Two divorced New Yorkers---a slob and a fussbudget---try to live together "without driving each other crazy" in this classic sitcom based on Neil Simon's hit play and movie. Both Jack Klugman and Tony Randall won Emmys in the leads, the latter in the final year of a five-season run. "Now if I only had a job," Randall said at the Emmy gala. The show inspired two remakes, one an animated series portraying the main characters as a cat and a dog, and a 1982-83 version with a mostly black cast.
Jack Klugman and Tony Randall give an advanced course in chemistry in the auspicious first season of The Odd Couple
, which would only get better as the veteran character actors made themselves at home in their signature roles and the series switched from a laugh track to a live audience. In these first episodes, The Odd Couple
hews pretty much to the voice and spirit of Neil Simon's play about mismatched roommates, sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison and "miserable, picky, irritating" photographer Felix Unger ("That was the point," defends series executive producer and writer Garry Marshall, who provides lively audio introductions for each episode and commentary for the pilot). Playing pivotal roles this first season are Felix and Oscar's poker playing buddies, Murray the cop (Al Molinaro), Vinnie, Roy, and Speed, the fabulous Pigeon sisters (Monica Evans and Carole Shelley reprising their Broadway and film roles), and, of course, Neil Hefti's jaunty, jazzy theme, which was introduced in the 1968 film. As with M*A*S*H
, the series would establish its own identity and supplant previous incarnations in the public's consciousness. The Odd Couple
was never a ratings smash before it became a syndication staple.
The series' loyal following is amply rewarded with this five-disc set. In addition to all 24 first season episodes, a bonus disc contains four billed as "Tony and Jack's Favorite Episodes," including the one where Oscar attacks Felix in his sleep, and the duo are paired as contestants on the game show Password. In a clip from The Mike Douglas Show, Tony Randall promotes the series, and somehow ends up challenging Douglas and Pat Boone to a push-up contest (Boone wins!). A reunited Randall and Klugman, his voice a rasp following his throat cancer surgery, are seen in a priceless clip from a 1993 performance of The Odd Couple to benefit Randall's National Actor's Theatre. A gag reel is negligible, but Klugman contributes home videos of a book tour and he provides commentary for a clip of him winning his first Emmy Award ("I've never seen this," he says delightedly). The Odd Couple is the very model of a classic character-driven comedy. From its dream-team casting to the literate, witty writing, there is nothing odd about why this series' remains one of the most beloved in all TV Land. --Donald Liebenson
Beyond The Odd Couple Stills from The Odd Couple: The First Season (click for larger image)