Season 3, Episode 9: Future Shock

First things first: the quality of the video for this episode is different? Also there’s a shorter version of the theme song, and the singer hits some different notes at a couple of places.

Only I notice these things.  To quote Arlo Guthrie:

I’m not proud…

…or tired.


Balki, Larry, Jennifer, and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) are all playing charades in the cousins’ apartment. Balki signals “movie”, and the others immediately guess “Bambi”. The joke is that Balki always picks “Bambi”.

I have a younger brother, and I can remember when he was about 3 and we’d play hide-and-seek, that he would always pick the same places.  It wasn’t that he didn’t know of a variety of places around the house that he could hide.  But even after I would hide in places that he hadn’t thought of, he would then hide there too.  He–and here, Balki–had not learned yet to try to think from my perspective.

Mary Anne: Boy, when the four of us get together, we sure do have fun, don’t we?

Does she mean like the time a dinner party at the apartment devolved into a catfight? Or the time two meals at a restaurant ended up with Larry getting into a fight? The time they almost died of hypothermia? Or how ‘bout when they stayed up all night just to watch Larry die?


Mary Anne prompts Jennifer to tell her “news”.

Jennifer: The airline is giving me a promotion.

Oh, cool, what’s the new job?

Jennifer: …and I’m moving to Los Angeles.

Okay, at least “the airline” gives some indication of what she’s doing, so I can finally just give up on her ever mentioning Reuben’s Perfect Body again. But… what comes after “flight attendant”? Chief Purser, I guess? So, like, the same job, but she doesn’t have to do the lifejacket demonstration? And why does she need to move? Mary Anne will not moving to Los Angeles because she has allergies.  (Mary Anne’s so dumb that she thinks it’s a good idea to care about her health.) Anyway, Larry very sadly asks her when she’s moving, but Jennifer is indecisive:


Jennifer: It’s a good career move, it’s more money and the weather is great, but…Chicago is my home.

Mary Anne asks what Larry thinks:


Larry: It’s a good career move… more money… the weather is great.

Then, two lines later:

Jennifer: I guess if it’s a good career move… and it’s more money… and the weather is great, well, what’s keeping me here?


Then the women run away because all they really had to do this week was say out loud the one-sentence summary that would also run in TV Guide. And I thought I was awkward at the end of dates!

Feel free to tune out for this paragraph, because I’m just going to talk about Garbage Pail Kids stickers for a minute.  I was born just a little too late to experience them initially, but I discovered Garbage Pail Kids when I was maybe 6 or 7, and I finally got my hands on some when I was about 10 or so.  If you’ve never looked at any, go look at some of the very first series. Initially, the sticker cards communicated a very simple concept: Cabbage Patch Kids are the epitome of cute, so let’s picture them as various things that are not cute. Vampires, demons, monsters, punks, old people. But artist John Pound brought a lot of skill and flair to these things.  Now, eventually, the concepts got more complex, less immediate, and other artists (thankfully mostly from the same underground comix scene) came on board. The initial run died a slow death, beset by parent protests, a lawsuit, and a thoroughly awful movie (which I will never cease loving). But in 2002, once the nostalgia cycle was ripe–that is, when those former children began to have disposable income–the  franchise was revived, and many of the original artists had plenty of other work on their plates. New artists were brought in, often working off of concepts from the original creators. The problem with many of these new painters is that they hewed so closely to the concept sketches that the final art came out shitty–shitty enough that many fans were understandably upset.  Many of the new artists brought very little of their own touch to the work, and the final product suffered.  What I’m getting at here is that whoever wrote the script for this episode took the basic summary (Jennifer is offered a new job in another city but Larry doesn’t know how to tell her he wants her to stay), and then proceeded to rephrase it in as many ways as possible until the scene was over, flat-out refusing to add any depth to the plot summary.  Jennifer’s indecisiveness boils down to “Well, I hear that they have sunshine in LA, but all my mail comes to the apartment in this building!”

Why am I wasting more time on this than the writer did? Suffice it to say “this sucks because less effort was put forth than a different thing that sucked because little effort was put into it”.

