Season 3, Episode 17: Pipe Dreams


Welcome back, everybody!  “Pipe Dreams” marks the point where Perfect Strangers took a few weeks off and then moved from Wednesday nights to Friday nights. Perfect Strangers would now air right before Full House (that week’s episode was “Just One of the Guys”, the one where Kimmy Gibbler keeps touching Kirk Cameron’s butt).  This was the start of what would come to be known as TGIF, so certainly “Pipe Dreams” is going to be a knockout episode!


We open at the Caldwell.  Balki, having heard that new viewers are coming over, has decided to spruce up the place a little and vacuum the couch.


Then Balki destroys his Cousin Larry’s tie. I gave Balki the Kid a pass last season, sucking up paper balls into a vacuum, but this is inexcusable.


Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius) come by solely to say that they’re leaving on a last-minute flight to Paris.  They just bought a new showerhead, and gosh darn it if they’re not going to be there for the plumber to come “install” it. Not only is changing a showerhead such a huge job that a plumber is needed, but the cousins will have to also call the plumber to confirm the appointment.

Larry starts acting in that desperate suave way of his and says he’ll “handle everything”.

Gee, you know. If only they had a landlord.


Larry calls up his buddy Gus, who now works at Pipe Dreams plumbing, to let him know that he’s going to “handle everything”.  And since installing a showerhead is such a huge ordeal, Gus makes fun of him.


Balki spends a minute recapping the last minute.  This was no doubt helpful for TV viewers who gave up on NBC’s “The Highwayman” once they realized it was not based on the Noyes poem.

And the viewers, channels changing–

With remote controls a-changing–

Show timeslots were a-changing, in the Spring of ‘88

Anyway, Balki makes a dumb joke and Larry tries to explain that this episode isn’t about fixing a showerhead.


Longtime readers may have expectations that this is the point where I launch into a paragraph-long joke spiel about Larry explaining that plumbing is really just a cultural symbol: “plumbing” is often used to refer to genito-urinary tracts. The idea that Jennifer’s “plumbing” needs some sort of “fix” taps into what is still unfortunately the zeitgeist in some quarters, that the mere presence of a vagina is the core problem of women; that is, that the risk of hysteria still exists.  Centuries ago, “womb fury” was the hypothesis that a woman’s uterus could travel through her body and damage the brain if not kept in line through regular intercourse. Even today, in 2016, you may even hear someone say that some woman just needs some D to straighten out her issues. Cousin Larry, our stand-in for the American male, is well-positioned to fix such problems. I could go that route, but not this time.

New readers to this blog may expect that I may simply make a joke about this being a familiar porno scenario.  “I’m here to fix your pipes”, etc.  I could go that route, but not this time.

You see, Larry says that Jennifer’s request is a plea for him to “come to her rescue”, and if you think I am going to pass up a chance to just make Mario jokes for the whole review, you don’t know me at all.


Mario lets us in on a little secret about what happens after you finish the last castle: the princess “thanks you”.


Mario and Luigi have a good laugh about boners.


They have a REAL good laugh about boners. I mean, come on:


They don’t call it the Mushroom Kingdom for nothin’, folks.


Later, Mario struggles with the basic concept of lefty-loosey. So he pulls out a giant wrench, which is somehow funny to the audience.  And just like every time he’s ever been in the bathroom, it just ends up with him grunting because he can’t get something to move.


But (as always) those grunts catch Luigi’s attention, so he comes to his Cousin’s aid. Luigi says that it looks like Mario doesn’t know what he’s doing. Mario asks how many times Luigi has ever gotten to World 3, “Water Land”.


Luigi protests, saying that on Mypos they only have one stage, and it just involves the woman walking from the field to the house to cook for 11 men.  But here’s a bit of dialogue that sums up the inner plumbing of Perfect Strangers:

Mario: What is the right way?

Luigi: I don’t know. But… I just know you’re doing it the wrong way.

It turns out that Mario threw out the little instruction booklet that came with the showerhead; his father never needed instructions. We get a little insight into Mario’s childhood, namely that his father burned down their house by trying to rewire it.  Since when are Mario’s issues hereditary? I thought he was supposed to be the malformed runt of the family!  But Mario must have just used a fire flower, because he lets loose with what, considering Luigi’s values, is the sickest burn ever:

Mario: Now are you going to be a friend, or are you going to stand there and insult my family?


Cousin Mario gives Luigi a hammer power-up, and says “When I nod my head, you hit it”.  Luigi has just learned in school about unclear antecedents. He knows that Mario, a native speaker never, gets his words wrong, and Luigi is stuck, unsure what to do.


