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
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."