The New Odd Couple and The Odd Couple


The New Odd Couple (1982-1983)
The Odd Couple (1970-1975)
Type: Revival

   Usually when you see "New" in the title of a show as in "The New WKRP In Cincinnati" it means the show is a continuation of the original series. But in the case of The New Odd Couple, that was not the case and there wasn't very much actually new about it.

   Both versions of The Odd Couple told the story of two mismatched roommates: fussy photographer Felix Unger and slobby sportswriter Oscar Madison. Oscar was divorced and living alone when anal retentive Felix was kicked out of his house by his wife and came to live with him. The conflict between their lifestyles and the friendship they had in spite of this was the source of most of the comedy. Felix was waaay too fussy to be living with such a relaxed and easy going slob as Oscar. In addition to these TV series, the same plot fueled a play and several movie incarnations of the duo.

   So what was so new about The New Odd Couple? Were they new stories with the same cast? Nope. New stories AND a new cast? Uh, no. In point of fact, The New Odd Couple featured a new cast redoing scripts from the original series. That's right, recycled scripts. Why, you ask? Because at the time there was a writers' strike going on and reusing the old material was a way around the problem.

   What really made the new series distinct from the original though was the cast. The original Odd Couple and their friends had been white. In the new version, they were all black! See! See! Clever huh? Old recycled scripts but the stars were black! Makes you wanna watch right? No? Ah, hell. Okay, the truth is nobody watched when it was on either. Come on. The episode plots were classics but they had already been done as best as they could be done. Whoopi Goldberg might be hilarious actress but would you want to watch her redo episodes of I Love Lucy. No. No matter how good a job she did she'd never be able to top the original.

   The original TV Odd Couple had been Tony Randall as Felix and Jack Klugman as Oscar. The New Odd Couple featured former Barney Miller star Ron Glass as Felix and Sanford And Son's Demond Wilson as Oscar. They are both very funny comedians but stepping not only into the roles that Randall and Klugman made their own but also into the exact episodes they had made their own was just a no win proposition. The audience had seen the episodes and laughed at them once already and could continue to do so in repeats. Why watch? Because the leads were all black? Well that would be a very PC reason to watch but, come on. People will watch shows with black casts but not just because they have black casts.

   Having beaten my point to death, it is vaguely worth noting that the creator of the Odd Couple, Neil Simon, also reworked his original play version of The Odd Couple so that the main characters were switched from men to women. Why? I dunno. He had some time to kill I guess. I am waiting for a new film version of The Odd Couple starring Chinese hermaphrodites with baited breath.


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