How I Spent My Summer Vacation: 1988

If all of those articles we looked at two weeks ago were telling the truth, everything Perfect Strangers touched turned to gold, and its actors would see nothing but success from 1987 onwards. I mean, after all, it and Full House built the powerhouse of TGIF. And Bronson was so sexy. I mean, those lips! That hair! The promise of being his girlfriend for only three weeks!

*mops sweat from brow with the corner of a Myposian tapestry*

Sorry, I’m getting off-track here.

Last time, there wasn’t much to say about what our actors did to get paid the rest of the year. Let’s see if 1988 is any more fruitful.

Melanie Wilson (Jennifer)

nuthin’

Okay, well, that one’s not a surprise, certainly Pinchot was–

Bronson Pinchot

nuthin’

Okay, well, he said he was going to be in a movie come Christmas ’89, so he was working, movies take a lot of time. Let’s move on to *ahem* established actors.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson already had a decade of television work under his belt by 1988, so it’s no surprise that he showed up in an episode of 21 Jump Street as “Dan Finger”.

danfinger

I’ve never watched 21 Jump Street, but I watched one of the scenes with him in it. I’m going to guess (and part of this comes from his IMDB page) that Anderson got a lot of work as guys in suits. He definitely pulls off the air of someone who would comfortably occupy an official role as some part of a bureaucracy.  After all, we first saw him in season 1 as a guy in a suit working at a bank.  In both cases, he’s been a frustrated-bordering-on-suppressed-anger kind of guy, and that’s how I like my authority figure characters. It gives the kids something to rebel against, and the parents something to identify with.

And hey, look at that, he was guy in a suit on Growing Pains, working as a frustrated part of an educational bureaucracy!

growingpains

I don’t know how in the world I forgot that Sam Anderson was in Critters 2: The Main Course. This lets me talk about Critters!

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The Critters series of movies is one of the better thought-out, better written, and most cohesive of the 80s/90s horror series I’ve watched (and I’ve watched a lot). That’s really not saying much, especially for what began as a Gremlins clone, but what makes Critters work is that it has a lot of heart, and what gives it that heart is the character of Charlie, played by Don Keith Opper. I could talk all day about Critters, but anyway, Sam Anderson plays Mr. Morgan, who oversees the publication of a small-town newspaper, the Grover’s Bend Gazette. Not a suit, but working in an established, official capacity.  I probably forgot him because you’re supposed to forget this type of character. He makes the newspaper real, has a little bit of personality (here, dealing with the minor headaches of placing rural “news” stories in order of importance), and then the movie gets down to business with killings.

Eugene Roche

He did a bunch of stuff, and then he died. From the looks of it, he may have been well-known for his role on Dave’s World. I really felt like breaking the law today, but I can’t find that show for download.

R.I.P. Eugene Roche, and R.I.P. Harry Burns.  I hope he finally got ahold of Lance’s column.

I’ve saved my favorites for last:

Jo Marie Payton

I couldn’t find Payton’s appearance on The Slap Maxwell Story or Frank’s Place (haha, what’d she do, stand on a grave and dispense wisdom? god it’s fun to make jokes about suicide), but she was also in a film called Colors. She played “2nd woman in recreation center”, so you decide whether that one’s worth tracking down to hear what “Mm-hmm, baby” sounds like with different acoustics.

Belita Moreno

When she wasn’t working with two idiots in Chicago, Belita worked with Two Idiots in Hollywood. I’ve never heard of it, which means it was a garbage movie for babies. It wasn’t released on DVD, but it would cost me four times as much to get a copy of it on VHS than it did to get Going to the Chapel (see below), so I’m sure it was at least better than that. She played some character named “Dreamhouse Barbecue Mother”, which coincidentally is also what I was planning on calling the first prog rock album I release.

