No post today, sorry, AND BUT ALSO

God help me I’ve been at this for three years now. Let’s turn off the chrome-plated megaphone for a moment.

I’ve been at this for three years and you know what? I’m okay.

A joke–perhaps the central joke–of a review blog like this is that it exists at all. That I’m watching an old sitcom and giving it way more attention and hate and love than I give most people I’ve ever known. That I’d engage with a show so terrible it saps my will to live. That I’m doing this so no one will ever have to watch it again. If you take that at face value, that’s a fuck of a long way to go for a single joke.

You all realize that’s simply not true, right?

I’m finding it difficult to weave my way through an anniversary post without saying some of the things that will come up when I finally close up shop on this blog–but I’ll say this: Perfect Strangers has never been so bad I wanted to quit this blog, certainly not so bad that I feared I’d go insane over it. Hell, if you wanted any indication of Perfect Strangers‘ staying power in its viewers’ minds, consider the fact that it spawned four different review blogs, only one of which folded within a month.*

I’ve had some bad times while writing this blog, but they were never the direct fault of the show. Reader, commenter, and all-around great bunch of guys Ross, back towards the beginning of season 6, asked if I was doing alright.

And you know what? I wasn’t.

Most of 2017 was a terrible year for me. I quit a job almost exactly one year ago without having another one lined up. I spent three months out of work. That week I skipped last September because I was supposed to be starting a job? That didn’t happen. I interviewed; they offered; I accepted; and suddenly the budget disappeared.

I have a job now, since December. I’m settled. I’m finally approaching enjoying it. But Season 5 coincided with a very rough stretch in my life, and especially in those unemployed months, I dreaded writing about this show because I dreaded everything, especially having to be seen and having to measure up to whatever standard of writing and jokes I thought I’d been maintaining. I felt I’d peaked with “Ain’t no lie Biki bye bye bye”.

Have I depressed you yet?

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So this blog’s first birthday I didn’t mention because, well, there’d be two more, so who gave a fuck? The second birthday was last year when I put in my two weeks’ notice. It was a shitty birthday. That’s what I came to call them when I spent three years on dialysis waiting for a kidney transplant. Shitty birthdays.

This is a good birthday.

I could have had a review for you this week. It would have been a review of “The Gazebo”, in which Larry and Balki build a gazebo. To have that on this blog’s last anniversary would have lent itself too easily to some extended riff on how terrible the show is. And last week was fairly heinous; seriously, that they went that whole distance of having an actual ghost show up, for it to be only an excuse for the cousins to smack each other around… that’s the closest I’ve ever come to suspecting that the show was trolling me, or someone like me, boasting that it could squander limitless potential if it so chose.

The central joke is that a blog like this exists, that someone would spend their time on something so awful, and these blogs probably owe their existence ultimately to Mystery Science Theater 3000 more than anything else. When Joel Hodgson left that show, his character Joel Robinson’s parting shot was that The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao was his favorite film. In case you’ve never seen it, The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao is a terrible film. It’s also a great film. I’d argue that Hodgson in some way or other loved most of the films he tore into. I don’t think you can really have any fun trashing media unless there’s something good there, in the ideas, the acting, the potential. Maybe Rifftrax will eventually cover Foodfight!, or even Billy and Bobby: The Wacky Duo on Vacation, but I doubt it.u

Is there a way to riff on something that’s essentially unwatchable? You’ll have to wait until next week’s review of “The Gazebo” to hear my answer.

But my point is–3 is a much better birthday than 2 for me and this blog. Vast swathes of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are no longer in question for me, and as I approach the end of Perfect Strangers, I’m picking up steam. I feel once again like I know what I’m doing here, maybe simply because I’m not trying to figure out that same question for every other part of my life.

It’s possible there’s a psychological effect whereby, when we know that some sequence of choices will run out soon, we choose to “cheat”, that is, to try to get some greater payoff with less, or less honest, effort. News sites rebroadcast the study simply on the basis that “cheat” can refer to games of chance as well as intimate relationships; that is, if we think a relationship is ending, we’ll spend time with someone else instead. There’s a different set of psychological effects going on there, but, yeah, with a creative project, there’s a possibility I’ll have moved on to the next one** before finishing this.

But my intent was always just to joke about how Balki and Larry have sex with each other as soon as the women are gone, so there’s not much danger of me phoning it in over the next 25 episodes.

I’ll thank you all for reading and supporting me when this blog’s done; in the meantime, we’ve got more shit to sift through. So let me *ahem* give you a timeframe for when this blog might be done.

We’ve got 25 more episodes. There will be at least two more “How I Spent…” posts; and two more reportage posts. There’s a good chance of one guest post. One or two individual season reviews; and one final review for the series as a whole. Maybe a separate post on my experience doing this.

Probably not a hell of a lot of bonus content, I’m disappointed to say. I’m going to make a last-ditch effort to ask for interviews with actors and writers and the janitor that had to clean up all the horseshit, turkey feathers, disgusting little cheese dogs, shattered plates, bibibabka cream, and various other rare victuals. I’d be happy to review the actual Club Mypos jacket that’s on eBay right now if someone buys it for me. If someone has some particular Perfect Strangers content they want reviewed, let me know!

But before you do: Larry and Balki hosted TGIF and did intros to episodes for awhile; there are also commercials for a number of Perfect Strangers episodes, and both those and the intros are on YouTube. Talking about those, trying to joke about them… it would be anticlimactic, trust me. I mean, they rap in one of the TGIF intros, and Balki says words wrong…

…and there you go, I reviewed them

There’s also going to be a second Larryoke stream at the end, but I bet you knew that.

