeing someone making crude jokes. These men care about making good, family-friendly tributes to the comedy teams of yesteryore. How dare you.
That Larry, though, always EATING, right?
Anyway, the garbage was taken out that morning, the dump happens to be on the way to the chapel, which mirrors how Jesus traveled to Sheol after his death and preached to the prisoners before ascending to heaven to await his bride. I mean, probably.
SCENE 3. A junkyard.
Enter two Clowns, with spades, & c
Is there to be found that a junkhouse attaches to this junkyard?
I tell thee again: and therefore get it straight: the city hath set aside this land that junk may find burial away from any house, in this landfill.
How can it fill land, unless we stand in a pit?
Why, this stench cudgels me: ‘tis an armed pit.
It must be ‘a landfull’; it cannot be else. And here is another question: if but one hue of rose grow in my garden, it argues their commonality: escargot, they are garden variety: a pair of ducks.
Nay, but hear you, cousin renderer,–
Give me leave. Here lies the junkyard; good: there stands the graveyard; good; here the farmyard, the shipyard, the vineyard; good: there the schoolyard, the switchyard, the courtyard. What fails?
Ay, marry, as well mine own: are there not nine yards in the whole?
Will you ha’ the third duck on’t? If we descend not enough down in the dumps, it shall be our situation eternal.
And the more wonder that we should countenance no others here. Marry, ‘tis a happy city, more so than Disneyland. Come, my cousin. Know’st thou, there is no ancient garbageman but that Samson of Israel?
Was he a garbageman?
He was the first that ever threw away his own life.
Yet I jaw with the ass.
I’ll put another question to thee: state the difference betwixt a junkyard and an all-witch theatre troupe.
The one hath ripe smells; the other hath rhymed spells.
I like thy wit well, in good faith: but be not ridiculous. When you are asked this question next, say ‘the one a hill of bags–’
Enter a GHOST, on a boat of cardboard; he steers with a shower curtain rod; the boat is laden with broken radios: he sings along to their music
Aye, marry, what shall be American dreams tonight?
Ho! You clowns!
Cousin, what cheer! ‘Tis our master of yore, from yesterstore!
‘Uds me, has this spirit no feeling of his business, that he a haunting melody sings?
Bogey music must it be. Don Twinkacetti, how come you in this landfull?
I’ faith, ‘tis a fool land! And what abortive, rooting hog see I behind you?
‘Twas for your death I rooted.
My lord, the man I know. A land with its fill of fools, and its sovereign the chief of losers, in this paradise of the lost!
Why, there thou say’st: Cousin Larry lost my necklace. Tell us true, have you too cordless come this long distance to call at junkhouse?
I’ll not tell’t phony: I call collecting. Master of yore you name me, and master of store I remain. This yard connects to my house, yet this reception grieves me. I am accursed to rob in thieves’ company! Would ye deplete my stock? Erst apprentice, now opponent.
A prentice? We are two–
A pair of ducks–
–and ponent lieth yon.
He points west
–and this Donald a quacker from the Ritz. What was your end? Wert thou hanged up?
Ye turnip, ye turned-down suitor, how discount ye my presence? Thou throw’st me away as a dead duck and rob my line, but I be call’d well receiver! The dead line is thine own! 500 pounds you owe me!
These lies are like their father that begets them; gross as a mountain, bald, palpable. Why, thou clay-brained guts, thou must obtain a suit to add another 500 pounds to your person.
I can tell thee of a good tailor.
Did I ever call for thee to pay thy part of my wages, thou spooksack?
It galls to curb a wage, a good man in his time pays many parts.
No; I’ll give thee thy due.
My due! You do?
I do. Thou hast paid all there. We have traveled full circle to find we are square. Give me mine angle. I’ll to th’ river in my ship afull. There, my music playing, I will betray rust-finned fishes. My bended hook shall pierce their slimy jaws, and as I draw them up I’ll think them every one a Balki or a Larry, and say, “Aha! You’re caught.”
Exit GHOST, singing
And, in the end, the cash I make is equal to the junk I take.
I’ll admit Oscar the Grouch was my second-favorite Muppet as a kid, so I have an affinity for trash in media, but this is one of the best simple and captivating juxtapositions of visuals the show has ever offered.
After the pigglikiwiggliki has wallowed in the garbage for a few moments, he apologizes to Balki for losing the necklace. Balki apologizes for making up traditions, and that’s got to be, what, the fourth time ever they’ve both been equally at fault and admitted it? (Lest I heap too much praise, why the fuck didn’t they change clothes, &c.)
