The Lewiston Journal
November 28, 1988

'Perfect Strangers' team works
By Mark Dawidziak, Knight-Ridder Newspapers

When the grande dame of television was asked about the state of network comedy, Lucille Ball immediately put ABC's "Perfect Strangers" at the top of her list.  The rapturous redhead couldn't heap enough praise on the teamwork of Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker.

That type of honor is particularly gratifying to the perfectly matched stars of "Perfect Strangers," who bounce from physical comedy to expertly timed dialogue.

"We consciously try to come out of that tradition," Linn-Baker said in a telephone interview.  "From the start, we wanted to do the type of character comedy you saw on 'I Love Lucy' and 'The Honeymooners.'"

And yes, they're having as much fun as it appears in the episodes that air Fridays at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

"We have a pretty darned good time," Linn-Baker said.  "We have to.  It's hard work and very physical.  We get knocked around quite a bit, but there's a spark of contagious fun when we work together.

"Something clicked the first time we worked together.  It's kind of scary.  We just hit it.  (sic?  May have meant to write "hit it off?")

"Our sense of timing is remarkably similar, even though we approach the script differently.  I tend to look for an overall structure, and Bronson goes moment to moment.

"The approaches compliment each other."

"Perfect Strangers" premiered in March 1986.  Aspiring photojournalist Larry Appleton (Linn-Baker) received a surprise visit from his free-spirited cousin Balki Bartokomous (Pinchot), who had left the joys of goat-herding on the mythical small Mediterranean island of Mypos to pursue the American dream.

In their fourth season, the cousins still share a Chicago apartment, but Larry is trying to make it as a newspaper reporter.

"Balki is the wilder character," Linn-Baker said.  "As with Gleason and Carney or Laurel and Hardy, though, this really isn't a classic straight man-comedian team.  It's a very balanced show, but I think the writers have an easier time writing for me.  Larry is an Everyman.  Balki is more extreme."

A native of St. Louis, Linn-Baker got his first taste of fame as the young comedy writer assigned to guard actor Alan Swann (Peter O'Toole) in the acclaimed 1982 theater-film comedy "My Favorite Year."

Pinchot's big break was playing Serge, the art gallery clerk in Eddie Murphy's "Beverly Hills Cop" theater movie.

Each was expected to launch a career in theater films.  Instead, each turned up in a short-lived NBC series: Linn-Baker in "Comedy Zone" (sic: The Comedy Zone aired on CBS) and Pinchot in "Sara," which also starred Geena Davis, Bill Maher and Emmy winner Alfre Woodard.

"I would have been happy to do more films," said Linn-Baker, who received bachelors and masters degrees in acting from Yale University.  "'My Favorite Year' was a very classy comedy, and I wanted the next film to be something special.  So I ended up turning down a lot of films that came my way.  I wasn't looking to do a mindless comedy.  I tried to be very picky.

"Believe me, I would have jumped at a good script.  The good opportunities seemed to be in theater and television.  I almost wish I had been interested in those films, because I would be very rich right now."

"Perfect Strangers," however, has given Linn-Baker that financial security and freedom to pursue other projects.  The series is so enjoyable that the two stars say they'll be willing to stay as long as ABC wants them.