Perfect Strangers Episode Guide

EPISODE 00 - Unaired Pilot (Knock, Knock . . . Who's There?)
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    It was during the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics that Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett (along with series creator Dale McRaven) came up with the original idea for Perfect Strangers.  They saw many foreigners interacting with Americans at that time and thus the basis of the show was formed.  When Bronson Pinchot gained notoriety with his unique character Serge in the film Beverly Hills Cop, the successful production team of Miller / Boyett (who together and individually had been part of the creative forces behind several hit series such as Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy and Bosom Buddies) saw in the actor their unique and effervescent immigrant.  They approached Bronson about the series and while Bronson was hesitant at first he soon picked up on their vision.  Here was a chance for the actor to actually have important creative input in what he was doing (something he was unable to do on the series he'd appeared in previously, Sara).

    In the beginning the new series was labeled "The Greenhorn" and Miller / Boyett pitched the idea to ABC President Brandon Stoddard for the 1986 / 87 season.  As reported in the September 27, 1986 issue of TV Guide magazine, Miller recalls "Brandon liked the idea but reminded us if we started in the fall, we'd be competing with a lot of new shows.  Then he said 'If you guys can make six shows real fast, I can put them on now.'"  Offering them the irresistible time slot of Tuesdays between Who's the Boss? and Moonlighting, it was a chance the producers couldn't pass up.

    To hear the story told in interviews and articles with various cast and crew members there were several screen tests held with Bronson paired with four or five different actors.  All agree that when Mark Linn-Baker tested with Bronson it was a case of immediate chemistry and they all knew the right comedy team was finally found.  What has hardly (if ever) been reported is the fact there was a complete pilot episode which was filmed before these screen tests!  Bronson did refer to this pilot episode once on a 1986 appearance he and Mark made as Men of the Hour on the talk show Hour Magazine.  Host Gary Collins asked Bronson how many other actors the producers had tested for Mark's role.  "Actually, I had played it with one guy," Bronson explained.  "I mean we actually shot a pilot with another actor and it just didn't work out and everybody said 'There's no chemistry there.'  So he was eighty-sixed and then they brought in five other actors and Mark was one of them.  So I had actually done this with six people and he walked in the door and we did the screen test and it was obvious . . . . "

    The other actor was, in fact, comedian and actor Louie Anderson!  Yes, an entire pilot for Perfect Strangers was filmed with Louie Anderson playing the role of Cousin Larry, or rather Cousin Lou, as he was called in this version.  Information about this pilot is scarce and I've never seen a copy of the show itself but I did happen to obtain some proof sheets of photographs taken during what was likely a dress rehearsal or specifically a still photo session for the pilot.  Using these stills (which I have taken photos of to blow them up to a viewable size) we can piece together what this pilot might have looked like.  I've also recently come across some new information about the pilot.  The photos seen on these pages were taken on November 21, 1985 by photographer Gene Stein.  The series was already called "Perfect Strangers."

The storyline put out by the publicity department reads as follows.  Note the much more cynical tone of this outline for the series:

"Lou Appleton, manager of the Ritz Thrift Shop, a basically losing proposition, is cursed by the arrival of a very distant cousin, Balki Bartokomous just in from the Mediterranean country of Mypos, who needs a home and a job.  The only qualification he has is that of sheepherder and as we know there is a real need for shepherds in the United States.

"In his attempt to help his benefactor and cousin Lou, Balki takes over in the thrift shop just long enough to sell $200 worth of merchandise for $45, and seriously jeopardize Lou's job.  Enter Mr. Twinkacetti, alias Twinkie, the evil landlord and thrift store owner, who has no compassion and wants his money no matter what.  Neighbor Susan steals Balki's heart and he offers himself to her in enslavement.  Another embarrassment for poor Lou.

"Balki rises to Twinkie's challenge in an attempt to save his cousin's job, and repairs an ancient radio which delights Twinkie and assures them both new jobs.  Unfortunately, Balki ruins everything when he sells the complete stereo system for an incredibly undervalued $500.  It seems the two cousins will have to remain roommates as now without work, Lou can no longer afford his apartment alone."

    In these photos we see Bronson on the location shoot for Balki's portion of the theme song showing him leaving Mypos for America.  Apparently these segments were shot for the original pilot but were then used in the opening when the series actually aired.  We now know these segments were filmed at the Disney Ranch on Monday, November 18, 1985:



     Segments were also filmed for Lou's part of the theme song at the same time and place.  Notably different in this segment is that Lou is taking the bus to Chicago instead of driving.  Also his mother seems to be the only one seeing him off (or perhaps the other family members are not in these particular shots?).  Lou's mother was played by actress Bunny Summers.  Notice the camera in Louie's hand as he leans out of the bus window . . . the aspiring photojournalist heading to a new life the big city.



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