1 9 7 0 – 1 9 7 5 (USA)
114 x 30 minute episodes
Based on the successful Neil Simon Broadway play starring Walter Matthau and Art Carney, this TV series posed the famous question, “Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?”
Felix Unger (Tony Randall) is a photographer and mildly neurotic neatness freak who is so compulsively tidy that he has driven his wife nuts and made her feel inferior in areas such as cleaning and cooking.
She kicks him out of their New Rochelle home and Felix lands on the doorstep of his divorced childhood friend and New York Herald sportswriter Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) at Apartment 1102, 1049 Park Avenue, New York. What starts as a temporary respite for Felix soon becomes a permanent living arrangement.
Although there are benefits for Oscar, he is none too keen on some of Felix’s habits, including his fanatical devotion to high culture and the noises he makes when attempting to clear his sinuses (he has deviated septum problems).
Of course, it’s no picnic for Felix living with Oscar either, what with his smelly cigar smoking and untidiness.
But in spite of everything their mutual need to drive each other crazy is the very bond that cements their friendship and makes it possible for them to co-exist as room-mates, even if catastrophe lies around every corner.
Oscar’s Thursday-night poker buddies were Murray the cop (Al Molinaro), compulsive gambler Speed (Garry Walberg) and meek and mild-mannered Vinnie (Larry Gelman).
Dr Nancy Cunningham (Joan Hotchkis) was Oscar’s girlfriend during the first season, and Myrna Turner (Penny Marshall) was his whiny secretary. The Pigeon Sisters – Cecily and Gwendolyn (Monica Evans and Carol Shelly respectively) were two silly English girls who lived upstairs.
Oscar’s ex-wife, Blanche, was played by Klugman’s real-life wife, Brett Somers. Edna was Felix’s seldom-seen daughter who was played by two separate actresses in the series.
For two seasons, Miriam Wellby (Elinor Donahue) served as Felix’s girlfriend but by the final season, he had reconciled with his ex-wife, Gloria.
The situation on which the series had been built was neatly resolved in the final episode when Felix moved out to remarry Gloria.
Oscar returned to the apartment alone, looked around, and exploded into noisy, messy celebration knowing the apartment was his and only his!
The series returned to ABC’s schedule seven years later as The New Odd Couple (1982 – 1983), but with a black cast.
The 13 episode series starred Ron Glass as Felix and Desmond Wilson as Oscar. The scenario was exactly the same and many of the same characters returned.
There was also a cartoon spin-off of sorts, The Oddball Couple (1975 – 1977), which featured a sloppy dog called Fleabag and a neat cat called Spiffy – the Oscar Madison and Felix Unger of the animal world.
Tony Randall passed away on 17 May 2004. Jack Klugman died on 24 December 2012.
Officer Murray Greshner
Dr Nancy Cunningham