Larry starts mis-singing the song from earlier (by singing “hoingi boingi”, no less!) and Balki admits to just making up lyrics to the Hokey Pokey.**** Larry expresses how much he wanted to play a big role in Balki’s wedding; I’d say ruining it qualifies, Larry.
Balki: Who else would be sitting next to me in garbage dressed in a tuxedo?
He’s got a good point, the show never did establish any other characters.
Balki finds a catalog from a clothing store called “Step Up Here, Little Man”, and since in 1992 every postal worker just carried a massive book detailing who got each piece of mail, and thus there was no address on the catalog itself, he makes the intuitive leap that it must be their garbage.
Then they open up a trash bag and out comes a clip show yuk yuk yuk.
They verify that it’s their garbage with a few other items, like the bag Balki used for his baboon menstrual blood marinade, and a sweater Larry gave Jennifer for her birthday–
–and finally they pull the cord out of the garbage. Then they do the Dance of Joy and then jump feet first down into the hill of bags.
I was going to question why they didn’t just do the regular Dance of Joy, but… I think this is just the actors showing through again. On paper, the joke might have been that they slipped and fell while dancing, but this is just two guys giving into the childish impulse to throw themselves into the haphazard accumulation of the past because risks are exciting.
Later, at Our Lady of the Perfect Stranger, the Right Reverend Store-brand Chester Tate from Soap tells the gathered extras from the play episode that there’s a delay. No shit, man, the delay is that you’re talking instead of just showing us that the Cousins have arrived.
Then the Cousins arrive, chased by track 1 from volume 2 of the “Sitcom Sounds” series — “Baying hounds (curious)”.
The organist starts playing and the Cousins hop, skip and rump their way to the altar almost like they did in Season 4.
Then Little Frankie enters as the ringbearer, and Tess as the flower girl and haha nahhhh but Tess did stick a few Mucuna pruriens cuttings in Jennifer’s bouquet.
Mary Anne (Escortless) enters to the strains of Wagner’s “Treulich geführt” as well as the strains of wondering why her dress’s train comes after her caboose.
Larry tells Jennifer they’re going to have some words about that sweater.
Balki asks for the bititatoutitaratatatouille, which Larry and Jennifer drape around Balki and Mary Anne’s shoulders.
While Balki quotes the spoken intro of Days of Our Lives at Mary Anne, I’d like to make sure it doesn’t go unsaid that, even though this week’s MacGuffin was a necklace, this was essentially our third episode about losing a wedding ring.
I did get a good laugh, though, when Balki asked for the ring and Larry hands him the pull-tab from a soda can.
Mary Anne tells Balki that she knew–sorry, y’all, I’m really tearing up here–she knew from the moment she first met him–most emotional moment in the whole series–that they’d be together. She hopes he’ll wear the wedding ring forever, unless the writers run out of ideas in season 9 and Balki bumps into the Pope and all their rings fall off and they mix up whose are whose, or like one of the kids at Balki’s kid’s daycare swallows the ring or something.
Balki breaks down crying, says he can’t go through with it, pulls the necklace from Mary Anne’s neck, lassoos Larry with it, and they ████ ████ ███████.
Nah. Just kidding.
Found during a recent excavation of the lot that once was home to the Chicago Chronicle, the remaining few pages of a diary
know I’m not really supposed to have them because one squirt and it’s another lecture from Dr. Blepho. I can afford another tuck or salves (balms? emollients? ointment?) or whatever but not losing this figure, thus, you know, the grapefruit breakfast. Which is This Week’s Mystery, why did I catch myself stuffing money in an envelope? $250 is enough to buy some really I mean REALLY nice boys out on East Garfield. Had my hand poised over the envelope before I realized 1 I didn’t have know what address I was going to write down and 2 there wasn’t a pen in my hand.
(Scratched into the margins with an evidently empty ball-point pen is the word “UNGUENTS”)
April 1, 1992
Taking my own advice today and put his picture above the disposal. Face your fears!
April 10, 1992
Lesson learned: the disposal doesn’t care how fun the imagery is, it will not grind walnuts.
im so bored here so BORED can you believe the curve on that mans head relative to its like someone drove by and batted a mailbox it’s like hes got a receding dickline somehow
April 12, 1992
Who’s Francine, Gorpley asks asks? Who’s Francine? Who’s Francine? Who’s Francine?