What you didn’t know, mainly on account of I ain’t told you yet, is that I’ll announce the winner of the Last Annual Perfect Strangers Reviewed Caption Contest part 1 when we get to the end. That poor soul has to look at those promotional slides the rest of their life. Logic demands, then, that there be a

LAST ANNUAL

PERFECT STRANGERS REVIEWED

CAPTION CONTEST

PART THE SECOND

Here’s how it works: I’ll put up a screengrab, and you caption it with some silly turn(s) of phrase in the comments. If I think yours is the funniest, you win! If I don’t think yours is the funniest, I’ll write you a personalized message telling you the bad news. Again, I’ll announce the winner at the end of the blog.

That’s right, you heard right, the big prize tonight is 80 trading cards to the commenter with the funniest caption. I reviewed this pitiful stack of cardboard a couple of months ago, and now you’ve got a chance to win a set!***

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And all you have to do is write the funniest caption for the below image! Simple as Balki!

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Put your entries in the comments, and I’ll see you next week for “The Gazebo”!

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*But somehow no podcasts? This is a statistical anomaly of some sort.

**I have like 30 “next ones”

***Look, I–a person on immunosuppressants who opens step-on garbage cans with disposable, sterile 10-foot poles–am not going to send you the actual set pictured. I burned them shortly after taking the photo; MAD magazines make good kindling. You’ll get the cleanest set eBay has to offer!

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Season 7, Episode 5: Fright Night

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It’s frightnighttime at the Fool House, and apparently two weeks after draining his savings, Larry is perfectly fine having every single light on, even in the attic, while he and his wife only use one room.

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Jennifer Appleton sits, untroubled, atop the spot where rotted King Ferdinand, relaying to her husband newsstand wisdom of the relationship variety. According to Vague magazine, the first year of a marriage is the hardest.

Social science sidebar: it’s decidedly not. I’ve never even been married and I know this. There’s way too much to unpack here, but let’s say the main point is that there are too many people–and too many marriages–to control for enough factors. There is a comparatively higher risk for divorce in the first couple of years of a marriage, but calling the first year the toughest would indicate a declining risk rate for every year of marriage. I generally dislike popular wisdom as a stand-in for science, but the “seven-year itch” appears to be supported by long-term data (both mean and median hover near there) over the past century. Additionally–and this is memory from my college courses–relationship satisfaction hits its lowest point about 15-20 years into a marriage and then bounces back to its initial level (why? the children move out).

This article (“100 Sexy Ways to Disappear Into the Wallpaper”) advises communication as the panacea for marriage troubles; and when Jennifer asks the crossword-puzzling Larry if they two communicate, he expresses surprise that she spoke.

That’s a thing I’ve done, haven’t you? Where you realize that the other person will just talk out loud sometimes without actually making it clear they’re talking to you? And you have to make decisions about what you’ll focus on? Larry says he was just kidding, and then they kiss without him actually having commented on what she was saying. That should be the joke, but it’s not.

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Nor is it that they never have time to, as Balki comes running in. The show is trying to indicate to us that the Appletons have a warm, loving, teasing relationship that will allow them to overcome any obstacle. It’s the opposite and not: they have no interpersonal skills, though they do have escape mechanisms, like Larry enlisting Balki to help him sneak into a Klan meeting “for work”, or Jennifer, you know, disappearing.

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The marriage and the house are on their own a promise of stories about Larry and Jennifer as a couple; this opening salvo, furthered, one would think, by Balki attempting to drag everyone to the house of their married next-door neighbors, the Finleys, indicates we’re about to get an episode that dives into whether, and how, these two communicate with each other. Or an episode where they face what frightening things might happen to them after 20 years of marriage.

Really, so much in this scene points that way. Balki was next door to look at Mr. Finley’s popsicle-stick city, which should frighten Larry who just six years ago had dreams of parlaying his creative skill into a regular job. A mere month into their marriage and he’s checked out, solving 18-down and happy to sit quietly next to his wife in an empty house. Sitcom neighbors are either the intrusive, mephitic, annoying type* (your Gibblers, Urkels, Dietzes, or Newmans) ; or the grumpy snoops (your Twinkacettis, Kravitzes, Bickleys or Squidwards); or the preserved-in-amber-1950s-bowling-shirt-and-Crisco-ranch-style-house couples* (your Ochmoneks, Flanders, or Dinks). The Finleys are the latter, but let me spoil something for you: we ain’t never gonna see those two. They’re just another category of jokes the show can tell if it needs to set up something logically. They essentially don’t exist, meaning they’re still a good mirror for Jennifer and Larry.

We don’t get an episode about them because the show has told all the story there could ever be for them. Odds are 2:1 Jennifer will be out of here by the 13-minute mark. This marriage will survive forever, anchored in concrete, because they will never have problems different from what we’ve seen. Larry will spend his twilight years in worry that Jennifer will leave him for a man in a nicer iron lung.

Anyway, can you imagine what would happen if anyone ever locked a door on this show? Like I said, Balki runs in, jumps on the couch, babbles about the Finleys, runs upstairs to find Mary Anne evidently naked at the top of the stairs, then runs back out the door.

Mary Anne (Sagittarius) comes down wanting to know what the fuck just happened.

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Spoiler: this also isn’t an episode where Balki realizes ain’t no one give a shit about whatever childish thing he’s into this week. This guy probably begs Larry weekly for quarters for the sticky hand vending machine at the Shop *grunt* Spend.

Balki says that there’s a ghost living there. I’d argue over semantics, but I do experience a form death everytime I watch this show. Balki says that the ghost is in his room, and that all this time he thought it was Cousin Larry sneaking in to give him a rimjob, but it was really a ghost! Wwww(etc.)ow!

Mary Anne says that a ghost would explain why the garage door opens on its own. Jennifer tells her she’s an idiot.

