Globe and Mail (Canada)
September 30, 1986
Actors compared to
Carney and Gleason
Perfect Strangers make perfect friends
Bronson Pinchot is a guy who
really loves his own jokes. In fact, the star of ABC’s rising new series
Perfect Strangers finds everything funny these days.
''I called my agent last week and he asked
if I’d do this one-day project for some huge amount of money - and I just had
a laughing fit,'' says Pinchot, eyes twinkling and face aglow. ''I mean, I
phoned my agent four years ago from a pay phone in New York to ask what’s
going on and he said, 'Who are you, again?’''
'Pinchot was making ends meet as an
80-words-per-minute typist in temporary office jobs in New York, but all of that
changed after his portrayal of a pretentious gay art clerk in the hit movie Beverly
Hills Cop. Acting jobs blossomed, and despite the failure of a
short-lived NBC series called Sara he returned to television last March.
With Perfect Strangers dropped into
an auspicious time slot after the successful comedy Who’s The Boss?,
the series drew a large and enthusiastic following in just six episodes - and
even became the subject of a profile in Rolling Stone magazine, whose
endorsement usually brands a show as ''guaranteed hip.''
Perfect Strangers has
done so well it now plays a central role in ABC’s plan to rebuild after a
number of losing seasons. The network has pushed it up 30 minutes to the
all-important opening slot Wednesday evenings, where it will have to stand alone
and be expected to draw a large audience.
Early season ratings for the show, which
jumped to 13th over-all one week, indicate the hot run will continue, but series
co-star Mark Linn-Baker says there’s nothing new in the formula for success.
''We took our inspiration from the old
Lucy shows and The Honeymooners,'' says the cherub-faced actor.
''There is something special about that old-fashioned character comedy.''
In the series, Pinchot plays Balki
Bartokomous, a free-spirited and untarnished shepherd from the Mediterranean
region who arrives in America in search of his dreams. He lands on the
doorstep of Larry Appleton, a compassionate distant cousin entangled in
post-adolescent angst while working in a discount store and trying to make a
breakthrough as a freelance photographer.
On paper it seemed to be just another Odd
Couple, but the chemistry between the two actors was so strong that Rolling
Stone also compared it to The Honeymooners and suggested that Pinchot and
Linn- Baker might become the Art Carney and Jackie Gleason of the ‘80s.
''Linn-Baker plays Appleton like a young, thin, bookish Ralph Kramden - a
polite, thoughtful nine-to- fiver whose frustrations and disappointments
threaten to throw him over the brink,'' the magazine said. ''Pinchot’s
Bartokomous, meanwhile, is possessed of a doe-eyed lunacy and a wiggy
disconnectedness that plays off Linn-Baker’s wire-tight Appleton the way Art
Carney played off the Great One.''
When Bartokomous has to throw a surprise
party at 3 a.m., he hits the local doughnut shop and rounds up a bunch of night
owls. When Appleton has to wake Bartokomous from a deep sleep, he imitates the
cry of a hungry wolf.
And so it goes - exuberant naivete and
playful friendship that affects the pair in real life.
Pinchot almost fell down laughing as
Linn-Baker answered a question about his switch from stage to TV.
''Well,'' he said, holding a long
pause. ''It got to the point where,'' and then another long pause.
''I was getting hungry.''
Pinchot erupted in hysterics, pounding
Linn-Baker on the arm and rocking on his chair, and as the interview proceeded
he took every chance to hoot and carry on with his buddy. These two like
each other, and series creator Dale McRaven says this simple fact is central to
''This is a show about friendship,'' he
says. ''And if people don't like each other, the television camera really
picks it up.''
Executive producer Robert Boyett says the
actors’ stage backgrounds ''are also a deciding influence on their smoothness
and chemistry. It gives the appearance of a play, rather than actors who have
just stood in front of a camera in Hollywood.''
Pinchot and Linn-Baker both studied drama
at Yale University, but Pinchot says with a grin: ''We’re actually from a
school that doesn’t have a name. I don’t know if anyone else ever went