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What happens when a slob and his anal pal share a Manhattan apartment? You get the formula for a great TV sitcom that lasted five seasons. Oscar (Jack Klugman) gets sloppier every season as the sports writer whose bedroom looks like a garbage dump. Photographer Felix (Tony Randall) keeps the mess in check in his fussy neatfreak way. It’s a primal battle between two roommates. Keeping it simple allowed the show to remain entertaining after all these years.
During its time on the air, The Odd Couple was not a major hit. At the end of each season ABC would cancel it, only to revive it during the summer reruns when the ratings spiked. This uncertain future kept the series from getting cocky. The actors didn’t walk onto the set to unearned applause. Klugman and Randall played off each other instead of basking in idolatry. The producers resorted to stunt casting for a ratings juice. The Odd Couple: The Fourth Season brings plenty of familiar faces into their apartment over the course of 22 episodes. While this could
Before the parade of the famous, the producers brought back Oscar and Felix’s Poker buddies from the first season for “Gloria Moves In.” The big game gets interrupted when Felix’s ex-wife needs to borrow a bed since her house is getting painted. Felix imagines this as his best chance to rekindle their romance. Oscar and the gang just want to play cards. Can guy’s night survive in the face of romance? “That Was No Lady” has Felix unwittingly carrying on an affair with a married woman. What makes it worse is that her husband is the meanest man in the NFL played by Alex Karras (Webster). “The Odd Holiday” is a flashback to how Felix attempted to save Oscar’s marriage with a tropical vacation. Brett Summer is always amazing as Oscar’s wife. She also gets flashback action during “This is the Army Mrs. Madison” when we learn why Felix is in their wedding photo and not Oscar. Shortly after these appearances, Brett achieved immortality on Match Game.
Another game show queen finds herself hooked up with Oscar. Jaye P. Morgan plays herself while playing with Oscar on “The Songwriter.” Felix uses the future Gong Show star to launch his musical career. Can Felix’s song impress her and the legendary Wolfman Jack? Not to be left out of the DJ angle, Dick Clark gives Oscar a chance to win a great prize on “The New Car.” John Byner (Bizarre) plays a scummy operator of a parking garage. He was charging $50 a month to rent a space. It’s currently $75 a day in midtown Manhattan.
One of the big events of the mid-’70s was the battle of the sexes tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King at the Astrodome. “The Pig Who Came to Dinner” has Bobby take everything from Oscar in various bets. He even wins Felix. Can Billie Jean King save the day? Bobby’s a natural as the lout. Unfortunately Billie Jean looks uncomfortable on the set. Guess Bobby won the acting title from her. “One For the Bunny” explains why Felix hates Hugh Hefner. Turns out his beloved Gloria was recruited to pose for Playboy. It’s so strange to see Hefner as merely a middle-aged guy.
Once again the ugly issue of music rights causes various snips in the original episodes. They did clear quite a few songs on this season. “Vocal Girl Makes Good” has opera star Marilyn Horne warbling away. Jaye P. Morgan sings plenty of tunes on “The Songwriter.” The biggest missing moment is the opening of “A Different Drummer.” The show now starts after Felix and his old college band have wrapped up their song. They attempt to get Monty Hall (Let’s Make A Deal) to cast them on his new show as the house band. They do perform on the episode so they could get rights for songs. There are little musical snippets that have been spliced out, but the episodes don’t feel choppy.
The Odd Couple: The Fourth Season continues the goodness. What keeps this show fresh to me is the fact that it wasn’t overexposed like other hit comedies. It didn’t overwhelm us by being on every channel at every half hour. Even with all the amazing guest stars, Klugman and Randall don’t get lost in the star shuffle. At its core, this is a show about a slob and a neat freak battling for the soul of the apartment.
“Gloria Moves In,” “Last Tango in Newark,” “The Odd Decathlon,” “That Was No Lady,” “The Odd Holiday,” “The New Car,” “That is the Army Mrs. Madison,” “The Songwriter,” “Felix Directs,” “The Pig Who Came to Dinner,” “Maid for Each Other,” “The Exorcists,” “A Barnacle Adventure,” “The Moonlighter,” “Cleanliness is Next to Impossible,” “The Flying Felix,” “Vocal Girl Makes Good,” “Shuffling Off to Buffalo,” “A Different Drummer,” “The Insomniacs,” “New York’s Oddest” and “One for the Bunny.”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are top notch. You can see how clean Felix keeps the apartment. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. As noted earlier, there are music replacements. None of the song swaps sound too clunky.
The Odd Couple: The Fourth Season is comic wonder. Randall and Klugman have impeccable comic timing. They embrace their characters and feed off each other like true pros. For the most part the guest stars contribute instead of interrupt the episodes. Even with the music issues, The Odd Couple is too good to hide under the bed.
CBS DVD presents The Odd Couple: The Fourth Season. Starring: Jack Klugman, Tony Randall, Penny Marshall & Al Molinaro. Boxset Content: 22 episodes on 4 discs. Originally Broadcast: Sept. 14, 1973 – March 22, 1974. Released on DVD: June 10, 2008. Available at Amazon.com