Is it possible for circumstances to bring two of the most mismatched people together for better or worse? That’s part of the premise behind CBS’ new version of “The Odd Couple,” which had two polar opposites trying to live together without going insane in the process. The show’s first two episodes had a few hits, but the series mostly had a lot of misfires as well.
“The Odd Couple” followed former college friends Felix Unger (Thomas Lennon) and Oscar Madison (Matthew Perry) living two very different lives. Felix was in denial that his troubled marriage was on the brink of collapse and pretended that things were still fine to prevent himself from falling apart. He turned to Oscar for support and a place to stay when his estranged wife kicked him out. While Oscar was already divorced, he put on a brave face by living as a charming slob who loved to try to sleep with any beautiful woman who crossed him path. He was putting a different type of front to hide the fact that he missed his ex-wife more than he ever expected and Felix’s presence continued to bring that up for Oscar. The two friends tried to make their new living arrangement work, but their different personalities threatened to destroy everything. Felix’s obsessive need to clean and take control of every situation drove Oscar to distraction, while Oscar’s desperation to hide his feelings made Felix want to push even more. On a recent date that included their neighbor Emily (Lindsay Sloane), Felix pushed Oscar too far to the point that their friendship was greatly threatened, but they patched things up for the next issues involving career setbacks. Oscar was supposed to ghost write another biography for a retired athlete, but Felix’s presence caused a lot of complications for Oscar and his agent Teddy (Wendell Pierce) in getting the book finished before the publisher’s imposed deadline. Both of them realized that their personal differences were only part of what made their friendship work, because they were each at a similiar crossroads in their lives that they needed to escape before it was too late. Will Oscar and Felix be able to work together to move on from their divorces into better jobs and even somewhat healthy relationships? It’s too early to tell about either possibility.
In terms of questions, the biggest one remained as to why it was a good idea to revive a story that’s been done before as a movie, a popular 70s show and on Broadway. Those previous versions of the show all score comedic gold, but this version lacked the same spark that the others had. Everything had been done with much better results to the point where everything seemed so familiar. The first two episodes seemed to also coast along with the fact that Felix and Oscar were simply polar opposites destined to clash each week over anything the writers could come up with. The show would be wise to sometimes stray from that format every once in a while to breathe some new life into the story. An episode or two could focus on how the two men became friends in the first place and what managed to keep them together. The show could also focus on developing the characters individually rather than focusing on their personality quirks. A good idea would be to see or find out why their marriages failed. Ultimately, the show’s undoing was that the material was familiar and remade before with stronger results. Lennon and Perry did have a believable rapport that could have translated better on a different show that mixed both drama and comedy instead of focusing on one genre or another. A darker comedy might have done the trick as well, which could’ve brought more viewers looking for more than a routine sitcom. If the show does make it past the first season, the writers need to develop their two lead characters into more realistic individuals by developing their back story to make viewers relate to them. Let’s hope that writers get the chance to do this as a way to see if the show does have the chance to last.
As for breakout stars, Perry and Lennon led the pack since their characters were the driving force of the whole series basically. Perry’s Oscar proved to be opposite of his previous characters who managed to be either well-kept or simply flawed charmers. His version of Oscar was equally parts charming and complicated this time around by hiding his sadness in dark sarcasm. He had a comfortable rapport with Lennon that gave him an opportunity to bounce even the worst jokes of someone who could salvage a lot of the material. Perry’s strongest scene came in the series premiere as his character struggled with the fact that he missed his ex-wife and hasn’t truly dealt with the divorce as of yet. Lennon, on the other hand, had the challenging task of making his version of Felix more of a character than just a series of quirks. He had managed to do so in various points of the first two episodes, but it’s too early how it will continue for the rest of the season. Lennon made his Felix a mixture of obsessive perfection and anxiety as he dealt with the failure of his marriage. His strongest scene came in the second episode when Felix realized that his career advice to Oscar also impacted him as well. The anxiety that washed all over his face was believable, but it was sadly shortlived. Fingers crossed that the writers will give their leads more to do as the series progressed in an effort to see what makes their characters tick sooner rather than later.
“The Odd Couple” premiered on February 19th and airs Thursdays at 8:30 PM on CBS.
Verdict: The show could’ve had potential if it wasn’t trying to remake a concept that has been done before with far better results. A new show concept entirely could’ve saved it from being a one season sitcom.
TV Score: 1.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)