Apologies if the following informational nugget is considered general pop culture knowledge—it is, as they say, news to me. I learned mere hours ago that rotund funny man Louie Anderson was originally cast as Balki Bartokomous’s hapless American cousin in late eighties ABC television staple “Perfect Strangers.” I am astonished, not only by the shocking truth itself but also by the fact it eluded me for so many years. Clearly I am not the expert on TGIF programming I thought I was!
Anderson portrayed Lou Appleton in the unaired pilot episode of “Perfect Strangers”; producers found the chemistry between the future “Family Feud” host and Bronson Pinchot lacking, though, so they swapped Anderson out for Mark Linn-Baker and changed the character’s name to Larry (because, let’s face it, Mark Linn-Baker has the name “Larry” written all over his pathetic hangdog face). The rest is slapstick history, but I feel we must pause now to reflect on how different our world would be had Anderson stayed on as Lou to Pinchot’s madcap Balki:
– the Dance of Joy would be altered to accomodate Anderson’s girth
– the role of Maurice in Coming to America may have gone to someone else
– Mark Linn-Baker would be remembered for My Favorite Year
– after eight seasons of chasing Balki around Chicago, Anderson probably would have been too burned out to make “Life With Louie”
Quite frankly, that’s not a reality I want to live in. The Dance of Joy must end with Larry in his cousin’s arms, just as Steve Urkel must never know the tender touch of Laura Winslow and Dave Coulier must never know the dignity of an entire “Full House” episode where he isn’t forced to use the Bullwinkle voice. Still, the idea of Louie Anderson whining, “BAHL-KEE!” in his trademark Midwestern drawl excites me to some degree. Thus, I shall write my Congressperson at once to see what they can do about getting the “Perfect Strangers” pilot released on Blu-Ray and in IMAX theaters for Christmas.