Intermission: 71 Things

I’ve tried to do various things to make this blog interesting and fun, you know, like reviewing Winnie the Pooh cartoons and offering up C.S. Lewis fanservice. I believe the kids these days call this type of behavior “extra” (and they say print newspapers are dying!).

I had hoped that I could arrange more interviews, with the actors, or with the writers, or even with the hosts of A.M. Los Angeles, you know, give them a chance go on the record as distancing themselves from the show. I’ve sent messages to these people on Facebook, Twitter, through their agents, through their family members. Lise Cutter declined to be interviewed; Bronson Pinchot declined to be interviewed, and told me I’d pronounced his name wrong in the message. Mark Linn-Baker returned my registered letter: scrawled on the envelope was “That’s Nice”. Rebeca Arthur left me on seen.

I pestered Louie Anderson. I sent a request to the head of Warner Bros.’s physical (props) archives, Bonnie Fallone Otto, because I know they have some of the outfits from the show, and who knows what else. I was trying to see if they’d let me watch the pilot. A copy exists, somewhere, and if an advanced alien race arrives before Earth turns to spent carbon, I’ll ask them to find it for me.

I promise you, I’ve done everything I can short of stalking, which believe it or not gets really expensive really fast if you commit to it.

There’s a slim chance I’ll actually hear back from a few people (*makes “call me” gestures at Belita*), and if they do, I’ll post the interviews, even if it’s after the blog’s over. I had left this week free for an interview, and boy oh boy am I not ready to write about Season 8 yet. I’ve seen it. It’s gruesome.

Ultimately, the best legacy a review blog can leave behind isn’t the reviews themselves, the insights, or even the great joke I had ready where I was going to ask Tom if he drives a Detrucky or a Devanney. The greatest gift that this blog can hope to bequeath to future generations is hundreds of high-quality stills of Bronson Pinchot that the A.V. Club or whoever can use without credit.

So I figured I would take this opportunity to revisit some old episodes and see what details are more visible now. I know you love it when I stop every other thing in a review to talk about the shit in the background, so please stop begging me for a post like this.

Season 1, Episode 1: Knock This


Look at that! Already there’s payoff for this shitty filler post idea, Larry’s baseball sister (I dub her Abstinence) has “Appleton” on her jersey!


It’s a bread. Balki’s holding a bread.


Check out the fridge door: Larry is into funny dogs. Also his mom fobbed off all the old shit from her kitchen she hated the sight of.


I believe that Time Magazine must be this one, with a cover date of Feb. 24, 1986, just to give you an idea of how quick the turn-around between this episode’s taping and airdate of March 25, 1986 was. I mean, we’ve covered that before, but AHA!, right? I’m important for finding this stuff out.


Now I can make t-shirts with the Ritz Discount logo. That’ll be $50 apiece.


I’m so not going to get into re-reviewing this mess, but remember how the very first episode was about how Balki how Balki quickly got a job because he’d been not only a sheepherder, but a marriage counselor, a veterinarian, and a chef as well?


Only true Perfect Strangers fans will want the rarer logo with the alternate font on “Discount”. You too can “get it” for $100.


Hey, look. A painting. This is worthwhile, right?


Man that window display is even sadder in HD.


That alphabet & numbers blanket is interesting. No idea what the Q thing is. Also, those must be photos of Yaya Biki! Was that her in the opening?


Again, not re-reviewing, but the final joke in this episode is that only the dumbest foreigner would accept minimum wage. Haha. Ha.


Season 1, Episode 2: Picture This


Mark wasn’t kidding when he said he had to get rid of the elderly decorations. He missed the Toby jug there in the back.


Does anyone recognize the Bailey’s Soda Cola? Was it regional to California?


Remember the original Linda? Please tell me I’m not wasting my time going through these.


Looks like their bathroom mirror was broken. I smell a deleted scene.


AAAHHH those visors! They don’t make them like that anymore. Stupid “lead in paint” laws. Also: *sniff*


Awww. Their first kiss.


You know, Socrates was kind of a prototype for Jesus. Not saying Jesus didn’t exist, just saying it took a few hundred years to repackage the narrative and sell it.


Season 1, Episode 3: Date This


It’s PaulAndre!!


It’s Frau Farbissina!


Man, Jerseyman was sitting right there the whole time, just waiting on someone to flirt with his Jerseygirl.


Wow. It’s the exact same people in the exact same outfits both nights in the same seats at the single’s bar. They can put “Appleton” on a jersey you’ll never see but they can’t get a room full of people to sit in different spots or switch coats.

Season 1, Episode 4: Baby Driver

Someone actually took a marker to some of the wording on the shopping bags–


–but you can still tell that the Cousins shop at the only Ralphs outside of Southern California.


More of that blanket. Lots of tentacles on Mypos, evidently.


I would put the call out to y’all to track down better images of those posters at the Motor Vehicle Facility, but I’m the one working at a university library with a government documents collection. Lost forever.


It’s basement Linda!

Season 1, Episode 5: Overdraft This


Just swinging by for the puppy paper.


Season 1, Episode 6: Birthday This


Ho ho, Larry discovered postcards with titties on them!


Is “CONFUSION GROWS” a better or worse headline than “WALK ON MOON”?

Season 2, Episode 1: Womb This


Just want to point out that “Today’s Special” has been blue jeans for 7 episodes now (and will stay that way through the end of the season). I also suspect that Twinkacetti would have spent the first dollar he made on a porn magazine.


I feel like this one might be a fun episode to cosplay for CousinCon 2020.

Season 2, Episode 3: Win This


What, you thought I was doing all 120 episodes? Sshhhyeah no.


Mostly I just want to see if any of our regulars are in the crowd at the baseball game, because there is ZERO REASON to ever watch this misery of an episode. (You’ll be happy to know they got a new bathroom mirror, though.) We’ve got PaulAndre back there, but more importantly–


–it’s Basement Linda again! I’m beginning to think she’s the Cousins’ guardian angel.


Steal a base or two in this Shop ‘N’ Spend Spartans raglan top, a “steal” at only $50!

Season 2, Episode 4: Burgle This


I have a confession. This whole post was to get a better screenshot of Motorcycle Maidens magazine. Now I’m stuck having to watch the rest of these at 8x speed to finish this post.

But I did find out what magazine this actually was: the September 1986 issue of Cycle Guide. I may not have good ideas for bonus content posts for this blog, but you have to admit I execute them masterfully.


While I’m here: Larry is reading The Variety of Fiction: a Critical Anthology by Edward Alan Bloom and Lillian D. Bloom.


Twinkacetti does not read the Chicago Chronicle. Half of you have stopped reading this post.


This one feels like a meme template. Go wild! Have fun with it!

Season 2, Episode 5: Vegaaahhhsss Thisssss


Enjoy some smut!


What the fuck? Either PaulAndre went undercover as a dealer in Vegas, or I really do have a problem telling black people apart.


Basement Linda got a job there too, keeping a watchful eye over Larry’s potential for addictive behavior.


Remember what I said about citations a few weeks ago? Apply it to memes and meme templates. There’s a wealth of them buried in any given show, but the shows that are under-represented simply don’t have a viewership that overlaps with meme creators. Alternately, think how Tom & Jerry of all things is finding new viewers through memes.

Season 2, Episode 6: Sneeze This


That photograph with the signs stuck around all the way through the seventh season.


Larry drinks White River cola.

Please tell me this is worthwhile.

Season 2, Episode 8: Vince This


I gave up trying to research whether that’s actually the back of a Juice Newton album. Probably not, though.


Basement Linda makes sure the Cousins get where they need to go: in this case, she directs their movements into the halls of justice to help bring down a local mob boss. Also that’s a young Marianne Mullerleile, before she gained weight and showed up in scads of roles that existed solely so other actors could throw fat jokes at her.


Someone actually bothered to put Vince’s girls in the audience here, both chewing gum the entire time. Of all the things I can’t say about this show, not skimping on background details is the one I can’t say right now.

Season 2, Episode 10: Strike This


We never got enough Schlagelmilch. She’s eating sausage with the angels now.

Season 2, Episode 11: Christmas This


Putting all the boxes of unsold wrapping paper tubes together as a makeshift Christmas decoration is damned clever.


Someone had to paint all this snow. I had to sit through the episode. Who had the harder job?


(Does anyone else remember in the 90s when some company started putting out phone books with a fake Yellow Pages logo or is that just a dream I had?)

While I’m here —


Season 2, Episode 13: Since I Lost This Baby


That grey cat is a Pound Pur-r-ries doll (I only ever had Pound Puppies), and I’m touched to see that someone in props thought to keep some of the winter items from the Christmas episode around for a few weeks.


Twinkacetti actually had paper bags printed up for the store? A rare luxury for the man who lives $50 at a time.


Oops! The Hulu guy continued not to give a shit and didn’t crop out “Chez Paul”. Also, Balki’s advice for how Twinkacetti should beg Edwina for forgiveness involves rubbing his (Twinkacetti’s) face against her feet. I swear, y’all. If any of you ever get to interview Bronson, make sure the first damn question is about his foot fetish.

Season 2, Episode 14: Catfight This


I came here solely for this. This is better than any voice Bronson has done since because Reagan impressions – or even just doing a voice when you put on a mask – has to have been a fairly universal experience back then. If you had asked me what Balki thought of Ronald Reagan, of an actor being the president of the United States, I’m not sure what story I would think it would lead to. But I would never have guessed that an immigrant who prized every bit of American culture would treat the president like a punchline. Fuck, even ALF treated Reagan like someone who could have a positive lasting impact on the world.


Yecch. Just as ugly in HD.

Season 2, Episode 15: Dream This


Good meme templates? You decide.

Season 2, Episode 17: Bike Baby


The sign in front of the cash register is proof that the same set of people have been making text memes for generations: the usage of all capital letters, lack of grammatical sense, and endless ellipses are exactly the same as the stuff your parents pass around on social media.

