The Trouble With Larry, part 2

In which the blog host persists in his crime of enlisting the aid of fellow sitcom reviewer Philip J Reed to document unspeakable horrors; in which the fellow ponders questions existential; in which the fellow finds buried treasure; in which the nature of the treasure is revealed; in which these and other matters indispensable for the clear comprehension of this history shall be handled if the host should manage to end the introduction.


Three More Glorious Weeks or Four Weeks of The Trouble with Larry Who Cares
By Philip J Reed,


We’ve covered all three episodes of The Trouble with Larry to make it to air.  Three more were in the can when the plug was pulled, and that’s what we’re looking at here.

For now, though, what the fuck is this show?

I think it’s a fair question to ask, as its hypothetical audience (and it really was hypothetical) couldn’t have seen any more than the three episodes we’ve already discussed.

So what is it?


It’s about a guy who was stuck in Africa for 10 years, presumed dead.  Or maybe he wasn’t stuck, since he never seems to have tried to get back to America or, you know, ask for help.  Anyway he was raped by monkeys immediately after marrying the love of his life, for whom he’s pined non-stop since that fateful day.  Except he immediately does stop the moment he finds out she’s remarried, losing all interest in and desire for her.  And before that he tries to fuck her sister.

He decides for no real reason that he’ll write his memoirs, something that was never mentioned again after it was established.  And he lives in his ex-wife’s spare room doing nothing, ever, aside from periodically wearing silly costumes and doing impressions.


What am I missing?  Please tell me.  If there is more to the show than this, let me know.  Frankly, I think there’s less to the show than this, and I’m giving it far too much credit by even writing in complete sentences.

Of course, sitcoms don’t have to be serialized or narrative-heavy.  It’s perfectly fine if they aren’t, and if their main draw comes from the characters themselves.

So, okay.  Who are these characters?


Sally owns an art gallery and is either bad with money or just doesn’t feel like paying her bills.  She’s married to Boyd and had a daughter with Larry, though Boyd thinks the kid is his.  That’s everything we know.

Boyd has glasses and a beard.  He’s a curator at a museum.  He never talks about it and it never affects anything.  He doesn’t like Larry, and every so often he insults him.  That’s everything we know.

Gabriella is Sally’s sister.  She works at the art gallery and was robbed off camera.  She spends more time in her sister’s living room than she spends anywhere else in the world.  She would prefer it if Larry didn’t insert things into her.  That’s everything we know.

Lindsay is Sally’s daughter.  She’s nine.  She goes to school.  That’s everything we know.


Larry is completely undefined and defies all attempts at characterization.  Nothing we’ve been led to believe is important to him has remained important to him.  That’s everything we know.  I have no idea what he wants, what his interests are, what he enjoys, or why he has his own show.

Would anyone have tuned in week after week to see these characters?  What was the draw even intended to be?  It’s fair to say The Trouble with Larry sucked ass, but it’s probably also fair to say it wasn’t supposed to suck ass.  So what was the plan?  Ideally, what would The Trouble with Larry have been?


By looking at the episodes that never made it to air, perhaps we can find out.

“The Angel of Death and Taxes,” unaired


Sally and Boyd have a quiet conversation about it being hot and them getting a tax refund and the family going to Wacky World in Florida, but none of that involves Bronson so Bronson barges in wearing a Hawaiian shirt and doing a standup routine.

Man, it is hot!  Folks, I wanna tell you, women are dating fat guys just for the shade.  I’m talking steamy.  Dogs are pretending to mate just for the bucket of water.  One guy got so desperate he jumped naked into a carpool.

Ugh, at least it was short.  We learn that Larry and Lindsay were selling things to people who wanted to beat the heat and…

Folks, I wanna tell you, it’s so hot Johnny Cash is wearing white.  Bugs are flying into windshields just for the wiper fluid.  People are snitching on mobsters just to get dumped in the lake and I saw a guy at the zoo siphoning a camel.

For fuck’s sake, end this god damned comedy routine.

Larry announces that he’s going to drink some sugarless lemonade and then he drinks some sugarless lemonade and then he reacts to the sugarless lemonade.


This is a hell of a long intro scene and it’s not over yet, because Bronson wants to do some prop comedy.

He shows off the “venetian blouse” he invented and he makes a joke about how it keeps women cool but men also like it because they can see some tits and jack off while looking at them, and aren’t you so glad we established he was selling this shit with his nine-year-old daughter?


Anyway, Boyd figures out the family owes $1,892 to the IRS, so there won’t be any refund or Wacky World trip.  He finalizes the tax form, writes the check, and stuffs the envelope in the time it took me to blink I guess because I didn’t see him do any of that shit.

Larry offers to mail it for him, and Boyd gives it to him without a thought, because he knows the show is already off the air and nobody will be around to question the logic.

Larry brings out a metronome with a hotdog on it and says it’s an automatic wiener cooler.

The next day or 38 months later, who knows, the mail comes and Boyd gets something from the IRS.  It’s a check for $48,000.


Larry gets so excited he reveals he has no idea how to hold a child.


Sally and Boyd leave the room so Larry can tell Lindsay he doctored the forms and committed serious tax fraud on behalf of the family.


The next day or 38 months later, who knows, the family gets back from Wacky World where they spent a shitload of cash but not in any ways that were funny enough for us to see, I guess.

Then everyone goes into the living room where a bunch of shit they ordered has arrived.  Most of it’s still boxed up.  There’s a piano and an exercise bike, and I know so little about any of these assholes that I can’t possibly guess who wanted which.


A woman arrives and it’s a singing telegram and we have to sit through her singing about how Boyd is fucked.


It’s Teresa Ganzel (4.52 out of 5 on wikifeet based on a total of 53 votes), who’s done a lot of voice acting and appeared in films such as The Toy and My Favorite Year.  She’s pretty fucking awful here but you sure as shit can’t blame her.

The next day or 38 months later, who knows, the fat lady sea captain / burglar shows up to repossess everything.


Larry stops her on her way out the door to tell her she’s fat and crack open the joke book one more time.

Q: If you’re such a smart guy, how come all your stuff winds up with me?
A: Gravitational pull!

Q: You know what I’ve got in my back pocket?
A: We can rule out deodorant!

Q: I’ve got a piece of paper from a judge.  Know what it says?
A: Does it specify that you must be buried face down?!

I have honestly never seen a sitcom this lazily written.


Anyway, everything gets taken away and Lindsay is sad.  Boyd looks at a copy of his tax return and realizes it’s entirely incorrect and in Larry’s handwriting.  Uh-oh!


The next day or 38 months later, who knows, Larry is sleeping on the floor of the art gallery.  He’s using a tapestry as a blanket and a sculpture as a pillow, which is great considering he just bankrupted the family and is now ruining their only source of income.

Gabriella comes in and he says he wishes she found him naked so he could make her look at his penis and she says maybe the penis would be very small.  It’s fun for the whole family.

He says he’s sorry for ruining the family and then grabs Gabriella to hump her.


Larry goes to the IRS dressed as Boyd and Gabriella is Sally because she’s a fucking idiot.  Larry’s Boyd voice sounds more like Casey Kasem, and just in case you’re part of the 100% of the human race who never watched this show, I’ll tell you Boyd sounds nothing like Casey Kasem.


Man, wouldn’t it be better if the show had established any of these characters so that there could be some humor to mined from two of them impersonating two others?  As it stands it’s just Bronson and Courteney Cox in different costumes.


Following on from the smash success of his secondary role as The Booger in the previous episode, Bronson also plays a hippie here.  It’s like one line where he cries about having his Volkswagen taken away by the IRS.  Bronson as Larry as Boyd makes a face.  This episode fucking sucks.

Anyway, Larry and Gabriella meet with the IRS guy, who has an eyepatch, so you know exactly what Bronson does for the next few minutes.


Also Larry stops using the Casey Kasem voice after a bit, reverting to his real voice.  So what was the point of using a fake voice at all?

Whatever.  Larry keeps turning up the heat in the office when the IRS guy isn’t looking.

It gets really hot so Larry tells the IRS guy he’s having a heart attack.


This is the longest fucking episode of anything I’ve ever watched.


Larry puts a computer monitor on the guy and talks into a trash can to make the guy think he’s dead now.  The real Boyd and Sally show up and he thinks they brought him back to life.


Then the episode is over.

This is by a fairly wide margin the worst episode of what is by a fairly wide margin the worst show I’ve ever seen.  What’s worse, Bronson’s site has this listed as episode six, meaning I watched it last.  What a kick in the balls to go out on.

“Witless for the Prosecution,” unaired


The one opens with Boyd and Sally getting mad because they can hear construction noises.  Both of these assholes have jobs so maybe if they went to work they wouldn’t have to listen to it.


Larry comes in draped in some towels and holding a sprig of something.  The audience laughs because this is funny.  Larry says “frozen yoga” and the audience laughs because this is funny.  Larry rolls onto the couch and then off the back of the couch and the audience laughs because this is funny.  Larry performs an extended puppet show with his feet because this is Bronson.

Larry dances and makes some faces and sits on his head.


I guess if he sits like this, from his perspective he has turned the family upside-down.  The prophecy has been fulfilled.

The show was cancelled exactly as quickly as the CBS executive who greenlit it sobered up, yes, but who involved with this piece of shit production could have possibly believed it was worth putting on TV?  This is the worst fucking thing imaginable.  I’m trying to think of a way to make The Trouble with Larry worse, but short of Bronson ripping farts to punctuate his sentences, I think we’ve pretty much got the worst imaginable show already.


Gabriella comes over with a sprained ankle.  Larry offers to fill his mouth with ice so she can stick her foot in it.

…and guys, okay.  Let me step out from behind the curtain for a moment.

I’m not trying to kink shame.  I’m making jokes and I certainly hope you hate them.  But if you’re reading this and you have a foot fetish:  good on you.  There are a number of sexual peccadillos that I would personally say are inherently problematic, but I’m also fully aware (asexual, here!) that individuals don’t get to choose the things that do or don’t excite them.  So if you are excited by feet, awesome.  No judgement now or ever.

If, however, you’re, say, making a television show that is not explicitly for a similarly fetishistic audience, maybe scale back the foot fetish stuff a bit, okay?

Quentin Tarantino is a high-profile example of a creative mind who doesn’t hide his attraction to feet.  And that’s okay; he shouldn’t be obligated to.  But from a strictly artistic standpoint, his attraction to feet should never dominate his works unless it’s an integral part of the story he is telling.  It never is, so we don’t linger on it any longer than we do any other diversion.  Tarantino, for all the understandable guff he’s given about excess, does understand restraint.  Right now you’re picturing a scene of excessive violence that he lovingly directed, sure, but consider how much silence led up to it.  Consider how many long scenes of two characters talking quietly occupied the rest of the space in the film.  Consider how much characterization and place setting was employed so that once he did get to the violence, he could execute it perfectly and have it matter.  Tarantino is a director of excess, but more specifically he’s a director of regulated excess.

