What's so odd about this couple, says Judge Cynthia Boris, is that they've kept an edge for almost four decades.
Our reviews of Fan Favorites: The Best of the Odd Couple (published March 8th, 2012), The Odd Couple: Season One (published April 22nd, 2016), The Odd Couple: Centennial Collection (published March 24th, 2009), The Odd Couple: The Second Season (published August 21st, 2007), and The Odd Couple: The Third Season (published January 23rd, 2008) are also available.
"Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other
Neil Simon, Garry Marshall, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, Penny Marshall, Rob Reiner, Paul Williams, Howard Cosell, Hugh Hefner, Monty Hall, Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, Betty White, Richard Dawson, and Bob Hope. They were the kings and queens of 70's pop culture and they were all a part of The Odd Couple, one of the funniest shows on television. Five years and 114 episodes—let's take a look at how it all started.
Facts of the Case
The opening narration almost says it all.
On November 13th, Felix Unger (Tony Randall, Pillow Talk) was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right, but he also knew that someday he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his childhood friend, Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman, Quincy). Sometime earlier, Madison's wife had thrown him out, requesting that he never return. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy? (Cue marvelous theme music by Batman's Neil Hefti.)
What you don't get from the opening is the hook that the story hangs on. Felix is a compulsive neat freak and Oscar is a slob. Cue incidental music, cue audience, and go.
Episodes included (notice the frequent use of movie parody titles):
The Odd Couple was a highly successful play by Neil Simon, then a blockbuster motion picture before sitcom vets Garry Marshall (Happy Days) and Jerry Belson developed the show into a series. Since the show is character driven, casting the two leads was Paramount (pun intended). Mickey Rooney, Dean Martin, and Art Carney were all considered. Eventually the roles went to two actors who had each played the parts on the stage. Randall was coming in off a successful career as a movie second banana, while Klugman was mostly known for his dramatic guest starring roles. When the two actors hit the stage, ABC knew they had a hit. The chemistry (that elusive firestarter that can't be taught) was perfect, the writing was spot on, the supporting cast was memorable—and Marshall and Belson knew how to orchestrate it all.
Unlike the sweet family comedies of 1970 (Partridge Family, Brady Bunch, Make Room for Granddaddy), The Odd Couple had a gritty, city feel. The humor came in the form of ex-wives, gambling, drinking and smoking, financial woes, mid-life crises, and the divorcee dating pool. The dialogue was snappy and witty but Klugman and Randall got even more laughs with nothing but a look. Theater trained actors, they both excelled at working a live audience (a pleasure they didn't get until the second season).
Tony Randall is top notch as the persnickety Felix, from his hangdog expressions to his goose honk sinus condition to his ability to converse fluently about art, opera, and cooking. Jack Klugman's Oscar may be sloppy, but he's immensely loveable, open and has an "everyman" kind of wisdom that really grounds the show. Freed from the confines of the play, the series takes us into Oscar's sportswriter world and into Felix's photo studio (portraits is his specialty). We're invited to play poker with the boys and make whoopee with the Pigeon sisters (both of which come straight from the play). Oscar gets a smart and sophisticated lady doctor girlfriend and Felix dates an actress who reveals it all in episode that highlights the 70's trend of nudity on stage.
This box set is full of interesting goodies with much participation by series showrunner Garry Marshall. Marshall does a short intro for every episode as well as commentary on two full episodes. Jack Klugman does commentary on one episode, and while I applaud the effort I couldn't get through it. Some years back, Klugman had throat surgery after being diagnosed with cancer leaving his voice seriously raspy. It's almost painful to listen to him talk in this commentary and in the clip of the stage play also included in this set.
Other great extras include appearances by Klugman and Randall on The Mike Douglas Show, home video of Klugman on his book tour and his Emmy acceptance speeches. There's also an amusing gag reel and several series promos. All together some unexpectedly enjoyable bits.
The quality of the sound and video are as good as you'd expect from a sitcom of this era. There were no noticeable jumps, skips or debris in the picture. The box art is adorned with 70's style brightly colored panels and (I love this) the DVDs have the contents listed on them as well as on the foldout digipack!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Which leads me right into my only complaint. This fold out pack has no slipcase. There's nothing to keep the pack from opening and the spine is already starting to show wear from the constant shifting of the two halves against each other. Come on, Time Life? How much would it have cost you to put this thing in a slipcase? An extra twenty cents?
Oscar and Felix have become the gold standard for mismatched roommates and even though Randall and Klugman both went on to highly successful careers after the series, they'll always be best remembered as partners, best friends…The Odd Couple. If you're a sitcom fan, it doesn't come better than this.
This court finds The Odd Couple: Season One guilty of causing a riot. A laff riot, that is.
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