If you ever get
the chance to attend the filming of a television show, you might be amazed at
the amount of work that goes into putting the whole thing together. But
what you see at a regular filming is only the tip of the ice cube! A
week's worth of hard work (and then some!) goes into each episode. One of
the most time consuming parts of preparing any show is the blocking of the
cameras and actors so the filming will run smoothly the next day and everyone
will know exactly where they're supposed to be.
September 12th, 1991, a group of high school students were invited to witness
the behind the scenes process of filming a television sitcom. In other
words, they were invited to sit in the audience seats and watch the blocking and
filming of scenes for an upcoming two part episode featuring Bronson in a double
role as Balki and Balki's mama.
of the difficulty involved with Bronson's extensive mama make-up, all scenes
with mama were blocked and filmed without a full studio audience present.
Robert Lee was there to warm up the students and explain what was taking
place. Three scenes were scheduled to be filmed that day. Justin
Pinchot was introduced, dressed as Balki for the over the shoulder shots and
wearing lifts to make him the same height as his brother. Bronson entered
dressed as Mama and Mark and Melanie (as Larry and Jennifer) shared a kiss as
Robert explained their characters were now married.
process of blocking is a long one. The actors walk through the scene,
reciting their lines and taking their positions as technical men run forward and
mark their places on the floor. Judy Pioli stops the action often to make
suggestions and changes as their places are marked with colored reference
points. Mama's first scene was blocked with the actors up to her exit into
the closet. Then the actors stepped aside and a group of stand-ins, known
as the second team, stepped in to go through the entire scene again; this time
to block the camera moves. Four people wearing signs saying
"Bronson," "Mark," etc. move to the different marks as the
cameras plan their moves, again with the help of director Judy Pioli. Men
on ladders adjusted lights and after some time the entire scene was blocked.
his was done, the first team was called back to film the scene. Someone
suggested Judy might have to translate her directions into Myposian for Mama to
understand. During the filming they called upon the small audience to
laugh so their reactions could be recorded. The scene was shot all the way
through, then certain parts were refilmed and changed. The part where Mama
crosses to admire the "walk in fireplace" was filmed two ways; the
first time Mama crossed to the fireplace after Larry translated that she
admired their walk-in kitchen, the second time he crossed to the fireplace before
Larry explained the line. They also filmed Mama humming the Hawaii 5-0
theme, then another variation where she just quotes lines from the show because
they had not yet okayed the use of the song in the show (since the song was used
in the episode, they must have eventually gotten the rights to use it).
was allowed to rest during the others' pick ups, especially since it was
apparently tiring for him to carry all that extra weight around on a hot
set! A man named Corey stood in to read Bronson's lines and everyone
laughed at his Mama impersonation! At one point, assistant director Connie
called out that they were done with that scene, then realized they were not
quite done and called out "Sorry! Mini-stroke!"
this scene was completely filmed they moved on to the next scene, which took
place in the newspaper basement. Again the actors walked through the
scene, getting their places marked, the second team stood in for the blocking of
the cameras, then the actors were called back to shoot the scene. They
filmed Mama's entire scene in the office, including one hilarious part which was
cut from the final show where Mama comments on Lydia's "full" figure
and perfect structure for having babies as Larry tried to tastefully translate
her comments. During one take of this scene, Mark forgot to introduce
Gorpley and Miss Lydia to Mama and broke into a dance with everyone else
following suit, creating a Blame it on the Bossanova atmosphere for a
moment. And when Mama stepped into the elevator and waited the prop man
forgot to close the elevator doors the first time!
this scene was finished, Bronson announced he felt air on his face, which meant
the latex make-up had split. Instead of filming the third scene, it was
decided to wrap for the day. The high school students had left after the
end of the first scene. To give you an idea of how time consuming this
work really is the two scene just described took four hours to complete!
next day all the scenes for the first episode with Bronson as Balki were
filmed. The next week the same thing happened, with Mama's scenes filmed
the day before and the rest of the episode filmed in front of a full studio
filming of the second half of the second episode took place on September 20th, a
warm day in Culver City. Robert explained to the audience what had
happened in the episode the week before. Bronson ran by on the stage
quickly and a group of girls in the audience yelled out "Balki!"
Robert asked the girls not to call out "Balki!" during the filming,
and Bronson came back and yelled out "Well, they can yell it now!"
was the first time fans had ever seen Mypos, and the outdoor set was built on
the extra stage. The sheep were filmed running through, then the scene was
reset as the sheep were taken out of the studio. When they started
refilming, Mark entered and crossed in front of Bronson, only o have the
suitcase he was carrying tumble to the ground when the handle accidentally broke
off! A small segment where the sleeping townsfolk sit up to shush Balki
and Larry was cut from this scene.
hut was built in front of the newspaper office set. Every time someone
entered her hut they would kick away "chickens" that cackled outside
the front door. When Larry entered he commented to them "Dirty little
peckers." When the scene was shot again, it was changed to
"Nasty little birds," just in case the censors objected. As it
was, neither take made the show.
very funny moment happened when Larry tore up his airline ticket and tossed it
away. On the first take, he threw the torn ticket into the air, and most
of it landed in Balki's omelette! Fighting back laughter, they continued
with the scene, with Bronson throwing in adlibs like "Well, I've done an
avocado and cheese (omelette) but a turnip and ticket?" (Look for
this shot in the "Next week on Perfect Strangers" segment shown at the
end of the first half!) Near the end of the scene, Mark was surprised when
one of the knocker hinges fell off one of the doors and Bronson ran in to hug
him (the clip of Bronson hugging Mark can be seen in the seventh season and
final show wrap-up blooper reels!)
Pinchot was dressed as Mama for this scene, but without the extensive face make
up, since it was mostly important he look like Mama over the shoulder.
None of the moments with Mama and Larry were filmed, but the scenes were shown
on the monitor so the audience could understand what was happening. The
scene was picked up with Larry in Justin's arms, and Justin had a little trouble
centering himself with Mark in his arms and wearing the Mama outfit!
Several times the cast and crew would walk to the monitors offstage to check the
positions of the characters from the footage taken the day before so they could
match the action exactly. At one point when Balki and Justin were hugging,
Bronson got caught in Mama's hair and they had to be carefully untangled!
last scene didn't take long, but at one point Bronson ran back in from the
kitchen and started coughing when he was supposed to say his line. Mark
quickly filled in with "This is the first time you've choked as an American
citizen!" Apart from Rebeca accidentally saying the judge had
"sworn at" instead of "sworn in" Balki as an American
citizen, the scene went off without a hitch.
was two intensive weeks of work but definitely worth the effort to produce a
to . . . Or Get Off the Pot report