Perfect Strangers (TV series): Wikis


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Perfect Strangers
Title card for Perfect Strangers
Perfect Strangers opening title from its later seasons
Format Sitcom
Created by Dale McRaven
Starring Bronson Pinchot
Mark Linn-Baker
Lise Cutter (seasons 1-2)
Ernie Sabella (seasons 1-2)
Melanie Wilson (seasons 2-8)
Rebeca Arthur (seasons 2-8)
Belita Moreno (seasons 1-7)
Sam Anderson (seasons 3-7)
Theme music composer Jesse Frederick
Bennett Salvay
Opening theme "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" by David Pomeranz
Ending theme "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" (instrumental)
Country of origin  United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 8
No. of episodes 150 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Thomas L. Miller
Robert L. Boyett (entire run)
Dale McRaven (season 1; executive consultant afterwards)
William Bickley
Michael Warren (seasons 6-8)
Paula A. Roth (seasons 7-8)
Location(s) Chicago, Illinois (setting)
Warner Bros. Studios,
Burbank, California (taping location)
Camera setup Film; Multi-camera
Running time 24 minutes, 30 seconds
Production company(s) Miller-Boyett Productions
Lorimar-Telepictures (1986-1988)
Lorimar Television (1988-1993)
Distributor Warner Bros. Television
Original channel ABC
Picture format 480i (SDTV)
Original run March 25, 1986 – August 6, 1993
Status Ended
Followed by Family Matters (1989-1998)

Perfect Strangers was an American sitcom that ran for eight seasons from March 25, 1986, to August 6, 1993, on the ABC television network. It chronicles the rocky coexistence of Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) and his distant cousin Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot). Originally airing on Tuesdays and then Wednesdays in prime time, the show eventually found its niche as an anchor for ABC's original TGIF Friday night lineup. It produced a spin-off, Family Matters, in 1989.



The series chronicles the rocky coexistence of Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) and his distant cousin Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot). A Wisconsin native, Larry, who comes from a large family with numerous brothers and sisters, has just moved into a new apartment in Chicago, and is experiencing his first joys of newfound privacy when Balki, a hitherto unknown cousin from a Greek-like island in the Mediterranean called Mypos, drops by to live with him. Balki, a shepherd by trade, interprets what little he knows about the United States by relying on his own recollections of American pop culture, which are often out-of-context ("America... Land of my dreams, home of the Whopper"). Balki's signature is his "Dance of Joy", a cross between a Dosado and the Hokey Pokey that Balki performs (with Larry) in celebration of good fortune. It is first performed in the third episode "First Date" at a singles bar by Balki, 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, Larry, an aspiring photographer, decides to take Balki under his wing and teach him about American life. However, the neurotic Larry frequently proves to be equally if not more inept in this respect than Balki, often getting the pair into troubles that only his cousin can solve. Major influences on the show include "buddy sitcoms" such as Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy, both of which were produced by the same team which went on to oversee Perfect Strangers.




The series was the brainchild of Dale McRaven (who also co-created Mork & Mindy) and producers Tom Miller and Robert Boyett. Miller claimed that the inspiration for the series came in the wake of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, when America was going through a wave of renewed patriotic sentiment.[1] Their idea for a comedy about an immigrant in America was initially rejected by all three of the 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 on 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.[2] 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.[3] 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 Twinkacetti (Ernie Sabella), an unscrupulous miser (often referred to as "Twinkie") who doubles as their landlord. Twinkacetti's incessant berating of his two employees – his pet name for Balki is "turnip" and he refers to Larry as "yo-yo" – is occasionally alleviated by his wife Edwina (Belita Moreno). In the first season, upstairs neighbor Susan (Lise Cutter) is a platonic friend of Larry's.

Season 2 (1986-87)

Early in the second season, Susan was phased out. Larry and Balki began dating Jennifer Lyons (Melanie Wilson) and Mary Anne Spencer (Rebeca Arthur), respectively, after meeting them through a local gym. In later episodes it was revealed that both Jennifer and Mary Anne are airline stewardesses who happen to live in the same apartment building as Larry and Balki.

