12 March, 2006
WARNING: The following blog is the sort of thing you write when you are very annoyed and very self-righteous. Those of you who prefer Mr Trivia’s more upbeat persona should look away now.
Long time readers of this fledgling blog, may recall that I said I would get back to you with a report on how the script went – the one I wrote for a local awards show. See that original blog here: Procrastination.
Well, we just did the awards show. It was a live event recorded to be screened soon on local television.
We had a television personality from one of the commercial networks doing the hosting. A man who has done comedy before, has acted before and now does lifestyle programs. We thought he was a sure thing. We believed that the laughs were a lock.
We got cocky.
TV Man decided to be a little experimental and attempted to take scripted gags and turn them on their heads. Thus, he attempted punch-lines before feed-lines. In many cases he said the feed-lines badly, and then didn’t do the punch-lines at all. And then he wondered why the laugh never came. And then he got under-confident!
Seriously, almost all of the gags he had where he did the feed and the punch-line sharply, got some kind of laugh.
I sat at the back and watched him getting nervous. I saw him attempt to go sideways into some of the material, hoping that he could get a laugh through ad.libs. And he got some. But not enough.
I was particularly gratified when I heard, “I’m just an actor reading a script” which was his way of saying – “I’m not responsible for writing this stuff. Don’t blame me if it isn’t funny.”
I look at it another way. When you’re an actor, you’re responsible for learning your lines, Cue-Card Man. I hear tell that when some people go from acting to presenting that they get lazy about things like rehearsal.
I was brought up with an apology reflex. I am usually one of those people who when you walk into me, I will apologise.
However, the reflex just isn’t kicking in this time.
My reaction to, “I’m just an actor reading a script” is this.
Next time, read the f***king script properly.
And next time, don’t blame your tools.
Excoriating the Unrehearsed
06 March, 2006
From 1986 to 1993 the whole planet rocked with laughter as it enjoyed the mirth-filled antics of Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot) and Cozzin (Cousin) Larry in 150 derivative, yet formulaic episodes of the sitcom Perfect Strangers.
Balki, a “sheepherder” travels all the way from the Mediterranean island of Mipos, in order to live with his Cousin Larry, a would-be writer in Chicago. It soon transpires that Balki is a screw-up in his native Mipos and basically has no where else to go!
Cousin Larry (Mark Linn-Baker) is fussy, stitched-up and an order freak. Balki (Bronson Pinchot) is a crazy, out-of-control, good-hearted, funny foreigner. Yes, indeed, it’s The Odd Couple meets Mork and Mindy. And only about one-quarter as funny.
Series creator Dale McRaven was actually one of the creators of Mork and Mindy and had writing credits on television’s The Odd Couple, so clearly it wasn't a stretch to bring together these elements and twist them slightly in order to make Perfect Strangers.
Its the predictability of the plots that make this sitcom less than classic. However, the lead performances are quite excellent. Linn-Baker and Pinchot had real chemistry and energy that meant that even the worst episodes of this show had their snap and sparkle to carry it through.
For those who wish to see either actor in a non-Perfect Strangers capacity; Pinchot was memorable as Serge in the first Beverly Hills Cop (1984) but also good in the so-so Vibes (1989). Mark Linn-Baker is probably best seen in the 1982 movie My Favourite Year (directed by Richard Benjamin).
So why do we celebrate this series? Because for one short period, it was a thread in the complex tapestry of our lives. Unless you have cable, in which case you probably saw it this morning.
Elevate the Insignificant
Jo-Marie Payton Noble, who played the elevator operator Hariette Winslow was later spun-off into the television series Family Matters (yes, the one with Urkel in it).