The Times Leader - Wilkes-Barre, PA
November 11, 1988

 Pinchot says 'Strangers' is just perfect for him

Written by: Gary Deeb

Bronson Pinchot is the clever young actor who plays Balki, the lovable European immigrant, every Friday night on the hit situation-comedy "Perfect Strangers."  He's a television star, but he's nobody's fool.

This column has learned that Pinchot, amazingly, was the first choice to play Liberace in ABC's biography of that flamboyant entertainer.  Last summer, when the producers of that film contacted him about the role, he didn't know whether to let out a scream or a bellylaugh.

"I told them first of all that I wasn't interested because I don't really respond to that character," Pinchot said.  "But more important, let's face it -- everybody would just fall off their couches laughing.  I mean, there's no way I'm gonna dress up in a mink and do a bunch of sad scenes.  It's just not gonna work.

"Can you imagine?  You're breezing through TV Guide and you suddenly see: 'Tonight -- Bronson Pinchot is Liberace.'  I mean, people would lunge for their popcorn, plop themselves in front of the TV and get ready for a 'Saturday Night Live' send-up.  They'd figured it'd be the funniest thing they're ever likely to see.  I told those people to forget it.  Are you kidding?  Me as Liberace.  That's really inspired casting, don't you think?"  (Editor's note: Andrew Robinson would play Liberace in that telefilm instead)

Indeed, Pinchot has nothing but rancor in his heart for television comedy actors who decide to dabble in dramatic acting in order to demonstrate their versatility.

"I have sympathy for actors like that, but not very much respect," he told me.  "I mean, some of these folks decide they're gonna do a dramatic role because they've been eating green beans all week and now they're gonna have pot roast.  Most of them wind up looking very silly.  I mean, if somebody came up to me and said, 'Bronson -- how 'bout taking this role?  It's about a guy with nose cancer and at the end of the movie, your nose falls off -- and it's a really great role and it's on NBC -- and they're the hot network' -- I'd say, 'No!  Excuse me, but absolutely NO!'  That's so absurd.

"When I was in college, I was the guy they came to for all the heavy dramatic parts.  I enjoyed doing them and I think I played them well.  But now that I'm known for Balki on 'Perfect Strangers,' I don't have this great urge to show the audience my versatility.  I mean, I think I show a lot of versatility on 'Perfect Strangers.'  It's not what I call 'Family Ties' comedy, which is basically just a lot of people talking.  Our show gets into behavioral humor.

"You know, it's ridiculous that some people consider comedy a lesser art form than drama.  Not only is comedy usually more difficult to play, but the audience prefers it -- and so do I.  When I think about which movie I want to go see, I almost always pick a comedy or a fantasy.  Obviously, so does the public.

"I loved the movie 'Ironweed,' but I felt really miserable for 24 hours afterwards and I sure didn't see a lot of other people in the theater.  But you literally have to fight your way in to see an Eddie Murphy movie."

As for "Perfect Strangers," Pinchot says he and his talented partner, Mark Linn-Baker, aren't especially crazy over having been switched by ABC to Friday nights, where there are fewer viewers than on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"But we just do our work and that's the only thing we have any control over," Pinchot said.  "I mean, there's nothing we can do about it if the network moves us to a new night: it's out of our hands.  That's how it is in showbiz.

"I mean, I hate to sound like some 45-year-old guy with a toupe, but you just do your work.  Believe me, just to have a good job and to be able to act every day -- that to me is the most fortunate position in the world, so I'm perfectly satisfied.  Plus I make a bundle."

Gary Deeb is a television writer with North American Syndicate.