Seasons 3-6 (1987-1991)

At the start of the third season, beginning in the fall of 1987, Larry and Balki found themselves in a newer, larger apartment, where Balki had his own room (previously he had been sleeping on a fold-out sofa).[4] 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 job working out of the basement of the Chicago Chronicle, a fictional metropolitan newspaper. He then helps Balki land a job alongside him in the mailroom. They are overseen by the demanding Harry Burns (Eugene Roche). By the end of the third season, Burns is phased out of the show and the paper's publisher, Mr. Wainright (F.J. O'Neil), takes over the role of Larry and Balki's boss for the remainder of the series.

Balki's immediate supervisor is Sam Gorpley (Sam Anderson), the head of the mailroom. Gorpley never warms to "the Mypiot" and constantly plots ways to get Balki fired. Lydia Markham is an advice columnist for the Chronicle. Thin-skinned and beset with various phobias and neuroses, Lydia is played by Belita Moreno, the same actress who had played Edwina Twinkacetti in the first two seasons. Although Larry physically remains at his typewriter in the basement, he joins the investigative reporting team of Marshall & Walpole (loosely based on the famed Washington Post duo of Woodward and Bernstein) in season four. Larry's relationship with Jennifer begins to mature as well. During season six, the two became engaged to be married.

Working as an elevator operator is Harriette Winslow (Jo Marie Payton-France). Her husband Carl (Reginald VelJohnson) is introduced in one fourth season episode, and the couple eventually moves into Larry and Balki's apartment building. After two seasons on Perfect Strangers, Harriette and Carl's characters were given their own spin-off series, Family Matters, in the fall of 1989. 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 it was explained on an early episode of Family Matters that she had been fired as the elevator operator, only to be re-hired as chief of security at the Chronicle.

Season 7 (1991-92)

After four seasons, the marriage of Larry and Jennifer meant that Perfect Strangers would move in a new direction in the fall of 1991. Larry and Jennifer end up buying a large Victorian house which they discover they could not afford without additional roommates - Balki and Mary Anne.

At the Chronicle, midway into the season, Balki leaves the mailroom when he is asked to draw a weekly comic strip based on his stuffed sheep, Dimitri. Gorpley and Lydia still made occasional appearances throughout the season. However, as their characters have little relevance to Larry and Balki's new career paths, they are phased out by the end of the season.

With Larry and Jennifer happily married, the series begins to focus on the ambiguous relationship between Balki and Mary Anne. In the last several episodes of the season, Mary Anne stops seeing Balki and moves out of the house. In the season finale, aired in April 1992, Balki and Mary Anne resolve their differences and get married in a whirlwind ceremony. At the end of the episode, with the two newlyweds on their way to an extended honeymoon in Mypos, Jennifer reveals to Larry that she is pregnant.

Halfway through its seventh season, despite maintaining steady Nielsen ratings, and always winning its time slot on Fridays at 9:00pm, ABC executives made the decision in January 1992 to move it to Saturday at 9:00pm, putting it up against another ratings winner, Empty Nest on NBC. It was announced at the time that the move was the result of ABC attempt to increase viewership of its Saturday lineup by airing Perfect Strangers, a show with decent ratings and loyal fanbase, on the same night as Who's the Boss? and Growing Pains, both of which had moved to Saturday at the start of the 1991-92 season and had been experiencing declining ratings for the past few seasons on ABC. After the move to Saturday, the series, which had actually increased in viewers during the previous seasons, had an immediate decline in ratings. The decline was so large that it set a record for a network series declining so many points in one season.[citation needed]

The series was ranked in the top 35 programs consistently until January 1992, where it dropped as low as #65 some weeks of the season airing on Saturdays. With this decline, ABC first decided to cancel the series after a seven-year run. In August 1992, the network briefly moved the series back to Fridays at 9:00 pm to fill the timeslot with reruns. Interestingly enough, the reruns that were aired on Friday during that month, won the timeslot again. That summer, fans of the series knew the series was nearing the end and launched a national campaign to save the series from its impending cancellation. The response was overwhelming, so much that ABC responded by putting the series on hiatus and then ordered six more episodes, giving the series a chance to close the storyline and say "goodbye."

