The Times-News, Hendersonville, NC
August 16, 1986

 Pinchot Sounds Perfect for 'Strangers'

by Charles Witbeck

HOLLYWOOD -- Balki is a scamp, an impish immigrant who delighted enough viewers last spring during a trial run of "Perfect Strangers" to warrant a Wednesday night 8 p.m. spot on the ABC fall lineup.

"Perfect Strangers," with two Yale boys, Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker, playing cousins in another version of "The Odd Couple," too a few weeks to unwind -- until the Yalies turned forced material into playful stuff.  The kids are just getting the hang of it, so "Perfect Strangers" could be fun in October.

Best of all, the show tells us that ABC is growing up.  Instead of macho heroes copying the wooden bit, the network swipes from "Moonlighting," toying with humor instead of guns and heavy breathing.

How else do you explain Bronson Pinchot's immigrant Balki who descends on Cousin Larry in America?  It's like making Andy Kaufman the lead in "Taxi."

Pinchot, an irreverent kid with brains and a taste for Greece and ancient furniture, caught the eye of show co-producer Tom Miller while playing the haughty art gallery clerk in the movie Beverly Hills Cop.

Snotty art fellows in movies seldom jump into show leads, but Pinchot happens to be a Holden Caulfield type, half-boy, half-man, with deviltry about to pop out.  He just attracts attention.

Miller and partner Robert Boyett wanted a pliable imp to bounce off orderly Larry (Mark Linn-Baker).  A few minutes with Pinchot was enough.

First, let's go back to South Pasadena Junior High School where young Bronson played the smart aleck.  He got straight A's, yet was always standing outside for offending teachers.  One irked soul called Mrs. Pinchot and said, "We're going to nip this in the bud."  The bud continued to bloom.

In the high school where William Holden was told by his chemistry teacher he "would never amount to a hill of beans," Pinchot drew and skipped class.

"I stayed home, read, and sent papers in with my sister.  Class was boring," he recalls.  He graduated with honors, had scholarships to Dartmouth, Yale, Cal-Berkeley and Reed.  Bronson preferred nearby Art Center so he could be a painter.  Mom and high school art teacher thought this a waste of scholarship, and packed the boy off to Yale.

"Yale was like opening up an artichoke for me," says Bronson gratefully.  Mom was right.

A year ago last March, Bronson and Mark sat with "Perfect Strangers" producers discussing character.  Since he had returned from Greece, "a beloved place . . . the people are so warm," Bronson suggested a Greek character.

Call him Apollo.  Out.  Producers liked Zev.  Then Pinchot offered Balki.  His sister used to tease his brother about a cat she called Balcony, or Balki.  Everybody bought Balki.

"We cut the Greek identity so we wouldn't offend anyone," Bronson continues.  "My accent on the show comes from about 40 percent 'Beverly Hills Cop,' 20 percent Greek, 10 percent Romanian, 20 percent I make up, 10 percent Italian.  I love accents.  I can do any if I hear it.  Except a Dublin accent.  That took weeks."

Ivy Leaguer Pinchot still draws and travels to Greece.  He thanks Mom and Yale for opening up the world.  "Acting," he says.  "Why it's like someone pouring hot caramel over your head.  It's delicious.  And fun.  Some day I want to do a one man show about a person who never lived."