The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple was a television situation comedy broadcast from September 24, 1970 to July 4, 1975 on ABC. It starred Tony Randall as Felix Unger and Jack Klugman as Oscar Madison. It was based upon the play of the same name, which was written by Neil Simon.

Felix and Oscar are two divorced men. Felix is a neat freak while Oscar is sloppy and casual. They are sharing the same apartment, and their different lifestyles inevitably lead to some conflicts and laughs.

The success of the 1968 film version of the stage play of The Odd Couple, which starred Jack Lemmon as Felix and Walter Matthau as Oscar, served as the catalyst to bringing the characters to television. The original casting considerations for the TV show included Mickey Rooney or Martin Balsam as Oscar and Dean Martin or Art Carney as Felix. (Carney had originated the role on Broadway.) Eventually, Tony Randall and Jack Klugman were hired. Both had starred in different productions of the play. Randall, who was hired first, had still wanted Mickey Rooney to play Oscar. The show's co-executive producer, Garry Marshall, had to lobby to get Klugman successfully hired. Once the casting was in place, the show's writers (comprised of Marshall, Jerry Belson, Jerry Paris, Harvey Miller, Bob Brunner, Mark Rothman and Lowell Ganz among others) came up with a multitude of situations for Felix and Oscar to be in, while always staying true to the soul of the play, which always reverted back to the human tensions between the two that created the comic situations.

The show premiered on ABC on Thursday, September 24, 1970, at 9:30 PM. Throughout its run, The Odd Couple was juggled around ABC's programming schedule, as seen below:

* Sep. 1970 to Jan. 1971 - Thursday nights at 9:30
* Jan. 1971 to Jun. 1973 - Friday nights at 9:30
* Jun. 1973 to Jan. 1974 - Friday nights at 8:30
* Jan. 1974 to Sep. 1974 - Friday nights at 9:30
* Sep. 1974 to Jan. 1975 - Thursday nights at 8:00
* Jan. 1975 to July 1975 - Friday nights at 9:30

The show struggled in the Nielsen ratings and was cancelled at the end of every season. But ABC renewed the show for each upcoming season because the ratings for the summer reruns were high.

The final first run episode, aired on March 7, 1975, was entitled "Felix Remarries". In it, Felix finally wins Gloria back and they remarry as Oscar regains the freedom of living alone again. The 114 episodes quickly found a very successful life in syndication where they found a brand new audience which endures to this day.

The Pigeon Sisters, (Monica Evans as Cecily and Carole Shelley as Gwendolyn, reprising their roles from the film and stage play) made a few appearances during the first season. Their characters were phased out by the end of the first season. Also in the first season, Oscar had a girlfriend, Dr. Nancy Cunningham (played by Joan Hotchkis), but her character disappeared after the second season. Felix gained a girlfriend in the second season, nurse Miriam Welby (played by Elinor Donahue), but they broke up in the fourth season. Bill Quinn appeared occasionally as Dr. Melnitz, Miriam's boss and the boys' physician. Christopher Shea also appeared in three episodes of the first season as Philip, Felix and Oscar's 11-year-old neighbor.

The TV show also featured their ex-wives. Janis Hansen played Felix's ex, Gloria (named Frances in the play and film) and Jack Klugman's real life wife at the time Brett Somers as Blanche, Oscar's ex. (The real couple divorced during the run of the show.) There were many episodes in which Felix felt he had made a mistake by granting Gloria a divorce and took comedically drastic measures to try to win her back. In contrast, Oscar was happy to be divorced from Blanche and the two constantly traded sarcastic barbs. The only major drawback from Oscar's point of view was the alimony he was ordered to pay.

The two other major supporting characters, Murray the Cop and Myrna Turner, Oscar's secretary, were played by Al Molinaro and Penny Marshall (Garry's sister) respectively. Garry Walberg, Ryan McDonald and Larry Gelman played Oscar's poker player friends Speed, Roy and Vinnie and rounded out the rest of the regulars. Ryan McDonald left the show after the first season and the character of Roy vanished afterwards. Willie Aames and later Leif Garrett made a few appearances as Felix's son, Leonard. Pamelyn Ferdin and later Doney Oatman made a few appearances as Felix's teenaged daughter, Edna.