Season 8 (1993)

After the series was renewed for an eighth season, it was omitted from ABC's fall 1992 lineup, having the status of "mid-season replacement series". The six episodes that were subsequently filmed became the final episodes of the series. They were aired on ABC over a five-week period beginning in July 1993. Again airing on Fridays in its old time slot, the series once again won its timeslot each week leading up to the series finale, which aired on August 6, 1993.

The first episode 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 are phased out, with the series shifting its full attention to the home life of the characters. The series ended with back-to-back episodes in which Larry, Balki, and Jennifer take off in a hot-air balloon to try to induce her into labor after Mary Anne had already given birth. Once both babies arrive, the show ends with 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 Pinchot and Linn-Baker doing the "Dance of Joy" one last time.


The cast of Perfect Strangers in season 4. Front row (left to right):
Melanie Wilson, Mark Linn-Baker, Belita Moreno, Bronson Pinchot, and Rebeca Arthur.
Back row (left to right): Jo Marie Payton and Sam Anderson.

Main cast

Recurring cast

Theme song and opening sequence

Theme song

The show's theme song, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now", was written by Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay (who also wrote the themes for other Miller-Boyett series, including Full House, Step by Step and Perfect Strangers spin-off Family Matters). The theme was performed by David Pomeranz. The music was rearranged and the lyrics re-recorded for season two and the music was rearranged slightly in season three.[citation needed] The full opening theme used for season one and most episodes of season two, lasted 90 seconds. Starting with season three, the repeat of the second chorus near the end of the theme song was cut to allow more airtime, reducing the length to 72 seconds. A shorter instrumental version of the theme is also used as a closing theme in all but a few episodes (and was dropped entirely for season eight), which was rearranged in season three, and rearranged again and was elongated from 30 seconds to 40 seconds for season five.

Two additional shortened versions were also used occasionally when episodes ran over the allotted time. The version used in a few episodes of season two cut half of the first stanza and the entire second, going directly to the first chorus following the verse, "Sometimes you just get a feeling/Like you need some kind of change...", reducing the length to 65 seconds, but the version used throughout the remaining seasons included both stanzas and the ending with harmonica portion and was 72 seconds long.

Reruns shown in syndication after season 5 used a shortened version of the theme song in which included all but the second stanza, reducing the length to 48 seconds; this version added a shorter harmonica portion near the end of the short version, which was absent in the season three short version. It has been a common misconception that the theme song was reduced to the 48-second version from season three onward but that version was only used for the syndicated reruns to allow stations additional advertising time. The 72-second long version was used for all episodes originally broadcast on ABC from season 3 throughout the remainder of the series, with only a few exceptions when the aforementioned 48-second version was used in the original ABC airings when episodes ran over the allotted time.

Opening credits

First version (seasons one and two)

During seasons one and two, the opening sequence begins with images of Balki and Larry wiping sideways from opposite sides of the screen to meet in the middle, with the series title superimposed on top. Larry is shown saying good-bye to his family as he leaves his home in Wisconsin, and drives to Chicago in his old red Ford Mustang. The sequence then shifts to Balki, who is shown making his own farewells on Mypos before being driven off on the back of a horsecart, sitting alongside a box mislabeled "America or Burst". Balki is next seen on the tramp steamer as he sights the Statue of Liberty, then on a bus, presumably making his way to Chicago. After a brief shot of Larry driving under a "Welcome to Chicago" sign (actually located outside O'Hare Airport), the sequence ends with the same shot of Balki and Larry together that began the sequence. The first season featured a script font for the series title and credits. For the second season, the show's title appears more similar to later seasons, and the script font is replaced with the font used in the remaining seasons. The Lake Shore Drive footage is now shown correctly. Additionally, the Larry and Balki sequences are shortened so that brief clips from some of the early episodes could be shown.