Then Balki lays into Larry for trying to support Jennifer, because this isn’t a show about following dreams or anything.


Larry’s sure if he tells her how he feels, she’d laugh in his face.  Larry starts hitting the Bismol hard. If only there were any other people in Chicago who had vaginas and aren’t Mary Anne!  But because sitcom characters cannot face their problems while awake (or maybe because showing a character sleeping takes up 30 seconds), Larry dreams.

Voiceover Balki says that Larry will be a lonely old man a lonely old man A LONELY OLD MAN


Hey, Larry looks pretty good for an old man!


Nah, j/k, that’s just Mary Anne (Sextagenarian).

Balki comes in all suave.  Okay, I liked it when he did that back in season 2, so maybe that’ll help me get through this dream sequence.


Balki has evidently been so financially successful that just that very day he bought a shopping mall and two hotels.  So Balki is successful in business because he told a woman how he felt?  I’ll be right back, I’ve got to send a few dozen messages on OKCupid.  Then there’s a disturbing joke about how Mary Anne gets wet because Balki has the mind of a child, so let’s move on already.


The audience has a good laugh over how Cousin Larry interrupts Balki’s aged, successful boner.

Cousin Larry has somehow aged 30 years more than Balki. We then find out that Balki owns the building; so why is he still living…? OH. I get it. He wants to make sure there’s always someone to come over and interrupt so he’ll have an excuse not to do his husbandly duty. Larry has brought the rent check, and then because this is a dream about how Larry can’t get up the nerve to tell Jennifer he likes her, he and Balki fight over whether Larry has to pay, and then they fight over how much Larry owes Balki.  Yep, this is a nightmare alright!

Larry owes Balki $35,000 and the tense pre-commercial music comes on.

That’s not… that’s not an act break conflict. Oh no, Larry owes money to a friend in a dream! How will he get out of this one?

Then, because this is one of the few episodes that a second person recorded, we get part of a Rockettes Christmas special commercial.  I mention this because, 1, goddam lookit all them Santas, and 2, this unintentionally makes this feel more like a real dream. Anyway.


When we come back, Larry’s going on about how much he loves Jell-O.


Larry: I love Jell-O, always have.

Fuck me, but that’s the best joke in this whole episode.

Mary Anne got a letter from Jennifer, who is coming to visit.  Evidently, she hasn’t visited Mary Anne in 37 years?  I thought these two women have been friends since they were 8 years old?  Success turned Jennifer into a tall, stone-cold bitch who doesn’t necessarily like men because they have muscles.

Then the picture wobbles, the dream music comes on, and old Larry dreams within his dream?


Nope, nevermind, same dream. A pantsless Larry stands in his dark apartment in front of his fireplace shrine to Jennifer, replete with framed photos from Melanie Wilson’s unused stack of headshots.  Bismol, his one true compatriot throughout the past 37 years, still with him.  But the bottle is empty.  Stacks of newspapers and empty Bismol bottles litter the apartment.


There’s also cardboard cutouts of Jennifer in her stewardess outfit in the background that have more personality than Jennifer. But Balki is suave and pronounces everything correctly and doesn’t make any Balki-isms.

You know, I complained about laziness earlier, but this show is working overtime to make an episode about Jennifer not be about Jennifer. But the level of detail and thought the props department put into this one shot makes me kind of want to stay here.  On the other hand, it’s an episode about Larry’s feelings for Jennifer, and Larry dreaming about what those feelings would do to him–and in the dream, it’s him and Balki having the same argument they had when he was awake–that Larry needs to talk to Jennifer about his feelings.

It reminds of when I was in middle school, and I saw the Brady Bunch Movie, and at the time, I–no, no, wait, I made a decision earlier. This sucks more than another thing that sucked, for similar reasons that I won’t go into.  Anyway, the cousins are fighting, Jennifer is there, Larry is stalling.

Then Balki Ricardo comes on strong, and goddam do I want only ever this Balki. Then Larry says some stuff in Myposian, even using the word babasticky.  That’s a nice little touch.  Larry, even when he’s not in old man makeup, is already an old Jewish man, so it’s nice that they found a way to make him sound like one.  Atoms collide around, and eventually they form useful molecules, don’t they?

