Simon & Simon Get An Earful and An Eiffel When the Series Goes to Paris

updated 10/01/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/01/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The topless lady refused to budge, nonchalantly soaking up the sun along the Left Bank of the Seine. She didn't seem to notice the crew members stringing cables, setting up lights, positioning cameras. Nor did she protest when they began snapping souvenir photos. Part of the reason the producers of Simon & Simon decided to film next season's two-hour opener in Paris was to add some ooh-la-la to the proceedings: no offense, but San Diego, the series' hometown, isn't exactly the world's sexiest city. Another reason they came—the official excuse, anyway—was to get out of L.A. during the Olympics. Explains production assistant Sally Hope: "We shoot a lot on the streets, and this summer would have been impossible."

The fourth season opener is called Paris When It Fizzles. The sibling crime-solving team of A.J. and Rick Simon—Jameson Parker, 35, and Gerald McRaney, 37—is summoned to Paris by their widowed mother, played by Mary Carver. Seems her new amour, in the guise of sexy Jean-Pierre Aumont, has been kidnapped. Along for the action is Tim (WKRP) Reid, who portrays undercover cop Downtown Brown. (Marlowe, the Simons' sleuthing canine, had to stay home; the animal has crippling arthritis and is not expected to live long.) About the plot, Carver says: "This story shows that women over 50 can have beautiful romances." In fact, at one point, Carver finds herself in the sack with Aumont—in a gunnysack, that is.

Camaraderie among cast members has been as warm as the Paris sun. When McRaney, or Mackie as he's called, arrived on the set wearing a brown fedora instead of his trademark straw hat, Jameson quipped: "Here he is, Harrison Ford." Mackie flashed Parker a sly, just-you-wait grin.

Just you wait is right. The actors are always playing practical jokes on each other, like the time Parker plastered every inch of wall space in Mackie's motor home with nasty, X-rated photographs. Mackie's revenge was sweet: He put a naked woman in the bed of Parker's motor home. She held a sign saying "Happy Birthday." Then he got Parker's wife, Bonnie, in on the joke. When the couple entered their motor home and saw the nude woman, Bonnie faked a jealous rage and stormed out. Parker searched all over the set for her, trying to explain.

Although the cameras and sound trucks have attracted plenty of curious Parisians, neither Parker nor Mackie has been mobbed by fans, as they recently were in England and Ireland. That's because only a few episodes of Simon & Simon have aired in France. About the myth of the French not liking Americans, Reid says, "They've been very pleasant. Even when they're rude, it's a colorful, creative rudeness." Besides the language barrier, the biggest obstacle in filming has been sticking to a tight schedule. "At Universal, lunch is a slice of grease between two slices of stale bread," says Parker. "In Paris," says producer Philip DeGuere, "you set up a tent on the set with tables, chairs and tablecloths, then serve a three-course meal with wine." There's also a midmorning pâté-and-cheese break, which inspired Reid to declare: "I won't eat any cheese that smells worse than my socks."

Everyone on the crew agrees that, like the characters they play, Parker and McRaney share a genuine, brotherly affection. They met five years ago, when Mackie was asked to read for his part opposite Parker, who was already signed. The chemistry was perfect. "We just hit it off," says Parker. "Mackie makes me laugh as much as anybody I know. I know him well enough to give him just the right opening, and then he'll go somewhere totally unexpected. Our relationship is like a marriage. It has its ups and downs, but we're both wise enough not to want to jeopardize it."

Both actors also chose not to cause problems in their marriages: They took their wives to Paris. Jameson brought along Bonnie and their two kids, Jamie, 5, and Christian, 22 months. Gerald's wife, Pat, brought two of their three children, Jessica, 17, and Kathleen Victoria, 1 (Angus, 14, elected instead to attend summer camp). For both families, who socialize off-camera, being in Paris was a holiday, sort of. "I came to Paris eight years ago on my honeymoon," says Parker. "I got food poisoning from eating calves' brains, so I don't totally remember it." Says Mackie: "It would be nice to spend the same amount of time here without having to work. When I go home I'll ask my wife and teenage daughter what they did while they were here. That way I can have a vicarious vacation."

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