Mountain News TV Times
July 24 - 30, 1988
Strangers Merits More Friends
by: Dusty Saunders
Scripps Howard News Service
The series is not perfect
television comedy. And it is a stranger to a major share of the television
Perhaps that's why
"Perfect Strangers," ABC's often hilarious Friday evening sitcom about
a pair of mismatched cousins, seldom receives the media publicity, industry
accolades and spectacular ratings accorded many less-enjoyable half-hour
is "The Odd Couple" gone berserk.
Bronson Pinchot stars as
Balki Bartokomous, a Mediterranean goatherder who has emigrated to Chicago to
pursue his own version of the American dream. No, Pinchot did not got up
on a hillside in the Balkans. He was born in New York City and spent most
of his life in South Pasadena, Calif. But his excellent portrayal has
funny, Old World charm.
Balki's roommate is his
American cousin, Larry Appleton, played in marvelous apple-pie, deadpan style by
Mark Linn-Baker. "Perfect Strangers," which premiered in March
1986, is one of those comedies that produced laughs in spite of itself.
The story lines are as predictable as a Phoenix weather forecast. Balki,
the native foreigner, constantly tries to adapt to American mores; his loving
cousin attempts to pull him out of jams while providing the audience with
rubberneck double takes. The series telegraphs its humorous punches as if
Lorimar, the producer, owned Western Union.
Strangers" succeeds as entertainment mostly because of the performances of
the stars. Pinchot and Linn-Baker make the most of pratfall comedy a la
Jackie Gleason and Art Carney. An episode that aired early last season in
which the two went on a supermarket shopping spree should be put into a TV time
capsule to be observed in the future as an outrageously funny example of network
situation comedy at its best. Unfortunately, not every episode of the show
has that go-for-broke style of humor, which is probably one reason the series is
often ignored by the critics.
If you're not already a fan
of "Perfect Strangers," the summer season is an ideal time to meet
these off-the-wall cousins. Keep in mind that although network television
understandably takes a lot of knocks for airing mostly reruns during June, July
and August, such scheduling allows viewers to catch up on series they may have
overlooked during the regular season.
Network executives believe
the summer season is a "planting time" in American homes -- a period
when shows can be nurtured in hopes of harvesting strong audience ratings in the
Two summers ago, ABC embarked
on a concerted promotional campaign for "Perfect Strangers," which
paid off in the form of increased ratings in the fall.
Dusty Saunders is the
Rocky Mountain News broadcasting critic.