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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bosom Buddies - The First Season
Bosom Buddies - The First Season
Paramount // Unrated // March 13, 2007
List Price: $31.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Brian Orndorf | posted March 5, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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"Bosom Buddies" introduced the world to a starving actor named Tom Hanks. A young man of 24, Hanks was just getting his feet wet in forgettable horror films ("He Knows You're Alone") and "Love Boat" appearances. "Buddies" was the perfect vehicle for his antic, undomesticated comedic range to be put to the test on a weekly basis.

Debuting on ABC in the fall of 1980, "Buddies" paired Tom Hanks with another sharp talent named Peter Scolari, fresh from his stint in unexceptional television. The two played Kip and Henry, a pair of low-level ad agency stooges who awake one morning to find their apartment condemned. Desperate for a place to live, the duo snatch a hot tip from friend and office secretary Amy (played with fierce gusto by the late Wendie Jo Sperber) and decide to dress as women to take up residence at the female-only Susan B. Anthony Hotel. Rechristening themselves as Buffy and Hildegarde, the two men begin to integrate themselves into the lives of the female tenants, much to the frustration of their male needs.

"Buddies" is a mix of "Some Like It Hot" with a serious Studio 54 hangover. It's a silly, slight 80s sitcom that would've been easily heaped on the dead and forgotten pile of television programs if it wasn't for one little detail: Hanks. This is the show that sent Tom Hanks down a path of extraordinary success, and revisiting the 19 episodes of the first season, it's easy to see why.

Hanks was fearless and loose with the material, always making sure to sell punchlines with vocal clarity and tightly embrace every moment he was allowed some physical comedy to chew on. "Buddies" presented a star in the making, but Hanks was not alone here. Matching him note for note was Scolari, who was every bit as impetuous and inventive as Hanks. It's just that the poor bastard was never offered a career-accelerator like "Splash."

The interaction between Kip and Henry is what lent the show the glow it occasionally achieved. Bursting with a type of free-association electricity, the majority of the series is simply watching some element in the plot wind the characters up and enjoying the slapstick that brings the actors back down. Hanks's Kip is the office goofball; the Peter Pan who has a sweet spot for blondes and a compulsion for cracking wise. Scolari's Henry is the thoughtful artist; a wannabe novelist with a logical mind and an eagerness to explore his creativity. Like a tag-team wrestling match, the two actors bounced back and forth throughout the run of the season, merrily bonding their strengths to best land the laugh.

Once Buffy and Hildegarde enter the show, the giggles tend to arrive in far more conventional ways. As the new ladies of the hotel, Kip and Henry encounter a buffet of bra, pantyhose, and sexism situations, all handled with good-natured dragisms, but nothing rising above minor sitcom titters. Only when the fictional bloodlines and childhood histories are drawn between the boys and their alter egos do the big hoots come out to join the party.

Thankfully, "Buddies" was cast well in the supporting parts. Telma Hopkins, Holland Taylor (as credit-hog boss Ruth Dunbar), Sperber, and Donna Dixon each contribute unique oomph to the series. While the rest get their mitts on jokes, it's poor Dixon who gets saddled with the sexbomb role as Kip's golden object of desire, Sonny ("Sonny, Sonny, Sonny, Sonny, Sonny..."). While her elongated and stiff line readings initially go against the grain of the perky show, Dixon does have the advantage of being the most gorgeous creature on Earth. Over the course of the season, Dixon warms up to her zany co-stars, and to the parade of exercise outfits, hot pants, and nighties the producers push on her to wear. Goodness, the 80s were fantastic.

However, a bit of bad news. For those who've always connected Billy Joel's song "My Life" to the world of "Buddies," the dream is over. For this DVD release, Paramount has reverted back to the original (or syndication) theme, "Shake Me Loose," performed by Stephanie Mills. There's a bit of controversy and blurred history surrounding which tune is the actual intended theme of the show, but I know for me, Joel's ditty was always associated with Kip and Henry's New York City shenanigans during the opening titles. I'm certain this specific bit of flavorless music replacement (or perhaps restoration, to a small portion of the population) will blindside many viewers accustomed to Joel's lively song. Now, with an unremarkable 80s pop tune slapped on the show, the energy just isn't there like it once was.

EPISODE LIST (synopses taken from the DVD packaging)

Disc One

"Pilot" – Original Airdate: November 27, 1980

Junior ad men Kip Wilson (Tom Hanks) and Henry Desmond (Peter Scolari) spend the night at a women's hotel. But they'll have to disguise themselves as "Buffy" and "Hildegarde" if they want to live there.

- Shot on film and burdened with lukewarm casting choices that were fixed once the series was picked up, this pilot kicks off the show on an unexceptional note.

"My Brother, My Sister, Myself" – December 4, 1980

When Kip is caught out of disguise by the new hotel manager (Lucille Benson), Hildegarde comes under fire, and a meeting is held to decide whether the "girls" can stay.

- "Blue Lagoon" reference! "Blue Lagoon" reference!

"Loathe Thy Neighbor" – December 11, 1980

Co-worker Amy (Wendie Jo Sperber) and her roommate Sonny (Donna Dixon) have a huge fight. So the gorgeous Sonny comes to stay with the guys, to the delight of Kip.

"Macho Man" – December 18, 1980

Because Henry is labeled gentle and sensitive by all the women in his life, he feels he needs to prove that he is a real man...but goes way overboard!

- The cultural effect of "Urban Cowboy" is evident in this episode, with Henry taking the gang to a western bar, complete with mechanical bull.

"What Price Glory?" – January 1, 1981

In order to land an account with a doctor who advertises on TV, the guys decided they'll need to be sleazy and phony, just like him.