Jennifer’s likes and wants are only ever translated through Balki, even in Larry’s dream.  Remember how Balki said that Jennifer thought Larry was sort of cute?  That same thing happens again, where Balki tells Larry that Jennifer wants to see him.  Jennifer’s desires are merely rumor.

Balki tells Larry to fan the flames of desire…

Balki: fffffan it, man, fffffan it

If you remember from back in “Snow Way to Treat a Lady”, this is a vocal tic of Larry’s. Is this an indication that the cousins finally achieved transfer of their qualities after 37 years?  Even if we didn’t have Jennifer as a hollow pivot point for this story, this is actually exactly how things would pan out.  The show was supposed to be about cultural exchange, but then switched to Balki always being right–always gaining, while Larry barely managed to keep his crap together, barely managing to learn not to lie, or whatever.  Balki has become the successful merging of his culture with America–he the successful businessman with a whole su-it, Larry, even when he does get his pants on, still short by one suspender.

Larry finally accedes to seeing Jennifer, and Balki wants to do the Dance of Joy.


Okay, that was hilarious.  Again, the physical comedy on this show is best when it’s limited by space or physical abilities.


Larry continues to dream, writhing around in bed.  Rather than the rest of the episode taking place at a sleep specialist’s office so Larry can get treatment for his Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, we get the further adventures of Little Larry in Slumberland.

Larry hopes that Jennifer has aged and is at least half as ugly as him.


Nope, Jennifer looks exactly the same!  And I guess that’s another accurate prediction.  I mean, this episode takes place in 2024, right? We’re already to the point where it’s easy to hide one’s age. I can’t really tell how old older women are if they have enough money to have work done, and really, the hair’s about 60% of figuring out age for white women. So… this could be a fair prediction?

Haha, had you going for a minute! When you get right down to it, Larry can’t imagine what Jennifer will become. There’s no trajectory for Jennifer, because there’s no starting point.  This is simply what Larry assumes people look like after 37 years of “more money and great weather”.


They all sit down on the couch and Larry has trouble sitting down because of the Elephant-Man-like mass of hemorrhoids that used to be his ass.


Because the four of them sure do have fun when they get together, Balki and Mary Anne instantly say they have to leave.  Balki bought the Cubs, and he always likes to throw out the first ball.  I wish I could say that this was a continuity of Balki wanting to play baseball, but no, this is just because you have to work in somewhere that they live in Chicago.

Then Larry and Jennifer sit down to talk and Jennifer says she has to go away to Monte Carlo because Larry can’t even imagine anything else she’d say.  Larry says he “likes her a lot”.  Jennifer says she “likes him a lot”.


On that basis–that weak, flimsy basis, Larry says that they can start over and have lots of kids.  Larry says he feels like he’s 60 again! So, let’s see 25 plus 37… Larry feels like it was just two years ago!

But because she has nicer, more expensive things to do in places with great weather, she gets up to leave. She even gets to deliver a punchline, but it’s too little too late. Larry lost his chance.  Larry grabs her leg and cries. And I thought I was awkward at the end of dates!


Larry wakes up and screams.


He runs around the apartment, doing the equivalent of those kissing-the-ground scenes, saying he loves everything about the apartment–the Myposian artifacts, his hair, the picture of his mother. He keeps knocking Balki around, and then he realizes Balki isn’t old and fondles Balki’s young, supple lips.


He puts on his robe, reaches into the pocket, and pulls out Zuzu’s petals  And holy shit that’s a good joke, but I guess we’ve broken reality for Larry as well as Balki.  He runs off to Jennifer’s apartment, because nothing gets the ladies excited like crazed guys in their pajamas banging on their door at 3 in the morning yelling about how “they like you a lot”.

Larry tells Jennifer that he really likes her, and Jennifer does that “awww/ohhh” thing that women do that I really hate where maybe they’re touched by what you said, but it feels a little like they pity you?


Jennifer: I like you, Larry… as long as you like me.

