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Bronson Pinchot was first approached by producers Tom Miller and Robert Boyett to play the role of an immigrant to the United States, in a show tentatively titled "The Greenhorn"; he refused, not wanting to play another character similar to "Serge"—his role in Beverly Hills Cop, who also has an unusual accent. He reconsidered after returning from a trip to Greece, and decided to base the character and the fictional island of Mypos on the people he had encountered in the villages of Greece. Pinchot came up with the name Balki, after his sister's dog; she had named the dog "Balcony" and ended up calling him "Balcy" for short.
The character of Balki was born and raised on the fictional Greek-like island of Mypos, where he eked out a living as a shepherd and dreamed of a better life in America. Balki is a naive, optimistic, well-meaning person; as Pinchot once said of his character, "...he looks at the world like a four-year-old" and "sees the world as benevolent". These traits, along with his ignorance of American culture, sometimes get Balki into difficult or dangerous situations, with Larry, his cousin, invariably coming to his rescue. However, Larry soon realizes that for all Balki's naivety and cultural malapropisms, he otherwise is a very intelligent and courageous man of many talents who often saves the day himself.
Mypos, as described by Balki was a somewhat strange land, with many bizarre customs and traditions. One episode had Larry going duck hunting and the normally gentle Balki surprisingly asks to come along, out of an intense hatred for ducks, which are regarded as vicious predators on Mypos. The description he gives of the ducks on Mypos later in the episode, however, implies that in fact Pterodactyls still exist on the island. It's also described as being something of a primitive, backwards place, with Larry once mentioning that the whole country had just one telephone and only the royal family had indoor plumbing.
Balki's keen sheep keeping skills come up a few times, particularly in the fifth season episode "The Selling of Mypos". In this episode, King Ferdinand sends Balki the Hat of a Thousand Quibbles, in order to negotiate the sale of Myposian land to an American company. Balki saved the island from potential ruin when he realized they wanted to store toxic waste there; he did not let the sale go through, passing up a hefty negotiator's fee for him and Larry.
It's revealed in the sixth season episode "See You in September" that Balki is a licensed nupitiki doctoruthiki, a Myposian marriage counselor. He administers the Myposian marriage test to Larry and Jennifer, to help them get over their fear of getting married. However, no mention was made of this in the second season episode "Since I Lost my Baby", when Balki and Larry attempt to save the Twinkacettis' marriage.
Balki traveled to America at the age of 22, to live with his distant cousin Larry Appleton, carrying his meager possessions in a trunk quaintly labeled "America or Burst". A scene depicting this is shown during the opening credits throughout the run of the show, although it was somewhat shortened from season 3 on. In the series pilot "Knock Knock...Who's there?", Balki appears on his Cousin Larry's doorstep in Chicago, explaining that he had gone to Madison, Wisconsin to find Larry, only to find he had just moved to Chicago. The pilot to Perfect Strangers was originally filmed with comedian Louie Anderson as the Cousin Larry character; however the role was recast with Mark Linn-Baker playing the part, and the original pilot never aired.
Balki is very close to his mother, whom he calls "Mamma". Balki sends her half of his paycheck and frequently writes her letters. In a season 7 episode (Citizenship), Balki's mother (played by Bronson Pinchot) came to the United States to see Balki become an American citizen (though due to a mistranslation on Larry's part, Balki's mother originally thought she was coming to see Balki get his driver's license). When Balki's mother learned that Balki was becoming an American citizen, she was hurt because she had hoped that Balki would return to Mypos. Balki's mother gave Balki a "chicken foot" with a missing toe, which meant that unless he did what his mother wished, Balki was no longer her son. Balki returned to Mypos, and Larry followed him to convince Balki's mother to let Balki return to the United States. Balki did so and became an American citizen.
In the season 5 episode "Because They're Cousins", we find out Balki has a cousin named Bartok (also played by Pinchot) who had immigrated from Mypos to Los Angeles six months earlier. Bartok's experiences in the New World changed him for the worse. When Bartok visited Balki in Chicago, Bartok conned money from Balki. Later, Balki convinced Bartok to become the person he was before going to Los Angeles and to return to Mypos.
While Balki mentions his father a few times throughout the series as though he were still alive, he does not come to America with Mamma, nor do we see him when Balki and Larry travel to Mypos.
Balki may or may not have a sister named Yanna. In the episode "Sexual Harassment in Chicago", Balki said his tapestry was a gift from his sister Yanna, and he has also mentioned missing his nieces and nephews at Christmas. However, when Larry and Jennifer get married, Balki says he never had a brother or sister.
In the pilot (Knock Knock... Who's There), Larry got Balki a job at the Ritz Discount store, a store at which Larry was already employed. They worked for Donald Twinkacetti.
Balki was accepted at Chicago City College in the a season 4 episode (College Bound), and attended until at least Season 6, when he ran an unsuccessful campaign for student body president.
In Season 3, after Larry got a job at the Chicago Chronicle, Balki began working for the mail room of the Chicago Chronicle. Larry and Balki both worked in the same room in the basement of the chronicle. Balki worked for Sam Gorpley who regularly insulted Balki. In season 7 (Dimitri's World), Balki was promoted (with Larry) at the Chicago Chronicle. His new job was writing Dimitri's World, a comic strip about his beloved sheep.
In a season 2 episode (Hunks Like Us), Balki met his girlfriend Mary Anne Spencer at a health club. Balki married Mary Anne in 1992. In the first part of the series finale (Up, Up, and Away (Part 1)), Mary Anne gave birth to their son, Robespierre-Boinki Bartokomous.
Whenever Balki is immensely pleased by something, he does the "Dance of Joy" with Larry. This is always preceded by Balki exclaiming, "Now we are so happy, we do the dance of joy!" The dance consists of leg kicks, jumping, and alternating chants of "Hey," ending with Larry jumping into Balki's arms.
His favorite catchphrase is: "Well, of course not, don't be ridiculous!" Some of his other favorite expressions were: "Wow", "Where do I come up with them?", and "Get out of the city!".
Balki has a stuffed sheep named Dimitri. In the seventh season episode "Dimitri's World", Balki explains that the wool used to make the stuffed sheep is from an actual sheep named Dimitri from Mypos, who was killed while saving Balki from being run over by a carriage. Dimitri can often be seen in the background, dressed and posed in a way to reflect what is going on. For example, in the episode "Falling in Love is...", Balki puts out a bowl of wax lips for his date with Carol; throughout the episode, Dimitri can be seen wearing a pair of wax lips as well. Also, from Season 7 on, there is a framed picture of Dimitri on their mantle.