“Our new incentive program….. one mistake and you’re through..…”


I don’t feel I’m any closer to identifying this sheet of “Monster Man” tattoos, other than to say that they certainly weren’t called “Monster Man”, given the cobra and Indian chief present.


In case you’ve forgotten this memorable episode where the Cousins don’t hang out with a kid, it centers around Larry’s bike being stolen. Balki was so concerned with helping Cousin Larry that he spent like half an hour buying a cigarette & blindfold for Dimitri and putting him in front of a loaded cannon.

Season 2, Episode 20: Puck This


Are you gonna let me ding the bell?

Are you gonna let me ring up sales?

Are you gonna tell me the chili’s run out?

Fat Marsha, girl you make the message center go round


Hey I was just a Mypos lad

Never knew good food from bad

But I knew life before I left the island scene

Living here with Cousin Larry

Things started to get hairy

Twinkacetti done made a slave boy out of me

Hey hey!


I’ve been working at the Ritz

But with no raise, we called it quits

I’d hit on every blue eyed Suzy on the way (hey)

But their beauty and their style

Just disappeared after awhile

Take me to them thin blonde ladies every time



Oh, will I get my fries tonight?

Oh, please cook my puck burger right

Oh, I like my chili dog real hot

Fat Marsha’s burgers make the rocking world go round

Fat Marsha’s burgers make the rocking world go round


Hey, listen here

Now I can shake my pretend tits

For galoots and big nitwits

Lewis Arquette frequents this locality (I tell you)

But soon the shit had hit the fan

When Chilidude fought Jerseyman

Hey Fat Marsha, get these big men off of me (now check this)


Oh (I know), you gonna touch my hole tonight (please)

Oh, down beside that pilot light

Oh, you gonna let it all hang out

Fat Marsha, girl you make Balki’s world go round

Fat Marsha, girl you make Balki’s world go round


Get on those guys and ride!


Ooh, yeah, oh, yeah, Fat Marsha girl

Fat Marsha girls, yeah, yeah, yeah etc.


Season 2, Episode 22: Baby Roof


Nice detail on having cups full of various lint.


Not that you can really see them, but there. There is the best shot you’re ever going to get of Larry’s photography.


According to Joel Zwick’s book, Mel Brooks was around that week and expressed some serious misgivings about whether they could pull off the roof scene; and Zwick remembers having to grudgingly agree with him when it wasn’t working. Unfortunately that’s all Joel says about it, other than saying it was for a story where the Cousins were on the roof trying to fix a leak. Either it was a lost script, or Joel misremembered this episode. It’s a pretty useless aside, I’ll admit, but the snark in me can’t pass up an opportunity to note that Mel Brooks of all people passed by the set of Perfect Strangers and all he had to say was how something wouldn’t work.

That’s worth noting, right? Please, please reassure me about this post.

Season 3, Episode 1: Report This


Now that’s some character detail: there’s one of those soap opera magazines on the table. It has to be Balki’s. My mother and grandmother would watch soap operas, and tape them because multiple ones ran at the same time on different networks. Essentially they’re no different than any other magazine covering media news & speculation, but I’d argue Soap Opera Digest, All About Soap, Soap Maidens, etc. are still a highly unique entry in that category. Even putting aside the anachronism of the genre’s name, even by 1987, these magazines traded in speculation on things you would see the very next day or week, as well as summaries of daily television programs that moved at a glacial pace. (Though now that I say it, that’s a double-edged sword.) I’ll admit that I’m taste- and possibly gender-biased against the genre, but I still think these magazines are weird.




No other website will offer you an HD screengrab of Mr. Feldman. Check over at Buzzfeed. No HD screengrabs of Mr. Feldman. Huffington Post? Twitter? Pornhub? No HD screengrabs of Mr. Feldman.


And lookathat: PaulAndre started at the Chronicle the same day Larry did. And now I suspect that the alderman thing was some in-joke, because it’s the very first thing that Mr. Burns asks Larry about, specifically which of them drive foreign cars. How foolish was I to miss such an obvious clue that the Chicago Chronicle is not merely a tool for reporting, but a whip for keeping Americans American?


What the hell is going on with these article titles, every one in a different font size? “Timber Industry whithers; Families Left Destitute”; “CONGRESS TO CHANGE SATILLITE CONTROL HILL”. I’m ashamed I can’t tell you what the comic is, but it appears to feature a horse, and have been done in-house.


The inside of the paper, though, is the July 13, 1986 edition of the Chicago Tribune. NOW YOU Know.

Season 3, Episode 2: Baby Weight


The art on Balki’s wall?


What they have in the fridge?


Dimitri eating a whole stick of butter?


The best shot you’ll ever get of the Pioli’s Pizza logo? ($50 in sizes from S to 10X) (Also why the fuck does Larry have a pizza delivered to the apartment where Balki can see it? Sorry, I’ll stop.  Not re-reviewing these.)

Who cares about any of that? I came to see the candy bar wrapper.


Even I’m not going to pretend that was worth the effort.

Season 3, Episode 4: Puff This


None of you would buy a shirt with the Unicorn logo even if I could get a good shot. I’ve still got a lot more to go, let’s just get the relevant screengrabs and move on.


Season 3, Episode 5: Feather-touch This


Just here for the box.

Season 3, Episode 6: Blow This


I rewatched the whole episode, still no damn horn in sight.

Season 3, Episode 8: Baby Confidential


Just here for the posters.


“Timber Industry whithers; Families Left Destitute” seems to be a regular feature in the Chicago Chronicle. Was that the name of Lydia’s column?

Season 3, Episode 9: Shock This


Are they just eating lettuce with ketchup drizzled on? Same thing I had last night. Weird.


There are three sheep dolls there, two of them with grey hair. I suppose the implication is that Balki and Mary Anne had a kid?


Season 3, episode 10: Couch Baby


A whole year later and Understand Your Dreams is still hanging out on their coffee table? Symbolism, addiction, television as aspirational propaganda, etc.

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




Season 3, Episode 14: Pen This

Just to verify that the flashback wasn’t a newly-filmed scene:


Season 3, episode 15: Baby Babka


You’re welcome.


Season 3, episode 16: Baby Buggy


OH! It’s says “Russet Potatoes” and “Bartlett Pears”! This episode makes so much more sense now.


I could stick around on this one forever, but I don’t want give you a list of groceries (a grocery list! HA! Don’t kill me), so I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves, like this one telling you how fucking scary a clown in a store with no kids is.


Season 3, Episode 21: Test This


How have I come this far with no shots of Lydia?


Season 4, Episode 1: Gamble This


No Harriette either? The hell is wrong with me?


Ah, to be young and in love again.


They have Oat Boats! Even if we didn’t have the Winslow/Urkel connective tissue between this and Full House, that cereal box would have been enough.


(Image shamelessly stolen from the Full House Reviewed blog. It’s the only way I know to tell Billy how much I appreciate his pioneering work.)

Again, not re-reviewing these, but the audience goes absolutely nuts when Balki finds a decoder ring in the cereal.

Season 4, Episode 2: STOP This


STOP buying lesser-quality clothing! Get the STOP logo tee for only $50.


They went to Bugsy’s Burgers! If any of you were wondering if there was a show bible, there you go.

Season 4, Episode 3: Invade This


And you thought this post wasn’t worth it.

I had assumed that Mary Anne was dressed as a pilot, but it’s clear now she’s just in her stewardess uniform. Still the best joke in the whole episode!


Here’s Cousin Larry admiring the size of Balki’s veiny nuts.


You know what? I think that’s a goddam Dimitri comic.


So glad we got to see Linda’s nuts too.


Season 4, Episode 6: Up a Baby River, This Part


God I love Lydia.


Here’s a better look at the inside of Brawny Dude’s cabin. Can you believe you’re reading this blog for free?

Season 4, Episode 9: Gift This


Of all the external shots of the Caldwell they could have used to paint icicles on, they picked the one where a dude is standing around in shorts.

Wow, I didn’t notice they had Christmas decorations up in this one! Makes sense if you think about it. Honestly, we should all be so lucky to have a cousin who can deck out an entire apartment like this all by himself.


God I love Lydia.


Lydia got a Nora Trueblood Adams mystery book, and someone went to the trouble of making a cover no one would see for it: Zwick! A Short Story.


The best way to thank me for this blog would be to not do something like use these HD screengrabs to carve me a Davros Cup.

Season 4, Episode: Gang Baby


Instead, pick up a Motor Psychos shirt (on sale for only $50) from the Perfect Strangers Reviewed Etsy page.


That sign still cracks me right up.


Fran encourages you to Get Naked and Run Wild. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t write 1,000 words on how both Cousins have gotten temporary tattoos of blondes in the exact same pose, and what that signifies in terms of capitalism.


I’m okay being remiss this week. Also, keep your snack area clean yuk yuk.

Season 4, episode 12: Bust This


It’s Carl Winslow! Hi Carl!


I’ll take back something I said when I reviewed this one. I thought that Carl had loosened the cap on the Maalox, and then Balki acted like it wasn’t loose; actually Balki put it back on to try to open it again. Everything else I said about Bronson still stands.


Another meme template. Don’t disappoint me.

Season 4, Episode 13: Bink Baby


I didn’t think this episode could get any better, but god damn are the colors great.


Is it a safe assumption that this is a shot of the actual studio audience watching Perfect Strangers? In the front row, wearing black, appears to be Robert G. Lee, the show’s warm-up comic.


Ri$k It All ring tees, with classic logo or coverall variation–YOUR choice–only $50 plus S&H.


Can someone please email the Hulu guy and tell him he forgot to remaster three seconds of this one?


