Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 6, 2007)
Only four months after we got the first season of The Odd Couple on DVD, Season Two comes marching our way. This set compiles all 23 episodes from the program’s 1971-72 outing. I’ll look at them in the order broadcast, which is how they appear on the DVDs. The plot synopses come straight from the package.
Natural Childbirth: “Oscar’s niece turns up in New York alone and pregnant, insisting she wants to deliver the child naturally… in the Bronx!”
Season Two gets off to a mediocre start with “Childbirth”. It feels like it takes a semi-nutty concept – Oscar and Felix deliver a baby! – and doesn’t do much to expand beyond that idea. A few funny moments result, but this is a lackluster show.
Felix’s Wife’s Boyfriend: “With Felix away in Canada, Oscar and Nancy feel safe fixing up his ex-wife Gloria with Nancy’s brother. But then Felix returns early…”
As I mentioned when I reviewed Season One, I think that Tony Randall was arguably the greatest sitcom actor of all. He reminds us why I might make that claim with his excellent performance here. Felix’s emotional distress gives him a great showcase and allows this episode to become a very good one.
Hospital Mates: “Oscar is looking forward to Felix’s operation so that he stops honking his nose. But when Oscar injures his ankle, they end up sharing a hospital room.”
How much mileage have I gotten out of the line “you’re my eyes, Gloria”? Well, not that much, but I do like to use the quote in those odd times that it makes sense. Nobody did needy and neurotic like Randall, and his skills came to the fore in this hilarious episode. The combination of Felix’s tendencies and Oscar’s grouchiness really flies here.
Sleepwalker: “Oscar has started walking in his sleep. But while sleepwalking, he’s also started to physically attack his roommate Felix.”
This one stands as an all-time favorite Odd Couple show for me. The ways that Felix annoys Oscar are hilarious, and it’s a hoot to watch Klugman struggle not to erupt. Add to that great lines like “I don’t like pits in my juice” – it’s funny in context – and “Sleepwalker” turns into a terrific show.
A Grave for Felix: “After he loses Felix’s cemetery plot money on a horse, Oscar has to help his finicky roommate find an acceptable burial place.”
Despite all of Felix’s annoying tendencies, Randall played him in a way that made sure we still liked him. Of course, it delivers good laughs as well, especially when we meet Mr. Bengstrom (Ivor Francis), a character even more Felix than Felix. This turns into another fine episode.
Murray the Fink: “Taunted by Oscar for being weak, Murray gets tough with his poker buddies and has them all thrown in jail for illegal gambling.”
At this point in the series’ evolution, it’s nice to get a show that emphasizes someone other than Oscar or Felix. Murray’s a cartoony character but he’s a fun one, especially with the goofy innocence in Al Molinaro’s performance. It’s also kind of fun to see Oscar as the one who causes a ruckus; normally Felix would be the odd man out, but “Fink” uses Oscar in that part while it also manages to fit naturally. Of course, Felix still gets his moments, and “sew buttons” – another phrase that works better in context – remains a favorite of mine.
Does Your Mother Know You’re Out, Rigoletto?: “Oscar gets an opera star to appear in Felix’s amateur production of Rigoletto. But when the singer is injured, Oscar must perform the role himself!”
I never cared for the series’ attempts – at Randall’s request, I assume – to shove culture down our throats, and “Rigoletto” is one of Season Two’s weaker programs.
The Fat Farm: “Oscar is encouraged by Nancy to lose a few pounds. So Felix takes his roommate to a strict health farm, where he is caught sneaking in food.”
After a mediocre show, S2 rebounds with the excellent “Farm”. The absurdity of the situation brings out good laughs. In addition, Felix and Oscar are always at their best when forced to deal with each other in tight circumstances. This turns into a solid program.
The Odd Couple Meet Their Host: “When he goes on a talk show, Oscar ends up telling funny stories about his neurotic roommate. So Felix demands equal time to get back at him.”
I’m not wild about the various guest stars on the series, but David Steinberg proves better than usual, if just because the Felix and Oscar appearances on the talk show are so funny. Both Randall and Klugman are hilarious as guests, mostly due to incompetence. It’s a great episode.
Win One For Felix: “Hoping to be a better father to his son Leonard, Felix replaces Oscar as the coach for the boys’ football team… and watches the players turn on him.”
Not one of the better episodes, “Win” reminds me a little too much of “The Big Brothers” as we see how Oscar relates to kids better than Felix. I do like the parts where Oscar tries to teach Felix about football, and Felix’s absurd overcoaching is also hilarious. Otherwise, this is a decent show but not much better.
Being Divorced Is Never Having to Say I Do: “When Oscar’s ex-wife Blanche decides to remarry, Oscar is thrilled. But Felix objects to what appears to be a loveless relationship.”
It’s fun to see Klugman’s then-wife Brett Somers as Oscar’s ex, and the two produce great comedic sparks. Roger is a wonderfully terrible match for Blanche, and those elements create humor. This one doesn’t turn into a laugh riot, but it has many nice moments along with more heart than usual from the series.
Surprise! Surprise!: “Felix holds his daughter Edna’s 10th birthday party at the apartment, the same day that Oscar has scheduled a big poker game.”
It’s pretty weird to see Pamelyn Ferdin as Felix’s daughter since she showed up in Season One as an unrelated camper. Well, the series’ continuity always sucked, and since Ferdin was a funny kid, I don’t mind; she certainly brings much more life to Edna than Willie Aames did for Felix’s son Leonard in the football show. Those elements help make this a pretty fun show.
Felix the Calypso Singer: “When Nancy can’t go on their Caribbean vacation, Oscar takes Felix. But then Nancy arrives on the island unexpectedly and Felix become a fifth wheel.”
