Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 31, 2008)
Jump on board for a look at the third year of The Odd Couple! This set compiles all 23 episodes from the program’s 1972-73 season. 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.
Gloria, Hallelujah: “When Oscar’s computer date turns out to be Felix’s ex-wife Gloria, Felix is determined to prove that he is not jealous.”
If nothing else, I love “Hallelujah” for Oscar’s fake dating name of “Andre LaPlume”; I may have to steal that one. That’s not the only positive about this excellent show, though, as it scores plenty of laughs. I particularly like Felix’s obsession with Oscar’s “average” looks and their bickering over that subject. It’s a solid show, though I wonder whatever happened to Oscar’s old girlfriend Nancy?
Big Mouth: “Stubborn Oscar needs to apologize to Howard Cosell, after he insulted the famous sportscaster during Felix’s photo shoot.”
Sometimes when a guest star appears on a show, that series bends over backwards to make the person look good. That happens a little too much in “Big Mouth”. While it shows Cosell’s patented surly side and musters some amusement there, it also spends too much time with Nice Howard, the guy who lets a kid do play-by-play. Oscar also seems to get over his hatred for Cosell awfully easily as the show progresses. These elements make this a spotty but still enjoyable episode.
The Princess: “Felix is shocked when a beautiful client – who happens to be a royal princess – accepts Oscar’s invitation to go out on a date.”
Is it just me or does it seem out of character for Oscar to be so intimidated by royalty? He never struck me as a guy who’d be awed by a crown, and “Princess” becomes awkward due to that concept. The whole idea of the mismatched “slob and the princess” idea is just a little too trite for my liking, and I don’t think this episode ever really goes anywhere.
The Pen Is Mightier Than the Pencil: “When Felix’s corny poems earn high marks in his creative writing class, Oscar thinks the teacher is a fraud and confronts him.”
The rest of “Pen” could stink but it’d still be worthwhile just to hear Felix’s crummy poems like “Ode to a Skyscraper”. Excessively eager and self-involved Felix is always funny Felix, so Randall’s shenanigans help carry this one. It never quite becomes an inspired episode, but it works.
The Odd Monks: “With Oscar’s ulcer in high gear and Felix working 14-hour days, they both decide to take advantage of a monk’s invitation and go on a quiet retreat.”
Am I the only one who thinks “Monks” is a little too similar to the “fat farm” episode from Season Two? No, they’re not identical, but they have more similarities than I’d like. The earlier show is superior to this one, though, as “Monks” is a bit lackluster. Some of the other brothers are amusing – I particularly like the one with the megaphone factory – but overall this is an average show.
I’m Dying of Unger: “The roommates go off to a secluded cabin in order to finish Oscar’s novel, but writer’s block and Mother Nature keep getting in the way.”
Didn’t we already see this story back in Season One’s “Bunny Is Missing Down By the Lake”? Actually, the cabin setting creates the main similarity between the two, as the episodes go on very different paths. “Dying” probably offers the more entertaining show, as it presents a slew of amusing bits. From the sight of Randall re-peeling a banana to Klugman typing while he tap-dances, this one consistently entertains.
The Odd Couples: “Oscar’s visiting mother is oversensitive about divorce, so Oscar and Blanche – and even Felix and Gloria – have to pretend they are still married.”
It’s always good to see Brett Somers as Blanche again, even within a goofy context like this. The show follows a pretty inevitable path and doesn’t offer anything really fresh or creative. Nonetheless, it produces the requisite laughs and emerges as a successful episode.
Felix’s First Commercial: “The only way Felix can direct his first television commercial is if Oscar can get a certain football player for the starring role. But Oscar wants to star in it too!”
I don’t think Deacon Jones could actually act, but since “Commercial” mainly requires him to be silent and aloof, he does fine here. The show works best when it plays his unresponsiveness off of Felix’s excessive eagerness; Jones and Randall show a great chemistry in those sequences. There’s a lot of funny material on display here.
The First Baby: “Over lunch, Oscar recounts to his secretary Myrna the time Felix was banned from the hospital, just before Gloria gave birth to their daughter Edna.”
