First episode date
25 March 1986
Bronson PinchotMark Linn-BakerLise CutterErnie SabellaBelita MorenoMelanie WilsonRebeca ArthurSam Anderson
Theme music composer
Jesse FrederickBennett Salvay
"Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now", performed by David Pomeranz
"Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" (instrumental), composed byJesse Frederick &Bennett Salvay (seasons 1–7)
Jesse Frederick &Bennett Salvay (seasons 1–2; alternating, seasons 3–7)Steven Chesne(alternating, seasons 3–8)Gary Boren(alternating, seasons 7–8)
Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now
Perfect strangers intro
Perfect Strangers is an American sitcom that ran for eight seasons from March 25, 1986, to August 6, 1993, on the ABC television network. Created by Dale McRaven, the series chronicles the rocky coexistence of midwestern American Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) and his distant cousin from eastern Mediterranean Europe, Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot).
- Perfect strangers intro
- Perfect strangers theme song
- Season 1 1986
- Season 2 198687
- Season 3 198788
- Seasons 4 6 198891
- Season 7 199192
- Season 8 1993
- Family Matters
- Home release
- In popular culture
- Foreign versions
Originally airing on Tuesdays for the short six-episode first season in the spring of 1986, it moved to Wednesdays in prime time in the fall of 1986. It remained on Wednesdays until March 1988, when it was moved to Fridays. The show found its niche there as the anchor for ABC's original TGIF Friday-night lineup, though it aired on Saturdays for a short time in 1992.
Perfect strangers theme song
The series chronicles the relationship of Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) and his distant cousin Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot). Larry, a Wisconsin native from a large family, has just moved into his first apartment in Chicago, Illinois, and is savoring his first taste of privacy when Balki, a hitherto-unknown cousin from a Mediterranean island, Mypos, arrives intending to move in with him. Balki, who was a shepherd on Mypos, interprets what little he knows about the United States by relying on his own (often out-of-context) recollections of American pop culture ("America: Land of my dreams and home of the Whopper"). Balki's signature is his "Dance of Joy", a cross between the dosado and the hokey pokey that he performs (with Larry) to celebrate good fortune. He debuts it in the third episode, "First Date", at a singles bar when he realizes that the song the band is playing sounds like the "Dance of Joy".
After initially gently rebuffing his cousin's request to stay at his apartment, aspiring-photographer Larry decides to take Balki under his wing and teach him about American life. However, the neurotic Larry frequently proves to be as inept as Balki, if not more so, and often gets the pair into situations that only Balki can set right. Major influences on the show include "buddy sitcoms" such as Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy, both of which were produced by the Perfect Strangers team.
The series was the brainchild of Dale McRaven (co-creator of Mork & Mindy) and producers Tom Miller and Robert Boyett. Miller claimed that the series' inspiration came in the wake of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, when America experienced a wave of renewed patriotic sentiment. Their idea for a comedy about an immigrant in America was initially rejected by all 3 major television networks.
In December 1984, Bronson Pinchot garnered notice for his role in Beverly Hills Cop as Serge, an effeminate art-gallery employee with an unplaceable foreign accent. When Miller and company pitched Pinchot as the star of their immigrant show, ABC signed on to the project, originally entitled The Greenhorn. By this time, however, Pinchot had become unavailable, as he had taken the role of a gay attorney in the NBC series Sara alongside star Geena Davis.
Sara failed to find an audience, and was canceled by May 1985. With Pinchot now available, Miller and Boyett began to develop the show in earnest. By November, comedian Louie Anderson was cast as the immigrant's American cousin. A pilot episode was put into production, but in the end Anderson was not considered right for the role.
Development was placed into overdrive when ABC President Brandon Stoddard offered the producers a prime tryout slot for the spring of 1986 between the hit shows Who's The Boss? and Moonlighting on Tuesday nights. After running through several actors for the part of Balki's cousin, the producers settled on Mark Linn-Baker, whom they had recently seen in a guest appearance on Moonlighting. Linn-Baker displayed immediate chemistry with Pinchot, and the series raced into production under the new title Perfect Strangers. It premiered on ABC on March 25, 1986.
