TV Register
September 3 - 9, 1989

The odd couple - whether by that famous title or just in the concept - has always worked well on television.  Besides Jack Klugman and Tony Randall’s long-running much-liked adaptation of the Neil Simon play and movie, it’s a snap to tick off other examples of the genre: madcap Lucy and fretful Ethel on Lucille Ball’s shows; cranky Fred and hip Lamont Sanford on "Sanford and Son"; aggressive Ralph Kramden and affable Ed Norton on "The Honeymooners."

The common thread linking all these uncomfortable TV television (sic) pairings, of course, is the affection the characters feel for one another at heart, no matter what predicaments they may get their partners into.

Add to the list of sometimes uneasy but affectionate alliances "Perfect Strangers," the ABC sitcom that is entering its fourth season Friday nights on KABC/7.

In "Perfect Strangers" the clash is cultural but all in the family, nevertheless.  Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot) has left his Mediterranean home for the United States where he turns up on the doorstep of an unsuspecting distant cousin, Larry Appleton.

Larry is a cub reporter trying to get ahead at a large newspaper.  Balki, after a couple of years of hard work at night school, has learned just enough English to land a job in the mailroom of his cousin’s paper, but not quite enough to keep him from getting the two of them into some wild predicaments - usually resulting from Balki’s Old World ways coming into conflict with modern life.

Before "Perfect Strangers" became a hit, Mark Linn-Baker was best-known for his film role as the young man charged with the near-impossible task of keeping an eye - and a tight rein - on Peter O’Toole, who in "My Favorite Year" portrayed a famed actor making an appearance on a television variety show in the heyday of 50's television.

Before that, Baker had a long line of stage credits in regional and repertory theater productions.

"It’s the television magazines that make it seem as if I materialized out of thin air just before ‘My Favorite Year’ and then began working on ‘Perfect Strangers,’" he told the Register’s Barry Koltnow in an interview.  The St. Louis native (reared in Wethersfield, Conn.) earned his master’s degree from Yale University and had numerous roles in Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare Festival productions.

Pinchot made a dramatic splash in the smash movie "Beverly Hills Cop," as Serge, the art gallery employee with the impossibly mangled, affected accent ("Dawn’t bih styupid") of indeterminate national origins.  In retrospect, that movie role may have been just the preparation Pinchot needed for the role of Balki, whose own origins are not defined beyond the aforementioned "Mediterranean."