I really think the Hulu guy was just choosing preset options in whatever editing software he used, because the colors change from shot to shot in this one now, depending on the depth of field, how much of the set is seen all at once; as though some algorithm is making a guess only for the colors it can see at that moment. Wouldn’t it make the most sense to get the widest shot, save the profile of adjustments, and apply them to every shot? Not my job or expertise, but I can tell they’re not being as consistent as someone mastering a current TV show would be.


If anyone ever asks you what the second-best Perfect Strangers episode is, call up your local psychiatric hospital; once they’re safely sedated and unable to harm you, tell them it’s the one with the fuckable bananas and the wheelchair you can shit in.


Ha! [Mardi Gras joke]!


Season 4, Episode 15: Baby Bowl


You’ll BOWL over your friends with one of these “Strike Force” or “High Rollers” bowling shirts, customized with YOUR name (no special characters). Don’t be a turkey! Get yours today for only 50 smackeroos!

Season 4, Episode 16: Elv This


I’m just fucking around at this point, but this is some great costume and makeup work for a shitty episode.


Looking back, without having to think about the episode in any sort of critical way, it’s strange and beautiful that there existed an era of television where contracts were secure and writers had to fill up 22 episodes a year, where plots were so unadventurous that getting the main character into an Elvis suit was a valid goal.

Season 4, Episode 18: Used Baby

Good re-use of the Ri$k It All coveralls, show.


Cousin, when you said you getting oiled up, I didn’t think you mean this!

Season 4, Episode 19: Drag This


*Casey wettens*

Season 4, Episode 21: Teach This


Totally not re-reviewing any aspect of these, at all, but what a weird visual gag that over-the-top folder is. It’s just so much time spent on what should have been an episode focussed entirely on Larry. Plus, I think we all know Balki would have bought nothing but Lisa Frank products.

Season 5, Episode 2: Defraud This

Let’s get some more Balki outfits in this thing.


Season 5, Episode 3: Baby News




I would recommend you all coordinate your costumes for CousinCon 2020 so we don’t get–as much as I fantasize about the idea–20 Balkis in hair shirts.

Season 5, Episode 4: Baby Teeth


I just wanted to point out the Jimmy Carter caricature, because otherwise you might think I wasted both of our time with this post.

Season 5, Episode 6: Rhyme This


Have a limited budget for fashion?

Try makeshift makeup that’s ashen


It’s your fate to starve,

You artists who carve,

Even you who paint men with great passion


Season 5, Episode 7: Baby Daddy, Part 1

I’ll continue to be remiss about explicating the caged, forgotten American-flag hobby horse in the stores of memory.


I half expected to find junk from the Ritz Discount down here, but it’s entirely different junk.

I stand ashamed before you for not having taken the opportunity for a running joke about “CLEAN” appearing over the girlfriends’ heads.


Whichever one of you is planning to do Wings Reviewed, learn from my mistakes: write all 172 reviews before publishing any of them so you can really play up the interconnections while you’re revising.

Season 5, Episode 10: Lydia This


The batch of Lydia Live! t-shirts came back from the factory wrong; all the collars were too tight. I’m trying to cut my losses by offering them at a severe reduction, only $50 apiece.

Season 5, Episode 15: HONGI BONGI





Season 5, Episode 16: The Grand Babythis Hotel


I had hoped there would be something interesting to see on the brochure, but all I can really do here is brag about how thorough and committed I am to this blog, and to you, the reader. Suggested donation is $50.


Larry, you have to cut the strings to get down!

Season 5, Episode 17: Crowd This


Thought I’d be able to identify the board game they’re playing, but I’ve failed you again.

Season 5, Episode 19: Boss Baby


I haven’t pointed out that 70s-era cookie jar in the background yet, but it’s been there for a long time now. I can relate to Larry. I have held onto the Cookie Monster jar that sat in my childhood kitchen for my entire adult life now. I’ve never once used it, but I refuse to part with it.

Dimitri, Mr. Glover, and the Chronicle’s most famous news headline.


Name a cartoon, a buffoon, and WALK ON MOON.


If someone wants to steal my screengrabs through Google Image Search, they’ve got a lot of shit to dig through.

Season 5, Episode 24: Baby Uncle


A LOT of shit.


Onesies for the tykes emblazoned with the logo of their favorite television program–now in its 40th year–only $50


Keep those letters coming in, kids! Just stamp ‘em and send ‘em to

Uncle Shaggy

℅ The Dog House

Channel 2

Chicago, IL 60609

This has got to be the Full House-est episode of Perfect Strangers. Not that I’m re-reviewing this. Just saying.


I know some of y’all have been edging for 4,000 words now; go for it.

Season 6, Episode 1: Laser This


What a boring-ass logo. Whose idea was this post?


Season 6, Episode 2: Baby Baby


What? It was a little girl?! I thought… you know what, no, it’s too embarrassing.


This one I got another site I’m a member of, but I figured I might as well include it here for completeness’ sake.


The fuck? Larry submits his articles on photocopies with “Chicago Chronicle” at the top of the page? If that’s RT (Re-Review This) Wainwright’s direction, it’s madness; if it’s Larry’s idea, it’s got to be the weirdest psychological tactic I’ve ever seen deployed.


Be the envy of all your punk buddies! “Tess Was Here” – but where were YOU when you got it? You can beat on THIS brat for only $50 simoleons!


Seriously. Make some memes out of these things or I’ve just wasted my time scanning through these 70 episodes.

Season 6, Episode 4: Geld This


Seriously. Validate me.


I’m smelling the barn here (yok yok), so I’m just going to try to blow through the rest of these with minimal commentary.

Season 6, Episode 5: Baby Feud


It was completely lost on me that Zoltan Botulitis carved his initials onto Larry’s shirt.

Season 6, Episode 11: Sunburn, Baby, Sunburn


Look at Bunky’s shirt! “Here today, gone bananas!” How witty!


Season 6, Episode 12: Hocus Poke This

Just wanted a better shot of that doll.


Season 6, Episode 13: Dead Baby


Given last week’s discussion about Pioli presumably not having a reining effect on Bronson, and everything else we know about him, I don’t even know what to make of Judy Pioli being Bronson’s director and letting him make a joke about how enjoyable her breasts. It’s… probably not my place to have an opinion, but damn it I’m still going to say something. It’s questionable.

I’ve received hundreds of requests through the Perfect Strangers Reviewed Facebook page for a high-quality screengrab of Gorpley in a dress.


You people are sick, you know that?

Season 6, Episode 15: Plant This


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: who the hell are aprons like these for? What sense of humor is this supposed to convey?

Season 6, Episode 17: Remember This

This is important.

I didn’t, um, actually have anything I wanted to look at in this one. I just wanted to make that joke. Um…


Balki offers Mrs. Lyons baby corns and she refuses because she knows the Lyons Company meets–but does not exceed–the FDA’s food defect action levels for mammalian excreta.

Season 6, Episode 18: Dub This


You know, we’ve been through 144 episodes at this point, so I think I can let you in on a little secret: I didn’t like this episode.


I disliked it so much that I’m willing to take half of the price of these Enright Records pocket logo shirts. That’s right, you heard right, you can have the “Enright Stuff” too for only $50!


Heehee it’s like he’s jerking it.


Hahaha take THAT, Google Image Search results for Fresh Young Balki B!


Season 6, Episode 19: Elect This


Really looking forward to the cosplay for next year’s CousinCon.

Season 6, Episode 20: Climb This


I was trying to get a clearer shot of that Hulk Hogan action figure, but I’ve failed again. I’ve also failed to get any further clarity on why the fuck Balki pulls out an action figure. Either Bronson was running loose or lines from the script are missing.


Holland Deodorant Company sent me a C&D, so those shirts had to be destroyed. Sorry.

Season 6, Episode 23: Extinguish This


I haven’t used Twitter in a while. Can someone please let Kellogg’s know that ABC failed to cover up the Froot Loops logo in this episode and owes them money? And that I would gladly publicly refuse a reasonable percentage of that money for helping out?


You know, you’d really think firemen would know better than to store fire in cabinets.

For those of you still edging, enjoy these HD (hot drenching) screengrabs.


That’s it! I hope you enjoyed this retrospective of highly personally-indulgent Perfect Strangers illegally-downloaded Hulu inconsistently-remastered High-Definition screengrabs, the theft of which I’ll still begrudge on the basis that selection of images constitutes the results of my effort and unique sensibilities.

Join me next week for “The Baby Shower”!

Thing #71:

Season 5 Reviewed

Welcome back to Perfect Strangers Reviewed!  I’m getting tired of this shit.


I’ve sat down here to try to answer the tough questions I need to think about, and it’s hard. I don’t want to do it. In fact, I’ve already taken off my pants in an attempt to distract you all.

In the past few months, I’ve felt some fatigue setting in.  Now, a lot of this has to do with my own personal world over the past year. I… well, I had a shit year professionally, and it was enough to make me miss two weeks on this blog; let’s leave it at that. Some of my fatigue with ending season 5 has to do with coming off the high of ending season 4 and doing the Larryoke stream with y’all.  That was the highlight of my year, by far, and that wouldn’t have happened without readers and friends pitching in so much. Someone even asked me to do another one next Spring, and that was good to hear. It won’t happen, unfortunately. I mean, there’s not enough raw material to do another set of songs yet. You’d get “Marvin Berman Eyes”* and that’d be it.


And some of it certainly has to do simply with reviewing a show for this long.  I credit Philip “The J is for Jingle Cats” Reed for inspiring me to do this blog, and he mentions fatigue at the end of reviewing three seasons of ALF.  Even Billy Superstar was complaining about how much further there was to go by the end of season 5 of Full House.  How Sarah Portland isn’t dead after five years of reviewing Star Trek I’ll never know. I don’t know if this is true for other reviewers, but somewhere in the course of reviewing season 5, my reviews jumped from 2,400 words on average to around 3,500.  Maybe I’m getting sloppy and less concise; or maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m carrying more and more baggage of what’s come before each week.