That’s right: Jennifer flat-out refuses to have a trait unless she gets something out of it. Anyway, she’s decided to stay, so Larry starts making a bunch of promises:

Larry: We’ll have fun, I’ll do nice things for you…


A befuddled Larry just waves his arms until one of the writers wakes up long enough to remember one of the season 2 episodes, and

Larry: You want a pizza?

That’s right! I forgot about that!  It has twice been heavily implied that Jennifer ate pizza!  *whew* Another solid episode in the can, boys!


Jennifer kisses Larry, because that’s how these episodes are supposed to end.

Larry tries to push for sex, and Jennifer tells him to go back to his apartment.  He falls down the stairs on his way there.

(Jennifer and Mary Anne live in apartment 306.)


When he gets back to the apartment, Balki is still standing exactly where he was before.  The episode ends with Larry saying he thinks he broke his leg.


Better to enter into the kingdom of Gettin’ Some with one leg than to have both and live with Balki the rest of your life.

You know, we all sure do have fun when we get together, so join me next week for “Couch Potato”!


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

Boner count: Balki (1); Larry (1); Mary Anne (1); Jennifer (1)

Dance of Joy running total: 10

(P.S. This copy I have of this episode also ends with Mark Linn-Baker giving the old “Perfect Strangers is a Miller-Boyett Production” over the credits, and between this and the Rockettes commercial, this is the first that I felt anywhere near like I was really watching this show on TV. It’s nice to have little touches of reality, here in this episode where we find out that Larry’s dream woman is a cardboard cutout.)

Season 2, Episode 6: Ladies and Germs

I hope you all like it when I get pissed off about this show, because I definitely do this week!


The episode opens with Balki dancing and singing “Freeway of Love” while shining his shoes. So here we have a definite difference between the 1st and 2nd seasons we can point to:

First season: Balki sang songs related to the situation, even if only by one word

Second season: Balki sings songs because the writers know they don’t have to actually write jokes to get laughs


Larry comes in bragging about how many times he’s going to get to touch Bonnie Kleinschmidt’s boobs.


Larry hangs his coat. Remember this. This is important.

Bonnie Kleinschmidt is fourth runner-up in the Miss Chicago beauty contest, and as is typical when one’s self-esteem is threatened, it can be useful to engage in what’s referred to in psychology textbooks as “downward social comparison”.  If you gather around yourself those who are obviously less than you, it becomes easier for you to see the good qualities you still can lay claim to. It also helps if you can find a loser with tickets to the Bruce Springsteen concert.


But Larry’s ego needs food badly, so he manages to spin this into a full-fledged fantasy where even Bruce is impressed that, out of the roughly 150,000 women in Chicago, Larry managed to find the one who wouldn’t refuse to be seen with him in public.  Before Balki introduces the plot element that will make sure we never, ever see Bonnie, much less hear her speak, I want to point out something I didn’t notice the past couple of weeks: that Larry managed to get the exact same lamp that they broke playing baseball.  That’s one of the perqs of working at a discount store that has 50 of everything and nothing ever sells.

Anyway, Balki says that they’re going to see Mr. Twinkacetti and Mr. Twinkacetti’s broken leg in the hospital.  I’m going to officially start my own Perfect Strangers headcanon and say that I hope Mr. Twinkacetti broke his leg because Balki sewed his pants badly way back in season 1.  Larry, of course, doesn’t want to go because he’s afraid of getting germs at the hospital, as he doesn’t want to get sick before his date.


Balki, of course, has to ask “What germs is?”, because they’d only just two years ago stopped trepanning on Mypos, and that was because their drill broke.  And if Larry is so worried about germs, why doesn’t the bombshell that germ theory hasn’t made it Mypos not dial Larry up to 11 on the freak-out scale?  It only took me a few seconds to realize that Balki probably wipes with his hands, and Larry only didn’t realize it this long because Balki has been using the toilet paper to make funny hats.


