It was not my intention to enjoy the CBS version of The Odd Couple.
How can you take such a period piece that hinges on poker, ponies, cigars, booze, womanizing, and food and plop it into PC America? And who could replace Walter Matthau, Jack Klugman, Jack Lemmon, Tony Randall, Art Carney and the other A-list actors that were among the first embodiments of Oscar and Felix?
The new version of the 1965 Broadway play, turned 1968 movie, turned 1970-1975 TV show—and beyond—left me mulling a few points you might consider before you watch. But, it’s confession time: I genuinely laughed more than a few times as I watched the pilot for The Odd Couple remake. And I bet you will, too, so tune into the premiere on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 8:30 PM. Here are 9 reason to watch.
The question, of course, is whether or not Matthew Perry can morph from celebrity Matthew Perry (or, more importantly, Chandler from Friends) into the messy Oscar Madison? Jack Klugman did it after his high-profile role in the movie 12 Angry Men, and on the TV show The Defenders. It’s a good bet that Perry can do the same. Why? Listen out for his delivery in a scene using Felix Unger’s initials.
Robert Rorke of the New York Post makes the excellent point that Thomas Lennon’s version of Felix is akin to the character of Niles Crane, played by David Hyde Pierce, on NBC’s Frasier. I have to disagree. Check out the dinner scene in the pilot and you’ll understand why.
Two of the most endearing secondary characters in the ‘70s series were right from the Broadway play and film—Cecily and Gwendolyn Pigeon of England. The sisters lived in the same building as Oscar and Felix, and were casual dates and sympathetic, somewhat platonic friends. The new series has two new neighbor-sisters. It’s unclear how the two will interact with Felix and Oscar but they are certainly more colorful than the Pigeon Sisters. Why? We’re guessing the women writers on the show—there weren’t any on the previous one—might have played a role in that.
The full-volume sounds made by Felix’s running, aching allergy-inflamed sinuses just never gets old. And it’s even funnier now—in part because, today, we all know someone like Felix.
Oscar-of-old was always behind in his alimony and bookie payments. He never had cash. Matthew Perry’s Oscar hosts a popular sports radio show, which gives him the cash to perk up his apartment in a major, sports-centric way.
The brick high rise in Manhattan is still home to Felix and Oscar. It looks like every other apartment high rise in New York, so it’s a nice splash of nostalgia that doesn’t jolt those unfamiliar with the past show.
Let’s face it—as a culture, we’re a bit sloppier now than we were back in the ‘70s, when some vestige of prim attire was still the norm. It’s fun to watch what the costume designers do with Oscar’s apparel now, as some of it’s pretty trendy.
In high rise apartments there are central banks of mailboxes, of course. The Big Bang Theory uses those mailboxes to great advantage. It’s easy to stake them out and “accidentally” bump into someone. Oscar uses the boxes in a highly effective way to boost his dating prospects. Why? Well, he’s a busy guy.
True, physical humor was more common in television back in the ‘70s. But some of the hijinks in the old series (think of the ‘Fat Farm’ episode, which had oodles of fun with exercise missteps) might make a comeback here. It still brings the most laughs, and we bet no one can think of a better way to use a coffee cup than Oscar does in that closing scene.