The Black Box: Thank God It’s February- “Perfect Strangers”

Television pilots are tough to make. It’s hard to introduce the concept and entire cast of characters of a show in one episode and still have that episode hold up on it’s own. But just because something’s hard doesn’t make it any more excusable when you fail spectacularly at doing it. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Black Box, where we check out pilots that crashed and burned to see exactly what went wrong.

This week, we kick of TGIF Month with a look at the first ever TGIF show.

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Perfect Strangers actually existed before TGIF, but who cares, I’m talking about the pilot anyway because that’s just how this thing here works. The series premiered on March 25th, 1986 and ran eight seasons and 150 episodes before ending in 1998. The series had a majorly successful spin-off that we’ll get to later and left a lasting impact on the sitcom market for decades to come.

What they did wrong:  So right off the bat, the opening sequence is SO SO cheesy. Like, if you’ve ever seen a parody of an ’80s sitcom opening title sequence, THIS is the show they were parodying. Also, the whole “wacky foreigner” thing comes off a little weird every once in a while. But that doesn’t really matter because…

What they did right: This show is really goddamn great. Like, I was not ready for it to be as amazingly great as it was. There is a reason this show took off and that reason is that this show is shockingly well written even by modern sitcom standards.

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                          GOD HELP ME, I’M NOT USED TO TALKING ABOUT GOOD THINGS.

The pilot begins with Larry hanging out in his new apartment when his distant cousin Balki appears at his door, ready to move in.

THERE YOU GO! PREMISE. ESTABLISHED.

And now we are free to enjoy shenanigans of all shapes and sizes without over complication. HOW HARD IS THIS?!

WHY IS THIS DIFFICULT?!

GODDAMMIT I’M GOING TO KEEP POINTING THIS OUT UNTIL SHITTY SHOWS STOP FUCKING UP ON THIS FRONT!!!

Ok, ok, let’s move on. This is Larry.

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                                   This screenshot explains everything about this show.

Larry is a perfect straight man. He gets to be the victim of circumstance while simultaneously throwing out a few sarcastic quips of his own. Really likable as a character without being a jerk or an idiot. He works in an antiques shop “just to pay the bills.”

I call bullshit. Not one antiques shop in the history of the world has ever turned a profit ever.

This is a fact.

And now we have the other half of our comedic duo.

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                                                                                   I like this show.

This is Balki. Balki hails from the island nation of Mypos which is… (does some quick Google searching) NOT a real country. I should have known that already but whatever, I’m not a geographist. Balki, whose name is not fucking Blake now matter HOW many times you change it, autocorrect you fuck, is incredibly charming and fun to watch. His overconfidence avoids being annoying by being really funny. Also, while I’m sure it gets annoying after a while, his catchphrase “Don’t be ridiculous” works in the pilot and is pretty likable.

Speaking of the pilot, the plot revolves around Larry trying to get Balki a job at the antiques store and Balki screwing stuff up because shenanigans. Also, we get Larry’s boss yelling at the pair of them.

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SHEEEEEEEENAAAAAAAANIIIIIIIIGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guys, what d’you want from me? This show is funny and charming and I’m not used to talking about good things I can’t make fun of.

But yeah, this is a thing you should be watching. It’s pretty great!

Next week, we come up with a pretty good poker hand.

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