During its original run the show had mediocre ratings at best (the show never cracked the Top 25 programs Nielsen ratings list during its entire run). Nonetheless, both actors were nominated for Emmy awards in each year of the shows run. Jack Klugman won two Emmy awards for his work (in 1971 and 1973) and Tony Randall won an Emmy as well (in 1975, in which, upon acceptance of the award, he commented on the fact that he wished he currently "had a job", since the show had been cancelled). Klugman was also nominated for a Golden Globe in 1972 and won one in 1974. The show itself was also nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in the years 1971, 1972 and 1974.

"On November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. (Unger's unseen wife slams door. She reopens it and angrily hands Felix his saucepan) 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. 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?"

This opening narration was featured during the show's first and second seasons. It was narrated by voice actor Bill Woodson. The "childhood friend" reference was only used during the first season and was later changed to simply "friend". Also, "sometime earlier" was changed to "several years earlier" followed by Madison's wife throwing him out, requesting that he never return. The opening credit sequence consisted of Felix and Oscar in various humorous situations around New York City. In later seasons, the opening sequence featured highlights from the shows' past episodes mixed with the previous footage. The closing credit sequences for the first four years of the show consisted of more of the boys run amok in NYC, for the final season, the credits were shown against a blue background.

Randall and Klugman did a series of commercials for different products as Felix and Oscar. In 1972, they appeared in TV commercials for Yoplait yogurt. (Klugman also did commercials (without Randall) for the product in the early 1980s) In 1974, they appeared in ads for the game Challenge Yahtzee. For awhile, their likenesses also appeared on the game's packaging. In the late 1980s to early 1990s, Randall and Klugman reprised their characters in a series of commercials for Eagle Snacks, although they called each other by their real names.

They also reprised their roles as Felix and Oscar on Broadway and on the road, this time performing the Neil Simon play, from the late 1980s until the mid 1990s. They had also performed the Simon play on a few road shows during the TV-shows off season during the summer in the early to mid 1970s.

Randall and Klugman reunited in the 1993 CBS TV-movie The Odd Couple: Together Again to limited success.

A cartoon version of The Odd Couple premiered on September 6, 1975 on ABC titled The Oddball Couple during their Saturday morning kids' programming block, Funshine Saturday. The characters were renamed, "Spiffy" (voiced by Frank Nelson) and "Fleabag" (voiced by Paul Winchell). It was directed and produced by the same team that produced the Pink Panther cartoons: David DePatie and Friz Freleng were executive producers, Gerry Chiniquy, and Robert McKimson among others, directed several episodes. The show was cancelled in 1977.

In 1982, ABC aired a new version of The Odd Couple, this time with two African-Americans, Ron Glass as Felix and Demond Wilson as Oscar. It was called The New Odd Couple and ran less than half a season.

[edit] Stations that aired the show during the syndicated run
This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it.

* KTVU TV 2/San Francisco, CA (1975-1997)
* KHSL-TV 12/Chico, CA (mid 70's - late 70's)
* KTXL TV 40/Sacramento, CA (late 70's-87, 1996-97)
* WPIX-TV 11/New York, NY (late 70's - mid 80's)

The Odd Couple: The Complete First Season was released on DVD in Region 1 on August 18, 2006. It features all 24 episodes from the first season and was released by Time Life Video instead of Paramount Home Entertainment. (Paramount Television was the program's original distributor.) (Some episodes, mainly from the first season, were available on a VHS videotape set during the 1990s, and distributed by Columbia House.)

On April 24th, 2007, Paramount Home Entertainment released the first season On DVD (the same set as distributed by Time Life Video) to retail outlets. Paramount will be releasing the second season on August 28, 2007.

* Neal Hefti's instrumental theme music from the 1968 film was re-used for the show.

* The apartment building the boys lived in was 1049 Park Avenue, as shown in the opening credits by the exterior shot of them outside the building under the awning which has the address on it. There was one occasion, however, in the 1973 episode The New Car in which Oscar wins a car on the radio from Dick Clark, where Felix and Oscar were said to be living at 74th St. and Central Park West. 1970s child star Rodney Allen Rippy appeared as himself in the 1975 episode The Rent Strike where it was revealed that he was the owner of 1049 Park Avenue.

