Sunday, November 27, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: The New Odd Couple Goes Back to Formula

Veteran actor Ron Glass passed away yesterday at age 71, and while many are understandably remembering his Barney Miller and Firefly stints, my thoughts turned to his time on The New Odd Couple in 1982. By that time, the legendary Neil Simon play, about fusspot photographer Felix Unger and slovenly sportswriter Oscar Madison, had already been brought to the screen with a successful 1968 feature film starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, and a successful 1970-'75 ABC TV version starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. So, what made this version new? Hmm, I have no idea...

Gotta say, I dig that intro music! That's the same iconic Neal Hefti theme, by the way, that's been on every Odd Couple variation since the movie, though this one has been "urban-ed" up, because, well, you know.

The backstory here is that a 1981 Writers' Guild strike left networks without a slate of programming for the fall season, and one workaround for ABC was to produce content based on extant material. And so, with Glass in the Felix role, and Sanford and Son's Lamont, Demond Wilson, as Oscar, literally the only thing justifying the "new" label was the characters' race. And while the actors were both solid in their respective roles, the show landed with a thud because people didn't want to watch race-switched versions of episodes still playing in syndication.

While the show eventually switched to brand-new stories after repurposing old scripts for the first eight episodes, by then the apathy had already set in, and The New Odd Couple was cancelled after eighteen installments and is remembered today as a footnote for what's ended up being a surprisingly resilient brand for CBS/Paramount, with a sequel to the TV series in 1993, a sequel to the theatrical feature in 1998, and another TV reboot in 2015, now in its third season on CBS. But separate from the reasons for its failure, The New Odd Couple is still enjoyable in its own way, demonstrating how great actors can make even a time-tested concept work.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Giving a Hard Time to Hard Time on Planet Earth

Two Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: That's Incredible! Edition

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Archie Grows Up

Four Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Centurions -- Power Extreme!

Five Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Fugitive Edition

No comments: