– 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
Egon Spengler has always been my favorite Ghostbuster because Harold Ramis molded him into a person who could be both intensely smart and deftly funny. It’s clear the other guys die like carp on a dock if Egon isn’t there to do all the math and glue everything together. And yet Egon is no soulless drone; mostly through body language he exhibits many of the endearing ticks we associate with the other allegedly more humorous Ghostbusters.
Egon’s sarcastic: see the way he pokes that guest while investigating the hotel haunting. He’s slick: see the way he signals Venkman like a baseball coach when the Ghostbusters are discussing ghostbusting fees with the hotel staff. Egon’s also dopey: that look he gives in the second movie after he starts his proton pack in the court room, like yeah, y’all didn’t think so, but I’m a bad motherfucker…I vote that the best part of Ghostbusters II. Egon could have turned out another super nerd stereotype but Ramis bucked that, giving him these great little personality flourishes.
After falling in love with Harold’s portrayal of Egon I was flabbergasted to discover how much other great stuff he had his name on. Animal House, Vacation, “SCTV,” Groundhog Day, Stripes…god, he reigns supreme in Stripes. Again, the body language. I think about that scene where he meets Judge Reinhold’s character. The grin, the head bob…it’s like he’s trying to be “the cool guy” who’s on the younger guy’s level, but he’s also mocking him and/or that entire concept. Later, when John Candy gives that speech in the barracks, and they keep cutting to Harold’s sarcastic reactions, how can you not lose your shit?
Offscreen, Harold was apparently a friendly, happy guy who was eager to talk to fans and just enjoy his life. That’s evident when you Google Image Search HR and see that he’s got what appears to be a completely genuine smile in nearly every candid or non-promotional shot. He radiated warmth and good vibes, which is something this world could always use in extra supply.
I’m pretty trampled by Harold’s death. He left us with plenty to chew on, though, and because of that he’ll never really die.
Nice working with you, Dr. Spengler. See you on the other side.
– Mr. Wing’s family comes to the States from China to try and kill Gizmo, who now lives with a down-on-his-luck Billy in an affordable housing unit in Brewster, New York; eventually it is revealed that Wing himself has been illegally breeding gremlins for years in various American cities as part of a massive insurance scam
– the brain gremlin, having somehow survived the gremlin holocaust at the end of Gremlins 2, escapes to the Staten Island dump where he begins plotting his next move; unfortunately, local townspeople mistake him for the chupacabra and hire a band of cryptozoologists to try and capture him; the final scene is a parody of King Kong wherein the brain gremlin will climb atop a Rite Aid with an undressed Barbie doll to fight off a cadre of blood-thirsty pigeons
– while on vacation in South Beach Billy accidentally drops Gizmo in the ocean; suddenly the beach is filled with sex-starved mogwai who begin furiously mating as soon as they hit the sand; eventually the president decides to nuke the entire state of Florida
– Judge Reinhold’s character has been secretly hording gremlin DNA since the first movie and attempts to sell what he has to the government; little does he know the gov’t were the ones who originally created gremlins to distract Americans from the botched assassination of Walter Mondale; the final scene reveals Mondale alive and regularly ingesting gremlin hormones in a secret Area 51-type facility so as to attain immortality (it’s also revealed that Ronald Reagan didn’t have alzheimer’s but a deadly disease that slowly turned him into a blood-thirsty pigeon)
– three words: gremlins down under