As far as television, she was on Valerie, The Slap Maxwell Story, and Family Ties. I’m trying so hard to take money away from actors and executives, but I’m not finding the episodes of Valerie or The Slap Maxwell Story to download. At the very least, some degenerate soul uploaded the episode of Family Ties:

belitafamilyties

Looks like she may have been somewhat typecast as only being able to stand beside short, fat, sleazy men. I expected a more prominent role for Moreno; here, all she does is smile, shake hands and say “I’m Norma”.

Rebeca Arthur / Mary Anne (Sagittarius)

scrooged

Finally, fuck and yes, I got to download a movie illegally! In one of those cosmic coincidences, Rebeca Arthur played a be-eyelinered character at a party named Tina in Scrooged. I was always intrigued as a kid by the skeleton hand lighting Bill Murray’s cigar but it wasn’t until now that I finally had the motivation to watch it. (Spoiler: that scene doesn’t even happen in the movie.) The script needed a sexy blonde who was hot for Bill Murray, so Rebeca Arthur was a sexy blonde who was hot for Bill Murray.

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Would that she were a sexy blonde who was hot for me.

Mark Linn-Baker

As we saw two weeks ago, Linn-Baker spent any time he wasn’t working on Perfect Strangers teaching and acting in New York. I’m having trouble finding anything about what plays he might have been in in 1988, but it’s safe to say he likely wasn’t in Cats, or Rodney Dangerfield on Broadway!.

He was in a couple of movies that summer, though. God help me: I was a model citizen and bought them both on VHS.

Me and Him (Sept. 1988)

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Mark Linn-Baker plays the voice of Griffin Dunne’s penis. It’s kind of like Stranger than Fiction, but with a penis instead of an author.  It fits with Linn-Bakers depiction of Larry–basically trying to pull someone towards their baser urges. So it’s kind of like Perfect Strangers, but with vaginas instead of Sears Tower ice cream sundaes.

Going to the Chapel (Oct. 1988, also released as Wedding Day Blues)

This movie was released mere days before season 4 began.  Here’s the front of the VHS box:

goingtothechapelcover

Look, I like Linn-Baker and all, but if his name is listed first on the packaging, then “All Star Cast” is kind of a stretch. And to give you an idea of the budget for promotional photos: they took a picture of John Ratzenberger while he was asking if he was standing in the right spot.  This movie was much harder to pay attention to than Me and Him. It’s meant to be one of those ensemble pieces where all of the wacky relatives threaten to ruin the wedding and cause stress for the bride and groom.  The problem is, no one is wacky enough, or has enough impact on the plot.  Also, no one character is meant to be particularly prominent, which makes it obvious that Linn-Baker’s role was expanded in the first act of the movie.  I have no clue what the impetus of this movie was. I can’t imagine someone wanting to write it, or then writing it and thinking it was good. I can’t imagine the actors thinking it was good. I can only see this as a paycheck for everyone involved–but who the hell wanted to spend money on it?

Anyway, this is likely the only time that you’ll ever see Linn-Baker and Max Wright on-screen at the same time. And yes, they touch each other.

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Susan

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Susan’s cowboy boyfriend comes back and almost immediately lands in jail. He’s going to be hanged, so Susan tries wearing a nice dress to help him out.

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It works, but then Cowboy Boyfriend leaves again.

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I love you, Susan, and I know that you’ve moved on. I’ve gotten over my own sadness enough to start hoping that you’ll find happiness. But will you ever find true love?

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There were no changes to the opening credits in Season 4 other than the title losing the shiny reflection effect, so join me next week for “The Lottery”, which involves Larry pulling the slip with the black spot on it.

Also, many thanks to a real-live Jennifer for the art at the top of this  post!

