Bosom Buddies was a short-lived US sitcom that was more notable for launching the career of its two stars – Peter Scolari and Tom Hanks, than it was for its memorable moments of comedy.
Graphic artist Kip Wilson (Hanks) and writer Henry Desmond (Scolari) were roommates working for the same advertising agency who needed a cheap place to live after their apartment building was demolished. Co-worker Amy Cassidy (Wendy Jo Sperber) told them about the Susan B. Anthony Hotel. Problem was, it was restricted to women only. But Kip and Henry-lured by the low rent and the idea of being around beautiful ladies all the time - decide to dress up in female attire and pose as Buffy and Hildegarde to get a room there.
Kip and Henry also appeared at the hotel, pretending to be Buffy and Hildegarde's brothers. While Amy knew of the ruse, Kip and Henry had to hide their real sexual identities from the hotel's manager, Lily Sinclair (Lucille Benson) and fellow residents Isabelle Hammond (Telma Hopkins) and beautiful model Sonny Lumet (Donna Dixon).
At the advertising agency, Henry and Kip were managed by boss Ruth Dunbar (Holland Taylor), who always took credit for their work. Bosom Buddies was actually funniest when Hanks and Scolari were not in drag; audiences could then enjoy the easy banter and comic chemistry between Hanks and Scolari as well as their frequent use of improvisation.
The series was conceived by Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett as a male counterpart to their hit sitcom Laverne & Shirley, but they had set out with a completely different idea. Bosom Buddies was pitched to ABC executives as a straight buddy comedy which Miller and Boyett described to them as "a sophisticated Billy Wilder" type of production. Wilder had directed the hit movie Some Like It Hot in 1959, which starred Jack Lemon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe. In the movie, Curtis and Lemon are on the run from mobsters who want to kill them and disguise their identities by dressing as women. When the execs asked what Miller and Boyett meant by the comparison to Wilder, this was the film they mentioned. ABC bought the show on condition that it would include men in women's clothing. Not wanting a refusal, the two writers went away knowing that they would have to completely rethink their idea and tailor the story accordingly.
The first series was much shorter than planned because of a strike by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists over wages and other contract issues as well as payments for income from the then new home-video market. Nevertheless, when it did air its rating were strong enough suggest a successful run. But ABC began switching the show's broadcast day and time slots. When Bosom Buddies returned for its second season, the first order of business was having Kip and Henry come out to the girls (by this time, Isabelle became the hotel's new manager, replacing Lily). The two guys (and Amy) also left the agency to start their own ad firm called Sixty Seconds Street (with Ruth as a silent partner). But the ratings failed to budge, and ABC cancelled it.
NBC aired repeats of the series during the summer of 1984 - no doubt because by that time, its two stars were doing quite well. Tom Hanks appeared in the film hits Splash and Bachelor Party, on his way to becoming a hugely successful Oscar-winning actor and producer. Peter Scolari became a part of the Newhart cast playing shallow uber-Yuppie Michael Harris, and continued to appear in other films and television series. He later had a recurring role as the father of Lena Dunham's character on HBO's Girls, for which he won an Emmy in 2016.
Bosom Buddies had an unbelievable plot, but the performances of the cast made it work. Both Scolari and Hanks delivered well-rounded performances with great interplay between the two. Hanks particularly displayed impeccable comic timing and his acting skills were very well showcased. A megastar in the making.
Published on January 10th, 2021. Written by Mike Spadoni and Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.