Odd couple, maybe, odd Oscar, definitely

Let’s talk about Oscar Madison.

You know, the fictional sportswriter. Cigar-smoker, beer-drinker, poker-player, buddy to Murray the Cop.

Forever cranky roommate to fussbudget Felix Ungar.

Walter Matthau, left, with Art Carney as Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar in "The Odd Couple" on Broadway in 1965. (From WikiPedia)

Walter Matthau, left, with Art Carney as Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar in “The Odd Couple” on Broadway in 1965. (From WikiPedia)

Oh, yes, that is the crux of the long-lived male tale born in the mind of playwright Neil Simon for the 1965 Broadway production “The Odd Couple,” with Walter Matthau mixing it up with Art Carney as Felix.

And that title went on to become a hit movie in 1968, America further falling for the eccentricities of both characters.

Walter Matthau, right, and Jack Lemon as the silver screen Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar.

Walter Matthau, right, and Jack Lemon as the silver screen Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar. (From Getty Images)

The cinematic version starred the already craggy-faced Matthau as Oscar, and the makers were wise to pick fastidious Jack Lemon as Felix. That pair already had big screen chemistry in 1966’s “The Fortune Cookie.” Buddy movies, indeed. That give-and-take smartly carried on for more great tension and humor for generations thereafter. Grumpy old men, anyone?

Jack Klugman, right, and Tony Randall as Oscar and Felix. (From Getty Images)

Jack Klugman, right, and Tony Randall as Oscar and Felix. (From Getty Images)

The popularity of the characters was picked up by TV moguls, and ABC enlisted Jack Klugman to play Oscar and Tony Randall to annoy him as Felix for five seasons, from 1970 to 1975. Klugman had replaced Matthau in the sportswriter’s role late in the Broadway run, but according to WikiPedia, Simon still was against the storyline being adapted for bite-sized sitcom pieces. But by the end of the run, says the bio, Simon even made a cameo appearance.

And Oscar and Felix were a part of American psychology. The messy one and the neat one. The loud one and the nervous one. The don’t-care and the care-too-much. Baseball cap vs. stylish haircut. Untucked vs. tucked. It goes on today, does it not?

All this stereotyping, by the way, I’m not so sure how good it did or does our society. For comedy, though, pure gold. And for me, personally, as I rose through junior high and high school, watching the snippets of Oscar’s version of covering the New York Mets in the press box sure did nothing to deter my dreams of becoming a sportswriter. I went away to college to study journalism, I liked to drink beer. I got a job covering sports. My apartment may have been a bit messy … Yes, indeed, I came down mostly on the Oscar side of the equation. Nowadays, I’ve morphed some in the everyday aspects of living, by the way, and found that life can be truly grand when you’re man enough to be Oscar here and Felix there.

Desmond Wilson, right, and Ron Glass as TV's second version of Oscar and Felix.

Demond Wilson, right, and Ron Glass as TV’s second version of Oscar and Felix.

TV being TV, ABC naturally came up with “The New Odd Couple” in 1982, featuring a pair of popular black actors. Garry Marshall, who produced the original show and then mega-hit “Happy Days,” brought on Demond Wilson, the ever-suffering son from “Sanford and Son” and Ron Glass, the sharp-dressed detective from “Barney Miller” as Oscar and Felix, but the show only lasted 13 episodes. In fact, if not for Wiki, this one would have continued to sit squarely in my sitcom blind spot.

We continue to recycle here in our U.S. of A., though, so that brings us to this Thursday, 8:30 p.m., and one particular CBS’ mid-season add-on.

Matthew Perry, left, and Thomas Lennon as Oscar and Felix in CBS's new version. (From Getty Images)

Matthew Perry, left, and Thomas Lennon as Oscar and Felix in CBS’s new version. (From Getty Images)

Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar are coming back. “The Odd Couple” will star Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon. Perry’s the big name, of course, and he also developed the series and is listed as an executive producer. My guess is that he got to pick his role. He’s Oscar.

I’m not buying Matthew Perry as my Oscar Madison.

Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, holding out Joey in 'Friends.' (From Getty Images)

Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, holding out Joey in ‘Friends.’ (From Getty Images)

To me, Perry is the fussy one, the neurotic. He’s forever Chandler Bing on “Friends,” mixing it up with Joey Tribbiani and Ross Geller and Rachel Green and Phoebe Buffay before marrying Monica Geller.

Yeah, I know, Perry played a radio sports talk host for one season on NBC’s sitcom “Go On,” and I liked him, and the show. But he was plenty neurotic and way more Felix than Oscar.

Here’s the link to the Wiki history of “The Odd Couple.”

I offer my opinion after watching the first two episodes at that link.

Are you a fan of the play, movie or original TV series “The Odd Couple,” and why? Are you an Oscar or a Felix, and why? Do you buy Matthew Perry as Oscar, and why?

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70 thoughts on “Odd couple, maybe, odd Oscar, definitely

  1. i loved the movie, watched it with my dad, many times and howled with laughter and would have loved to have seen the play. i’ll give it a chance though may have a bit of a hard time with the new one. i’m oscar all the way.

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  2. What a great story the Odd Couple is. I never saw a stage presentation but I enjoyed the movie, and even the series. But. There is always a but. I agree with you. Chandler as Oscar? I don’t think so. He is just too “prissy” to be a crude, sloppy, cigar chomping sports writer. I think Jim Parsons would be a good choice,but I would guess the Network probably couldn’t afford him. Has Neil Simon ever written a stinker?

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  3. Hi, Mark. Here are my random Oscar/Felix thoughts, this morning:
    My mother was a Felix.
    My father was more an Oscar than a Felix but probably somewhere in the middle.
    I’m more an Oscar than a Felix (but not as much of Oscar as I fear, according to other people).
    Our cat Oscar is more of a Felix.
    Our cat Harley is more of an Oscar.
    I would like to see an all-cat version of The Odd Couple.
    I hope nobody who reads this gets too Felix-y about any messiness in this comment.
    I’m fan of the movie, the play, the original series, and this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment, and by far more than a whisker, Ann. The line was drawn so neatly and sloppily between Oscars and Felixes to start, and then we discovered that some people miraculously could have some traits of both and get away with it. Cats may be more etched in stone, though, enough so to have an all-feline production of the show. The cat who played Officer Dibble can audition for the role of Murray the Cop. Thanks for your wonderful comment while out driving your way up California, my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved the sitcom. The play and movie were a bit before my time. I always wary of modern day remakes but I could see Matthew Perry as Oscar. He’s distanced himself a bit from the Chandler role and he’s proven he can do sloppy and craggy well. I think it’s all down to the writing, at this point. Time will tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Funny movie and funny TV show (the one with Klugman and Randall…I never saw the one with Wilson and Glass, although I liked both of them in Sanford & Sons and Barney Miller, respectively). I am not too keen on Perry as Oscar and, in all likelihood, I won’t be tuning in. I’m not a fan of remakes of remakes of remakes. They usually try to hard and don’t succeed.

    By the way, and somewhat off topic, if you are old enough, like me, to have been a fan of Barney Miller, you might want to give Brooklyn Nine-Nine a look-see. It’s like a contemporary version of Barney Miller, with some quirky — and really funny, IMHO — characters.

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  6. There have been female Odd Couples over the years too, I believe (without bothering to look it up).
    I’d give Perry a chance. He may just be sardonic enough. But I suspect the show is doomed. The concept is from another time.
    Then again, Two Broke Girls continues to run and that thing is like a Disney Channel show for grownups.

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    • I know my WiKi research revealed that there was a cartoon version, Ross, but I refused to include that in my piece on principle. It did not list a woman version, or I would have written about Oscanne and Felicia! And now for a proud moment: I’ve never watched a scene of “Two Broke Girls,” not even by accident or slow clicker finger.

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      • My kids watch it when I’m in the other room, and I have to put on headphones.

        I just looked it up (you knew I would). It’s Florence and Olive. The poker game becomes a Trivial Pursuit game. On Broadway, they were played by Rita Moreno (O) and Sally Struthers (F).