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: 1987

So.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the first time Balki and Larry didn’t kiss on national television.  Anniversaries are arbitrary, and really, how precise can you get with an anniversary? Do you celebrate simply the half-hour in which the show aired?  Is it the whole day? Is it the calendar day, or are we basing our calculations on true revolutions around the sun?  Because we have to correct for that every four years (and even that, if I remember correctly, doesn’t catch the entirety of the offset), and let’s face it, 30 doesn’t divide evenly by four, even on Mypos.  And besides: when did they start filming these episodes? Do we count the anniversary of when the pitch for the show was first given? When the actors were chosen? When the first script was written? Anniversaries are really just exercises in trying to recapture some long-lost feeling related to a point in time which, quite honestly, you may have romanticized in the interim, boats against the current, borne (as Balki might say) sneezelessly into the past.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that I used a version of this speech once in a long-term relationship, and the reason now is the same as it was then: I didn’t buy you a present, show.

Luckily, other people have legitimately fond memories of Perfect Strangers, and one of them is putting on a livestream of episodes (is it legal? don’t be ridiculous…) this coming Sunday.  This whole sentence is a Facebook link with the details of the Perfect Strangers 30th anniversary livestreamed event.* I’ll try to be there for at least part of it, riffing on the episodes in real time.**  Check it out! SEE the beautiful young shepherd from the far-flung isle Mypos!  EXPERIENCE the terrors visited upon his  misguided undergrown cousin! *cough* dancing girls, etc.

Anyway, Hello Happy Birthday Baby This, Perfect Strangers!

Now, on to what I’d like to become a recurring between-seasons feature…

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

One of the most interesting things to me about Philip Reed’s ALF reviews is how basically you’re getting the rare view of a trainwreck from the inside.  It’s one thing to see a train derail, crash, and burn, destroying the lives inside it. But you usually don’t get to know those lives!  Even without watching ALF myself, it’s easy to get a looming sense of dread.  You see actors, stuck in an awful situation, and you know that they basically never did anything of huge import in the entertainment world again.  One got an eating disorder; one ended up sucking hobo dick for crack. Others just disappeared.  These are real people, and you see the long-term impact the show had on them. You have to ask whether it was worth it just to be the set dressing for an alien joking about Reagan.  Hey, speaking of aliens joking about Reagan:

Balki Bartokomous and Larry Appleton share a tender moment

I’m very curious to see what Perfect Strangers did (if anything) to the actors that were a part of it.  So here’s something I’d like to do between each season, and also once this thing is done (there’s only, what, a thousand episodes left?): I want to see what kind of roles these people were able to get.  We’ve seen that Pinchot was already letting the fame of Beverly Hills Cop and the first season of Perfect Strangers go to his head.  He knew damn well he was a hot commodity.  And we’ve also seen that Mark Linn-Baker was doing this show to feed his theater-acting habit. But I won’t be looking at live shows, just TV shows, TV movies, and Hollywood films.  Also, I won’t really be watching these things in full; just enough to get a sense of what each actor did.

Rebeca Arthur / Mary Anne (Sagittarius)

Rebeca Arthur is my favorite

Rebeca Arthur appeared on one episode of The Charmings, a show about Snow White and Prince Charming living in the suburbs.  She played Rhonda, a hairdresser, who was going to go on a date with Luther (one of the seven dwarfs).  Arthur had more lines here than in any episode of Perfect Strangers so far; but somehow she had even less personality. (An artificial Rhonda, if you will).

Melanie Wilson / Jennifer

nuthin’

Belita Moreno / Edwina Twinkacetti

Belita Moreno is also my favorite

A little bit past the summer, but Moreno did an episode of Full House where she plays the director of a commercial for Danny’s TV show. I know I’ve seen it before, but given that Full House Reviewed didn’t even have a screenshot of her, she seems not to have been in the episode for very long.  But the character’s role was to be overbearing and pushy, so ABC knew who to look to.

Ernie Sabella / Donald Twinkacetti

Ernie Sabella is my favorite also I have three favorites

Ernie Sabella went on to enjoy a long and fruitful career in television. Since Perfect Strangers, he’s done a lot of bit parts (Hunter, She’s the Sheriff, Married… With Children, Roxie) as well as recurring roles. Most people probably remember him best as Mr. Carosi from Saved By the Bell.  But did you know what Sabella was also Pumbaa in The Lion King? I sure didn’t, but voicing that warthog has been something like half of his CV since 1994.  Also he was the naked subway guy on Seinfeld. I’m sure that the top search terms leading people to my blog will now be “Ernie Sabella nude”.

