Odd Couple, The (1970-75)


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

Tabs

About

Although often positioned in the shadow of such ground-breaking series as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family, The Odd Couple is one of the early examples of sophisticated, well-written, character-driven sitcoms that came to dominate the 1970s. Like M*A*S*H, it is also one of the few successful TV sitcoms to be based on material from another medium, in this case a successful Broadway play and film. Although critically acclaimed, it did not receive popular recognition until syndication.

Originally conceived by Neil Simon, who based the play on his brother Danny's true-life experience, The Odd Couple concept is best described in the one-sentence treatment Simon submitted to Paramount, who financed the stage play sight-unseen. "Two men--one divorced and one estranged and neither quite sure why their marriages fell apart--move in together to save money for alimony and suddenly discover they're having the same conflicts and fights they had in their marriages."

The Odd Couple, in all forms, is truly a popular culture phenomenon. Simon's wildly successful play ran from 1965 to 1967, and, as Rip Stock notes in his book Odd Couple Mania, it is most likely being produced right now by any number of community theater groups across the country. In 1968, the play was made into a successful film starring Walter Matthau as unkempt sports writer Oscar Madison and Jack Lemmon as anal-retentive commercial photographer Felix Unger. Naturally, Paramount wanted its TV division to cash in on this success; while Simon had signed away his TV rights, Paramount enlisted Dick Van Dyke Show alumni Gary Marshall and Jerry Belson to produce the series for television, which debuted on ABC in September 1970.

The sophisticated style and attention to character that Marshall and Belson had learned during their Dick Van Dyke days paid off, and The Odd Couple became one of TV's first relevant sitcoms, dealing with such issues as the generation gap and sex in an adult fashion. Of course, the primary focus was its characters. Jack Klugman and Tony Randall made for a perfect Oscar and Felix, and, indeed, have become more closely linked with their characters than their movie counterparts. While both actors won Emmy awards for their roles, the series failed to capture a wide audience. Third-place network ABC had little to lose by airing a marginal show, of course, and remained committed to the sitcom for five seasons before giving it the ax. The series, however, blossomed in syndication, appearing in major domestic and foreign markets to this day.

The names of those connected with the series, both on and off screen, reads like a Who's Who of television. Producer Gary Marshall used the respect he had gained from the series to create such less respectable programs as Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, Laverne and Shirley and Joanie Loves Chachi. Indeed, it was through his experience with The Odd Couple that Marshall learned a valuable lesson--in order to be a major hit, a show must have kid appeal, a formula Marshall soon had down to an art. While Marshall graduated to feature films, Jerry Belson remained in TV, eventually serving as co-producer and co-creator of The Tracy Ullman Show.

Klugman, after his first of several bouts with throat cancer, returned to his dramatic roots by starring in NBC's Quincy. Randall moved over to MTM to star in The Tony Randall Show, as well as the critically acclaimed NBC series Love, Sidney. Penny Marshall, Gary's sister, launched her acting career as Oscar Madison's whining secretary Myrna Turner (a name which rhymed when she pronounced it in her heavy New York accent).

The Odd Couple has enjoyed a number of spin-offs, which included an animated version in 1975 featuring a neat cat and a sloppy dog. In 1982, Jerry Belson revived the series for prime time, featuring African American actors Ron Glass and Demond Wilson in the Felix and Oscar roles. Using many of the same plots from the original episodes, The New Odd Couple lasted only one season. In 1992, Klugman and Randall reprised their roles in a special two-hour reunion episode. Given the American public's captivation with the series, it is likely that further versions will continue to surface.