Season 1 (1986)
The series commences with Larry living alone in an apartment in Chicago. In the pilot episode, Balki unexpectedly shows up at Larry's door claiming to be his distant cousin. Balki joined Larry as a clerk at the Ritz Discount Store, located on the ground level of their apartment building. Their boss is Donald "Twinkie" Twinkacetti (Ernie Sabella), an unscrupulous miser who is also their landlord. Twinkacetti's incessant berating of his two employees (he calls Balki "Turnip" and Larry "Yo-Yo") is occasionally alleviated by his wife Edwina (Belita Moreno). In the first season, upstairs neighbor Susan Campbell (Lise Cutter) is Larry's platonic friend.
Airing in the coveted timeslot between Who's The Boss? and Moonlighting, Perfect Strangers was an instant ratings hit in the spring of 1986, landing in the season's top 10 highest-rated shows.
Season 2 (1986–87)
For its second season, Perfect Strangers was moved to Wednesday nights at 8:00 p.m. as a lead-in to the new ABC sitcom Head of the Class.
Susan's character was phased out early in this season. Larry began dating Jennifer Lyons (Melanie Wilson) and Balki began dating Mary Anne Spencer (Rebeca Arthur), after meeting them through a local gym. In later episodes, we learn that both women are flight attendants who live in Larry and Balki's building.
Season 3 (1987–88)
The start of season 3 in fall 1987 found Larry and Balki in a new, larger apartment where Balki had his own room instead of sleeping on a fold-out sofa. External shots clearly depict a new apartment building. According to season 6, episode 13, Larry and Balki's address is 711 Coldwell Street, Apt #209, Chicago, Illinois. The characters never made reference to the move, and Jennifer and Mary Anne were still co-tenants in the new surroundings.
Larry acquires a reporter job working out of the basement of the Chicago Chronicle, a fictional metropolitan newspaper, and helps Balki get a mail room job. They are overseen by demanding city editor Harry Burns (Eugene Roche). Burns is phased out of the show by the end of season 3; by the 5th season, the paper's publisher, Mr. Wainwright (F.J. O'Neill), takes over as Larry and Balki's boss, appearing through season 7. Balki's immediate supervisor is mail room head Sam Gorpley (Sam Anderson who had portrayed a bank clerk in the season one episode "Check This" in which Balki opens his first bank account), who never warms to "the Mypiot" and constantly plots to get Balki fired. Lydia Markham is the Chronicle's thin-skinned, multi-phobic advice columnist; she's played by Belita Moreno, who had previously played Edwina Twinkacetti. Although Larry physically remains at his typewriter in the basement, he joins the investigative team of Marshall & Walpole (loosely-based on the famed Washington Post duo of Woodward and Bernstein) in season 4. Larry's relationship with Jennifer matures as well.
Working as an elevator operator is Harriette Winslow (Jo Marie Payton-France). Her husband Carl (Reginald VelJohnson) is introduced in the 4th-season episode "Crimebusters", in which the couple moves into Larry and Balki's apartment building.
In March 1988, midway through the season, ABC moved Perfect Strangers from its successful Wednesday-night slot to Friday nights at 8:00 p.m. before Full House. This was a key development in the formation of the ABC Friday-night comedy block that would later become known as TGIF. Later moving to the 9/8c slot on Friday nights in the fall of 1989, Perfect Strangers would remain an anchor of ABC's Friday-night programming until it was unsuccessfully moved to Saturday nights in February 1992.
Seasons 4-6 (1988–91)
In the fall of 1989, after two seasons on Perfect Strangers, Harriette's character was given her own spin-off series, Family Matters. Joining Perfect Strangers in the TGIF lineup, Family Matters would eventually run longer than its parent show. Harriette was not seen again on Perfect Strangers, although an early Family Matters episode explained that she had been fired as the elevator operator, only to be re-hired as chief of security at the Chronicle. Carl became a main character on Family Matters.
Shortly after the sixth season opened, the producers attempted to add a child character to the show. Tess Holland, as played by Alisan Porter (who had starred on ABC's short-lived Chicken Soup the previous fall), was introduced as the troublemaking-but-immensely-cute little girl who lived upstairs from Larry and Balki. Tess appeared in the season's second episode, "New Kid on the Block", when Balki agrees to babysit her, causing an uproar both at home and at the Chronicle. While Porter was supposed to be on full-time, and even credited in the opening title sequence of the episode, she was suddenly dropped, never to be seen again. The experiment of adding a child to the cast was partially influenced by the network as well, since ABC's TGIF lineup was wishing to incorporate the child-and-preteen demographic into its audience. While the content of Perfect Strangers could often appeal to the family as a whole, it had never had children in the regular cast. A similar infusion happened a few months later on sister show Going Places, which had also started with a more adult tone.