But a hell of a lot of it has to do with Perfect Strangers itself.  Like I said last week, finishing up each season has so far felt like an accomplishment. With two-ish seasons still ahead of me, this feels like having my 22nd birthday all over again.** And it doesn’t help that Perfect Strangers didn’t do anything to differentiate this season from others. Full House had specific throughlines, additions, and events that were season-specific: Jesse & Joey working at a radio station; Jesse & Becky’s kids being born; Danny having a steady girlfriend; Michelle dies in the last season. ALF’s latter seasons were distinguished by prolonged visits with new characters.  With Perfect Strangers seasons can be told apart first by workplace, and then by Balki’s haircut.

I hope you’ll forgive me for this extended penis-measuring against other shows, but like I’ve done a few times this season, I’m trying to disclose my thinking process to show how I get somewhere.  It occurs to me that Full House was bad because it was very good at what it set out to do (be incredibly saccharine, annoying, and endearing to self-centered little girls), and that ALF was very bad at what it set out to do (depict the often-heartwarming relationship between a brash-if-wise alien and his adopted nice everyfamily).


Obviously my considered opinion is that Perfect Strangers is bad, but what the fuck is it trying to do? (And does that matter?)

I know by now I can’t judge season 5 by the original, more intellectual premise of the show (you remember, like when Larry was trying to get upskirts of Dolly Parton) in terms of two people with radically different worldviews bringing their varying knowledge and misconceptions to adult situations like jobs, and dating, and the various contortions that social and gender codes force us to make. It had mostly ditched that by season 4. But I think it’s worth discussing another aspect of the show’s premise. Like musician Jesse Frederick said (in last week’s post), ABC wanted a theme song about winning. Perfect Strangers is still a show about chasing one’s dreams, though at this point that aspect is certainly treated differently.


For about 30 episodes, Larry Appleton wanted to make his way in the big city as a photojournalist, navigating an adult personal and professional life with the skills he’d learned in college. Balki wanted to live the generalized “American dream”, which in practice boiled down to a number of specifics (baseball, credit cards, driver’s license, high school degree, not fucking a blonde for four years).  The potentialities of where the cousins might go in life have collapsed into the eigenstate of working at the Chicago Chronicle. The dreams are smaller. Larry used to worry that he would never get a girlfriend; now he worries that he won’t be able to keep one. I look forward to Larry starting psychotherapy when Jennifer indicates she doesn’t like the bathmats he bought.


I suppose Larry’s goal now is to be part of an investigative team like Marshall & Walpole, who were mentioned only once this entire season; and that’s a fine goal to work towards. And I guess Balki getting citizenship would be an endpoint for his arc. Season 5 gave Larry enough wins to make it believable that he could eventually be a journalist, but it didn’t truly advance that story.  RT (Reporter Tease) Wainwright pops up a couple times to dangle the possibility of Balki and Larry working together as a team. It would be a kick in the nuts for that to happen since Larry is actually doing the real work. And since, as we learned last week, two more full seasons of Perfect Strangers was basically a foregone conclusion, I can see the possibility that this kind of arc (for at least Larry) was planned to take up this much time. But going down that road of conjecture ends with another complaint: Larry’s arc is gradual, and episodes can be strung together to form a story with “Larry is trying so damn hard” as its backbone.

Balki’s progress, however, has been more like marking items off a checklist.  Balki gets a job, Balki graduates high school, Balki gets into college. Season 3 barely cared about Balki in high school, other than right at the end when the show realized it had a graduation story due and stayed up all night writing it.  But at least “The Graduate” threw up some natural obstacles for Balki. In season four Balki gets into college and takes one class. There’s little enough story between those two events that he wasn’t even needed for one of the episodes; and for the other, it wasn’t actually about Balki striving–or even experiencing–something as life-changing as college. All we’ve gotten is a narrow look at how Larry and Balki interacted on two separate days of his now two years in college.  Larry’s struggle is against the barriers that lots of people face: bad bosses, competition, trying to prove oneself, and trying not to let his neuroses get in his own way.  Balki generally sails through life succeeding at whatever he tries, with Larry as his own real stumbling block. For Larry to hinder himself is comic; for Larry to hinder Balki is tragic.


Season 5 has been trying desperately to give Balki something else to do since he achieved his lifelong dream of staying a virgin at the end of season 4. And as a result, it comes across as though the newspaper itself doesn’t know what to do with him.  He’s been given various other extra responsibilities (“The Newsletter”, “Here Comes the Judge”, and acting as Larry’s research assistant in “Poetry in Motion” and “Digging Up the News”), and we can assume that those are ongoing, but they haven’t changed his main job at the Chicago Chronicle, which I guess is “jukebox” at this point. (Gee, if only they’d come up with a character to be his boss…) At the very least, we do get a couple of indications that Balki has a life past what we get to see. He’s still in college according to “Poetry in Motion”; and he volunteers at the hospital in “Disorderly Orderlies”, making good on his graduation promise to give back to America . But we haven’t heard Balki talk about what he wants out of his life, or out of America, for a long time now.  Is it every shepherd’s dream to oversee multiple flocks? Does he want his own farm? Does he want children? Does he want to gather up nine other guys so Mary Anne can give birth out in the field, and then come cook for them?  We’ll just assume Balki has some reason for wanting to go to college, but otherwise I guess it’s hard to come up with long-terms goals for a character once you’ve committed to giving him his every desire 22 minutes after he voices it. Or the show simply isn’t interested in exploring Balki’s life. Could be that.


At any rate, what I’m trying to say about dreams is that Perfect Strangers has lost much of its general striving tone, but replaced it with goals that are specific (enough) to the characters Larry and the situation. And as much as I want to make that a compliment for season 5, it’s applicable more to the series as a whole, and that only because I know that we have 50-odd episodes left.  And whatever goals in mind the show has left for the characters–being an investigative team, buying a house, marrying, having kids–two years seems like a reasonable amount of time to achieve them.

But I could have said the same thing a whole damn season ago.


Back to what I was saying earlier, that season 5 doesn’t have much to distinguish it from season 4. I suppose it would be unfair to say that it should. Other shows have run much longer without shaking up their central aspects. (I mean, I haven’t watched The Simpsons for a few years now, but the only major thing that changes is which voice actors die, right?) Just like season 4 was a succession of parties, I could say that season 5 had a relatively high number of episodes about family members (“Lie-Ability” & “Home Movies” (sorta), “Because They’re Cousins”, “Hello Ball”, and “Father Knows Best???”) and sports (“Good Skates”, “Lie-Ability”, “Everyone in the Pool”, “Hello Ball” again), but that’s only true of the first half.

I don’t think this is so much a distinction as it is the further drift of a rudderless ship, but season 5 leaned much more into kiddie fare than season 4. In Billy Superstar’s season 5 review of Full House, he noted that the show’s palette had switched to brighter colors that season. I’m still watching VHS rips, meaning that the colors I see are the muted browns, yellows and greens of a COPD patient’s purulent sputum. But we’ve all but left lessons behind. Don’t get me wrong, the cousins still had to navigate a few tricky adult situations. They explored whether lying was appropriate when trying to bolster a cranky old man’s ego (“Hello Ball”), whether making money was worth causing others pain and suffering (“Season 5”, haha, gotcha! Seriously, though: “The Selling of Mypos”), and tackling a nationalist’s attempt at undercutting affirmative action (“He’s the Boss”). Those were brief elevations of maturity that I was thankful to get, even if two out of three of them spent a hell of a lot of time on Balki singing & dancing or swinging a golf club around. But we had episodes where the cousins rolled an overweight man around for 10 minutes straight, flung a coworker around like a ragdoll (“Almost Live From Chicago”), put on animal costumes, and even one where a grown-ass man was scared of the dentist. Most relevant to this point, though, is that the plots are becoming simpler. Larry can’t skate and learns to. Balki is afraid of the dentist but then Larry is, too. Balki loses a bird and then he gets it back. The cousins get kidnapped, and they escape. The gang goes on the worst trip ever, and then it’s over. You could take any of those scenarios and get a great episode of television. But Perfect Strangers took those scenarios and didn’t build on them, storywise. I know some of you just read this blog, and some are familiar with the episodes, but tell me, either way: can you, without going back and looking, tell me anything more about those stories that isn’t the physical comedy portion?


We learned in the interviews for season 4 that a rule of thumb for Perfect Strangers was “the simpler the stories are, the funnier it gets”. So the show is achieving what it set out to do. But I think it’s doing it unevenly.  Nowhere was this on display more than “Almost Live in Chicago”. Lydia Markham’s character is that of an advice columnist whose multiple neuroses keep her from getting her personal life in order. A story where one specific fear stands firmly in the way of career advancement–think someone as popular as Dear Abby suddenly becoming as popular as Oprah–should truly have been a character-defining episode for Lydia. Instead of Lydia making her own decision, on her own terms, the cousins run up on stage and Looney Tunes her into quitting. Perhaps the combination of a character-driven story, and the fact that the writers couldn’t have Lydia turn down the new job on the basis of dating one of the cousins, was just too much for the show to handle.


