It might be time to refresh your skills of “The Dance of Joy”. While it seemed like every sitcom from the ’80s had some kind of cheesy dance attached (you guys do remember “The Urkel”, right?) nothing beats the dance that Larry and Balki did whenever writers needed to fill 20 seconds of time.
Oh yes. If you haven’t guessed it yet, we’re going over Perfect Strangers today. The opening credits of this masterpiece leave me with tears of laughter. The fonts! The sweaters! Mark Linn-Baker’s facial expressions! Balki on a wagon! It just doesn’t get better than this.
The show was about the relationship between Larry Appleton (played by Linn-Baker) and his distant cousin, Balki Bartokomous (played by Bronson Pinchot), who hailed from the fictional island of Mypos. Larry is a bit uptight, but reluctantly allows Balki to live with him in order to teach him more about living in America. As one would expect, crazy hijinks occur.
But where’s the cast today?
Mark Linn-Baker as Larry Appleton
Mark (Or Mark L-B, as I’d refer to him if we were friends) actually made a cameo on a bunch of TGIF shows – he played Dick Donaldson, Rebecca’s snobby cousin on Full House, and also guested on Family Matters in 1997 as Harriet Winslow’s abusive boss. (More on Harriet later!) He landed an 18-episode season of a show called Twins in 2005.
At the end of December last year, Mark L-B got married to Christa Justus, who is an actress who also works full time as the director of grants and operations for Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research. The two met through friends, and if you want a really lengthy and detailed explanation of their courtship, here’s the story. (Really. I like the guy, and I like the fact that he’s happy, but man. They don’t leave out any details.)
In related news, somebody please buy me this picture of Mark Linn-Baker that I found on eBay. Totally worth the fifteen bucks. Look how unsure he looks! What was Balki doing while this picture was being taken?!
(In all honesty, I’d frame the picture if someone does choose to gift it to me.)
Bronson Pinchot as Balki Bartokomous
If this was the only role you’ve seen Bronson Pinchot in, let’s clear up a huge misconception: He doesn’t really have an accent. Pinchot was actually born in Manhattan, and raised in Southern California.
Since the show wrapped up, Pinchot has been all over the place. He was in a few episodes of Law & Order, and had a six episode arch on The Young and the Restless. He was also on a season of The Surreal Life (remember that show?) back in 2005.
A more permanent gig for Pinchot was his one-season stint on Step By Step (I swear, TGIF was a family!) when he replaced Sasha Mitchell, after he had a few spousal abuse/getting arrested issues. Trust me – we’ll delve into this further another week.
Since the late 90’s/early 2000’s, Pinchot spent a lot of time in Harford, Pennsylvania, restoring the circa 1839 mansion of former Pennsylvania state Senator Edward Jones. This side project turned into a big career changer – he currently has a new show on the DIY channel called The Bronson Pinchot Project, where he buys neglected properties and restores them with a crew of local contractors.
Melanie Wilson, as Jennifer Lyons
Jennifer was Larry’s girlfriend (and eventually, fiancee) who also moved on to Step By Step, playing not one, but three characters! Her latest project was a Lifetime TV movie in 2009, called Prayers for Bobby.
Here’s a fun fact: Melanie is actually the daughter of Dick Wilson, who was best known for being “Mr. Whipple” in the Charmin commercials. I miss him. I’m really, really not fond of the cartoon bears that are currently the mascots for the brand.
Rebeca Arthur, as Mary Anne Spencer
Larry wasn’t the only one who was lucky enough to find fictional love – Rebeca played Balki’s love interest Mary Anne. Balki and Mary Anne were actually married by the seventh season.
While she picked up a few minor roles and voice-over work since the show ended, her glory years were during the 80’s and early ’90s. She was featured on a few game shows, and wasn’t terrible at them. Here’s her on an episode of Hollywood Squares:
She also has had a hell of a time figuring out how to spell her first name (she’s credited as being “Rebecca” as well as “Rebekah” in other roles.)
Belita Moreno as Edwina Twinkacetti and Lydia Markham
What is it with 80’s shows casting actor for multiple roles? As Edwina, who was present in the first two seasons, she was the wife of the owner of the Ritz Discount Store – where Larry and Balki originally worked. As Lydia, she was working at The Chronicle, alongside Larry, as an advice columnist. I wonder if Larry figured out that two people in his life looked similar.
Belita has had a pretty successful career since Perfect Strangers ended – she played Benny on George Lopez, and plays Mrs. Norton within the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie franchise. She also lists herself as an acting coach, and here are some of the people she (claims to have) worked with. (I trust she’s being honest.)
Rene Zellweger, Chris Tucker, Aaron Eckhart, Zac Ephron, Eminem, Nikki Blonsky, Lindsay Lohan, Usher, Diane Keaton, Kate Hudson, and Britney Spears.
JoMarie Payton as Harriet Winslow
Yes, we all know that Harriet was a major part of Family Matters, but she got her start here, In fact, if it wasn’t for this role, Family Matters wouldn’t have existed. What would the world be like without Urkel? The aforementioned “Urkel Dance” from the first paragraph would have simply existed as a nightmare you might have had once.
While talking about JoMarie will be more interesting during the week I’ll most likely revisit Family Matters (I mean, she left in the last season, and they replaced her with someone who looked nothing like her! What was that about?!) I have to mention her in the context of this show as well.
From 2001 to 2005, JoMarie provided the voice of Sugar Mama Proud on The Proud Family, which earned her an NAACP Image Award nomination. And while she’s had a few bit parts since both long-running shows ended, here’s the most interesting Jo Marie fact I found: In 1999, she released a jazz album, entitled ‘Southern Shadows’. Also, judging by pictures, she’s seemed to have aged in reverse.
The Winner: Guys, I have to go with Balki. While Bronson Pinchot seems to have the most steady career post-Strangers, the whole house renovation thing seems like a smart choice. While I can’t tell you if cable even readily carries the DIY channel, obviously he’s still interesting enough to have a show with his name in the title.