Balki's back! Bronson Pinchot has new show

JOANN LOVIGLIO
Associated Press
In this photo taken Feb. 1, 2012, Bronson Pinchot poses for photos at his home in Harford, Pa.  Pinchot, best known for his starring role on the 1980's sitcom "Perfect Strangers," is back on TV with a new show about restoring his historic Pennsylvania homes. The show, “The Bronson Pinchot Project,” premiered this month on the DIY cable network. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)
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In this photo taken Feb. 1, 2012, Bronson Pinchot poses for photos at his home in Harford, Pa. Pinchot, best known for his starring role on the 1980's sitcom "Perfect Strangers," is back on TV with a new show about restoring his historic Pennsylvania homes. The show, “The Bronson Pinchot Project,” premiered this month on the DIY cable network. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)

HARFORD, Pennsylvania (AP) — For more than a decade, former "Perfect Strangers" star Bronson Pinchot has spent much of his downtime in the picture-book Pennsylvania hamlet where he found a dream home far from the stressful clamor of New York or L.A.

Pinchot likely remains best known as the endearingly naive, quasi-Mediterranean immigrant Balki Bartokomous from the TV sitcom. But unlike Balki, Pinchot is by his own admission "fiercely private."

Still, he has decided to open his doors to America via "The Bronson Pinchot Project," which premiered Feb. 11 on the DIY Network. In all, eight episodes were shot over 13 weeks at the end of last year in Harford, a village founded in 1790 and nestled in the Endless Mountains near the New York state line.

His filmography includes 1980s hits like "Risky Business" and "Beverly Hills Cop," but since "Perfect Strangers" ended in 1993 after eight seasons, Pinchot has performed on and off-Broadway, appeared in touring theatrical productions and done voiceovers and audiobooks.

His new show, though, is altogether different.

First, the designs are his own. "I get a kick out of it because I sit there with a sketchbook and say, 'This is what it should look like when it's done' and in the end it either looks like that or it's better," he said.

Home base is Pinchot's circa 1840 mansion in the center of Harford, a town of about 1,300 people. Pinchot bought the place in 2000.

When he arrived, the scene couldn't have been better staged by a Hollywood set designer: The house smelled of cinnamon toast, the air outside smelled of fresh manure, a woman pushing a baby carriage paused to admire a neighbor's fuchsia roses across the street.

"I was already sold, but that was like God was hitting me over the head with a sledgehammer," he said. "OK, I get it, I get it!"

He now owns six historic properties in Harford, including what was a burned-out vacant home also from around 1840 and a sweet blue-shingled building that houses the town's post office.

The first season's architectural stars are his Ionic-columned mansion and Decker House, a smaller home rehabbed with salvaged wood from demolished old buildings, windows from an abandoned farmhouse and floors from a property formerly part of late heiress Doris Duke's estate.

Not only is "The Bronson Pinchot Project" a show about historic restoration, it's a love letter to his adopted hometown.

"Harford is to be seen through my lens, which is that that it's heaven on earth," he said. "None of this 'big fish in a little pond.'"

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Online:

"The Bronson Pinchot Project": http://www.diynetwork.com/the-bronson-pinchot-project/show/index.html