The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple

Compulsive neatness first matched wits with advanced slobbery on the Broadway stage in the popular Neil Simon play, The Odd Couple. The formula worked just as well on the big screen in 1968, so ABC decided to give it a shot as a sitcom two years later. Starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, the tale of two divorced polar opposites sharing an apartment together proceeded to win the hearts of millions.

Oscar Madison is a professional sportswriter for the New York Herald who is perfectly content living a messy life surrounded by overflowing ashtrays, cigar butts on the floor and half-filled beer cans. His friend Felix, on the other hand loves opera, is compulsively neat, and proper to a fault. When Felix’s wife throws him out, he shows up on Oscar’s doorstep, who begrudgingly lets Felix move in.

The nagging question posed in the opening credits was, “Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?” As audiences quickly learned, the answer was clearly no. Every episode pitted their peculiar habits and sharp-wit against each other in a variety of comical situations.

There were a number of classic moments along the way, such as when Felix took Oscar to a health spa to help him get in better shape, or Felix’s psychic ability whenever he gets a fever. The pair appeared together on the popular game shows Let’s Make a Deal and Password, both to hilarious results.

There were a number of recurring characters during the show’s run. The Pigeon Sisters, who were both part of the Broadway show and the film, appeared during the first season. Jack Klugman’s real-life wife Brett Summers made a number of appearances as Oscar’s ex-wife Blanche. Al Molinaro played the good-hearted neighborhood cop, Murray, while Penny Marshall (who happened to be the sister of show producer Garry Marshall) first appeared on television as Oscar’s secretary Myrna, years before she would star in another show produced by her brother called Laverne and Shirley.

Surprisingly, although The Odd Couple enjoyed a five-year run in prime-time, it wasn’t as popular then as it would eventually become. Once the show ended, it moved almost immediately to syndication and became a favorite. For many years, the show could regularly be found in the morning, afternoon and evening rotation, winning countless new fans along the way.

In 1977, the show was given animated treatment, airing on Saturday mornings as The Oddball Couple. A cat and dog respectively named Spiffy and Fleabag served as the stars. Then, in 1993, ABC decided to bring the series back as The New Odd Couple, this time using an African-American cast. It lasted as a long as the cartoon – a single year. A theatrical sequel to the original film, with both Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reprising their film roles, was released in 1998. Meanwhile, A new series began airing on CBS in 2015.

Some continue to argue over whether the film version of Felix and Oscar is superior to the television pair or vice-versa, but we can all agree that it is one of funniest pair of mismatched friends to ever hit the stage, screen and television set. For that, we can thank Neil Simon.

If you were a fan of this beloved television series, we would love to hear all of your favorite Odd Couple recollections in our comments section below.

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