February 20, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Odd Couple”


THE ODD COUPLE:  Thursday 8:30PM on CBS – If Nothing Else Is On…

As Chandler Bing might say:  Could there be a more CBS show than a reboot of a 45-year old multicamera sit-com, with a star 10 years from his last hit?  If the network’s new version of THE ODD COUPLE works, maybe next season it can bring back Fibber McGee & Molly.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a return to the Odd Couple well, a show whose bones have lasted a half-century all told, including Neil Simon’s original Broadway play and movie (both smash hits), and plenty of sequels and remixes over the years, including an all-black version and one where the genders were transposed.  The trick, though, is that The Odd Couple has become so engrained in pop culture, its basic premise of a slobby loudmouth paired with a finicky metrosexual now so much a part of every genre from action movies to cartoons, that another incarnation requires real comic sparks between its Oscar Madison and Felix Unger.

They’re in short supply as incarnated by Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon.  Perry, in particular, feels miscast, which is a bit weird since he’s a co-creator of this version, with Danny Jacobson and Consulting Producer Joe Keenan.  Perry can do lazy and embittered for laughs well enough, but he doesn’t have the alpha male charge that’s supposed to be part of Oscar’s make-up.  When his Oscar unloads on Felix and the hot sisters across the hall (no longer the Pigeons and no longer stewardesses) take Felix in out of concern, it’s hard to see why they’d take Oscar’s whining so seriously.  More than Oscar Madison, Perry seems to be playing the same guy he inhabited on Go On a couple of seasons ago, especially when nostalgia for his ex-wife makes him weep–he even has roughly the same job, delivering sports podcasts, although now he works from home.

Lennon also sticks to his tried-and-true tricks, repeating beats from the boss he played last season on Sean Saves the World, and while it was possible to believe in Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon or Jack Klugman and Tony Randall as friends despite their differences, here the two men seem to inhabit different planets.  In a small but telling change from previous versions, this Felix is no longer one of Oscar’s regular poker circle, but a more distant friend from his college-era past, which makes him even more isolated and oddball.

This Odd Couple isn’t much better than mediocre, but that’s still less painful than recent CBS sitcom flops like The Millers and The McCarthys.  The pilot, directed by Mark Cendrowski, features a promising supporting cast, including Wendell Pierce and Dave Foley as Oscar’s buddies (no poker this time around), Yvette Nicole Brown as his assistant, and Leslie Bibb and Lindsay Sloane as the sisters.  The script incorporates a few of Neil Simon’s 50-year old gags (“It took me 2 days to figure out that F.U. meant Felix Unger!”), and they still work.  Unfortunately, chemistry is hard to manufacture, and with two leads who are less than inspired together, the new Odd Couple may be hard-pressed to generate really satisfying laughs.  Still, CBS is giving it every opportunity to work, with The Big Bang Theory as its lead-in, so the pair should have some time to try and make this roommate arrangement work.  For now, it’s very much a summer stock production, one more suited to Oscar’s laissez-faire attitude than Felix’s attention to detail.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."