All of this is to say if Tarantino had Bronson’s sense of restraint, every movie he makes would be 110 minutes of blood raining down from the sky as he himself fucks a supermodel’s feet.

You’re fucking gross, Bronson.


Sally and Gabriella confront the construction crew off camera so we can watch Larry pull a long piece of cotton out of his ear while he cums.  Okay, I’m behind the curtain again.

They come back and say Carl, the British guy in charge of the construction, is great.  He promised to have his crew start later in the day and he fixed Gabriella’s ankle the way only offscreen characters in sitcoms can.  Then Lindsay, a nine-year-old girl that each of these men thinks is his daughter, announces that she wishes Carl would statutorily rape her.


The audience laughs because this is funny.  Larry then says he sometimes hides under Gabriella’s couch so he can touch her ankles, because this is Bronson.


Now it’s nighttime, so I guess neither of these guys did anything all day worth mentioning.  And, honestly, that’s the most believable part of the show so far.  The Mission: Impossible theme plays while they stand next to Carl’s car in black sweatclothes, a common trope in Mission: Impossible for all The Trouble with Larry knows.


They have a long, loud conversation right out in the open, next to Carl’s lit window, about how to fuck up his house.  Then Larry says just as loudly that they can fuck up his car instead.  He pulls out a big tool and gives it to Boyd…after which he produces a wrench and hands it over!!!!!

The plan is to drain the oil from Carl’s car.  Boyd goes underneath to do it, and then Larry decides to deflate the tires, trapping Boyd underneath.  Larry runs away when Carl shows up in a scene that is far too dark for me to get any worthwhile screengrabs so you’ll just have to trust me.


The next day Larry tries to get Gabriella to eat cereal off of his body and tells her about the naked pictures he draws of her.  Carl comes over to establish that he’s far more likely to fuck her, and also he’s not pressing charges as long as Boyd pays for the damages.

All of this upsets Larry, who grabs Gabriella.  Gabriella tells Larry not to touch her, and he grabs her harder and pulls her away.  That could work as a joke but it’s just who Larry is and what the show allows him to be.


Sally gives Carl the check, so Larry grabs it from him and rips it up and says the queen is ugly.  The audience applauds.  Then he says, “Look, everybody, safe sex!” and does this.


The audience applauds this joke that was so great the show would be deleted from existence two weeks before it even aired.

None of the other characters attempt to stop or discourage Larry in any way.  Carl says he will take them to court and then they are in court.


Bronson is the bailiff.  Fuck it all.

Actually, all he says is “all rise,” so you have to wonder why it was worth getting him into a second costume at all.  Did Bronson just really want to be his own bit player?

Larry says he fired Boyd’s lawyer and now he is Boyd’s lawyer and the judge is the fat lady sea captain / burglar / mover.


We can imagine and fast-forward through the rest of this shit in our heads.

Instead of doing or saying anything related to the case, Larry talks about how Boyd doesn’t have sex much and he calls the judge fat and he puts on a puppet show for Gabriella using—you guessed it—socks.


He then tells Gabriella, in the middle of a trial, that he’d fuck her so hard she’d squeal like bad brakes.


Larry examines Boyd and there’s actually the germ of a funny idea here.  Larry keeps leading the witness, and whenever Boyd agrees with him Larry catches him in the lie.  Boyd keeps trying to follow Larry’s lead and Larry chews him out for it, leading to some fun frustration.  It’s not great, but it could be a funny scene in a much better show that knew what it was doing, and it’s the closest thing to an inspired gag in all of The Trouble with Larry.

Of course, it’s followed immediately by a “You can’t handle the truth!” sequence, which was legally required to be a reference made by all shows with a courtroom scene between 1992 and 1998.

Larry finally gets to the point and shows the judge some city planning documents, proving that the wall Carl built is on their property and he’ll have to take it down.  Carl faints because it means he slept with the judge for nothing, and can you imagine sleeping with a fat girl?!  Yeeucch!!

I mean, the wall itself wasn’t ever the problem, it was just the noise of the construction, and I can’t see how having to tear it down and rebuild it a few feet away is going to be quieter.  Also, the trial was about Boyd disabling Carl’s car, so where a wall is or isn’t being built is completely irrelevant to this case, but the family hugs in celebration and Larry attempts to slip his finger up Gabriella’s asshole.


Larry gives a big speech of nonsense which is just him calling the judge fat, referencing Anson Williams, and making fun of Boyd for being feminine when he was a kid.  Can you imagine a young boy who doesn’t strictly conform to gender norms?!  Yeeucch!!


He doesn’t shut up so the judge puts him and Boyd in jail, because Boyd is also at fault somehow.  Larry grabs a ukulele from behind the toilet and begins singing “One Hundred Million Bottles of Beer on the Wall” and the episode ends.


If you can make any sense of this episode’s plot at all, I’ll…I don’t know.  Sleep with a fat chick.

Seriously, what the living fuck was supposed to be happening here?  Who was I meant to root for?  What should I have wanted to happen?  Why is this show even being produced?

“Rhinestone Cowboyd,” unaired


Well, good news:  It’s not being produced anymore.

Mark Linn-Baker, who you may remember as having played a Larry or two, popped over to direct this episode.  We’ve talked about his potentially sobering influence on Bronson, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out.  Actually, fuck it, it doesn’t play out at all.  Moving on.

At the top of this final episode, let’s try to figure out what the fuck The Trouble with Larry even is.

The many possible premises of the show have been raised just long enough to be abandoned.  Sally coping with the reappearance of a husband she thought was dead was almost certainly the original concept, and it was ditched sometime after the show shot its original, lost pilot.  With Larry in the center instead, we could have a show about his struggle to accept that his wife has moved on, a show about his attempts to bond with the girl that is secretly his daughter, a show about his difficulty fitting into a culture that moved on without him, a show about an adventurer writing, publishing, and promoting his memoirs…

But we get none of that.  Even the press release’s promise that Larry turns the family’s lives upside-down is a dud.  He did that exactly once, at the very end of the previous episode, when he somehow got Boyd imprisoned for things only Larry said and did.  Everything else has just been Larry acting like a cartoon character while life goes on around him, sometimes vaguely influenced by his actions and usually not.

The closest corollary The Trouble with Larry has in a successful show is Get a Life, which aired from 1990 to 1992 and shared an important writer with The Trouble with Larry:  Charlie Kaufman.  I won’t speak too much about Get a Life except to say that it was brilliant, far ahead of its time, and a masterclass in absurdist humor.  To steal a famous observation about the Velvet Underground, not many people watched Get a Life, but everyone who did started writing comedy.

In Get a Life, the main character is detached from reality and almost always unaware of the danger and consequences of his actions.  The main character was also played by Chris Elliott, who it is safe to say has taken dumps that are funnier and more talented than Bronson Pinchot.

That isn’t to say Bronson has zero talent or anything.  That would be a lie.  Balki was (and to some degree remains) popular for a reason.  But Chris Elliott was able to get away with flights of madness because that was his style and it’s what he was good at.  It’s not something anybody can do by default, and it’s not something Bronson came close to mastering during this madcap sitcom of his own.

I’m making an assumption by saying The Trouble with Larry was even meant to be madcap, but I think it’s a safe enough one.  In each episode, there’s a very basic, relatable core idea:  doing taxes, dealing with loud construction, helping a kid with a science fair project.  And in each episode, I get the sense that Larry’s interference was meant to have that core idea spiral out of control with hilarious consequences.  Something that could have been resolved simply and easily instead becomes a tidal wave of madness with Larry surfing it to shore.

And you can see some evidence of that here and there, but largely the “tidal wave of madness” is Bronson in a costume drifting in and out of a silly voice.  Or making fun of fat/bald/monocular/British people.  Ideally, Larry would have been a lovable oaf who makes things worse every time he attempts to make things better, but it’s hard to attribute good intentions to the guy who openly insults everyone he meets and washes his feet in the family’s gravy boat.  It’s also bungled by the specific execution, such as when in the previous episode Boyd is completely off the hook in the trial, but Larry insists on repeatedly calling the judge fat until she locks them both up.  What could Larry’s “good intention” possibly have been?

Out of curiosity, is it clear enough I don’t want to talk about an episode that starts with Larry half naked in an animal skin?


In a scene that is far too long to convey such a small amount of information, we learn that the next day is Sally and Boyd’s anniversary.  Sally is disappointed because Boyd is taking her to The Crustacean Station, clearly a Red Lobster analog, which is where they’ve gone for every anniversary.

I’m loath to give The Trouble with Larry any credit, especially after it’s spent five full episodes assuring me it deserves none, but this is actually pretty good.  I’m reading into what we’re given, yes, but I like the idea that in Boyd’s mind, taking Sally to the same shitty restaurant every year is romantic, because it’s honoring their history together.  He doesn’t think The Crustacean Station is a fancy place; he is just incorporating that into his sense of history with his wife.  It’s a sentimental choice.  That’s fair.

Also fair is the fact that Sally would love to celebrate in a nicer restaurant for once.  The conflict is that neither of them are talking about this.  Sally doesn’t know that Boyd is doing this for what he thinks are romantic reasons, and Boyd doesn’t know that Sally isn’t receiving the choice in the way he intended.

It’s a fair setup, and we’ve seen throughout the episodes that Sally and Boyd aren’t a perfect match anyway.  We’re allowed to believe they love and care for each other, but Sally likes a little bit of adventure while Boyd prefers routine.  Sally likes sex while Boyd prefers an early night’s sleep.  This episode’s premise could lead to an interesting exploration of who they are and how they function together, even if it’s arriving entirely too late.

But Larry makes the animal pretend to eat breakfast.


Sally and Larry talk fondly about some of the adventures they’ve had together, and Sally says, “Life sure would have been different with you.”  Then she kisses him on the cheek and leaves.


And, okay, another fair complication, and the first flash of potential romantic rivalry we’ve had since the very first episode, in which Larry learned Sally had remarried and immediately pointed to Gabriella and said, “I’d rather fuck her, anyway.”

Larry thinks she wants him back and we cut to stock footage of a boar who looks at the camera and makes a sound like, “Say whaaat?”


This is the worst show ever made.

Larry goes to the art gallery to talk to Gabriella, and he finds the person he’d like to repeatedly insult this week for things he can’t help:  a guy shorter than Bronson.


Larry makes fun of the guy over and over again until he storms off, and even though Larry interrupted Gabriella selling some art to this guy, she doesn’t seem to care.  I guess those days of the art gallery struggling to pay its bills are long gone and they can afford to just be pissy to anyone who wants to give them money.

