Series: Perfect Strangers
(1986-1993) about naive immigrant
Balki Bartokomous, from the fictional European country of Mypos
, who comes to live with Larry Appleton, his American cousin whom he's never met
. Started out as equal parts Fish out of Water
and Odd Couple
, took an odd turn when the Straight Man
stopped being straight (comedically, that is) and started devising deranged schemes
that would have made Lucille Ball
dizzy. At that point, it became the personification of Idealism vs Cynicism
, with Balki's wide-eyed idealism almost always (if not completely always) winning out over Larry's "real-word savvy" cynicism.
Was always a strange blend of stale formula and Fawlty Towers
-level anarchy; survived on the not inconsiderable talents of Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker.
Spawned the Spin-Off Family Matters
. Not to be confused with the song by Deep Purple
This show provides examples of:
- Accidental Bid
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Pretty much the whole point of "Just Desserts," aka "The Bibi-Babka episode."
Balki: We can't bump the bibi-babka ditty! It's part and parcel of the point-by-point process of baking bibi-babkas!
Larry: I understand that itís part and parcel of the point by point process of baking bibi-babkas, Balki, buddy, but...
: You canít bake bibi-babkas without belting the bibi-babka ditty! If you drop the damn
ditty youíre doomed!
- All Just a Dream: A Halloween themed version.
- Artifact Title: They stopped being strangers pretty quickly, and in fact were Heterosexual Life-Partners by the end of the show.
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Balki
- Briefcase Full of Money
- The Cast Showoff: Both Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker sung frequently on the show. Unfortunately it's the main reason why the DVD rights for the show have been hung up for so long.
- Catch Phrase: Both Balki and Larry have a handful of these.
- Balki: "Where do I come up with them?", "Wow", "Get out of the city!", and "Of course not, silly, don't be ridiculos (sic)".
- Larry: "Oh, my Lord!", "Watch and learn", "Don't you ever, ever, do/say that, again!", and "I have... a plan!"
- Before long, the pause right after "I have..." would prompt Balki (and later on anyone in the room) to say, "Oh, God..." just before Larry finished the phrase.
- Companion Cube: Dimitri, Balki's stuffed sheep. Later we find out that he's made from the wool of an actual sheep named Dimitri who was killed saving Balki from being run over by a carriage.
- Christmas Episode: More than one.
- Cloudcuckooland: Mypos
- Crazy Cultural Comparison: Several, with the "Dance of joy" being the most famous.
- Deadpan Snarker: Surprisingly Balki, especially towards Larry's penchant for blowing smoke.
Balki: But 'Coosin', I don't know how do dat.
Larry: Luckily, I DO know how do dat!
Balki: I knew you would....
- The Ditz: Mary Anne; although she borderlines on Genius Ditz territory in later episodes as part of a recurring gag in which Mary Anne will occasionally say something smart, which causes Balki, Larry and Jennifer to look at her strangely, only for her to explain how she knew it.
- Eloquent In My Native Tongue: Before Flanderization set in, Balki was shown to be very competent when in his natural element.
- Establishing Shot
- Fish out of Water
- Flanderization: Especially Larry Appleton. As time passed he became more centered on the arrogant-knowitall-cityboy-with-a-scheme aspect he occasionally showed in the earlier episodes, resulting in the show becoming too formulaic where Larry cooks up a plan (where he would say his Catch Phrase ) and then the rest of the episode will show how things get fouled up.
- Foreign Queasine: Played straight through as a running gag in the series. Numerous times throughout its run, Balki Bartokomous will often make and serve dishes from his home country of Mypos to his cousin Larry Appleton, that contain such bizarre (and vomit-inducing) ingredients such as yak bile and the bladders of sheep and pigs. The season four episode "Come Fly with Me" centers on this, as Balki and Larry's flight attendant girlfriends Jennifer and Mary Anne get sick from eating Halkidikis (coincidentally sharing an alternate spelling of a Greek peninsula), described by Balki as the "travel food of Mypos", whose primary ingredients are the standard ingredients of milk, eggs, flour and honey, and goat spleen with mold aged to the point where it developed green fur on it. This is inverted however in the season three episode "Just Desserts" with a dessert known as the Bibi-babka, which contains typical dessert ingredients and which Larry attempts to market (though he tries to make it in such a rushed fashion that they explode because they weren't made with love and care).
- "Friends" Rent Control: A photographer, a mailroom clerk/cartoonist, and two flight attendants could not possibly have afforded a big Victorian house in Chicago's Old Town neighbourhood.
- This was late in the series as Larry and Balki were shown living in a regular apartment through most of the series, and their promotions to editors in season 7 would've helped.