Balki pokes some gentle fun at Larry, asking if the invisible creatures called “germs” have a leader.  I’ll take misinformed but rightly skeptical Balki over Balki the Kid any day.  Larry recounts all the important events that germs have ruined for him throughout his life: his sixth-grade graduation, the spelling bee, and his junior prom.  On the one hand, Larry, I get you. When I grew up, I almost never got to watch the Saturday morning cartoons that would play on CBS because of college football games, which invariably ran into overtime; I never got to see much more than the end credits of The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys starring Howie Mandel. I have hated football in all its forms every since.  When something keeps messing with you, you learn to avoid it. Cousin Larry, I’m sorry you had to share antibodies with eight brothers and sisters, but you really aren’t doing your immune system any favors by only consuming soda, beer, lemonade, potato chips, crullers, and liquid antacid.

007 008

Soon, Balki and Larry recap the first scene in the world’s largest hospital room.  Balki mistakes a bedpan for a “Mypos army helmet”, and I think we have made the first step on the path to Mypos becoming a precursor to Wackyland from Tiny Toon Adventures.  Also, this is the kind of joke that I’ve never really understood.  The joke is that bedpans should never be handled because of what they’re used for, because what they’re used for is yucky.  But they clean those things out, right?


Larry and Curly screw around with the hospital bed while Moe suffers intense pain.


YES YES YES YES YES it’s Mrs. Twinkacetti!  I take back my trouser headcanon.  I know why Mr. Twinkacetti has a broken leg.  Mrs. Twinkacetti introduces her children, Placeholder and Plot Device.


Larry squats down to say hello, and here comes the money shot!


Oh no!  Larry’s lifelong dream of touching a boob is now at risk!  No wonder germs love you, Larry–you provide them a perfect delivery system!  Me, I would’ve talked to a doctor or something, because, you know, HOSPITAL. But Larry just up and runs away!



…and is sick by the next morning, having somehow also decided not to mix some crushed up Benadryl into his bismol. He’s so sick that he sneezes his “Puff” cereal right out of the bowl.


I can only think of one other shot like this, from the Garbage Pail Kids movie.

But I’d really like to know if there are more.  Seriously, if you know of other scenes in television and film where someone forcefully sneezes light, modular foodstuff out of its container, please say so in the comments. (Cocaine sneezes don’t count.)


I don’t have a joke about it, but hey, look, they have two phones now.  The episode tried, but it also didn’t have a joke about it. ZING!  Bonnie calls, and Larry acts like nothing’s wrong.  Hey, didn’t we just do a whole episode last month about how Larry refused to let his own physical limits ruin a date?

Anyway, Larry eats about a dozen oranges and takes equal amounts of vitamins A, B, C, and D because sure, that makes sense.  Balki brings him one of those big strings of garlic, Wolfsbane, and pumpkin mold because, you know, FOREIGN.  I would seriously advise against eating a whole bulb of garlic, by the way; your farts will smell like garlic for at least a couple days.

Larry does that stupid thing where he asks about the pumpkin mold using the wrong question (“what” instead of “why”) so Balki can explain something for yuks.  Balki offers to cook Larry a “secret Mypos cure”, but Larry’s not having it. In the process of Larry ridiculing long-disproven medical cures and other pseudoscience, we learn some other facts about Mypos: only the Mypos royal family has indoor plumbing, the island has one phone, and “the foremost spectator sport is spitting for distance”. Larry tells Balki to shove his secret cure, and good on ya, Larry. Larry then tries to swallow his pills without water because, you know, PHYSICAL COMEDY. And I assume this is also to indicate that modern medicine only gets you so far. SUBTLETY.




Later, Cousin Larry’s under a blanket, using a vaporizer. I had one of those!   I’m really not sure what tension there’s supposed to be for me at this point.  Am I supposed to hope that Larry will actually make it to the date?  This has become like when I watched too much Scooby-Doo or Matlock in a short amount of time, and I could tell who the bad guy was going to be without even putting the clues together.  I know Larry’s not going on a date because they’ve already used their third location.  The show keeps toying around with where it sticks its third location; this time around, they’ve shot their wad too early and have nothing left for the date.  Larry, sensing this, is ready to call it quits.


Balki pushes the secret Mypos cure again, and Larry makes a valid point that curing a cold in 20 minutes goes against 200 years of medical research.  Angry Balki shows up and threatens to flush the stuff down the toilet. (Whew! I’m relieved–at the very least he knows how to do one thing in the bathroom correctly.)  “Here’s your last chance” is a good salesman’s tactic, and it works on Larry. He demands the “Mypos cure”.

