Season 2, Episode 17: Ten Speed and a Soft Touch

Hey everybody! I hope you enjoyed the reprieve from slapstick last week, because it’s back with a vengeance!

First off, I want to say I had to do some searching to figure out what the hell the title of this episode is referring to. Evidently, there was an ABC show in 1980 called “Tenspeed and Brown Shoe”, featuring Ben Vereen and Jeff Goldblum as buddy cops whose personalities were at odds with each other. Even though this week’s episode centers on a bicycle, and our main characters are an Odd Couple type of pairing, the reference the title makes still seems a strange one. I would have titled it “Bike This” or “Bike Baby”, but I’m a Perfect Strangers traditionalist.


Here’s a picture of a truck passing in front of the camera, because to be honest, I’m tired of looking at that damn storefront after 22 episodes. The episode opens with Larry getting a bunch of boxes, but we’ll get to that in a second, because Balki has to make a joke.


That’s the same face I make when I get sand in my eyes. Hey, I recognize that kid (checks IMDB); it’s Bobby Jacoby! Okay, fine I only recognized his resemblance to his older brother Billy; it just so happens I watched Dr. Alien recently, but if the face looks familiar to you, it’s probably because you know Billy Jacoby from Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. Anyway, the kid wants to know where the T-shirts are, so back to the boxes.

Evidently Larry’s family shipped him all of his childhood belongings (marbles, a slingshot, and a test from 3rd grade are the contents of one mostly empty box). I get that you’d have them shipped to the store, Larry, but why are you going through this junk now, on the one day all month when you’ve got potential customers around?


The kid throws his apple away in one of the open boxes, mistaking their contents for trash, and it’s supposed to establish him as a seriously rude dude, but I think I’d agree with him. We’ve long established that Larry barely had any possessions of his own to speak of. So, like, aside from the marbles and slingshot, what are we talking here? Plastic arms from his older brother’s G.I. Joes? Vintage dental plaque-disclosing tablets? More-symmetrical-than-normal pea gravel?


Balki pulls out Larry’s pogo stick, asking if it’s a crutch. Larry explains that it’s a pogo stick.


Larry pogos.


Balki: What else does it do?


Ooh! Get Larry to the burn ward! Balki, who likes fingyprints, puppies, balloons, and Vegahhhssss, thinks your toy is shit, Cousin Larry.


The delivery guy then brings in Larry’s bike, “Black Beauty”. We have here our second example of Larry owning vehicles that are in absolutely perfect condition. We’ve seen his cherry Mustang, and now we see his cherry bike. There’s consistency there, but only between the two items, not between them and everything else we know about Larry. At the beginning of this season, commenter Sarah Portland made a thorough case for why Larry wouldn’t have anything as nice as a classic Mustang in perfect shape. Maybe the bike is sliiiiightly more believable, but come on, how did Larry not get beaten up constantly by biggers guys stealing his bike? Also, given the rough treatment those boxes have been through on the truck from Madison, how did this bike get here unscuffed? Larry introduces Balki to “Black Beauty” and Balki grabs the handlebar tassels and shakes them.


Okay, you got me, show, that’s cute.


The kid gripes about these losers yapping and only ever facing one direction in a room that has four of them, and asks if he can buy something. Telling the employees to do their job… I love this kid already!


But, oh no, he’s trying to steal something, as evidenced by the price tag hanging out of his coat pocket. If this were a modern show and Larry stuck his hand in a kid’s pocket, we’d get an entirely different story out of this. But I’m completely stymied as to where they might go with this. I mean, a kid who steals? Larry all of a sudden getting his beautiful childhood bicycle back? Two lead characters, both of whom approach trusting others in diametrically opposed ways? These are very disparate elements which I see no way to build a story from. I hope the show hasn’t painted itself into a corner here.


The kid was trying to steal a pocket calculator and when Larry threatens to call his mother, we find out through the kid’s school notebook that he’s Eddie Harris. And he lives in their building. I want to gripe about how fucking convenient that is, but at least the show’s telling us right away about it. The show tries to further stem the tide of my ire by letting us know that he just moved in. Okay, fine, I’ll let it pass. This time.

(Sidebar: the address of the building is 315 Lincoln Ave., for anyone who cares.)