* Felix's last name was changed from Ungar (which it was in the play and film) to Unger for the TV series.

* Felix worked as a photographer but in the play he was a newswriter for CBS. Oscar was a sportswriter which was also his profession in the play.

* During the first season, the show was filmed in the same apartment set that had been used for the 1968 movie, and a laugh track was used. Randall and Klugman were so vocal in their distaste for the canned laughter that an episode aired in early 1971 without the laugh track and with Randall asking viewers to contact ABC with their preference. Beginning with the second season, the show was filmed three-camera-style in front of a live audience, which required a major redesign of the apartment set.

* Many entertainment and sports personalities (most of whom regularly appeared on ABC-TV at the time) appeared on the show as themselves including Howard Cosell (whose two appearances were responsible for some of the highest ratings during the shows original run), Roone Arledge, David Steinberg, Paul Williams, Roy Clark, Bobby Riggs, Billie Jean King, Marilyn Horne, Dick Cavett, 1970s child star Rodney Allen Rippy, Monty Hall (in one episode the boys appear on Hall's game show Let's Make A Deal), Allen Ludden and Betty White (both appearing on Ludden's game show Password), Dick Clark, Hugh Hefner, Richard Dawson and Deacon Jones among others.

* Neil Simon's only contribution to the show was a cameo appearance in a 1974 episode entitled "Two On The Aisle".

* Producer Garry Marshall made cameos in four episodes as different characters.

* Felix's children were named Leonard and Edna. In real life, Tony Randall's real name was Leonard (Rosenberg) and his sister was named Edna.

* Elinor Donahue's character was named "Miriam Welby" in honor of her former Father Knows Best co-star, Robert Young. At the time, Young was the star of the hit drama series, Marcus Welby, M.D.

* Rob Reiner, Penny Marshall's husband at the time, appeared in one episode as Myrna's new boyfriend, Sheldn. (The "o" was left off his birth certificate.)

* Since the show was filmed in Hollywood, California, but took place in New York's Manhattan, Randall and Klugman would have to fly to New York City to do any exterior shots of their respective characters in outside settings.

* In one episode, Felix and Oscar were arrested because a police officer thought they were trying to "scalp" (sell) a theater ticket to a woman named Beth Olam. Beth Olam is the name of a Jewish cemetery near the Paramount lot where the show was filmed.

* Richard Stahl appeared on the show nine times, playing nine different roles.

* Billy Sands character actor, known as Pvt. Dino Paparelli on The Phil Silvers Show and Tinker from McHale's Navy was on four episodes.

* Comedian John Byner appeared in two episodes.

* John Fiedler, who played "Vinnie" in both the original Broadway show and the 1968 movie version, appeared in two episodes of the show, "Security Arms" and "The Dog Story", as different characters.

* Randall and Klugman were also involved in the creative process of the TV show. They improvised on occasion, and sometimes they would receive scripts that simply said something like "Jack teaches Tony football" and nothing else written on the next four pages.

* Randall and Klugman released a musical record during the run of the TV show, (in 1973) entitled The Odd Couple Sings. The record was exactly that, as Randall and Klugman warbled standards, and even pop hits from the time, like Carly Simon's "You're So Vain". It did not climb the charts but is regarded today as a scarce curio.

* Klugman and Randall appeared on the cover of TV Guide twice during the shows original run, appearing on its February 6, 1971 issue (which was a photograph of Felix wincing at Oscars looming cigar smoke) and on its September 2, 1972 issue (which was an illustration of the two, done by renowned illustrator Jack Davis).

* In the episode "Our Fathers," Randall and Klugman ditched their respective hairpieces for a flashback sequence.

* Felix's middle name was Alex, and Oscar's middle name was Trevor.

* In 2006, VH1 spoofed the opening of the show when promoting its shows Hogan Knows Best and Breaking Bonaduce. In the promo, a split-screen shows Hulk Hogan (assuming the Felix role) and Danny Bonaduce (in the Oscar role) in various situations very similar to the TV shows opening (helping an old lady across the street, dancing together at the end, etc.) Theme music very similar to The Odd Couple plays over the commercial.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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