Flashback episodes always create some issues given the series’ terrible continuity, but they usually entertain quite well. “Baby” definitely falls into that category, as it uses Felix’s nervousness to great comedic effect. If anything, Randall plays him as more uptight and persnickety than usual, and he always amuses. This becomes another fine program.
Oscar’s Birthday: “Although Oscar is dead set against it, Felix is determined to throw him a surprise birthday party, with a unique theme that he is keeping secret.”
I’m with Oscar on this one, as I hate surprise parties. I like that “Birthday” gives us a better look at some secondary characters, although it seems strange that Felix needs them to investigate Oscar’s past; shouldn’t he know more about his best pal’s life? Anyway, Randall again carries the day with his antics, and the climactic party is a winner as well.
Password: “After he’s invited to be a celebrity contestant on a game show, Oscar reluctantly brings Felix along to be his partner… and then regrets it.”
The best Odd Couple moments always come from the interactions between Randall and Klugman, and we find a great example of that with “Password”. At the start, we get Felix’s pathetic – but funny – attempts to seem “average”, and the end offers the hilariously off-kilter game show segment in which Felix and Oscar try to play Password on TV. With plenty of other terrific moments in between, “Password” is a classic.
The Odd Father: “Felix is worried when his daughter Edna never wants to do anything but watch television. Then Oscar gets her interested in becoming a Little League umpire.”
“Father” loses points due to a change in actor. Pamelyn Ferdin originally played Edna in Season Two, but here Doney Oatman replaces her. I much preferred the spunky Ferdin to the dishwater dull Oatman, and this episode’s Edna seems somewhat stupid, to be honest. The show also gets a moderately negative appraisal due to its similarities to the episode in which Felix becomes son Leonard’s football coach; it’s not a carbon copy, but it does feel like a rehash. Still, the amusingly non-PC scenes with the little people and the wonderfully vague spouting of “hack around/here and there/this and that” – phrases I like to use myself – make this one decent despite those flaws.
Don’t Believe in Roomers: “Oscar helps out a mysterious, free-spirited girl by letting her spend the night. Then he and Felix both start to fall for her.”
I think I’d enjoy “Roomers” more if I actually liked Lisa. The show posits her as the perfect woman, but there’s something about her that I find strangely unappealing; she’s so perky she seems demented. That factor renders “Roomers” less effective, though it does muster some laughs.
Déjà vu Moment: back when I reviewed Season One’s “They Use Horseradish, Don’t They?” I wrote “Recipe thief Barbara really isn’t particularly attractive, so it becomes tough to see her as a femme fatale.” History repeats here, as the bland Marlyn Mason played both Barbara and Lisa. She didn’t become more appealing in the two years between episodes.
Sometimes a Great Ocean: “Felix takes Oscar on a cruise in order to relax and recover from his ulcer. But when Felix becomes activities director, the passengers stage a mutiny.”
The series works best when it pits Oscar against Felix and highlights their friction. That comes to the forefront with the excellent “Ocean”. The scenario presents plenty of great laughs, and even the scenes prior to those on the ship amuse. All that and the return of Dr. Melnitz too!
I Gotta Be Me: “Tired of all their constant bickering, Oscar and Felix decide to consult Myrna’s therapist, who suggests they try role-reversal.”
Now there’s a concept chock full of comedic potential – does “Gotta” live up to expectations? Yeah, but not as consistently as I’d like. “Gotta” gives us more than a few good laughs, especially when Klugman plays Felix. To my surprise, he’s better in that role than Randall is as Oscar. This isn’t a great episode, but it’s perfectly entertaining.
The Ides of April: “A nervous Felix is called down to the local IRS office, where he divulges the fact that Oscar doesn’t always file his taxes.”
While better known for its verbal humor, The Odd Couple can pull off physical gags too, as demonstrated with the excellent bit when Oscar tries to rouse an exhausted Felix. Unger’s intense anxiety about his fate also provides fine laughs, and this turns into a terrific show.
Myrna’s Debut: “With encouragement from Felix, Myrna decides to quit working for Oscar and devote herself full-time… to becoming a tap dancer!”