Speaking of neuroses, and simplicity, Cousin Larry has lost some nuance. We’ve been seeing that for a couple of seasons now when it comes to his inferiority.  Formerly, he had plenty of stories about how miserable his youth was, and how that translated into specific public behaviors (not wanting to dance in public because of a heldover “imaginary audience” in season 1’s “First Date”; still hung up on high school social hierarchy in “Hunks Like Us”).  But it’s been the case for a long time now that Larry will weep at the mere thought that Jennifer might not like him, that Jennifer’s family might not like him, that Jennifer might find someone else who is better at clipping their nails.  To be fair, we did get three stories this season where Larry’s behavior was tied to his past. “Father Knows Best???” was a standout for the a major aspect ultimate origin of Larry’s inferiority complex; “Nightmare Vacation” was a good way to keep Larry’s worries fresh by having their root in past episodes; “Almost Live in Chicago” does a lot to explain why Larry is so ready to jump on every single opportunity to advance professionally, socially, romantically, or financially. But that appears at the broad level of looking at this season, not for individual episodes. When Larry’s behavior isn’t tied to some sort of trauma, or unproductive way of thinking, he’s just mean.***


I try to give credit where it’s due, and Philip J Reed has likened Larry to George Constanza.  Much like Socrates prefigured Jesus, Larry has tried to game social situations to his advantage.  I mentioned Eric Berne’s “Games People Play” in my season 4 review, and it’s worth bringing up here as well. “Games” are when someone tries to exploit a flaw in the way the world works to get more than they put in, be it at a broad societal level, or at the interpersonal level, or within specific domains of systematized behavior.  George Costanza uses “it’s not you, it’s me” to break up with women to avoid repercussion for mentioning another’s flaws (and, potentially, to get the woman to tell him he’s not that bad); he gets away with acting like he works in an office for weeks because in most cases, your co-workers never see your hiring paperwork or interactions with human resources. Larry is a prototype for this behavior, but even that feels like it’s been slipping. In season 3 and 4, we saw Larry manipulate Balki by appealing to various aspects of his personality and American values, take unfair advantage of both a shopping spree and a bar’s happy hour, obscure the full story of Balki being “in line for the throne” to gain access to rich people, and overuse a decentish social tactic that he learned in an assertiveness training class.  I don’t think that season 5 has given us fewer of these types of episodes–”Lie-Ability” is certainly of the “and they let you just get away with this?!” variety, and “Hello Ball” & “Disorderly Orderlies” just barely count.  When Larry’s poor behavior isn’t rooted in his past, he’s got no excuse; when it flat out ignores social rules instead of gaming them, he becomes an outright asshole. He tears up the apartment for a mere $25,000; he’d sell other people’s land without a thought for their needs; he takes over Balki’s video letter to home for no discernible reason or apparent personal gain; he blatantly ignores the conditions of the people he interviews. Perfect Strangers has proven that it can write a nuanced Larry, and still tries to two or three times per season, but it certainly doesn’t seem to be interested in it.

Just like the first half of season 5 felt like nothing but sports & family members, much of the back half of this season came across to me as a series of attempts to push parts of Perfect Strangers in definite directions and see what worked well.


And I want to make clear that this is all my conjecture based on reading between the lines. It’s not like I have documentation that this was the intent.  If I didn’t already suspect ABC of doing this, I might not have interpreted it this way. I’ll admit to binge-watching just about every other show I’ve been into, and patterns appear to me when I do.  When I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I got the impression that seasons 4, 5, and 6 were all written with the assumption that each would be the final season (I mean, maybe Whedon planned to dedicate a whole season to the Trio, but it sure wasn’t as compelling as what came before). Full House seemed to make these kinds of changes across seasons as well, probably most obviously when Julie Smollett showed up briefly at the end of season 5 and came back in season 6. And you’ve heard of backdoor pilots, so I won’t go into that.


The most obvious episode like that for Perfect Strangers was “This Old House”. Certainly if the show were to go on much longer, at least one cousin would be married and need to move out of the Caldwell Hotel.  But I think the show is also trying to find out if audiences prefer the cousins having separate responsibilities (“Here Comes the Judge”, “He’s the Boss” (kinda)), or working together as an investigative team, regardless of Balki’s qualifications (“Digging Up the News”). Both “Because They’re Cousins” and “Blast From the Past” seemed at the time like the show testing out a third character to bring back from time to time; similarly “Three’s a Crowd” and “Eyewitless Report” could both be read as experimenting with allowing an established secondary character more than 30 seconds on screen.  Both of these could just be wishful thinking; and god damn do I wish the show would find success with some character that wasn’t one of the cousins.

And here’s my main gripe, one that you can already guess if you’ve been following this season’s reviews: Perfect Strangers has no interest in using most of the characters it has at disposal.


I looked back over my previous season reviews while writing this, and I sure was fucking naive when I finished up season 3.  I was willing to dismiss a lack of focus on the other Chronicle employees as simply evidence of efforts to figure out what characters worked best and, on a more basic level, how a workplace sitcom would function. A symptom that I mistook for piece-moving has become a full-blown disease.  Can you believe we’ve been three seasons with Lydia, Gorpley, and RT Wainwright at this point? Can you believe that Gorpley and Lydia were in 12 and 13 episodes respectively this season?


Say whatever you want about how the focus of the show is the relationship between Larry and Balki, but when Bronson Pinchot himself voices discomfort at that focus, don’t you think that means there’s a problem?

Perfect Strangers gave itself girlfriends, a new workplace, and four regular Chronicle employees, and still it wants to bring in new characters for the cousins to interact with. For arguably 10 out of this season’s 24 episodes, the cousins had to deal with a new personality disrupting their lives for a little bit. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy we got to see Larry’s dad, Marvin Berman’s second appearance was surprisingly worthwhile, and having Balki be able to respond in an unexpected (if consistent) way to an even more wet-behind-the-ears Myposian felt like a necessary story. Plus, James Hampton as Mac MacIntyre was the best guest character since Fat Marsha.


But shouldn’t we, in the meantime, have gotten to know more about the recurring characters?  And since one of them left at the end of last season, shouldn’t that have increased the amount of time we see the others? Sure, we got some gossip about Lydia and Gorpley in “The Newsletter”, but it was gossip in isolation that served no other purpose than to quickly demonstrate that Balki had caused trouble. We saw more of Gorpley in season 4, even if only in situations outside of the workplace. But at this point, I’m wearing out this joke about Gorpley’s shitty Christmases, since all he did this season was stand around and eat. And Harriette’s gone, so we’ve lost the bickering between her and Lydia, flavoring that it so desperately needs now. We got one factoid per season about RT (Receding Throughline) Wainwright in season 3 and 4; this season nothing.


Worse still are how the show handles the cousins’ girlfriends. Sure, Jennifer and Mary Anne were in 18 and 19 episodes respectively, but I’ve taken pisses that lasted longer than their collective screen time. Even “Three’s a Crowd”, the episode that was about their fight, managed to have Jennifer absent for most of it. Larry and Balki spent more time with a men’s room key and an iron than their own girlfriends. Obviously Melanie Wilson’s and Rebeca Arthur’s (and Belita’s, and Sam’s) agents got them contracts stipulating a specific number of episodes, but the show only ever does the bare minimum to fulfill those obligations. I finally realize why we had so many fucking parties in season 4: it’s an easy way to get characters in an episode without them having to say anything or do anything. Did having both girlfriends, Lydia, and Gorpley all together in the basement in “Father Knows Best???” accomplish anything other than repeating the gag of accidentally shutting a locked door?

I guess I can see now how it would take a group of eight writers huddling in tense conference to come up with a way to give a character two lines of dialogue without disturbing the rest of the script.


It would be far too kind to say at this point that Perfect Strangers didn’t know what to do with the workplace and apartment settings, or what to do with its supporting characters: it’s plain not interested. Just like I buy fruit from the grocery store and end up throwing it out two weeks later when it rots because I also bought a box of Pop Tarts, the show gave itself a lot of raw material and opted not to use it. Instead of exploring those characters, or at the very least letting them have any impact on a plot, we end up with physical comedy, Balki singing showtunes, Balki putting on funny hats and chanting.  Cutting out these characters not only closes off potential stories, but potential ways to explore stories as well. It’s far too easy to think of better ways to use the supporting characters in episodes like “The Newsletter” or “Here Comes the Judge”; and when they aren’t used at all, Perfect Strangers ends up being drearily uninteresting. “Poetry in Motion” ended up feeling like a clone of season 4’s “The Lottery”. “Lie-Ability” teased a bunch of interesting stories in the first three minutes and then spent the remainder implying that Larry had talked Balki into wiping his ass. I know I watched “Everyone in the Pool”, and that’s about all I can say about it at this point. I’d put “Disorderly Orderlies” and “This Old House” in this category, too. And instead of an episode where Larry and Jennifer celebrate their anniversary, we got “Bye Bye Birdie”, which is one of the most unnecessary episodes of this show I’ve watched yet.

And lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also re-iterate what we learned in “Digging Up the News”.  In the course of rewrites (or possibly during editing?), it appears that Perfect Strangers is willing to ditch the handful of dialogue necessary to avoid what I think of as “sitcom logic”. I’m not sure how often this is the case–and I may not try to investigate it in the future–but it’s certainly another piece of the puzzle of why Perfect Strangers is the way it is.


So, back to my initial question of “what the fuck is this show trying to do or be?” This season, it tried to explore stories that derive from the cousins at this point in their lives, personal and professional.  It tried to build some story “arcs” that carried across more than one episode. It tried to touch on some serious contemporary topics like toxic waste and toxic leadership. It looks like it was trying to figure out what it might need to change as it entered its final years. It certainly wasn’t trying to be like other sitcoms. At times it tried to be a cartoon, and it even found some success when it leaned more into that (“Blast From the Past”, “Eyewitless Report”).


But ultimately what I think Perfect Strangers is trying to do is be both a sitcom and a kids’ cartoon.  It’s a unique thing to try to do, and I think distinguishes it quite well from other family sitcoms of the time period.  Whether good integration of those elements is possible is a different topic for another day. My point here is that they generally don’t work together in the the way Perfect Strangers attempts, and nowhere was this more clear than when the two collided head-on in “Almost Live in Chicago”.


One last word about my hopes for the next three seasons: I don’t have any.



You didn’t think I’d leave without a list, did you? I know you millennials love your fucking lists.

