– Hulu recently added “Perfect Strangers” to its streaming stable; my first question after spinning the episode wheel for about a week straight is, since Bronson Pinchot’s Balki is just a sanitized version of the brief but memorable role he plays in Beverly Hills Cop, do you think “Perfect Strangers” ever tried to get Eddie Murphy to make a guest appearance? Also, do you think anyone from Beverly Hills Cop chagrins Bronson Pinchot for spinning this character into television, even though legend tells us Pinchot himself improvised it while filming Beverly Hills Cop? Do you think they ever asked Judge Reinhold to be on “Perfect Strangers?”
– the chemistry between Pinchot’s affable, earnest Balki and Mark Linn-Baker’s cynical, beleaguered Cousin Larry is often utterly crackerjack; when the writing plays to their strengths the laughs flow like water and you can see how this goddamn thing ran for eight seasons; this is probably how “Perfect Strangers” survived so many supporting cast hiccups (the actress who plays Twinkacetti’s wife in the first two seasons returns in the third as an unrelated newspaper gossip columnist; very confusing if you’re watching “PS” totally out of order on a Tuesday night, face deep in kung pow chicken)
– yes, there is an episode of this program in which Balki is accidentally hypnotized into believing he is Elvis Presley the night before his tax audit; this is in season four, so it is plausible by this point that Balki might be paying some kind of income tax on his earnings from the newspaper’s mail room
– yes, there is an episode of this program in which Larry brings home 58 live turkeys just a few days before Thanksgiving because he’s convinced he can make a buck off last minute shoppers; there’s nothing funnier than imagining Larry and Balki succumbing to the will of 58 live turkeys in their kitchen and living room, and imagine it is what you have to do—the budget apparently only allotted for two to three birds at a time
– yes, there’s an episode where Balki claims to have met and befriended Carl Lewis after a showing of Benji: The Hunted; Balki’s enthusiasm for this film is very endearing
– over the course of “Perfect Strangers” Larry and Balki meet, awkwardly date, and fall in sitcom love with their upstairs neighbors, Jennifer and Mary Ann (their partners respectively); these parallel romances remains chaste for the most part, even when they all wind up living together, although every once in a while something truly ribald slips by—like the time Balki admits Mary Ann really knows how to “toss his salad”; this occurs in a much later season when all the Friday night heat was ostensibly on Urkel
– people forget “Family Matters,” the show which begat Urkel, is a spinoff of “Perfect Strangers” (before she was mother to Laura and Eddie, wife to Carl, Harriet Winslow was elevator operator to Larry and Balki at their newspaper job); though he pops up on several other ABC TGIF entries of this era, Urkel never came to pay his respects to the cousins, which is fucking nuts because “Perfect Strangers” is the only TGIF show that takes place in the same city as “Family Matters”; even stranger, Mark Linn-Baker crossed over to “Family Matters” in one of its later seasons, but not as Larry, as some other guy
– the episode where Balki takes on the persona of hip hop star Fresh Young Balki B is less incredible than memory; the several minute applause break I recalled for the introduction of Larry as MC Cousin does not occur
– in the seventh season the King of Mypos (Balki’s fictitious homeland) comes to visit and of course dies unexpectedly; this turns into a Weekend at Bernie’s type deal but you’ll be more amused by how many times the dead guy thinks he’s off camera and starts moving his face around
– the final season of “Perfect Strangers” is inexplicably only six episodes, but don’t worry, they cram in pregnancy, a sporting good store, a Myposian death curse, a game show, and a two parter in a hot air balloon
– the only reason they should reboot this show is so we can learn if Bronson and Mark can still execute the Dance of Joy; it was foretold they would not be able to at this advanced age in the season three episode “Future Shock”; surely this is one of the top betting pools in Vegas
New Zealand’s Love & Pop interviewed me last week about This Music Leaves Stains. Could be the best conversation I’ve had in a public forum about the book. Take a looky-loo:
Less recently I curated an oral history of the Eddie Murphy disaster Vampire In Brooklyn for Hopes & Fears. Did you know it’s possible to smoke so much pot your eyes change size? Behold:
As always, thank you for your support and patronage. Namaste.