That one scene from Psycho got nothing on this!

Mario says that if Luigi’s just going to play to the cheap seats, he’ll do it himself.


And then Luigi just unscrews the shower head, which, yeah, duh. Okay, last week these guys were trying to match I Love Lucy, and I pointed out that part of the humor of “Job Switching” was Ricky and Fred getting women’s work wrong. But this… doesn’t everyone know that’s how you take off a showerhead? Couldn’t they have picked something harder so that Mario doesn’t look like a complete idiot?

For those of you keeping track of the overall timeline of this show, the next scene takes place 23 hours later. Anyway, here’s a good reveal:


And they actually took the time to make new sprites so the Mario Cousins look dirty!

But once again, I’ve given you too much credit, show, because Luigi makes some nonsensical Ty-D-Bol Man joke.

So, the Cousins have cleared a hurdle. But you, even without the benefit of seeing the running time on the control display, you know that this map’s only halfway done.  They stomped that miniboss, but you know there’s more, and that things only get harder. Your sense of dread builds, as Luigi holds up a leftover piece, Mario turns the handle, and a mysterious metallic noise swells. This sounds like boss music. The sound rises to a scream, and–


The showerhead bursts off and breaks the mirror, meaning seven more years of me reviewing this show.


Then the handles come off, so the Cousins just try to put their hands over the spray.


The shower now stopped, the water pressure rises, resulting in the sink blowing up.  There have been many times this season where physical comedy was the way to overcome a problem; but here, in the back half of the level, the tables have turned. The pipe sprouts a piranha plant; some of those bricks now house pile driver micro-goombas.  Physical comedy is the enemy, and it knows your weaknesses.


We switch to two-player mode: Mario controls the shower pipe while Luigi tries to manage the sink.  But, OH NO–


The Mario Cousins both die because poop particles got in their noses and mouths. Nah, j/k, Luigi’s fingers get stuck in the sink faucet, so Mario helps him out, and sits him on the toilet.



You may have some expectations at this point.


You may think you know what comes next.


You may even have read the Perfect Strangers Reviewed walkthrough on Gamefaqs.

You weiners think I’m going to make a watersports joke, but you forgot that last week I declared a moratorium on gay sex jokes until the season finale. No, what I’m going to do is talk about physical comedy, and why this sequence works. I sure can’t find it now (don’t tell my librarian colleagues), but I swear I read an interview, or at least a quote, from one of the people responsible for the National Lampoon Vacation movies. What I got out of whatever it is I read was that the key to ramping up man-versus-machine/man-versus-nature kinds of physical comedy sequences is that things get funnier as the hapless hero gets smarter.  That is, he gets smarter, but shit keeps hitting the fan. Chevy Chase manages to get the tree in the house, but now there’s a wild animal in it.  A magnetized Ernest avoids the dangerous office supplies flying at him by locking himself in the bank vault, only to have the metal safe deposit drawers pulled out of their holes to hit him upside the head.  It’s a progression that works, and I don’t think I’ve seen it bungled yet, not even here.  Anyway, if some of you were expecting a Frank Zappa reference, you were right:


Now that they have worked the wall, worked the pipe, and worked the floor, the Mario and Luigi end the scene in serious pain.

I’ll hand it to whoever wrote this one, they’re tidy with the dialogue in the next scene. You kind of have to be when you take up a third of the show wrecking the world’s largest apartment bathroom. We’re informed quickly that the cousins have “fixed it”, but that Luigi still worries about the showerhead coming off.

Cousin Mario says that all the trouble will be worth it when Princess Peach gets back, sees his heroism and starts “gushing”.





The princesses arrive, eager to be caught up on whatever exposition they missed while in Paris.  Princess Daisy (Sarasaland) brought back a bottle of “imported” California wine.  (Princess Daisy is so dumb she thinks Riesling is a type of wine you can only get at the circus).

Princess Peach expresses gratitude that the shower was fixed. She’s so happy that she could have a shower after a long trip, a trait that is unique to her alone among all sitcom characters.

Mario’s all like “check out this phallic symbol”.


Luigi’s all like “yeah, yeah”.


Mario boasts that he fixed the shower himself, and Peach just doesn’t give a shit. But, like, did she give Mario the money to pay the plumber? Does she want it back?

Mario just won’t quit using the word gush, and then he tries to come on to Peach:

Mario: Felt good gettin’ my hands on the old monkeywrench again. I forgot how much I enjoyed it.


Peach makes the same face that women do when I talk about how much fun I had getting screenshots of male cousins in the shower.