Favorite episode: “Eyewitless Report”

Episode that made me want to remove my own hemorrhoids with a used grapefruit spoon: “Almost Live From Chicago”

Best one-off character: Mac MacIntyre (James Hampton)

Worst handling of a one-off character: Mr. Vaughan (Travis McKenna) in “Disorderly Orderlies”

Best Balki-ism: haha you think I’m even paying attention to them at this point?

Worst Balki-ism: that time when he said something

Season 5 catchphrase count: Balki (17.5); Larry (10)

Season 5 boner count: Balki (6); Larry (4)

Cumulative catchphrase count: Balki (88.5); Larry (31)

Cumulative boner count: Balki (18); Larry (18.5)

Dance of Joy running total: 17



Join me next week for another Perfect Strangers review!


*He’ll come into your place / Scare you with dynamite / The hitmen know his face / He’s got Marvin Berman eyes

**The fact that that birthday party also included fursuits and oversized props is purely coincidental

***With the major fucking exception of dislocating Lydia’s shoulder because someone he knew in high school has a sugar daddy-in-law in “Almost Live From Chicago”


Season 5 Reportage


Welcome back! I know I’ve picked up some new readers over the past few months, so I’ll explain what I’m doing here. Ever since I found out that Jennifer and Mary Anne were promoted to regular characters on the strength of seeing them on-screen for two whole minutes, I decided that I needed to get serious about educating myself on the context of Perfect Strangers.  So between seasons I now look at whatever interviews and news reporting I can find on the show.  It’s much more work than reviewing an episode, but the benefit is I don’t have to watch an episode to write it. I utilize the information found on the long-running Perfect Strangers fansite, as well as the videos curated on the associated YouTube channel. It’s been a worthwhile endeavor, not only for learning trivia like Larry thinking the original decorations for the apartment set made it look like somebody’s grandma’s house, but also for giving me the chance to break the story about Bronson Pinchot’s shoe fetish.

Being finished with season 5 of Perfect Strangers, I’m finding, doesn’t really feel like any sort of milestone. Completing season 3 felt like an accomplishment, because it proved, if nothing else, that I had far less of a social life than the guys who wrote the other two Perfect Strangers blogs.  Season 4 had its obvious benefits as the (sorta) halfway point. My emotional response to having season 5 behind me is, for the most part, one of buckling down for the rest of it. Accomplishment has come, been recognized, and gone, and now there’s a set amount left to do. I’ll have more to say about this next week, in the season review, but one of the things that struck me with this week’s research is that I found a reflection of this feeling in the interviews with the actors.

So read on as we look at interviews and articles (et a little cetera too) from May 6, 1989, through May 4, 1990, organized so that all the juicy Bronson stuff will be at the end.

The Show itself

I only find two articles talking about the show leading up to the season 5 premiere. A mid-season article in TV Guide overstates the Larry/Balki “investigative team” relationship, but even more distanced from the actual show is an August article in TV Week:

At 9 o’clock, “Perfect Strangers” moves out of the traditional family hour (8-9) and into an area where presumably more adult themes can be explored in a show that has been maturing since its innception…. The comedy during the first few seasons came from the unrelenting conflict generated by Balki’s naivete and the cousins’ romantic entanglements with a pair of flight attendants, one as solid as Larry and the other as off-the-wall as Balki.

Can you imagine writing about a show you’d never watched?

There’s nowhere else good, narratively, to place this Rolling Stone article about sitcom theme songs, so I’ll mention it here.  For one, I never realized how much 80s theme songs read like translated anime theme lyrics, and the article pulls no punches in getting across how meaningless some of them are (like Growing Pains’s “sharing the laughter and love”). These quotes from Jesse Frederick are the most relevant to this blog’s discussion of Perfect Strangers:

Ironically, there’s an intense process to come up with these songs, and they all come out sounding kind of the same.

[ABC] said they wanted the theme to sound contemporary but not too rock & roll.  They wanted something real positive.  They said, ‘It’s about winning.’

Millions of people hear your music every week…. And you’re generously paid.  But somehow you’re not quite as cool as you’d be if you did something else.

Okay, on to the actors.

Melanie Wilson

Melanie did a couple of interviews in the summer of 1989.  One of them was on the Pat Sajak Show. Wikipedia doesn’t make any conjectures as to why Sajak’s talk show got low ratings, but maybe it had to do with the fact that he was only bringing in guests like “the taller blonde from Perfect Strangers”? She trots out the same damn stuff about her dad (Mr. Whipple) and her husband (the closetmaker) and I already regret wasting my time this week.


And speaking of repeats from last time, she appeared on A.M. Los Angeles again.  The very first thing the male host (in this instance, it looks like someone else was filling in for Steve Edwards) does is talk about her body and obviously think that he’s very charming for doing so. Melanie is still going on about those fucking closets, but she also gives us some actual information about the show. If you’re interested in knowing the turnaround time from taping to air, she mentions that filming for “Father Knows Best???” will begin the following week, meaning that it aired about two months after filming.

For the season opener, “Good Skates”, none of the four actors knew how to rollerskate and someone had to be brought in to train them. (Now how impressed are you at Mark Linn-Baker’s “bad” skating?)  She jokes about calling her agent to ask for a new gig when she first heard about the episode, but I feel like she’s not really joking; the host makes a crack about sitcom writers coming up with plots that don’t play to their actors’ strengths.

*turns head to camera, The Office-style*

It’s long been my complaint that Jennifer’s character is as developed as someone with Kallmann Syndrome. And Melanie’s interviews have so far been the least interesting of the bunch, so it surprised me to find something of interest in the articles.

Friends, Melanie saw her first penis in France, when she was in college.

Also, she has opinions on her role in the show.  For one, she’s a little embarrassed that in three years, she’s only kissed Larry as many times.  Another article (published soon before the season 5 premiere goes much further into depth on what she thinks Jennifer’s personality is. ‘Bout to give y’all a bunch of quotes, because this is worth reading.

“She’s not just polite, she’s very polite.  She’s not just proper, she’s very proper.  She’s not only intelligent, she’s very intelligent.  And she’s not just repressed, she’s very, very repressed,” Melanie says.

Hey, if you say so, Mel. I mean, if you give a character no lines and no agency, what else can you assume about the character other than “she holds herself back”?

Melanie describes [the sitcom-making] process as “…a courtship, really, between actors and writers.  Jennifer and I have some similarities on which the writers have drawn.  For example, like Jennifer, I went abroad to study.  I was quite academic during my school years; I was, and remain, a voracious reader.  I think that as they’ve come to know me, they’ve taken a part of me and given it to her which then gives her, thankfully, another dimension.”

My god, how much of these scripts got cut between Monday and Thursday?

“They’ve allowed her to be different from the typical TV ‘blonde’.  You could say,” Melanie said, “that she’s treated more like the ‘typical TV series’ brunette’ would be.”

Okay, whatever, I mean, jeez, even the actors have headcanon

“What I’m also pleased about is the way the writers have been rounding Jennifer out over the past year.  She has more of a sense of who she is, and what she wants, and more strength as a person.  I suppose you could say she’s coming into her own.”

What the shrinking fuck? Christ, this sounds like me waxing eloquent about my “process” in writing jokes about buttfucking. Let’s review what we’ve learned about Jennifer this season: she rollerskates, she plays tennis, she has a dad, she occasionally gets very mad at her best friend instead of regular mad, and sometimes she’s playful with her boyfriend if there’s an extra 10 seconds the writers need to fill. I find it easier to believe that her role was reduced than that she was making shit up, and if that’s the case, then fuck this show.

Weep for Jennifer, y’all.

Mark Linn-Baker


Speaking of forgotten actresses, here’s Mark with Rae Dawn Chong. I’ve only seen a couple of her movies (if your tastes run anything near to mine, check out The Borrower; it’s one of my favorite batshit-crazy scifi movies), and seeing her here made me wonder why I don’t see more of her. I found out her career wasn’t short-lived, it’s just never been very prominent. And, here’s this blog’s rare intersection with current events: she recently spoke up about her then-agent’s complicity in a harrassesque (?) encounter with Steven Seagal in the 80s.


Anyway, back to Mark. Just like with Melanie, the televised stuff is more boring than the written. Just watching the clips, Mark doesn’t seem like he wants to be there. It’s not that his answers are particularly short, he just doesn’t say much in terms of his feelings or thoughts on things. In his appearance on A.M. Los Angeles in March of 1990, it appears that someone had to do research just to have something to ask him questions about. The hosts (in this case, Tawny Little and the same guy filling in for Steve Edwards, unless Steve got a dye job that month)  blow through questions about the physical comedy on the show so fast they end up having to bring out that years-old line about him being the cheapest guy in Hollywood. I mean, look at this guy’s evasion:


Host: Any new twists and turns in the plotline we should know about Perfect Strangers before we go?

Mark Linn-Baker: Just, uh… same stuff, physical comedy, Balki and I continue to work together, and hopefully it’s funny.


Well, now we know who the show’s biggest fan was, right? I was so bored by this I ended up focussing on the giant chairs they’re sitting in.  I wonder if that was in any way the inspiration for this Tim & Eric bit?


Anyway, a couple of interviews do mention his theater company, which I finally found out is the New York Stage & Film Company.  What’s more, he co-founded it before he was ever on Perfect Strangers! I’d expect him to gush about it, but he’s so focussed on his duty of doing interviews that he stays on the topic of Perfect Strangers. You know how last time I talked about behind-the-scenes stories being shortened and streamlined, losing both detail and truth, over the course of four years? Mark makes it sound here like that was the goal all along, which doesn’t jibe with the stories I saw in season 1. It makes me want to interview Mark myself and ask about the show’s course.

