The Odd Couple (TV series)
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|The Odd Couple|
Title card from the first season (note the Neil Simon credit in the title)
|Developed by||Garry Marshall
|Theme music composer||Neal Hefti|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||114 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Garry Marshall|
|Running time||30 minutes per episode|
|Production company(s)||Paramount Network Television|
|Distributor||CBS Television Distribution|
|Original run||September 24, 1970 – March 7, 1975|
|Related shows||The Odd Couple
The Oddball Couple
The New Odd Couple
The Odd Couple II
The Odd Couple, formally titled onscreen Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, is an American television situation comedy broadcast from September 24, 1970 to March 7, 1975 on ABC. It stars Tony Randall as Felix Unger and Jack Klugman as Oscar Madison, and was the first of several developed by Garry Marshall for Paramount Television. The show is based upon the play of the same name, which was written by Neil Simon.
Felix and Oscar are two divorced men. Felix is neat and tidy while Oscar is sloppy and casual. They share a Manhattan apartment, and their different lifestyles inevitably lead to conflicts and laughs.
In 1997, the episodes "Password" and "The Fat Farm" were ranked #5 and #58 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. The show received three nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. Its fourth season, from 1973–74, remains the most recent nominee for a show that aired during a Friday time slot.
The success of the 1968 film version of the stage play of The Odd Couple, which starred Jack Lemmon as Felix and Walter Matthau as Oscar, served as the catalyst to bringing the characters to television. The original casting considerations for the TV show included Mickey Rooney or Martin Balsam as Oscar and Dean Martin or Art Carney as Felix. (Carney had originated the role on Broadway.) Eventually, Tony Randall (as Felix) and Jack Klugman (as Oscar) were hired. Both had starred in different productions of the play. Randall, who was hired first, had still wanted Mickey Rooney to play Oscar. The show's co-executive producer, Garry Marshall, had to lobby to get Klugman successfully hired. Once the casting was in place, the show's writers (Marshall, Jerry Belson, Jerry Paris, Harvey Miller, Bob Brunner, Mark Rothman and Lowell Ganz, among others) came up with a multitude of situations for Felix and Oscar to be in, while staying true to the soul of the play, which always reverted to the human tensions between the two that created the comic situations.
The show premiered on ABC on Thursday, September 24, 1970, at 9:30 p.m. During the first season, the show was filmed using the single camera method. The apartment set resembled the film version. A laugh track was used (to which Tony Randall objected). Thereafter, the show was filmed with three cameras and performed like a stage play in front of a studio audience. The apartment set was styled similarly, but rearranged to allow more of the apartment (especially the kitchen) to be seen by the studio audience while less important areas (like the hallway) were moved out of audience view.
Throughout its run, The Odd Couple was juggled around ABC's programming schedule, as seen below (all times ET):
- September 1970 to January 1971 – Thursday at 9:30 p.m.
- January 1971 to June 1973 – Friday at 9:30 p.m.
- June 1973 to January 1974 – Friday at 8:30 p.m.
- January 1974 to September 1974 – Friday at 9:30 p.m.
- September 1974 to January 1975 – Thursday at 8:00 p.m.
- January 1975 to July 1975 – Friday at 9:30 p.m.
The show struggled in the Nielsen ratings and was canceled at the end of every season. However, ABC renewed the show for each upcoming season because the ratings for the summer reruns were high.
In the final first-run episode, "Felix Remarries," Felix finally wins Gloria back and they remarry as Oscar regains the freedom of living alone again. The final scene unfolds in this way, as the two say their goodbyes:
- Felix: Your dinner's in the oven; turn it off in twenty minutes. [pause] Oscar … what can I say? Five years ago you took me in: a broken man on the verge of … mental collapse. I leave here a cured human being. I owe it all to you. [gesturing toward apartment] It's all yours buddy. I salute you. [empties waste basket onto floor]
- Oscar: Felix, you know how I'm gonna salute you? I'm gonna clean that up.
- Felix: It has not been in vain.
- [They shake hands and Felix exits stage right through front door. After door closes …]
- Oscar: [swings his hand through the air] I'm not gonna clean that up.[exits stage left to bedroom to audience laughter]
- [Felix sneaks back in stage right and looks at floor]
- Felix: [disgustedly] I knew he wouldn't clean it up! [proceeds to pick up trash to audience applause] (fade out)
The 114 episodes went on to syndication and home video.