*sigh*

You’ve got two characters whose primary characteristic is that they don’t know how the world works, show, can’t you write at least one of them well? Mary Anne knows what remotes are and still makes the claim!

Balki, nearly choking on his own resurrected accent, says that it’s an honor to have a ghost choose to haunt your house. Larry tells Balki he’s full of it, but Balki continues to give insight into Myposian customs (like disagreeing with Larry). Balki says that their ghost is named Chester Bainbridge, and Larry and Jennifer wordlessly stand up and walk away while Balki talks. It’s not played for laughs, but I love that they’ve developed this tactic in the face of living with someone who refuses to pick up on any negative body language whatsoever.

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Balki tells Mary Anne that Mama has been on a ghost waiting list for five years, praying every night that enough people would croak so that she could have even better luck than a son who has sent her enough technology to ruin the Myposian economy for generations to come.

The next day, the cameraman forgot to put the same quality film in for the external shot.

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Mary Anne asks Jennifer why she hears water at night and we learn that Larry must rehydrate after raining down antacid-scented sweat onto his wife during sexual congress.

Just when I thought Balki couldn’t get more annoying:

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Christ, what a fucking asshole.

Mary Anne makes the same joke as before, but with self-cleaning ovens. It has the exact same problem as the first joke. Actually, no, it has more problems. God damn am I even going to make it through this episode?

They’ve been here all of what, maybe a fucking month? Let’s assume that, when Balki bakes fresh tiger penes, he wraps them in foil. Who cleans their oven in that amount of time? We have no reason at this point to believe that Mary Anne is ever on her own–she’s not even allowed time to change clothes in private–so someone would have been there when she saw that the oven was cleaning itself. And they have an oven with dials, so if she looked at the oven and figured it out, she’d see a dial turned, and if it was like the oven I grew up with (which, given, was a decade older than these) she’d see a light indicating self-cleaning mode. What assumptions would she make about this? Would she not ask anyone about it? The show keeps giving her lines that almost work, but either suggest that she’s of average intelligence, or dumber than anyone suspects. I’d call it impressive if I thought effort was involved.

You know I used to write reviews for this show that came in under 2,000 words? There are always bigger problems, so let’s get to those.

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Balki and Larry–this isn’t the bigger problem–continue to switch metaphorical car seats as Balki again shoves his remaindered history book in the face of Larry’s suggestion of a movie after dinner. Balki referring to the author as Michael Williams Fudd (instead of PhD) is such a great joke for him that I’m surprised I’ve never once heard it anywhere else. Larry quickly kisses Jennifer and runs away giggling before Balki can stop him again. If I didn’t know any better**, I’d say that these two were playing a game to see who could block the most cock.

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Jennifer, having seen Michael Williams on Nightline***, suddenly becomes interested in how Chester Bainbridge was a Cubs fan (no shit, a Chicago native who liked a Chicago sports team?) and a compulsive gambler who lost money on the 1929 World Series. Mary Anne spouts statistics from that very game and is given the silent treatment until she apologizes for retaining any knowledge past nail polish colors.

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Anyway, Mary Anne never gets to impact a plot, and her mouth just closed, so let’s get back to that book. Balki bids the belief-variant blondes squint at a purported photograph of Chester the Wrigley Ghost wearing a Cubs hat, and sure, those were mass-marketed in 1929, why the fuck not.

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Look, we all know that photographic evidence of ghosts is always of poor quality, or hard to parse visually, it’s not a joke that deserves a whole minute, or even a

Larry comes back in to further cement that the episode will somehow fucking end with a real ghost by telling everyone to stop talking about it.

Philosophy sidebar: If you ignore some of the content of this setup, it’s not a bad structure so far. Balki believes instantly, Mary Anne with mere suggestion, and Jennifer with an appeal to authority. It’s a nice package of variations on the Gettier problem. Edmund Gettier posited that knowledge can be described as justified true belief. Both Mary Anne and Balki have justified beliefs; hers are unjustified because the viewer knows how ovens and garage doors work. Balki’s belief should read as unjustified, but we all saw him cure a 1,500lb mammal with 0.5oz of stems and leaves this time last season. There are two major responses to the justified true belief problem: that the true thing must have caused the belief directly (sort of a bar-raising-cum-rejection of “justification”) and that the belief must have withstood efforts to defeat it. Balki doesn’t offer anything to indicate what exactly constitutes proof of a ghost to him, though it’s implied that he believes ghosts are occasionally visible. The viewer likely agrees with Larry, that lack of historical evidence of ghosts is justification of his belief. It’s up to Larry to defeat Balki’s belief; though we know this is impossible.

Now, you’d expect two idiots to just stay up all night and scare themselves and leave the question unresolved and the beliefs unmoved, but hey, welcome to Season 7.

Remember how I was saying it was a good setup? Well, it was, right up until we learn that Chester shows up one night every year, which happens to be that very night. It’s typical sitcom bullshit, but it also kind of undoes the 7 minutes of setup. It’s almost like they didn’t think of that part of the story until they got that far into the script, because you could have introduced the story by Larry sick and tired of Balki talking about Fright Night for weeks. But this show loves taking up half an episode with setup if it can, why not throw in a Myposian ghost-summoning ritual too?

Before they head up to Balki’s room, he starts telling them ghost etiquette and Larry and Jennifer silently walk away again. Look, show, if you’re going to acknowledge that Balki is insufferable, make a fucking episode out of that, not “Chester Blows at Midnight”!

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I’ll tell you who’s going to become a ghost, it’s these stupid fuckers who leave ceramicware unattended on a stovetop.

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Balki pokes his head into his own room, drawing out the moment so the audience can laugh at the framed Wayne Newton poster and realize that the first thing Chester’s going to do when he shows up is call Balki a gunsel. Really, the scariest thing in here is the bedside promotional photo of Bronson as Magda from Jury Duty.