Not that I would ever try to interview him, of course…

Back when I reviewed “Father Knows Best???, parts 1-9”, commenter and Christmas-ruiner Philip J Reed asked how they managed to film the flooded basement. In an October 1990 appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show, Mark tells that they used a tank filled with water–one of the same ones that Esther Williams used–for it.  Arsenio brings up Me & Him, which evidently didn’t get released in the US, so it surprised Mark to hear that someone in the audience had seen it.  (Since it was a European-only release, this means that most countries did not hear his voice.)

The interview isn’t exciting, or really worth watching, and I think Mark sums things up pretty nicely when he jokes that he “lives for” interviews.

Luckily, Mark’s a little more talkative in print, and we get some information on the show’s own process. I hinted at a Monday-Thursday schedule above (apparently shortened from five days to four with season 5, and Mark is where this info comes from

According to an article in Nightlife magazine, which no doubt refers to season 4,

Each week, the cast and crew begin their “fun time” with an almost — dare we say? — theatre-like process that lasts five days.  Writers, actors and director discuss motives, characterization and what is funny about the script and what’s not.  “There’s pretty much agreement about what works, when it works,” he says of the workshop method.  “It’s like putting on a playlet every five days.”

So, yes, everyone shares credit for the cousins shaking their butts during the Wedding March in “Wedding Belle Blues”, but that means that everyone is also responsible for the laff riot that was Larry getting his blanket stolen in prison. We learn from an interview in Drama-Logue* that Perfect Strangers was the first of Mark’s roles where he (at the producer’s urging) watched his own performances. “It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just not what you expect.  Miller said I had to get over that and I did.”

This is thrilling stuff, right? Call now and pledge to keep these wonderful blog posts going.


Rebeca Arthur

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere! Rebeca didn’t do very many interviews, but she did have some other television appearances.


She appeared on Circus of the Stars in both 1988 and 1989 (I missed the ‘88 one last time, sorry), and now that I’ve watched a little bit of both, I have to wonder: what was the draw? It seems like it’s a lot of work to get actors trained, and for what?  On the one hand, you get to see actors doing things entirely unrelated to their talents, and on the other hand, stunts done by people who aren’t trained professionals. I asked some of my older friends what was so special about these shows, and they reminded me that there wasn’t cable back then. Check the clips out if you want, especially if you want to hear Leslie Nielsen read bad copy that misuses the word “glasnost”.


As we saw in Opposites Attract, though, Rebeca was in great shape after two years of training. In one of the two interviews I have, she talks to Pat Sajak about the training.  I doubt we’ll see Sajak again during the course of this blog, so I’ll say this about him: I really respect how skilled he is at reading the feeling of a conversation and nudging it in the right direction, I just wish he were funny too.


Her other interview on–surprise, surprise–A.M. Los Angeles is of note because the hosts (here Steve Edwards and Tawny Little) bring out Victoria Jackson during the segment. Rebeca jokes that she wants Victoria to play Mary Anne’s sister, and never have I made something headcanon so quickly. Instead of anyone having done enough research to ask about the episode they appeared in together, the host derail the whole conversation by trying to get them to say that they get typecast as dumb blonde characters. Neither of them bites, and good for them. Fuck you, Steve Edwards and Tawny Little.


Rebeca also appeared on the very last week of broadcasts of The New Hollywood Squares, and–


Mother of fuck, it’s Jim J. Bullock!


There’s not much to say here, other than I find it delightful to watch Rebeca get some time in the spotlight. There’s a bit in the second clip where a spokesperson for Alberto-Culver (one of the advertisers on the show, I’d imagine) has come in from France, and he goes up to Rebeca’s square and they pretend to make out for most of the episode.


Bronson Pinchot


I have–oh god–to watch 17 interviews with Bronson this time around, not to mention read 15 articles. So take off your shoes and let’s tackle these in chronological order.


I didn’t mean you, Bronson!


Seen here: Bronson at the tender age of “high school”.

The majority of the interviews during 1989 had Bronson talking much more about Second Sight than Perfect Strangers, and this one (a May 6, 1989, airing of Public People, Private Lives) is no different.  But rather than focus on his work, this show’s focus is on what goes on for actors off-screen.  We get a recap of his story of growing up poor and overweight, with a few new bits of trivia sprinkled throughout (he wanted Balki to be named Apollo). Even after claiming to be on a “girl diet” after tiring of women leaving him after six weeks, the host keeps pressing him to talk about his deep, sexual needs.  After mounting her briefly…

…Bronson answers that, after growing up in a depressing situation, acting gives him his greatest joy:

I think I was sad because I was just what I still am, which is sensitive. And if you’re sensitive, life makes you sad, and that’s all there is to it…. That little boy wants to be somebody else. It gives me great pleasure, I mean, like, sexual pleasure to, like, change, and just be completely different.

Self-awareness is a slow and fitful thing, as not two weeks later he’s quoted in a newspaper as saying that his role as Balki was “the first time someone had approached me as an actor, not a bubble-gum machine and saying, ‘We want that flavor.'”  Yeah, I suppose vanilla, French vanilla, and vanilla bean do have their subtleties.

In September 1989 on Movietime, baffled honesty from Bronson when asked about the Family Matters spinoff:

[Jo Marie is] going to be a lot happier on her own show, because on our show, you need a soul made of cast iron if you’re not Mark or me, to, like, live from week to week, because there’s–they don’t–there’s nothing for those people to do, and how they make it I don’t know. But there’s often, like, tears and headbanging. I mean, it’s like so focussed, it probably… I don’t know, I don’t know if there is another show where it’s so totally focussed on so few characters.

Holy shit, not only does this (along with Melanie Wilson’s kind-of complaint) confirm so much of what I’ve been suspecting about the show, but it’s also the first time I’ve heard Bronson complain about something in a way that didn’t position him as either hero or victim. And if Jo Marie wasn’t happy on Perfect Strangers because all she got to do was stand around and do crossword puzzles, I can only imagine how difficult it was to have her own show taken away from her by a 13-year-old. I wish I could pick her brain about it, but like I say, no chance in hell I’d ever even consider trying to interview any of these actors.


By the time October of 1989 rolled around, it was all about advertising Second Sight. Most of the interviews feature Bronson talking about how he researched and interviewed real-life psychics for the role of Bobby McGee (and how he got almost nothing funny to use). Aside from the research, Bronson doesn’t have much to say about the movie other than that it’s “hilarious” and that “you have to turn off your brain”. Other trivia: “Murray” was named after the original director, who walked off the picture; Bobby McGee gained psychic powers after being struck by lightning at 15 (I know you were all wondering); Bronson intended the “Freeway of Love” scene in Second Sight to imply Bobby thought he was Aretha Franklin.  Because that’s what psychics do, mistakenly think that they’re the people they hear on the radio.  Good three months of research there, Bronnie.

And lest you thought that his new-found candor meant that he was no longer up to his old antics, Bronson once again grabbed the hosts’ question cards and read through them first thing on his October appearance on Attitudes.  I’m willing to be a little more understanding about this now that I’ve seen so many of his interviews; the ones available can’t possibly be all that he did, and he has to have been bored with the same dull questions over and over again (the host on Movietime asked him did it feel good to be cheered for after a performance). He also uses his new girlfriend Wren, who was in the audience, as a distraction.


But he also reacts somewhat strongly when the hosts on Attitudes to try put everything he’s said in other interviews (about his early life, being a late-bloomer, and how he developed his eccentric interests) into a narrative. I get the impression that he’s thrown off by the genuine interest that Linda Dano and Dee Kelly have in the questions they have about his real life.

On the other hand, Bronson’s just as uncomfortable in his Geraldo appearance, even though he’s almost completely out of the spotlight. This episode of Geraldo features a number of real-life psychics whose services were used for police cases, and Bronson is there to promote Second Sight. It’s the same kind of almost-synergy feel that Jury Duty had. Geraldo tries to lighten the mood by showing off a production still of Bronson as Jorge Jiminez–


–but Bronson stumbles through his answers and looks like he wishes he could be somewhere other than on a stage sitting in a row of people he doesn’t know and doesn’t get to talk to. It must have been difficult to go that long in front of an audience without escaping into being someone else. (Bonus: he refers to his catchphrase as “DBR”.)


If Bronson had little to say about how Second Sight turned out in the week leading up to the premiere, it didn’t stop him from talking up his own abilities. Not only did he help “develop” the script, but it was his whole idea to overload Bobby with psychic abilities. In an article in the New York Post, he talks about Serge → Perfect StrangersSecond Sight as a deliberate (or at the very least fortuitous) set of steps in his career. At the same time, self-awareness rears it head as Bronson says “I think they see me as a comic…. I don’t get other scripts and I don’t know that I’d send them to me, either.”  And just as quickly it’s gone again, as Bronson starts his decades-long habit of throwing shade on better actors:

Eddie Murphy’s funny, but I have yet to see him play a character.  He always winks at you through the character.  I call that the post-‘Saturday Night Live’ thing…. Maybe there is someone in an office somewhere saying ‘Let’s not use Bronson Pinchot — I’m sick of him,’ but I sort of doubt it.


Most of the televised interviews that week are a grab bag o’Bronson.  In both his appearance on Regis & Kathie Lee, as well as on After Hours, he talks like the character of Balki, accent and all, was birthed straight from his head, Hera-style.** There’s a woman in the audience dressed up, bearing a shepherd’s crook emblazoned with BALKI FAN, who begs to be Bronson’s “Myposian Bo Peep”.


Bronson gives a signal to Wren, talks about how he met her in a furniture store, and cracks jokes so bad one of the crew off-stage groans loudly a few times. The After Hours host asks Bronson if he wants to do another five years of Perfect Strangers, and Bronson just gives her a look for a few seconds.


And that same day, on Entertainment Tonight, Bronson wishes he knew what he’d be doing after his two last contract years were over on the show.

