TV Review: ‘The Odd Couple’

Matthew Perry, Thomas Lennon, Lindsay Sloane, Wendell Pierce, Yvette Nicole Brown

With “Two and a Half Men” signing off, CBS will try to fill the void by shrinking the formula to two admittedly very familiar men, named Felix and Oscar. Matthew Perry completes his potentially dubious post-“Friends” hat trick — having starred in comedies for NBC and ABC as well — with this reboot of “The Odd Couple,” a beloved series that still derives some kick from Neil Simon’s blueprint, but also feels especially dated in this day and age, what with Felix as the nonsexual spouse, essentially, to Oscar’s slovenly husband. Good casting provides some hope, but this still feels oh-so-20th century.

Only a few lines from Simon’s original make it into the pilot, but they provide a spiritual link to the source. In addition, Garry Marshall, who adapted the show to TV, serves as a consultant, with Bob Daily, an alum of “Frasier” and “Desperate Housewives,” as showrunner.

Thomas Lennon, meanwhile, tries somewhat vainly to differentiate himself from Tony Randall’s take on Felix, whose allergies and quirks — from cooking to an obsession with neatness — clash with Perry’s disheveled manliness as Oscar, elevated from sportswriter to the role of sports talkradio host because, as we all know, print is for saps and losers. Absurdly, Oscar has his very own video wall to monitor games, which must put him somewhere in Rush Limbaugh’s tax bracket.

Once again, the action gets going with Felix having been booted by his wife, temporarily taking up residence with the divorced Oscar, who is busily trying to get busy with a comely neighbor (Leslie Bibb, in a merely recurring role). That provides a way of introducing said neighbor’s neurotic sister, Emily, played by Lindsay Sloane, who represents a sort-of female version of Felix, giving him someone with whom to bond. So the two women are sisters, just not of the Cuckoo Pigeon variety.

Over the years “The Odd Couple” has been an extraordinarily durable concept on stage and screen, whether rewritten for women or simply ripped off. But this still feels, ultimately, both conceptually flawed and a test of how much goodwill Perry — who shares writing credit on the premiere with Danny Jacobson and Joe Keenan — has left as Chandler Bing recedes further into the rear-view mirror.

In one of the few modern flourishes, while being gay wasn’t part of the conversation in the 1968 movie, it’s addressed overtly here, from Emily’s husband having left her for a man to Oscar saying about Felix, “He seems incredibly gay, but he’s not.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The quality supporting players also include Wendell Pierce (seemingly recycled from his role in “The Michael J. Fox Show”) and guest Dave Foley as Oscar’s poker buddies, and there is one genuinely laugh-out-loud sight gag at the opener’s very end, although that probably comes too late to spray enough air freshener over this revival to cause Felix to honk and wheeze.

For CBS, “Men’s” exit hastens the sense of urgency to replenish its comedy arsenal, which has too often looked — ratings-wise, and to some extent, qualitatively — like “The Big Bang Theory” surrounded by dwarf stars. The network has also given the show about as felicitous a launch platform as it could offer for sampling purposes, sandwiched between CBS’ megahit and “Men’s” one-hour finale.

Perhaps “The Odd Couple” will begin that reloading process. But given how tired the show feels already, if the collective response from the younger audience the network covets is signed “FU,” for once, that actually might not mean Felix Unger.

TV Review: 'The Odd Couple'

(Series; CBS, Thurs. Feb. 19, 8:30 p.m.)

Production: Filmed in Los Angeles by CBS Television Studios.

Crew: Executive producers, Bob Daily, Eric Tannenbaum, Kim Tannenbaum, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly, Matthew Perry; director, Mark Cendrowski; writers, Perry, Danny Jacobson, Joe Keenan; based on “The Odd Couple” by Neil Simon; camera, Mikel Neiers; production designer, John Shaffner; editor, Pat Barnett; music, Bruce Miller, Jason T. Miller; original theme, Neal Hefti; casting, Collin Daniel, Brett Greenstein. 30 MIN.

Cast: Matthew Perry, Thomas Lennon, Lindsay Sloane, Wendell Pierce, Yvette Nicole Brown

More TV

  • Leonine Takes International Rights to Premium

    Leonine Takes International Rights to Premium Series 'Herzogpark'

    German media group Leonine has taken international distribution rights to the six-part premium series “Herzogpark,” following a deal with its producers Letterbox Filmproduktion (“Bad Banks”). The rights for German-speaking territories are held by Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland. The dramedy centers on four women from Munich’s upscale Herzogpark district, for whom keeping secrets has become a life’s [...]

  • Luna Nera Netflix Italy

    Italy's Women Filmmakers Set to Make Waves

    The Berlinale in recent years has been a prime launching pad for Italian films directed by women, which though fewer in number to their male counterparts, make up a considerable portion of the country’s representation on the festival circuit — Alice Rohrwacher (“Happy as Lazzaro”) at Cannes, Susanna Nicchiarelli (“Nico”) at Venice, and Berlin regular [...]

  • Love Me Scandinavian Cinema

    Scandinavia Ups Its Game With So Many Markets for Its Fare

    When the Nordic entertainment group, one of Scandinavia’s largest media groups, announced last month during the Goteborg Film Festival that it was pulling out of non-scripted content to focus on scripted drama, and film production and distribution, it underscored two market trends in the Nordics: Subscription-based services, whether local or global, are driving the region’s [...]

  • Louis Hofmann in Prélude

    Berlin: Louis Hofmann Cast in Damian John Harper's 'Fresh' (EXCLUSIVE)

    German star Louis Hofmann is set to topline Damian John Harper’s upcoming drama “Fresh,” a German-language adaptation of Scottish writer Mark McNay’s novel of the same name. Hofmann plays a young man who must emancipate himself from his tyrannical older brother. Unlike the book, which is set in the outskirts of Glasgow, the film’s story [...]

  • Steve Stark

    Steve Stark Named President of Newly Formed MGM/UA Television

    The newly formed MGM/UA Television label has found a president in Steve Stark, who previously served as MGM’s president of scripted television production and development. MGM Worldwide Television Group chairman Mark Burnett made the announcement late Friday, adding that Stark has extended his contract with the studio as part of his new role. “We are [...]

  • Bad Education

    TV News Roundup: HBO Sets Premiere Date for Hugh Jackman's 'Bad Education' (Watch)

    In today’s TV News roundup, HBO Films set the premiere date for “Bad Education” starring Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney and “Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda” tapes Chris Harrison and Sage Steele as hosts. CASTING “The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison will host “Volcano Live! with Nik Wallenda” alongside co-host Sage Steele of ESPN, ABC announced. [...]

  • Randall Park Ed Helms

    Randall Park, Ed Helms to Host Hybrid Alternative-Scripted Series 'True Story' for NBC

    Ed Helms and Randall Park are attached to co-host a hybrid scripted-alternative series titled “True Story” at NBC. The hour-long show has received a six-episode order. It is based on the Australian series “True Story with Hamish & Andy.” In the series, everyday Americans sit down with Helms and Park to share their most extraordinary [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content