TV Guide - Canada
January 9, 1988

   

In Review
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 been Mork.

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.