Bronson talks about his shoes on his Arsenio Hall appearance (the night before Second Sight’s premiere), but that’s old hat by now. We get some more behind-the-scenes information: Mark had to tell Bronson not to be grabbing asses the first time Melanie and Rebeca were on the show; Bronson peed his pants during the scene where they poured the wine; and Bronson can’t even come up with the name “Rebeca”, referring to his co-star as “the girl sitting next to him”. Most interesting to me is Arsenio asking about the comedy album.  Bronson refers to it as “The Further Adventures of Serge”, and says that the A&M representative forgot asking him to record it; A&M gave him a pity session where they listened to the material, and the recording ultimately ended up at Bronson’s house. (Roadtrip, anyone?) He also mentions appearing with Jan Hooks as host on Friday Night Videos, a show which ran for twenty years and I somehow never once heard of. If anyone has a copy, I’d love to see it, just for curiosity’s sake.

The next morning–


oh for fuck’s sake it’s A.M. Los Angeles and those fucking awful hosts again.  Bronson complains that the audience on Arsenio were demanding he do the Serge voice, and Steve Edwards’s response to this is to ask for the Serge voice. Fuck you, Steve. Bronson gives us once again the history of him only accepting the Perfect Strangers role after a summer in Europe (financed by his Risky Business royalties). You’re probably tired at this point of me rehashing this story, but it sticks out to me here because which parts he’s being honest about have changed again. He admits to being broke, but instead of being accompanied by his girlfriend, it’s just “a friend”. I’ve been building this narrative that Bronson just puffs himself up, but I’m beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, he’s a real person, and there are certain things he doesn’t want to talk about, or be asked questions about, in certain situations. I mean, Wren probably was watching this show.  Bronson also takes questions from callers, including one who is upset that he’s in a movie about such evil things as psychics, and someone who knew Bronson in 3rd grade (and whom Bronson remembers having a crush on).


And then Second Sight premiered that night. And that’s when Bronson seems to change.

Here’s the New York Times’s one-star review of Second Sight, written by Janet Maslin, who still does film reviews for them. She blames the lack of humor in the movie on director Joel Zwick, and is only relatively kind to Pinchot and Larroquette.  Part of me wishes I could dig up other contemporary reviews, say from Variety, but I find I don’t need to. A distracted Bronson on the November 4 airing of the Byron Allen Show tells me all I need to know. He seems to be more interested in complimenting Melissa Manchester on whatever song she had just played, and doesn’t seem to pick up how uncomfortable he makes Allen when he sits on top of the guest couch.

Psychology sidebar: we’ve talked about cognitive dissonance before, the phenomenon where people can’t stand to have two conflicting thoughts in mind. If something contradicts a person’s grand narrative or deep-held beliefs, the new information is re-interpreted, re-categorized, or simply rejected.  Most people’s grand narrative includes themselves as a good, competent person. When I am successful, I attribute it to my own talents and effort; if I fail, it was the fault of an external factor. (Likewise, when someone we don’t like is successful, it’s due to external factors; if they fail, it was their own damn fault.) To briefly comment on my own hobby, webcomics, it is rare to see a successful webcomics author admit the sheer amount of luck necessary to make a living off selling T-shirts and self-publishing.

So it’s no surprise that, after a couple of years of Perfect Strangers not doing so hot in the ratings (it went from first to second in the first year of TGIF, and then bumped to the third spot in 1989 when Family Matters debuted), and with Second Sight having bombed, Bronson starts assigning blame.  In an article towards the end of November 1989, it’s the writers’ fault, since rewrites evidently kept being made up “until air time”, and that it took eight writers to solve the show’s problems. “The fact that any of it works is a miracle.”

(Jesse Frederick’s words echo: “there’s an intense process”… “they all come out the same”…)

In a February article in The Daily Bruin, Bronson goes further, doing a 180 on his earlier claims that he developed the Bobby McGee character. “People could spot a mile off that the character was invented around Bronson Pinchot.” Here, the “television industry” is also at fault for “watering down” programs.

But it is a surprise to see Bronson start accepting some of the blame himself.  In the January 11 edition of USA Today, Bronson still refers to Second Sight as a “limp movie” and is still confident that his own talent had not “eroded”.  But, referring to sitcom-making as preparing cookies, Bronson feels that “when I’m allowed to fiddle with the batter, sometimes my ideas aren’t that great.” He appears undaunted, though, joking that he wants his own starring series after Perfect Strangers (“The Bronson Pinchot Chot”); and trying to make sheep into sheep-ade by calling Perfect Strangers “cult” status one that will allow him to “create” other characters.

Can’t wait to see that!  That very same day, Bronson was again a guest on The Arsenio Hall Show, where, when asked what the fuck happened with Second Sight, starts taking off his pants instead of answering. He discusses Jury Duty (which would air three days later) and mentions that he had asked for his role to be enlarged.  Then he takes off his shoes, takes off his pants, and tries to mount Arsenio.


Bronson went to New York from March through May (?) of 1990, after season 5 filming had wrapped up, to work on a play.  He was in Zoya’s Apartment, which was on Broadway, and worked with a Russian director, who had to direct with the aid of a translator. He talks about this a little on Late Night with David Letterman in March of 1990, saying that he researched his con-man character by watching King of the Gypsies. (I haven’t seen that film, but I’m sure it’s not as good as The Borrower, starring Rae Dawn Chong.) David Letterman does a better job of controlling his physical environment: when Bronson starts messing with the papers on his desk, Letterman takes them back and keeps the conversation moving. He relates a story about a woman coming up to him on the street and giving him her opinion on Perfect Strangers: “That was cute at one time; your character has not evolved”.  In keeping with his newfound honesty/attribution re-assignment, Bronson says he agrees.


Again, I get the impression that Bronson is willing to talk about some things in certain environments, but not in others.  Previously, Bronson seemed to want to forget about his role in Hot Resort, but here he’s fine talking to Letterman about it. (He reports that it was only released in Fiji, and it doesn’t sound like he meant it as a joke; I’m guessing he would know this, right?) Similarly, Bronson doesn’t mention his girlfriend by name in his April 1990 Playgirl interview, which  makes a lot of sense. Why spoil the mystery?  After all, as Bronson says, Balki is “innocent and untouched – a certain type of woman finds that a real come-on”. Mary Anne and Balki may have kissed more than Larry and Jennifer, but it was much, much longer before any script confirmed their relationship.


Finally, Bronson appeared on the Joan Rivers Show in April of 1990, where he thankfully manages not to mount the host.  He talks about a lot of the same stuff we’ve covered already (girlfriend, psychics, the origin of the name “Balki”)***. I’m truly surprised that I’ve gotten this much narrative about Bronson’s career, and his own feelings about it.  I’ve never followed a celebrity enough to try to track how they present themselves, and it’s been an interesting trip this week to watch Bronson go from his usual braggart, anticky self to someone going through the emotions of watching their career stumble majorly just when they thought it was picking up speed. If the failure of Second Sight shocked him out of his standard persona enough to get him to criticize both the writing on Perfect Strangers and himself, by the time he talked with Joan Rivers he was trying to look at his own future with a more honest appraisal of his chances. Staying in New York for three months cost him a lot, and he figured he would be out of money by the time season 6 starting filming. And we know from that Entertainment Tonight piece that he knew how soon his Perfect Strangers contract would be finished. Bronson said that 1990 was the year where he would need to be an adult about his finances.

And Bronson was never broke again.

Let’s wrap up our discussion with a longer January 1990 LA Times article about the many shows of Tom Miller and Bob Boyett, and the main question the article sets out to answer is why their shows are so goddam successful. The article offers a token example of criticism towards Miller-Boyett shows (they aren’t “realistic”) which is met with a glib “30 million Uncle Joey fans can’t be wrong” answer. The article even gets a choice quote from Brandon Tartikoff, then president of NBC, who was jealous that he’d come home on Friday night and find his kid watching ABC instead of, um, Baywatch.  The main answer for Bob & Tom’s success seems to be that people want familiarity (and damned if that doesn’t share a linguistic root with “family”):


“Shows really have to work to make it today,” Boyett says.  “It’s always been tough to have a hit but today it’s a million times more difficult than it was in the 70’s.  It used to be that people would sample a new show just because it was new.  Now, new is bad.  Now, people hear new and they are not interested.  We’ve been lucky that the networks have believed in us and our shows long enough for the audience to become attached to them.  Our track record certainly helps in that respect.”

They also mention how they try to treat each show’s set of actors “like a family”, and how they make sure to include “a certain amount of women and older people”. This “family” treatment no doubt explains why there was so much “tears and headbanging” behind the scenes on Perfect Strangers (by the way, have a good Thanksgiving with your loved ones!). Anyway, Miller-Boyett had found success with a type of formula and were duplicating it as much as the market would allow, kind of like how Hanna-Barbera pumped out endless variations on Scooby-Doo in the 70s.

So is that the note we’re left with this week, heading into the season 5 wrap-up? That Mark Linn-Baker had nothing bad to say about the show, but even more telling, he had nothing good to say about it?  That the actresses were reduced to tears behind the scenes because they were lucky if they got two lines in a single episode? That Bronson would become a has-been as soon as the credits rolled on the series finale? And that, thanks to the reign of Miller-Boyett, that invisible pair dictating orders from a higher floor, Perfect Strangers’s main selling point was that it had been on for five years?

Nah, shit, man, that’s bleak.  Let’s end instead by watching a video of Jo Marie cook liver and onions and Reginal VelJohnson enjoy the hell out of eating it.

Next week we’ll bury this fucking season.  Bring your shovel!


*The Drama-Logue article claims that Bronson was cut from Annie Hall, easily two years before he even started taking acting classes.  Makes me want to smack the writer for such shitty research.

**Actually it was his makeup person on the set of Hot Resort, per the David Letterman interview also in this post.

***It’s mentioned here that Bronson’s first televised interview was with Joan when she was guest-hosting for Carson. I’d love to see that, if anyone can dig up a copy.