In 2023, anti-drag laws are being debated in at least 14 states, including Tennessee, the first to officially ban “adult cabaret shows” — which include male or female impersonations — in public spaces or in the presence of children. But in 1980, drag was the centerpiece of a new ABC sitcom.
Bosom Buddies is notable for being Tom Hanks’ first big break, then 24, and paired him with relative newcomer Peter Scolari, then 25. They played Kip Wilson and Henry Desmond, respectively — two pals who take on female alter-egos named Buffy and Hildegard in order to live in an affordable women’s hotel in New York City. The show was conceived almost by accident by Thomas L. Miller and Robert L. Boyett, the duo behind a string of hit 1970s sitcoms including Happy Days, Mork & Mindy and Laverne & Shirley.
Buddies was introduced to ABC as a male version of the latter, reminiscent of “a sophisticated Billy Wilder comedy.