The Hollywood Reporter
September 1990

(Editor's 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."  ??????)

Telefilm Review
Perfect Strangers
SAFE AT HOME
(Fri. (28), 9 - 9:30 p.m., ABC-TV)

Filmed in 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.


"Perfect 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 (Mark Linn-Baker.)

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 his cousin.

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 phone directory.

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 praise.)

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.