Balki intercedes with Larry on Eddie’s behalf, begging him not to kill the child for his minor infraction. Larry relents, Eddie leaves. Larry then puts on his Parent ego state and starts talking about how Eddie is bound for prison by the time he’s 15. If only someone would do something, spend some time with the kid, be a good role model!

I’m happy to say that the show has surprised me this time around, because Larry doesn’t even try to get out of spending time with Eddie! He cites his history of having multiple brothers and sisters and agrees to the plan instantly! Only five minutes in and we’re just trucking!


Next is a scene where two unmarried men who live together call up a woman and say they want to spend the day with her son. Didn’t we just establish that they live in the same building? Couldn’t they… go to her apartment? We’d better get a great third location out of this.

Cousin Larry relays the information he received from Eddie’s mom, because fuck you if you think a woman’s going to get any lines on this show if she doesn’t have to. Mom refers to her son as “Fast Eddie”, who has been arrested twice for shoplifting, and got the family kicked out of the state of Florida. I know we have this whole meme nowadays about “Florida Man” and all the wacky stupid crimes he gets up to; did Florida have the same reputation back then? How apt was the joke? Write your answer on the back of a 4×6 postcard and send it in to

The Perfect Strangers Throwaway “Florida” Joke Sweepstakes
4601 E. Nasa Parkway
Apt. 312D
Seabrook, Texas 77586

Balki is saddened by the story of Eddie’s delinquency, but not as saddened, he says, as he was by the story in a tabloid about the woman with feet the size of watermelons. Balki reads tabloids! This is a perfect character detail! Remember how I gushed way back in Season 1 about Balki not being able to differentiate between high and low quality cultural artifacts? Please, please do an episode about Balki and tabloids!


Larry promises Balki that they can turn Eddie into a stand-up young man by using the three Ps: patience, perseverance, and pride. Balki complains that vague, open-to-interpretation concepts like “pride” are often hard to translate into actions, and says they should just play with the kid. He suggests “Boochi tag”.


Larry: No. Fuck Boochi tag, fuck everything about Mypos, and most importantly, fuck you.


Balki: Boochi boochi boochi, motherfucker!

Then they just play tag for a while.


Like, for a while. But it leads to this wonderful moment where Mark Linn-Baker just cracks up because of the way Balki walks towards him. He can’t stop laughing, and even looks towards a couple of the cameras to see if the director is going to say “cut”. But good for you, director, for knowing what’s funny and going with this take. I enjoyed seeing this grown man express uncontrollable delight; it’s an accident that works well for the character. You can’t tell me that Larry Appleton had this kind of fun as a kid; he’s needed that release for years.


Then they keep playing Boochi tag for another while.


You cannot be it if you are holding the “Boochi”, which in this case is Dmitri. Okay, we just spent 3 and a half minutes on Boochi tag, and even with Mark Linn-Baker both breaking and deepening character at the same time, should we have been doing this, I dunno, WITH THE KID THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE PLAYING WITH?


Fast Eddie: Yeah, what the hell, you guys?

Larry wants to go to the museum to see the Patience, Perseverance, and Pride exhibit, which Eddie understandably objects to, but Balki suggests they all go play arcade games and eat junk food. All right! Third location, here we come!




Come on.

Larry congratulates himself on what a good job he did of fixing a kid’s whole life in just two hours of eating hot dogs, and Balki pours out a whole box of “Puff” cereal looking for “Monster Man” tattoos.


(Casey’s Art Corner: the back of the Puff box was designed by Mark Rothko.)


I would love… repeat… LOVE to know if this was an actual cereal premium and what cereal it was actually from. If you know, please write it on the back of a 4×6 postcard and send it to

Perfect Strangers Throwaway “Monster Man Tattoos” Joke Sweepstakes
4601 E. NASA Parkway
Apt. 312D
Seabrook, TX 77586


Larry goes out to get the newspaper, and uh-oh! Black Beauty is gone! And just like Thomas Jefferson tended to subscribe to the philosophy of whatever author he had just read, Cousin Larry assumes that anything that happens can only have been done by the last person he saw; so he accuses Fast Eddie.


Balki wants to give Eddie the benefit of the doubt (or “doubit”, as he calls it), but Larry asks if Balki has an explanation for why the bike is gone.


