Archive for August 18th, 2017

by John Greco

The Odd Couple was one of those shows that was never a huge hit during its original TV run. For five-seasons it ran on ABC and not once did it crack the Top 20 in the Neilson ratings. However, once the show was cancelled and put in syndication, it became a favorite, still running today on various cable stations and streaming services. The shows two stars made more money once the show went into syndication than they did during the original run.

The show was based on Neil Simon’s hit Broadway play [1] that opened in March of 1965 and ran for more than two years. Walter Matthau played Oscar Madison, the sloppy, gambling sports-writer for The New York Herald with Art Carney as the finicky television news writer, Felix Unger. [2]  The play won numerous Tony Awards including Best Play, Best Actor for Matthau, and Best Director (Mike Nichols). In 1968, the play was turned into a film with Matthau recreating his role as Oscar and Jack Lemmon brought in to play persnickety Felix.  The film opened at Radio City Music Hall, and like the play was a financial and audience hit.

In 1970, ABC with Garry Marshall behind the scenes brought the show to television. Jack Klugman who earlier replaced Walter Matthau on Broadway was brought in to play Oscar. A perfect Tony Randall was brought in to play Felix.  Randall, like Klugman, was familiar with the original material having played Felix, opposite Mickey Rooney as Oscar, in various productions. Rooney apparently was considered for the role of Oscar before the producers settled on Klugman. The Odd Couple was Marshall’s first of many development deals that would result in future hit shows like Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy. The transfer from Broadway to film to television did result in a few changes to the characters. One of the most notable is Felix who in the play and film is contemplating suicide. Randall’s TV Felix though depressed never goes that far.  (more…)

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