The Odd Couple is arguably one of my all time favorite shows!
The success of the 1968 film version of the stage play of The Odd Couple, which starred Jack Lemmon as Felix and Walter Matthau as Oscar, served as the catalyst to bringing the characters to television. The original casting considerations for the TV show included Mickey Rooney or Martin Balsam as Oscar and Dean Martin or Art Carney as Felix. (Carney had originated the role on Broadway.) Eventually, Jack Klugman and Tony Randall were hired. Both had starred in different productions of the play. Randall, who was hired first, had still wanted Mickey Rooney to play Oscar. The show's co-executive producer, Garry Marshall, had to lobby to get Klugman successfully hired. Once the casting was in place, the show's writers (Marshall, Jerry Belson, Jerry Paris, Harvey Miller, Bob Brunner, Mark Rothman and Lowell Ganz, among others) came up with a multitude of situations for Felix and Oscar to be in, while always staying true to the soul of the play, which always reverted back to the human tensions between the two that created the comic situations.
The show premiered on ABC on Thursday, September 24, 1970, at 9:30 p.m. During the first season, the show was filmed like a movie with a single camera, using an apartment set resembling the film version; a laugh track was used (to which Tony Randall objected). Thereafter, the show was filmed with three cameras and performed like a stage play in front of a studio audience: a laugh track was used only to sweeten the live reactions. The apartment set looked the same, but was reversed; the kitchen was now on the left of the stage, and the long hallway to their bedrooms was on the right.
The show struggled in the Nielsen ratings and was canceled at the end of every season. However, ABC renewed the show for each upcoming season because the ratings for the summer reruns were high.
The final first-run episode, aired on March 7, 1975, was entitled "Felix Remarries." In it, Felix finally wins Gloria back and they remarry as Oscar regains the freedom of living alone again. The final scene unfolds in this way, as the two say their goodbyes:
- Felix: Your dinner's in the oven; turn it off in twenty minutes. [pause] Oscar … what can I say? Five years ago you took me in: a broken man on the verge of … mental collapse. I leave here a cured human being. I owe it all to you. [gesturing toward apartment] It's all yours buddy. I salute you. [empties waste basket onto floor]
- Oscar: Felix, you know how I'm gonna salute you? I'm gonna clean that up.
- Felix: It has not been in vain.
- [They shake hands and Felix exits stage right through front door. After door closes …]
- Oscar: [swings his hand through the air] I'm not gonna clean that up! [exits stage left to bedroom to audience laughter]
- [Felix sneaks back in stage right and looks at floor]
- Felix: [disgustedly] I knew he wouldn't clean it up! [proceeds to pick up trash to audience applause] (fade out)
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