Season 3, Episode 19: My Brother, Myself

We open at the Chronicle, where Balki is talking to “Cousin Billy” on the phone.

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SEASON 3 BOSS FIGHT

Last season’s level boss, Larry’s sister Elaine, was a bit of a cakewalk. If I remember correctly, all Larry had to do was dodge flying piano keys and hug her three times to beat the level.

But now we’re going to get to meet the one other sibling that the writers have bothered to name!  Remember Billy? From way back in the worst episode ever, “The Unnatural”? If I remember correctly, Billy had about a million trophies and had to start storing the lesser ones (“Best in Show – Tri-County Dimple Competition”) on Larry’s side of the room.  Elaine shaving Larry’s head was revealed as just silly little siblings at play, but I think this show will have a harder time reversing what we know to be true: Billy Appleton has been condescending to Larry since childhood.

Shit, I knew better than to get excited. I mean, after all, why the hell was Billy calling at work, and, oh, yep, there it is

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Balki thinks that the menstrual cycle gives women dark powers over men, like reading their minds.

*sigh*

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Larry comes out of the elevator, Balki gives exposition, and Harriette patiently stares at the camera until it’s time for her to ask for backstory. But Billy’s coming to Chicago for a couple of hours and Balki is so excited to mispronounce the name of another of his relatives!

Nature abhors a vacuum, so Balki’s exit pulls Harriette and Lydia toward Larry. Brother Billy has continued to be successful into his adult life: he owns his own business and flies frequently to Paris and Monte Carlo (the only two rich-people places the writers have ever heard of).  Lydia sides with Larry, as she, too, hates successful people.

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But then we find out Larry has been bragging about himself to Billy, claiming that he is the city editor. And because Billy didn’t, you know, grow up with Larry, he doesn’t suspect that Larry was lying.

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Harriette tells Larry that he deserves whatever he gets, and Larry responds with more alliteration with B words. You can tell one of the writers was so excited when they looked up who the executive editor of the Washington Post was and saw that it was “Ben Bradlee”.

Then the women start in with the alliteration and I guess that’s just a thing now. Buncha bit-part bimbos better not be bout to buoy this bonehead’s braggadocio…

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It seems like once every 6 or 7 episodes we get some nice directorial work, and here it comes as a transition from Larry worried at work to Larry worried at home. Balki, carefree as ever, is catching up on his reading (likely Amazing Spider-Man #299, the one where Peter Parker meets Eddie Murphy).

spiderman

Larry starts laughing, and begins his gambit to get Balki to help him lie to his brother. He says he’s laughing about the times he and Billy played “Appleton Snowjob”.

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Balki: I know this! On Mypos is very simple… the woman is working out in the field, she put cocaine on the erect penis, then she cook for eleven men!

It seems like once every 10 episodes or so Larry tries to hook Balki by acting like he’s not going to let him do something. Larry says that the Appleton Snowjob is a game where you try to fool your brother into believing something. And just like my little brother did upon realizing for the first time that you don’t always win when you play Chutes and Ladders, Balki weeps openly.

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Cousin Larry says they have to come up with a story, then “comes up” with increasingly absurd stories, the joke being that Larry keeps saying them right before Balki says something. I mean, I get that this is Comedy Dialogue Structure #52 (US Pat. D293,473), but I do kind of wonder what Balki would have come up with.

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He gets Balki on board with the city editor scam, but then Larry then posits an obstacle. How to get around Mr. Burns being there? An excited Balki says that he overheard some ABC execs saying that the studio audiences just didn’t seem to respond well to Eugene Roche, and he wasn’t coming back to the set anymore. Dude was gone.

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Demonstrating the briefcase skills he developed in “Night School Confidential”, Larry throws a bunch of personal effects into a briefcase and off they go to the Chronicle to perform their “snowjob”.

Later, in Mr. Burns’s office, the cousins changes the picture on the wall. Okay, okay, okay. Show of hands, readers. How many of you have black-and-white headshot photos of yourself on your office walls?

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Huh. Just me and Mr. Burns and Larry. Alright.

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And for the second time in years, Harriette has ventured more than two yards outside of the elevator just to let the cousins know that Billy is on his way.

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*squeal*

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It’s Ted McGinley! I did not expect that! I mean, I really only watched Married… With Children reruns in middle school, and I barely remember anything but the episode where Al Bundy is supposed to be in a Dodge commercial, but I’m weirdly excited to see McGinley here (so is Harriette, who gets a little wet before she leaves).  Similar to Mr. Burns and Kimmy Robertson, simply because I’ve seen him in literally anything else, ever he feels like more of a “real” actor. And I know enough about McGinley’s reputation to know what an insult that is to Linn-Baker and Pinchot.

But this confirms that Larry is the runt of the family, or possibly that a Jewish family left him on the Appleton doorstep in 1961.  The first thing out of Billy’s mouth is that Larry is so ungodly fat now.

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Just like any good foreigner, Balki’s instinct upon meeting a new “family member” is to start checking for where they keep their wallet.

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But then Balki goes too far trying to boost the con game. He starts by saying that everyone treats Larry like Prince Valium.  I know I haven’t really mentioned many Balki-isms since “Night School Confidential” kind of sweet-and-soured me on them (dammit! see?), but I mention this one because Spaceballs probably came out around the same time this season was being written. Wait, wait, I am NOT claiming that Perfect Strangers stole the joke. I’m just saying that someone needs to add this to Wikipedia’s list of multiple discoveries because this is way more important than some garbage mess like the Polio vaccine.

