Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Nose-talgia #15: Tom Hanks Happy Birthday & Remembering "Bosom Buddies"

Sure, it's always great if the co-star of a short-lived but much-loved TV sitcom goes on to win lots of awards and become one of the highest-grossing movie stars ever, but people would remember Bosom Buddies anyway.  Co-starring -- in every sense it was a complete partnership in comedy -- twenty-four year old Tom Hanks, a budding actor with only one movie and one TV credit on his resume, and twenty-five year old Peter Scolari, a bit more experienced with one short series and several other credits to his name, Bosom Buddies had a lot to offer.

Bosom Buddies sprang from the same Paramount TV incubator as several of the hit ABC series of the time, namely Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley.  It was the brainchild of Laverne & Shirley creators Robert Boyett and Thomas Miller and was intended as the male version of L&S's gal pal comedy, with the dressing-as-women gimmick thrown in at the last minute.  While the drag element was a solid comedic element it wasn't the main element of the show's appeal.  What audiences responded to was the terrific chemistry between Hanks and Scolari and also between them and the rest of the cast which included actresses Holland Taylor, Telma Hopkins, Donna Dixon and Wendie Jo Sperber.

Though it only lasted a total of 37 episodes, airing on ABC from November 1980 until May 1982 and subject to scheduling vagaries which no doubt contributed to its early demise, Bosom Buddies was too good to keep down.  I'm relying on my memory here, but I was in Programming at KTLA-Los Angeles at the time and I'm sure that we were the first station to air Bosom Buddies after it went off-network.

We were always looking for solid summer replacement series (when we liked to rest our major off-net series) and the short 37-episode run of BB was perfect for a June - mid-September weekday strip run.  This was probably in the summer of '82 right after it went off network.  We acquired the network 35mm versions of the show -- as we had with Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, which is why they looked SO good in Los Angeles and nowhere else -- and the series was a big summer success for us.  We continued to run it for several years and it also later became a general syndication hit around the country. (Once again, KTLA was in the forefront of great TV programming, if I do say so myself!  That's where I learned the biz!)

Also contributing to Bosom Buddies' lasting appeal was the use of the peppy Billy Joel song "My Life" in the opening credits.  Introduced on the 1978 album "52nd Street", the version used in Bosom Buddies was not the Joel version and unfortunately due to rights problems "My Life" wasn't used for later syndie runs or on DVD releases.  An original song "Shake Me Loose" (already used from the very beginning in an instrumental version over the end credits) was recorded by Stephanie Mills and used as the replacement.  Not that "Shake Me Loose" was horrible, but it was generic while "My Life" perfectly underscored the opening credit antics of Hanks and Scolari and set the mood for the comedy to come.  Music rights also have led to the deletion of several scenes in the DVD releases of the shows.

We all know the rest of the story with the two Bosom Buddies -- Hanks is a motion picture star and increasingly works behind-the-scenes as producer for assorted TV projects, and Scolari starred for many years to much acclaim in Newhart and many other series including recently in HBO's Girls. Holland Taylor has never stopped working as one of TV's perennial supporting actresses; she won an Emmy in 1999 for her work on The Practice and was nominated a handful of times for her role on Two and a Half Men.  Donna Dixon worked successfully as an actress for many years but is perhaps best known these days for her long and happy marriage to actor Dan Ackroyd.  Telma Hopkins is constantly working and is particularly remembered for her work on Family Matters.

 Wendie Jo Sperber amassed a long list of credits after BB but unfortunately passed away in 2005 after a long battle with breast cancer.  She became an advocate and activist for patient support and in 2001 founded the WeSpark organization which is still in operation and thriving today.  The 2007 movie The Show Must Go On documents Wendie's work on behalf of WeSpark.

The cast of Bosom Buddies reunited in 2010 for a TV Land Awards Show and all praised the time they shared together on the little show that is still such a big thing.  Adding to Bosom Buddies profile -- or perhaps the only thing some young folks know about the show -- is its inclusion in the Paul Rudd & Adam Scott spoof series The Greatest Event in Television History for Adult Swim in January 2014.  Rudd & Scott re-create the iconic Bosom Buddies opening credit sequence with shot-by-shot perfection (other than a few really minor differences) and offer some mockumentary footage to go along with it. First up is the whole episode, then a side-by-side comparison of the two versions.

An interesting factoid is that Hanks' future wife Rita Wilson guested on an episode of Bosom Buddies as a girlfriend of Henry and not Kip's, and this was some seven years before she and Hanks were married:

What was the turning point of Tom Hanks' career also has a connection to his work on Bosom Buddies. A few years after BB, Hanks guested on an episode of Happy Days with Ron Howard.  Their work together prompted Howard to consider Hanks for the lead in his movie Splash which Howard would direct in 1984. After that, Hanks was a star.  Here is a scene from that Happy Days episode:

Bosom Buddies is available on DVD in Season One and Season Two sets, and at least for now many of the episodes are on YouTube.

We wish Tom Hanks a very Happy 58th Birthday today!  Thanks for being part of some TV worth remembering!

1 comment:

Jane said...

This might be my favorite Flaming Nose throw back post ever. You captured all the great things about the series, both past and present. I'm certain there is no one else on the planet that could have done a more fantastic tribute to a short lived but splendid TV comedy. Well Done!!!