TV Digest - Centerstage
Summer 1988

Top Comedies, Not Olympics Keep ABC Schedule Hopping
"Perfect Strangers" among comedies in rotation

Written by: Anne Wheeler    

ABC, the network that for years had been synonymous with coverage of the Olympics, has made a laughing matter of not showing the Summer Games this year.  Well, so to speak.

The network is counterbalancing NBC's coverage of the XXIV Summer Olympiad by showing, many times per week, its top-rated comedy shows as well as comedy feature films over the next two weeks.

Take "Growing Pains" and "Head of the Class," please.  Kirk Cameron of the former and Howard Hesseman of the latter will be seen four nights this week, while Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot will portray mismatched cousins in "Perfect Strangers" during primetime three nights throughout the week.  "Full House" and "Mr. Belvedere" get into the comedy series rotation as well.

The weeks immediately ahead also feature many of America's top notch comedy talents such as Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Tom Hanks, Michael Keaton, Shelley Long, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Garry Shandling, Lily Tomlin, Henry Winkler and Robin Williams in a variety of feature films and specials.

"Our strategy, while the Olympics are on another network, is quite simply to offer viewers 'comic relief,' drawn from some of the best ABC comedy programs on the air," said Brandon Stoddard, president of ABC Entertainment.  "This way viewers will know they can turn to ABC for a laugh or two."

Speaking about a laugh or two, how about those two mismatched cousins in "Perfect Strangers," played by Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker?

The two have been together since the Mediterranean immigrant Balki Bartokomous (Pinchot) came into Cousin Larry Appleton's (Linn-Baker) Americanized world on March 25, 1986 in the premiere episode.

When Balki left his Mediterranean home and headed for the United States, he precipitated a hilarious culture clash with his unsuspecting distant cousin, Larry, who didn't know what to make of the naive sheepherder who turned up at his Chicago apartment.

The free-spirited Balki, although having improved his English by taking night courses, still frustrates his cousin by mixing Old Country ways with New World ideas.

Pinchot, who plays Balki, has led a colorful life and had an equally colorful career to date.  From a chance part in an off-Broadway play, Pinchot was spotted by the director of "Risky Business" and selected to play Tom Cruise's sidekick.  "The Flamingo Kid" and "Hot Resort" soon followed, and then came his most recognized role as flamboyant Serge in "Beverly Hills Cop."  In between "Cop" and "Perfect Strangers" was a short-lived NBC series called "Sara."

But he maintains the worst job he ever had was collecting dried pine needles to scatter upon an outdoor stage of a Shakespearian theater in the Berkshires to prevent the actors from slipping on the rainsoaked stage.

"I still get a jolt of acquisitiveness when I see a fallen pine tree with handsful of luscious dried needles on it," Pinchot says.  "I feel like I should tuck them away for later."