Emmy Throwback: When Jack Klugman and Tony Randall Were the Original 'Odd Couple'

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Thomas Lennon, who plays Felix on the current CBS version, says the show's formula works because "it gets down to the simplest reasons: You've suffered through one of these types in your life and it's something you relate to."

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

When The Odd Couple launched in 1970 on ABC, THR wrote, "It made for a debut that was more fun to watch than anything this reviewer has seen introduced on television this season."

The Television Academy agreed, nominating the sitcom starring Tony Randall as fastidious Felix Unger and Jack Klugman as slovenly Oscar Madison for outstanding new series. It lost to All in the Family, but Klugman won for his comedic performance, something he'd do again in 1973. (Randall didn't win until 1975, the series' last year on air.)

"What we had were two actors who'd been around a bit," says co-creator Garry Marshall, who directed six episodes and appeared in four as a drummer. "They knew how to get a laugh."

Based on Neil Simon's 1965 Mike Nichols-directed, Tony Award-winning Broadway play about two divorced men living together (Walter Matthau and Art Carney starred), Couple spawned a 1968 film starring Jack Lemmon and Matthau, three sitcoms and a short-lived ABC cartoon series with a cat and dog named Spiffy and Fleabag.

Thomas Lennon, who plays Felix on the current CBS version, says Simon's Couple formula works because "it gets down to the simplest reasons: You've suffered through one of these types in your life and it's something you relate to." 

 

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