Perfect Strangers (TV)

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ABC Sitcom 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.

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.


Tropes used in Perfect Strangers (TV) include:

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 it’s part and parcel of the point by point process of baking bibi-babkas, Balki, buddy, but...
Balki: You can’t bake bibi-babkas without belting the bibi-babka ditty! If you drop the damn ditty you’re doomed!

  • All Just a Dream: A Halloween themed version.
  • Artifact Title
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Balki.
  • Briefcase Full of Money
  • Catch Phrase: "Of course not, silly, don't be ridiculos (sic)"
    • "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.
  • Christmas Episode: More than one.
  • Cloudcuckooland: Mypos.
  • 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.
  • Crazy Cultural Comparison: Several, with the "Dance of joy" being the most famous.
  • 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
  • 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 three 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 neighborhood.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: 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.
  • Lottery Ticket: 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.
  • 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.
  • Multi National Shows: Sold to Russia.
  • The Not-So-Harmless Punishment: A Myposian acquaintance 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
  • The Rashomon: And when asked where the truth would come from, everyone pointed to Balki.
  • Retool: 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.
  • Sitcom
  • 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.
  • 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
  • What Could Have Been: Louie Anderson was originally cast as Larry, but things didn't really work out. Mark Lynn-Baker tried out, and proved to have the right chemistry with Bronson Pinchot.
  • You Look Familiar: Sam Anderson (Mr. Gorpley) appeared once in the first season before returning for his more recognized role. Belita Moreno appeared occasionally in the first two seasons as Mrs. Twinkacetti, before playing Lydia later on.
  • Zany Scheme