The Toronto Star
July 1, 1986

Scene-Stealer 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 ratings.

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 comedy."

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 character."

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 . . . ."