July 27, 1986
Pinchot, Mark Linn-Baker Click
in ABC's Perfect Strangers
which can't be bought in stores, can make a wonder drug of a standard
over-the-counter television series.
seasons, ABC has experimented successfully with some formidable buddy
and Penny Marshall were perfectly suited to the Lucille Ball-style pratfalls of
Laverne and Shirley.
amazed grace opposite Robin Williams kept Mork and Mindy from becoming purely a
Tom Hanks and
Peter Scolari, in or out of drag, made Bosom Buddies much more than an excuse
for Donna Dixon to get down to her leotard.
which became an insty-hit last spring in a comfy time slot between Who's the
Boss? and Moonlighting, is looking like another of ABC's good buddy
shows. The premise is pat -- an odd coupling of two guys who are as
different as, say, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. But the stars of Perfect
Strangers, Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker, took their chemistry well
beyond the test tube stage during the series' spring tryout run.
Pinchot is Balki
Bartokomous, an innocent from abroad, in this case the Mediterranean.
America is the land of his dreams, which makes one wonder why Balki wasn't
worked into ABC's recent Liberty Weekend hoo-hah.
Balki's cousin, Larry Appleton, living on his own for the first time after
growing up in a large family. Balki unexpectedly drops in on Larry, who
expectedly is upset. This isn't Tales of the Unexpected, however.
Balki and Linn-Baker became fast friends in the time it takes to sing
Feelings. Next season, ABC will move their friendship to Wednesdays
at 7 p.m., where "we'll be the first ones to hit the beach,' as Linn-Baker
says, in a tougher time slot opposite NBC's Highway to Heaven and Together We
Stand, a new CBS sitcom. Perfect Strangers begins priming for the
fall on August 5, when the series gets one more exposure in the Tuesday, 7:30
p.m. time slot before moving the following night to Wednesdays at 7 p.m.
Perfect Strangers was
pitched to all three networks in the afterglow of the 1984 summer Olympics in
Los Angeles. Co-executive producer Robert Boyett said he was
"impressed by the patriotic fervor that existed and how Los Angeles became
a great hospitable town' before reverting back to cynicism on the day after the
Games. Boyett wanted to rekindle the Olympic flame with a comedy about a
foreigner who comes to America to marvel at what a great country it is.
But ABC wasn't immediately interested, CBS was developing a series
adapted from the movie Moscow on the Hudson (it never aired) and NBC wanted to
model a comedy after the "wild 'n' crazy guys' originated by Steve Martin
and Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live (it never aired either).
Pinchot and Linn-Baker kept kicking around. Both attended Yale University,
but didn't know each other at the time. Both auditioned for the movie
Risky Business, but Linn-Baker doesn't remember meeting Pinchot in the waiting
"breakthrough' role came in the 1982 film My Favorite Year, in which he
babysat a besotted actor played by Peter O'Toole. He also was a regular in
the CBS summertime series Comedy Zone.
unaccountably warmed up in Hot Resort. "It was just a sub-movie,' he
recalled during a recent interview. "It cost a million dollars to
make and it was one of those horrible exploitation films where four guys go to
the Caribbean and have sex."
absorbed some behavioral traits on the set of Resort from a makeup woman and a
soundman, "both of whom were very strong characters from Israel.'
When asked to play the "small, nothing role' of Serge, the art gallery
clerk in Beverly Hills Cop, he used the mannerisms to all but steal the movie
from star Eddie Murphy.
"He's not a
dummy,' Pinchot said of Murphy. "He had two salient reactions.
One was, "That's funny.' The other was, "How can I end this'?'
Pinchot's stock surged.
almost laughable,' he said. "People were calling me every single day
and camera crews were coming to my apartment from Australia and France. I
was living in this little hovel that used to be a housing unit for Paramount
starlets in the '30s. Now it's a flophouse on el Serrito Place. I
remember a reporter from Rolling Stone calling me on the phone, and I had to
tell him, "Wait a minute, I'm talking to USA Today. Can I call you
Pinchot made what
seemed to be a deft career move, accepting the role of the gay lawyer Dennis
("a completely straight homosexual,' Pinchot now jokes) in the 1985 NBC
sitcom Sara. Produced by Family Ties creator Gary Goldberg, the series
staggered and flopped despite a major buildup from NBC.
(of script) came in very frequently, because they really didn't know what the
show should be,' Pinchot said. "One day, somebody's dog came on the
set and (defecated) under a plant. And one of the actresses on the show
leaned over and said, "New pages'?'
was sold to ABC on the strength of Pinchot's Serge characterization.
Balki, he says,
is a "refined Serge, but not a complete copy. It's just another
Linn-Baker say they are doing television because it pays well and because it was
immediately available to them.
absolutely willing to star in several major motion pictures,' Linn-Baker
said. "I don't think either of us sat down at some point and said,
"Well, I think rather than a career in major motion pictures right now, I
will do the lead in a TV series'.'
There are worse
fates, though. Legendary Lucille Ball, who will try to make a comedy
comeback next season on ABC's Life with Lucy series, says Perfect
Strangers is one of her favorite sitcoms.
painting in water colors and having Renoir say, "Good work',' Pinchot said
of Lucy's rave.