Guide - Canada
January 9, 1988
by Pam McAdam
Kramden and Norton. Unger and
Madison. Appleton and Bartokomous? You bet. The two unlikely
heroes of Perfect Strangers (ABC, CHCH), played by Mark Linn-Baker and
Bronson Pinchot, are the newest sitcom buddy team -- an odd couple for the '80s.
The premise of the '86 midseason
replacement is nothing new. These guys are total opposites: city mouse
Larry Appleton (Linn-Baker), who just landed his first job, in a discount store;
and his country-mouse distant cousin Balki Bartokomous (Pinchot), a shepherd who
just landed in America from the tiny Mediterranean island of Mipos (sic).
Before you could say "sheep dip" three times fast, hapless Larry
offered Balki temporary (hah!) accomodation and got him a job at the same
store. And that's when the fun started.
Perfect Strangers' highly physical
slapstick and ludicrous situations recall another comedy classic, I Love Lucy,
whose star, Lucille Ball, admits to watching and enjoying it. The funny
business ranges from simple double takes to elaborate, almost gymnastic
horseplay -- the now-standard "happy dance" -- and it works so well
because Linn-Baker and Pinchot display incredible delivery, timing and teamwork.
Naturally, Larry and Balki invariably end
up in tight spots as a result of their regular good intentions to help somebody
or solve a problem. Most of the early situations resulted from culture
shock: Balki started out as utterly naive, and his incomprehension of American
speech and customs couldn't have been more complete -- and hilarious -- if he'd
But as Linn-Baker says, "There are
only so many jokes you can do about someone who doesn't know how to use
something," and the show might have fizzled had it not moved beyond
that. This season, however, the writers developed the plot by giving Larry
his big break -- a job as a cub reporter for the Chicago Chronicle. And
whaddya know! There was an urgent need for a mail clerk, so Balki was
hired, too, opening up possibilities for myriad complications and
misunderstandings (like the time the matronly editor of the paper's Sunday
supplement put the moves on an unsuspecting Balki.) The Chronicle also
supplies a much-needed staff of support characters, like Jo Marie Payton-France
as a caustic elevator operator, and Sam Anderson as Balki's odious boss.
The writing runs hot and cold at times,
but the two stars are the real reason to tune in anyway. Who knows?
With this pair of Perfect Strangers, the buddy comedy of '87 could end up
being among the classic reruns of 2007.