Monday, February 23, 2015

A Classic Reborn: The Odd Couple (2015)

It's been worth the wait.

CBS made viewers wait until the February sweeps to launch their remake of The Odd Couple. The reasons could include the network's commitment to NFL football on Thursdays for 2 months at the start of the season, as well as the lingering stigma of last season, when the late Robin Williams' last series, The Crazy Ones, was hyped to the moon and launched in the fall, but was not renewed. I still believe that the decision to cancel Crazy might've played a role in Williams taking his own life 6 months ago.

As with Crazy, the new Odd Couple has a familiar face getting top billing, in this case, Matthew Perry (ex-Friends), who co-authored the teleplay for the series opener, as well as having developed the project in the first place. Perry's still looking for a hit series he can call his own after failing with Go On a couple of seasons back.

Perry assumes the role of Oscar Madison, who's still in sports journalism, but to update the concept for the 21st century, Oscar now hosts a talk show or podcast (it's not established which) out of his apartment, which is notably larger than the one occupied by Tony Randall & Jack Klugman in the 1970-5 series. Oscar's still a slob, as evidenced by assorted items strewn about the apartment. Believe me, I can relate. I have a friend who kept an apartment the same way more than 20 years ago, and it got him in trouble.

Thomas Lennon (ex-Reno 911!) stops short of a Randall mimic as neatnik Felix Unger, who, in this version, hijacks Oscar's sports ticker to get his roommate's attention. You know the story, I'm sure. In this edition, it is established that Oscar has been divorced for about 18 months. His ex-wife has been rechristened Gabby (short for Gabrielle, of course), as opposed to Blanche in previous incarnations of Couple. Similarly, Felix's ex-wife was renamed Ashley for this series (it was Gloria in the 1970 series, and that was a change from Neil Simon's original vision). Felix is newly divorced, and it is also established that he & Oscar were college pals. Good move on the part of Perry and his fellow writers to set that in stone early. The origins were shuffled a couple of times in the earlier series.

While I'm not sure if the two hotties we see in the opener are meant to be analogues for the Pigeon Sisters from the original, at least there won't be a shortage of romantic plot twists. Another nice move was at least retaining part of the beat of the classic 1970 theme, composed by Neal Hefti of Batman fame.

The opener was hammocked in between The Big Bang Theory and the series finale of Two and a Half Men, so it's in a good spot. Bear in mind, too, that the previous versions aired on either Thursdays or Fridays. We've previously discussed Garry Marshall's ill-advised urban remake from the 80's.

Right now, let's scope out the intro:

Lennon absolutely nails it as Felix, and anyone that followed Friends closely would've thought that Chandler had a little Oscar to him until he got married. That said, provided CBS doesn't screw up, this Couple should stay with us. It took 3 days before Time Warner Cable added the opener to their CBS On Demand portal on their Primetime on Demand channel. Hopefully, subsequent episodes won't take as long.

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

I'm a bit wary of this reboot despite the pedigree. The reboot in the 80s was a mess - though more for the fact they literally recycled original OC scripts. A color change wasn't going to make Oscar & Felix any better.

Funny though that the play still does well it gets revived. I remember many moons ago there was a female reboot of the show on Broadway - "Felicia" was played by Sally Struthers, while "Olive" was played by Dawn Wells.

hobbyfan said...

Holy cow!! I'm surprised that wasn't tried on TV!

The advantage this version has over the 1980's one is what airs in front of it (Big Bang Theory), plus the recognition factor for Perry, if there are any people left who jumped ship after "Go On" bombed.