television situation comedies, Perfect Strangers is filmed before a live
audience, usually anywhere from late July to mid-February. Since many fans
don't live in the Los Angeles area, attending a filming can be a real
treat! But for everyone who can't attend a filming, we have included this
section in our newsletter to take you behind the scenes of some episodes and
give you an idea of what happens when they film a show. Our first
installment will cover the routine of attending a filming and the strange
incident when 400 audience members witnessed an accident on the set.
was late afternoon, around 5:30, on September 23, 1988. There were more
people showing up now, as audience members with tickets have to be at the studio
by 6:00 to get their tickets numbered. Seasoned audience members know to
get there early: there's an order of priority that leaves ticket holders on the
bottom. Guest list people get in first, then turn-aways (people who tried
to get in the week before but couldn't) then bus groups (some pre-arranged group
trips, some from Universal Studios and Audiences Unlimited), then booked groups,
then priority ticket holders (from Universal Studios) and finally general ticket
holders. But the seating is about 400, so if a ticket holder plans to get
there early and wait, there's still a good chance of getting in. (Tickets
are given away free in excess to guarantee a full audience . . . it is like this
on every show).
comes and goes and the pages are keeping extra busy. The show is scheduled
to start at 7:00, but there is a delay. From where we stand in line on
Washington Blvd. (nowadays audiences wait inside the gates on Overland) we can
see the studio [on the MGM Studios lot in Culver City where the show was
filmed], and the red light by one door is flashing. This means work is
going on, and it would appear they are rehearsing late. Since audience
members cannot enter the studio, busloads of people are standing inside the
was not strange considering the state of the entertainment industry at that
time. A long writer's strike had delayed the fall season and now that it
was settled everyone was rushing to get back into production. It was late
September and only one show had been filmed so far for the year (The Lottery).
a longer wait than usual they start letting bus people in. We are still
not sure if any of the general line will make it, but after priorities are
seated we are told some of us will make it. For those of us in the front
of the line, this is good news. We get taken in.
studio set is large. A long row of seats face the stage, and the sets are
blocked by partitions for the time being. When they are removed later on,
the Chronicle building set is on the far left. Situated center stage is
the apartment. And to the right is a makeshift set for whatever setting
they might need (at the time, the stairway for Piano Movers is there . .
. the third stage won't be used this time).
warm-up comedian [a substitute for Robert Lee this time] goes through his paces
and explains what will happen. Finally the lights dim, the theme music
comes up, and the cast is introduced.
Bronson and Mark take their bows, the partition for the newspaper set is pulled
away and the filming begins. The show usually take about an hour and a
half to two hours to complete (P.S. has a reputation of being very fast with
filmings, often only needing one take per scene!).
looking in good shape . . . not many mistakes. The character actor playing
the part of Doug Perkins is having a little trouble with his line.
don't tell me . . . you're in my spot, right?"
pauses and looks perplexed. "No, you're in my
spot!" They take the scene again.
Mark has trouble remembering one line. "Better check his
batteries," Bronson kids.
the most part the filming is going smoothly. Between scenes the comedian
keeps the audience's enthusiasm going, even though no one seems to be
restless. They are into the apartment scene, and this was where something
happened which no one expected.
was the scene where Larry was trying to make Balki mad to show he needed to
follow the Stop! assertiveness method to get his raise. It was the first
take, so no one in the audience knew what was supposed to happen. Bronson
grabbed Mark by the shoulders to shake him. He pushed Mark back, then
forward, when pow! Their heads connected and Mark literally hit the
floor. A few seconds later, Bronson followed suit.
audience was laughing . . . of course. We thought it was supposed
to happen. The crew was even laughing, since Bronson and Mark often kid
around on the set. But after a few moments it was apparent something was
not right. Neither of them were getting up. The crew ran forward and
stood around as people tended to the guys. The audience really couldn't
see anything because of the crew but when they moved away Bronson and Mark had
been taken from the set.
the comedian was quiet for a while, not sure how to deal with this strange turn
of events. No one seemed to know how bad off they were. But less
than fifteen minutes later both Bronson and Mark came forward to show they were
all right, and finished the show.
special part of attending a P.S. filming is the fact that Bronson and Mark come
out after the show and answer audience questions. Even after the accident
they answered questions, although Bronson held the microphone (Mark usually
does, but he was obviously still dazed).
wasn't until Bronson talked about the incident on Good Morning, America
and Mark touched upon it in TV Guide that we realized how badly hurt they
had been. Bronson explained that they had not rehearsed the scene since
they'd done something similar before, but when their heads connected his tooth
went into Mark's forehead. Bronson said that for the rest of the show,
whenever his tongue hit his tooth he saw stars. They went to the emergency
room right after the show (where people bothered them for autographs) and Mark
had one stitch while Bronson later needed to have a root canal. [Note -
the crew did an excellent job of staunching the blood on both actors so the
audience members would not be frightened.]
amazing to think after all that they finished the show and came out to
answer questions (Bronson commented in one interview that the producers made
them finish the filming). It just goes to show what real showbiz troopers
to Pipe Dreams report