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 contemporary 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 stage and TV), a Trash of the Titans. The TV show added a small supporting cast, including Murray, a dim-witted but lovable police officer.
A Fool for a Client: Felix always wants to represent himself in court and nearly always incompetent at it, with one spectacular exception while questioning an assuming accuser.
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, David Steinberg, Bob Hope (cameo), and in a Creator Cameo Neil Simon.
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.
Canon Discontinuity: Three different explanations were given for how Felix and Oscar met during the show's run. Depending on which episode you're watching, they either were childhood friends,, met while on jury duty, or were Army buddies.
Invariably, when the Couple has to go to court, Felix insists on acting in his own defense and often proves himself a fool of a client, with an occasional spark of competence, as in "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 theatre ticket.
Felix: When you ASSUME....you make an ASS out of U and ME!
Creator Cameo: Neil Simon (who reportedly hated the first season of the tv version of his play, but grew to like it as they went to a studio audience from season two on) makes a brief cameo in "Two on the Isle".
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.
Edited for Syndication: When Klugman and Randall complained about the laughtrack during the first season, ABC aired a trial episode without one (The episode in which Oscar gets fired from the paper and takes a job with a girly magazine). While initiallty syndicated without a track, one has been edited in in recent years.
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.".
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.
Intimidating Revenue Service: In "The Ides of April," Felix is summoned to the IRS office and he thinks he's in serious trouble. It turns out that he simply forgot to sign a check, but Felix accidentally lets it slip that Oscar has been filing shady tax returns and so now Oscar is the one getting an audit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Husband and wife Jack Klugman and Brett Somers playing a divorced couple. In real life, Klugman and Somers split up during the series and she still came back to guest star, meaning they were a divorced couple playing a divorced couple.
Also in her last episode of the series, Penny Marshall's real life brother (Odd Couple producer Gary Marshall) and sister appear as her character's realitives.
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.
Slobs Versus Snobs: The TV series in particular often featured this, with Felix in the snob role and Oscar (naturally) as the slob.
Special Guest: Howard Cosell, Monty Hall, Deacon Jones, Bubba Smith, Edward Vilella, Martina Arroyo, Jaye P. Morgan and... Neil Simon!
Straight Man: Usually Oscar, but Felix could make a few jokes at Oscar's expense, too.
Arguably, what made the characters so well-regarded in every incarnation was that there WAS no straight man: both exhibit extreme tendencies of their respective personalities (Felix being a control freak and Oscar being too laid-back) and the conflicts usually resulted from one being more extreme than the other in a given situation. As a result, the viewer or occasional third party character is the Only Sane Man.
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.
Unplanned Crossdressing: In one episode Felix has a bandage over his eyes due to recent surgery. When Oscar throws him out, he stumbles to the closet and puts on what he thinks is his coat, but is actually his ex-wife Gloria's.
Written-In Infirmity: Klugman and Randall took on the roles again in a series of potato chip commercials, all of which had to be written around Klugman's inability to talk after his heavy smoking resulted in him losing a vocal cord. Then a reunion movie was made, by which time Klugman had regained his speaking, but with an extremely raspy and wheezy voice, so Oscar is said to have recently had a throat operation.
For Oscar - lasagna and french fries, cookies and ketchup, salami and jelly on rye. 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.