The cousins do that thing where Mario keeps talking himself up and Luigi keeps putting him down*, but evidently the princesses have never heard boasting or insults before, and just look confused. Princess Daisy is the only one to notice that the color of their shower tiles had changed. I love this woman!

AND ONLY THEN does the princesses’ apartment start leaking. Luigi, knowing that he’s supposed to be the Jesus cipher, gets confused and tries to catch water in wine glasses.


And since no one else hears the really loud water dripping sound effect (track #8 on “Standard Sound Effects” disc 155A), they all drink water that probably has shit in it!


They’re drinking shit!


Princess Daisy: Shouldn’t we call the landlord?


After discovering the leak, they all run upstairs to–what? No? Okay.


After discovering the leak, they all sit back down on the couch.



Then they all look up at Lakitu, who pours water on the cousins.

So let me ask you: you all saw the window at the back of the Princesses’ bathroom, right? That tells me that it’s above that of the Mario Cousins’; so does the upstairs bathroom reach that far forward?

After Luigi calls up other plumbers, Mario explains that he thought Peach wanted a hero.


The one time Peach expressed a clear want–THE ONE TIME–and Mario misinterpreted it. I forgive you, Mario, I really didn’t think it was possible myself.

Mario: Luigi, why do I keep doing this? Why do I keep repeating the same jump patterns, fighting the same battles, just to have Peach get kidnapped again at the beginning of the next game?

Instead of giving any sort of “why”, Luigi just rephrases what Mario did. He compares him to a dog on Mypos who chased his tail and then caught it and spun himself to death.  Wow, so kids on Mypos just sat around and watched dogs suicide, huh?


Luigi says that Peach likes Mario for what he is (a short, fat man who eats pizza a lot and, if you remember from the Karate episode, is a ground-pounder). But can you really separate what you do from what you are? Each becomes the other, ultimately. The credits music comes on, and before the list of Japanese names starts scrolling past, Luigi tells us the lesson:

Luigi: Peach doesn’t want a macho, handy, take-charge kind of guy. She wants you.

Psychology sidebar: I don’t feel like talking about psychology this week, but it’s called the sunk cost fallacy, look it up.

I’m honestly kind of bummed that the plumbing episode came too late for me to use Twinkacetti as a Bowser stand-in. It would have been great, instead of this shitty review I wrote.

But seriously, show, how hard would it have been to put in two lines of dialogue to cover that up? “Isn’t Twinkacetti supposed to handle this kind of stuff?” “Ha! I can’t even get that cheapskate to replace the fire extinguishers” (picks up fire extinguiser) “look at the expiration date, this probably hasn’t been used since the Great Chicago Fire.”

Anyway, tune in next week for another TGIF (Two Goofy Idiots Flailing), when I’ll review “The Defiant Guys”.


Catchphrase count: Luigi (0); Mario (0)

Boner count: Luigi (1); Mario (2)

*you may not be familiar with this Mario/Luigi dialogue structure because it was only in the Japanese version

Season 2, Episode 1: Hello Baby

Season 2 is here, and after a summer full of painstaking research, focus groups, and number-crunching, ABC shows its commitments to both its audience and its shareholders by bringing back everybody’s favorite aspect of the first season of Perfect Strangers: using the word “baby” in episode titles.

Before I start reviewing this season, I’d like to take a moment to discuss what kind of lengths I’m willing to go to for jokes.  I’ve been doing a webcomic for a while now (which you can read here), and one of the storylines I have planned for it requires that I have deep knowledge of the character of Kimmy Gibbler.  So what do I do? I watch every goddamn episode of Full House and transcribe not only Kimmy’s lines, but any other facts about her mentioned by other characters (I’ve been posting Kimmy’s dialogue on Twitter for a while now; you can read it here).  It wasn’t entirely self-torture because Kimmy Gibbler was one of the few bright spots in the 8 years of that show. In fact, it gave me somewhat of an appreciation for what Billy Superstar went through for Full House Reviewed: I just watched the damn show, but he committed to stretching it over many years, not only thinking about it, but writing about it.  Poor guy.

Anyway, I said that to say this: watching the entire run of Full House in the span of a few months revealed to me how much ABC would tinker with their shows from season to season.  Characters dropped, characters added, relationships evolving, and then de-evolving to their previous state, one-off actors/characters tested in the back half of a season would show up as recurring ones the next.  And I haven’t crunched the numbers on it, but the number of lines Kimmy would get on average levelled out (or, if you’re of a cynical bent, “became formulaic”) in the last two seasons.  Earlier seasons had a few fairly Kimmy-heavy episodes. By the end of the show, she showed up more often, but plots didn’t feature her heavily quite so often.  What I’m saying is this: like any corporation, ABC loves money, and viewers=money.  A company that’s willing to apply formula to roughly how many lines recurring characters would get can’t be trusted to keep things consistent from one season to the next, or even one episode to the next.