Larry tells Gabriella that he thinks Sally is still in love with him because of the kiss.  On a related note, Bronson realizes that this is genuinely the last time he’ll ever have the authority to force Courteney Cox to make out with him, so he demonstrates with a kiss that’s nothing like what we saw in the kitchen.


Later that night, Larry does the she-loves-me-she-loves-me-not thing with his chest hairs.


His daughter comes home and he ignores her so he can keep doing this.


Then Gabriella comes in and he greets her by joining their pelvises.


They go into the kitchen and Sally has forgotten to employ the passive part of passive aggression, criticizing Boyd over and over again for picking shitty restaurants, tipping poorly, and not knowing how to open wine bottles.


It culminates with her physically attacking him and storming off.  He goes after her so Larry and Gabriella can figure out how to make themselves the central characters again.

Larry brainstorms that they need to turn Boyd into a dashing, charming prince.  Or they can just turn him into Prince.  He then asks Gabriella and his daughter if either of them own a buttless jumpsuit.  He’ll fuck anything, this one!


In the next scene, Larry and Lindsay talk about how they just stole a koala from the zoo and put it in a box on the table.  It’s dumb, but I do like that they are both filthy and wearing torn clothes.  It means we just missed seeing a crazed animal beat the shit out of Bronson Pinchot and a nine-year-old girl.


Boyd comes home with flowers for Sally and Larry does something I didn’t expect:  he comes out and says that Sally kissed him.  This is good, because I honestly expected the episode to be one of those that could easily be resolved if anyone at any point told anybody else anything at all.

It’s an unexpectedly wise decision to keep the characters actively involved in the events of the episode.  Talk about damning with faint praise, but it’s the best I can do.

He tells Boyd that he’s going to lose Sally if he doesn’t change, which you’d think would be clear enough from the fact that he was physically assaulted by her last night at dinner, in front of their daughter.

Then it’s anniversary dinner time, and everyone goes to a place called Darlene’s.


It’s some cowboy bar or something.  Larry leans on somebody else’s table and nobody seems to mind, so I guess it’s a really rough place!


Boyd comes in and the audience laughs at his silly costume.  Then there’s a record scratch as everyone in the bar looks at him and starts laughing, too.

Who cares.  The real draw is that the sea captain / burglar / mover / judge is also the waitress here.


Q: What are you looking at, missile beak?
A: I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were talking to me.  I saw your blowhole moving, but…!

Sally and Gabriella leave to take a shit.  Lindsay, presumably, is spending the night at Uncle Carl’s again.


Larry tells Boyd to take a swing at some tough guy, because he’s arranged the whole thing or whatever.

After vacating their bowels in synchrony, Sally and Gabriella leave the bathroom.  They bump into Bronson in drag, because of course they do.


Bronsetta says, “Men!” and walks away.  No fucking clue what’s going on, and I have even less of a clue why Bronson keeps playing these secondary characters who play no role in the plot and have no jokes.  What’s the point?  Also, it’s pretty clear Larry is going to dress as a hardass and fight Boyd, right?  So with Bronson playing a character who dresses up as other people all the time, why does Bronson also have to play unrelated characters?  Isn’t it weird that Bronson in this silly outfit is Larry, but Bronson in that other, exactly-as-silly outfit is someone different altogether?  It’s so fucking weird.


Sure enough Larry appears dressed in a huge leather duster which he smuggled into the bar in a way I’d prefer not to imagine.  He talks like Clint Eastwood, sort of, and the fat lady wants to have sex with him.


Q: I’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places.
A: Pie shops!

Q: Why not take all of me?
A: Because I’ve only got the one truck!

Oh, I’m going to miss this show.


Boyd puts up his dukes but we’re robbed of the sight of Bronson getting his teeth kicked out when the fat lady throws Boyd over the bar and then Sally punches the fat lady.


Sally is happy that Boyd was assaulted by another woman, I guess.


A bunch of guys want to beat up Larry and then the fat lady beats them up and fucking hell end please for the love of shit end.


Boyd opens the koala box and puts his face in it and we cut to an exterior shot of Darlene’s to hear Sally scream for help.  Fantastic.

And now, at long fucking last, The Trouble with Larry is over…

“Pinata Full of Bones,” unmade


…except that I hate you all as much as I hate myself, and have unearthed a Trouble with Larry script that was never actually produced.

I had seen a few scattered references online to “Pinata Full of Bones,” but I assumed it was some IMDB vandalism that had been propagated (most likely automatically) to other sites.  Wikipedia doesn’t mention it at all, nor does…well, almost anything.

I expected it wasn’t real, not least because the phrase “Pinata Full of Bones” is far funnier than anything we got in the actual show.  But, well, here we are.  I’ve obtained the script by doing something I’d never confess to, and I’ve already confessed to watching all six episodes of The Trouble with Larry.

The table-draft script is dated July 14, 1993, about a month before the first episode actually aired.  The Trouble with Larry was cancelled before this thing even entered production.

It’s written by Charlie Kaufman, though, and while I’d love to say it’s hilarious, brilliant, or even moderately clever, it’s actually pretty awful.  It does have at least some of the hallmarks of a writer who knows he’s too good for the crap he’s writing.


This establishing shot might seem strange, but each episode of The Trouble with Larry opens with some odd stock footage that is supposed to tie into what’s happening in a very, very loose way.  For instance, a shot of the pyramids in the episode where it is kind of hot outside.  Or a shot of the Great Wall of China in the episode where the British guy has his car vandalized.

This represents the only time it ties directly into the plot, as Boyd is actually there with a guide named Anwar.

Anwar leads him into a pyramid and attempts to rob him, causing Boyd to fall backward in panic and knock part of a wall away.


Boyd has discovered the tomb of the mummified Akhmose Intankheb.  Anwar recognizes him as the “Child King of torment and calamity” and runs away.

Boyd decides to take the mummy home which is something you are allowed to do.

But uh-oh!


Back at home, Boyd sulks because Sally and Lindsay don’t give shit one about the mummy.  Instead, they are preoccupied with a celebrity chimp named Bobo, who has suffered an injury.


So far no sign of Larry, which is likely why this one never got made.  Anyway the family talks about how Boyd’s mummy is worthless but Bobo is rad.  Larry comes in with a welcome home card, which is something that exists I’m sure.  Inside he wrote a poem about how he shat so hard the toilets got plugged up and since then the family has been pissing and shitting in the sinks.

There is a neat moment when Larry starts telling stories about his time in Africa, and the family is more interested in those than in Boyd’s.  It’s a nice touch, and I’m realizing that this episode is tapping (however shallowly) into both Larry’s 10 years abroad and Boyd’s job as a museum curator.  Imagine that; a script that has something to do with the characters.

The phone rings and it’s a big break for Boyd.


Oh no!

Actually, nobody cares, Lindsay included.  They’re all perfectly happy to celebrate a day later.  In fact, Lindsay herself is happy because now Sally has tomorrow night free to “do the Bobo Telethon.”

Larry hears all of this, but still decides to have Lindsay’s birthday tomorrow.

There’s a scene in which Larry enlists Gabriella’s help, because of course he does.  Lindsay could have impacted bowels and it would be Larry and Gabriella pulling on the rubber gloves.

There’s nothing of note in this scene except that Gabriella warns Larry not to be naked on the couch again when she comes over.  Good shit.


I’d love to know more about the very complicated balloon animal Bronson was meant to be making, but Gabriella is here so he needs to talk only about fucking.

She leaves to pick up Lindsay and her friends so Larry can finish the decorating by himself.


Shit’s about to get real.

There’s a long scene I won’t bore you with in which the kids are all at Lindsay’s shitty party.  There’s a guy named Francis, the father of one of the kids, and he’s short so Larry spends several pages telling short jokes to him.  True Trouble-with-Larriacs will know that Larry already made fun of a short guy, but I guess after six episodes they were running low on ways to make fun of people’s appearances so they had to double up.


But fuck that, because this what we’re here to see!  Bring on that pinata full of bones, bitches!


And, uh, Kaufman doesn’t disappoint.


I challenge anyone to read that stage direction and not conclude this entire script was a fuck-you to the show in general.

It’s kind of wonderful.



Aw, nuts.  Poor Bronson never got to shoot the episode in which he’d play with Courteney Cox’s bare feet.

The concept here is that Larry is going to make a mold of Gabriella to replace the mummy, but something tells me this was Bronson’s idea of a plot development far more than it was Kaufman’s.

The party is over, obviously, and Lindsay alone is cleaning up the mess.


…I like every part of that.

Sally comes home and they all confess they fucked up and clubbed a mummy to pieces in the living room.  They get the idea to go to the hospital and bring Bobo home, in his full-body cast, to replace the mummy.


This leads to exactly what you’d expect.  The stage directions don’t specify, but I’m absolutely sure Bronson would have ended up dressed in some ridiculous costume doing a flimsy accent as he babbles barely serviceable medical puns.

Kaufman remembers he hates his job and has the nurse say this after Bronson’s bullshit monologue:


Which can literally only be a fuck-you and I know we’ve already had one in this episode but it still feels overdue.

The episode concludes in a remarkable way: by bringing the story to some kind of conclusion.

Boyd has reporters and stuff in his house and he’s about to unveil the mummy for all to see.  He tries to give some kind of self-aggrandizing speech but people tell him to just open the fucking crate already.


Everyone runs away because the mummy is going to kill them or something who knows.

Later on, we learn that everything worked out for the best, aside from the fact that the corpse of an Egyptian king was defiled in front of a room full of children who cried and shat themselves in horror.

And then, something incredible happens:


Kaufman remembered the premise of the show!  Well, a premise.  I’m genuinely amazed that the memoirs come into play here.

And that’s the end of the episode.  I can’t say I was enlightened in any way by “Pinata Full of Bones,” but it at least understood and leaned into its own absurdity.  Also, for a script about a fucking mummy it had a stronger, tighter internal logic than any of the more grounded episodes did.

Part of me was hoping “Pinata Full of Bones” would have shown us a version of The Trouble with Larry that worked.  One that could have run for several seasons with a clear creative voice.  It didn’t do that.  It comes closer than the actual episodes of the show do, yeah, but it still stops dead every few pages to let Bronson do a monologue, and I’m sure if it were shot we would have lost every funny joke to give Bronson more time to massage white stuff into Courteney Cox’s feet.

I almost feel bad watching Bronson in The Trouble with Larry.  He’s clearly trying so hard to elevate the awful material, and he fails spectacularly.  I’m willing to believe much of the awful material was his, but it almost doesn’t matter.  Somebody dreamed up this garbage, and Bronson threw himself into it.  It’s…kind of sad, really.