There’s a terrible joke where Larry asks when he found time in the past twenty-one days to decorate, and Balki says he just unpacked. It’s delivered with the rhythm of a joke, though, and that’s enough for the audience.

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After standing still for a full 20 seconds and then screams that (met him pike hoses) Wayne Newton’s eyes are following her. Larry proves himself a poor student of the Bible****:

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Balki, are your catchphrases little love signals that you and Cousin Larry pass back and forth in your new monitored environment?

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Moving-eye effects in portraits are achieved by making the eyes concave relative to the surrounding surface, and guess fucking what: they don’t make paper posters like that.

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I blame the writers, the props department, and Bronson, and especially you for Balki not being sure whether he should hang the poster over the middle of double doors.

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Larry calls Chester an idiot, and is thrown against the wall, falling to the floor. No one reacts, not even his wife, because Melanie’s only paid to read the script, not understand it they can only stand four abreast. Balki shouts at Chester, as though he didn’t just hear Larry at a normal volume.

Balki cautions Cousin Larry to not be rude to a ghost. Some dead motherfucker shoves me, I lay down some justified rude grief on him! Balki compares ghosts to alligators, and sure, those exist in the Mediterranean, why the fuck not.

Larry tells the ghost to prove he exists by sticking its finger up his butt as far as he can.

While Larry was talking, Chester the ghost fitted all four of the characters with harnesses and fishing line and slipped the stage crew a few simoleons to hoist them into the air.

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As a kid, I could never understood what powers ghosts are supposed to have. I feel like the rules for spooks have never really been codified in pop culture like they have for vampires or Frankenhookers. But when we create monsters, it’s comforting to have an out, right? Knowing that Dracula erupts into flames in the sun, or that silver bullets fell werewolves, gives the heroes (and us) a fighting chance. There’s something we can do. The monsters whose rules are impossible (Freddy Krueger), hard to puzzle out (Pinhead), require multiple PhDs in incantations (Chucky), or are just plain non-existent (Jason) are all the scarier (and in some cases, evergreen).

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Ghost Dad helped me bridge the mental gap between “ghosts can pass through you” and “ghosts can manipulate objects”, but even then, what’s the worst a ghost can do? Sneak up on you better than a live person? Throw things at you? Reach into your chest and stop your heart? It’s when you get to the point that a ghost can manipulate multiple objects all at once that the idea breaks down for me.

Let’s face it: too much movement would spoil the effect, but could they at least try? Balki makes one face, Larry makes another, Mary Anne grabs Balki’s hand and… that’s it. Jennifer completely spoils whatever illusion you’re willing to believe by just hanging there and letting her potential energy spin her slightly. The direct comparison here is to “Snow Way to Treat a Lady, part 2”, where each character had a different reaction to their dire; but there most of the personality was conveyed through dialogue. If you don’t give her dialogue, though, Melanie–and I hate to say it, Rebeca too–is left here literally twisting in the wind.

Larry tells them to be reasonable, it’s not as though they live in a fantasy world where fully-functional androids or time travel or cloning or DNA manipulation or shrink rays or teleportation exist, and there must be some logical explanation.

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Mary Anne gets another line, and it’s so dumb (“what keeps interest rates up?”) that even Chester can’t take it and sets them down. Somehow, Larry hanging longer than the others, and Balki asking Chester why Larry’s still up there, and Chester putting Larry down, is a joke. I don’t know. I don’t know.

The women say some more shit and leave to go stay in a hotel (collect your payout at the main window), as if direct evidence of the afterlife were nothing more inconvenient than having your house fumigated. Really, though, how is a ghost listening to you fuck worse than your two best friends listening to you fuck?

You’d think that lifting four people off the ground was escalation and proof enough, but then the episode decides to trot out some infinitely more explainable phenomena like the door and the window slamming.

Chester starts groaning and moaning and calls it his “ghost moan imitation”, which I would have laughed at as a kid. Balki asks if Chester can do Elvis, and luckily Elvis is right there with him and we hear them, heh, astral planing, if you know what I mean.

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And then, hey, what the hell, the viewers made it 14 minutes into the episode, let’s finally show the ghost, why the fuck not? Chester appears in sepia tones, just like everyone was before the 1960s, when everyone decided to be in color to make it look better on TV.

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Balki tries to hug Chester and Chester has to turn into animation to get away from that daffodil shit. He appears on the other side of them, standing as still as possible so they won’t have to do so much editing in post. Larry tries to shake Chester’s hand but Chester saw him scratching his nuts earlier and animates away again.

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The Cousins are too late now, too late now.

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Chester: You blew it! You think you’re so smart just because you’re alive.

No, I think I’m smart because I can drive a car and use a computer and I know what neutrons and DNA are. Chester says all this as a threat, but what exactly did they blow this midnight? The chance to get in his good graces? The effects budget?

Like most decent things on this show, the one here was buried six feet deep: Larry’s belief that ghosts don’t exist was defeatable, and thus untrue. Balki’s beliefs about ghosts were defeatable (at least in this minute of the episode) and thus untrue.

Chester comes from a narrow window of 20th-Century American history. The Roaring Twenties, due to a number of factors (like, you know, not having any of its cities destroyed in WWI), were a period of rapid economic growth in the US. Industries were becoming automated, the nation’s total wealth doubled, and television was born. Andrew Mellon gave tax cuts to the wealthy, numerous tariffs were enacted (sound familiar?), highly restrictive immigration laws were put into place, and membership in the Ku Klux Klan almost doubled (no, really, sound familiar yet?). Chester died because of not making good on his lost bets on the 1929 World Series, which ended two weeks before Black Tuesday. A lot of threads came together to make America a happening place to be, but it hadn’t yet been forced to pay the bills on all the crazy shit it was starting to get up to.

