November 18, 1986
Not All Bad
The most common accusation
against those who write about television is, "You just donít like
anything about television. You never write anything good about
TV." Thatís not true, even though articles critical of certain
aspects of the medium do seem to outnumber those praising it.
In an attempt to even out the scorecard,
here are two recent shows that deserve attention:
This funny little show, seen at 7 p.m. on
Wednesdays on ABC, has emerged as one of the highlights of the viewing
week. It has matured into a perfect blend of hilarious situations and
warmhearted affection. What started off to be a show that seemed to be
geared solely toward the uniquely skewed talent of Bronson Pinchot has slowly
transmogrified into a really funny comedy that also now draws on the comedic
talent of Mark Linn-Baker.
Pinchot plays Balki Bartokomous, a
deliciously wacky Mediterranean immigrant who comes to Chicago to live with his
cousin Larry Appleton (Linn-Baker). At first, the series seemed to rely
for virtually all of its laughs on the malapropisms and strangely off-center
accent of Pinchot, which mirrored his wonderful Serge character in the movie,
"Beverly Hills Cop." However, it since has slowly modified into
a true sharing of the laugh load between Pinchot and Linn-Baker, who was great
in the Peter O' Toole comedy movie, "My Favorite Year."
Balki's cracked viewpoint of America
continues to comprise the showís central theme and continues to offer many of
the laughs. For example, in the show last week he commented that a girl
had been "hit with the ugly rock" and accused Larry of being
"blue with envy." His selection of hors díoeuvres for a date
included those little wax soft drink bottles full of green and red liquids,
caramel corn and wax lips.
However, Linn-Baker himself has grown into
a source of real comedy. His Larry character, while playing straight man
to Balki most of the time, has enough eccentricities of his own to provide a
mother lode of laugh material.
The nice thing about the show is that it
is never cruel to its characters. While Balkiís unfamiliarity with
American speech and customs is the basis for much of the humor, Balki is never
presented as an oaf. In fact, he often is portrayed as more inherently
clever than those around him. In a recent show his Mediterranean cure for
the common cold proved to be a miracle cure. And no matter how much their
personalities may clash, Balki and Larry always wind up expressing affection for
A single episode of this show, on Sunday,
November 9, was convincing proof that it de-serves more attention. The
series, shown at 7:30 p.m. on NBC and KARK, Channel 4, stars Valerie Harper as
the mother of a houseful of kids. In the November 9 episode her son Willie
(Danny Ponce) steals the family car, goes joyriding and has an accident.
He seems baffled that his mother isnít as understanding as the family on a TV
show he has seen recently.
The excellent part of the show was when
Valerie went to great pains to explain to the errant Willie that real life often
isnít like TV sitcoms, where everything must be conveniently wrapped up in a
half-hour. She explained how she couldnít forgive him instantly and
proclaim that everything was just fine again now that he had confessed his
transgression. In real life, she explained, offenses as serious as
stealing the family car and leaving the scene of an accident canít be passed
off as something that can be forgiven in an instant.
The valid point that Valerie made was in
marked contrast to the artificial situation two nights later on the ABC sitcom,
"Growing Pains." In that show the little kid Ben was caught
after calling long distance 67 times in one month to a telephone porno tape
service. Not only did the kid get caught making the sleazy calls, but he
also falsely accused the little neighbor boy of giving him the dial-a-porn
number and the neighbor kid got the daylights pummeled out of him by his
father. Instead of any meaningful form of punishment being meted out, the
"Growing Pains" kidís punishment was to write an essay about the
Valerie hasnít been on the weekly
watching menu, but it will be added after the excellent episode of November 9.