While Larry and Jennifer's romance blossomed, Balki and Mary Anne's relationship moved more slowly: the pair would get very close, but then back off after fleeting moments of passion, then drift back into affection. Many viewers' predictions came true in the spring of 1991 when Larry proposed to Jennifer, after feeling competition from her old flame who was trying to woo her back. Jennifer accepted, and they started planning a wedding. As the 1990-91 season closed, it was clear that despite Larry's impending marriage, he and Balki's relationship would somehow remain a focal point of the show.
Season 7 (1991–92)
At season seven's beginning in September 1991, Larry and Jennifer's marriage meant that Perfect Strangers would move in a different direction. Larry and Jennifer buy a large Victorian house, then discover that they cannot afford it without additional roommates: Balki and Mary Anne. At midseason, Balki receives a promotion at the Chronicle, drawing a weekly comic strip based on his stuffed sheep, Dimitri. Gorpley and Lydia make occasional appearances throughout the season, but are gradually phased out as they have little relevance to Larry and Balki's new career paths.
With Larry and Jennifer happily married, the series turns toward Balki and Mary Anne's relationship. In the season's last several episodes, Mary Anne stops seeing Balki and moves out of the house. In the April 1992 season finale, Balki and Mary Anne resolve their differences and suddenly marry; the episode and season conclude with the two couples on their way to an extended honeymoon in Mypos—and with Jennifer telling Larry that they are expecting.
Season 8 (1993)
The first episode of season eight picked up several months after the end of season seven, by which time Jennifer is visibly pregnant. Balki and Mary Anne returned from Mypos, revealing that Mary Anne was also well into a pregnancy. For the eighth season, the Chronicle storylines were phased out, with the series shifting its full attention to the home life of the characters. The series ended with a two-part episode "Up In The Air", with each heralding the birth of a baby (first Robespierre, son of Balki and Mary Anne, and then Tucker, son of Larry and Jennifer). The last scene segues in and out of a musical montage of memorable scenes from the series to the tune of "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole. The closing credits showed the cast bowing before the studio audience, with co-stars Pinchot and Linn-Baker doing the "Dance of Joy" one last time.
There were a total of eight seasons in the series. The first and last seasons were six episodes each, and the second through seventh seasons had between 22 and 24 episodes each. There were a total of 150 episodes in the series.
Perfect Strangers' ratings remained steady throughout its long run, usually ranking among Nielsen's top 40 programs for its first six seasons. It was never a massive hit, but consistently in a comfortable spot in the ratings, and it usually won its time slot on Friday nights.
By the fall of 1991, ABC had been reaping the rewards of the successful TGIF and wanted to capitalize on the preteen-and-younger demographic for the lineup. An industry insider reported that ABC was looking for a reason to cancel Perfect Strangers, because it was becoming too costly to produce and was considered an aging program that did not fit into the new TGIF target demographic.
In late January 1992, the network rolled out plans to launch a similar family-friendly comedy block for Saturday, also helmed by TGIF creator Jim Janicek. It was announced that Perfect Strangers would move from TGIF to join this new lineup to help it take off. On February 1, 1992, Perfect Strangers began airing in the 9 p.m. slot of I Love Saturday Night, the new TGIF sister lineup (which included Growing Pains, Who's the Boss?, and Capitol Critters). The series experienced a drastic decline in ratings. It dropped to #65 for the remainder of the season. In July 1992, ABC moved Perfect Strangers back to Fridays at 9:30 p.m. ET to fill the timeslot with reruns until the new TGIF season began. The reruns that were aired won their timeslot as they had before.
In its six-episode final season, which was filmed during August and September 1992 but broadcast from July 9 to August 6, 1993, it was rated in the top 20 with its series finale attracting 15 million households and rated #11 for the week of August 1, 1993. The average Nielsen ratings for the entire run of eight seasons was #27. For the abbreviated eighth season, Perfect Strangers once again aired Fridays at 9:30/8:30c.
From August 28, 1989, to July 13, 1990, reruns of the first four seasons of Perfect Strangers aired on ABC's daytime program block. Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution (former sister company to series production company Lorimar Television) distributed the series for broadcast television syndication from September 1990 to September 1997. USA Network aired reruns of the show from September 1997 to September 11, 1998. The WB 100+ carried the series from September 17, 2001 to December 2002.