Although The Odd Couple usually stunk in terms of continuity, I’ll give it credit this time, as it set up Myrna’s tap-dancing in advance; “The First Baby” sets up that notion. It’s nice to see a show that highlights a secondary character. The series didn’t do this often, so it’s a fun change of pace. Add to that the amusement found in Felix’s predictably pathetic attempt to be Myrna’s manager and there’s a lot to like here.
The Hustler: “After Felix’s opera group goes bust when their casino night loses money, Oscar tries winning it back in a game with a well-known pool shark.”
When Felix is annoying, it’s usually in a funny way. Unfortunately, whenever high culture becomes the subject, Felix turns into a less amusing kind of irritating. He seems a little too naïve and stupid here, to be honest, and it bugs me that Felix pesters Oscar so much for his money. It’s not a bad show, but it’s also not one that does a ton for me.
My Strife in Court: “When Felix volunteers to get rid of an extra ticket to a Broadway show, he and Oscar are arrested for ticket scalping and must stand trial.”
I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been very amused by the title of the Broadway show; for some reason, Kiss My Face tickles me. As does the rest of this excellent show. Parts of it remind me a little too much of another court-based episode from Season One, but it differs enough to be a winner.
Let’s Make a Deal: “Oscar’s old college pal is now a game show host, so the two roommates sneak onto his show in disguise to try and win Felix a new bed.”
Without question, “Deal” takes an awfully contrived path to send Felix and Oscar onto the game show. However, it’s worth it if just to see the insanely large hole Oscar burned into Felix’s bed. Quite a few other laughs come out as well; for reasons unknown, I always find myself delighted with the fake names of “Ozzie Malone” and “Frederick Ungman”. This is a very strong episode.
The Odyssey Couple: “In order to make Oscar’s mother happy, Felix fixes him up with a Greek girl. But first they need to get acquainted with her traditional Greek family.”
I’m used to seeing casting changes on The Odd Couple, as there’s not much consistency; like I mentioned earlier, Doney Oatman replaced Pamelyn Ferdin as Edna. However, at least the actors stayed the same within one season, while Oscar’s mother changes from Jane Dulo to Elvia Allman after only 15 episodes! I like Dulo much better, as Allman seems a little too classy to be Oscar’s mom.
“Odyssey” drags for other reasons as well. We get too much of the cutesy Greek family and not enough of our usual leads. The Greeks don’t substitute for our heroes, and the attempts at humor tend to be silly and dopey. There’s too much quaint Greek culture and not enough actual comedy in this forgettable episode; it goes down as my pick for S3’s worst show, especially as it comes lodged between two great ones.
Take My Furniture, Please: “After Felix paints the apartment, he redecorates it with outrageous modern furniture. So Oscar replaces it with junk from a discount store.”
To this day, my friend Kevin and I remain on the hunt for “modern furniture” as absurd as the pieces Felix selects. We both find much amusement in those ridiculous items, though I must admit I think Oscar’s choices actually look just fine! (I guess that tells you which Odd Couple character most fits me.) “Furniture” offers a simply terrific episode.
The Murray Who Came to Dinner: “When his wife kicks him out, Murray the Cop comes to stay with Felix and Oscar – and now he’s ready for a swinging bachelor lifestyle!”
Funny how the Season One poker buddies essentially vanished over the years – except for Murray. Sure, we got a brief look at Speed in “Let’s Make a Deal”, but Murray is the only one who shows up with regularity. And that’s not a bad thing since Al Molinaro was a fine comedic actor, though I always thought the disappearance of the poker buddies seemed weird.
Anyway, “Dinner” ends Season 3 on a decent note. At no point does it quite excel, but it provides a reasonably satisfying episode. Oddly, it doesn’t use Molinaro all that well, but Felix’s interference provides some fine laughs, and I love the obnoxious roller derby girls. It’s a good episode but not a great one.
Casting weirdness continues here! First Elvia Allman replaces Jane Dulo as Oscar’s mother, so how does the series then use Dulo? As Murray’s wife! That’s just bizarre – and kinda creepy, to boot.