With that in mind, let’s see what changes with Perfect Strangers in Season 2!


We open this season at Ritz Discount, so we know they still have their jobs, which means Twinkacetti’s still around, which gives me hope that Mrs. Twinkacetti is there too.  Anyway, Cousin Larry is helping Balki dolly a refrigerator into the shop.


Evidently test audiences seemed to love Larry saying “lift… and push” over and over last season, because he keeps saying variations on “Bring it straight down here, and we’ll just swing it in”.  Balki questions his role in the Ritz hierarchy, being relegated to pushing heavy objects around while Cousin Larry tells him what to do.  Larry says that someone has to be in charge; that his role is to plan, and Balki’s role is to carry out that plan.  Balki crushes Larry behind the refrigerator, a fitting aperitif for those who like Larry getting maimed.  But the joke is still on Balki because Balki’s so dumb he thinks that their roles are totally fair!  Haha, isn’t it great to treat foreigners like shit?


Speaking of foreigners, here’s another one and her name’s Gina Morelli!  Gee, I wonder where she’s from?  She’s in the citizenship class with Balki and she’s very obviously pregnant.


She gets Larry out from behind the fridge and Larry comments that she’s very strong for someone in her “condition”.  Gina starts crying and telling this whole story about how her husband’s a truck driver, but he’s out of town and she just got evicted from her apartment.  Holy shit, did they just give a woman three personality traits in, like, the first minute of the second season?  I can only imagine how jealous Tina was when she saw this episode.

Cousin Larry agrees to help her before he realizes that means her staying in the apartment, and damn, boy, what is with you?  We’re supposed to believe that Larry is just being put-upon by housing not one, but now two (count ‘em, two!) foreigners.  Larry seems to enjoy looking like he’s willing to help people out, but when it actually comes time to do so, he starts backpedaling.  That seems to be a theme shared by this show, ALF, and Full House. Who were these shows catering to that networks thought Larry Appleton, Willie Tanner, and Danny Tanner were main characters your average viewer could relate to?  What, were white middle-class audiences of the time just assholes who didn’t want anyone impinging on their life in any way at all?  Sheesh.

Anyway, Larry ends up giving up his bed, and Balki sells Gina on the idea of it by saying that Larry has a blanket that plugs into the wall, yet neither of them knows what it does.  *ahem* Balki, there was a joke last season about Larry’s electric blanket. So Balki’s brain has been reset; a change and not a change at the same time.


We come back from commercials to the apartment, where Balki and Gina are saying their good-nights and thank-yous to each other in their own foreign languages; in the foreground, Larry’s doing a stupid walk and pretending to talk like them.  Then Larry bitches about how Gina has the TV in the bedroom and he doesn’t get to watch it.  Those test audiences sure enjoyed how much of an asshole Cousin Larry is.

Speaking of test audiences and their love of assholes, I’ll mention that this season premiered in the fall of 1986, a few months after the first season finished up.  It’s almost as if word spread through offices across America that, hey, did you see that new show on ABC about the two guys who live together?  I bet they’re gay, don’t you think so?  Take this episode as ABC’s response: you want two guys sharing an apartment, who are also gay maybe?  Here, we’ll make them share a bed, too!  Larry and Balki disrobe, revealing that Balki has Spider-Man pajamas.


And then the writers just frigging step all over the joke by having Larry ask “what are those” and Balki tell him what they are.  And then they stretch it out further by having Larry ask “why are you wearing those”; evidently Balki’s He-Man pajamas are in the laundry.  Then Balki tries to sneak it in by sitting down before Larry.  All right!  It’s fuckin’ time!


Balki fumbles his way through pillow talk, but Larry doesn’t understand what Balki means by “the hot side of the bed”.  Then Balki shoves Dmitri’s ass in Larry’s face.


Poor Balki! When he tries to be physical, it’s too much, too soon for Cousin Larry; when he tries to use sweet talk, it’s incomprehensible. Larry asks “what’s in my face?” rather than just pulling his head back and looking like a reasonable person would.  Dammit, is every joke on this show going to be repeated now?  Is telling every joke twice an oblique reference to this being Season 2?

