How I Spent My Summer Vacation: 1989

Here we are again, with another round of seeing what our beloved cast did in their downtime in 1989.  Let’s go ahead and get this one out of the way:

Melanie Wilson


Okay, now that–

Rebeca Arthur



Belita Moreno


–okay come on–

Jo Marie


Jo Marie Payton chari Bari Ruchi-pip Peri Pembo was on the screen for about 1 whole minute in the film Troop Beverly Hills. She plays a sassy black woman who works in a uniform store and says the word “shit” in front of a bunch of kids.


She also showed up on the “Jailbirds” episode of Small Wonder. She plays a sassy black cop, but she goes undercover–as the only black Misfits fan ever–to scare the robot kid because the robot kid was spraypainting. I don’t know enough about this show to make jokes about it, but that’s okay, because from what I can tell the writers didn’t know enough about making jokes.


FJ O’Neil


On that same episode of Small Wonder, my man RT (Remanded Trial) Wainwright plays a judge. Big whoop.


He was also on an episode of Tales From the Crypt (“The Man Who Was Death”) playing a priest who says a bunch of, ahem, Religious Talk at a prison execution.  What can I say, this man looks good in robes.

Mark Linn-Baker

Mark was on Valerie’s Family: the Hogans (a show that underwent more name changes than an early EC comic*) playing somebody named Stan Forrest. The episode title was “Stan and Deliver”. I wonder who played Deliver HAR HAR HAR. Sorry, no screenshot.

Sam Anderson

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Assistant Manager, “The Royale”

This is the only ST:TNG episode I’ve ever seen, but it lives up to the hype! The bald dude said “Make it so” and everything!  Here, Sam Anderson is–


a slightly menacing assistant manager in a suit! Surprise!

Alien Nation

Thomas Edison, “The Game”


Fun fact: Sam Anderson didn’t need the usual alien bald cap for this episode; he just shaved his head.

Slick Sam was also on an episode of Hooperman playing somebody named Dr. Lazlo. I can’t find it to watch it, but I bet he wears a suit in it. A doctor suit.

I wonder what Bronson’s up to…

Bronson Pinchot



Well, this continues to be the most disappointing feature on my blog. I mean, this is a lot of work just to get across the point that Perfect Strangers was the best thing these actors had going back then. But, hey, Bronson’s big movie was due to come out soon!  Certainly that would elevate the visibility of every member of the Perfect Strangers cast, and we’d see them all rise to stardom.

But for now, let’s do the news & magazine articles from May 7, 1988, through May 6, 1989. Reviewing the news coverage of seasons 1, 2, and 3 all at once was illuminating and worthwhile because those articles told a story about stories that morphed over time. Who Bronson is. How he rose to stardom. Where he’s going. How Perfect Strangers started. How stingy Mark Linn-Baker was with his words and money. To further that analogy, I’d have to say that I’m writing another chapter here. But ultimately, what I want to get from these is whether they a) support, or b) challenge what’s come before; the overall tone of how the show is being treated; whether Bronson says which toe he likes to suck on most.


Season 4

“Bronson Pinchot is a survivor….”

“The problem was, Pinchot wanted to be a real actor.”

I’m a reference librarian, and one of the traits I try to instill in students is to be inquisitive and skeptical.  Part of this includes making sure that at least two independent sources agree on the information you’re using.  So it makes me very happy that I now have another source (the second article is a condensation of the first) to prove Rebeca Arthur was not lying on Pat Sajak’s show when she said that she was going to be the Azalea Queen at the 1989 North Carolina Azalea Festival.  She replaced some unrepentant whore named Julie McCullough, who had appeared in Playboy.  But since Arthur–who studied dance and theater at the University of Maryland–had no primary or secondary sexual characteristics, she was determined to be perfect for the festival.

It should be no surprise by now that Mark Linn-Baker  had definitely been busy in his off-time.  He was one of the producing directors of the New York Stage and Film Company, and that the organization had grown large enough that they wanted to start another such program for theatre students in Sarasota.