Second version (seasons three through eight)

For season three, the opening sequence was overhauled. The sequence begins with a close-up on Larry and Balki on the back of a tour boat heading east down the Chicago River, then zooming out to show them traveling under the Irv Kupcinet Bridge. (The Wrigley Building and the now-demolished Sun-Times building can be seen in the background.) A much larger version of the second season series title is superimposed on this image. During the third season only, light sparkles across this title. The sequence briefly recaps Larry and Balki's journeys to Chicago using footage from the earlier seasons. When Larry passes under the "Welcome to Chicago" sign this time, the sequence cuts to new footage of Larry and Balki around Chicago, including jogging in Lincoln Park, braving a wind gust on a city street, attending a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field, and messing around in a revolving door. After a view of an El train moving over the city street, the sequence concludes with Larry and Balki emerging from the subway to attend the Chicago Theater. The theater marquee shows, appropriately enough, Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. The new location shots were filmed on September 11 and 12, 1987. This sequence remained the same from season three through the end of the series in season eight.

As a brief salute to its parent series, in the early-season opening credits of the spin-off series Family Matters, the Winslow family is shown riding bicycles over the Irv Kupcinet Bridge, as seen from the exact same vantage point as in the opening Perfect Strangers sequence.

Production notes

Perfect Strangers was produced by Miller-Boyett Productions in association with Lorimar-Telepictures, which later became Lorimar Television in 1988.

Exterior shot locations

First apartment building

Larry & Balki's first apartment, September 2006.

The building used for the exterior shots of Larry and Balki's apartment for the first two seasons was the now non-existent Santa Rita Hotel, located at the south corner of S. Main St. and E. 11th St. in downtown Los Angeles, California. Since the series, the building has been remodeled and the upper stories removed. What remains of the building now houses several small shops and importers.

Second apartment building

The apartment building seen in the exterior shots from seasons three through six is located at the northwest corner of West Dickens Avenue and North Clark Street in Lincoln Park, Chicago, and little has changed in appearance today.

Larry & Balki's second apartment, March 2008.

Chicago Chronicle

The Chicago Chronicle building is in actuality known as the London Guarantee Building, located at 360 North Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.

Elm Street House

The exterior shots of the house that Balki, Larry, Jennifer and Mary Anne lived in during seasons 7 and 8 is located at 1619 Pine Street, Boulder, Colorado. The house was also used for exterior shots of Myra Monkhouse's house in the show's spinoff Family Matters, and as Mindy's house in Mork & Mindy.

Family Matters

Perfect Strangers spawned a spin-off series entitled Family Matters, which ran on ABC from September 22, 1989, to May 9, 1997, then moved to CBS airing from September 19, 1997, to July 17, 1998. The series was centered around Harriette Winslow (Jo Marie Payton in the role she originated on Perfect Strangers, later played by Judyann Elder in its ninth season after Payton's departure), her cop husband Carl (Reginald VelJohnson) and their family. The series, however, became best known for the character of teenage nerd Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), their next-door neighbor known for his various inventions, his crush on Carl and Harriette's daughter Laura (Kellie Shanygne Williams) and his tendency to cause accidents around the Winslow house and annoy various family members (especially Carl).

Having aired for 215 episodes, Family Matters is the second-longest running American sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast, surpassed only by The Jeffersons. Although the series was a spin-off of Perfect Strangers, neither series had featured a crossover with the other series (though Mark Linn-Baker did direct one episode and had guest starred on the show, though as a different character).


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.

Season Episodes First airdate Last airdate
Season 1 6 March 25, 1986 April 29, 1986
Season 2 22 September 17, 1986 April 1, 1987
Season 3 22 September 22, 1987 March 25, 1988
Season 4 22 October 14, 1988 May 5, 1989
Season 5 24 September 22, 1989 May 4, 1990
Season 6 24 September 28, 1990 May 3, 1991
Season 7 24 September 20, 1991 April 18, 1992
Season 8 6 July 9, 1993 August 6, 1993

DVD release

On February 5, 2008, Warner Home Video released seasons 1 and 2 of Perfect Strangers on DVD in Region 1. Seasons 1 and 2 have also been released in Region 2[5] and Region 4.[6] It currently unknown if the remaining seasons will be released or not.