Anyway, the rest of the episode is Larry telling Balki how to engage in American foreplay. Balki misunderstands the word “tease” and insults Larry’s penis.  Larry fumes, drinks a Cosmo-app-le-ton (antacid, triple sec, lime), and they both say their catchphrases at the height of orgasm. Larry learns a valuable lesson: that sincere efforts in the bedroom are just as sexy as good blowies.

Nah, just kidding, Balki says his bedside prayers, which are really just a way to be passive-aggressive about Larry having thrown Dmitri on the floor. Say, maybe Balki does understand intimate relationships in America!  Larry apologizes, but Balki makes him apologize to Dmitri, so I’ll drop the sex bit for a minute to point out how they’re infantilizing Balki again.  Balki drops the bombshell that Gina’s already two weeks past the baby’s due date.  Oh no!  Larry is right to be worried, since Gina’s water breaking will no doubt get all over the electric blanket.


After the commercials, we find that Larry has been timing Balki and Gina to make sure they’re able to get out the door to the hospital quickly.  There’s a nice little callback to the refrigerator scene as Larry tells Balki to “swing her around” as they get Gina back to bed.


Larry hangs three coats successfully. Remember this. This is important.

Larry blames Balki for not having told him Gina was pregnant.  I was going to gripe about how Larry commented on Gina’s “condition” at the top of the episode, and just remarked on how she was carrying “life” inside her in the previous scene.  I was *this close* to just assuming that the line was supposed to be “overdue” and just move on, but Balki’s follow-up line cements that Mark Linn-Baker said his line as written.  So…what the hell.


Balki explains how childbirth works on Mypos.

Balki: In Mypos have a baby very natural! The woman is working in the field… she takes a short break… she has her baby… and then she cooks dinner for 11 men.

That may seem like a hugely imbalanced sex ratio, but I’m guessing that every Myposian woman not washing her hands after childbirth means that every household there has its own little Typhoid Mary.

Larry says that sitcom structure demands that his character type force everyone into a plan.  Does Balki have a plan?


Larry says “fuck your agri-centric plan, mine’s better” and they go through it one more time.  So now we’ve spent the past three minutes 1) establishing that they’ve been practicing Larry’s plan, 2) hustling Gina off-screen, 3) hanging coats, 4) retconning the episode’s first scene, 5) Balki questioning the plan, and 5) Larry demanding they practice the plan again.  Now we can move on to–oh, no, wait, Larry wants to practice the plan one more time.  I was getting excited about how many character traits Gina had accumulated, but then they just shoved her off into the bedroom so Larry and Balki could play pad-a-show?

During their final practice run, Balki keeps derailing the process.  He wants to know why he has to do the grunt work (lifting the “su-itcase”; cf “grapefru-it” from season 1) while Larry does all the talking and directing.  Well, color me impressed, because this means that this episode’s theme was established in the first minute.  Perfect Strangers is not without its problems, but I’ll give it this: it generally knows what it’s trying to do and puts forth efforts to do it.

Then Balki acts like a child, whining about how he wants to be the one to make the phone call to the hospital.  Larry accedes, and we learn Balki’s idea of calling the hospital:


Balki: Hello hospital… baby is coming!

And all of a sudden I miss the sexually aggressive Balki from “First Date”. After the practice run, Larry starts talking some bullshit about how he’s like Eisenhower the day before D-Day, so I guess they’re both just overgrown children.

Then Gina wakes them up to tell them she’s been in labor “for a long time” but didn’t tell them because she wanted them to get their sleep.  Cousin Larry starts fumbling around because, remember, 80s sitcom audiences needed motion in addition to colors and sounds to keep them awake for a whole 22 minutes.  Larry keeps this up for awhile, going on a rager and throwing things around the apartment because he can’t find his keys.  Some planner you are, Cousin Larry.  Balki slaps Larry and thank God.

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Somebody had to get this episode back on track!  It was spiraling out of control because the third location was just as overdue as Gina’s baby.


They drive around Chicago’s famous Green Screen District for awhile, Larry screams and freaks out, and Gina has her baby in the car.  I have to imagine that if aliens learned about modern American society solely from sitcoms, they’d get the impression that the majority of children are delivered in cars, restaurants, or in every part of the hospital but the delivery room.

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Larry just can’t even.  How sheltered were you, Cousin Larry?  From the opening credits, I know that at least three of your siblings are younger than you.  Larry looks in the back seat and promptly passes out, this obviously being the first time he’s ever seen a vagina.


Back in the apartment, Balki leads Larry to his armchair.

Balki: Well, little boy, we had a big day.