Again, the “rules” we’re told muddy this, since Chester claims to be widely traveled at the same time that he’s somehow bound to appear in this room for a duration of 24 hours once every year. But Chester should hate two whimpering men, one of them a foreigner, pooling their resources, allowing their women economic and vocal freedoms.

It could work, and in a show that wasn’t so deadset on having the actors pick up and look at every single prop that the script calls for, it would have time to. We’re forced to see Chester go from jocular to murderous in the space of 30 seconds. He stands still three times and is gone.

Larry offers to apologize to the ghost–shoot, both his wife and God fall for that bit every time–and Balki says that won’t work. (Somehow ghosts still work the same as on Mypos, even though Chester just proved they don’t? I don’t know.) They talk over each other for a while, which is great joke we would never have gotten as organically from any plot but this one.

You know what? Mark Linn-Baker is a master of physical comedy detail. When he says he’s sorry, he puts fake sincerity into every part of his body. Most of it is arms and voice, but this man delivers lying through his legs.

Going back to rules for ghosts: I’ve seen different reasons for ghosts in media. They have unfinished business. They’re cursed to stay bound to the site of some sin they participated in. They play out their last moments eternally. They want to be alive again. They search for a loved one. I even saw this really cool movie a few times where this woman was sexually unsatisfied with her workaholic husband but luckily there were ghosts who had sex with her. I’m struggling to translate those situations into any sort of rules for dispatching ghosts.

Physical comedy often functions on trying, and failing to grasp the rules at play (perhaps ceding monsters like Freddy or Chucky that level of control over the rules feeds the comedy aspects of those movies? Discuss amongst yourselves).

Perfect Strangers has a perfect opportunity here to make up whatever rules it wants to lead to whatever conclusion it thinks is the funniest. We’ve sort of got the rule that Chester is only there–and the Cousins stuck in Balki’s room–until midnight. We can infer that Larry poured water on the proverbial Gremlin by being rude to the ghost three times. Even though the information had to be delivered at normal speaking volume by a guy dressed like the lovechild of Colonel Sanders and a used car salesman, we know that his wrath cannot be assuaged.

Balki gives us one more rule: they can drive away the ghost***** by making it expend its parapsychic energy quickly by keeping it angry.

“Dog Day Afterlife” has a whole five minutes left, it could do any fucking thing it wanted right now.

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So they can’t spend money on animating Chester doing anything more than standing five feet away from any other moving object on screen. So what? Even though Balki’s decor could easily have gone without mention for anyone who had watched any other episode, they made multiple explicit mentions of it. Make the Wayne Newton poster’s eyes really start moving. Start opening and closing the closet doors. Tie Larry up with the lengths of fabric on the walls. Just start throwing shit around and then cut to a bruised cousins in a destroyed room. Have Chester take on the appearance of Jennifer and have her say every single thing Larry’s ever feared she thought. Do an homage to Death Bed: the Bed that Eats. Fuck, have them pretend that they’re freezing to death, that’s cheap!

The Cousins start insulting Chester, and we learn that nothing’s too cheap for this show: Chester takes control of their hands and makes the Cousins grab and slap each other. That’s a long fucking way to go for the same joke we get every week.

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I mean, yeah, there’s still some trying to outsmart the rule that ends with Larry’s hand flapping around. Maybe I should be impressed that they managed to take the fucking coat bit from the season premiere and make it 10 times worse?

But this sequence isn’t worth the effort to work the jokes I wrote into any sort of narrative, so let’s just get them out: Perfect Stranglers, I guess they’ve got a bad case of phantom limb, cousins should choke more, if Chester thinks this is going to demoralize them, joke’s on him–they were bred and born in this here briar patch!032b

Larry apologizes to Chester, gives him the house, says Jennifer is happy to bear Satan’s spawn, whatever it takes to leave them alone so they can kiss. Chester makes them run into the wall, because sure, why the fuck not. Jesus Christ I should have called myself Tommy Bigshot or something when I started this blog because now my real goddam name is attached to this shit and I have to make damn sure I never need to go on a job hunt ever again.

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No shit, the next morning? In the house where they live? Well god damn, there’s all my questions answered. Fuck you.

Jennifer and Mary Anne, having had an untroubled night’s sleep staying up late and watching Pacific Heights and Body Chemistry on HBO’s “Double Feature Friday”, a good shower, and a change of clothes, all while their men were struggling against incontrovertible personal proof of the damned, come back and ask what all the gooey stuff all over their faces is. Ectoplasm, Larry assures her.

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Mary Anne says she’s glad Balki’s alive. There we go! That’s the right amount of stupidity for her.

So the goal was to make Chester tired before midnight. But now somehow Balki knew while knocked unconscious that Chester got bored and left. Is Chester gone forever now?

I wouldn’t have cared if they’d told me. The important thing is this episode is gone forever.

Join me next week for… oh fuck no. No. STOP etc.

I’m not doing the fucking Oral & Hardly episode on this blog’s three-year anniversary.

There’ll be a post, it just won’t be that.

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Catchphrase count: Balki (1); Larry (2)

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

Unused Larryoke Countdown #26: Don’t Fear the Sheepherd – Blue Öyster Cult

*Inverted multiply and beautifully in both Get a Life and Married… With Children.

**Turns out I don’t

***One might assume that Larry discourages Jennifer from televised news, but that would assume they sleep in the same bed

****1 Samuel 28:8-20

*****¡ǝɔuɐן-ooq-ɯɐ uɐ uı

Season 7, Episode 4: Weekend at Ferdinand’s

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Time may have finally punctured the interior of the Caldwell, but houses offer their own promises of stability, bulwarks against blah blah blah I can’t even keep that shit up this week, all I really wanted to get at is it’s the exact same shot of Laura and Maxine and that woman running again. For whatever stupid reason I want to keep criticizing the show for it, but at this point my observation is about as novel as wondering why Mickey Mouse only has four fingers*.

