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.
In its second season, "The Odd Couple
was filmed before a live studio audience," and a good sitcom was well on its way to becoming a great one. Jack Klugman, as sloppy Oscar, and Tony Randall as fussy Felix, two divorced men trying to live together without driving each other crazy, was casting alchemy, and as time goes by, we appreciate the fundamental things that still apply: smart, character-based writing and indelible performances. While there are no episodes that can be said to be truly classic, several are fan favorites, including "Sleepwalker," which was included as one of the bonus episodes on the first-season set, "Felix the Calypso Singer," in which Felix becomes the third wheel on Oscar's romantic getaway with his girlfriend, and "You Saved My Life," in which Felix almost kills Oscar with kindness after Oscar rescues him. This season fleshes out the mismatched friends' backstory with two fun flashback episodes. In "Speak for Yourself," Oscar is forced to step in when Felix develops laryngitis on the night he was to propose to his future ex-wife Gloria, and in "A Night to Dismember," a season benchmark, Oscar, Felix, and Oscar's ex-wife, Blanche, have different memories of the fateful night on which Oscar and Blanche split up.
Gone this season are the daffy Pigeon sisters. Introduced are Janis Hansen as Gloria, Joan Hotchkis as Oscar's girlfriend, Dr. Nancy Cunningham, and Brett Somers, a perfect match, as the dread Blanche. A pre-Laverne and Shirley Penny Marshall makes her first appearance as Oscar's secretary, Myrna, and in the episode, "Security Arms," that's John Fiedler, who portrayed Vinnie in the original 1968 Odd Couple movie (he is also the instantly recognizable voice of Piglet in the Disney Winnie the Pooh shorts). In later seasons, The Odd Couple overindulged on stunt casting (remember the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs episode?) This second season offers comedian David Steinberg ("The Odd Couple Meets Their Host") and opera singer Richard Fredricks ("Does Your Mother Know You're Out, Rigoletto?"). The Odd Couple was a series that got better with each season. This live incarnation of the show is the one that is most fondly remembered, making the second season one that, unlike Felix, will never wear out its welcome. --Donald Liebenson