Mark Linn-Baker / Larry Appleton

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Bronson Pinchot / Balki Bartokomous

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Boy, those movie offers were just pouring in for Pinchot in 1987, weren’t they?

Lastly, let’s check in on where Susan (*sniff*) went after “The Rent Strike”:

There is no Lise Cutter

Susan, having managed to escape from the prison that was the Caldwell Hotel, sets out to lend a helping hand to others behind bars.

There is only Susan Campbell

She ends up making out with Robert Carradine, who was in prison for some reason.

the RN stands for replaceable never

But they got into a real big argument about whether Lewis Skolnick actually committed rape in Revenge of the Nerds, so she took off, heading further west.

come back susan

She tries her damnedest to free another soul from a physical–and metaphorical–prison.

I miss you Susan

She ends up doin’ it with Alex McArthur, but he leaves, and Susan is sad.

life has no meaning without you

1987 was certainly an emotional roller coaster for Susan Campbell, Medicine Woman.

Okay, so, admittedly, that wasn’t much of a post! I’m experimenting! It’s my life, and my blog!

But to be honest with you, I wanted a little bit of a breather before I dive into season 3.  Maybe we need to ease ourselves into it by seeing if the new opening credits tell us what Balki and Larry did during their summer?

Balki and Larry share a tender moment

We start out with Balki and Larry on a boat.  And you know what? For those who had been watching the show up to this point, that’s a pretty good statement that, despite learning the same lessons over and over again, the cousins have actually made some progress. There’s a tentative synthesis here – Balki’s still on the boat, but it’s in Larry’s city.  And look! The logo’s shiny now. Don’t you just want to touch it?

I want to touch it

I’m guessing ABC simply didn’t want to lay out the dough to film anything in Chicago for the first two seasons, but after the executives bought their fill of coke, New Coke, Ice Cream Cones Cereal, higher-end VCRs, Burger King Burger Bundles, and hookers, there was enough left over for a few on-location shots.  There’s some seriously shortened backstory for the cousins.  Balki’s still got his America or Burst box, and travels on a boat; but Larry just pulls out of a driveway after which he instantly gets to Chicago.

Boating Fun Balki comes with Dmitri in Admiral OutfitLarry go right

Balki and Larry run in the park!

Run Balki Run

Balki touches a horse!

Bronson Pinchot with unidentified horse 1987

The cousins face an obstacle!

they dont call it the windy city fer nuthin

The cousins run out into the street!

Balki and Larry share a tender moment

The cousins just fucking stop in the middle of the street, daring someone to run over them.

Balki and Larry continue this particular tender momentthe chicago cubs share a tender moment

Because we really needed to see Larry hand Balki that ticket in addition to them running toward Wrigley Field, and Balki wearing a baseball shirt, and a hat, and holding a tiny bat.

The cousins do that bit with the revolving doors, foreshadowing that there might be a LOT of covering the same ground this season.

what comes aroundcomes around

The cousins straighten their ties without the aid of mirrors. I’m guessing they’re going to do physical comedy out in front of the Chicago Theatre with an upturned hat on the ground in front of them.

no sunburns yetlets all do a physical comedy bit in the lobby

Basically, this opening says “here’s two guys who are from different places who sure do have a lot of fun in Chicago, but they probably never get laid”. But all I can think about is that we just saw six potential episode premises that probably won’t happen this season. Just imagine–Balki gets a job chauffeuring a horse-drawn carriage because he wants to wear a top hat, but he keeps saving the horseapples so he can celebrate a Myposian holiday. Larry keeps standing up at the baseball game to verbally trash the umpire until Jerseyman beats him up (Jerseyman 3: Assault & Batter’s Box). Or just a whole episode of Balki and Larry running through the park (it’d be better than that Christmas episode, let me tell you).