“Calypso” sure makes Oscar look like a prick. He happily gives Felix the shaft to get some nookie with Nancy and only barely redeems himself. “Calypso” has many fine moments, most of which comes from Felix’s behavior. I could live without the broad ethnic caricatures of the folks on the island, but there’s enough good material here to make the show fun.
And Leave the Greyhounds to Us?: “When Oscar wins a racing dog in a poker game, he wants to take him to Miami and race him. But Felix would rather treat him like a pet.”
I’m completely on Felix’s side as he tries to act in the best interests of Golden Earrings. Unfortunately, even the dog-lover in me can’t find a lot to adore about this pretty mediocre episode. It’s more of a concept for a program than an actual story, and that means it never quite flies.
Security Arms: “After Felix and Oscar are robbed, they move into a maximum security building, which feels more like a prison than an apartment.”
Season Two rebounds with the excellent “Arms”. Like “Fat Farm”, the best laughs come from the absurd restrictions of the facility, and it’s funny to see the usually mild-mannered John Fiedler play such a fascist. It doesn’t make sense that Felix and Oscar suddenly live in the midst of such a high-crime area, but I like the episode anyway.
Speak For Yourself: “Oscar tells Murray the story of how he and Felix first met, and how he had to propose to Gloria when Felix lost his voice.”
Most sitcoms suck at continuity, and The Odd Couple was no different. Season One told us that Felix and Oscar met during jury duty, but here we get a different version. And don’t forget the times we’ve been told they served in the Army together!
Once we get past that, the show proves pretty good. I know the story exists mostly as an excuse to see the actors play younger versions of their characters, but the Felix/Gloria story is sweet, and Mitzi is an amusingly bad match for Unger. It’s not a classic, but it works.
You Saved My Life: “Now that Oscar has saved Felix’s life, Felix is killing him with kindness. So Oscar decides to turn the ables o his roommate and even the score.”
Much of this series’ humor comes from Oscar’s disbelieving reactions to Felix’s tendencies. However, Oscar gets one of my all-time favorite lines here when he finds out Felix gave him boneless chicken: “How did it walk?” Felix at an extreme is always great, and Randall digs into his over-appreciative side with gusto. You’ll find many hilarious moments in this great program.
Where’s Grandpa?: “Insanely jealous of his wife, Felix’s grandfather flees his retirement community and comes to stay with Oscar while Felix is out of town.”
Once again, logic goes out the window here, as Felix is too old to have a grandfather in his eighties. But why let that issue ruin a fun episode? Randall clearly relishes the chance to play an older variation on the Felix template, and it’s very entertaining to see him do so. By the way, I’m going with “she tossed me aside like a wrapper on a fudge bar” as a classic line.
Partner’s Investment: “Felix takes Oscar’s gambling money and invests it in a successful Japanese restaurant. But then the cook quits and they are forced to work there.”
To some degree, “Investment” doesn’t age well due to the nature of some of its laughs, as it mildly embraces some Japanese stereotypes. It also veers toward I Love Lucy territory when Felix and Oscar run the restaurant. Nonetheless, “Investment” manages a good number of laughs. We get a fun turn from Pat Morita as Felix’s Japanese pal, and the show entertains despite a few missteps.
Risqué material footnote: when the restaurant’s chef quits, he leaves with a dead chicken in his hands. Oscar rushes into the kitchen and asks why there’s an old man in the dining room choking a chicken. Did the folks at the show stick in this phrase to get a laugh from the portion of the audience who comprehend its figurative meaning? Probably.
Good, Bad Boy: “Felix insists that a boy from the local reform school has changed… until the kid asks his daughter Edna to the school dance.”
Let me see: Edna had her 10th birthday eight episodes ago, but now she’s 12 and ready to date? Yeah, I know the continuity is miserable, but that’s ridiculous even for The Odd Couple! Also, when Oscar claims that Mike is the first kid he ever bonded with, that negates the Clint Howard character from S1’s “The Big Brothers”.
Even without these continuity problems, “Boy” isn’t too hot. The premise seems too contrived, and some of the kids we meet are annoying; I especially dislike the wisecracking warden’s son. The parts in which Felix acts in an overprotective manner are good, but otherwise this one’s a bit of a dud.
A Night to Dismember: “On the anniversary of their divorce, Oscar and Blanche reminisce about the night they split up, with each telling their version of the big blowout.”
The Odd Couple goes with the famous Rashomon structure here, as we hear the same event told three times from three points of view. That produces some laughs, many of which come from the intentional overacting used to fill out the different scenarios. However, the show never quite lives up to its potential. It proves enjoyable, but it disappoints a bit because it feels like it should be even funnier.
Oscar’s Promotion: “Felix has been hired by Oscar to take photos of a champion Chinese wrestler. But then Felix advises the athlete to give up the sport.”
Wasn’t Jack Soo rather old to play a championship wrestler? He was dhsadsad at the time, but he looks about 50 – that seems awfully aged for this kind of role. Digging into Asian stereotypes so soon after the Japanese restaurant episode also seems a bit lame. The show sparks a few laughs but never really ignites.
Psychic, Shmychic: “Whenever he comes down with a fever, Felix becomes highly accurate about predicting the future – even predicting that someone is going to murder Oscar!”
For the finale to Season Two, we get a good one. Felix’s moaning illness as he inadvertently makes predictions is hilarious, and his reactions when he embraces his supernatural side is even better. The story provides goofy fun and finishes Season Two on a fine note.
Season One of The Odd Couple was great, and Season Two continues that trend. I wouldn’t want to pick one over the other, so expect the same high level of quality from the series second year.