Upcoming ABC sitcom “Work It,” which now has an LGBT backlash — or perhaps a forelash, considering it doesn’t premiere until Jan. 3 — to go with its advance beating from critics, can hardly be discussed without recalling the 1980-82 ABC comedy “Bosom Buddies,” which also featured two men dressing up in women’s clothing for economic survival.
Viewers, especially those below the age of 40, might doubt that “Bosom Buddies” could have been any good, dismissing it as a similarly trite concept with nothing more going for it than a star-in-the-making Tom Hanks. If so, they couldn’t be more wrong. “Bosom Buddies” was a show that fired on all cylinders, almost shockingly so considering how thin the premise was.
Yes, Hanks and co-star Peter Scolari looked every bit as ridiculous as you’ll find “Work It” leads Ben Koldyke and Amaury Nolasco do. But the fundamental difference between “Bosom Buddies,” and what I imagine will be the widespread reaction to “Work It,” is that with “Buddies,” you willingly suspended your disbelief that no one would see through the cross-dressing ruse, because there was such a reward to it.
Hanks and the vastly underrated Scolari had an impeccable chemistry, rivaling any duo on television at the time. Though the plots were often silly, the writing was crackling, and Hanks, Scolari and co-stars Donna Dixon, Holland Taylor (the “Two and a Half Men” mainstay), Telma Hopkins and the late Wendie Jo Sperber were all adept at elevating the scripts, which could also sneak in some pretty serious ruminations about life, love and longing in the big city amid all the comedy.
For fans of the show like me, the episode in which Kip (Hanks) revealed his true self to his longtime crush Sonny (Dixon) was every bit as huge as Sam and Diane’s first kiss on “Cheers” a few years later. That episode, by the way, took place at a fictional embassy gathering to honor a Latin American dictator named Albon Degas. Highbrow, the script was not, but smart and clever? Definitely.
How this all would play in the climate of 2011, I won’t speculate. But for me, the most painful aspect of “Work It” is that its presence will sully the already dimming legacy for “Bosom Buddies,” now remembered for little else than being the launchpad for Hanks’ career. The two seasons of “Bosom Buddies” rank high on my all-time list of “Brilliant but Canceled” comedies.