What can I say, folks. They got renewed. Not a damn thing’s going to stop them now. God help us all.

Join me next week for another Perfect Strangers review!
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*It’s called “accessbility”, you assholes. Get with the 21st Century!

**7-second delay for West Coast viewers

Season 2, Episode 20: Get a Job

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We open with a shot of the Ritz Discount from ground level, teasing us with whatever’s down that side street.  So mysterious, like back when I played my first Zelda game, Link’s Awakening, and you could see cool stuff on certain screens that you couldn’t get to yet because you didn’t have the Power Bracelet yet. Like, you know, maybe there’s a better sitcom down that street. Maybe there’s even a building where no sitcoms take place. But I won’t be able to get there with just my bare hands.

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Balki and Larry are so sure they’re going to get a raise that they’re offering to take Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) to a classy restaurant.  Jennifer is wearing an outfit we’ve seen her in before, but Mary Anne has chosen to dress up as a strawberry Starburst for the occasion.  You’re rocking that dress, Mary Anne, but you’re getting a little wild with the eyeliner.  We’re towards the end of the season, here; don’t become another Tina.

Anyway, Larry had demanded a raise from Twinkacetti the previous day and is 100% certain that he’ll get it when Twinkacetti comes in that morning.  Larry has forgotten that you’re not supposed to be certain of anything while they’re still showing the producers’ names on the screen (and, besides, you’re only ever supposed to be certain that love of family trumps all).  But Twinkacetti comes in, rushing towards his office.  He pauses briefly to establish character

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Twinkacetti: Uh, I’m mean or something. Yeah. Ruff!

before closeting himself away in his office.  Larry and Balki confront him, so he pops back out briefly.

Twinkacetti: Okay, whatever’s the opposite of what you wanted, just go do your lesson about how Balki’s better.

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But Larry doesn’t give up, so Twinkacetti finally just decides he can masturbate to the S&P (Skene glands and perinea) 500 later and tells the cousins that they don’t get a raise because he hired another employee and lowered their salaries.

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Evidently, Larry’s been working all through season 2 to grow a pair, because he finally stands up to Twinkacetti.  He calls Twinkacetti out on how he overworks them, underpays them, and insults them. Cousin Larry also goes on about how discount shops just aren’t the best setting for sitcoms, and how they’ve pretty much done every story they can with this setup, so he quits.  Balki backs him up on it, pointing out that they’ve also already done the “Larry stands up to Twinkacetti” plot. I like where this episode is headed!  The show needs to break out of this rigmarole at this point; I mean, look, I was fucking talking about Zelda games up there with the opening shot. Let’s move on already.

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Twinkacetti:  Whatever, I just landed a role on A Fine Romance and it’s gonna be better than this trainwreck.

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Larry and Balki pretend to laugh triumphantly, but it quickly sinks in that their courage has left them unemployed. They have made a mistake.  In other words, Larry and Balki have a good laugh about their boner. (Nailed it!)  But Larry quickly regroups and remembers that this show is about pursuing the American dream, and that they can do whatever they want.

Balki wants to be the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and Larry tells him to save that dream for season 6, they’ll need it by then.

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And here’s the most I’ve ever gotten excited about a third location.  I’m even in love with how brutally fake those signs are. I’m actually curious how they did both the neon, as well as the slight 3D, effects.  And I don’t know why the idea of these guys working in a burger joint thrills me, but it does. The tacit promise of a grease fire, probably.

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That jukebox.  Awww yiss things are getting good.  Larry makes an actually decent joke about how meth-heads probably come to the restaurant, but it’s a little punctured by the fact that the restaurant doesn’t look anywhere near as awful as it’s supposed to. I mean, it’s no Tony’s Mambo Room, but still.

