Bosom Buddies was a big break for Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari
The show, airing from 1980 to 1982 for two seasons (37 episodes, in total), was about two guy (not gay) friends pretending to be women in order to get an apartment in a building that was for single women only.
The plot device was admittedly a stretch, but it was one that allowed for a humorous exploration of gender stereotypes — and, it’s okay, we could suspend disbelief for the pleasure of enjoying the madcap antics of these two incredibly talented actors. (Check out the video below of the original opening and closing credits to see what we mean!)
Somewhere along the line, however, the network execs sold themselves on the idea that there should be a cross-dressing twist, accepting the show only upon the condition that the main characters would be in drag.
And, thus, Bosom Buddies (get it?) was born, with the Hanks character Kip Wilson in drag as Buffy and Scolari/Henry Desmond as Hildegarde. Yes, even way back then, those undercover names were just as ridiculous as they sound now.
The show didn’t enjoy great ratings when it originally aired, hence its cancellation at the end of only two seasons; but it did achieve more success and popularity in syndication after Tom Hanks made it to the A-list.
Below, we have a TV Guide promo of the premiere episode, as well as an interview with Hanks that was published in fall of 1981, on the eve of the season two premiere. – BB
About Bosom Buddies: When this sitcom was new (1980)
Excerpted from TV Guide – September 13, 1980
You think you’ve got problems? Consider the plight of Henry Desmond (Peter Scolari) and Kip Wilson (Tom Hanks), two struggling young ad men.
Their campaign for Blouse City has just been ripped into tiny shreds, and Henry has lost a parakeet named Modigliani. Worse, they’ve just been evicted from their apartment.
With some help from Amy (Wendie Jo Sperber), who’s bananas over Henry, they move into the Susan B. Anthony Hotel, an all-women’s residence.
Henry and Kip accomplish that feat by posing — and dressing — as “Hildegarde” and “Buffy.”
This is not all bad. Unlike, say, your neighborhood YWCA, the Susan B. Anthony Hotel is populated almost entirely by eye-popping beauties, including Sonny (Donna Dixon), who gives Kip goosebumps.
To keep the series going, however, our reluctant transvestites will have to spend some of their time in women’s apparel, and that could get to be a drag.
Tom Hanks finds a friend in “Bosom Buddies” (1981)
From an article by Chuck Bins – The Town Talk (Alexandria, Louisiana) November 21, 1981
For two years, Tom Hanks pounded the streets of the city searching for a job. He recalls those times with mixed emotions.
“[New York] was a dangerous, fabulous, ugly, beautiful place.” He worried about how to keep his family warm when the boiler in the apartment broke down. He worried about the bills.
But he was also doing what he wanted to do — and it eventually paid off. He was spotted on an ABC “cattle call,” asked to come back for more interviews, flown to LA, screen tested, and finally selected for the role of Kip Wilson in “Bosom Buddies.” Now when Tom Hanks comes to New York, he walks around incognito.
MORE: See the “Bosom Buddies” theme song & opening credits below!
Kicking and screaming
Performing on the sitcom, Hanks said, has made him more realistic about things and much more critical of his own work — “It’s only made me crave to be better.”
And, of course, there are the financial windfalls. He just bought a car, a Japanese model to conserve energy, and he’s thinking about buying a house. (He now lives with this wife and four-year-old son in a rented home.)
“I have an accountant who says, ‘If you don’t buy a house, you’re going to lose your shirt,'” Hanks mimicked in a heavy Yiddish accent.
“So there’s all those kinds of pressures. The business world has opened up, and I’m sort of being dropped, kicking and screaming.”
But inside, Hanks is still the some funny, down-to-earth guy, and, except for his sense of humor, he feels he is quite unlike Kip Wilson.
“This guy I am playing is extremely fashion-conscious, which I am not.” (Dressed in worn denim and a blue plaid flannel shirt, with a Mickey Mouse watch around his wrist, Hanks is a walking testament of that.)
“He’s pretty much up on his latest, which I am not. And he attempts to be a gadabout town at times, which I am not. The sense of humor is the same, because that is the nature of the way we rehearse — the give-and-take, the flow, the improvisation. So a lot of things Kip thinks are funny, I think are funny, too.
“But I could never live with a guy in that situation, not for an instant,” Hanks quickly added. “And I don’t think I’ve ever been as close to a good friend as Kip and Henry. I think I’m a bit more of a loner, a stay-at-home sort of guy.”
In the show. Kip and Henry work at a Madison Avenue advertising agency and live in an all-girls boarding house. This season, the show is focusing less and less on the hotel, and more on Kip and Henry’s personal and professional lives.
That also means there will be fewer occasions in which the two will have to dress in drag, which pleases Hanks to no end.
“It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like doing it, because all aspects of the show are fun, but I think we really just exhausted that premise for comedy.”
While Hanks would never say he and his co-star, Peter Scolari, are as ‘tight’ as Kip and Henry, he does share a close relationship with his co-star.
“It’s kind of ridiculous. because we’re turning into best friends. He lives near me, so I usually get a ride into work with him, and we talk things over. And he gives me a ride home. And if I’m coming to New York at the same time he is, I give him a call.
“At times, we look to each other for guidance and suggestions and bona fide help about what we’re doing with the show, and our feelings about it.”
Both Hanks and Scolari come from the same type of “ensemble” school of acting — Hanks, from the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival (in Cleveland), and Scolari from the Colonies Theater Lab. And a major factor in developing their friendship has been that they have almost the identical system of working, Hanks said.
“The way we get going during rehearsals is very much the same. We have the same technique, the same sort of background, and very much the same sort of training — which has helped quite a bit. It helped us in the early going, and is just solidifying more and more as we go.
“So, Peter and I are ‘Bosom Buddies,’ which shames me, shames me to say,” he kibbitzed. “But it’s pretty much the case.”
Bosom Buddies original opening credits/theme song (video)
The “Bosom Buddies” version of Billy Joel’s song “My Life” was sung by Gary Bennett. Check it out, but you’ll probably have it stuck in your head for the rest of the day! You’ve been warned.