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
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
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.
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.
compliment each other."
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
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
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.