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Then we meet “Fat Marsha” Manning herself.

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She’s a party girl.

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I’m in love.

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She instantly comes on to Balki. In the next breath she comes on to Larry. Then she comes on to Balki again.  The show is placing the cousins in a setting, and with people, which 1) Larry has been trained to think of as low-class and which 2) Balki will accept, if not because he has no sense of American social strata, then because he’s open and loving.  And bravo for doing that, since it functions as the the counterpoint for “Tux for Two”.

BUT

The show is trying to tell us that Larry is coming face-to-face not only with a gross restaurant, but a gross woman.  That shot is instructive, I think. The white-collar hopeful is completely put off by the blue-collar woman. Even Balki knows something’s wrong!

But I get the impression that actress Susan Kellerman is rejecting some aspects of the role that the show gave her.  Sure, she’s sexually harassing potential employees seconds after they enter her the business she owns, which is maybe not a great step up from working under a guy who insults you. The difference, though, is that Fat Marsha fucking owns it.  She’s made it on her own in the big city: part of her backstory is that she lost something like 200 pounds (!) after opening the restaurant.  You get the sense that Twinkacetti is miserable with his station in life, and that this only feeds his negative personality.  But Fat Marsha is having the time of her life; sure, she’s coming on strong, but I’ve come to learn that flirting is just a way of relating to others for some people. On top of Kellerman putting such verve into the role, I think the fact that the other female characters get so little personality makes this all the more effective.

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Fat Marsha smacks Larry on the ass.

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Balki looks at Larry’s ass as if this move has never occurred to him.

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Fat Marsha trains the cousins on making burgers; she comes on to Balki again, leading to the best joke of the episode.

Fat Marsha:  Do you ever arm-wrestle naked?

Balki: Oh! No… that would be cheating.

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Man, why can’t I get rewarded like this when I come up with good punchlines? I like boobs!

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Heehee!  Man, I love Fat Marsha.

She leaves for the gym (Reuben’s Perfect Body, I assume), having only taught the cousins how to make and serve a plain burger – not how to make gyros, fries, steaks, or even work a cash register from the current decade.

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Balki the Kid shows up, excited primarily at how they’re in a new environment with new toys he can play with.  He’s so excited about ringing the bell that he starts this shit again.

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Balki shakes his pretend tits and sings “9 to 5” for the 50th time while making fries. I’m going to try to say this just once and get it out of my system: since I’m on immunosuppressants and have just the one white blood cell these days (I have to lie down occasionally so it can travel back out of my legs), I am deeply, deeply disturbed by how these guys keep touching multiple surfaces and then touching food that people are going to eat. Like, gag me with a spoon.

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Larry takes an order from Lewis, patriarch of the Arquette clain, who likes his food as awful as possible.

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Balki forces Larry to adhere to the rules of the hanging wheel that you stick the order tickets on, denying a restaurant patron an order of fries. I was going to make a joke about him being power-mad, but I think this is Roger Rabbit Balki rearing its head again–he can only break character like that when it’s funny.

And now, for the final aspect of the crazy situation that Larry and Balki find themselves in:

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Angry hockey fans flood the restaurant! And… and… oh yes

JERSEYMAN 2: RETURN OF JERSEYMAN

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We come back from the commercial break with a bunch of burly, angry men in blue just shouting at Larry.  It’s the episode of Perfect Strangers I didn’t know I needed.

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This guy shouts at Larry.

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This guy shouts at Larry.

They’re all shouting at you, Larry! Balki, meanwhile, has lost track of the order wheel.  Larry grabs Balki’s ears and then touches a bunch of food.  Like, gross me out the door!

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This guy over here keeps demanding a chili dog, and we finally realize just how bad the job at the discount store has been for Larry.  If he had gotten a chance to interact with more than one customer every 10 episodes, he’d have enough customer service skill to be able to try at least one tactic to calm this guy down.  Even Balki’s a little scared of the guy; I guess there’s not enough Myposian virtue in the world to overcome a guy shouting about a chili dog.