040 042

And Balki just milks this moment for all that it’s worth, whipping out some righteous indignation at how Larry kept taking verbal potshots at his precious, holy, sheep-loving culture.  Larry may put Balki down without Balki knowing it, but Balki knows how to rub it in when somebody looks to him for help.

Larry: You’re gonna make this hard for me, aren’t you?


Larry must simply say the magic words: “I believe”. Larry, you should never have given any ground, because now you’re being forced into further retreat.  First, you were willing to be a science agnostic and at least try out the cure. Now Balki’s getting you to agree to faith-based healing.  You gave him an inch, and now he’s your ruler, Cousin Larry.

Larry: It’s okay. When I’m well, I’ll renounce everything.


Oh man, we humans have been using this trick on God for years.  God just never learns!



Ooh, yeah, that looks like bog water.  Glad I don’t live in a sitcom.  Larry asks if the cure has eye of newt or bats’ wings.

Instead, it’s “fish parts and herbs”.  Since there’s still a few minutes left in the episode, the twist here is that Larry was only supposed to drink a teaspoon, but downed the whole thing! Oh no!  Larry passes out and then sleeps for three days.  I guess he drank enough faith-based medicine to actually become Jesus!


Larry realizes that Bonnie’s boobs will be forever out of his reach, and Balki sells the joke that he went out with Bonnie just by puffing out his chest.  For the second season of this show, with its repeated jokes, this is pretty damn subtle.  I don’t even mind too much that this nice moment was punctured by the follow-up jokes that 1) Bonnie ran off with a guy with front-row seats, and 2) Bruce Springsteen had the flu and didn’t even show. (I guess Bruce’s nose was… wait for it… born to run.)

And for the second time this season, Larry has to apologize for being at all upset with Balki after Balki forces him into a position where he might lose a chance at one of his own dreams. His lesson is that he shouldn’t have put Balki’s culture down because Balki had his best interests at heart. And holy shit is that a lesson that won’t transfer well to the real world.  Larry is further beaten down by the demands of being in a sitcom.


Larry: Well, let’s not fight about it. I mean, you have your ways, and I have my ways

Balki: Exactly. Who’s to say who’s right?

I won’t say who’s right, but I will say this: I know enough about anthropology to know that, if I really want to be serious about being a liberal, I need to be open to other culture’s ways of knowing and being.  There actually are legitimately happy tribal cultures in parts of the undeveloped world that put the rest of us to shame (I’m not kidding, go read Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes if you’re curious).  But you don’t pick your own physical health as the starting point to being open to multiculturalism.  Sure, maybe by some chance the Myposian herb that looked like a nose happened to actually have some decongestant effect, but you’ve got to look at statistics.  When science has helped you out the majority of times you’ve looked to it for a particular fix, and you’ve got a hot date on the line, you don’t drink the fish parts. If you’re dying, sure, drink the fish parts.  You might point out that, 30 years later, Larry’s cures are no longer considered best practices for what to do when you get a cold: oranges are really more of a preventative measure, and vitamins had some serious shade thrown on them back in December 2013 (not to mention fish parts gaining some serious social cachet in recent years). But it’s the principle of the thing.

Okay, so we’ve got two episodes this season already that seriously pissed me off, which isn’t a great ratio. Let’s all just keep our chins up and remind ourselves that sitcoms like this often had different writers every week.

So let’s hope that we’re bound for better days next week when I review “Falling in Love Is…”.

I also hope that you’re all as lazy as I am and haven’t thrown your jack-o-lanterns out yet–you gotta save that pumpkin mold for cold season!


Boner count: Larry (1); Balki (0)

Catchphrase count: Larry (0); Balki (1.5)

P.S. Okay, so maaaaybe there’s a connection between Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love” and Bruce Springsteen, in terms of the sexual metaphor of a pink Cadillac; as well as the song featuring a member of Springsteen’s band. BUT IT’S STILL A FRICKIN’ STRETCH