Appleton met Jennifer Lyons while he was working his
shift at Ritz Discount Store in Chicago. She showed up
looking for Larry's cousin, Balki Bartokomous, who had
recently filed an application for the fitness club but
didn't complete it. Immediately smitten, Larry talks
himself into a membership just to get close to her, with
Disastrous results that would set the tone for the central courtship of Perfect Strangers, a wacky buddy comedy from 1980s ABC television. Surviving the trials and tribulations of a typical relationship is one thing. Attempting it with one of the most unlucky, self-destructive, accident prone humans to ever walk the Earth is another entirely.
There could be bliss in Larry and Jennifer's future. But to get there, they've got to survive ALL THIS:
BURIED ALIVE UNDER AN AVALANCHE
Six months into Larry and Jennifer's relationship, Balki is spending the weekend skiing in Wisconsin. Larry has absolutely no interest in going -- until he hears Jennifer is going; then suddenly he's claiming to be a downhill expert despite barely having skiied in his life. Following Larry, everyone takes the wrong route down the mountain and gets lost. As evening falls, they find refuge in a log cabin -- but then an avalanche buries the whole thing. They're trapped inside, and it's only a matter of time before the weight of the snow caves in the roof.
Their only hope is to tunnel out through the door, but that carries its own risks -- what if the tunnel collapses while they're inside? Larry leads the tunnel dig, but takes them in a circle and ends up coming back into the cabin through the window. Balki decides to go it alone overnight...ahd when Larry wakes up the next morning, he opens the door to find a collapsed tunnel. Fortunately Balki got out before then, and went to get help.
They seemed to get through that one okay. But a year later, they'll be....
CAREENING DOWN RIVER RAPIDS FULL OF JAGGED ROCKS
Larry has concoted the perfect romantic weekend for he and Jennifer: camping! Balki points out the ski lodge incident. So does Jennifer, when Larry tells her. Larry insists there's no way he can get them nearly killed a second time.
When they reach the woods, they're given two choices: a mule ride down to the campsite, or a raft rental. Balki thinks the mules would be safer. Larry is like no, what would be safer than gently gliding down the water, riding the current straight into the campsite? Long story short, they wind up in the rapids, screaming in terror as they barely miss splatting against rock after rock, and then their raft gets overturned.
In the following week's episode, they managed to escape the river off-camera, but are now lost in the woods. Jennifer and Mary Anne elect Balki as leader. Larry panics, believing if he can't personally extract them from this situation, Jennifer will never respect him again, and eventually dump him. He INSISTS he lead the group, and that he KNOWS the way to the campsite. ...Five hours later, it becomes clear he does not know.
Jennifer, after Balki pries her fingers from Larry's throat, goes off to look for edible berries. Larry is now in hysterics, believing their only hope now is a strong and handsome forest ranger, who Jennifer will immediately fall for and run off with. He HAS to make things better, so he heads left -- directly into quicksand.
So when does the bear show up? Right about now. Larry barely managed to extract himself from the quicksand, and is feeling very low. His confidence is shot. So when he hears growls in the bushes, he feels it's his last hope, and he's gotta throw everything into it. Well, at first he believes it's Balki pretending to be a bear to cheer him up, but after Balki turns out to be over there, Larry still has the courage to charge at the bear and scare it away (don't try that in real life).
HELD HOSTAGE BY A MANIAC WITH A BOMB VEST
Larry is disgruntled at work...he doesn't feel like he gets any appreciation. That's when a man in a heavy overcoat enters the office. He says his name is Marvin Berman, and he wants to know who edited this morning's paper. Larry admits it was him, hoping he's about to get some appreciation. Actually Berman hated the article so much that he's now threatening to suicide-bomb the whole building unless the paper prints a retraction.
He ties up Larry and Balki and keeps them there all night, and during a tense standoff with the police, Larry manages to convince Berman not to blow himself up. Berman reaches to turn off his timer, but finds that he forgot how. That makes him faint onto the desk, forcing Larry to pick the right wire in less than a minute or the whole building will go sky-high.
TRAPPED IN A CELLAR FULL OF RISING ELECTRIFIED WATER
Larry says when he was a kid, he got Mickey Mantle to sign his baseball bat. Larry's visiting father insists that he has the memory wrong -- it was Roger Maris. To settle the debate, they head down to the apartment basement, where Larry has the bat in storage. They were both wrong; Larry had his bat signed by the batboy, by mistake. How does one do that? Because he's Larry, that's how.
Oh, but Larry isn't done Larrying today! After messing around with the bat, he breaks open a pipe and the basement begins flooding with water. Larry, Larry's father, Balki, Jennifer, Mary Anne and a few neighboring guests are now all trapped on the stairs. The door is jammed. The water is rising, and if it reaches the fuse box, it will electrify and kill them all.
Just about everything Larry tries to unstick them from this situation doesn't work. He fails at plugging the pipe. He can't wrench the door free. And then the wooden staircase collapses from everyone's weight, so they definitely WILL die in the next few minutes if Larry's next plan isn't a surefire hit.
Fortunately, it is. Larry's dad brings up his old chemistry set. Larry realizes it's in the basement. He whips up a homemade bomb and sticks it to the door. The door blows and everyone makes it out just in time.
THEY BREAK UP
Jennifer shows up at Larry's door and warns him that she'll be having dinner with an old boyfriend later that week. She asks if this would be a problem for him. Larry says "Oh no, absolutely not," but when he shuts the door he has a panic attack. He only told Jennifer it wouldn't bother him because he didn't want to come off as possessive and jealous, even though he's both.
Jennifer, however, is miffed that Larry DIDN'T have a problem with it, because she figures if he truly loved her, he would. So she goes back to his apartment a second time and tells him, "How would you feel about my dating other people?" She figures Larry will surely say "no." Instead he stammers out "Uhh, uhh, s-suuuuure," because to say anything else would be controlling, right? Jenny takes it as a sign he's stringing her along, and this time she means it: "I think we SHOULD see other people!"
One commercial break later, Larry is unshaven and depressed, while Jennifer has gone on 14 dates with her old boyfriend in 14 days. Mary Anne stops by to warn Balki that Jen's old beau will ask her to marry him tonight. Balki takes that as his cue to clean Larry up and physically drag him to the restaurant they're dining at.
By the time Larry works up the courage to approach the table, the man has already asked for Jennifer's hand in marriage, though she hasn't given him a response. He points out that he's richer than Larry, he's more handsome than Larry, and to prove his first point he gives her a massive blood diamond. "So, what's your answer?"
Larry stutters out, "L-Look, I--I just came here to say....I love you, Jennifer, and if you're gonna marry someone, well---well---I'd really prefer it if you---if you married ME!"
Without hesistation, Jennifer says "YES I WILL!" and throws her arms around him. Her old flame is so mad, he sticks Larry with the bill.
WANTED FOR MURDER
This Perfect Strangers sticks out in my mind more than any other, because it was so....alarming. Normally these things were cheaply shot on a stage, but this one was filmed on location in San Francisco, and that wasn't all. It was a two-parter where Larry and Balki wind up in a parking garage at the moment a gangster murder takes place. Balki happens to have a camcorder with him, so he films the crime...then, through another set of shenanigans, Larry and Balki wind up under a table at a fancy eatery...with the body....where they are discovered, becoming the prime suspects.
They immediately go on the run, with the cops after them, becoming fugitives. The tape is the only hope of clearing their names, but the mob also knows this and now THEY'RE after them to erase the evidence. My small mind was blown by all this. I had never seen a Hitchcock film in my life, so I had no idea where they were stealing this material from, and to see this show just SUDDENLY become an action suspense movie with no warning....my eyes were glued to the screen.
At some point Jennifer and Mary Anne have to be clued in to all this. When they meet up and Larry explains how they were framed and the entire town is after them, their girlfriends look....completely unsurprised by any of it. Anyone else would have reacted with horror, but this is Larry they were dealing with....
Unexpectedly, the moment Larry proposes to Jennifer goes off perfectly, without a hitch. He lights some candles, he dims the lights, he presents the ring box, she accepts, they kiss and hug, and that's it. It also happens at the beginning of an episode, not after twenty minutes of wacky shenanigans have brought them there.
Oh, wait. 45 seconds post-proposal, Larry figures out the ring he bought Jennifer was a fake. She doesn't know, but if you think he's going to tell her, you've clearly just been skimming this article. He sells his car to buy a second ring, then distracts Jen while Balki switches them....but Balki switches them twice, so this means they have to break into Jennifer's house at night while she's sleeping and take the fake ring off her hand without waking her up. They almost pull this off but Jennifer catches them when their butts get simultaneously caught in her window.
One dissolve later to the next scene, they're happy together and Larry has his car back.
DANGLING PRECARIOUSLY OFF A ROCK WALL
At one point, Larry and Balki are dangling precariously off a rock wall. They got here because Larry saw a picture in the paper's archives of a wanted murderer who looks like Mary Anne. Then Balki said on his next date with Mary Anne they would be completely alone....scaling a giant mountain together. Larry insists he tag along to save his life, leading to Balki getting knocked off the mountaintop by accident, leading to Larry tying the rescue rope to a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, which breaks.....leaving them both there, dangling precariously off a rock wall. Their only hope of survival is the dumbest person on the show, who Larry just called a murderer, and also just tied up with rope before this moment.
DEVELOPING AMNESIA BEFORE MEETING THE PARENTS
Larry is even more stressed out than usual when he's set up for a dinner with Jennifer's mother. Her mom didn't like any of Jen's former boyfriends, and they all had much better jobs than Larry. Maybe it'll work out anyway....unless Larry trips at work and falls down a flight of stairs, forgetting who he is. Balki feeds him lines, such as "HALLO, MY NAME EES COOSIN LARRY APPLETON," something he repeats nonstop in Balki's accent.
The difference between this and every other calamity is that Jennifer actually catches this bomb before it's about to go off. She finds Larry in the waiting area and immediately senses something wrong. Balki gives her the full story...and then she decides to press on with the dinner anyway, indicating that Larry may be rubbing off on her in a bad way.
The evening is a complete disaster, but Jennifer's mother ultimately approves of Larry, telling him "There's a certain look of....desperation in your eyes that tells me you will never leave my daughter."
FAILING A COMPATIBILITY TEST
It's getting closer to Larry and Jennifer's wedding day and both parties are getting cold feet. That's when they decide to take a marriage compatibility test. It is, in fact, Balki's test so their first mistake was taking it. Jennifer gets normal relationship "what would you do" quandaries to answer, while Larry for some reason has to perform physical tasks like juggling whie balanced on one foot.
Out of a possible score of 60, they score a 3. They're horrified. Balki says all is not lost...if they go through some kind of "purification ritual." So he makes them stand in a kiddie pool and pours mud over them. It's like this show predicted GOOP.
"It didn't work, you two shouldn't even be friends," he concludes. Larry and Jennifer beg to differ. "I don't care what that test says, she looks terrible caked in mud and I've never felt more attracted to her!" They set their wedding date at that moment and kiss. Then Balki admits the test is purposely designed to fail everyone, because if a couple truly cared about one another, they wouldn't care what the test said. So it's one of those!
THROWN IN PRISON ON THEIR WEDDING DAY
The date Larry picked for his wedding turns out to be the same day that a criminal who looks like him is loose and running around. On his way to the chapel, Larry is pulled over by the cops, taken down to the station and put in a lineup. They did catch the crook, who is also in the lineup, but Larry is fingered instead of him and thrown in jail.
Jennifer has obviously been through a lot by now. The sight of Larry behind bars shocks her enough to not just to question the marriage, but her entire life choices up to this point. She nearly gives up everything to run back to her parents' corn factory in Ohio. But after the studio audience just about "AAAAWWWWWWWWWWW"s her ears off, Jenny admits she can't ignore her heart, no matter how bleak the circumstances look.
So after over a hundred episodes' worth of bad luck, bad decisions, overwhelming adversity, and the kind of Wrath of the Gods not seen since the Odyssey, Larry and Jennifer manage to beat the odds and get married. In prison.
But their troubles aren't over, oh no....
BOUGHT A HOUSE THEY CAN'T AFFORD
Larry and Jennifer go house hunting, but the house Jennifer loves is out of their price range. Balki insists that they should go for the dwelling they love the most, no matter what the sacrifice, and he manages to sway them into an impulse buy.
One scene transition later, Larry and Jennifer are sitting in an empty room, using boxes for furniture, eating the leftover airplane food she scrounged up from her stewardess job. They had to sell their wedding gifts to pay the electricity bill. What a depressing fate for this couple that struggled so hard to be together.
But you haven't heard the worst of it. When Jennifer is out of the room, Larry confesses to Balki that the stress of their situation is making him "unable to perform my husbandly duties."
That's correct....stress makes Larry impotent. This is the saddest thing I've ever learned about him. When is Larry not stressed out?
Fortunately the end solution is so simple that even they can figure it out. The house has three bedrooms, so all they need are two roommates to split the bill. They know Balki, and they know Mary Anne. Problem solved. Unless....
THEIR HOUSE IS HAUNTED
"Wait...you're telling me there were ghosts on Perfect Strangers?" you say incredulously. I don't know why you're surprised, it makes perfect sense. Think about this....
1. Family Matters was a spinoff of Perfect Strangers.
2. Urkel once met the cast of Scooby Doo.
3. The cast of Scooby Doo once met the cast of Supernatural.
Of course there are ghosts on Perfect Strangers -- it makes sense when you factor in the extended universe. And yes, I just connected Perfect Strangers to Supernatural in three steps.
Balki runs down the stairs one morning convinced a ghost is in his room. He's not frightened, he's elated. He's always wanted a haunted room! Larry is skeptical, however. Balki pulls out a book by a Chicago parapsychologist that suggests his room ghost is Chester, a man from the turn of the century who had a gambling addiction and was executed by the mob when he didn't pay his debts. The book also says Chester will appear in full on the night of his murder, which happens to be that night. Fine, Larry says, they'll stay in the room overnight, which will prove the ghost doesn't exist.
Chester sure does exist, and after making Larry, Balki, Jennifer and Mary Anne levitate, the latter two chicken out and head for a motel. Larry is still skeptical and yells out insults in Chester's general direction, making the apparition mad. Balki's hand suddenly smacks Larry in the face. Larry's hand then does the same. For the next few minutes Chester forces them to beat each other like this while the recorded audience howls with laughter. Jennifer and Mary Anne return to the room the next morning to find them passed out.
GOING INTO LABOR IN A HOT AIR BALLOON
Perfect Strangers disappeared from the ABC schedule in the spring of 1992, and it was assumed to be gone for good....until, out of nowhere, six more episodes appeared in the summer of 1993. They chronicled the pregnancy of Jennifer and Mary Anne, and though 99.9% of the problems in the Appleton household are caused by Larry, this final, last brush with death is completely Jennifer's fault.
Balki and Mary Anne go on a balloon ride. Shortly afterward, Mary Anne gives birth. Jennifer is fuming...she was due to go into labor first; this baby just isn't coming out, it's not fair! She develops a weird theory that the change in air pressure induced Mary Anne's labor (well, that's just basic science), and insists she also ride in a balloon. Because of her stupid theory, she, Larry and Balki are trapped in a small basket hundreds of feet above the ground as her water breaks.
They'll just have to hope the ride runs its course before the contractions become too frequent. BUUUT they're rising, not falling. One of the sandbags has a leak. Larry fears they'll rise so high that they'll pass out from lack of oxygen. Balki says no, it's more likely the balloon will pop under atmospheric pressure and they'll plummet to their demise.
Balki thinks he can possibly repair the sandbag if he clings to the outside of the basket. So he climbs out, and though he does stop the leak, he also slips and is now dangling off the end of the basket by his shoe. Larry climbs over to help him and winds up suspended over the clouds, only rescued by Balki clinging to his hair. Salvation finally comes in the form of a news helicopter that spots the incident, but by then Jennifer has had to deliver her child entirely by herself.
Larry and Jennifer are now staring at Tucker, their beloved baby son, as he sleeps in his crib. "Did you ever think six years ago, that we would someday be staring at the next generation of Appletons?" Jenny marvels.
Congratulations, Tucker. You're the luckiest boy on Earth just to exist!