There’s no real reason Bronson couldn’t have ended up in a decent show after Perfect Strangers.  He could have even ended up in a great show.  Why he chose this show, and why this show let him run roughshod over it, I’ll never know.  I’d be hard pressed to think of a worse way to follow up success, but he dove right into it.

I suppose he must have wanted to strike while the iron was hot, which is wise, sure, but I refuse to believe this was the only offer he received.  Could it really have been the best of them?

Who knows.  At least now I finally know what The Trouble with Larry is about:

It’s about the worst thing I’ve seen in my life!  Bohhhhh ho ho hoho



If you’re sorry you just read 50,000 words on The Trouble With Larry, trust me, Philip J Reed is even sorrier to have written them. The GoFundMe to pay for the costs of his institutionalization will go live soon.

Also, if you thought I would start on the Perfect Strangers two-part series finale next week, HAHA BITCHES THIS IS BRONSONFEST 2019!!!

The Trouble with Larry, part 1

If you’ve made it through the past few weeks’ episodes, it’s a testament to how much we’ve all been desensitized to images of carnage and death in the media.

“The Baby Quiz” resembled nothing so much as the flaming wreck of an 80s sitcom called ALF, whose premise suffered at the hands of a creator unwilling to give up an ounce of control.

I decided it was best to call in ALF exterminator Philip J Reed for a couple weeks to help exorcise the ego of Bronson Pinchot from the utter massacre that was The Trouble with Larry. See you on the other side.


Three Glorious Weeks of The Trouble with Larry
By Philip J Reed,


The Trouble with Larry was a sitcom vehicle for Bronson Pinchot, his followup to eight seasons of Perfect Strangers.  While the latter hasn’t shared the enduring popular fondness of other TGIF sitcoms, such as Full House, Family Matters, or Boy Meets World, it certainly made an impression on its audience.  I was a member of that audience.

Perfect Strangers has fallen out of the cultural conversation, but during the time it ran I was far from alone in adoring it, in talking about it, in impersonating Balki with friends.  In truth, I liked Larry quite a lot more; he was perhaps my earliest exposure to a truly neurotic central character, and I could relate to that.  Perfect Strangers began when I was five years old and ended when I was twelve.  That was the entirety of my grade-school experience.  When the show ended, I moved on to middle school.  It represented, perfectly, a long and important stretch of my early development.

I grew up with it.  It was what I watched and one of my favorite shows as I started to understand who I was and how my mind worked.  Larry helped me, though in a clearly exaggerated sense, to understand my anxiety, and how letting it run unchecked would make me look to others.  Balki was the funny one, but Larry was the one I cared about.

I don’t mean to retroactively diminish Balki’s appeal.  We loved him.  He made funny faces and had a funny voice and did funny things.  I tuned in week after week to see what nonsense the cousins would get up to, and I even looked forward to reruns…something I honestly can’t say about many other shows.  Perfect Strangers didn’t get old.  Even if I knew how a story panned out, I could still enjoy the jokes a second time, and catch the ones I missed the first time through.  I’d watch Full House if I caught it in reruns as well, but it was never a show that rewarded rewatching; it was just something to fill half an hour.  Perfect Strangers got my attention as many times as I saw it.

I was aware that the show was ending, but I’m not sure I caught much of the final season.  I do remember that it aired in the summertime, which was odd; that was a time for reruns.  New episodes didn’t typically air until September, the same time school was back in session.  In the summer, I paid far less attention to television.  I had other things to do.  I’m pretty sure I missed most of the show’s final season, though I know I caught the finale.

All of this is to say that when The Trouble with Larry debuted, a mere three weeks after Perfect Strangers ended, I never managed to catch it.


I wasn’t disappointed.

Maybe if it had been Mark Linn-Baker who popped up in another show immediately, I’d have watched it.  Maybe not.  But Bronson Pinchot, as much as I did love Balki, didn’t excite me.  I saw commercials for it now and then, well before Perfect Strangers even ended, if I remember correctly.

It was coming.  I knew about it.  I’m sure I was told again and again when to tune in.  I’m sure I would have been able to do so had I cared.

But I didn’t.  And after only three episodes, CBS said, “That’s quite enough, thank you,” and ripped the show out of the schedule.  I don’t know what CBS replaced it with, but now that I’ve seen every episode of The Trouble with Larry, I’m positive that 30 minutes of loud static would have been better received.


The Trouble with Larry was intended to be part of CBS’s 1993 television season, but it debuted and died before that season technically began.

I’ll back up a bit.  My lack of excitement about The Trouble with Larry was likely due to one factor:  I didn’t know what in the name of shit it was about.  I had seen commercials, but nothing really helped me understand what it was supposed to be.  It was a comedy, Bronson Pinchot was in it, and…that’s about it, really.

Typically, sitcom premises are easily communicated.  This is by design.  Whatever may happen on a week-to-week basis, the overall concept needs to be quickly understood by viewers who are just dropping in to see if something makes them laugh.

Some examples: Seven people are stranded on an island after a freak storm.  A shaggy alien crash-lands on Earth and moves in with a family.  A progressive young woman and her new husband clash with her bigoted father and traditional mother.  A man with three boys marries a woman with three girls.  You can continue the list yourself, and probably pretty easily.  “Here’s what’s happening” needs to be so quickly and easily digested that someone can understand it in the space of a single commercial or theme song.

I didn’t know what The Trouble with Larry was about.  I don’t think anyone did.  The commercials featured a man looking up the word “trouble” to find a picture of Bronson, which then came to life and said, “You were expecting, maybe, X?” where X is Gandhi, Robert Stack, or Mother Teresa.  (They aired at least these three versions, and maybe more.  You know what they say; if your joke sucks dick, tell it three times to promote your new show!)


Going on no info from the commercials, I somehow assumed Bronson Pinchot played some kind of inventor.  Not a single episode is about him inventing things, so that goes to show just how clearly the show (or at least its marketing) articulated its premise.

It was also strange to me that Bronson Pinchot played a guy named Larry.  It seemed even then like a creative choice that could only confuse people.  Of every possible name in the history of humanity, Bronson’s character in his second show had to be named after the deuteragonist of his first?

I understand that the title is a riff on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1955), but even that’s not an excuse; they could have just as easily called Bronson’s character Barry, or Gary.

The confused marketing for the show stems, I think, from a confused production.

Initially greenlit, scripted, and shot as My First Husband, the show went through a few changes.  What are they?  At this stage, long after The Trouble with Larry has sunk without a trace and doesn’t even exist in the cultural memory as a punchline, it’s impossible to say.  But the original title along with some existing stills of a scene taking place in jail suggest notable rewrites before the first episode made it to television.


Here’s why that’s interesting to me.  My First Husband, as a title, suggests a different central character.  Both titles of course refer to Larry, but My First Husband suggests that the show was originally about the wife, Sally.  It’s not The First Husband, or Husband Larry.  It’s my first husband, and this is my story.

This is about as far from the finished product as possible, with Sally being the least important character.  She’s even listed dead last in the press release and in the opening credits, after her first husband, second husband, daughter, and sister.  Far from being her story, Sally is barely a background character in The Trouble with Larry.

Even the premise doesn’t lend itself well to Larry being the central character.  In maybe the only truly clever joke the show had, The Trouble with Larry’s wink to Hitchcock’s film goes deeper than its title.  The trouble with Harry was that he was dead.  The trouble with Larry is that he’s alive.

Sally and Larry get married in Africa at some point in the past, and immediately afterward Larry is mortally beaten by a pack of baboons.  (See why commercials might have had a difficult time making this sound like it was worth watching?)  Sally assumes Larry is dead, but he eventually recovers and returns to her to find that she’s started another family.

As the press release has it, Larry then “turns the lives of his wife and her new family upside-down with his tall tales, bizarre impersonations and madcap escapades.”  If this were Sally’s story, that could be fine; she has a new life that is intermittently interrupted by someone she thought was gone forever.  He can pop in, mess things up, sort things out, whatever, but basically he’d come and go as necessary, the way a force of chaos in entertainment must.

Making it Larry’s story, though, means the force of chaos is always at the center, which at best doesn’t lend itself to structure and at worst becomes tiresome and grating within minutes.  Guess where The Trouble with Larry lands on that spectrum.


My assumption is that My First Husband was pitched in one form to CBS, who purchased it.  It went through some amount of preproduction, maybe even started casting.  Bronson Pinchot was already in talks with CBS for a children’s show, now that Perfect Strangers was ending and he needed a new job.  Either CBS or Bronson puts two and two together:  he’s just finished eight seasons of a popular sitcom, and they have a new sitcom sitting around waiting to get made.  Sticking him in there benefits everyone.  CBS gets to market the show as the next project from a sitcom star, and Bronson gets to slip right into another regular gig.

Of course, it’s not that simple.  As we’ve seen, Bronson has been getting more and more of the spotlight on Perfect Strangers, literally always to its detriment.  Balki and Larry were costars, until Balki became the star.  Bronson got to improvise and create one-man spotlights that existed independently from any other character.  He wanted and was given the spotlight.

My First Husband likely didn’t have Larry in the spotlight.  He was intended to be an amusing character, but doesn’t seem to have been intended to be the central one.  He’d barge through the door when someone’s careful planning had to be upended, wreak his ostensibly funny mischief, and cast the family into disorder.  That was the role that would have suited the title, the premise, and the character.

But it wouldn’t have suited Bronson.  Whether it was him or CBS, someone insisted on the restructuring.  Sally’s story became Larry’s.  Bronson got the spotlight.  The show crushed its own flimsy premise.


It’s possible My First Husband would have been fantastic.  I wouldn’t bet on it, but who knows.  More than likely it would have been just like any number of bland family sitcoms with a wacky neighbor figure who just happened, this time, to have once been married to the main character.  Bronson could have worked well in that supporting role.  I suspect that was the arrangement in the original, unseen pilot, before adjustments were made, the show transformed into The Trouble with Larry, and the episode transformed into “The Homecoming.”

Instead, he flounders – like so many one-note Saturday Night Live characters the moment they’re given a movie – because Larry shouldn’t be driving every scene.  He should do his thing, say his catchphrase, and leave a Bronson-shaped cloud of dust as he zips away.

Andy, one of my best friends in grade school, loved Perfect Strangers as much as I did.  I know he watched the final season, as well.  And he watched The Trouble with Larry.  He didn’t like it.

There was one commercial for the show in which Bronson says, “Airbag underwear!”  Then he inflates his underpants.  I remember it running a lot, trying desperately to get people to watch.  Andy watched that episode, and I asked him if the airbag underwear was funny.  He said, “Not really.”

If funny underpants aren’t making a 12-year-old boy laugh, something has gone seriously wrong with your sitcom.  Already fascinated by terrible TV shows and movies, this made me want to watch The Trouble with Larry more than any commercial ever could, but, alas, it was already cancelled.

