The Odd Couple

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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Jack Klugman as Oscar, Tony Randall as Felix.

The Odd Couple is a 1965 Broadway play by Neil Simon, which was later adapted into a 1968 movie, which itself was later adapted into a sitcom which ran from 1970-1975. All three are highly regarded. The play also spawned a couple less highly regarded television adaptations: The Oddball Couple, a 1975 animated series (starring a cartoon dog and cat), The New Odd Couple, a 1982 sitcom with black actors in the lead roles.

Simon has rewritten his original play twice: first in 1985 as The Female Odd Couple, a Gender Flip version of the piece, and again in 2004 as Oscar and Felix: A New Look at the Odd Couple, which is basically the original play updated with more modern jokes and references.

The premise is simple: Neat Freak photographer Felix Unger (Art Carney on stage, Jack Lemmon on screen, Tony Randall on TV) is kicked out by his wife, and with no place else to go, must move in with his friend, sports writer Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau on stage and screen, Jack Klugman on TV), a Trash of the Titans. The TV show added a small supporting cast, including Murray, a dim-witted but lovable police officer.

Tropes used in The Odd Couple include:
  • Animated Adaptation: The Oddball Couple, featuring neat-freak cat Spiffy and slovenly dog Fleabag.
  • Annoying Laugh: Oscar's secretary, Myrna Turner.
  • Ascended Extra: Felix was actually one of these, having originally been a minor offstage character in Neil Simon's first play, Come Blow Your Horn.
  • As Himself: Howard Cosell (twice), Bobby Riggs, Deacon Jones, Rodney Allen Rippy, Alan Ludden, Betty White, Monty Hall (twice), Richard Dawson.
  • Bowling for Ratings
  • Camp Straight: Felix to an extent. He's not flamboyant or anything, but anyone that met him might think he wasn't exactly into the ladies, even though he pretty much was.
  • Continuity Reboot: Oscar and Felix.
  • Courtroom Episode: "The Dog Story".
    • Also the time Felix wouldn't submit the nude picture of Gloria to Playboy, the time Murray busted the weekly poker game, and when Felix was accused of scalping a theater ticket.

Felix: When you ASSUME....you make an ASS out of U and ME!

  • Distaff Counterpart/Gender Flip: Simon wrote a version of the play with the protagonists changed to Florence and Olivia.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: For Felix Unger in the TV adaptation. The final episode of the series, "Felix Remarries" (aired March 7, 1975), sees him make one final, desperate attempt to win back Gloria, the wife he loved but she couldn't put up with due to his finicky nature. Felix realizes that, while it is good to be clean and organized, he also needs to relax. Gloria accepts that Felix has changed ... and the two are wed (for a second time) in the apartment.
  • End-of-Episode Silliness: Both Randall and Klugman reportedly hated doing the last little tag scene, feeling that its only reason for existence was to make viewers sit through one more commercial following the announcement "The Odd Couple will be back after these messages."
  • Family Theme Naming: The Pigeon sisters are named Gwendolyn and Cecily, after the heroines of The Importance of Being Earnest.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: In one of the several versions of how Felix & Oscar first met, it was when Oscar's father ran a speakeasy in 1920s Chicago and Felix's father was an optometrist who fitted Oscar's father with glasses.
  • Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics
  • Game Show Appearance: Password, guest starring host Allen Ludden; Let's Make a Deal, guest starring host Monty Hall.
  • Gender Flip: The Female Odd Couple, which was about Florence Unger and Olive Madison.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar (combined with a subverted Precision F-Strike):

Oscar: I've told you 158 times I can't stand little notes on my pillow. "We're all out of cornflakes. F.U." Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar!