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Anyway, Balki keeps making shit up and Billy finds Melanie Wilson’s headshot. Balki says that Jennifer is a former Miss Costa Rica and then makes the same face I did a couple months back when I had shingles and the pain kept waking me up in the middle of the night.

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The cousins take a cab to the restaurant, but we don’t get to see it this time, because we’re not scheduled for anybody to beat Larry up until next season.  When we return to the Chronicle, we find that Billy has already left. Ah yes, I like this kind of boss battle. You think you’ve defeated them, but they just run off to a higher level of the tower; or you’ve only knocked away layers of armor. Either way, in the next round, they’re going to be flashing red.

Cousin Larry reveals that he lied, and Balki realizes that his soul has been darkened by participation in Larry’s evil. Oh, Larry, that’s Snow Way to Treat Your Brother, Or Your Cousin!

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Larry promises to tell his brother what’s what the very next time he sees him. The phone rings, and Larry gets a hot tip from Gus that Billy’s flight was cancelled, and that Billy will be staying with them that night.  Larry picks up his lucky pen and gouges his own eyes out so that he can never fulfill his promise to Balki.

Nah, j/k, I think that happens in season 6, though.

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Billy comes out of Larry’s room asking for a lint brush. It’s in Balki’s “lint drawer”. (I expect another painting soon, Balki.) It turns out that Larry told Billy that Balki is offering them a place to stay while Larry’s townhouse is being remodeled.

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So… did Larry remove all of his items from his bedroom and make it look like the guest bedroom? Did he get rid of the smell? Did he remove all of the art that he had around the apartment, since Billy would know what Larry’s tastes were? Did he even remove the Bismol from the fridge? I’m beginning to think you’re pulling a Snowjob on me, show.

Balki calls Larry fat. Balki, having long acclimated to the sounds of Larry sobbing while he masturbates in the next room, has forgotten that sound carries across short, open distances and yells at Larry about lying.

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Balki sits the brothers down and tells them the parable of the brothers Zaggy Badbad (Mooki and Grinki in this case).*

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The music comes on really strong throughout this whole story. I think the music director for the show thought that if they did this, it would cover up the fact that Balki’s story is basically just recapping the first 15 minutes of the show, but replacing the names and switching out “job” and “home” for “ram” and “farm”, respectively.  The point of the story is that the brothers used to love each other, and now don’t and that Larry will die alone, unmourned, and unloved.

aloneunmournedandunloved

Larry Appleton, aged 72.

I thought Billy was a total shit to Larry when they were kids? Doesn’t he deserve some comeuppance?  I’m disappointed that Larry is  working through an adult issue with a member of his family instead of just being called fat and unsuccessful for 22 straight minutes, but maybe this is part of an aggregate point. Maybe once you’ve identified as a nail, everything starts to look like a hammer. Maybe Larry convinced himself that he would only ever be ridiculed and put down, and he then interpreted–or even forced–situations to end that way. With Jerseyman. With Vestman. But now Tuxman is here, and–

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HEY WAIT A MINUTE

Episodes about Myposian food, about Vince Lucaahhss, about snow and lying, about Balki demanding to be allowed a crucial part in a game at the last minute. Eugene Roche, like Count Fenring, a failed Twinksatz Haderach; Jerseyman/Vestman; Belita Moreno has a different hair color…

IS LEVEL THREE JUST A RESKIN OF LEVEL TWO?

*throws controller across the room*

AND YOU JUST INTROSPECT INSTEAD OF FIGHTING THE LEVEL’S BOSS?

*jumps up and down on the console*

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At the end of Balki’s story, Billy starts crying. He admits to lying about everything he said he owned. Turns out he’s a travel agent and gets good deals on flights.

Larry wonders if Billy lied to him all these years. Yeah, Billy, huh? Was that “First Place – Wisconsin State Fair – Cheese Identification” trophy fake too? But there’s still like three minutes left, so instead of coming clean, Larry tells Billy that he forgives him.  Once that takes up a minute, Larry recaps all the things he’s lied about.

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Larry: I’m not the city editor at the paper, I don’t own a townhouse. Jennifer and I aren’t engaged, but she does like me. Look, here’s the shooting script for “Future Shock”, look at the highlighted passage on page 30. See? Firmly established in the show’s canon.

Turns out they were both jealous of each other because their parents pitted them against each other with that “why can’t you be more like your brother” bullcrap. Larry and Billy, with the things they were good at** both represented the other’s greatest desires. Man, the dynamic between Walt and Hank on Breaking Bad got nothing on this!

Larry and Billy hug, and it’s a real touching moment for people who–unlike me–can experience real emotion about their family. I’m so proud of this show.

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Balki is brought to tears, this being the first time the show has ever fully obscured him in a shot.

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Balki says that this was the moment that they really became brothers, the moment that they “really stepped in something good”.

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*mashes the A button repeatedly to try to get through Balki’s text faster, even though I know it doesn’t work that way*

Join me next week for “You Gotta Have Friends”!

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

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

*Makes me wonder if, when they got together with Zimdog, they were more of a Three Stooges or a Marx Brothers kind of deal.

**Larry was really good at ironing.

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

nuthin’

Bronson Pinchot / Balki Bartokomous

nuthin’

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