A 'Leftovers' Refresher Course on that Brilliant Series-Long Running Gag
The title of this week’s episode of The Leftovers, “Don’t Be Ridiculous,” is a reference to a popular catchphrase from the 1986-1993 ABC sitcom, “Perfect Strangers,” which starred Mark Linn-Baker as Larry Appleton and Bronson Pinchot as Balki Bartokomous, the character who often repeated the catch phrase.
The opening theme for this week’s episode of The Leftovers also comes from Perfect Strangers, and while it feels like a joke, the punchline in the episode is more of a gut punch.
In the episode, we meet Mark Linn-Baker, the star of Perfect Strangers, who tells Nora Durst that he knows how Nora can reunite with the kids she lost to The Departure. According to Linn-Baker, physicists discovered that the Departure is associated with Low Amplitude Denzinger Radiation (LADR), and physicists built a device to recreate the radiation allowing people to “depart” to where ever their loved ones departed to, assuming it’s not a scam that simply disintegrates its subjects.
Linn-Baker has decided himself to “depart” using the LADR device because of the guilt he feels from being the only of the major Perfect Strangers cast members left behind (the other three leads all departed in the original Departure). The guilt that Mark Linn-Baker feels, however, is not new to the series.
In the first season we learn from Kevin, Sr. that one of the strange, statistical anomalies of The Departure is that all of the cast members from Perfect Strangers were taken in The Departure. Balki, Cousin Larry, Mary Anne and Jennifer were all part of the 2 percent of the Earth’s population that was suddenly no more.
However, in the second season, we discover that Mark Linn-Baker actually was not taken, but because of the guilt he felt about his castmates departing, Linn-Baker faked his departure, and was living in Chihuahua, Mexico.
The original idea for the gag came from Jackie Hoyt, a producer on The Leftovers, and while it began as a running gag on the series, it paid off in a big way tonight in “Don’t Be Ridiculous.”
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