– watching this special you’d never know exactly how rebellious “Saturday Night Live” was at its inception or various other points in history; every clip package was a parade of smash cuts set to a steady beat, like a home run highlight reel, which robbed many classic moments of the comedic tension that made them so memorable in the first place; three and a half hours and they didn’t even show the very first “SNL” sketch in its entirety (“I would like to feed your fingertips to the wolverines”), the program’s mission statement, still one of the weirdest things that’s ever been on television
– there was so much hoo-ha about Eddie Murphy making an appearance, finally burying whatever cold hatchet he had with “SNL”/his “SNL” legacy, but he didn’t do anything, he just came out and expressed some gratitude while making very awkward clapping gestures; maybe Eddie does have a disease that prevents him from being funny these days
– Joe Piscopo seemed as stiff and unhappy as the real elderly Sinatra; I’m sure he was hoping for a tearful on camera reunion with Murphy; I’m sure he burst a blood vessel during Chris Rock’s monologue about Murphy being “SNL’s” Superman (Rock wasn’t wrong, though)
– Wayne’s World remains the most profitable “SNL” spin-off so we’re going to have to endure Wayne and Garth reunion sketches (no matter how pointless or meandering) until Mike Myers and Dana Carvey are both dead (if Carvey dies first I’d put major cash on Myers replacing him with Bill Hader); I wish they’d let the characters age, I’m far more interested to see Wayne at fifty
– Kanye seemed pretty excited to be caught in Wayne’s World
– the best part of “SNL 40” was of course an unscripted moment: Norm Macdonald trying to swerve the Chevy Chase introduction into the nearest ditch, a fine reminder of how brutally unsentimental the show can be (times like that are when “SNL” is tops) and how you can always rely on Norm
– related to that last point: it was wild to see the varying levels of talent on display, in the sense that you have to give Fred Armisen some kind of prop or character but Norm or Bill Murray can just come out and be themselves and everyone’s delighted
– it was cool to see Jane Curtain Weekend Updating with Tina and Amy
– it was cool to see Ellen Cleghorne
– it was not cool to see famous people “covering” their favorite characters
– I don’t know how to feel about Miley Cyrus as an entertainer or a human but she clearly has talent, by which I mean she made me give a shit about a Paul Simon song; I’d buy that rendition on vinyl
– the audience kept the applause at fair levels throughout the dead person montage; doesn’t feel like anyone was slighted, and they chose really wonderful/wonderfully evocative photos of each figure
– all those fucking montages and not one devoted entirely to the rich history of musical performance on “SNL”; sorry, legendary artists who so often were the only bits of the program worth watching, this “Californians” sketch has to be eight decades long
– ego probably prevented a lot of great comedy from happening
– “SNL” has constructed a successful enough business model that it may never go off the air; I’d like it to, only to see if another comedic incubator of its caliber would ever come along
– what a shame [obscure cast member] didn’t get any shoutouts
My buddy Rollie H. describes himself as someone who’s into “television history, famous failures, and not laughing.” As such, Rollie recently waded into the dark territory that is “Saturday Night Live’s” sixth season to review and analyze what countless historians have tagged as the absolute nadir of sketch comedy. Please, do yourself a favor right now and read my friend’s hilarious, insightful recap of his experience wherein at the very least you’ll pick up the hot fashion term “heino rippin’.” You’ll also see photographic evidence of Eddie Murphy eating dog food.
February 27, 1989: The CBS network airs “What’s Alan Watching?”, a bizarre sixty minute sitcom pilot in which a pre-“Parker Lewis Can’t Lose” Corin Nemec stars as a television-obsessed teen named Alan Hoffstetter. Young Alan’s family is mired in a swamp of typical sitcom problems—his sister is dating a balding loser, his car salesman brother is on his way to becoming a balding loser—but our hero barely notices the chaos thanks to his psychotic love affair with the boob tube. Alan watches so much TV the characters on the screen actually talk back to him, advising him about his life, occasionally mocking him, and generally sucking the willing shrimp into a weird, satiating void where life’s problems don’t matter.
The most notable of the back-talking stars on Alan’s TV is Eddie Murphy, who also produced “What’s Alan Watching?” in an attempt to fill the Fran Drescher-less void in our pop culture lives at the time (Drescher plays Nemec’s aforementioned sister, Gail). Murphy spends the majority of his scant “Alan” screen time recycling his James Brown impression from “Saturday Night Live” in a fake TV movie-of-the-week called “Soul’d On The Rocks.” Eddie was still pretty electric in ’89, and while his bits certainly stand out, they’re not as savory as some of the other weirdness emanating from the Hoffstetter’s set. Submitted for your approval: Frogs lifting weights, a shockingly political “Mr. Ed” documentary, and über-sexy commercials for industrial flanges.
Unfortunately, the long stretches that center on the rote Hoffstetter family drama drag “What’s Alan Watching?” down, and it’s easy to see why CBS ultimately passed on turning this strange concept into a full-on series. Six months later, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s UHF hit theaters, a TV-skewering tale so deft and funny it became the gold standard for idiot box mockery. Though UHF may have flunked at the box office, it successfully buried “What’s Alan Watching?” as cherished cult (in a strange coincidence, Fran Drescher also appeared in UHF, portraying “Weird Al’s” frazzled secretary Pamela Finklestein).
