WEEKEND AT FERDINAND'S
written by Paula Wilshe

Attending the filming or taping of a television show is always an entertaining undertaking.  But there is nothing that compares with the feeling of anticipation and excitement that is present when that show is a cherished favorite.  And there's nothing quite like the first time . . . .

We arrived at the studio shortly before six thirty and parked in level two of the parking garage, then we walked around to the guards-with-clipboards where our names were on the Guest List.  As we waited in line we saw the soundstages for Perfect Strangers and Full House -- large warehouse-type buildings with an electric sort-of neon logo on each door.  We recognized most of the names on the reserved parking spaces: Tom Miller, Bob Boyett, Paula Roth . . . we even saw a parking space marked "Reserved for Janice Sweetin" outside the Full House building, and sitting in the car, patiently reading a newspaper, was a man we could only assume was Jodie's dad.

I tried so very hard to emblazon every detail on my memory.  We were so glad that Linda was with us - we kept wondering if we'd have ever found the place! - and we knew that, in Linda, we'd made an instant friend.  We saw Robert G. Lee go in, and finally the doors were opened and we were allowed to file in.  The sets were covered with partitions - we could make out the top of the new house set (blue and decorated Myposian - even Balki's tapestry hanging in the back of the living room) and the Chronicle set over to the left.  Robert warmed up the audience, and at last the theme music welled up and he introduced the cast: Sam Anderson, Belita Moreno, then Bronson and Mark, who raced out holding hands and grinning - which kind of reminded me of their grinning run toward Wrigley Field in the opening credits of the show.

Finally the dividers were rolled away.  This was our first glimpse of the new house, as Balki and Larry had still been living in the apartment at the close of the previous season - and it looked great - door to the left, steps in the back, fireplace on the near right and kitchen at the far right.  We noticed that Larry was wearing a wedding ring, and that despite the new sets there were still many familiar items from the apartment around.

The filming itself went very quickly; not very many mistakes were made and most scenes were shot only one time.  Once they stopped as Bronosn messed up a line, then Mark stumbled over one, once Bronson sneezed, and one time they both cracked up and had to start over.  If it was a tiny flub, they paused a few seconds and just went on.  After each scene there would be a pause while the tape was reviewed, then they'd either go on or repeat the scene, or whatever portion of it was needed.

Robert kept up a patter of funny voices about the crew during the breaks, and I enjoyed watching Bronson and Mark between takes.  They were together a lot, rehearsing lines and moves.  They were constantly brushing each other off and seemingly oblivious to the make up people who were busy dabbing sweat from their faces.  There was one poor girl whose main function seemed to be fixing Bronson's hair meticulously - and each time she walked away, Bronson ran a hand through his hair and shook his head.  Never saw anyone touch Mark's hair.

Director Judy Pioli wandered around a lot between takes - I noticed her rubbing Bronson's back and hugging Mark's shoulders at different times; just an indication of the camaraderie that seemed present on the set during filming.  At times the actors would walk down right in front of us to check a copy of the script, and once early on Bronson looked up, as if he'd just noticed the audience, and said, "Hi, everybody!"

The plot was basically a take off on the movie Weekend at Bernie's (we guessed it would be titled Weekend at Balki's - close!).  The audience was unbelievably quiet during filming, laughing at all the right places and being quite polite.

When the show was over, the stars did a curtain call, then Mark and Bronson came out to answer questions.  When a man asked, "Where's Balki and Larry from?", Bronson broke up and doubled over laughing.  He got Mark going, even as Mark tried to get him to stop.  Robert said to the man who asked the question, "First thing we'll do is get you some lessons in grammar!"  Then a recovered Mark said, "Well, Balki's from Mypos," and Bronson added, "And Cousin Larry is from Madison, Wisconsin."  Mark then looked up at the man and said, "But that wasn't really what you wanted to know, was it?  I'm from St. Louis and . . . . "  He handed the microphone to Bronson, who said, "I'm from South Pasadena."

Someone asked them to do the Dance of Joy, which they did, and Bronson pointed out the man who'd just sold him a Lexus Coupe.  He also introduced Belita's young son, who was sitting in the audience, and when someone asked when tonight's episode would air, Mark asked someone on the crew who said probably in November.

After the question and answer period, the cast remained on the set to do pickups of the difficult party scene, and the ushers began ushering the audience out.  As we stepped outside into the warm, August evening, we couldn't help but realize just what a special time we'd had; a truly magical evening, and one we'd always remember.

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