Paramount // 1970 // 205 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Alice Nelson // March 8th, 2012
Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?
I apologize up front to any fans of the film version of The Odd Couple starring Jack Lemmon (Some Like it Hot) and Walter Matthau (Grumpy Old Men), because I am here to proclaim the epitome of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison are not the above luminaries of the screen, but the affable Tony Randall (Pillow Talk) and curmudgeonly Jack Klugman (Quincy, M.E.). It's rare that a television show outshines its cinematic counterpart, but this incarnation is, dare I say, far better than its predecessor. They may not be able to share an apartment, but Felix and Oscar's road to insanity is definitely our gain.
The Odd Couple revolves around two divorced men, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison; the former an exceedingly neat busy body, the latter a grumpy drunken mess of a man who stows away food and beer like a hoarder. The series follows their ups and downs, as they deal with divorce, dating, and the difficulties of living with each other despite their vast personal differences.
Fan Favorites: The Best of the Odd Couple, contains eight episodes chosen by fans in a recent Facebook poll...
* "The Blackout"
* "Security Arms"
* "I'm Dying of Unger"
* "Take My Furniture, Please"
* "The Murray Who Came to Dinner"
* "Cleanliness Is Next to Impossible"
* "The Insomniacs"
Living with a real-life Felix Unger would drive most of us to do away with ourselves or him, but Felix is a well-meaning and loyal friend who does what he thinks is best, even if often leads to complete chaos. Oscar is no picnic either. This man believes a breakfast of champions includes beer, and keeps house like a five-year-old, his bedroom in a constant catastrophic state. He is the perennial grouch who always wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. These two have no business being friends, but somehow manage to make it work.
Developed for television by Gary Marshall -- who also wrote the show's opening monologue -- The Odd Couple used a slew of writers and directors to keep the show fresh and funny throughout its five season run. Even Neil Simon, the man responsible for originating Felix and Oscar on Broadway, wrote six episodes for the 1970 season. That said, how anyone could wade through 114 hilarious episodes and whittle the best down to only eight is beyond me. My personal favorite from this set is "The Insomniacs"; Felix has insomnia, which means Oscar has it as well, because Felix isn't the type to suffer alone. It gets so bad, Oscar has to help Felix find a solution or be sucked into the abyss along with him. Although "Password" -- in which Felix is obsessed with game show host Allen Ludden -- and "I'm Dying of Unger" -- where Oscar is trying to write a novel at a secluded cabin, with Felix in tow -- run a close second.
Each of these episodes show the charm and wit of a program that deserves much more praise than it gets from the television industry. Both Randall and Klugman are brilliant in defining these roles, playing off of each other with the timing of a seasoned comedy team. Felix and Oscar fight like cats and dogs, but when the chips are down, both know they can count on one another to be there to help.
Presented in its original standard definition 1.33:1 full screen, the quality of Paramount's transfer suffers from a washed out color palette. To make matters worse, the Dolby 2.0 Mono track reminds me of when my brother and I used to watch the show in syndication, sitting in front of our old Magnavox. There are no bonus features.
Fan Favorites: The Best of The Odd Couple is not nearly enough Felix and Oscar for my taste. As wonderful as these episodes are, the experience is a bit like drinking one piddly glass of water, after you've been dying of thirst in the desert for a few days; you're glad to have it, but it leaves you wanting so much more. Still, this release is worth a purchase, because even a quick glimpse of the fellas is better than no glimpse at all.
Neat, tidy, and Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 205 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated