Question: What was the show called that aired in the late '80s and the early '90s and featured a foreigner named Balki and his American friend? They lived in the same apartment and I think the name had "Brothers" in it.

Televisionary: That would be the mediocre-at-best Perfect Strangers, which ran on ABC from March of 1986 to August of '93. I'd call it a comedy, but that wouldn't be fair to shows that actually make one laugh.

The show revolved around two completely different cousins trying to carve out a happy life for themselves in Chicago despite the fact that they were, well, just completely different. The odd-couple roomates (say, that's never been done!) were Larry (Mark Linn-Baker), the uptight one, and Balki (Bronson Pinchot), the funny-talking shepherd guy from a tiny country whose literal interpretations of American customs and sayings often provided comic perspective on society's habits and standards (say, that's never been done!).

If I seem a bit hard on the show — and it does have its die-hard fans — it's because it represents what I see as TV's laziest, lowest-common-denominator way of doing things. Regurgitate a tried-and-true concept, dumb it down, mix in a zany, quotable, lovable misfit and then dumb it down again.

I don't begrudge anyone who can keep a series on the air their success, and Pinchot in particular gets points for overcoming his Martin Short/Andy Kaufman-talented-but-too-weird-for-the-room syndrome (though he's more one-note), but the show was lame on all counts. Furthermore, TV history offers plenty of shows wherein those particular "high" concepts were done smarter (The Odd Couple) and funnier (Taxi).

Um, you're not a fan, right (he asked, preparing to swallow his foot)?