Some of “Alan’s” failure could be attributed to the presence of Pauly Shore as the vapid fool dating the titular character’s untouchable love interest, but hey, it’s Sunday, you’ve got nothing else to do—why don’t you watch the whole damn thing and judge for yourself? If you end up feeling truly burned by the experience, write a firm letter to Eddie Murphy Productions expressing your discontent. Who knows, maybe Ed’ll comp you with an autographed copy of Nutty Professor 2!
The Bus Boys
Minimum Wage Rock n’ Roll
The general population remembers this Los Angeles sextet for their rollicking 1982 hit “The Boys Are Back In Town,” which was prominently featured in Eddie Murphy’s breakout detective flick 48 Hrs. A few years prior, the Bus Boys released their major label debut, Minimum Wage Rock n’ Roll, a remarkably more staid affair that cops the lion’s share of its moves from Don Henley over Bo Diddly or Little Richard. To wit: The terse guitar that drives opening cut “Dr. Doctor” is the same monster that’s kept your city’s classic rock station pulsating for decades, and you actually sort of have to strain to hear the boogie-woogie piano this group would later build a small empire upon.
Even the Moog seems to get more spotlight here than the regular ol’ eighty-eight, accenting New Wave dips like a bizarre shoe shiner’s lament called “Did You See Me” and the Rentals-evoking non-Aretha-related “Respect.” Generally, though, it’s an overcooked ’70s guitar at the center of Minimum Wage. This is the sound of a bar band trying to find its footing—yet there’s no mistaking the unabashed R&B stamp in all the album’s vocals. The O’Neal brothers, keyboardist Brian and bassist Kevin, sell their mostly second gear material with buckets of soulful harmonizing. Less competent throats surely couldn’t have handled the confusing speedy government dis track “KKK” with such sugar and aplomb.
Race comes up quite a bit in Minimum Wage’s lyrics, which strikes the listener as strange only because the Bus Boys’ basic legacy is a party sound so carefree it was eventually transformed into a beer commercial. These guys want to have a serious discussion about civil rights? Well, no. The O’Neals keep their tongues firmly in cheek when they turn the tables to complain about a Caucasian invasion in “There Goes The Neighborgood”; on the aforementioned “Did You See Me,” you can hear the fellas grinning as they challenge “You never heard music like this by spades!” For the Bus Boys, there’s no reason to check the playful tone when discussing big picture stuff.
In the end, Minimum Wage Rock n’ Roll only boasts one or two selections whose relative obscurity is humankind’s absolute loss. One such selection is the delightfully Cars-ish love whine “Angie,” a song Prince probably could have scored with during his Purple Rain reign. The other might be that damn Moog-infested “Respect.” For all its herky-jerkies, the melody cuts like a diamond, and the chorus contains what more or less amounts to the official Bus Boy manifesto: “If you don’t like rock n’ roll music, you can kiss my ass!”
FINAL SCORE: Two solid Eddie Murphy laughs (out of four).
Eddie brings the yuks
That part with the snake lady?
Still scary as hell.
Imagine a world where Eddie Murphy never lost any of his white hot 1980s popularity. That was the world I visited in my dreams last night. Eddie was the new Elvis. Delirious and Raw were shown regularly on public transportation to keep commuters happy. Arsenio was still Eddie’s right hand man, and together they were working on some kind of large comedy science experiment throughout the country. Like, they were traveling to school parking lots and shopping centers putting on a weird 19th Century style road show that had the ultimate goal of proving something about America’s taste in comedy. Eddie and Arsenio were literally wearing lab coats for this experiment. I woke up before any conclusive data could be presented.
All that talk about Eddie Murphy in my last post reminded me of the time I found a copy of what I believe was the shooting script for Eddie’s 1995 misfire Vampire in Brooklyn in a pawn shop/thrift store in Orange City, FL. It looked pretty official—it was all fat and Hollywood-looking, with Charles Q. Murphy’s name typed right on the front. They wanted seven dollars for it; being extraordinarily broke at the time, that seemed like six dollars too many. I decided to save my hard-earned cash for another glorious, greasy feast at the neighboring Arby’s.
I often lie awake at night and wonder what the hell I was thinking. In retrospect, a copy of the Vampire in Brooklyn script strikes me as a much smarter long-term investment than a box of curly fries. Think of how much more interesting my life would be if I had that script. It would be an incredible conversation piece. I’d be the toast of my apartment complex. I’d earn the instant respect of my peers. More importantly, I’d finally have an heirloom worthy of the Greene name, something I could pass on to my children and my children’s children.
Goddammit, I really dropped the ball on that one. I could be on Easy Street right now. Instead, all I got are a few severely clogged arteries and a mountain of self-loathing crushing my weak, pathetic little heart. Oh well. At least I touched the Vampire in Brooklyn script. I’m sure that’s warded off some horrible disease that was bound to afflict and cripple me otherwise.