I am pretty much convinced that Tom Hanks can play any character and make it convincing. He has made movies that I did not particularly like, but I loved him in them. I think he could even play a man dressing as a woman to get a cheap apartment in an all women’s building. Wait… he did do that. And it was fantastic.
Bosom Buddies was a sitcom that ran for only two seasons from 1980 through 1982. While I was a bit young for it then, it was running in syndication when I was in elementary school and I have quite fond memories of watching the show with my mother. I also have fond memories of having a major crush on Tom Hanks’ co-star on the show, Peter Scolari.
Reminiscing aside, it was a show that created its fair share of buzz when it first premiered. Two men lose their dirt cheap apartment and learn from a close friend that there is a super inexpensive place where she lives, the Susan B. Anthony Hotel. The catch, of course, is that it is a women only building. Kip and Henry (Hanks and Scolari, respectively) decide that dressing as their alter-egos (and fictional sisters) Buffy and Hildegarde, is more than made up for by paying an affordable rent. Posing as the sisters, the two ad executives also introduce their male selves to the ladies in the building. Oh, and Kip falls in love with another tenant in the building – a buxom blond by the name of Sonny (Donna Dixon). Hijinks predictably ensue.
So that about sums up the first season (also available on DVD). As the second season began, it became increasingly clear that the premise of the boys hiding their true gender was quickly wearing thin for comic gold. In the very first episode of the season Kip outs his secret to Sonny and in the second episode, “There’s No Business…,” Henry uses his and Kip’s savings to buy his uncle’s miserably failing commercial production house.
Presumably the writers hoped this new story line would provide the needed boost to keep their show around. They were admirably able to get sixteen more episodes out of the idea, with Kip and Henry taking on their old boss (expertly played by the always perfect Holland Taylor), reminiscing about their first job out of college, trying to save money (and getting arrested), and struggling to keep clients.
The real winner on this show though, was never the plot lines, but the interactions of Hank and Scolari both with each other and the fun cast of supporting characters. The two play well off of each other and they are more than believable as best friends. Telma Hopkins is typically funny, if not overly so, as the hotel manager where the men/women live.
But the comedy star of the show is Wendi Jo Sperber. You are more likely to remember her from her turn as Linda McFly in Back to the Future III, but she had near perfect comic timing and a bubbly personality that made her an instantly likeable character. As the boys’ best friend (and partner in their business) Amy, Sperber was hilarious in her not-so-secret crush on Henry. Sadly, she passed away in 2005, so was unable to enjoy the DVD releases of both seasons of the show.
Aside from storyline issues, Bosom Buddies sometimes suffered from too much comedy, a common affliction in '80s sitcoms. The biggest offender, I’m sad to say, is one Mr. Tom Hanks. He is charming and perfect when he is delivering witty gems of sarcasm, but when asked to perform physical comedy or reactionary quips, he is often over the top in a way that can be grating. Luckily, he is hilarious just by standing around, glowering in a blue dress and pumps.
My biggest surprise came when the first opening credits rolled. When the show originally aired, and in some syndicated runs, the theme song was Billy Joel’s “My Life,” although the actual Joel version was never used. On this release, a vocal version of the show’s back credit theme (by Stephanie Mills) takes over, much to my dismay. It is a terrible song, even by sitcom theme standards, and provides what are probably the longest opening credits to a television show ever.
Special features are sadly lacking, as with so many of those television shows of our childhood. Here you get only full screen format (try to control yourself) and a sales presentation. Yikes. Really, did no one at CBS ever interview these guys behind the scenes?
But like the back of the box says, “Comedy is not always pretty.” If you were never a fan, this most certainly isn’t going to change your mind. If you liked this show, its interest and nostalgia hold up for a second viewing on DVD.Powered by Sidelines