There are always bigger problems, so let’s get to those.

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Inside, Balki is using cleaning fluid to polish decorative produce. Hey, there’s the tapestry that Balki made for Larry Balki’s sister Yana made him, further proof that Balki never had a sister owns a tapestry! He calls for Larry to come downstairs so they can finish prepping for King Ferdinand’s arrival.

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Balki asks why Larry didn’t put on the loincloth that he laid out for him. He tries to tickle Larry back up the stairs, but it doesn’t work this time. Larry says he refuses to wear a loincloth to look like a snout merchant, which is odd, since we’ll know full well that that’s not how they dress. Oh, show, don’t tell me Balki is trying to impress someone in power with false appearances!

The very next joke is that King Ferdinand is defying the Chicago police to arrest a sovereign monarch for stealing local dairy farmers’ cows and walking them down State Street. Balki refers to this as the “Livestock Liberation Parade”.

After all the effort this show made to tell me that Myposians make a differentiation between pteroductyls and floofy ducks, it still makes jokes like pigs working in service positions yet offered as convenience foods; sheep get voting rights but goats get turned into stew; and now the Rumination Proclamation was a landmark event in the history of cattle rights? Obviously different cultures have their own reasons not to spill blood, but are the animals on Mypos not men?

If ever there was an over-written joke on this show, it’s this one, but I’ll give it some credit. It starts off as Balki saying Kind Ferdinand is leading a parade, and Larry replying that it’s he’s just leading cows down the street. They could have left it at that, or put a pretty bow on it by Balki saying Ferdinand never goes anywhere without his attendants. But the writers were evidently spitballing and talking about various types of parades.  Perhaps the parade in Washington, DC, two months prior, to celebrate the liberation of Kuwait during the Gulf War, was fresh in their minds, and just knowing goes some way towards excusing the fact that the second punchline undoes the first and leaves us stranded wondering what the fuck it was supposed to mean.

Anyway, I’ll fix the damn joke: Ferdinand had lions and it was a pride parade.

Balki sits Cousin Larry down to explain to him how he must be a-talkin’ which this king comes a-knockin’. The protocol for welcoming Myposian royalty into your home is to stage a knock-knock joke, and that’s clever. It’s entirely in keeping with not only the broad strokes of Mypos, but Ferdinand himself. For the sake of posterity, completeness, and me actually doing my job of this being a humor blog, here’s the full transcript of how the protocol is supposed to go:

King: Knock, knock.

You (lowly peasant): Who’s there?

King: Picture This!

You: First Date.

King: Baby, You Can Drive My Car.

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The cousins hear a “knock knock” from the door. How nice of King Ferdinand to follow the American custom of showing up right after the exposition and its requisite three jokes are said! Balki panics, having not readied the virgin sheep.

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Ferdinand tells his joke, Larry and Balki share a good laugh over this throner, and then they let him in.  As is normal at all levels of society, in all cultures, the King enters and instantly looks to his right.

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There have been very few things on this show I’ve outright loved, but Ferdinand’s fashion sense–a First Nation Dusty Rhodes with tassels placed with the precision & care of Liefeld pouches–is near the top. That the lining of his robe is a patchwork quilt is just icing on the cake for a guy like me who makes everything into a symbol. Give me a few weeks on that one.

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After six years abroad, Balki now faces his monarch, and abases himself. Certainly Ferdinand will want to hear how Balki has proudly represented his country, whether he has stayed true to his roots, and what wealth of knowledge he can offer to his Mamaland. Certainly after 123 episodes, Balki’s had some time to reflect on his experiences and will have something deep and insightful to say.

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Ferdinand slaps Balki and they start dancing and singing in some pastiche of American swing and doo-wop. Those foreigners, huh? So much soul, and it’s just so sad that we white Americans have evolved too far and become too smart to ever be so happy and free. I’ll just have to console myself with another exegetical joke: the upraised fingers symbolize the endurance of Myposian strength. (Also, yes, I laughed.)

I’m beginning to get the sense that Mussolini just rounded up every Albanian of poor genetic heritage he could find in April 1939, loaded them onto a garbage patch, and shoved it away from shore with a gondolier paddle.

King Ferdinand finally takes notice of Cousin Larry and compliments Balki on his choice of mate. Larry prostates himself; wait, no, I’m saying that wrong: Larry becomes prostatic?

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Larry is coached by Balki to refer to Ferdinand as “your superfluousness” and I guess I need to keep talking about trying to apply logic to something that doesn’t follow it at all, because that’s what I’ve been trying to do. As in: how can they know that word and not know what it means?

I was never much into Superman as a kid; and even less as an adult on a conceptual level. He’s got basically unlimited powers, but since he’s the good guy, there’s no need to be terribly clever with how he uses them. And even though I’ve read very few stories about the character, I’m fascinated by the idea of Bizarro Superman. What does it mean to be the reverse of something else? Is it negation? Is it mirror imaging? Is it the breaking of rules? Can two rules be simultaneously broken even if they contradict each other? Or is that the ideal on Bizarro’s planet Htrae?

But as I’m on the verge of referencing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quote about the “test of a first-rate intelligence”, I realize I’m missing the point. Shawn Green, veteran/inveterate podcaster, in his initial critique of me, asked me to enjoy the show as the child me had.

alfred

Be willing to enjoy the surrealities that first intrigued me as a youth. Just repeat to myself it’s just a show, I should concentrate… on relaxing.

concentrate… on relaxing…

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Clarity: sitcoms are, and are not, depictions of the real world.

