Does anyone remember the phrase "Now we are so happy, we do the dance of joy"?
If so, then, like me, you were likely a fan of the late 80's/early 90's television sitcom Perfect Strangers. This sitcom, which fell off of most people's radar rather quickly, is one of my absolute favourites. For years I have been waiting for there to be a release of that show on DVD -- I constantly scanned through online video retailer listings, continually dropped into video specialty retailers asking the question: "Is there any sign of a DVD for the Perfect Strangers television series?" and finally, in Feb 2008, my years of waiting are over.
My copy of Perfect Strangers, Seasons 1 & 2 on DVD arrived a few weeks ago. I was so happy that I did the "dance of joy." Sure, the DVD comes without all the bells and whistles of special features that normally accompany DVDs -- but who cares? I have the first two seasons of my two favourite cousins on DVD. Woo hoo!
Despite the show having been off the air for over 10 years, I still make reference to it or quote from it quite regularly, having liberated many of Balki and Larry's timeless quotes into my own regularly used phrases.
That was, of course, one of the things I loved about the show. The brilliantly scripted and masterfully performed dialogue were matched only by a unique slapstick choreography that has to be among the tightest, most difficult to ever be pulled off on a "studio audience" stage. In terms of the actors, I think the casting was perfect, with both Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker offering thorough characterizations right down to the most subtle of facial expressions. There were elements of Abbott & Costello (confusingly intelligent and funny dialogue), Laurel & Hardy (slapstick) and The Odd Couple (two mismatched men sharing an apartment) that made the show great.
Balki's dialogue, which regularly included misquoted common English/Western Culture phrases are a key highlight of the show and I still marvel at the sheer brilliance and subtly of some of them. Sure, most people remember his key catch phrase of "Of course [not/I am/I do] don't be ridiculous!" - but I also quite love his "Where do I come up with them!" (when he makes a particularly awful moaner of a joke), his "Get out of the city!" (more accurately misquoting the "get out of town" phrase, given that they did live in Chicago and not a town) -- but then there are many of the moments of intelligent humour that I still fondly remember such as:
Larry: [makes a statement about trying to maintain at least a modicum of dignity in an embarassing situation]
Balki: Cousin, you've got modicums you don't know about!
Balki: [referring to the fact that they're both wearing identical tuxedos] But if we dress alike, how will people tell us apart?
Larry: Dental records.
Balki: What band are we going to see?
Balki: I know we're in Chicago. What band is it?
Balki: Yes, I know that's where we are. What band are we seeing
Larry: The Beatles.
I often wonder why I loved the show so much (I mean, apart from the silly antics, great dialogue and fantastic physical humour) - part of it, I think, was the show's sensibility and compassion. Despite their character differences and having unique outlooks on things, Larry and Balki stuck together and cared for each other. Many of the shows involved Balki's innocent take on things, his belief in the goodness of people or doing the right thing. One of my favourite lessons he offered (when referring to Larry's relationship with his sister in one episode) was that if you had something "in here" (touching his heart) what was the point of keeping it to yourself and not sharing it. Balki often helped bring that compassion and simplistic sense of goodness in a way not often seen on sitcoms. In much the same way that I appreciated and learned from Peter Parker's sense of responsibility through reading Spider-Man comic books, I also appreciated and was inspired by Balki's ability to find good in everyone and appreciate the simple pleasures of life.
Francine has pointed out to me (I'm making her watch the newly bought DVD) that Larry and Balki were giant nerds. I think part of me liked the show so much because of that. Yes, they're nerds. Just like me and my best friend John Ellis -- who talked me into watching the show all those years ago. He came to school one day and was talking about this funny quirky show about some foreign guy who moves in with his cousin. I said it sounded stupid. He said to just watch it. I did. I loved it. I was hooked. And over the years John and I continued to riff on tons of references from Perfect Strangers.Thanks, John. (Or should I say, "Thanks, cousin!") Even when I made a musical montage of video clips for a friend of our quartet of friends (John, me, Steve and Pete - four certified nerds - the friend was Steve's cousin Vicky who'd visited with us several times over the years), I used the Perfect Strangers theme song and inserted ourselves and names into the "opening credit" sequence.
John and I, who, like Larry and Balki, got married within the same stretch of a 6 month period, also actually ended up doing the "dance of joy" (seen in the YouTube video clip below) on my wedding day. I seem to remember our wives rolling their eyes and shaking their heads.
As you can likely tell, I can talk about this show virtually endlessly. And now, watching these episodes on DVD, I still get a fun chill whenever I hear the Perfect Strangers theme song -- there's only one or perhaps two other theme songs that give me that same exciting emotional lift. (Those would be the "Cheers" theme - "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" and the theme from Mash "Suicide is Painless")
So to end this count, here's the Perfect Strangers Theme song "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" (lyrics by Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay)
Sometimes the world looks perfect,
Nothing to rearrange.
Sometimes you just get a feeling
Like you need some kind of change.
No matter what the odds are this time,
Nothing's going to stand in my way.
This flame in my heart,
And a long lost friend
Gives every dark street a light at the end.
Standing tall, on the wings of my dream.
Rise and fall, on the wings of my dream.
The rain and thunder
The wind and haze
I'm bound for better days.
It's my life and my dream,
Nothing's gonna stop me now.