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      • Thank you for adding that important hunk ‘o knowledge, Ross. Florence and Olive are fantastic subsitute names, and that’s a big-time duo to play them on Broadway, too.

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  7. I was Oscar as a young person, Felix as old. One needs order and organization to live in the adult world, with receipts and taxes. I recall the TV show when I was young and liked Tony Randall. I do not remember there being the 1982 version at all. I remember hearing that “Friends” had been a Courtney Cox vehicle and that she initially was supposed to play Rachel instead of Monica. That would have been a bad idea. She and Perry were both great as uptight 20 somethings, like you say. I can certainly see Thomas Lennon as a fastidious OCD person. He speaks tersely and has already played that character, never an obnoxious jock or lazy person. I certainly can’t see Perry in that role at all. He will have to prove he can stretch as an actor. I hate that right now I am hearing the Odd Couple theme song in my head.

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  8. I’m a big Matthew Perry fan, but I don’t think this was a wise casting choice. I would rather have a lesser known actor that could make the character work. I much prefer MP as a dramatic actor. I’ll watch the pilot, but the original show was fantastic, this show has big shoes to fill.

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  9. I loved the original tv show. I love Matthew Perry, A LOT. But the promos aren’t sitting great with me. I’ll give it a try. I want it to work because I want to keep seeing MP on tv. Fingers crossed it’s better than the promos. But like the comment above….the original tv show left big shoes to fill. I can see MP playing Oscar or Felix truth be told. But ….. let’s see.

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  10. I might give it a try on Hulu. It may turn out that it has to be taken for its’ own merits, rather than comparing it to the original (which would be easier if they gave it a different title). Kind of like turkey bacon, it is okay as long as you don’t compare it to bacon.

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  11. Intrigued–will be curious as to what you think when it airs. Because of Friends, I love Perry, so would be happy to see him in anything. Fun to review the history of the Odd Couple. Timeless is what it is. You’re so right about the pure comedy gold.

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  12. I agree with you, Mark! It may be a stretch for Matthew Perry, since he used to be finicky on “Friends.” It will maybe work out, depends on the writers, too. I loved the television series even better than the movie, but have seen reruns of the t.v. show and also, borrowed the movie only once or twice. I loved Walter Matthau in the Dennis the Menace movie, as Mr. Wilson. Just a side comment, Mark! Also, I did like Matthew Perry in “The Whole Nine Yards” and the sequel. He again played a fastidious character as a dentist, a little bit fussy but definitely funny! Smiles!

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  13. I am a fan of Thomas Lennon, having first watched him way back on MTV when I was a young teen, so I am more excited for him than Chandler Bing.

    I thought I had read somewhere that Matthau did not want to be cast as Oscar, that it would be too easy for him to play that part but they did it anyway. Of course, to great success, but still.

    Movie first, then original sitcom. That’s my preference πŸ˜€

    If he wasn’t on Gotham, I would offer up Donal Logue as a potential Oscar.

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  14. I’m curious what you thought about the show, Mark. The Odd Couple was my favorite TV show of all time, and Jack Klugman’s Oscar Madison definitely had an impact on my career choice (I started out as a sportswriter). I was expecting to be disappointed, but I’ll admit I was pleasantly surprised. What did you think?

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    • Thursday night is my bowling league, George, so I have yet to catch the premiere on the On Demand channel. It is on my list, and I will update my post with my opinion. I’m a bit shocked that you were pleasantly surprised. Great to see you here, my friend. I hope you are well.

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  15. Yeah, I love Jack and Tony in this role, even better than the movie actors before them, as they are the perfect Oscar and Felix! (And I appreciate Jack even more knowing that he filmed Quincy simultaneously to filming Odd!) As for the subsequent version, I haven’t wasted my time even entertaining the thought of replacing J&T. I agree, Matthew Perry is forever Chandler. In fact, when I saw the commercials for this coming soon, I felt a little sad knowing that Hollywood was sunning out of original ideas only sixty-five years after TV debuted in everyone’s homes (for the most part). :/

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