I am the hollow reed through which troubles blow like the wind. I am the wind that blows through the hollow reed.

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Calm: Perfect Strangers may exist as a safe simulation of matter and anti-matter colliding without atomizing the world. The car can drive without its camshaft because I see it doing so.

I am ready now, ready for Ferdinand’s visit. Let nonsense reign.

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Oh, he’s no fun, he fell right over.

Balki tries to tickle Ferdinand back to any kind of reality, but Larry informs him that Ferdinand has died. As if the limp form wasn’t proof enough, Larry can tell from the smell of the twenty Hostess Ninja Turtles vanilla pies loosed from the royal bowels.

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You know, maybe if they hadn’t made him walk all the way from the damn airport, he’d have gotten to do more than a 30-second vaudeville act. The only time we’re ever going to hear what living in America has done for Balki is the graduation episode where he told us it let him get a paycheck.

In keeping with the show’s commitment to every major event in the history of Mypos taking place in Chicago–the near-sale of its Northern shore, the “ancient” feud, the death of its eldest matriarch, and the blooming of its rarest plant–Larry is now King.

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Later, at Cousin House, Larry and Balki catch their breath in the kitchen. Larry suggests they charge admission to the neighborhood children to poke at him, sell the sticks too, but Balki says there’s more Mypos jokes they have to get through, like the Speaker of the Hut coming soon.

After allowing the studio audience time to stop clutching their sides, pick their gum back off the floor, and straighten their clothing over the word “hut”, Larry asks Balki to deliver the rest of the joke: The Speaker of the Hut of Representatives. He also runs a 4day Tires store, which was a California-based chain; what a great reference for a Chicagoan to make!

Balki prostrates himself before the Ritz Discount Royal and Larry has to quickly try to figure out how to game the system to get out of it (“get up” doesn’t work; “you may rise” does). The rule given here: whoever touches the king first after he dies becomes the new ruler.

Balki rushes to call Gusiki to announce the Appleton Dynasty, and when Larry hears that his face will be printed on the money, there’s a moment, held exactly the right amount of time, where Larry considers.

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…Larry considers that his face will probably be stamped on cow chips…

…Larry considers having to be around people named shit like Duke of Beef Wellington and James, Earl of Carter, and Marquess Marq and the Funqy Bunch…

…Larry considers that the king’s coffers are probably going to end up being tuberculotic servants…

…Larry considers that the only armies he’ll have are Balki’s, in his sleevies…

…and tells Balki to not make the call. He has (oh His excellency) a plan and sends Balki off to buy a sampler of chocolate-covered goat parts.

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Later, at Bedsore Castle, Balki runs in with chocolate and Larry is sitting with a wide-eyed Ferdinand. Larry and Ferdinand wave, and Balki thinks that Ferdinand is alive again.

Larry explains that the writers thought long and hard about having him trick Balki into thinking that Ferdinand died a second time, making Balki king, but they had already come up with “Weekend at Ferdinand’s” for the title and they really liked it so they wanted to stick with stealing that plot.

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Larry, a true American, has wasted no time in setting up a puppet state. He explains that they’ll keep Ferdinand “alive” until the Speaker of the Hut arrives in a few hours.

The fuck? There’s plenty of time to just call off the whole reception and have only the Speaker come by! I want to see Larry do the dancing-with-attached-mannequins bit as badly as the next Casey Roberson, but can’t we get there with some semblance of reasoning?

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(A note on the high-quality copies of these episodes. In this shot, actor Don Amendolia thinks that he is off-camera and safe enough to readjust his face.  In both the METV and VHS rips I have, someone caught it and recropped the shot. The person who worked on getting these ready for Hulu is the spiritual grandson of the editor at Impel trading cards, I bet if there was an episode intended to be shown in black-and-white they’d forget to correct the color too.**)

The Cousins retreat to the kitchen again to let Don Amendolia go take a whiz. Larry wants to wait until the Speaker gets there so Ferdinand can Die In His Arms Tonight, but Balki thinks that Larry’s self-admitted faults–pushiness, greed, shallowness etc.–would make him a good leader.

HAHA BUSH YA BURNT SON

Larry asks if Balki knows the first thing he’ll do as King. Balki, who never metaphysics he didn’t like, guesses that Larry–who is a full three feet shorter than Ferdinand–will put a booster chair on the throne. Not a seat, mind you. A chair.

Larry actually threatens to turn Myops into a toxic waste dump (!), making all the Mypiots glow in the dark.

Balki: No, that will kill the market for Bartok’s products!

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Balki admits Larry should not be king and does another one of those “well fuck me silly and call me a prostitute clown” lines. Larry draws out Balki’s suffering until they’re both crying that it’s too late now, it’s too late now…

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Thankfully they don’t break into Carole King for a few minutes, and Balki gets on board with the plan to throw Ferdinand’s corpse onto the Speaker. They rush off to embalm Ferdinand with Clean for Life brand products.

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That night, at the Whited Sepulchre–

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I’m not sure what bugs me more: that almost none of the party guests even try to talk to Ferdinand, or that nobody bothered to come up with a reason Jennifer and Mary Anne aren’t there.

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The Speaker of the Hut and his wife arrive, and they look immediately to the right, as is custom.

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Their names are Walkitalki and Chattikathi.

Oh fuck on out of here with that.

Balki places his drink in Ferdinand’s hand; and when Cousin Larry waves at a woman, it causes the drink to splash in his face.***

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Balki speaks Desperanto (“how’s it hangi?”) to Walkitalki and Chattikathi.  Chattikathi actually goes by Cookie, because someone had the good sense to realize no actor is going to want to have to say Chattikathi more than once. And after this point, everyone refers to Walkitalki as Speaker, and this may be the closest I’ve ever seen a TV show come to admitting it told a bad joke.