-Michael B. Kassel

CAST (1970-1975)

Felix Unger ...............................................Tony Randall  

Oscar Madison........................................ Jack Klugman

Murray Greshner.......................................... Al Molinaro  

Speed (1970-1974).................................. Garry Walberg

Vinnie...................................................... Larry Gelman

Roger (1973-1974)...................................... Archie Hahn

Roy (1970-1971).................................... Ryan McDonald  

Cecily Pigeon (1970-1971)........................ Monica Evans  

Gwendolyn Pigeon (1970-1971).................... Carol Shelly

Dr. Nancy Cunningham (1970-1972)........... Joan Hotchkis  

Gloria Unger (1971-1975)........................... Janis Hansen  

lanche Madison...................................... Brett Somers  

Myrna Turner (1971-1975)....................... Penny Marshall

Miriam Welby (1972-1974)....................... Elinor Donahue

CAST (1982-1983)

Felix Unger................................................... Ron Glass

Oscar Madison...................................... Demond Wilson

Murray ......................................................John Schuck

Speed.................................................... Christipher Joy

Roy....................................................... Bart Braverman

Cecily Pigeon .......................................Sheila Anderson

Gwendolyn Pigeon............................... Ronalda Douglas

Maria............................................................ Liz Torres

Mona........................................ Jo MariePayton-France

PRODUCERS      

Garry Marshall, Jerry Belson, Harvey Miller, Sheldon Keller, Tony Marshall, Phil Mishkin

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

114 Episodes

ABC

September 1970-January 1971   Thursday 9:30-10:00

January 1971-June 1973   Friday 9:30-10:00

June 1973-January 1974   Friday 8:30-9:00

January 1974-September 1974   Friday 9:30-10:00

September 1974-January 1975   Thursday 8:00-8:30

January 1975-July 1975   Friday 9:30-10:00

October 1982-February 1983   Friday 8:30-9:00

May 1983   Friday 8:00-8:30

May 1983-June 1983   Thursday 8:30-9:00

FURTHER READING

Gross, Edward A. The 25th Anniversary Odd Couple Companion: Still Odd After All These Years. Las Vegas, Nevada: Pioneer, 1989.

Marc, David, and Robert J. Thompson. Prime Time Prime Movers: From I Love Lucy to L.A. Law--America's Greatest TV Shows and the People Who Created Them. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992.

Stock, Rip. Odd Couple Mania. New York: Ballantine, 1983.

Highlights
Jack Klugman on getting asked to play the role of "Oscar" on the TV version of The Odd Couple; on what he brought to his character and the chemistry between him and Tony Randall
11:19
Garry Marshall on being hired to develop The Odd Couple
01:13
Garry Marshall on casting The Odd Couple
03:45
Tony Randall on starring in The Odd Couple
Elinor Donahue on her regular role as "Miriam Welby" on The Odd Couple
05:01
Garry Marshall on Tony Randall and Jack Klugman's professionalism raising the bar for his sitcom writing
01:21
Hal Cooper on directing episodes of The Odd Couple;  on the show going from single-camera to multi-camera
04:25
Who talked about this show

Bruce Bilson

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Bruce Bilson on directing episodes of The Odd Couple
02:23

Hal Cooper

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Hal Cooper on directing episodes of The Odd Couple;  on the show going from single-camera to multi-camera
04:25
Hal Cooper on working with Tony Randall on The Odd Couple
01:12

Douglas S. Cramer

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Douglas S. Cramer on his duties as Vice President in Charge of Production at Paramount Television
09:24

Richard Dawson

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Richard Dawson on his appearance as himself on The Odd Couple
01:04

Elinor Donahue

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Elinor Donahue on her regular role as "Miriam Welby" on The Odd Couple
05:01
Elinor Donahue on a picture of her with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall of The Odd Couple
00:19

Ron Friedman

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Ron Friedman on writing for Bewitched and The Odd Couple starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, and working with producers William Asher and Garry Marshall
05:03

Lowell Ganz

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Lowell Ganz on how he came to write for The Odd Couple
05:57
Lowell Ganz on being on the writing staff for The Odd Couple and the atmosphere on the set
04:54
Lowell Ganz on being fired from the writing staff of The Odd Couple
02:48
Lowell Ganz on what he did post-The Odd Couple firing
02:46
Lowell Ganz on returning to The Odd Couple
05:08
Lowell Ganz on his first Odd Couple script
01:29
Lowell Ganz on working with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall on The Odd Couple
02:18
Lowell Ganz on working with Garry Marshall on The Odd Couple
03:38
Lowell Ganz on his early writing partner Mark Rothman and their writing process on The Odd Couple
04:09
Lowell Ganz on Jack Klugman and Tony Randall rewriting or changing scripts on The Odd Couple
02:47
Lowell Ganz on the evolution of his partnership with Mark Rothman
01:42
Lowell Ganz on his favorite Odd Couple episodes that he wrote and the difficulty of keeping the show fresh
03:14
Lowell Ganz on coming up with ideas for The Odd Couple
01:45
Lowell Ganz on The Odd Couple's lack of ratings success 
03:19
Lowell Ganz on the cancellation of The Odd Couple and the final episode
01:32
Lowell Ganz on The New Odd Couple and later Odd Couple reunions
01:44
Lowell Ganz on doing television versions of his feature films
05:09