The Complete First and Second Seasons
Set details Release Dates
  • Studio: Warner Bros.
  • Episodes: 28
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Audio: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Special Features: Dance of Joy featurette
United StatesCanada North America: February 5, 2008
Germany Germany: March 14, 2008
Australia Australia: September 3, 2008


The series has been syndicated across various television platforms in the United States. Currently As of 2009, Perfect Strangers is not aired on broadcast or cable television in the U.S., ironic considering its spinoff Family Matters has been consistently syndicated since 1994.

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution syndicated the series on various broadcast television stations from September 1990 until September 1997. USA Network has aired reruns of the show during the mid-1990s. TV Land aired episodes of the series for a short time in the fall of 2002. From October 1 to November 1, 2007, ION Television aired reruns of Perfect Strangers on its primetime lineup Monday-Thursday nights at 8:30PM (ET/PT). Unlike other sitcoms that have aired on ION Television previously and since, the show aired one episode each night (ION Television typically airs double-runs of sitcoms).

Various episodes of Perfect Strangers (along with many other shows produced or distributed by Warner Bros. Television) have also been seen on AOL's In2TV video-on-demand service, though subsequently after AOL's June 2009 announcement of its split with Time Warner, it is the series (and several other Warner Bros.-produced series) were removed from In2TV. AOL has since moved episodes of the series to its AOL Video site.

Foreign versions

  • When the show was aired in Brazil, Balki was renamed "Zeca" (a Brazilian nickname) and his nationality was changed to Brazilian, specifically from the state of "Minas Gerais", in a blatant adulteration of the character and the storyline itself. The show was called Primo Cruzado (Cousin Cruzado, where "cruzado" was the name of Brazilian currency from that time). Even today the public in that country is mostly unaware of the show's and Balki's original backgrounds. That version is currently being re-aired on the Brazilian Nick at Nite schedule.
  • In the fall of 2006, the Russian TV station REN TV launched a remake of Perfect Strangers featuring Andrei, from a remote former Soviet republic, who moves in with his cousin Ivan, a Moscow resident.
  • The show was aired 1988 until 1994 on TVRI Indonesia
  • From the late 1980s into the mid 1990s, the show was aired by Channel 2 in Saudi Arabia
  • In the German dubbing, Balki was said to be an actual Greek and Mypos a Greek island. Even the show was called Ein Grieche erobert Chicago (A Greek captures Chicago) and in the opening credits Balki said that he became bored with his sheep in Greece so he went to America to visit his cousin. In the German version, Balki has no foreign accent and speaks the same native-accented German as Larry.
  • Other translations of the title were: Barki e Larry - Due Perfetti Americani (Italy), Dos Perfectos Desconocidos (Latin America), Larry et Balki (France), Primos Lejanos (Spain), Varul Din Strainatate (Romania), Napulno Nepoznati (Bulgaria), Perfektni Pribuzni (Slovakia), Potpuni stranci (Croatia) and Mükemmel İkili (Turkey).
  • Aired in Turkey by Turkish Radio and Television Corporation in Turkish.
  • Aired in Pakistan by Pakistan Television Corporation in its original form.
  • Aired in Bangladesh by BTV in its original form.
  • Aired in the United Kingdom (on BBC1), Australia and New Zealand (on Channel 2, now called TV2) in its original form.
  • Aired in Bulgaria by BTV and in the Bulgarian language. Bulgarians know Balki mostly as a Greek.
  • Aired in the Philippines by RPN 9 in its original form.
  • Aired in Kuwait by KTV2 with Arabic subtitles.
  • Aired in Lebanon by Télé Liban (TL) with Arabic subtitles.
  • Aired in Ireland by RTÉ on Network 2 in its original form


  1. ^ Hodges, Ann (August 3, 1986), "ABC gets perfect series from two "Perfect Strangers"", Houston Chronicle 
  2. ^ Gendel, Morgan (November 30, 1985), "'Tis the mid-season for new TV series", Los Angeles Times 
  3. ^ TV Guide, September 27, 1986 
  4. ^ Bawden, Jim (August 15, 1987), "TV repairs", Toronto Globe 
  5. ^
  6. ^

External links


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