You know what?  Even with how padded that middle section was with them talking about practicing Larry’s plan, and how many jokes they repeated, I’m going to admit I like this episode. Balki acting like a kid is now excused, because it works as subtextual buildup reinforcing the role reversal that Larry and Balki experience in the third act of most episodes.  Ultimately, this episode is a good statement of the relationship between the two main characters as well as the show’s thesis.  Larry thinks he knows how everything works in America, and thinks he’s showing his foreign cousin the ropes; but knowing how things work isn’t the same as experiencing them (you know, like vaginas).  Balki acknowledging that he doesn’t know so much makes him more receptive to learning, while things not matching the ideal makes Larry break down and miss the experience. Ultimately, each has something to teach the other.  At its core, it’s the narrative that I spoke to last week: that technologically advanced societies tell themselves: in their rush for progress, they have lost something important of their humanity, and that those less advanced are more pure of heart.  It’s also basically a variation on the “magical negro” trope, that those who are less than us (“us” being the modern white man, natch) will forever selflessly make efforts to help us. (Or, one could argue, Balki’s childish mannerisms put this in the “children have no internalized barriers and always speak the truth” camp.)

Anyway, the show is doing what it set out to do, which is one of the things I wanted to keep an eye on.  I am curious to see how well they’re able to keep up that theme, and the main relationship, over the course of 8 seasons.


Then the music comes on, and Balki says “Cousin…” and the audience all say “Awwww”.  Oh, for fuck’s sake, I was just reservedly singing your praises, show, and then you had to go and tell the audience to say “awwww” before it was really deserved.  And then Balki tells us another Myposian saying, which he says in his native tongue; outside of the earlier scene in this episode, it’s essentially the first time we hear him speak his own language.  And then he explains that the saying means “If everyone knew how to herd sheep, there would be no one to write poetry”.

…isn’t that basically what Larry was trying to teach Balki at the beginning of the episode? That division of labor is sensible because everyone has different abilities?  I thought the episode’s message was clear, but these kind of shows have to tell you what the lesson is because, you know, we are idiots.  After all, we’re watching television instead of reading books.  But they really botched the landing here at the end. I think I may smell producer notes.


So, on balance, it seems that not much has changed, though the season is still young.  Actually, given the short length of the first season, it’s probably not unfair to consider this the show’s second chance at an introductory episode. So let’s do what we did with Season 1 “Knock, Knock, Who’s There?” and see if the last line of dialogue reveals the show’s thesis:

Balki: Let’s go out and paint the town red, white, and blue!  But first, let’s put on our pants!

That about sums it up, right? Because they’re gay?

(I’ll admit that was a long way to go for a crummy gay joke, but I warned you at the outset of this review that when I commit to a joke, I commit.)


See you next week for “Hunks Like Us”!


Catchphrase count: Balki (1), Larry (0, even though Balki slapped him)

Boner count: Balki (0), Larry (0, unless you count the one he obviously has for Eisenhower)

P.S. Larry’s car appears to be a cherry ride, answering my question from “Baby, You Can Drive My Car”.

Season 1, Episode 6: Happy Birthday, Baby

This episode has what is probably the quickest establishing shot of the Ritz Discount exterior. Was ABC trying to respect its audience’s ability to associate the location with the show? Or did they need to shave off a couple seconds so that Balki could make that pained smile one more time?  Read and find out, dear friends…


And look at that!  There are four customers all at the same time in the store! (I’m not dense, there’s actually someone behind Larry that you can only barely see in this shot.)  A subliminal hint that the store–and hence the show–are popular.  This was the show’s last shot at selling audiences on this modern take on the classic Aesop Fable “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse”, so I’m sure this episode will be a no-holds-barred tour de force.

Now that we’ve spent two episodes with Balki fulfilling his dream of filling out paperwork given to him by bureaucrats and bank tellers, it’s high time we returned to Larry pursuing his dream of becoming a photojournalist.  He’s waiting on a call from the newspaper, but oh no! Balki wants to use the phone!  Cousin Larry lets loose with what should have been a catchphrase formula:


Just think how this would have enhanced the previous episodes!  “Write a check, I break a neck.”  “Fail the driving test, I punch a chest.” “Make me dance, I’ll fucking cut you.”

Larry gets a call from the Photo Editor at the Chicago Weekly Gazette, who wants to print his photo of a burning building.  I think I might have an idea how that fire got started.


Well, shit, dream accomplished, Larry.  Let’s do the Dance of Joy and hit the bars.


Oh, wait, no, there’s still 19 minutes of time to fill, so we find out it’s Larry’s birthday.  Balki wants to know what Larry got him, and Larry just unthinkingly walks right into the catchphrase when he asks Balki if he’s ever heard of the way they do birthdays in America.


