Throwback Thursday: Perfect Strangers (1986-1993)

“Now we are so happy that we do the dance of joy!”

If you were around during the 1980s and 90s, get ready to feel old. August 6, 2023 will mark the thirtieth anniversary of the final episode of the ABC hit comedy series Perfect Strangers. The series ran for eight seasons between 1986 and 1993 and became the original anchor show for ABC’s TGIF Friday lineup that also included hit shows such as Full House, Step By Step, Family Matters, and Boy Meets World over its successful run. The series focused on the relationship between Larry Appleton, a straight-laced midwesterner intent to make it in Chicago as a news photographer, and his cousin, Balki Bartokomous, a dough-eyed dreamer looking for a new and happier life in the United States.

The core cast:

  • Mark Linn-Baker as Larry Appleton
  • Bronson Pinchot as Balki Bartokomous
  • Ernie Sabella as Mr. Twinkacetti (seasons 1and 2)
  • Belita Moreno as Mrs. Twinkacetti (seasons 1 and 2) and Lydia Markham (seasons 3-7)
  • Melanie Wilson as Jennifer Lyons (seasons 2-8)
  • Rebeca Arthur as Mary Anne Spencer (seasons 2-8)
  • Lise Cutter as Susan Campbell (seasons 1 and 2)
  • Jo Marie Payton-France as Harriette Winslow (seasons 3 and 4)
  • Sam Anderson as Sam Gorpley (seasons 3-7)

The series spawned a spin-off, Family Matters, utilizing the character Harriette Winslow and her husband, Carl (Reginald VelJohnson), who also appeared on Perfect Strangers briefly. There were a number of other actors that appeared on the show in numerous guest roles such as Holland Taylor, Ted McGinley, and John Anderson. The show was created by Dale McRaven who also created Mork & Mindy. The series was produced by Miller-Boyett, who produced a number of other popular and/or consistently performing shows such as Full House, Family Matters, Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days, & Bosom Buddies, among others.

Many characters were written into and out of the series over the course of its run. Lise Cutter’s Susan was phased out during season two when two other characters, Jennifer and Mary Anne, became love interests for Larry and Balki, respectively. Susan was never pursued by either of the two lead characters but there was definitely some groundwork laid for a potential relationship with Larry before she was written out of the show. Ernie Sabella’s Mr. Twinkacetti owned the store that Larry and Balki worked in (and the apartment complex where they lived) for the first two seasons of the show but was written out of the series in its third season with no explanation when Larry and Balki both got jobs at the Chicago Chronicle (and a new apartment). His wife in the series, Mrs. Twinkacetti, was portrayed by Belita Moreno who was inexplicably given a new character, Lydia, starting in season three.

While Pinchot deservedly received most of the attention in the series for his performance as Balki, my personal favorite was Mark Linn-Baker as Larry. Linn-Baker was a perfect straight man to Pinchot’s naive and goofy Balki. His comedic timing was simply amazing. The duo often executed hilarious physical comedy sequences that included pratfalls, slaps, grabs, spills, and other Vaudeville-inspired gags. Linn-Baker was also brilliant at keeping a calm look on his face in the most ridiculous situations. His humor was often dry but very effective. Pinchot worked the audience with physical comedy and simpleton humor but his character also had a heart of gold and often proved to be the “better man” in many situations. The chemistry between him and Linn-Baker was lightning in a bottle to me.

As the show progressed, Balki maintained his positive outlook on life and Larry remained a pessimist. Even after adding Jennifer and Mary Anne to the show and having Larry and Balki acquire better jobs, Larry and Balki were essentially the same characters…..but it worked. It remained funny. It was an awesome show. The show survived multiple time slot moves, character changes, and setting switches but it almost always landed on its feet. Only season seven suffered in the ratings and that was mainly due to the fact that ABC moved the show to Saturday night for a time. When it was moved back to Friday nights, the ratings went back up.

I loved this show as a kid and I still love it. I recently discovered it streaming for free on Freevee (formerly IMDb TV). You can also purchase seasons and episodes on Amazon Prime. I’ve been re-watching the series over the last few weeks and have introduced my kids to it as well. The series was released on DVD and will hopefully be released on Blu-ray in the near future.

Thanks for walking down memory lane with me today. See you again real soon!


Published by kenfontenot

I am a husband, a father, and a major nerd. I enjoy science fiction, fantasy, comics, cosplay, and attending conventions. I'm also a huge Disney fan. I am growing to enjoy working out, and hope to include that joy in some of my posts.

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