July 1, 1986
Pinchot Happy to be a Perfect Stranger
By Jim Bawden
HOLLYWOOD - "All we need is one more
Moonlighting," says the ABC executive. "That's not too much to
ask, is it?"
One more hit on the scale of Moonlighting
could mark the difference between another year in the ratings cellar or second
place. When you look at ABC's new series you see just how poorly
positioned the network is. Life With Lucy and The Ellen Burstyn
Show could be surprise winners Saturdays at 8. Competition is weak:
CBS's new cop show Downtown and NBC's faltering Facts Of Life.
But other chances for breakthroughs seem
slim. The renewed MacGyver just might make some headway Mondays at 8
against Kate and Allie (CBS) and Alf (NBC), a talking dog
saga. Thursdays sees a documentary series Our World taking on Bill
Cosby and that's a sure bet for suicide. This leaves Starman, Cold
Steel and Neon and Our Kind of Town, new ABC series that might appeal
to narrow minorities but lack mass appeal.
And then there's Perfect Strangers,
a late arrival last season but one so funny it already counts Lucille Ball as a
big fan. The comedy arises out of a perfect clash of comedy
cultures. Bronson Pinchot, yes the one who stole scenes from Eddie Murphy
in Beverly Hills Cop, plays Balki Bartokomous, a Greek immigrant from a
small Mediterranean island who decides to travel to America, land of his dreams.
Pinchot is free and uninhibited, totally
unlike the cousin he comes to live with, photojournalist Larry Appleton (Mark
Linn-Baker). Their combination is well nigh irresistible. Pinchot
plays Balki as a childlike, free spirit while Linn-Baker is trying to find
himself but can't escape his cousin. Call it a male remake of Laverne
and Shirley if you must, but in six sample shows the sitcom scored high
Perfect Strangers could be poised
to become ABC's Moonlighting of the 1986-87 season. CBS's
competition, Together We Stand with Elliott Gould is weak and only NBC's Highway
to Heaven offers problems. But ABC programmers remember Moonlighting
took a season to take off, too.
"This isn't the first time I've been
discovered," the ebullient Pinchot said. "I always saw myself as
a leading man. Still do. Until others are convinced I'll do
Pinchot told visiting TV critics he felt
the series could only get better with practise. "We did them very
quickly. Both Mark and I stuck closely to the scripts during read throughs
then we tried to improvise a bit when we got working with props. We can
turn on each other with bits of business but it's sometimes hard not to burst
out laughing. The key is not to act funny but do everything in
Pinchot would deny he stole Beverly
Hills Cop. "Eddie was completely helpful. He knew it was my
scene. A bad actor might have spoiled it but I knew my little Serge would
be remembered." Pinchot was less memorable in After Hours -
he's seen at the beginning as a computer trainee next to star Griffin Dunne and
in his debut film, Risky Business as Tom Cruise's pal.
Then he switched to TV and the short-lived
series Sara. "That's why I'm naturally wary. Critics
seemed to like us but we were off in a matter of weeks. It taught me where
to stand in front of the three TV cameras, how to milk the audience for
laughs. The timing is completely different from movies."
Pinchot stole scenes again as ascerbic homosexual lawyer Dennis Kemper but the
series never really had a chance.
Pinchot grew up in South Pasadena and has
a drama degree from Yale University. He wanted to study painting but got
the acting bug in first year. As far as his second series goes Pinchot
says, "I don't want to steal any more scenes, just be part of a team with
Mark. I like playing this shepherd guy. You see, there are so few
good shepherd roles these days . . . ."