'Perfect' opportunity for a hit
by Tom Green
- USA TODAY
FRIENDS AND STRANGERS: Mark
Linn-Baker, left, and Bronson Pinchot have the right chemistry for
comedy on 'Perfect Strangers' - Photo by Bob Riha Jr., USA TODAY
HOLLYWOOD - Talk about
perfect, get a load of the chances that Perfect Strangers has for
clicking tonight as television's newest hit comedy:
ABC has offered up its
most favorable time slot, the half-hour bridging the network's freshest
shows, Who's the Boss? and Moonlighting.
The stars are familiar
faces, if not names. Bronson Pinchot, 26, did more with one minute of
screen time in Beverly Hills Cop than most actors do in 100.
And Mark Linn-Baker, 29, charmed everybody as the young man in My
Creative credentials are
impeccable. Dale McRaven, the creator of Perfect Strangers,
also created Mork & Mindy. Co-executive producers Thomas
Miller and Robert Boyett produced Happy Days and Laverne and
The story casts Pinchot as a
Mediterranean island sheepherder who comes to the USA and moves in with his shy
and uptight distant cousin (Linn-Baker). Pinchot is a foreigner, but
Linn-Baker says, his character is too unique to withstand comparisons to Robin
Williams' alien, Mork.
"This is not one guy
doing a star turn in the middle of a set with a pretty girl nodding,"
Pinchot says. Adds Linn-Baker: "This is character comedy."
In Beverly Hills Cop,
Pinchot played Serge, the effete art gallery clerk with the untraceable
accent. Even though he is doing another accent - faintly Greek this time -
he is not doing the same character in Perfect Strangers.
"This is an ersatz
accent I'm doing," Pinchot says. "No one really talks like this,
although some taxicab drivers come very, very close."
The series was created with
Pinchot in on it from the start. Initially, he admits, there was more of a
Mork & Mindy feel to the show, focusing on his character and the
silly things he would do next.
Another actor had been cast
as the USA cousin, but nobody liked the chemistry. The producers were so
pleased with Linn-Baker that they played up his character.
"I haven't had the
pleasure before of clicking with somebody as much as I've clicked with
him," Pinchot says.
The pairing (both went to
Yale) appears to be an off-screen hit as well. The outgoing Pinchot
shrieks with delight when the more introspective Linn-Baker cracks a joke.
"My character is much
more shy than I am," Linn-Baker says.
"You are very
shy," Pinchot says.
"I'm not shy as a
performer. But I'm a shy person."
"But in a delightful
way," Pinchot says. "Not in a repressed Emily Dickinson
Pinchot has such an
over-powering personality that on their first meeting Linn-Baker got to say very
little the whole evening.
"I was so excited.
It's hard for me to hold in excitement. I hugged him. I love
his work. I went home and wrote myself a note to put on my bulletin
board. It said, 'Let Mark talk.' I think it's still there."
TV Preview / by Monica Collins
ABC, tonight, 8:30 EST/PST
We love to love the
affectionate alien. The cute, bumbly creature from another planet who
doesn't know Snickers from shoe polish speaks a Universal language.
Perhaps we love the innocence
of these creatures, their sense of discovery. In a cluttered,
circuit-overloaded culture, they provide a fresh voice, even if it's a voice we
can barely understand.
presents the latest lovable alien. Balki, the Mediterranean shepherd who
somehow finds himself in the middle of Chicago, is not technically from another
planet, but he might as well be.
He's a guy who thinks that he
can find a job prodding sheep in the middle of the Windy City. He thinks
the phrase "walking papers" means you're given documents entitling you
to a stroll by Lake Michigan. He is an innocent who doesn't know the
meaning of money or greed.
Bronson Pinchot is wonderful
as Balki. And Mark Linn-Baker, as the alien's down-to-earth Chicago
cousin, is also terrific. These two have found the right chemistry for
cut-up and straight-man.
As Balki lurches around,
trying to make sense of modern-day Chicago, his discoveries are rather ludicrous
but engaging. We are laughing at him, with him, around him. Whatever
- we are laughing.
This is broad comedy, not the
Cheers bar. Naivete, not sophistication. So be it.
provides honest laughter. It's funny. And, in TV comedy, that's
reason to take it seriously.