As I mentioned in a post last month about the wildly popular DIY Network show revolving around the erstwhile Robert Van Winkle’s home-flipping racket, the mythical island of Mypos’ favorite son, Balki Bartokomous, is also entering the home renovation TV show fray with “The Bronson Pinchot Project.” And with that show set to debut on the DIY Network this weekend, you might think I had forgotten all about poor Balki. I mean Bronson. Well, of course I didn’t forget about him … don’t be ridiculous.
Even though he appeared in supporting roles in some great films like “Beverly Hills Cop” (Serge!), “Risky Business” and “True Romance” throughout the '80s and '90s, Yale-educated Pinchot will never, ever be able to live down his signature, Cousin Larry-tormenting role in the long-running sitcom, “Perfect Strangers.” But from the sounds of it, that’s totally copasetic with the actor as he has taken the advice of his most famous role and gotten out of the city — way out of the city — to rural Harford, Pa., where he’s emerged as a prolific renovator of neglected 19th-century homes in need of TLC.
Over the past several years, this most unlikely preservationist has purchased a half-dozen homes and buildings in and around Harford and saved them from age, decay, and possibly the wrecking ball. Pinchot’s painstaking work on these homes is the focus of the new show. And since this is rural Pennsylvania and a beloved character actor known for his accents and high-energy on-screen flamboyance that we're talking about, I'd expect some fish-out-of-water humor to come into play.
But I wouldn't expect another “Vanilla Ice Project.” Dissimilar to the ostentatious, dude-friendly remodeling stylings of his fellow former Surreal Lifer, Pinchot isn’t pimping out these historic manses with helicopter landing pads and pneumonic elevators. Working alongside a small and dedicated team of local carpenters and contractors, Pinchot is a salvage-happy renovator who incorporates antiques and various reclaimed materials from other homes into his projects. Nor is Pinchot flipping the homes.
He describes his special relationship with his projects to Slate:
They’re just friends — that’s my relationship with them. Once or twice, I’ve said, ‘I’m going to make this wonderful, and then I’m going to rent it.’ As soon as it started to be good, I thought, ‘No, I can’t let people in here. What if they accidentally hurt it or break the cupboards?’ They just become parts of the family. They’re my harem.
Whatever you do, don’t call what Pinchot does restoration:
The thing that I want to happen is for people to pick up the idea of ‘Stablilize but don’t restore.’ I don’t even know what restore means. Restoring is a very arrogant concept. If you’re taking a house from 1812, do you restore it to how it looked the day after it was built, or restore it to the way it looked in 1828, or the way it looked in 1872? Do the minimum to stop it from falling apart, and then get away. Leave it alone, the same as you do with children. You can’t take a little girl who loves dump trucks and put her in a tutu. You really can’t. And if you do, somebody’s going to run away from home. Let them be, and give them the best possible dump truck you can.
For more pearls of wisdom from Pinchot, head on over to Slate for this great interview. He’s a funny guy — not funny-naïve like Balki but funny-funny. And be sure to catch the first episode of “The Bronson Pinchot Project” this Saturday (Feb. 11) at 10:30 p.m.