Even though Balki exudes the level of excitement that a child would about Larry’s birthday, I’m going to let it pass for two reasons.  1) It’s a fitting joke about how he’s from another country where they do things differently and 2) his excitement is justified because it’s the first American birthday he’ll experience. So I liked that bit.  Oops, sorry, I forgot for a second I’m supposed to trash this show for being shitty, so, uh, hey, where are you from, Balki, Mypos or the fucking Shire?

*whew* close one


Twinkacetti comes in and makes what I’m 100% certain was the very first “Tweedledum and Tweedledumber” joke ever.  This show has historical value, people, which fully justifies my reviews (I’m looking at you, Harvard University Press).  He adds insult to insult by foretelling that Larry will spend his life selling discount clocks to extras until the day he dies.

Larry, undaunted, rushes out the door to make his appointment with the Photo Editor.  Seriously?  For all that the show sells Mr. Twinkacetti as the basest type of taskmaster, his employees sure do leave the shop at a moment’s notice for anything.  I mean, Larry doesn’t even ask Balki, “Hey, do you need to take a quick dump or anything before I leave?”


Then Susan shows up with someone named “Tina”, whom it is implied that Balki and Cousin Larry have already met.  Nice try, show, but I don’t even have to look online to know she’s not sticking around.  I’m maybe 33% disappointed by this, because she dresses like a grown-up Kimmy Gibbler, and I’m a Gibbler Groupie from way back.  But, honey, you’re going to need to dial back that eyeliner if you want to get picked up for the fall on this network.


Balki, Susan, and Tina set up a surprise party for Larry, and bravo to whoever in the props department who was clever enough to make letters on the banner look Greek-ish. And they’ve got bags of chips, too, but it’s probably too much to expect that someone would have closed the circle on this season by having pink lemonade instead of punch.  But check it out, though, Tina must have gotten a hot tip from Gus that Balki likes shoulders.


Anyway, who cares, it’s party time!


Balki comments that to get the same aural effect in Mypos, they had to squeeze a frog.  Rustic!  Larry comes home early (surprising the surprisers… cleverrr) and they all rush to ready themselves.  Balki pours peanuts in his pocket & puts the bags of chips under the couch cushions in what I’m sure is yet another Myposian tradition.


Larry enters, and it’s obvious he plans to celebrate his birthday Larry-style: being upset about something that happened off-screen and doing Bismol shots.  It turns out that the paper chose someone else’s photograph of the same burning building.  Man, here we are at the end of the first season and Larry hasn’t achieved his dream yet?  Am I looking at seven more seasons of this incremental buildup to Larry working as a photojournalist?  Like, at the end of season 2, does he get a picture into the paper, but they crop it in a way that Larry thinks ruins the composition of the shot?  Cripes.



Larry fails to hang his coat.  Remember this. This is important.

Cousin Larry decides to give up on his dream because he’s already behind on his master plan, which included winning a Pulitzer Prize by the time he was 24.  Bitch, I looked it up, you’re 31.  At least Full House had the decency to have Jesse’s age be John Stamos’s age.  You’re probably wondering why I’m homing in on this kind of thing, given that the majority of TV shows and movies have it done it.  But I’ve been a media consumer since childhood.  At every stage of my development, I’ve watched actors who are older than me play characters who are supposed to be my age.  As a result, I have long felt a strange disconnect when I observe the world around me.  Was everyone in my hometown just a runt? In high school, why were we not all the same height as the kids on Saved by the Bell? It’s something that’s only clarified as I’ve gotten older, too; I work at a university, and the freshman always look like babies. Yet college students on television are always perpetually just shy of 30.  I will never stop hating the practice. It seriously messed with my self-image growing up; it seriously screwed up the Tank Girl movie.  Anyway, we return now to Perfect Strangers, which is already in progress.


Balki gingerly shifts position on the couch so as not to make too much of a crinkling noise.  I don’t think Cousin Larry would think twice about it, bro:  he knows what you do to those sofa bed sheets at night.  Balki suggests a party to cheer Larry up, but Larry says he’s got to get back on the street setting building fires; in fact he just got a hot tip about an old lady two blocks over who’s been saving newspapers since the Eisenhower administration.


Larry fails to throw a throw pillow onto a chair.  He turns down Balki’s party idea because he hates to think of how he’ll have to explain to everyone that he failed at achieving his master plan.  Larry, baby, they’re your friends. They got over you being a loser a while ago.  But someone knocks on the door. Oh no! the partygoers!  Now that we’ve established what an unsolvable pickle Balki’s in, there’s an act break.