April 14 like at mindigt please
Manny and Doreen if you can read this my beautiful childrn please know Mommmy loves you and that she daddy still have pillow talk hes screaming right now say hello to the childs dondy hes here and Jack is here and Chuck is heer an Elvis and dadald Dondaddy woke up me in the bed to bring me my wig and francines wig and some walnuts nd all the pictures even on the pillow and tell me it was amlost time and maybe next year for
(The next two pages face each other and have one word – “SCREAMING” – across them, with cartoon anthropomorphic pills dancing in the negative spaces of the letters)
April 16, 1992
Found my pill bottle, would you believe this, IN the disposal? Lydia I swear you should be seeing better without those eyelids in your way.
April 17, 1992
theyre are geting marred tomrorow i was okay with the sad one (Lari doing it) because you can count on his blodne to not talk about it but the Mari one she
need to talk to Vinnycey because who cares if thestupid one (Blackie) can unerstand the pilow talk he the Lary one like probably hears her say it through the wall nuts he was in the men’s room yesterday when Sam pork it to me on the men’s room yesterdoor with his (his Lari) ear up the vent ad apologize so he what I worry ABOUT it ALL comes out on the PILLOW TALK
April 18, 1992
Had to let Francine go. Such a sweet girl. But what could I do? She didn’t
(numerous pages missing, and in their place an envelope addressed to Ruth Stallings, containing ashes)
December 31, 1993
Donald suggested we do our 23rd anniversary next week at Tony’s Mambo Room. He remembered, he finally remembered!
Tony’s Mambo BOOM
Lydia does get one final line, becoming teary-eyed that Mary Anne was able to write complete sentences and remember them.
I knew this was coming, and I still hate to see Lydia go. “The Play’s the Thing” was so miserable an episode I was willing to pass up my chance to talk about what was essentially her last real appearance there.
More than any other side character on this show, every time Belita showed up, she promised potential. Jo Marie Payton was the more obvious of the two when it came to obvious potential for adding punchline humor to an episode. You knew what you’d be getting the first time she spoke: a sassy, hard-working Greek chorus for whatever was going on. But Belita Moreno was nuanced. She could be many things, and she was many things; but Perfect Strangers was less and less willing over the years to actualize that potential.
Her first appearance, five episodes into the six-episode first season, as Edwina Twinkacetti was a game-changer. After establishing that Larry and Balki had sold their souls to the company store, Edwina showed up and punctured the rough hide of their boss, Donald. Edwina Twinkacetti may have been meant as a broad comic shrew, but suddenly the Cousins had a person in their corner. Or, at least, an enemy of their enemy.
And Season 2 made good on that promise: she made sure Larry and Balki got paid. She made sure they kept their jobs. There was always that hint of violence behind how she kept Donald in line, but she also made him happy. If you want to make some more Bosom Buddies comparisons, and hey, I do, all you’d have to do is take Donald out of the picture and you’ve recreated Ruth Dunbar (played–magnificently–by Holland Taylor).
Look, I’ve never developed a sitcom, and I’m certain I never will, but I have to imagine that, when you’re crafting something that might need to go on for awhile, potential has to be written into characters and situations long before any stories are decided on. (I did a deep-dive into Doonesbury once and the point where Trudeau dedicated himself to social and political commentary was pretty obvious when he made one character a newspaper reporter, one a TV reporter, one an advertising pitchman, one a soldier, one a political campaigner, etc.) Lydia Markham hit the ground running like I’ve never seen a sitcom character do. Lydia’s character–advice columnist whose life is an emotional and functional shambles–could fill a sitcom all on its own. But put into contact with a sparring set of related employees with their own dualities, potential unfolded by the second. She was smart–she could take Larry’s side. She was troubled–she could relate to Larry. She had a psychological background–she could take on their viewpoints and offer explanations or even solutions.
I could list out my story ideas for Lydia Markham–and so could you–but suffice it to say Perfect Strangers seemed frustratingly overcautious about giving castmembers equal representation in plots. Suffice it to say the show didn’t give her much of a chance to pay off her story potential. When the show utilized her for a story, her role was often by accident (her psychologist boyfriend unintentionally hypnotizes Balki) or for minor aspects of her personality (she has a party, or her wealth attracts a conman suitor) or for roles outside of her actual job (hosting a television show, leading/funding a theatre group). But otherwise she was just a character to hang a single joke on during the first act, and far too often the joke was that she slept around.
Let’s not even get into the implication that Lydia’s endless series of boyfriends was one aspect of her set of neuroses. But still, an unlucky-in-love character brings its own potential stories.
Perfect Strangers squandered that too, but at every step along the way, whatever direction the show wanted to take Lydia, Belita was there to sell it. She breathed life into unironic dismissal of the real advice needs around her, devastation and dismay when things fell down around her, fear of being judged by thousands–or only dozens–of viewers and found lacking, smitten focus on a beau leading to her not realizing what was happening to others.
