Friday, June 6, 2014

CBS goes back to the remake well with The Odd Couple. But will it work?

When CBS released its fall schedule a few weeks back, I was disappointed to see that Robin Williams' comeback vehicle, The Crazy Ones, was not renewed. Had Robin lost his touch? No, it's just that Crazy had the misfortune of airing opposite Grey's Anatomy. End of story. Rather than try to just bring back a familiar face or two (Williams & Sarah Michelle Gellar), CBS is going for the downs, and I don't mean it in football terms, either.

It's been 32 years since someone last tried to revive Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, which has been done twice on the small screen. ABC thought they could plug the show back in on Friday nights in 1982, where the original series aired for five seasons (1970-5). Problem was, the landscape was different, and The New Odd Couple barely got out of the starting gate.

Paramount and executive producer Garry Marshall went for the urban audience by recasting the leads as African Americans. Ron Glass had finished up a 7 year run on Barney Miller. Demond Wilson was a Friday fixture for five seasons on Sanford & Son on NBC. Shouldn't have gone wrong, shouldn't it? Unfortunately, it did. Viewers just weren't ready to accept an Odd Couple that didn't have Jack Klugman (who was doing Quincy at the time) and Tony Randall, or the Broadway/movie duo of Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau. Plus, the earlier series was readily available in syndication, and CBS back then owned Fridays with Dukes of Hazzard & Dallas. Ballgame.

For those of you who, like me, never saw The New Odd Couple, this is what it looked like, courtesy of Gilmore Box:

In the fall, Matthew Perry (ex-Friends) & Thomas Lennon (ex-Reno 911!) will attempt to recreate the chemistry of Randall & Klugman, and CBS has slotted this version of Odd Couple on Mondays as part of its powerful comedy block. It wasn't long ago that Perry's last series, Go On, got up and went, and thus he & Lennon face the same challenge that Glass & Wilson did three decades ago. To try to live up to what, in a lot of people's minds, remains the gold standard. It won't help that the original is now available on cable on Me-TV.

To give you a refresher course, here's a sample of the Klugman/Randall Couple, a crossover with Password!

We'll check back in September and see if we have a winner.

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