Differences between the TV show and the play/film
There were some relatively minor changes made in the development of the series. In both TV series and play, Felix's last name was spelled Unger but in the film it is spelled Ungar. In the stage play, Felix is a news writer for CBS (in the film he writes the news for "television"), while in the TV series he is a commercial photographer. (His slogan, which he is quick to vocalize, is "Portraits a specialty.") His wife is Frances in the play and in the film, but is Gloria in the TV series.
Oscar's son "Brucey", referred to in the play and the film, is never mentioned. He has at least one other child, who is likewise not mentioned in the series. In the film and the play, Felix has a son and a younger daughter. In the series, the children's ages are reversed and they are named Leonard and Edna, after Tony Randall's second name and his own sister's. During the first season, the show was shot on the sets used for the movie, but for the second season (partially necessitated by the switch to a three-camera setup and the addition of a studio audience), the layout of the apartment was retconned.
The Pigeon Sisters (Monica Evans as Cecily and Carole Shelley as Gwendolyn, reprising their roles from the film and stage play) made a few appearances during the first season. Their characters were phased out by the end of the first season. Also in the first season, Oscar had a girlfriend, Dr. Nancy Cunningham (played by Joan Hotchkis), but her character disappeared after the second season. Bill Quinn appeared occasionally as Dr. Melnitz, Nancy's colleague and the boys' sarcastic physician. Felix gained a girlfriend in the second season, Miriam Welby (played by Elinor Donahue), and they lasted into the fifth season, presumably breaking up before Felix remarried Gloria in the series finale. Christopher Shea also appeared in three episodes of the first season as Philip, Felix and Oscar's 11-year-old neighbor. Oscar's occasional good-time girlfriend, "Crazy Rhoda Zimmerman" is referred to but never seen.
The TV show also featured their ex-wives. Janis Hansen played Felix's ex, Gloria (named Frances in the play and film) and Jack Klugman's real life wife at the time Brett Somers as Blanche, Oscar's ex. (The couple separated in real life during the run of the show.) There were many episodes in which Felix felt he had made a mistake by not fighting harder for Gloria, and took comically drastic measures to try to win her back. In contrast, Oscar was happy to be divorced from Blanche and the two constantly traded sarcastic barbs. The only major drawback from Oscar's point of view was the alimony he was ordered to pay. Willie Aames and later Leif Garrett made a few appearances as Felix's son, Leonard. Pamelyn Ferdin and later Doney Oatman made a few appearances as Felix's teenaged daughter, Edna.
The two other major supporting characters, Murray the Cop and Myrna Turner, Oscar's secretary, were played by Al Molinaro and Penny Marshall (Garry's sister) respectively. Alice Ghostley, as Murray's wife Mimi (in one episode), when Felix quickly outstays his welcome after he moves out of Oscar's apartment following a falling out. Garry Walberg, Ryan McDonald and Larry Gelman played Oscar's poker player friends Homer "Speed" Deegan, Roy, and the bald bespectacled Vinnie Barella and rounded out the rest of the regulars. Ryan McDonald left the show after the first season and the character of Roy was written out. Walberg later co-starred with Klugman on Quincy.
Richard Stahl appeared in nine episodes as, among other things, a monk, pet-shop salesman, florist, doctor, and non-denominational monk, never playing the same role twice. Actor Herbie Faye appeared five times on the series in different roles.
Celebrity guest stars
The show often had celebrity guest stars, who reflected the cultural leanings either of Oscar or Felix, often playing themselves or occasionally fictional characters. For Oscar, country guitar legend Roy Clark played an old practical joke-playing friend, who nonetheless, has enormous musical talent, as even Felix acknowledges. Sportscaster Howard Cosell (2 episodes) and then ABC television producer Roone Arledge (1 episode) played themselves. Pop singer Jaye P. Morgan played herself as one of Oscar's many girlfriends. For Felix, two renowned opera singers Marilyn Horne as a co-worker ("Jackie") of Oscar, and opera singers Martina Arroyo and Richard Fredericks as themselves, along with Edward Vilella, Monty Hall, Richard Dawson, Hugh Hefner, Rodney Allen Rippy, Deacon Jones, and, appearing together, married couple Allen Ludden and Betty White, and in another episode, noted frenemies Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King (also in the same episode), all as themselves.
