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.
Even at its guest-starringest, Will & Grace
had nothing on The Odd Couple
s fourth season stunt casting. Just two months after their epic "Battle of the Sexes" drew the largest-ever live audience for a tennis match, Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King squared off against each other at the ping-pong table in the episode, "The Pig Who Came to Dinner." Ballet superstar Edward Villella performs in "Last Tango in Newark" and Marilyn Horn, as a baker with an operatic voice and an unrequited crush on Oscar, sings selections from Carmen
, as well as "People," in "Vocal Girl Makes Good." "The Songwriter" features legendary disc jockey Wolfman Jack and entertainer Jaye P. Morgan, who performs the ever-popular Felix-penned ditty, "Happy and Peppy and Bursting with Love." Playboy
emperor Hugh Hefner drops in for the flashback episode, "One for the Bunny," in which a jealous Felix is undone when he must photograph his future wife, Gloria, for a possible Playmate spread. But the chemistry between Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, Best Actor Emmy nominees in each of this series five years, is the real attraction. They are so thoroughly at home in their roles that they elevate the more over-the-top material, as witness their ill-fated presentation as glue entrepreneurs in "A Barnacle Adventure." Among the seasons best episodes are the ones that go back to the basics of Neil Simons warhorse play: Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy? In "The Insomniac," Felix cannot get to sleep ("Im up as a pup") despite Oscars best efforts. In "Cleanliness is Next to Impossible," Felix hypnotizes the unwitting Oscar into becoming a neat freak after Oscars new girlfriend calls him sloppy (Felixs heartbreak at having to bring Oscar out of it is palpable. "Its like a dream come true," he moans). Elinor Donahues Miriam, Felixs girlfriend, is conveniently forgotten in the episodes in which Felix tries to win back his ex-wife ("Gloria Moves In"). Zinger-queen Brett Somers also returns as Oscars ex-wife, Blanche, in flashback episodes that continue to play havoc with Felix and Oscars backstory (so now they were in the Army together?) Randall, Klugman and company (including Penny Marshall as Oscars secretary, Myrna) clearly relish playing to their enthusiastic live audience, and this richly entertaining season is brimming with classic moments and bits of comic business that continue to bring down the house. --Donald Liebenson