And her greatest moments were when they let her play off Jo Marie Payton. They fought, they played, they sought comfort from each other, and even that had story potential as a mirror to the cousins. Speaking with Jo Marie last year deepened my understanding of what I saw their characters do: there was a friendship that extended past the stage, and that improved things like Lydia and Harriette singing in “To Be or Not To Be”. Instead of an awkward “punchline” to a scene, it was just two friends, leaning into what was fun at that moment.
Goodbye, Edwina. Goodbye, Lydia. I’m glad we got too see as much of you as we did.
Unused Larryoke countdown #7: “Her Majesetti”
Gorpley and Wainwright stare at Lydia in what has to be the laziest comic-strip-variety looks-like-a-punchline reaction shot the show’s ever offered. Are they confused because they’ve interacted the least with Mary Anne? Are they scandalized she’d openly question the intelligence of a bride? Are they upset she got paid more for this episode than they did? We’ll never know, because Gorpley doesn’t get a line and Wainwright Remains Taciturn.
Dropping every last layer of joking here to say I’m finding myself actually sad to never see these three characters again.
Balki: Mary Anne, the day that I come to America was the happiest day of my life, but now that I know that I’ll be spending the rest of my life with you, this is the new happiest day of my life.
Larry: You said the same thing at the circus last week!
But O Reader! My Reader!
Though long it’s not been said:
While all this talk of life goes on,
Instead of an actual vow, Balki recites the lyrics to “Pretty Woman”, Reason #144 It Took Nearly 30 Years to Watch This Episode in High Enough Quality to Briefly Pick Out Basement Linda In The Very Back Pew.
Reverend SbCTfS jumps in to make sure Mary Anne doesn’t get a vow–
*rips a bridal veil in half*
–and tells them they’re married already.
Mary Anne kisses Balki, dipping him in her (signature) style, tasting the soiled Goobers he fished out of the Finleys’ trash, thinking about the chicken stock at home, anticipating the moment when they’ll consommé their marriage.
That ceremony was sweet and all, but I do feel bad for all these other people waiting for their great-granddad’s funeral to start.
Later, at the Laff House on the Left, Larry finally gets five minutes alone with his wife.
Over what duration of time, and under what psychically emotional regime, had Larry endured?
For seven years Larry suffered potty training Balki, overhearing the distinct sounds of Balki trying to drink shampoo, tasting each organ of each animal on the endangered species list, seeing Balki reject every opportunity to strike it rich, having days go by, months sometimes, where he got used to the smell and the noise only to find Balki assault him anew, seeing his own professional efforts hamstrung through association with Balki, seeing his own romantic efforts hamstrung through Balki’s trenchant and entrenched censure of the minorest of untruths and dissimulations, meeting Balki’s mother.
List the methods of verbal grievance by which the younger cousin afflicted the elder.
Errors taking the form of and/or introduced in attempts at: analogy, anthimeria, apophosis, apostrophe, all forms of catachresis (including errors of grammatical case, double subject, double negative, double copula, wrong copula, improper empty complementizer), Chernomyrdinki, Colemanballs, congeries, eggcorn, enallage, all forms of epenthesis (including prothesis, paragoge, excrescence, anaptyxis), epicrisis, Goldwynisms, hypallage, innuendo, irony, malapropism, metaphor, mondegreen, non sequitur, paradiastole, paraprosdokian, paradox, parody, paroemion, paronomasia, parrhesia, par’hyponoian, phrasal template, proverb, pun, reverse mondegreen, simile, spoonerism, synchysis, synecdoche, synesthesia, tautology, Yogi-isms.
Which of these bothered Larry the most?
Mumpsimus in epenthetical anaptyxis in regards to Larry’s family name.
That Myposian was closer than English, linguistically, to the root words of many of the labels for these forms of error.
What can a ski resort owner do to solicit reservations?
What do you call a police officer who wants to drink your blood?
We’re here all week, folks! Don’t forget to tip your waitress!
So anyway like this is the first time in seven years Larry has gotten a free moment to himself. Time to crack a beer, eat some potato chips, watch TV and get his Wisconsinian rocks off.
Oh, wait, no, they’re still talking about Balki. Balki and Mary Anne (née Sagittarius) are going to Mypos for their honeymoon.***** They then briefly discuss various hard-to-believe things, like how they finally have free time, how Melanie and Rebeca turned a single appearance in to a six-year contract, how the show waited long after most little girls who saw him and his lips as a safe (and equally importantly as a youthful and single) target for their burgeoning romantic feelings stopped watching to actually marry Balki off, how even with the paucity of genetic material he had to offer, Larry’s seed managed to establish residence in Jennifer’s womb.