It’s only now, as an adult still fascinated by this bizarre footnote in sitcom history, that I can finally see what I missed.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at every episode of The Trouble with Larry that made it to air.  All fuckin’ three of ‘em.

If you hate yourself, you can watch along.

“The Homecoming,” August 25, 1993


This reworked, Bronson-centric version of episode one opens with stock footage of a ship and the loosest use of the word “starring” in history.

A good opening scene would establish the characters, the dynamic, and the setting at the very least.  Ideally it would also establish the show’s comic sensibilities, but since shows evolve over time, a pilot misfiring in that regard isn’t really a sign of failure.

Anyone who switched on The Trouble with Larry to see if the show would be worth watching is greeted with a strange, extended opening sequence set on a ship we’ll never return to with a character we’ll never see again.  This is a technique that can be employed by shows that do it with a purpose, such as the pilot episodes of Red Dwarf and Futurama, but here, as you might guess, it’s done solely to give Bronson an extended spotlight.

We haven’t met a single recurring character other than Larry yet, and already all attention is taken away from them.  See why the “my” in My First Husband didn’t fit anymore?


Bronson even gets a canned audience response the first time we see his face.  Who else is in this show?  Doesn’t matter.  What’s it about?  Doesn’t matter.  What’s even the basic setup?  Doesn’t matter; look, everyone!  It’s Bronson Pinchot!

I do know that at least one episode (the original pilot of My First Husband) was filmed before an actual studio audience.  Maybe the rest did, too, but the enthusiastic whooping we hear when we first see Bronson is clearly pre-recorded.  It fades in and back out like somebody turning the volume knob on a speaker.

Okay, fine, point made.  Surely once the characters start talking we’ll get somewhere, right?

Haha wrong ass hole

Larry spends the first four minutes of a twenty-three minute episode spitting fat jokes at the ship’s captain, played by character actor Marianne Muellerleile.  That is the first impression The Trouble with Larry went with.  If the jokes were funny, maybe viewers at home would have still been amused through their confusion about what they were watching, but they really aren’t funny.  At all.  And so we open with Bronson’s one-man “Yo Mama” act, exhausting a whopping seventeen percent of the episode’s runtime.

Holy mother of shit.

The entire conversation is the captain delivering a series of disconnected setups so that Bronson can get punchlines.

Q: There aren’t many women sea captains, sailor.  Do you know why?
A: You ate them all!

Q: Do you know what this world lost the day I stepped on this ship?
A: About eight feet of beach!

This isn’t sitcom writing.  This is a 25-cent junior joke book.

After a joke about her being fat, a joke about her being fat, a joke about her being fat, a joke about her being fat, and a joke about her being fat, Larry explains the premise of the show.  It takes him so long to explain what the fuck this dumbass show is about that you can’t help but wonder why they’re wasting all this time on a fucking ship if there’s that much story to tell.


To condense it, Larry is on a ship from Africa to New York.  He married Sally 10 years ago at Victoria Falls, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.  The two are ambushed after the ceremony by a pack of crazed monkeys, the males of which drag Larry away, force him to wear a banana-skin wig, and, Larry humorously suggests, violently rape him for hours on end.

Sally, I guess, doesn’t bother looking for him very hard or file any kind of missing-persons report, making her the most relatable character on the show already.  She goes home and Larry, I guess, just sits on his ass eating giraffe meat for a full fucking decade, making no attempt whatsoever to return to his home country.

Then, a month before this interminable opening scene – yes, the setup is still being unwound – Larry meets a “Serengeti nomad” who has a piece of a newspaper in his shoe, and on that newspaper is a photograph of Sally.  It turns out that she owns an art gallery in Syracuse, and she wasn’t sexually violated until death by baboons as he suspected she was.

So the captain brought a crew to Africa for whatever fucking reason and Jesus Christ almighty I swear this is all just still backstory my god.

The scene ends with Larry kissing the fat woman, because it’s funny when fat women get kissed.

And that was the world’s first impression of The Trouble with Larry.  What have we learned about our protagonist?  Well, that he never shuts up and dislikes fat people.  Aren’t you glad you followed Bronson to CBS?


After the commercial break, Larry walks into the art gallery and kisses a pre-Friends Courteney Cox, who looks nothing like Shanna Reed who plays Sally, because he assumes she’s Sally.  The audience laughs because he thought he was kissing Sally, who neither we nor they have seen yet, but it wasn’t Sally.  Ha ha

There’s a lot we could talk about here, but there’s one thing in particular I can’t get over.  There’s nothing wrong with beginning the show with Larry returning, in whatever capacity, to America.  We are absolutely allowed to skip over his journey.  But we didn’t skip over all of his journey.  There was certainly plenty of story to be told in the ten years between Larry rinsing blood and monkey cum out of his anus and returning TEN YEARS LATER to his home country, but the one part they showed us was the four minutes he spent telling a fat lady that she’s unfuckable.

What the actual hell is this show?


Anyway, this scene is four minutes of Larry telling an attractive lady that she’s fuckable.

He tells Courteney Cox that he’s actively picturing her getting her brains fucked out by lucky men, and also mud wrestling, and, you know, accidentally kissing her is one thing, but it’s probably worth remembering that he spent six fucking weeks at sea just because he saw his wife’s picture in a newspaper, and now that he sees a pretty girl he’s immediately trying to drill her IN THE GALLERY THAT HE KNOWS HIS WIFE OWNS.

After she says no I do not want you to ejaculate into me onto me or around me he walks over to some piece of art or something and does whatever the fuck this is.


Admittedly, maybe I can’t tell what’s going on because of the recording quality.  The Trouble with Larry was shot with one of those Flintstones cameras, where the little green bird inside drew what it saw on a wet napkin.

Eventually, after he makes multiple references to his name being Larry, the ten years he’s just spent in Africa, and the fact that he’s looking for his wife Sally, Courteney Cox figures out that he is Larry, the man who married her sister Sally ten years ago in Africa!

Typing it out like that, it could have been a decent joke that it took her so long to put the pieces together, but it’s not a joke at all.  I know because jokes in this show are limited to Bronson singing Puccini and Bronson talking about sitting on his testicles.


So, yeah, this is Sally’s little sister Gabriella.  He doesn’t feel foolish and she doesn’t feel repulsed by the fact that this asshole just spent his first few minutes back in his home country trying to fuck his wife’s sister.

Again, the actual premise of the show – according to the fucking thing’s own press release – has yet to be established.  We’re a third of the way into the episode before we even meet the rest of the main characters, let alone watch Larry turn their lives upside-down.  Instead we’ve been given two Bronson monologues, one about how he’d never stick his dick into someone, and the other about how much he’d love to stick his dick into whatever part of someone he could reach.

Folks tuning in to see what The Trouble with Larry is like still don’t know.


We see Sally and her new family in their living room, and get a sense of exactly the kinds of lives Larry will turn upside-down.  For instance, Sally is…a person, I guess?  Her husband Boyd wears glasses.  Their daughter Lindsay is…young.  Such a powder keg, waiting for Larry’s spark!

The family talks about going on vacation, but they don’t think they can afford it.  Sally evidently borrowed a lot of money to set up her art gallery, and now a really mean guy is going to shut the place down just because she didn’t repay any of it.  It’s…kind of her own fault, but it’s supposed to register as conflict, I assume.

It’s also, I feel obligated to add, not the fucking premise of the show, which means we are approaching the halfway mark and still haven’t seen The Trouble with Larry’s central conceit.  It’s almost impressive how little interest this show has in itself.

It’s no spoiler to tell you that these characters suck dick, but forgive me if I gloss over Sally, Boyd, and Lindsay for now.  I’ll discuss what little there is to say about their personalities in the next episodes.


Anyway, Gabriella shows up at the house with Larry in tow.  Larry tears into the living room, says, “Sorry I’m late!” and sits down, reading a magazine or something he picks up off the table.

Look at how he’s turned their lives upside-down.  A minute ago, Lindsay was sitting in that chair!

Boyd faints.  I have no idea why.  He’s never met Larry before, but he recognizes him more quickly than Gabriella did?

Anyway, that’s our act break.  Hilarious.  I never thought I’d live to see the day Bronson sits down and reads something.  My aching sides.


They go over the situation again after the break, because the elevator pitch for The Trouble with Larry would only work during a power failure.  Sally tells him that after she watched the monkeys rape him she moved back to Utah and then to Syracuse and met Boyd on the plane and married him three weeks later and together they had Lindsay and Boyd is a curator at the museum and fucking lord above how much backstory does a Bronson Pinchot show need?

Larry weeps because the woman he loved so much he didn’t try to search for, ask about, or contact her for ten years has started fresh without him.  Then he stops weeping and asks Sally if she’d mind if he fucked her sister.

Man, he really turned their lives upside-down.  Upon learning that Sally started a new family, he declared that he had no interest in interfering with it.


In the next scene it’s three o’clock in the morning, and Sally and Boyd can’t sleep because Larry is using a typewriter in some other room.  They say Larry’s name three times, causing him to appear and put his bare feet on their kitchen table, making sure they’re visible in every shot.  If you doubted that Bronson had undue creative control in The Trouble with Larry, here’s your evidence you were wrong.


He eats Boyd’s food and uses Boyd’s napkin.  Then he says that he’s been typing for six hours and hasn’t gotten any further than the title:  Larry’s Africa.  He then reveals that he put his dirty socks in Boyd’s water pitcher.  He sure turned their lives upside-down.  Now they have to drive to Dollar Tree for another one.


Larry slowly pulls the wet socks over his feet while he makes orgasm noises and orgasm faces.


Larry says he put his underwear in the butter compartment so Boyd spits out the butter he was eating and there’s a ding and Larry goes to a toaster oven or something and takes his pants out of it and slowly pulls them on with more orgasm sounds and then he says, “Hot dog and baked beans,” and anyone who tuned in to see what The Trouble with Larry was like is already long gone, I assure you.


Larry dances.

Boyd leaves and Sally tells Larry that Lindsay is actually his kid, but he shouldn’t tell anyone.  He says fine, who gives a shit anyway.

The next day, the writers remember they still need to tell a story, so we see the art gallery stuff getting hauled off by people in boiler suits.  We meet the guy we’re supposed to see as a villain because Sally defaulted on her loan and he’s here to collect the collateral that is now legally his.


Larry comes in dressed as a waiter at Oktoberfest for no reason.  He also has fake facial hair for no reason and speaks in a shitty German accent for no reason.

Why?  He’s been presumed dead for 10 years and has never met this guy before.  Why does he need any kind of disguise?  He could just say, “I’m Peter McGoo” or whatever and this guy would have no reason to doubt him.  Shit, he can just give his real name.  What’s even going on here?