Balki actually doesn’t, making this the second time this show has shoved his catchphrase in sideways. Larry is hot to go upstairs and beat the snot out of both Eddie and the mom he rode in… with… but Balki demands that Larry promise to give Eddie a chance, reminding him of the three Ps. Larry’s all like “screw the three Ps! That was just a thing that my dad always said!” and Balki’s all like


Larry relents. Eddie shows up and Larry whips out yet another P, calling Eddie a punk. Eddie claims not to know anything about the bike, but Larry sees that he’s holding one of the bike’s “streamer strands”.


Larry, that’s not clear and convincing evidence… that’s not even a preponderance. But Cousin Larry just lays into him, so Eddie says “forget this noise” and gets out of there.


Larry gets so angry that he tries to call Eddie’s mom; then he breaks Balki’s finger and shouts a bunch. We’ve now gone through the tension building and the acute battering phases. Balki, please, you’re in an abusive relationship. When the music comes on at the end, don’t trust it. It’s just a honeymoon phase. Next week he’ll find another reason to shout. (Here’s my piercing insight for this episode, everybody: the bicycle symbolizes the CYCLE of abuse.)


But look who’s at the door! No, it’s not the police responding to a domestic disturbance, it’s Jennifer and Mary Anne (Sagittarius)!

Larry: Jennifer! Black Beauty!


Mary Anne: Oh, thank you! I’ve been working on my tan.

what the fucking shit

I can’t even process that one. Turns out that Jennifer just borrowed the bike. The studio audience all start going “aww, aww” like in that Baseketball supercut. Man oh man, Cousin Larry, you messed up. Balki tells the women the whole massacree, with four-part harmony and feeling, and Mary Anne says they’d better get out of there, dropping some serious psychology.

Mary Anne: I think it’s obvious that Larry’s suffering from severe separation anxiety caused by the temporary loss of his childhood bicycle.

I’m in love. I say dumb shit, too, sometimes. Oh, no wait, she picked it up from fellow black beauty Oprah. Nevermind.


Larry tries to apologize to Balki for how he didn’t trust him, and Balki’s all like “uh-uh, boy”, so they call up Eddie.


Cousin Larry gives Eddie the bike (now he can be “Faster Eddie”, heehee, ain’t I good at jokes), saying that he doesn’t have time to ride it. Shouldn’t the reason be that it was his childhood bike and his legs are now too long for him to ride it?

Larry: What are you going to call it?


Fast Eddie: I’m going to call it “my bike”, because I’m from a different generation whose options for individual activities have been widened, perhaps even improved, by technological advances like arcade games, blockbuster films, and home video. The bike is simply one aspect of a suite of entertainments available to me, and thus has less singular importance.

The music comes on and Balki tells Cousin Larry how well he did at righting his own wrongs in the end. Guess how the episode ends!


So, other than the lesson, what kind of statement was this show trying to make by having the plot of the show center on a kid who’s only on the screen for less than a third of the running time? And by having the main adult characters do all of the kid things? Was it thumbing its nose at its own premise? It’s certainly not trying to make comparisons amongst their different upbringings, or to make a statement about what children need in terms of adult role models. It doesn’t even seem to be saying that one has to be a child at heart to relate to children. The child seems to only be there to provide a backdrop against which, once again, Larry can launch into one of his two modes (scared or angry; though I’ve heard the argument made that anger is secondary and stems from fear, the episode doesn’t get into that here). Already, here late in the second season, I feel that I’ve fully measured the dimensions of the show’s formulae. The problem with formula is that sometimes, once you see it, it instantly feels tired. I stopped watching Matlock once I could guess the ending.

But I have to keep watching this show: the other sitcom reviewers held me upside-down and made me promise. Will the show keep its current set of formula variants, killing me slowly? Or will further seasons bring new types of stories? Write your answer on the back of a 4×6 postcard and send it to:

Perfect Strangers “Throwaway Running Jokes that Casey is Nonetheless Committed to Capping With a Third Instance, Even at the Risk of Revealing His Own Tired Formula” Sweepstakes
4601 E. NASA Parkway
Apt. 312D
Seabrook, TX 77586

See you next week for “Snow Way to Treat a Lady, Part 1”!


Catchphrase Count: Balki (2); Larry (0)
Boner Count: Balki (0); Larry (0)

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