|Bosom Buddies: The First Season (1980)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Peter Scolari, Wendie Jo Sperber, Donna Dixon, Telma Hopkins, Holland Taylor, Lucille Benson
Let us begin the proceedings by admitting what we all know to be true: the only reason “Bosom Buddies” has been released on DVD (not to mention why a show that lasted only two seasons manages to remain in syndication) is because Tom Hanks is one of the most popular movie stars in the world. Otherwise, it would still be lingering in limbo along with fellow ‘80s series like “Flamingo Road” and “Love, Sidney.” (Come to think of it, I’d kinda like to see “Love, Sidney” again…but that’s a topic for another discussion.)
The premise of the show is well-documented, but we’ll go over it again for the kids out there who haven’t yet been exposed to the series. Kip (Tom Hanks) and Henry (Peter Scolari) are best friends and co-workers at an advertising agency. When their apartment is condemned and on the verge of being demolished (they’re awakened one morning by a wrecking ball hitting the side of the building), they find themselves in a desperate situation with no place to live. In a move that only happens in sitcoms, they come up with the solution: dress in drag and get a room in an all-women’s hotel where their friend Amy (Wendie Jo Sperber) lives. So Kip becomes Buffy, Henry becomes Hildegarde, and we watch Hanks and Scolari transform themselves into the least-believable women since Josephine and Daphne from “Some Like It Hot.”
Given the premise, an essential element of the show’s comedic situations comes courtesy of the “girls” having to make sure they’re in the appropriate attire when around various other hotel residents. These include manager Lilly Sinclair (Lucille Benson), as well as the gorgeous Sonny (Donna Dixon), with whom Kip is deeply smitten (and with good reason). Wisely, however, “Bosom Buddies” chooses not to spend every waking hour within the confines of the Susan B. Anthony Hotel. By the second episode, the writers had already inserted the plot device that Buffy and Hildegarde are actually Kip and Henry’s sisters, giving Kip the opportunity to fall all over himself in an attempt to woo Sonny. (There’s a completely inexplicable claim made by Buffy and Hildegarde, however, that they went to school in Saskatchewan, as both Kip and Henry claim to be from Shaker Heights, Ohio.) Because the guys-in-drag gimmick only goes but so far, the majority of the series follows Kip and Henry during daylight hours at the advertising agency, where the chemistry between Hanks and Scolari really shines. It’s also where we get to see Holland Taylor (now on “Two and a Half Men”), as well as more of the late Wendie Jo Sperber, who was cute as a button. (I realize that in the pre-Camryn Manheim days of television, it was hard for not-too-svelte women to get good TV gigs that didn’t involve poking fun at their size. If there were any justice, Sperber should’ve sued someone for the mumu-esque outfits they made her wear back then.)
Given Hanks’ ridiculous ‘fro-like hair during the show’s run, it’s actually a wonder that Scolari wasn’t the one who scored the greater success as an actor. We sometimes forget that he managed to score a long-running gig on “Newhart” as a result of this series. Scolari has also popped up in several projects alongside Hanks over the years, like “That Thing You Do!” and “The Polar Express,” so the friendship has obviously continued. It’s ironic that the show’s gimmick generally makes for the least amusing portion of any given episode, but Hanks and Scolari make “Bosom Buddies” plenty worth watching.
So why the 2.5 star review?Special Features: Not a freaking one. As of this writing, we’re actually trying to get a few minutes on the phone with Peter Scolari, just to see if we can get some clarification on this issue. Was this because no one had any interest in contributing, or because CBS Paramount was too cheap to pony up for anything (you really have to figure it’s the latter, don’t you)? Surely Scolari and Hanks would’ve had a blast doing a half-hour’s worth of commentary. At the very least, it’s a safe bet they could’ve been sold on doing a featurette paying tribute to Sperber, who died of breast cancer in 2005. And if you’re wondering, this isn’t just bashing for the fun of it -- this is an extremely shoddy release all around. Three DVDs shoved into a single case with no booklet and all of the episode details printed on the inside of the wraparound sleeve? Pitiful. You can hear static at the beginning of some episodes, the picture isn’t terribly clean, and, basically, it’s a sad excuse for a full-season set.