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Lynn Alexander does a lot with what they give her here as Cookie. The whole idea of it being funny for Myposians to not sound foreign has been trampled like so much wheat under Bronson’s immense collection of footwear, but when she says “Super” in what I’m guessing is her own American accent, it’s funny. They all squeal and say one of Balki’s catchphrases (“I’m a dirty foreigner!”) and then Balki shows them how to walk downstage so that the focus is taken off of you and put onto other actors.

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Lydia, chatting with Gorpley, leans back too far on the couch, making her butt touch Ferdinand’s hand.

Then Ferdinand’s hand falls to the couch and Lydia sits on it.

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She always said someday her prince would come. Well guess what–it was a fingy prince!

Then Lydia straddles King Flirtinhand and begins the ancient Myposian Ritual of Uglybumpiki, while an embarrassed Larry must make lewd gestures in the air two feet away so she doesn’t figure out it’s just angel lust.

Y’all, I love Lydia, and we’re only going to see her a few more times, so here’s a bunch of screenshots.

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Walkitalki shouts and runs off to the kitchen. Balki relays to Larry that Walkitalki won’t talk to Ferdinand because they had some theological discussion about Certs mints.**** Evidently, while Larry looks, Lydia continues to flirt with Ferdinand by simply holding his hand and staring at him, while he does absolutely nothing. I’ll have to try out this tactic to get women the next party I’m at.

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Because he has so much respect for the dead and his own country, Balki playfully makes Ferdinand’s hand slap Larry a few times. Larry says they have to hurry so they can do the last, crucial bit of physical comedy before the episode is over.

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But–haha, joke’s on them, King Ferdinand is too fat! Remember that joke 20 years ago about how he was fat? Now it’s true! Hahaha oh god sitcoms will never not insult viewers’ values, will they?

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Balki and Larry walk Ferdinand around by picking up his legs one at a time–not having thought ahead to put the Good Skates on him–and chase Walkitalki around the room. What happened to Myposians wanting to resolve their problems right away (cf. “The Defiant Guys”)? There was a fucking Mypos saying and everything!

You know, I sure do have a lot of complaints for an episode that I’m actually enjoying. Sure, Mary Anne and the wife one aren’t there, I wish there had been more time for Ferdinand to talk, and Balki slapping Larry with his hand can fuck all the way off. But this is a fun 15 seconds of the Cousins chasing Walkitalki and Cookie around the couch.

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Usually the various crowds of people not reacting to the Cousins’ antics works to the detriment of the show’s reality, but here, they’re actually real people who talked to Balki long enough to realize how strange Mypos is and try not to stare.

Balki sends Cookie to sample the “sheep dip” which, if you’re like me and have only heard the term in contexts like this, you might be surprised to find out is actually an insecticide bath. He turns Walkitalki towards Larry, who pushes Ferdinand away without looking. Ferdinand falls flat on his face behind the couch so you don’t have to see his nose shatter.

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Larry, just leave him there! Force a crisis and let the sovereign nation of Mypos come up with a better form of power changing hands!

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Then they just drag the guy.

Larry tells Walkitalki that Ferdinand wants to apologize, and wow, show, you really got me good. You set it up so well! Ferdinand fell forward every time, so no one, not even me, saw it coming that he might fall backwards!

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Unlike most cookies on this show, this one isn’t milklogged and doesn’t break in two. If you look real closely, you know, put your face up to the screen and squint, maybe even hit Ctrl and + a few times, you might be able to just make out Ferdinand’s royal scepter.

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Two weeks later, Larry is doing a book of crossword puzzles***** and Balki enters with the mail. Larry gets a catalog from a short-man clothier. Balki got a letter from Mama.

We learn that Cookie brought back a nasty case of norovirus and infected half the island. Mama describes in detail the day where the kingship changed hands 20 times in a row (literally a row of people falling like dominoes onto one another).

Nah, j/k, Cookie’s a real party girl and the island has been celebrating with tractor pulls and demolition derbies. Since they can’t possibly have cars, this must involve shooting the sheep up with cocaine and running them into each other until their vital organs fail.

Whew! I’m glad Cookie didn’t enact any women’s rights, though! I was worried there for a second.

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Mama also sent photographs of Ferdinand being strapped to a catapult and launched at Italy, where he’ll foul their beaches with his tattered, bloated flesh.

Join me next week for “Fright Night”!

_________________________________________

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

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

Unused Larryoke Countdown #27: “Croaking for the Weekend” – Loverboy

Appearances left: Gorpley (4); Lydia (5)

*Seriously, though, it should be obvious: Mickey’s hands are already proportionally huge as it is. Can you imagine how painful fisting would be with one more finger?

**Those of you watching along on Hulu may be scratching your own heads at why I’m reviewing this episode this week and not “Door to Door”, especially as that episode would have let me make some pithy comment about how the cousins have exchanged one entryway for another.  The filming order places “Door to Door” between “New House This” and “Well of Corpse Not”; and I even went as far as buying a TV Guide for October 5-11, 1991, and it had “Door to Door” listed for Oct. 11 as well.  It turns out that the cousins harrassing a woman was replaced by the real thing, as Anita Hill’s testimony during the Clarence Thomas hearings was televised instead.

***Luckily Gorpley had not spiked the punch; had the drink been stronger, Larry’s nose might have smudged.

****They ruined this joke. Balki says they were arguing over “whether Certs is really two, two, two mints in one.” The joke would be that they’re arguing over whether it’s a candy mint or a breath mint. I should know, because I wrote that fucking joke a year and a half ago!

*****What’s a five-letter word for life? FRANK