Well, what’s going on is that Bronson is getting yet another spotlight at the expense of the show.  He makes fun of a fat lady, he tries to fuck his wife’s sister, he produces foot fetish pornography in the kitchen, and now he’s doing voices.  None of these things have advanced to plot, informed character, or established tone.  They’re just things that eat up minutes on end while the other characters sit quietly in the background.


He slaps the banker guy with some gloves and then he wraps his arms and legs around him and then he lets go and makes fun of Boyd and then he wraps his arms and legs around the banker guy again, speaking effeminate quasi-German gibberish the entire time.


He puts sauerkraut down the guy’s shirt and fucks up his hair and gives him moose ears and Jesus I am actually starting to wish the foot pornography went on longer.


The banker guy leaves because he thinks Larry owns the deli next door or some shit.  I don’t know.  I’m assuming Larry said something to that effect, but Bronson was more concerned with his funny voice than he was about enunciating so I’ll have to take the banker’s word for it.

The banker leaves and Larry says the art gallery is saved, because the banker won’t want to repossess it?  I don’t fucking know.  Wouldn’t he keep all the art he hauled off as payment anyway?  And so what if Larry owns the deli next door?  I get that the point of this whole performance is to appear as annoying as possible so that nobody would want to own the property next to him, but why would this guy care?  He could just sell the retail space to someone outright rather than lease it and never worry about it again.

Oh, who cares.  Larry saved the day (that’s a funny way of turning their lives upside-down, no?) and they all hug.  Larry grabs Gabriella by the hips and positions the tip of his penis so that it’s at most four layers of fabric away from her rectum.  She tries to push him off but he refuses to let go and the whole family watches him pretend to buttfuck Aunt Gabby against her will.


Sally agrees to let Larry live with them until he finishes his memoirs.  So I guess the show is actually about Larry writing?  Is he striking anyone at all as an author?  He’s striking me more as the guy nobody wants to sit next to on the subway.  Whatever.  It’s one more thing the show’s about, I guess, because we don’t have a scattered enough focus as it is.

The episode ends with everyone leaving the room apart from Larry and Lindsay.  She says something he said earlier in the episode (“Cute, and almost funny.”) and Bronson acts like he’s having some kind of epiphany before he says, “She’s mine!”  It feels like a leftover from an earlier version of the script that didn’t, you know, make the fact that she’s his daughter explicit in a previous scene.


People who tuned in to see what The Trouble with Larry was like never came back.

“The Vigilantes,” September 1, 1993


I’ve already written more about The Trouble with Larry than any other human being has or ever will, and I’ve still got two episodes left.  Anyway, Bronson’s website (by default the largest and most thorough The Trouble with Larry fansite on the internet) has this episode listed third.  In fact, the episode sequence on his site is different from the one I’ve seen everywhere else, so I don’t know if he’s going by production order or an original intended airing order that got reshuffled.  It doesn’t matter, I promise you, but in case you’re following along and you click on episode two to find yourself in a heap of shit that sounds somewhat different than the heap of shit I’m describing, that’s why.

This episode opens with, like, two seconds of stock footage from the Running of the Bulls.  It turns out Larry is describing his experience with a Russian hooker, though, and I guess Sally and Boyd were only imagining he was talking about bulls?  Who gives a shit.

Anyway, there’s a bird in the kitchen this week.  It says, “Shut up stupid,” and squawks.  I think the bird is supposed to be saying it to Boyd, but I can’t tell.  Sally says the bird misses her mother.  I DO NOT CARE ABOUT THIS BIRD.


Larry lays on the table feeding himself grapes and he talks about the time he ate a parrot.  If this show is about him turning the family’s lives upside-down, he’s sure taking his sweet ass time.  The first episode suggested that the main thrust of the show could also have to do with him secretly being Lindsay’s dad or with him writing his memoirs, but something tells me it’s just going to be Bronson with a funny costume and half-assed accent every week.

Suddenly remembering who he is, Bronson sits in a chair and props his feet up for the camera man to enjoy.


This show is basically “The family has a conversation while Larry sits near them and spouts non sequiturs,” broken up by Bronson’s vaudeville routines.

What’s the family talking about?  It doesn’t matter.  Nothing matters.  I’m not even sure why Larry had to spend 10 years stranded in Africa if it hasn’t affected his behavior or familiarity with American culture.  That belabored piece of backstory exists literally only so Larry can periodically say shit like “I ate a parrot.”  Man, if only someone had thought to put Bronson in a sitcom about culture clash.

Boyd realizes there’s supposed to be a plot in shows like this, so he scans the newspaper for ideas.  He sees that there was a burglary in the neighborhood.  This somehow leads to Larry explaining he hooked up a Clapper to the bird cage for some reason, and he claps to prove it for some reason, and the bird cage opens and the bird flies out the back door which was open for some reason, and Larry says it’s hunting season and we hear a bunch of people shoot at it for some reason, even though it’s a fucking dove or something and not a game bird and people don’t fucking hunt in neighborhood yards.


In the next scene the bird is fine, so I bet you’re really happy we went on that little adventure.  Larry has turned the family’s lives upside-down by joining them for a game of Trivial Pursuit.  He makes a joke about two mailmen having sex with each other.  Then he makes a joke about Boyd being bad at sex.  Then he makes a joke about ordering a woman from the Franklin Mint and pretends to orgasm while he gropes her.


You’re probably noticing how raunchy the humor is in this show.  It’s pretty strange to me that Bronson insisted that both of the main characters in Perfect Strangers were virgins, but here he can’t stop talking about fucking.


Gabriella comes over to announce that her house has been robbed.  Sally sends Lindsay out of the room to get Aunt Gabby some water, and when Lindsay comes back she says she’s sad because her bike was at Aunt Gabby’s house so it’s gone now.  It’s a weird bit of business to send the only character who has something to contribute to this conversation out of the room just to have her walk back in and say her line.

In any other show, this would be where the plot ramps up.  In The Trouble with Larry, it’s a Bronson monologue.  The other four people in the room sit quietly, blinking, while he recites each line with the cadence of a joke.  The audience laughs after each one, the other characters still say nothing, and then Bronson begins his delivery over with the next line.  It’s really bizarre.  It’s one long story, but it doesn’t build.  It’s like each sentence is its own little story, and it never fucking stops.

You know, all we could afford when I was a kid was a bike with no wheels.  I carried that bike everywhere.  It really slowed me down on my paper route.  I was devastated when it was stolen, along with my bagpipes.  Which were a birthday present the year my parents found out I had asthma.  They held my birthday party at the top of the Statue of Liberty.  The climb almost killed me.  But I could see right down her top from up there.

That is a long-ass time for a family dealing with a break in—when they haven’t even called the police yet—to do nothing while someone layers shitty jokes on top of shitty jokes.

If you read that sequence and came up with some comedians who could successfully deliver that story, getting bigger laughs with each line, great.  You’re right.  There are and were and will be plenty of people who can get successful comic mileage out of that.

Now remind yourself that it was actually delivered by Bronson Pinchot.


Lindsay is a pretty shitty actor so irritation is pretty much all I feel when we cut to a closeup of her making a sad face and saying to tell the police the bike is pink.  She’s trying to sound like she’s crying but she sounds more like she’s faking illness to stay home from school and watch game shows.

There’s a whole boring scene establishing that Gabriella is going to be staying at the house but her room is near Larry’s so she borrowed a chair from Lindsay so that she could wedge her bedroom door shut so Larry can’t sneak in and cum in her hair while she sleeps and what the actual fuck is this show.


What the actual fuck is this show.

Larry and Boyd decide to patrol the streets or something, which means they also have to dress like this for sitcom purposes.  Sally tells them they look like The Village People, which is a well-chosen reference as The Village People indeed consisted of two guys dressed like soldiers.  It’s followed by an even less logical joke.  Larry says, “We lay down our lives and you mock us?  We could well be killed.  Then we’d be mock-us well-be!”

For those of you who don’t know, that’s a reference to the title character of Marcus Welby, M.D., who was neither dead nor a soldier.  Like, wordplay only works when it actually refers to something, right?  You can’t just say something that sounds sort of like something else and call it a day, can you?  Is comedy writing really that easy?

Here’s my great Trouble with Larry joke:  The Abominable Showman.  Get it?  Because it almost sounds like The Abominable Snowman but it’s a little different.  Is that a joke?  Who laughs at this shit?  For bonus points, pretend I said it not about a snowman or a showman but about a gardener or something.

Some family friend calls and says the art gallery is being robbed.  I, too, would call Sally at home instead of the police.

Larry and Gabriella go check it out, instead of the woman who owns the art gallery and her husband, and still nobody thinks to call the fucking police instead.  Larry makes a joke about holding Gabriella down and fucking her.


We cut to the art gallery where the robbery is in progress.  Hopefully all this shit was still boxed up from the landlord last week.

One of the robbers is Marianne Muellerleile, that fat lady from the ship in the previous episode, but she’s playing a different character here.  Wonderful.  I was afraid they’d used up all their fat jokes.

The burglars already caught Larry and Gabriella by the time we get here, and they’re tied up back to back.


We get the same shitty call-and-response yo mama dialogue we got last week.

Q:  Anything I can do for you before I throw you both in the lake?
A:  Could you show me the first spot where Neil Armstrong first stepped on you!

For some reason Bronson trips over the line and places undue emphasis on the word “first.”  It’s that perfect storm of bad writing and worse performance that really gives The Trouble with Larry its charm.


The fat lady slaps him and leaves, I guess.  Larry lays his face on Gabriella’s and then tricks her into grinding against him as part of their escape and then tears her bra off.  I’m not joking.  It honestly feels like I’m watching Bronson Pinchot slash fiction as written by Bronson Pinchot.


Larry unties himself somehow but instead of untying Gabriella he squirms on top of her, tickles her, and forces her to sit on his lap while she tells him to stop and struggles to get away.


Then the fat lady comes back in and that qualifies as a genuine relief.

Larry attempts to seduce her.  This episode was called “The Vigilantes” for fuck’s sake.  Do some vigilante stuff!  Why is this just Bronson’s Dry-Hump Daydream Fiesta?


Larry says, “Oreos,” and the fat lady cums.


Sally and Boyd get to cameo on the show that was so nearly about them when Larry convinces the fat lady he wants to join her gang of bandits or whatever my god this show.  They go to the house to rob the family.  We are three robberies deep and still nobody has called a single cop.

Bronson does a long monologue in a loose Southern accent for no reason.  He’s talking about how he loves being a thief or some shit.


I get that Larry is only pretending to be evil, but he’s sure taking his sweet time catching the fucking crook.  And he’s actively smashing the family’s stuff while he does this little routine so who knows.