- Paul Williams played a musician who tutors Felix's daughter, Edna.
- Jean Simmons, who played a visiting European princess, from the fictional country of Liechtenberg (Peggy Rea played her lady-in-waiting), who meets Felix in a photography session, but goes out on a date with Oscar, and he comes home bragging of a wonderful time. He proudly relates that the Princess had a wonderful time herself, and that "she knighted a wino".
- Pernell Roberts, played a country music impresario, to whom Oscar owes a lot of money in gambling debts, and who doesn't take IOUs.
- Reta Shaw played a tough retired Army Major ("Claire Frost"), who works as housekeeper when Oscar is sick and Felix is too busy.
- Penny Marshall, who played Oscar's secretary, Myrna Turner, made her last appearance in an episode in which she married "Sheldn" (his legal name since the "o" was omitted from his birth certificate), who just happened to be played by Rob Reiner, Marshall's then husband. Marshall's real life brother and sister, Garry and Ronnie Marshall played Myrna's siblings, Werner and Verna Turner, in the episode.
- Victor Buono, as the creepy new manager of the building in which Felix and Oscar live, who loves plants but hates people.
Awards and nominations
During its original run the show had mediocre ratings at best (the show never cracked the Top 25 programs Nielsen ratings list during its entire run). Nonetheless, both actors were nominated for Emmy Awards in each year of the show's run. Jack Klugman won two Emmy Awards for his work (in 1971 and 1973), and Tony Randall won an Emmy as well (in 1975, in which, upon acceptance of the award, he commented on the fact that he wished he currently "had a job", since the show had been cancelled). Klugman was also nominated for a Golden Globe in 1972 and won one in 1974. The show itself was also nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in the years 1971, 1972 and 1974.
Opening narration and credit sequence
"On November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. (Unger's unseen wife slams door, only to reopen it and angrily hand Felix his saucepan) That request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right, but he also knew that someday, he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his childhood friend, Oscar Madison. Sometime earlier, Madison's wife had thrown him out, requesting that he never return. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?"
This opening narration was featured during the show's first and second seasons (in the U.S. DVD release, it is also used in the third season set). It was narrated by voice actor Bill Woodson. The "childhood friend" reference was only used during the first season and was later changed to simply "friend" (in fact, the "childhood friend" reference was added partway through the first season, as the fourth episode explains that Felix and Oscar met during jury duty. And, in a 1973 episode, the two were in the Army together, with Felix being Oscar's superior, at the time Oscar and wife Blanche (Brett Somers) married. Such inconsistencies were common for the show ) Also, "sometime earlier" was changed to "several years earlier" followed by Madison's wife throwing him out, requesting that he never return.
The opening credit sequence consisted of Felix and Oscar in various humorous situations around New York City such as cavorting around a Maypole. In later seasons, the opening sequence featured highlights from past episodes mixed with the previous footage. The closing credit sequences for the first four years of the show consisted of more of the gents' zany antics or a scene where Felix meets Oscar by a big fountain in New York City's Columbus Circle: Oscar throws a cigar butt in the fountain, Felix barks at him to pick it up, and Oscar scoops it up with his shoe then places the wet and soiled cigar butt in Felix's pocket. During later seasons, a clip was incorporated into the credits (a re-taping of a scene from an actual scene) in which Oscar washes his hands in the kitchen sink and begins to dry them on the curtains; Felix protests this, and so Oscar instead dries his hands on Felix' shirt. For the final season, the credits were shown against a blue background.
Klugman and Randall did a series of commercials for different products as Felix and Oscar. In 1972, they appeared in TV commercials for Yoplait yogurt. (Klugman also did commercials without Randall for the product in the early 1980s.) In 1974 they appeared in ads for the game Challenge Yahtzee; for a while, their likenesses also appeared on the game's packaging, with the slogan "You play your way—I'll play mine!" () In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Klugman and Randall reprised their characters in a series of commercials for Eagle Snacks, although they called each other by their real names.
They also reprised their roles as Felix and Oscar in regional productions, this time performing the original Neil Simon play, from the late 1980s until the mid-1990s. They had also performed the Simon play on a few road shows during the TV version's off season during the summer in the early to mid-1970s. In 1997, they appeared in a Broadway revival of another Simon play, The Sunshine Boys.
