Spectator TV Times
April 11 - 18, 1987
Oscar and Felix of the 80's
- Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker are thieves. Pinchot stole from
Eddie Murphy. Linn-Baker stole from Peter O'Toole. They were both
found guilty and sentenced to stardom.
Murphy and O'Toole
never recovered their lost goods. That's what happens to scenes, nebulous
items from the movies that once stolen, can never be returned. Pinchot
stole his two minutes as Serge, the pretentious art gallery clerk in Beverly
Hills Cop. Linn-Baker's robbery was less spectacular but equally
effective in My Favorite Year as a comedy writer assigned to keep the
Errol Flynn-like character of O'Toole away from blondes and booze.
stealers Pinchot and Linn-Baker are being hailed as the Odd Couple of the
Eighties. As the culture-clashing cousins in Perfect Strangers,
they are Felix Unger and Oscar Madison in different clothing, two opposites
living a not-always peaceful existence under one roof. The series made
ripples for ABC when it came on late last year and was a sleeper hit of the past
Proving that there
is no honor among thieves, it is Pinchot who pockets most of the scenes in Perfect
Strangers. As Balki Bartokomous, a Mediterranean sheep herder who has
come to live with his straight Midwest cousin, Pinchot grabs centre stage with a
generic accent and a naive, vulnerable character who is in awe of American pop
culture. "I can't believe it," sighs Balki. "I am
finally in America. Home of the Whopper." (sic - of course we know
that's not how that line goes!)
The accent comes
from memories of growing up with his Italian mother, Russian father, and various
aunts and uncles who never quite melted in the American culture pot.
course of my life I've just picked up little sounds that tickled me," says
the 28-year-old Pinchot.
"My father was
of Russian descent, born in New York but raised in Paris and came to this
country speaking no English. To learn, he went to about three movies a day
back in the Thirties. He left home when I was a little boy, but I do
remember him speaking like a Thirties movie star, like Robert Taylor with this
undercurrent of French and a little Russian. Just this extraordinary
accent. It was like four different accents with this 'dahling' on top of
it. Just bizarre."
Balki comes from the
imaginary Mediterranean island country of Meepos (sic). Pinchot
wanted to make him Greek ("I love Greece"), but says it was a godsend
the producers decided to make Balki a universal character.
"I'm glad they
made it Meepos (sic). That way nobody can say it's Russian or Greek
or Italian. There are certain accents I can't get out of my head.
Because we made it a country that was imaginary, I've been able to put them all
together in one, sort of, clump."
Hills Cop, Pinchot's stock was so high that he and his affected accent
literally got Perfect Strangers to air. Co-producer Robert Boyett
says the series was initially turned down by all three networks until he and his
partners came up with the art gallery clerk who upstaged Eddie Murphy.
Pinchot says he is
much like the vulnerable Balki, and off-screen even shares a fondness for what
could be the music of his character's native Meepos (sic). Although the
actor is a medieval music buff whose tastes lean toward French court music of
the early 15th century, he has one tape of early Greek music that "only has
three notes at a time because it was carved on rocks at Delhi. Where there
was a big crack they don't know what comes next."
He never liked
himself in Beverly Hills Cop, but admits it was two minutes that changed
am. I get a lot of free coffee now."