Everett Greenbaum

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Everett Greenbaum on writing one The Odd Couple episode (where he had a falling-out with Tony Randall)
01:51

Monty Hall

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Monty Hall on appearing on The Odd Couple
00:26

Jack Klugman

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Jack Klugman on getting asked to play the role of "Oscar" on the TV version of The Odd Couple; on what he brought to his character and the chemistry between him and Tony Randall
11:19
Jack Klugman on the TV debut of The Odd Couple on September 24, 1970 and reaction to the show; on regulars and guest stars
06:14
Jack Klugman on his first appearance in the Broadway play of The Odd Couple - replacing Walter Matthau
03:52
Jack Klugman on his favorite episode of The Odd Couple: "Password" with guest Allen Ludden; on The Odd Couple's poor ratings and the show ending in 1975
03:49

Buz Kohan

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Buz Kohan on writing for The Odd Couple

Jack Lemmon

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Jack Lemmon on why he didn't want to be in the television version of The Odd Couple
01:04

Garry Marshall

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Garry Marshall on being hired to develop The Odd Couple
01:13
Garry Marshall on casting The Odd Couple
03:45
Garry Marshall on Tony Randall and Jack Klugman's professionalism raising the bar for his sitcom writing
01:21
Garry Marshall on producing The Odd Couple episode "Your Mother Wears Army Boots" (airdate: January 16, 1975) with guests Howard Cosell and Martina Arroyo
00:56
Garry Marshall on The Odd Couple episode "The Odd Monks" (airdate: October 13, 1972)
01:36
Garry Marshall on The Odd Couple episode "Password" (airdate: December 1, 1972)
00:44
Garry Marshall on Tony Randall appearing on the Tonight show to ask viewers to complain about the laugh track on The Odd Couple
00:42
Garry Marshall on The Odd Couple episode "That is the Army Mrs. Madison" (airdate: October 26. 1973)
01:00
Garry Marshall on The Odd Couple episode "The New Car" (airdate: October 19, 1973)
01:22
Garry Marshall on The Odd Couple episode "The Princess" (airdate: September 29, 1972)
00:57
Garry Marshall on spit-takes on the last episode of The Odd Couple
00:40

Penny Marshall

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Penny Marshall on appearing on Then Came Bronson and getting the part of "Myrna Turner" on The Odd Couple
02:39
Penny Marshall on the character of "Myrna Turner" on The Odd Couple and getting comfortable in front of the camera
01:30
Penny Marshall on working with Jack Klugman on The Odd Couple
00:44
Penny Marshall on Rob Reiner guest-starring on The Odd Couple and working on Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers
02:20

Carroll Pratt

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Carroll Pratt on providing laugh track for Kraft Music Hall, The Steve Allen Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Odd Couple, and The Partridge Family
05:50

Tony Randall

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Tony Randall on starring in The Odd Couple
Tony Randall on his favorite episodes of The Odd Couple
07:58

Larry Rhine

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Larry Rhine on writing the series finale of The Odd Couple
01:28

Mark Rothman

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Mark Rothman on being hired for The Odd Couple
09:11
Mark Rothman on being a staff writer for The Odd Couple
02:43
Mark Rothman on being let go from The Odd Couple
01:50
Mark Rothman on returning to The Odd Couple writing staff
06:04
Mark Rothman on his second stint on The Odd Couple
04:30
Mark Rothman on his contribution to Odd Couple scripts
09:58
Mark Rothman on his favorite episodes of The Odd Couple
13:32
Mark Rothman on working with Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson
04:55

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