note: While this isn't a particularly favorable review, to say
the least, it does show some of the interesting critical
comments made around the time the show started changing in ways
many of the fans didn't like. Also it illustrates how
reviewers often just didn't "get" the show . . .
particularly telling is the
reviewer's assertion that the comedy is based partly off of
Balki's "innate stupidity." ??????)
SAFE AT HOME
(Fri. (28), 9 - 9:30 p.m., ABC-TV)
Culver City by Miller-Boyett Prods. in association with Lorimar
TV. Exec producers, Thomas L. Miller, Robert L. Boyett,
William Bickley, Michael Warren; coexec producer, Paula A. Roth;
supervising producer, Terry Hart; producers, John B. Collins,
Tom Devanney; coproducers, Alan Plotkin, Bill Daley; consulting
producer, James O'Keefe; exec in charge of production, R. Robert
Rosenbaum; director, Richard Correll; script, Barry O'Brien,
Cheryl Alu; created by Dale McRaven; camera, Gregg Heschong;
editor, John Randle; supervising art director, Lynn Griffin; art
director, David K. Marshall; sound, Jim Ford; music, theme,
Jesse Frederick, Bennett Salvay. With: Bronson Pinchot,
Mark Linn-Baker, Melanie Wilson, Rebeca Arthur, Belita Moreno,
Sam Anderson, Raye Birk, Mitch Carter.
Strangers" rolls off the assembly line with knowhow and
polish but without much enthusiasm. Although everyone
involved seems to be just going through the motions, show will
no doubt continue to rack up okay numbers from viewers who are
in the Friday-night habit.
The writers and producers
by now have wisely downplayed the original premise of building
laughs around the confusion of Balki (Bronson Pinchot),
wide-eyed peasant from Balkan-style country, at confronting all
things American -- including his Chicago-dwelling cousin Larry
At this point, Balki is
fairly assimilated, and plots spring not from his naivete so
much as his innate stupidity and the know-it-all impatience of
In the season opener,
their apartment is robbed, so Larry has a top-of-the-line
burglar-alarm system installed, but he blithely ignores the book
of instructions, which is roughly the size of the Manhattan
Accidentally setting off
the alarm, he and Balki are trapped in a maze of laser beams
(the work of director of photography Gregg Heschong is
particularly good) and activate "The Doomsday System,"
with the alarm voice providing a countdown as the boy / men face
the release of poison gas.
To its credit,
"Perfect Strangers" is unafraid to aim low, to try for
that difficult, much-neglected blend of cornball jokes,
slapstick and schtick.
Series probably owes some
of its popularity to the fact that there are too few current
practitioners of that style and while show never attains the
heights of "I Love Lucy" -- or even "Laverne
& Shirley" -- it's a whole lot better than
"Three's Company" (which is admittedly pretty faint
The two actors work well
together and seem to enjoy playing off one another, but the
by-the-numbers script by Barry O'Brien and Cheyl Alu gives them
little to work with.
Pinchot has gotten a
little slick, but has some nice moments, particularly when he
breaks character to imitate his concept of a robber.
Linn-Baker's timing is equally savvy, but he seems awfully
delighted at his own cuteness.
Melanie Wilson and Rebeca
Arthur appear briefly, but other regulars Belita Moreno and Sam
Anderson are unfortunately absent from this episode.
Richard Corell's direction
and John Randle's editing are A-OK.
However, each scene begins
with an establishing shot of the exterior of the boy / men's
apartment building. Since the entire half-hour takes place
in one setting, the six nearly identical zoom shots provide the
biggest laughs of the seg, however unintentional. The
practice is totally unnecessary, but perhaps once that assembly
line starts rolling, it's hard to stop. -- Gray.