Forty years ago on this date, ABC premiered The Odd Couple—a situation comedy based on the successful stage play by Neil Simon and the 1968 film adaptation that followed afterward. Edward Copeland asked for a volunteer to commemorate the occasion, and I was only too happy to do—you can read my essay here. (I wanted to use the above picture with the piece, but Ed suggested that because Couple was a color show we go with a color photograph. However, there’s no law that says I can’t use it on my own blog.)
I watched the show’s first two seasons on DVD as a refresher course for the post, and what positively delighted me was the fact that Couple is still as fresh and funny as it was forty years ago. In fact, I didn’t see this post at the time but I really enjoyed this critical two cents from The A.V. Club’s Todd VanDerWerff, whose primer on 70s sitcoms contains the right-on-the-money observation that writer-director-producer Garry Marshall “never met a standard so low he wouldn’t stoop to meet it if it made his show a hit.”
Curiously, Marshall is also responsible for one of the decade’s best sitcoms, The Odd Couple, an adaptation of the hit play and film, with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman locked in one of the great comic duets. Unlike Lear and MTM’s shows, The Odd Couple is timeless, a throwback to the high-concept sitcoms of the ’60s. Oscar and Felix, the uptight snob and the messy slob, are such a perfect duality that the show doesn’t need other characters. In fact, it suffers when there are other characters on screen. Yet the series works because it doesn’t bother with timeliness or social commentary. It just produces the funniest experience it can. The Odd Couple is a great show that doesn’t fit comfortably within any of the movements that dominated the sitcoms of the decade. It’s a ’70s sitcom only because it was produced in the ’70s.
Brother VanDerWerff does not speak with forked tongue. A generous doff of the TDOY chapeau to Jaime Weinman at TV Guidance for pointing me toward this well-worth-your-time read.