So they serve him what, if I remember correctly, was the result of my last mineral oil enema. Because he’s lower-class, Chilidude leaves, if not satisfied, then at least not shouting.  On his way out, Chilidude has an altercation with Jerseyman.

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Remember where you are. This is Burgerdome. The Sitcom Gods are listening, and will take the first man that screams. Larry tries to intercede.

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Larry: No, no, look at his face! He’s got the mind of a child! It’s not his fault!

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WHO RUN BURGERTOWN? JERSEYMAN RUNS BURGERTOWN

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Then Balki runs in, and what, Balki, were you going to tell them that they’re family and family always sticks together? The only lesson Chilidude’s ever had to learn is to stop putting a space between the words “Black Hawks”.

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Fat Marsha comes in and blows a whistle to calm down the hockey fans, and that’s my favorite non-dialogue joke this episode.

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Fat Marsha: What’s this? What’s this?! You think I don’t know the law? You think I don’t know the law? Wasn’t it me who wrote it? And the law says: “bust a deal, you get no meal”.

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Before they leave, it’s revealed that both Chilidude and Jerseyman are in a sexual relationship with Fat Marsha. Larry sits down before Fat Marsha can touch his butt again, so she sticks her finger up Balki’s butt as much as she can through his pants.

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Balki and Cousin Larry come back home maimed and finally, for once, we got to see the maiming. You have no idea how much I appreciate this, show.

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The cousins do a little post-mortem on how bad the whole experience was, and Balki refers to a commercial where a woman checks the waistbands of men’s underwear. I can’t find the commercial, but I’m sure it was real.  Does anyone remember it?

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Hey, it’s Mrs. Twinkacetti! But lest you think that this episode equals “The Rent Strike” for named female characters speaking, Mary Anne only says “bye” in her earlier scene, so “The Rent Strike” is still at the top.

Mrs. Twinkacetti has brought her husband by to ask the cousins to come back to work, because it turns out that the new guy was stealing from the discount store. (Nobody uses the word “fired”, so I think it’s safe to say they let Pugsley and Wednesday “play” with him.)  Larry tries to shush Balki when he brings up their new jobs (maybe that lesson about lying stuck?), but then he realizes that Balki’s trying to haggle for higher pay. They get their jobs back, as well as the raise they asked for, and they even get Twinkacetti to agree to stop calling them losers. Just for that last part alone, you really couldn’t have had this episode anywhere but towards the end of the season.  I mean, that’s half of Twinkacetti’s lines gone right there!

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Don’t you just love Belita Moreno?  I love Belita Moreno. The best part of this scene is how she keeps having to tell Mr. Twinkacetti what to do.

The cousins try to do that Roxbury Guys bit.  I feel you, guys; women make that same face every time I try it, too.

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The music comes on, but Balki and Larry realize that they don’t feel happy, so they engage in a little bit of self-deception, telling each other that someday they’ll graduate night school and land a photography job, respectively; they may have trials here below, but they’re bound for Canaan land. (The joke is that they’ll never achieve these their dreams, that all hope is falsehood sold by the elite to keep the slave class docile, life is drudgery. We like to have fun around here.)

Now they are so illusioned by their own brains’ chemical imperatives to not be sad, they do the dance of joy!

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No, you don’t get a gif of it this time.  You get a gif of Fat Marsha, because that’s what I want to leave open in a browser tab all next week.