Other than that, the article is mostly a collection of all the other quotes that Mark has rehearsed to give during interviews, which seems to hold up across publications, as well as television interviews. I enjoyed making My Favorite Year, I like theater but I am proud of the funny stuff I do on TV, Bronson and I hit it off quickly, the press is disappointed there isn’t behind-the-scenes drama, I’m not quite the straight man, unless you’re talking about Jackie Gleason in the Honeymooners…

god fucking dammit they’re going to do a Honeymooners episode, aren’t they

A couple of choice quotes from that article:

Mark: “…I wanted the next film to be something special. So I ended up turning down a lot of films that came my way. I wasn’t looking to do a mindless comedy. I tried to be very picky.”

Well, that certainly explains him voicing a penis.

Mark (he’s a different Mark who wrote this article): “…the two stars say they’ll be willing to stay as long as ABC wants them.”

Turns out Mark (the actor) has a sister who got married in the summer of 1988, but only after proving to him that she was ready for it by having sex with her fiancee in a piano bar.

.October 9, 1988: the day nothing of any interest came on television.

There’s honestly not a lot here about how good the show is or isn’t.  Again, I have no doubt that there were such articles; they’re just not curated on the fansite. And that’s not a knock on the fansite; weekly TV publications without “guide” in the title were generally thrown away after people were done cutting out the coupons from the Sunday paper.

One reviewer obviously hadn’t watched the show because she uses words like “hilarious” and “laugh” and at one point claims that “Balki… improved his English”. Dusty Saunders of the Rocky Mountain News TV Times claims that not enough people were watching Perfect Strangers, even though it’s funny, really, we promise. Did you see the one where they were in the grocery store? Solid stuff.  In fact, the actors were still trotting out that old Lucille Ball quote. Even Rebeca Arthur admits she thought the show wouldn’t last when she first saw a commercial for the first season. But almost 30 years later, it’s still shown every Friday night at 8:00 on ABC. Wild!

Bronson Pinchot remains the same bundle of insecurity and hauteur.  He claims that he “need[s] to do a certain kind of comedy which is not grown on trees” (emphasis mine). It’s your basic human mental gymnastics that lets you think that you caused your success, because the alternative is that no one, not even you, especially not you, is in control of your life.

But that article is lousy with boasts: he has two homes (one in Hollywood, another in Malibu), superstardom is just around the corner, he had played “bigger parts” before Beverly Hills Cop, he’s the one who recommended Joel Zwick be the director for the upcoming (*ahem*, blockbuster hit) film Second Sight, in which he not only plays the lead, but also rewrote the part.

Bronson also claims that he was the first choice to play Liberace in a TV biopic on ABC. He of course turned it down. After all, sitcom actors who try to take on serious roles are just trying to prove something to people. They look so silly! I mean, it’s not like Bronson can’t do serious roles, everybody at Yale wanted him for serious roles because he was so good at it, but he just doesn’t feel the need to show off, after all, most people prefer comedy because they’re not snooty, it has nothing to do with making money.

He mentions the cousins being on a talk show whose purpose was “dragging men through the mud”. But I don’t think we can trust Bronson’s take on the tenor of the questions, since he claims that all of the women in the front row were openly masturbating over him.

But we again get some articles that give us a more nuanced picture of Bronson. In this 1989 TV Guide (Canadian edition) article, he brags about his success, but also says that he was still doing research on Balki.  Bronson found his father–who left his wife and four kids, as you recall–in 1988, in an “old age” home (this was the 80s, where “retirement” had not been invented yet). According to Bronson here, Daddy Pinchot had “nothing to say. He just doesn’t know me. I don’t see him.”

The easy working relationship between Pinchot and Linn-Baker has been mentioned so many times now (here, by Linn-Baker) that I’m tempted to believe it completely.  Either that’s just the illusory truth effect talking or it really was true.  I think it’s a little bit of both, but I still suspect there’s more to it that Mark’s not saying.  Sure, he’s the one with the more extensive theater background, so when he says that he and Bronson “have a shorthand that only the two of us understand”, I believe him. Like any close relationship, Bronson says he can tell when Mark’s angry–which I bet was hard enough to do, given Mark’s curt, possibly guarded, answers to everything.  (Evidently, Mark’s breathing changes and “his hair starts to fluff up” when he’s angry.)

