The Odd Couple is one of the most beloved sitcoms in American television history. It originally aired from September 24, 1970, to March 7, 1975 on ABC, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. Based on Neil Simon’s hit 1965 Broadway play, the show follows a pair of divorced men named Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Both being kicked out from their houses by their ex-wives, Felix and Oscar end up as roommates in a Manhattan apartment, only to find their lifestyles constantly clashing.
Pairing a gruff slob with a prim and uptight roommate has been an effective formula in television comedy, and The Odd Couple’s idea still continue to click today.
Besides having a play, a film, and a 2015 TV series remake – starring Friends star Matthew Perry and The State’s Thomas Lennon – here are some of the interesting facts about The Odd Couple.
The title could be misleading so it worried the producers so much that they added “Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?” in the opening narration to assure the viewers that Felix and Oscar were not gay. Then after a time, the narration disappeared.
The early episodes of Season 1 were titled “Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.” Neil Simon did not want his name to be tied to it because he wasn’t confident with the quality of the scripts. He thought if the show would flop then his reputation will be affected. But after watching the two seasons, he became a fan, and he agreed to appear in one episode where Felix and Oscar ran into him while walking the streets of New York.
3. The characters’ personality matched the actors’ real-life traits.
Many of the personality traits and interests of the characters were based on the actors themselves. Oscar loved race horsesjust like Jack Klugman, his actor. Meanwhile, Tony Randall liked classical music and opera, just like his character Felix.
On the show, Oscar’s ex-wife Blanche was played by Brett Somers. In real life, she was the wife of Oscar’s actor Jack Klugman. They were divorced on-screen but together off-screen, but eventually they separated as well in real life during the run of the show.
Mickey Rooney and Martin Balsam were also originally considered for the role of Oscar during casting, besides Jack Klugman. Tony Randall, who played Felix, was hired first and wanted Rooney to be his co-star. However, the show’s co-executive producer, Garry Marshall, insisted on hiring Klugman. Of course, Klugman got the part.
On the fourth episode of the show, it was mentioned once that the two met while on jury duty. But through the first season, the “childhood friend” reference was added and was later changed to simply “friend.” There was also an episode wherein the two were serving in the army together with Felix being Oscar’s superior during the time Oscar and Blanche were married. There were also inconsistencies in the continuity of the story, including a flashback scene where Oscar and Blanche were shown living in the apartment that Oscar shared with Felix.
The first season of the TV show was filmed in the same apartment as the one in The Odd Couple movie in 1968, using only one camera and a laugh track, which Tony Randall hated. Thereafter, the subsequent seasons were filmed in a studio using three cameras in front of a live audience.
Even though the The Odd Couple was influential, the ratings were low and it never gained a spot on Nielsen’s Top 25 rating list. At the end of every season, the series was always almost cancelled, but the high ratings of reruns during the summer saved the show year after year. The appearance of ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell as a guest star on two episodes also brought in new viewers and boosted the show’s ratings. However, in 1975, the show was officially cancelled.
Elinor Donahue, the actress who played Felix’s girlfriend Miriam, had trouble reading and remembering lines during her first table read with the cast. Tony Randall got frustrated, so he yelled at her and banged his fists on the table, causing Donahue to burst in tears. The next day, Randall apologized to her with flowers and a note.
Jane Dulo, the actress who played Oscar’s mom, was only five years older than Jack Klugman. She appeared to look older because of makeup and special tricks.
Richard Stahl showed up in nine episodes of The Odd Couple playing nine different roles as a psychiatrist, a florist, a monk, a pet-shop salesman, among others. Stahl worked as a minor character in a bunch of different TV shows during the 70s and 80s.
The duo’s faces appeared in the box of Challenge Yahtzee board game for years. The duo also starred in a series of commercials for Eagle Snacks featuring their characters’ stereotypes while using their real names.