"Kip and Sonny's Date" – January 8, 1981

Kip finally gets up the nerve to ask Sonny on a date, but the evening proves disastrous. Meanwhile, Henry's date turns out to be a punk rocker.

- Punk rock and television makes for great comedy. Just ask "CHiPs."

"Beauty and the Beasts" – January 15, 1981

Henry's upset that everyone is so concerned with looks. So he decides to explore a relationship with someone he likes but is not attracted to...his friend Amy.

Disc Two

"Revenge" – January 22, 1981

All of Amy's friends help her get back at a date who dumped her during a costume ball. They devise an elaborate plan to get him to apologize.

- One of the more farcical teleplays of the season, the episode is best remembered for the black spandex getup Sonny wears (from the General Kala collection) over the majority of the program.

"Amy's Career" – January 29, 1981

After impressing a client, Amy is asked to join the advertising team at a presentation. But then her big idea for the account bombs.

- Russell Johnson, better known as The Professor on "Gilligan's Island," plays Amy's corporate fan.

"Gotta Dance" – February 5, 1981

Kip hires Sonny to star in the commercial he and Henry are producing. But when she's replaced with the client's girlfriend, Kip's afraid to break the news.

"Sonny Boy" – February 12, 1981

When Buffy and Hildegarde fight off two muggers and the event is covered on national news, Henry's mother shows up with a shrink, worried about her son.

"How Great Thou Art" – February 19, 1981

For Kip's birthday, Henry is nice enough to arrange for some of Kip's paintings to be displayed at an art gallery. Unfortunately, the art critics are not so nice.

- For reasons both obvious and personal, this episode's message on the shelf life of dreams oddly touched me. Good work here from Hanks. Also of note is the show's new expository prologue, getting viewers up to speed in a hurry on how the hilarity works.

"Kip Quits" – February 26, 1981

When Kip quits his job, he expects Henry to quit with him. But Henry stays, and Kip is reduced to selling hot dogs on the street!

- Look fast for a Sweetums-like Bruce Vilanch as a wiener consumer. I just realized what that sounds like.

Disc Three

"Only the Lonely" – March 12, 1981

The guys thinks it's funny their boss Ruth (Holland Taylor) invited them over to her apartment just to socialize. But then Sonny points out that Ruth may not have any friends.

- Included here are fondue gags and the sitcom staple: the anchovy pizza. In all my years, I've never seen one up close and personal.

"The Rewrite" – March 19, 1981

After Henry reads his novel aloud to Kip about their experiences at the hotel, but he decides to rewrite it – as a broad comedy, then a sexy novel, then a sexy expose.

"The Show Must Go On" – March 26, 1981

At a club, Isabelle (Telma Hopkins) surprises everyone with her singing. So the guys convince the manager to let her perform there, but then the whole evening is a bust.

- Bob Saget appears as the club comic, former Tony Orlando sidekick Telma Hopkins gets her contractually-obligated moment of performance, and "Mystery Science Theater 3000" fans can enjoy a glimpse of Reb Brown before his fine work as Big McLargehuge in "Space Mutiny."

Die-hard "Buddies" fans should also note in this episode, the first falsetto "who is it?" is uttered by Kip and Henry, soon to be an essential part of the show.

"The Hospital" – April 2, 1981

Kip and Henry, as Buffy and Hildegarde, volunteer at a hospital. There they meet a blind patent who has a crush on Sonny, and Kip gets jealous.

- A controversial episode. Watch as "Bosom Buddies" turns a blind guy into a total prick.

"Best Friends" – April 9, 1981

It turns out Kip is friends with Joey Midnight, his buddy from camp who's now a huge rock star. But that leaves his other friend Henry feeling like a nobody.

- Adrian Zmed, Hanks, and Sperber three years before "Bachelor Party." All that's missing is the donkey.

"Cahoots" – April 30, 1981

With their respective love lives in the toilet, Kip and Amy call a truce. Kip will help Amy land Henry, if Amy will help Kip romance Sonny.

THE DVD

Video:

All 19 episodes of "Bosom Buddies" are offered in their original full screen presentation. Outside of the filmed pilot, the episodes originate from a video source, and the picture jumps in quality from show to show. Hiccups in the image do surface occasionally, and the lack of a restoration effort shows in the smeary, aged quality of the transfer.

Audio:

"Buddies" is presented with a Dolby Digital mono sound mix. There's no depth of any sort included on the DVD, but the sound aptly expresses the show's humble intent.

Also, as with many television DVD releases, some of the music has been changed due to legal and financial concerns. The changes are minimal, but do result in some footage being cut. Without any broadcast versions of "Buddies" to use for comparison purposes, I can't be certain what has been deleted. However, nips and tucks are noticeable from time to time over the season.

Extras:

Disappointingly, Paramount has failed to provide anything in the way of supplements for this DVD release. Both Hanks and Scolari have been very kind to the show and its legacy over the last 25 years (continuing their relationship on "That Thing You Do!" and "The Polar Express"), surely they would've sat down for a retrospective documentary.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Starting as a simplistic cross-dressing sitcom with little room to breathe, "Buddies" eventually found its footing and reached out to slapstick areas few sitcoms showed interest in. It was piece of brazen farce, with Hanks and Scolari deftly juggling their roles in suits and dresses. I'm not convinced "Buddies" has aged all that well, but it has a sparkle and freewheeling hostility to its comedy that still makes it stand out in today's marketplace.

Its legacy in television history will be forever tied to the rise of Hanks, but the truth is, without Scolari's fine support, Hanks would've worn out his welcome in a flash. I'm more comfortable describing "Bosom Buddies" as a cult show; a pinch of 80s cheese that generated considerable laughs, coasted on soaring comic energy, and gave us, well, Donna Dixon. Thank you, television program. Thank you.


For further online adventure, please visit brianorndorf.com
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