Hanks for the memories, Judge Brett Cullum says. He warns that Paramount didn't bother to dress up this bare-bones release.
Our review of Bosom Buddies: The Second Season, published September 12th, 2007, is also available.
Friendship can be a real drag.
Bosom Buddies was a typical sitcom from the early '80s that revolved around one simple gimmick stolen from Some Like it Hot. In the show Henry (Peter Scolari, Newhart) and Kip (Tom Hanks, The Da Vinci Code) have to dress up as women to live at an affordable women's hotel in New York City. The series only lasted two years and 38 episodes before running out of steam, but it remains a fan favorite which hasn't been seen often in syndication or on home video formats. Bosom Buddies: The First Season provides us with half of the entire run, and a chance to see Tom Hanks in a dress one more time.
Facts of the Case
Kip and Henry are struggling advertising men in New York City who find their apartment building has been torn down to make room for pricey condos. Down on their luck with no place to go, they seek refuge with a co-worker at her nicely appointed and affordable apartment. Amy's (Wendie Jo Sperber, Back to the Future) hospitality comes with a catch, though, as her residence is an all-women's hotel. Kip and Henry must masquerade as "Buffy" and "Hildegarde," using women's clothes from an advertising campaign they are working on. Once inside, the boys realize they like life posing as women. Kip has fallen for Amy's roommate Sonny (Donna Dixon, Doctor Detroit) and Henry sees a chance to turn the experience into a novel he has always longed to write. They move into a vacant unit and begin the adventure of posing as the fairer sex everywhere but when they show up to the office.
The biggest reason to purchase Bosom Buddies: The First Season is the chance to see a revered actor in a dress. Tom Hanks is certainly the star attraction, and rumor has it his influence prevented the series from being released earlier. Back in 1980, Tom was a struggling 24-year-old actor without much to his resume. He was a comedian, and the show allowed him to marry his nice-guy persona with his skill at taking pratfalls. He's certainly good here, but I wouldn't go so far as to say you can tell he's going to win back-to-back Oscars from this fluffy show. Here, Hanks is part of an ensemble that worked well and usually rose above the silly plots thrown at them week after week.
From the looks of things, the creators of the show were pinning their hopes of success on Tom's co-star Peter Scolari. He had more experience on television, and seemed to be the true lead if you had to determine one. Scolari certainly never ascended to the heights later achieved by his now-famous acting buddy, but he has remained someone who consistently gets work on the small screen. He recently got a chance to work with Hanks again in The Polar Express, voicing "the Lonely Boy" for that feature. The two are obviously still friends after all these years. What makes Bosom Buddies work so well is the chemistry between Scolari and Hanks. They have a great comic energy together, zinging the dialogue at each other at a rapid pace that reinforces the idea these two men are close.
The rest of the cast was filled out with less notable, but extremely competent, comedic actresses. Donna Dixon was luminous as the ditzy blonde Sonny, whose sole purpose is to show up in spandex. The unbeatable Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men) shows up as the haughty boss of Kip and Henry at the ad agency. Wendie Jo Sperber plays Amy, the only person in on the secret. She would later come onboard for Bachelor Party, which would reunite her with Tom Hanks and Adrian Zmed, who pops up in one episode on this set. Sperber was a major talent who unfortunately passed away in 2005 due to complications with breast cancer. Telma Hopkins (Gimme a Break!) was also onboard as one of the residents at the Susan B. Anthony Hotel for Women.
Bosom Buddies definitely feels dated. This set includes the 19 half-hour episodes that comprised the opening 1980-81 season. The pilot is slightly different from the remainder of the season, but the show plows along with its "boys in drag" formula for the remainder of the discs. Fans may recall in the second season that the secret was out about Kip and Henry, but we don't get to see that in this first collection. The series is lighthearted goofy fun that hearkens back to a simpler time when the war of the sexes was seen as cute. Bosom Buddies reminds me a great deal of Three's Company with its sexual politics and the idea of guys having to pretend to be something they are not in order to survive in a new living arrangement. Most of the comedy comes from the drag sequence, in which Buffy and Hildegarde become privy to inside information on the way women are. Kip and Henry often use the insights they glean to disastrous effect in their personal life. It's something Tootsie with Dustin Hoffman would lay claim to two years later with a much smarter script. The situations and gags rely mostly on the physicality of the cast, and there's little serious examination of the emotional side of things. There is very little arc to the season and, apart from the setup in the pilot, you could watch the episodes in any order.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Paramount's DVD treatment for Bosom Buddies: The First Season is a drag. There is no effort to clean up any of the old shows, and the quality varies wildly from shot to shot within episodes. The pilot was shot on film and in the worst state. Colors are faded and from scene to scene we see completely different states of film exposure. Shots are too dark, color schemes shift, and the whole thing looks like bad VHS. Once the series officially begins, the source is switched to videotape masters. These are in better shape, but they do have problems and hiccups now and then. It's a real shame no effort was put into this project. The sound mix is a not-very-impressive mono. There are no extras at all.
Fans will also note the Billy Joel theme song "My Life," which opened the show during its initial broadcast, has been replaced on every episode with a Stephanie Mills number called "Can't Shake Me Loose." Billy Joel for some reason has pulled the rights to the original opening, and no agreement could be reached to make it available for this release. I didn't think it would make too big of a difference, but it ruins the energy of every show's opening. "Can't Shake Me Loose" is such a nondescript R&B tune that doesn't set the mood as well as "My Life." It's a real shame to have to make that alteration. Also scattered throughout the shows on DVD are changes to incidental music to avoid pricey rights issues. You even lose some footage now and then because of this.
Classic '80s sitcom enthusiasts will be dancing in the streets waving their long-sought-after copies of Bosom Buddies: The First Season. It's a great release if you're looking for the origins of Tom Hanks, and a cute show to pass the time. The bad news is the transfers are poor, there are no extras, and the opening music has been changed. It doesn't prevent you from dancing, but it does change the tune you're grooving to. Bosom Buddies has never gotten a comprehensive release on a home format. Years ago, four VHS volumes turned up, and syndication on cable channels has been sporadic at best. This is a unique opportunity to see the show again, even if some of it has been altered due to rights issues.
The wankers who produced this DVD release are guilty of giving it a no-frills, here-it-is treatment. Go ahead with your own life and leave me alone to enjoy what's left of this silly but fun show.
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