The series aired on Nick at Nite, first with a 6-episode marathon on July 14, 2000, and then a special airing in November 2000; the series aired regularly in late nights from February 3 to September 20, 2003. TV Land aired reruns from August 2, 2002 to September 28, 2002 and January 3 to February 1, 2003, as part of its now-defunct "TV Land Kitschen" weekend late night block, though special episodes aired on the channel in December 2000, April and December 2001, December 2002, January and December 2003, and June 2005. From October 1 to November 1, 2007, ION Television aired reruns of Perfect Strangers on its primetime lineup Monday-Thursday nights at 8:30 p.m. (ET/PT). It is not currently broadcast on either broadcast or cable television in the U.S..
Various episodes were seen on AOL's In2TV video-on-demand service starting in March 2006, though after AOL's June 2009 announcement of its split with Time Warner, the series was moved to the AOL Video site.
Outside of the United States, the series aired in the Netherlands by public TV, in Turkey by the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation dubbed in Turkish. In Pakistan, reruns were carried by Pakistan Television Corporation in its original form. In Bangladesh, reruns were carried by BTV in its original form. The series aired in the United Kingdom (on BBC1), Australia and New Zealand (on Channel 2, now called TV2) in its original form; reruns aired in Australia on 7TWO between March and October 2011 and in 2013. The series aired in Bulgaria by BTV and in the Bulgarian language; Bulgarians know Balki mostly as a Greek. It aired in the Philippines by RPN 9 in its original form, it aired with Arabic subtitles in Kuwait on KTV2 and in Lebanon on Télé Liban (TL). The series aired in Ireland by RTÉ on Network 2 in its original form. The series aired in Canada on DejaView channel 636
Perfect Strangers had a spin-off series, the highly rated, long-running family sitcom Family Matters, which aired from September 22, 1989, to July 17, 1998. The series was centered around Harriette Winslow (Jo Marie Payton) in the role she originated on Perfect Strangers (Harriette was played by Judyann Elder for the second half of season nine after Payton's departure), and her cop husband Carl (Reginald VelJohnson; the character was initially introduced on Perfect Strangers in the fourth-season episode "Crimebusters") and their family. The series, which initially garnered modest ratings for most of its first season, became a ratings hit after the Winslow's annoying, accident-prone, budding inventor next-door neighbor Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), was introduced midway through the show's first season.
Neither Family Matters nor Perfect Strangers featured a direct crossover with the other, however Balki and Larry were originally scripted to appear in the pilot episode before the scene was cut from the broadcast. Mark Linn-Baker and Melanie Wilson each guest starred on the show, as a different character, and Linn-Baker directed another episode. Footage of the Chicago Chronicle building shot for Perfect Strangers appeared in the second episode of Family Matters and music originally written for Perfect Strangers would be used during the early seasons of Family Matters, as well. Several premises from popular episodes of Perfect Strangers ("Just Desserts", "Pipe Dreams" and "Blind Alley") would also be recycled as first-season episodes of Family Matters ("Baker's Dozen", "Mr. Badwrench" and "Bowl Me Over").
The season four episode "Maid to Order" was released as part of a limited edition bonus disc of the complete first season DVD of Night Court on February 8, 2005 by Warner Home Video.
Warner Home Video has released seasons 1 and 2 of Perfect Strangers on DVD in Regions 1, 2 & 4. It is currently unknown if the remaining seasons will be released or not.
In an article on TVShowsOnDVD.com regarding TV series with stalled DVD releases, it was mentioned that the main hold-up for any subsequent releases of Perfect Strangers is not poor sales but rather high music licensing costs. It is noted that the series sometimes featured popular songs within certain episodes, though the versions by the artists who originally performed them were usually not used; instead they were commonly sung a cappella by Mark Linn-Baker and/or Bronson Pinchot's characters whenever the script called for Balki and/or Larry to sing within the episode.
In popular culture
Perfect Strangers and star Mark Linn-Baker are referenced in the HBO TV series The Leftovers, which takes place after a fictional global event called the "Sudden Departure," the inexplicable, simultaneous disappearance of 140 million people, 2% of the world's population. Within the show, the entire cast of Perfect Strangers has departed — except for Linn-Baker, who, it turns out, has faked his own departure. (A present-day Linn-Baker appears, as himself, in The Leftovers.)