This is the longest 24 minutes of my life.  And I really hate to belabor the point, but we’re at the end of episode two and do we have any idea what this show is supposed to be yet?


END you piece of shit show for fuck’s sake

Larry tricks the fat lady into clapping and the door opens and knocks her unconscious because Larry put the Clapper on it.  Boyd and Sally make him explain all of this because even the characters in this show don’t know what’s going on anymore.


At the very end Larry gives Lindsay her bike back and claps and the Clapper makes the toilet seat fall on Boyd’s penis.

“My Science Fair Lady,” September 8, 1993


Well, this is the final episode that aired so I guess I’ll at last get to see what all that “airbag underwear” fuss was about.

In total honesty, I’d guess The Trouble with Larry’s fate was already sealed the previous week.  The fact that a third episode aired is likely less due to CBS giving it another week to find an audience than the fact that the network needed another week to find a replacement.  It’s very common for a show to take a few episodes to find its groove, but very rare for a show to begin so far from any potential groove as The Trouble with Larry did.

This one begins with Larry in the kitchen with Lindsay.  He’s telling her a story about rafting, and if you wondered if this show would explore his relationship with the daughter he just learned he had, you’re set quickly straight by his deserting her mid-story to go try to fuck her aunt.


Bronson gets on the table to ensure the last remaining dregs of the show’s audience get a good look at his bare feet.

Lindsay mentions something about a science fair before leaving the room.  Nobody cares, within the show or without.


Gabriella wants cream cheese so Larry goes to the fridge and brings her a petri dish.  They’re both fucking idiots so she eats the contents of the petri dish.


Oh no the science fair thing is the plot of the episode!  Gabriella ate all of Lindsay’s foot fungus.

Lindsay sulks and Gabriella barfs.


Larry has a box full of moldy avocadoes for reasons he never explains.  Okay.  Lindsay says there’s not enough mold.  I don’t give a shit.

Sally and Boyd pop into the room briefly to remind everyone—themselves included—that they are in this show.

Further evidence that My First Husband was significantly retooled is, well, the existence of Sally and Boyd at all.  The only dynamic (and it’s the least dynamic dynamic I’ve ever seen) we’ve explored at all has been between Larry and Gabriella.  Lindsay is an understandable addition to the cast (and potential anchor for keeping Larry in America) but Sally and Boyd can’t possibly exist for any reason except that they were cast when the show was something very different.

Any writer putting The Trouble with Larry together without an existing framework would have made Gabriella his ex-wife or lost love or whatever, and Lindsay her (and possibly his) daughter.  Sally and Boyd don’t have a place in this show.  They’re frequently off camera entirely, even when Larry and Gabriella are in their art gallery or their home.  They serve no purpose, pose no threat, and represent no complication.  Larry—who spent the past decade masturbating to his memories of Sally—hasn’t given shit one about her since he returned, and while he and Boyd dislike each other, Larry’s complete lack of connection to or interest in Sally means neither of them actually have a reason to interact.

It’s massively inefficient and a complete waste of two actors’ salaries, especially Shanna Reed (4.02 out of 5 on wikifeet based on a total of 18 votes), who was almost certainly cast in a version of this show that was about her.


Boyd and Sally wish Lindsay luck at the science fair and make it clear that they hope she wins.  Which, duh, she’s their fucking daughter; I don’t think pride in her accomplishments needs to be verbally established.

Neither Larry nor Lindsay think to mention that the project is ruined and help with a replacement would be appreciated.

Of course, now that there’s a plot to be resolved, they are shuffled off screen so that Larry and Gabriella can resolve it without them.


Bronson picks up Courteney Cox (4.94 out of 5 on wikifeet based on a total of 2,573 votes) and steals his own joke from the “Seven Card Studs” episode of Perfect Strangers.  Gabriella says, “Put me down!” and Larry replies, “Okay, I’ve seen bigger butts in ash trays!”

And, honestly, I think that’s the trouble with Larry right there.  When Balki responded to the same request in a similar way, it made sense.  Balki is from Mypos, has a loose (at best) grasp of English idioms, and often doesn’t know when things should be taken figuratively as opposed to literally…or literally as opposed to figuratively in this instance.

Fine.  Like it or not, the joke makes sense and stems from who Balki is.

Who is Larry?  He knows what Gabriella means; he’s not misunderstanding anything.  So I guess he’s just some guy who tells jokes sometimes.  And that’s fine, but the jokes are never especially funny.  Balki’s putdown doesn’t have to be funny, because it’s the fact that he responds that way at all that’s humorous.  The content of his putdown is irrelevant; we’re laughing at his misunderstanding.

In this case, the content of the putdown needs to be funny, because that’s the only layer to the comedy.  But it isn’t funny.  It feels like a placeholder line, to be replaced when the writers come up with something (anything…) better, but it ends the scene as though it’s a huge punchline.

If you didn’t know anything about Perfect Strangers, the simple fact that Balki has a thick accent would give you an idea of the concept when you saw a commercial.  Whatever he is, Balki isn’t American.  The curly-haired guy next to him is.  Before you even get to a joke, you understand the kind of conflict that the show might explore.

I didn’t know what the hell to expect from The Trouble with Larry, because nothing the character says or does provides any illumination of who he is.  It’s just Bronson flailing around and talking in silly voices.

I’m positive I’ve done a poor job of explaining just how exhausting it is to watch him in this show, because it can’t really be explained.  It needs to be experienced.  Screengrabs can never show how often he flings himself around the room or over the furniture in the middle of a sentence.  Transcripts can never convey how upsettingly poor his vocal performance is.  He fancies himself to be something like a cross between Jim Carrey and Woody Woodpecker, with just a hint of Robin Williams, but it’s almost sad to watch, because he’s actually only Bronson Pinchot.


Larry and Gabriella go to Lindsay’s school, where they bump into her briefly.  Yes, this should be her story, but the writers couldn’t think of any jokes for Alex McKenna (4.97 out of 5 on wikifeet based on a total of 77 votes) so she leaves her own classroom to let Bronson have the spotlight.

He pleads with the teacher for clemency by making fun of him for being bald over and over and over again.  It’s basically the same thing we had with the Marianne Muellerleile (2.75 out of 5 on wikifeet based on a total of 16 votes) scenes, right down to the fact that he says almost nothing aside from joke-book setups for Bronson to respond to.

Q:  What do I look like to you?
A:  A large roll-on deodorant with arms!

If The Trouble with Larry makes anything crystal clear, it’s that Bronson absolutely needed someone like Mark Linn-Baker to bounce off of.  For whatever reason, he respected Mark.  Maybe it came naturally, maybe Mark earned it.  I have no insight there, and that’s okay.

What I do know is that Mark both kept pace with Bronson and throttled him when necessary.  He rose to Bronson’s lunacy and then sobered him up.  It’s telling that the same things we’re seeing sink The Trouble with Larry—the extended Bronson spotlights at the expense of other characters and story—are what sunk the final season of Perfect Strangers.  Mark, for whatever reason, was no longer in his way.  Left to his own devices…this is what we get.


Larry calls the guy bald about 20 more times.  Then he puts his finger in his ear.

At midnight (because now it is midnight) Larry takes Gabriella and Lindsay to a bus terminal so he can make a face.


He says that mold grows in the most disgusting conditions, but they don’t have time to get Jerry Lewis’s pocket comb.  Trust me, I wish I didn’t share that joke with you either, but I mention it because the name “Jerry Lewis” is spoken at a different volume than the rest of the sentence and doesn’t match Bronson’s beautiful lips, meaning it was clearly an ADR.  I wonder what the original celebrity name was.  Hopefully it was one known for being in any way unhygienic, otherwise I’ll have to start doubting The Trouble with Larry’s comedic chops.


Bronson dresses as a giant booger and buttfucks Gabriella.


Sally comes into the kitchen to find Larry with a bunch of shit spread all around.  He tells her that Lindsay stayed up late trying to figure out a new science fair project, and it’s pretty strange to me that Larry knows this, but Sally doesn’t.  Is bed time on a school night just handled on the honor system around here?  Who the hell goes to bed without putting the kids to bed first?  Does she just let her kid dick around in the kitchen all night unsupervised?  It’s almost like this character doesn’t have a place in this version of the show.

Larry reminds Sally that he’s Lindsay’s real father, reinforcing the fact that Boyd doesn’t have a place in this version of the show, either.  Then Boyd comes in and Bronson puts his head in a microwave.


The next day at the science fair, Lindsay has a shitty baking soda volcano.  She makes it erupt and the audience laughs for some reason.  Then some bratty kid in her class shows her his project on Africa.


Oh, hey, look, it’s something Larry could have helped her do if he hadn’t spent all his time chasing people around in a booger costume.

The teacher comes around and gives the Africa kid the grand prize, so Sally gets all pissy and yells at him.


I mean, okay.  The Africa kid is the teacher’s son, which could obviously signify a violation of ethics, but the kid actually did a project whereas Lindsay slapped together the most basic bullshit imaginable, so you really need to pick your battles, lady.  I’m not related to either of these kids (as far as I know) and I’d have given him the trophy, too.

A better version of this story would have had Lindsay and Larry staying up all night to create a new project, which actually was something good and something the whole family was proud of, but then the teacher gives his son the award for something that’s clearly less impressive.

This version of the story has…












Larry acts like a robot for four fucking minutes.  He’s trying to pretend Lindsay built him out of household shit, and he’s doing an Arnold Schwarzenegger impression that keeps drifting into his gay deli owner voice from episode one and holy god is it impossible to convey just how painful this is to watch.

This is the big money shot the episode was building toward.  It’s not an effective bonding sequence between Larry and Lindsay.  It’s not this motherfucker working on his memoirs.  It’s not the family banding together to help Lindsay out.  Instead, it’s Bronson painted silver with dryer duct on his arms.

He points out that the Africa project is inaccurate which makes the teacher run away crying and then he leans on Lindsay’s baking soda volcano which causes part of his costume to explode and then Larry spits out popcorn.


Fuck you, that’s the end.


Back at the house Larry says, “Airbag underwear!” and pulls a string and that happens.

Oh, right.  I forgot about that.  The one thing the commercials thought was worth showing is literally in the last 30 seconds of the episode and has nothing to do with the rest of it.  I almost wish I had tuned in to watch this fucking thing just so I could spend another twelve paragraphs reliving the anger I would have felt.

Anyway, that’s it.  That is the last anyone ever saw of The Trouble with Larry.

I admit, three episodes isn’t all that much.  Maybe The Trouble with Larry needed a few more to find its voice.  Maybe it needed some extra stories to flesh out its characters.  Maybe it’s been secretly brilliant all along but never got to build to what an audience needed to see in order to understand it.