Endings become beginnings: hello, baby.
I haven’t seen very many series finales of long-running sitcoms from this time period, but I think Perfect Strangers was hitting all the notes you’d think it would want to: a major life-changing event or two, some minor conflict, and tender moments between each pair of main characters (Jennifer and Mary Anne did hug for a whole second). I’m the wrong guy to ask about how well this episode pulls off its saccharine elements; I’ve been dead inside ever since Susan left.
But for me, “Get Me to the Dump On Time” works well as a series finale not because I cared whether Balki got married, or what it meant for his relationship to Larry. It works because, instead of turning over three pages of the script to let Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker fuck around with impressions or throwing wrenches of increasing size at each other, it’s an actual story that considers the emotions these characters might experience. Maybe it was the presence of story, maybe the actors dialed it back because this was important, but Bronson and Mark pick a few moments to have their own fun and leave it at that.
Sure, the story itself is sweet, but what got my respect was that it treated the Cousins like the people they started out as, instead of the cartoons they had become. So much of the middle seasons of this show had me asking what the hell had happened that led to Larry being a demon and Balki a three-year-old; but if I had watched this episode right after finishing season 2, I don’t think it would have felt jarring. Instead of taking turns being assholes to each other, the cousins take turns being adults for each other, which was kind of the whole point.
“Get Me to the Dump On Time” functions as a satisfying ending to a too-often disappointing series. It’s a good thing the show was risk-averse and stopped right here, huh?
She put her arms around him no and drew him to her so he could feel her shoulderblades all bone no and his mouth was spitting like mad and no I said no I don’t want another season No.
Catchphrase count: Balki (0); Larry (0)
Boner count: Balki (1); Larry (0)
Dance of Joy Running Total: 23
*Balki evidently started mystagoguing off-screen.
**Fun game for you: where’s the bititatoutitaratatatouille in this shot?
***They have an All Star Mass
****I half-suspect that “Piggly Wiggly” arose from a writer’s room session of trying to replace the words “Hokey Pokey”.
*****Honey was not a participant in the Battle Glutale
1. The author begs the reader grant him, that is the author, some grammatic license in presenting a sentence fragment containing only the subject as an entire sentence in an attempt, that is the author’s, attempt to render the text transhylomorphically in regards to not only Jennifer’s portrayal, but also Jennifer’s being. That–and the author here invites the reader join him in a private bit of humor in seeing this giving-away-the-game through this revelation as a wedding gift–that the use of endnotes, and their swollen size comparative to the text itself mirrors Jennifer’s habit of keeping her own counsel; and that her unutterances bespeak not weakness of mind, but strength and size of thought under her surface not unlike the shape of a glacier.ᵃ ᵇ
a. The reader may utilize various informations at their disposal from other episodes of Perfect Strangers to craft a joke about Jennifer’s frigidity.
b. This imagery both suggested and enhanced by Jennifer’s color choice for this event. Blue ice is the phenomenon by which snow falls onto a glacier, becomes compacted from its own accumulated weight and is subsumed by the glacier itself.ⁱ The symbolic implication, then–if the author may be so adventurous as to dive in to such explanations, sullying himself with potentially relationship-jeopardising behavior, that is the relationship between author and reader, jeopardising of the reader’s relationship to the author insofar as there may lie insult to the reader’s own capabilities regarding knowledge creation, and insofar as such relationships can be jeopardised by feelings resulting from perceived slight, though the author pleads with the reader to understand this, that is the potentially relationship-jeopardising behavior, as the author’s sincere attempt to save the reader time–the implication, then, is one of what Jennifer does not wish to make part of herself. To wit, the rejection of her husband Larry’s sweater symbolizes Larry’s habit of wearing sweaters, or more to the point, an established and recognizable aspect of Larry himself.ⁱⁱ
i. The reader is entreated to refer to note 136 in the author’s review of “The Gazebo” for a discussion of constructivism vs. associationism.
ii. Rejection of the permeable barriers between nature of self provided by the gazebo, provided by a knit sweater, the author appeals to the reader to consider also such attenuated branches of symbology attendant to the metal barriers between Jennifer and rarefied air in her career as a stewardess vs. the too-easily sundered membranes separating her husband from the refuse he recently encountered, the blue ice¹ metaphor’s suggestion of pure garbage underpinning a landfill, &c &c.
1. Don’t you eat that yellow snow.
(Suddenly, Casey recalled Balki’s pained young face, and began to pray diligently for the safety of his own mind over the next six episodes.)