What started as a Neil Simon play and eventual film became one of ABC’s most endearing comedies of the 1970’s. One could credit the clever premise of putting a neat freak and a slob under the same roof. One might look to the fact that both the film and play were considerable hits to explain the success of the series. The truth is, it was none of these things. Plenty of hit films have spawned crappy shows. Remember That Big Fat Greek Wedding? Even Neil Simon plays have been the starting point for bad television. Remember Barefoot In The Park? My point exactly. Even The Odd Couple was attempted again in the 1980’s with Ron Glass and Demond Wilson. If you remember that one, you should get some help for those bad dreams you’re having. The simple truth is that it was Tony Randall and Jack Klugman that made this series fire on all cylinders. Before watching this set, I tried to think back on my favorite episodes, and I made a rather interesting discovery. I couldn’t remember even one plot. What I could recall were many moments between these two gifted comedic actors. Long after the stories themselves had been forgotten, it was Felix and Oscar, Tony and Jack that remained. It’s almost too horrific a thought that these were not the actors the show was created for. It was Art Carney and Martin Balsam that were expected to fill these parts when Gary Marshall began to construct The Odd Couple for television. Whatever happened, I don’t know the story; what I do know is that the television gods intervened and what was likely going to be a one season and out comedy ended up lasting 5 seasons.
The premise was simple and outlined in the show’s opening monologue. Felix and Oscar are recently divorced and share an apartment out of sheer convenience that doesn’t really end up being convenient to either. Felix is a clean freak who makes Adrian Monk look messy by comparison. He works as a photographer. His friends are high class opera lovers and art museum patrons. Oscar is a world class slob. His floor and even his bed are merely depositories for whatever needs throwing out at the time, including dirty clothes and leftover food. He works as a sports writer for a local paper. His friends are poker buddies and fellow sports enthusiasts. Most of the best moments occur when these two worlds collide. Other regulars included Murray the cop, played by Al Molinaro. With
Season Three had more than its share of great moments. Howard Cosell engages Oscar in a match of nouns and adjectives in the episode, Big Mouth. Laughs border on the sacrilegious when The Monk of the Messy and The Saint of the Stool pigeons spend some time at a monastery retreat in The Odd Monks. If this isn’t one of the best 20 minutes in television comedy that doesn’t feature Redd Foxx, I’ll give you your money back for the set (minus a $45.60 processing fee, of course). “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, we’re just going to find out how mucheth.” Oscar is a celebrity player on Password in the episode Password, but will he let Felix tag along? It’s role reversal time when Felix and Oscar try to spend time in the other’s shoes in I Gotta Be Me. It’s decorating make-over wars when Felix and Oscar both attempt to redecorate in Take My Furniture, Please. Anyway you slice it, this is a set full of laughs.