The Odd Couple
Let me start off by saying that I am not talking about the 2015 Matthew Perry remake which you couldn’t pay me to watch. My pick is the 1970 TV sitcom developed by the legendary Garry Marshall (his first series) starring two of the greatest actors of all time: Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.
The success of this sitcom was no easy task for those involved. The Odd Couple storyline comes from the 1965 play written by super-legend Neil Simon and the 1968 film set the bar high featuring two immortals, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, in the lead roles of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison.
Although for some reason the five-season run of this ABC-TV series was never a smashing success while it aired, syndication took it to classic level. It also eventually earned the reputation of being one of the few shows to meet, or in my opinion, top the standard set by a great film. While the show itself never rated high in the Nielsen’s or received any “Best-Of” Emmys, Tony and Jack had a perfect score which each getting nominated for Best Actor every year of the show’s run. (Klugman won two and Tony nabbed one.)
I was too busy of a teenager to watch the show when it ran in prime time from 1970-75. But I later fell in love with the show while watching re-runs daily on a local New York City channel at home after dinner. This continued until I had seen every episode more than once and there soon was never any doubt that this was my favorite TV show of all time.
About 15 or so years ago, I bought the show on DVD to binge, enjoy, and relive the Felix and Oscar experience. While I enjoyed seeing it all again, it was a major disappointment to see that the DVDs were issued on the cheap and Paramount chose to cut out all of the many musical segments rather than pay the royalties.
One more fact to get out of the way is that the first season was done with a laugh track. Let’s just say that it was such a joy to hear each show in the following seasons begin with Klugman saying, “The Odd Couple is filmed before a live audience.”
If this now iconic plot scenario is foreign to you, The Odd Couple is about two divorced men living together in a Manhattan apartment. Their differences make for conflict and generally it’s the crossing of their contrasting lifestyles and habits that drive the plots.
Felix, a commercial photographer, is an obsessive neat freak, who loves arts, opera and theater and enjoys a Beef Wellington served with the proper bottle of wine. Oscar, a noted sportswriter, is a total slob, loves only sports and is more than happy just opening a can of Garbanzo beans for dinner or eating a leftover cold slice of pizza found under his bed washed down with a can of beer.
But the pair gets through their differences each and every episode, and it’s the warmth of their friendship and seeing grouchy Oscar revealing his heart that always brings joy in the end.
And along the way, there’s just so much funny stuff and a great cast of characters and famous guest celebs playing themselves along the way. Kudos to Marshall’s sister Penny as Oscar’s bumbling but lovable assistant Myra, and Al Molinaro as Murray, the likewise lovable but bumbling police officer. Both would of course go on to bigger fame in other Garry Marshall sitcoms. (Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days).
So, while I’ve got The Odd Couple here in my second slot, it really is my #1. I just wanted to pick The Sopranos before someone else in this draft I am involved with could. But I was not gonna take a chance on missing on writing about my love for not only Felix and Oscar, but Tony and Jack, who repeatedly won over my hearts while filling me with laughs. I miss them both.