In the 1980s, while starring in the NBC drama Quincy, M.E., Klugman did commercials for Canon copiers. Minolta countered by hiring Randall, then on the NBC sitcom Love, Sidney, to do a commercial where he channeled his Felix role, mentioning that he "can change copy colors without getting that disgusting black powder all over my hands!" He closed by saying, "But that doesn't mean I'm a neat freak. Of course, I'm not a slob, either, like, uh... " and waved his hand, to suggest Klugman as Oscar.
Klugman and Randall reunited in the 1993 CBS TV movie The Odd Couple: Together Again to a mixed reception. Klugman had lost a vocal cord to throat cancer and this struggle was included in the script. In the film, Felix tries to help Oscar recover. He also becomes overly involved in Edna's upcoming wedding, much to her and Gloria's dismay.
A cartoon knockoff of The Odd Couple premiered on September 6, 1975 on ABC titled The Oddball Couple during their Saturday morning kids' programming block, Funshine Saturday. Rather than license the characters and intellectual property from the actual series, completely different characters were created: "Spiffy" (a cat voiced by Frank Nelson) and "Fleabag" (a dog voiced by Paul Winchell). It was directed and produced by the same team that produced the Pink Panther cartoons: David DePatie and Friz Freleng were executive producers, Gerry Chiniquy, and Robert McKimson among others, directed several episodes. The characters' professions in this version were reversed from the original series, with the fastidious Spiffy working as a reporter and the rumpled Fleabag a photographer, often working together. The show was canceled in 1977.
In 1982, as a hedge against the 1981 Writers Guild of America strike, ABC aired a new version of The Odd Couple, this time with two African-Americans, Ron Glass as Felix and Demond Wilson as Oscar. It was called The New Odd Couple, and initially used eight previously-filmed scripts from the original series; when the strike ended during the series' production, union writers returned and original episodes were written from then on. It ran less than half a season.
A Chilean version titled Una Pareja Dispareja began airing in January 2009 on TVN. This version takes several of its cues from Two and a Half Men, a Chuck Lorre-created sitcom with a similar premise to The Odd Couple. Some of the details taken from Two and a Half Men include Felix and Oscar being siblings instead of friends, as well as Felix being a doctor and Oscar a musician.
The Complete First Season of The Odd Couple was released on DVD in Region 1 on August 18, 2006 by Time Life Video under license from Paramount Home Entertainment (Paramount Television was the program's original distributor). Some episodes, mainly from the first season, were available on a VHS videotape set during the 1990s, and distributed by Columbia House.
Each episode on the First Season DVDs contain an introduction from the show's producer Garry Marshall. Also included as extras are Emmy Awards speeches, bloopers, TV interviews with the show's stars and a clip of The Odd Couple on Broadway.
Paramount/CBS DVD have since released the remaining seasons (two through five) of The Odd Couple on DVD in Region 1. Season 1 was released in Region 2 on April 28, 2008. While the Time/Life Season 1 DVD release contained only unedited episodes as originally broadcast, CBS Home Entertainment opted to edit their DVDs of seasons two through five, removing short segments or occasionally entire scenes which included music sung by Felix or some other character. A notable example of this can be seen in the Season 5 episode, "Strike Up the Band or Else" where, in the epilogue, guest star Pernell Roberts' character is going to sing, and the episode abruptly ends and closing credits roll. Fans and critics alike lambasted CBS/Paramount for the shoddy treatment The Odd Couple DVD releases received, concluding that the studio has misled consumers by labeling their DVD sets as "complete" when they have been intentionally edited to avoid paying royalties required by the music publishers. To date, there are no plans to re-release the series utilizing the uncut master prints.
|DVD name||Ep #||Release dates|
|Region 1||Region 2|
|The First Season||24||April 24, 2007||April 28, 2008|
|The Second Season||23||August 28, 2007||TBA|
|The Third Season||23||January 22, 2008||TBA|
|The Fourth Season||22||June 10, 2008||TBA|
|The Fifth and Final Season||22||November 18, 2008||TBA|
|The Complete Series 1–5||114||November 18, 2008||TBA|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Odd Couple (TV series).|
- The Odd Couple at the Internet Movie Database
- The Odd Couple-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television