shecanbusmytableanyday

Okay, now that we’re done with the jokes, let’s have a little talk about women and girls, since we had four of them this time around (okay, there’s a fifth one in the restaurant, but she just wanted fries). Every time I want to talk about Jennifer and Mary Anne in a collective sense, I have to overcome the urge to refer to them as “the girls”.  Part of this is because Balki and Larry call them that; part of it is this weird mental holdover of my own. I don’t know why I feel the need to mention this, and I hope I’m not back-patting.  I have to imagine that this show was one of thousands of places I heard fully-grown women referred to as “girls”, and thirty years later, it’s still something I’m trying to exorcise from my system. I didn’t mention it at the time, but the #1 gross-me-out sexist moment on this show so far was back in the Christmas episode, where Larry kisses Jennifer under the mistletoe, walks away, and jerks his thumb over his shoulder to signal to Balki that it’s his turn; a move that says “get in there”. I like joking about how they don’t give the women any lines or traits of their own, but that instance was a little too much for me, and I wasn’t sure how to express that.  So let’s talk about othering.

I’ve mentioned before how I, as a child, I was intrigued by characters who were the wild “other”, who managed to carve out an existence removed from typical social interests.  Usually this came in the form of the “wacky neighbor”, but when you remove the “neighbor” part, as here with Balki, it better articulates the “wacky” aspect as simply an unfettered Inner Child.  There’s no doubt that’s what appealed to me–getting to be silly in situations where one is supposed to be proper (sidebar: what in the 80s was cathartic is now de rigueur in terms of the man-child, but that’s another topic for another day).  For adults, Balki was the “other”; for children a compatriot (which, by the way, now that I’m thinking about it, props to mid-80s ABC for creating a long-running family sitcom with no family in it).  But this show presents a more sinister “other”: the woman. In the pop culture world, even today, man is more often than not presented as the norm, something that the audience is supposed to relate to regardless of their gender. Despite Larry and Balki’s differences, women are the same impenetrable, inscrutable type of being, and the not knowing scares them.

There’s a lot going on here with sex and power and personality, way more than I’m qualified to talk about, but I’ll say a few things.  Jennifer and Mary Anne are often basically the same person; “Trouble in Paradise” aside, the main difference is that Mary Anne has no brain, while Jennifer is, I dunno, taller. But they have something that Larry and Balki want to possess.  I’ll give the show credit for having Larry’s outdated attempts at domination through puffing meet with failure, but it’s still the men who are making the first moves.  Yes, the nature of a show about two men may be forcing that perspective, because it’s their desires at the forefront, but that begs the question of why we primarily get that perspective.  Even in the Christmas episode, when Mary Anne kisses Balki, it’s played for laughs; Mary Anne is so thoroughly “the dumb one” that her forwardness really can’t be separated from that.

This episode began with the cousins trying to use luxury to woo women.  They were then forced into a world that was ruled by a woman ; ruled so thoroughly, in fact, that she had no fear of having her own personality and owning her sexuality.  Chilidude and Jerseyman symbolize, perhaps, that Larry and Balki would then be placed in competition with each other to be the sexiest, most desirable partner for the mate with the most economic power.  So they flee back to their familiar, comfortable habitat, where the only woman with power is Mrs. Twinkacetti; and it’s clear that her power, as well as being played for laughs, serves as punishment for the evil ways of her husband.  But, the point that I’m trying to make is, women as portrayed on shows like this end up being the other, and others are scary.  Larry was fearful of Balki’s arrival, which almost cost him his job.  And potentially, waiting inside every Jennifer or Mary Anne is a Fat Marsha or a Mrs. Twinkacetti, so the goal is to keep trucking along with the 9 to 5 in hopes that one day you can advance enough to win a woman who, because she symbolizes new life, also symbolizes your own mortality if you cannot impregnate her.

Anyway! I could have threaded a lot of that previous paragraph into the recap, but this seemed important enough to be serious about. Plus, I wanted to make some Mad Max jokes. But goddam I made an episode about the best one-off female character into a depressing quagmire of gender portrayals.    Let’s just all scroll back up to watch that gif again.

And next week, good grief, it’s an episode about Larry’s sister: “Hello, Elaine”.  Miss me with the sexism, okay, show?

 

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

Boner count: Balki (0); Larry (0); Me, for Fat Marsha (not telling)

Dance of Joy running total: 8