  • Golden Moment: Many episodes end with Felix and Oscar quickly resolving the argument they had by admitting their faults.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Composed by Neal Hefti, and used for both the film and series.
  • I Owe You My Life
  • Laugh Track: For the show's first season only, then they switched to a Studio Audience.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In an episode in which Oscar teaches the basics of football to Felix, Felix takes the ball, races down the hallway towards the bedrooms, and mere seconds later appears at the apartment door, ringing the buzzer. Impossible if the set were "real" (obviously, Tony Randall merely ran around the back of the set). It's not lampshaded in the dialogue, but the audience reaction of spontaneous applause seems to show that they grasped the absurdity. An odd gag in a show that normally eschewed such shenanigans.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Played straight with Oscar, subverted with Felix.
  • Missing the Good Stuff: In the film version, Oscar misses seeing a rare triple play when Felix phones him at the ballpark press box.
    • In an episode of the series, Felix tries to take an reaction shot of Oscar as he watches a ballgame and snaps the flash during an important moment. Oscar tries to watch the replay - and Felix accidentally sets off the flash in his eyes again.
  • Neat Freak: Felix.
  • Odd Couple: The Trope Namer, of course.
  • Old Friend: The premise of the series.
    • The series also offers at least three different stories about how they met: once it says they're childhood friends, later it claims they met when both were on jury duty, and a later episode says yet they met not long before Felix married Gloria.
  • Once For Yes, Twice For No: Oscar fakes this when Felix tries to hold a seance.
  • Opening Narration: "On November 13, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence; that request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right, but he also knew that some day he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his friend, Oscar Madison. Several years earlier, Madison's wife had thrown him out, requesting that he never return. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?"
  • Paid-for Family: Felix hires people to play Oscar's family when he runs for City Council.
  • Poker: The movie, sitcom and original play featured a weekly poker game at Oscar's apartment. The gender-flipped stage version makes it a weekly Trivial Pursuit game instead.
  • Precious Puppies: Yawbus.
  • Psmith Psyndrome: Myrna's boyfriend Sheldon, who owes the unique spelling of his name to a clerical error. He can tell when you add in the missing O.
  • The Rashomon
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Randall was involved with a committee to clean up New York City's tarnished image (while the series was taped in California, Randall kept a residence in NY). This lead to the episode "The Subway Show" in which Felix tries to counteract negative NYC stereotypes that Oscar wrote in his column.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: The New Odd Couple is the exact same show... but the two leads were African-American, with Ron Glass and Demond Wilson as Felix and Oscar respectively.
  • Reunion Show: Randall and Klugman reprized their roles for the 1993 Made for TV Movie The Odd Couple: Together Again.
  • Rogue Juror: The season 1 episode "The Jury Story" has Felix as one of these, complete with in-jokes to 12 Angry Men, the trope-making 1957 film which featured none other than... Jack Klugman.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Oscar lived in it. Just one example, from the movie, Felix making snacks for Oscar's poker buddies.

Felix: Oscar, what did you want again?
Oscar: Two three-and-a-half minute eggs and some petit fours.

    • Felix had his moments, too, especially when he was mad at Oscar.
  • Sequel: In 1998 Simon wrote, and Lemmon and Matthau starred in, a sequel to the 1968 film, titled (what else?) The Odd Couple II.
  • Series Continuity Error: The show had infamously horrible continuity even for its time. For instance, there are three completely different flashback episodes about how Felix and Oscar first met.
  • She Who Must Not Be Seen: Crazy Rhoda Zimmerman, Oscar's occasional girlfriend.
  • Significant Monogram: "It took me THREE HOURS to figure out that F.U. was Felix Unger!"
  • Special Guest: Howard Cosell, Monty Hall, and... Neil Simon!
  • Straight Man: Usually Oscar, but Felix could make a few jokes at Oscar's expense, too.
  • Subways Suck: Virtually any sitcom set in New York will pull this one at least once.
  • Tantrum Throwing: Just as an argument is getting particularly heated, Oscar refers to Felix making spaghetti for dinner, and Felix starts laughing:

Oscar: What's so funny?
Felix: That's not spaghetti. It's linguine.
[Oscar grabs the plate of linguine and flings against the wall on the far side of the kitchen.]
Oscar: Now, it's garbage.

Felix: Oscar, you have a blue stain on your rug.
Oscar: No, that's the original color.

Murray: I wish Felix was my best friend...
Oscar: How do you want him, dead or alive?

  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After the events of "The Subway Show" Felix presents Oscar with a puppy named Yawbus.
  • Whole-Episode Flashback: Several.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: "Scrooge Gets an Oscar".
  • Your Favorite:
    • For Oscar - lasagna and french fries.
      • The final episode reveals that Oscar is also partial to Goop Melange. We're never really told what it is, only that it contains food Felix hates, and that athletes train on it. Athletes like Man O' War, Citation, Whirlaway...
    • In one of his attempts to win Gloria back, Felix cooks a romantic dinner, listing all the dishes and labeling them as her favorites. Oscar notes that they are actually Felix's favorite dishes, not Gloria's, to which Felix says she'll learn to love them too.