And it actually picks right back up in the next act!  I was so sure that Larry was going to come in the Ritz the next day, telling Twinkacetti about how he beat up all the party guests and spent the night in a holding cell.  Balki opens the door long enough to say “Go away” and slams it.  It’s often the small, detail-level jokes that do it for me (which is why I’m probably the only fan of the film Don’t be a Menace…), so someone’s extended noisemaker getting stuck in the door got a big laugh from me.


Balki keeps opening and shutting the door on the party guests, and Tina’s understandably upset.  She still thinks she has a shot if she can just stay on screen.


Larry says he’s hungry and Balki offers him the peanuts from his pocket.

Larry: Why have you got peanuts in that pocket?

Balki: Because I have a squirrel in this one.

I really like this payoff because it’s a moment of self-awareness on Balki’s part that he can get away with having the crazy shit he says go unquestioned because he’s a weirdo foreigner.  Shoot, I’m liking the show too much again. You can’t see it because I only really single out the jokes I like, but trust me, there’s plenty of crummy jokes on this show.  Mostly the show relies on cheap physical humor to try to get laughs, like right now.  Observe the following endless sequence. Balki locks Larry in the closet and then shoos away the guests.



This gives Larry a chance to use his catchphrase one more time before the season’s out.


Then they argue about whether Balki locked Larry in the closet and they engage in some more physical comedy and it’s obvious the writers didn’t know what to do.

Anyway, who cares, it’s padding time!

Larry shouts for a while, makes some sort of nonsensical joke about Anthony Perkins, Balki fields a call from Larry’s mom, unsuccessfully refuses the birthday cake delivery, fails to throw the cake out the window, and then has to cover it up.


Sheesh. The end of the scene should have been Larry going to bed, but similar to the discographies of Wilson Phillips or Asia, there were more “hide the party” jokes after the initial stopping point than before it.


Later on that night, Cousin Larry tries to wake up Balki and says, hey, all that padding was fun, let’s do some more of that. But he has trouble waking Balki, so he does a wolf howl and Balki shits the bed.  Larry has come to the conclusion that Twinkacetti was correct about being stuck in retail the rest of his life and then proceeds to pule and whine about nobody having wished him a happy birthday.  He even specifically mentions that Tina didn’t say anything; dude, have you even seen her more than twice?  Larry starts shyly & haltingly asking a question, and Balki disgustedly hands him Dmitri, the Myposian masturbatory aid.


Later on that SAME night, Balki wakes up Larry. Larry, having forgotten that he shares an apartment, comes out of his room armed.  But it’s a good thing that Larry didn’t have to use the trophy as a weapon (“I may have just bought it at the discount store, Balki, but it was my trophy! I grew up with 8 brothers and sisters and we had to share our achievements.”), because it’s party time again!


Balki has rounded up all of the people in a 100-yard radius who were awake: Max, from the bus stop newsstand; Officer Finley and the person standing right next to him who, gee, I dunno, must just be really friendly and not have a name; Sandra from the donut shop; Snake (he’s the one with the snake tattoo, if you must know); and a wino bum.


And there it is! There’s that pained smile! The same one I make when my hands are dry and cracked and I put hand sanitizer on them. Also Larry puts down Balki in a way Balki won’t understand one more time.  They’re just packing it in at the end here. (gaaaaaay)


Larry opens his present from the group and it’s crullers!  I give that joke a 6. You’ve got the “k” sound at the beginning, but, eh. Call me old-fashioned, but I would’ve gone with strudel.


That previously unnamed guy is “Lou” and which writer seriously thought that this was going to be a good visual punchline?  Who isn’t going to have put two and two together already about the guy standing right next to the cop?  This was the worst joke of the whole season, hands down. I mean it, you two, put your hands down, it’s a shitty joke.


Anyway, we’re at the end of the episode, so let’s see what the lesson is. Cousin Larry learned not to give up on his dream of being a photojournalist because you can’t put schedules on dreams or something like that.  Balki learned that he should start switching out Larry’s liquid antacid with sedatives.


The homeless guy comes out of the bathroom saying that they’ve run out of ice.  Homeless people sure do have their priorities straight: any time you have access to a bathroom, you start right in on that next batch of toilet wine.  Let’s hope he joins the cast for season 2; Tweedledum and Tweedledumber could learn a lot from this guy.

Hey, wow, end of season.  Next week I’ll do a review of Season 1!


Catchphrase count: Balki (1), Larry (1)

Boner count: Balki (0), Larry (0) (a moment of silence, please, for all the unborn boners Larry would have popped over Tina)

Dance of Joy running count: 3