We get another brief glimpse of Bronson’s admittedly shitty adolescence. Says Bronson: “They say your subconscious has no sense of time, so the part of you that was 11 years old and miserable is still alive inside you”.

And… I think we get a little bit of honesty from him.  In aggregate, the articles I looked at last time ended up portraying Bronson as having thought he was too good for television, and did Perfect Strangers because he was broke. I still think that’s true, but here he frames it as having not been sure that he could play a nice character. And even though Bronson says he enjoys playing a loving character like Balki, the article ends with him saying that he uses the nice character as an excuse to justify acting like an ass to others in real life.

In an article from the San Francisco Chronicle, however, he swears he “won’t play evil”. The author here, John Stanley, made me laugh in a way I don’t think he meant to.  He starts the article trying to describe Bronson as thoughtful, mysterious, distant, and nervous.  But then Stanley says that Bronson comes to life after eating food.  It honestly reads like Stanley has never heard of blood sugar.

Bronson gives us some insight into how he sees and inhabits the character of Balki–or the reverse, as it reads here–and we get yet another indication of Bronson’s relationship to the other sex.  “Women fall in love with the character of Balki and expect to find that quality in me. And when they meet me they suddenly realize I’m either more interesting than they thought, or I’m not interesting at all.”  Gee, sometimes jokes are funny and sometimes they aren’t huh?

Another choice morsel from this article is that, according to Bronson, “Bini” is Balki’s middle name.

Bronson was in Starlog in May 1989, huh?  No wonder that rag folded 20 years later!

The article goes behind the scenes of Second Sight, which was intended (sort of) as a vehicle for Bronson.  Evidently it was the 1988 writer’s strike that resulted in the movie taking so long to come out. The way this article reads, the script had to be “reinvestigated” and rewritten largely by the actors (gee, why is it that actors are always the ones who turn out to save the script when the actors are interviewed?).  I’ll admit I haven’t watched much of John Larroquette’s work in recent years (other than when I go to the gym and Night Court is on one of the televisions), but this Starlog piece paints him as being not at all happy with the movie, or the production of it, or the other actors’ performances. Second Sight evidently had a small enough budget they couldn’t even buy extra ice cream for a second take of one scene. One of the actors tries to describe the movie as “the Three Stooges meets Ghostbusters”, which is nicespeak for “who the fuck knows what this movie’s about”.

A second article about Second Sight makes me wonder why Me and Him didn’t get this much promotion.

Finally, it’s amazing to me how so many details are scattered across these articles; it really has turned out to be necessary to read everything I can to get anywhere near a complete story.  This time around, I learned that the comedy album Bronson had written was done at the request (and payment) of A&M Records, who then turned it down when it was completed.  It’s also implied that Bronson turned down the role of Ben Jabituya in Short Circuit.  Just think!  Bronson could have been remembered as the guy who did brownface, instead of Fisher Stevens! Instead, he’s the guy who’s remembered for saying one sentence.  I’m sure we can all agree who got the better deal in the long run.

Join me in something like 30 weeks for reportage up through season 5.

But join me next week for the actual Season 4 Review!


*Psychology sidebar: priming.  The joke about EC Comics titles was lost on probably 100% of you, but the reason it was on my mind is that F.J. O’Neil was in a show based on an EC Comic.  Priming works this way: subject is shown a stimulus (the word “slavery”) and is then asked a somewhat unrelated question (“name as many presidents as you can”); the stimulus influences the response (subject is more likely to start with Lincoln in their answer).


Susan Campbell


Ah, Susan, will you ever find love?


Is that even what you’re trying to find?


Are you searching for rock bottom, just to see if it’s worth rebuilding on?


Love the new haircut.


2 thoughts on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation: 1989

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