- Funny Foreigner
- Game Show Appearance: The two went on the fictional show "Risk It All", which borrowed actual props and games from Fun House.
- Happy Dance: Balki would break out into this on occasion, dragging Larry along with him
- It was a specific dance Balki called the "Dance of Joy". At the end of the dance, Balki would be holding Larry.
- Hustling The Mark: Gorpley once took all Balki's money in a poker game, so Larry gets in on the next game to try and hustle Balki's money back. Larry uses his reputation as a Know-Nothing Know-It-All to hide the fact that he is an excellent poker player and destroys Gorpley.
- Hyperventilation Bag: Happens in one episode.
- Hypno Fool
- Identical Stranger: Following their break-up, Balki and Mary Ann date carbon copies of their exes. While they are in complete denial about their new partners (though Balki later admits it after slipping and calling the other woman "Mary Ann"), they each immediately recognize the similarity in each others. The episode ends with them getting engaged.
- Jerk Ass: First it was the pair's employer and landlord, Twinkacetti. Then when they got jobs at a local paper, such reins were passed on to Mr. Gorpley.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Larry would often brag about things he was actually not very knowledgeable in; subverted on the few occasions where he is really good at something (golfing, playing poker) and most people think he's just blowing smoke.
- Meaningful Name: Actually, just a clever wordplay. Larry Appleton is from Wisconsin. Lawrence University is located in Appleton, Wisconsin.
- More Hypnotizable Than He Thinks: Subverted. During one episode, Larry claims that he can't be hypnotized; he turns out to be right, the hypnotist instead entrances Balki by accident
- Multinational Shows: Sold to Russia
- Never Win the Lottery: Larry wins the lottery, but loses the ticket when Balki donated some clothes to charity, including a suit that Larry hid the winning ticket in. After getting it back, it turns out Larry had missed a couple numbers and won a lesser prize.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The "bibi-babka" episode was a retelling of George Papashvily's epic tale, from his autobiography Anything Can Happen, of he and his friends making and selling khinkali dumplings to restaurants. They pulled it off successfully once.
- The Not So Harmless Punishment: A Myposian aquaintance of Balki's challenged Larry to a duel once. Larry accepted after Balki tells him it involves boxing the loser's ears. Then, Larry realizes that in Mypos, "boxing one's ears" means putting the ears in a box.
- Odd Couple
- Of Corpse He's Alive
- Paranormal Episode: There was an episode where Larry and Balki discover a ghost in their new house. There was also an episode where Balki turned out to be an alien, but in that case it was All Just a Dream.
- The Rashomon: And when asked where the truth would come from, everyone pointed to Balki.
- Re Tool: The show was overhauled in the third season, with Larry and Balki getting new jobs in a more glamorous setting (a big newspaper instead of the small store they'd been working at before), new supporting characters including Mr. Gorpley and Harriette, and a memorable new title sequence with footage shot on location in Chicago.
- Ruritania: Mypos
- Sassy Black Woman: Harriet Winslow (yes, that Harriet Winslow)
- Shaggy Dog Story: Larry would often tell these to Balki (though "a look...into the future!") to either convince his cousin to aid him or spill the beans on something. In any event, once Larry got what he wanted, things don't go as planned.
- Show Within a Show: Later seasons featured parody clips of the show Laurel and Hardy, with the titular characters being played by Balki and Larry respectively. Mixture of Type 2 and 3.
- Spice Rack Panacea
Balki: "...the Midolcrampabloatalis root that grows on the summit of Mt. PMS-kalos."
- Straight Man: Larry and Balki actually alternate at this depending on which one came up with the Zany Scheme this week.
- Thematic Theme Tune: "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" by Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay, the template for many other inspirational Miller-Boyett sitcom themes by the same songwriters.
- They Do: Larry and Jennifer, then Balki and Mary Ann.
- Third-Person Person: Balki would occasionally refer to himself in the third person.
- True Meaning of Christmas: Done frequently in a metaphorical sense of the trope, and once literally.
- Twisted Christmas: In the first Christmas episode, various problems get in Larry's way of taking Balki to his folks' home for a "real Christmas". In a later one, Balki invites sour-puss Mr. Gorpley to his and Larry's holiday shin-dig, where he quickly infuriates the other guests before offering his tragic backstory. In both cases Balki then subverts this trope by being...well, Balki.
- Unsportsmanlike Gloating
- You Look Familiar: Sam Anderson (Mr. Gorpley) appeared once in the first season before returning for his more recognized role. Belita Moreno appeared occassionally in the first two seasons as Mrs. Twinkacetti, before playing Lydia later on.
- Zany Scheme