Sadly, we’ll never know.

Until next week, when we’ll take a look at the three unaired episodes and one completely unproduced one.

The nightmare is only just beginning, assholes!


The nightmare is only j… oh. *ahem*

Join us next week when Philip J Reed exhumes the remainder of the corpses from this tomb!

Sharon and Piper watch Perfect Strangers

Reader and Perfect Strangers fan Sharon wrote to me and made an offer I couldn’t refuse: not having to watch this show this week.  Sharon has been watching Perfect Strangers with her daughter, Piper, and I’m proud to present their thoughts on the journey here. See you at the end!

(I’m keeping their last name private lest you call child protective services.)



I stumbled upon Casey’s blog while looking for more information about Perfect Strangers, a show which I have been watching with my 10 year old daughter Piper. It took me a little bit of time to figure out the rhythm of his blog posts. Sarcasm, got it. Repeated catchphrases, of course. Homosexual references—okay, Casey, whatever. Sometimes two men living together is just two men living together. Even if they did make that cringe-worthy “Mama told me never to do the Dance of Joy alone or I’ll go blind” joke in “This Old House.” And now that he points out all these moments, I can’t un-see it. Thanks a lot, Casey.


I was such a fan of the show when I was a kid that I had a Bronson Pinchot poster back in the 1980s. He’s wearing a vest. He’s holding a white dove. (I imagine Casey will make some sort of metaphor or psychoanalysis about this.)


Teenage me had a thing for Bronson Pinchot, is what I’m saying. Other favorite TV shows of my youth include The Monkees, and Friday the 13th: The Series. Make of that what you will.


Anyhoo, I thought I could offer a perspective on the show from the point of view of someone who is female, an original fan of the show, and watching it with a 10 year old. My daughter Piper watches a lot of TV. Probably too much TV, but it’s hard for me to put my foot down when I know damn well I spent my youth doing algebra homework while watching Ducktales. Some of her favorite shows are the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon live action shows, like Bizaardvark (about two girls who create funny web videos), The Thundermans (a family who are secretly superheroes), and Henry Danger (also about a guy who is secretly a superhero, and his sidekick.)

I started watching Perfect Strangers from the very beginning. I remember watching a preview of the show on an entertainment program, and they showed the clip of Balki in his Spider-Man pajamas, with Cousin Larry asking, “What are those?” and Balki answering “These my Spider-man Pajamas,” and I thought, “THIS is a show for me!”


I received the DVD of the first two seasons of Perfect Strangers as a Christmas present from my husband, who knows me well. At the time the first two seasons were all that was available. I watched, I was transported to a simpler time, when sitcoms had a heart and schmaltz was OK and we were in the pre-Seinfeld “No Hugging, No Learning” ethos of the cynical 1990s. The good old days. I really appreciated how, in the beginning, it wasn’t always that Larry was right, and Balki was wrong, or vice versa—the two of them seemed to balance each other out and learn lessons from one another. Neat. And because I like sharing the things that I love with my children, and because I figured this one would be appropriate to share with a 10 year old (unlike Friday the 13th: The Series, which she actually already watched when I was home on maternity leave with her), I started watching Perfect Strangers with Piper.


I thought the physical comedy in “Hunks Like Us” was fantastic. In my youth I liked Balki, because kids are supposed to like Balki. Now that I’m an adult I really appreciate Mark Linn-Baker. It’s hard to be the second banana. Of course a second banana’s career also lasts a lot longer.

I was bummed that for a long time we only had access to the first two seasons. In my memory, season 3’s “Pipe Dreams” was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. (Tangent: Friday the 13th: The Series also has an episode entitled “Pipe Dreams.” It’s, well, decidedly different.)  I liked how as the show progressed, it seemed to get more self-aware. “I have—” “Oh God” “a plan.” and “Is this the part where you talk down to me?”


And then I found out that Hulu was acquiring TGIF shows, including my beloved Perfect Strangers! Now, we are so happy, we do the dance of joy! Di di di didi di did di….


So, we settled in to watch the remaining seasons. Right now we’re done with season 5, and my daughter and I have—some thoughts.

For one thing, how did Balki learn to speak English? Mypos obviously has its own language, but Balki came to America with a pretty good grasp of the English language. Is English a subject in Myposian schools? Correspondence course? Itinerant ESL instructor? Well-meaning college students on voluntourism trips?

In about season 3, the plots got fairly weak. “You know this is going to get worse,” I told my kid. In the middle of “Dog Day Mid-Afternoon,” I asked, did Balki get dumber?


I started to realize that somewhere along the way, in my own youth, I gave up on Perfect Strangers.  The last episode I remember watching is the one where Larry proposes, and I had genuine feels for Larry at the time. I wanted him to win, and get the girl, even though Jennifer is so clearly out of his league. Larry’s happy, show ends. Right?


Wait, there’s two more seasons after that?

I had to Wikipedia to see how the whole thing ended up, and boy, am I not sure how my kid is going to like the idea of Jennifer giving birth in a hot air balloon.  (Spoiler alert.)


Perfect Strangers is a good primer in sitcom tropes for a kid. Curmudgeonly bosses, like Twinkacetti and Gorpley? Check. An episode with gambling? Check. Episodes with identical cousins? Check. The Rashomon trope? Oh hells yeah.


Sometimes I’ll observe something like, how come the women never get any more of a plot? And she’ll say, because it’s not about them. If there were a sitcom about us, she asks, would it have subplots of the neighbor kid?

Or, I’ll say, why doesn’t Balki see through Larry’s latest ruse to get him to do something he doesn’t want to do? “Because then there wouldn’t be a show, Mom.”

So here we are, Piper and I, at the end of season five. And because kids are supposed to practice predicting or whatever, instead of just enjoying the story they’re reading or show they’re watching, I asked her some questions. “What do you think will happen on Perfect Strangers?”

“They’ll go on more vacations.” (She likes the vacation episodes. She thinks they’re funny. I guess she likes it when things go to babasticky.)


And because I know about dramatic irony, or the viewer knowing something that the characters do not, and my 5th grader is learning that stuff too, I know that they at least rise somewhat in the echelons of the Chronicle, with Larry doing more reporting and Balki starting “Dmitri’s World.” (Spoiler alert.)

“Do you think they’ll ever get new jobs?”


“Do you think they’ll ever move?”

“No, because Jennifer and Mary Anne*** would have to move, too.” Astute observation from a 5th grader. Obviously the only thing tethering those two to Larry and Balki is geographic proximity.

“So, nothing is ever going to change for them?” I asked her.

“I think it’s going to get more ridiculous.”

Just wait until she sees what happens in Season 8!

As a matter of full disclosure I think that you, the kind of person who is reading this, should know that I own a stuffed sheep. But I did not name him Dmitri, because I thought that would have been too derivative. His name is Pierre.


Perfect Strangers Wrap-Up

We’re done. Almost 150 episodes watched. It’s a little sad. One of my favorite things as a parent is sharing stories with my kids; good triumphing over evil, the power of friendship, the laugh from a good character. I’ve read them Harry Potter’s and Ramona Quimby’s stories. I have watched the unfolding story of wayward teenagers in Point Place, Wisconsin, in the 1970s with my oldest daughter; and I have watched the story of a singing knight who is trying to win back his lady love and get a princess back her kingdom with my middle daughter. Piper, my youngest, and I got to share the story of a naïve Mypiot and his allegedly street-wise cousin.

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The conclusion I’ve come to, while re-watching these shows, is that Larry and Balki are kind of like your old college/high school friends who were just a couple of great guys, and you haven’t seen them in a while, and you’d like to introduce them to your kids to show you what their mom was like Back In The Day. And then you see them again, and you realize–maybe they weren’t quite as funny as you remember. And also maybe they’re sometimes kinda dumb, and occasionally unnecessarily violent. (What was it with those years? Why is Homer strangling Bart supposed to be funny?) But still, you have residual good feelings, and you want to see how this plays out, so you keep watching. My kids have already seen all the episodes of Full House, which I never liked as much as I liked Perfect Strangers. It was time to get them some more T.G.I.F. knowledge. [Teaching Girls is Fundamental – Casey]

Something I’ve come to observe over the 100+ episodes I’ve watched is the complete lack of B plots. Were they not invented in the 1980s? Did they think we couldn’t keep track of more than one storyline? Piper once commented that it would be nice to see an episode about the women (notice that her Generation Z self knows not to call them “girls”), but then it would be a bottle episode, and then I wondered where she learned the term “bottle episode.”


So far, we’ve skipped three episodes–“Sexual Harassment in Chicago” because the kid is 10 and although I’m all about teaching consent, I don’t think the 1980s sitcom format is the way to introduce the subject, although I’ll call it out when I see it on “iCarly.” We also skipped most of “Door to Door” because it just embarrassed me too much FOR our intrepid cousins, and also because maybe I sold CutCo knives for a week once and it brought up too many memories. And “The Gazebo” we fast forwarded because it was boooooring.

We’re watching on Hulu, which allows you to see exactly how long each episode is. I usually skip the theme song, which is about 1:30, an excruciatingly long time for a show that only ever has a maximum of six actors listed. And it is Piper, who is 10 and in 5th grade, who observed that it’s about at 4:00 left in the episode when the cousins “learn their valuable lesson.”

Piper would like to relay that she is happy that her favorite character, D(i)mitri, got nearly two whole episodes dedicated to him in Season 7. Piper is also most likely to be the only 10 year old in America who, when asked to name a Hollywood star, comes up with Mark Linn-Baker.

Piper wants to re-watch some of the vacation episodes; those are her favorites. Current Nickelodeon programming has taught her that catastrophe is humor. So I guess I’ll be re-watching syndication favorite “Snow Way to Treat a Lady.”


The one thing the show had then, which I think is lacking now, is heart. I’m not even convinced that The Big Bang Theory’s characters like each other, much less love each other. You can tell that Larry and Balki—and Mark and Bronson—had genuine affection for one another.

Or, as YouTube guy Steve Shives so eloquently put it: “But I loved it anyway….I prefer clumsily executed heart to skillfully executed cynicsm. I would much rather have a show that tries to speak to the goodness of people. That tries to leave the audience with something positive, however awkward and artless the attempt, than have a show where the message is: ‘everything sucks and only fools care.’”

Is the character of Balki a stereotype? Is Larry more uptight than necessary? Of course. Are they fun to watch?

Of course they are. Don’t be ridiculous.


Thanks, Sharon! I don’t know why the guest writers keep saying “don’t be ridiculous”. Is that from something?

The dove, of course, represents the person looking at the poster, and the image is a promise that Bronson’s hands will gently hold you, and not throw you around like the dead birds seen on Perfect Strangers.

And speaking of–join me next week for “Duck Soup”!