Wednesday, February 18, 2015

CBS Midseason Pilot Review: The Odd Couple - Premieres Thursday, Feb. 19; HBO Renews John Oliver Through 2017

The Odd Couple

The Odd Couple - Thursdays at 8:30PM ET/PT on CBS
Premieres on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 8:30PM ET/PT


by Skees

Way back in 1970, television viewers were asked this famous question: "Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?" That question was asked, of course, on the famous Tony Randall and Jack Klugman sitcom, The Odd Couple. The series was based upon the Neil Simon play (and movie) of the same name. The series was never exactly a major hit, but it was successful enough to last for five seasons and became one of the most memorable classic TV series from that era in later years. Now, 45 years later, two new divorced men... but with the same names, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison... are sharing an apartment and seeing if they'll be driving each other crazy.

Cast Details:

Matthew Perry as Oscar Madison
Thomas Lennon as Felix Unger
Lindsay Sloane as Emily
Wendell Pierce as Teddy
Yvette Nicole Brown as Dani

Matthew Perry (Oscar Madison) got his start in sitcoms in the 1990s including Sydney and Home Free, both of which were flops, but then came the one big one in 1994: Friends, where he played the role of Chandler Bing. In more recent years, he has starred in series including Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine, and Go On.

Thomas Lennon (Felix Unger) is an actor, comedian, and screenwriter (among other things) who made his first appearance on MTV's The State, but is probably best known for his role on the series Reno 911! As a writer, he has been part of many feature films such as Taxi and Night at the Museum, among others. Most recently, he had a recurring role on NBC's Sean Saves the World.

Lindsay Slonae (Emily) got her start by playing the recurring role of Alice Pedermeir on The Wonder Years, but is probably better known for playing the role of Valerie in the first three seasons of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. She later had starring roles in short-lived series such as Grosse Pointe and The Stones, along with guest appearances in several series such as Greg the Bunny, How I Met Your Mother, and Weeds.

Wendell Pierce (Teddy) is best known for his role of Bunk Moreland on The Wire as well as his role on Treme, but he was also a regular on The Gregory Hines Show and just last season on NBC's The Michael J. Fox Show. He has had guest appearances on sitcoms such as Girlfriends and My Wife and Kids.

Yvette Nicole Brown (Dani) is probably best known for her role of Shirley on the NBC (and soon to be Yahoo! Screen, although it will be without her) series Community. She previously starred in the short-lived ABC comedy The Big House and has made numerous guest appearances on series including Malcolm in the Middle, The Office, Family Guy, That '70s Show, and Two and a Half Men, among many others.

Pilot Plot:

Oscar Madison is the happily divorced host of a sports radio show (which he does in his underwear from his own apartment, by the way) and getting along just fine in life... until unexpectedly, his old friend Felix Unger comes knocking at the door. As it turns out, Felix's wife just threw him out of his home and he needs somewhere to stay. Initially, it seems like an idea that would work temporarily, until he realizes how much different Felix's lifestyle is. It seems that the arrangement isn't going to work out, but a little outside intervention from a female neighbor could make things work out for Felix and Oscar after all.

Analysis:

This show quite literally takes the same characters of Oscar and Felix that we knew from 1970 and updates them for 2015... particularly when it comes to the character of Felix. Thomas Lennon has taken the character that Tony Randall played and recreated it almost perfectly for this series. Matthew Perry is a little less convincing as Oscar, as Jack Klugman's Oscar was more of just a slob and Matthew Perry's character seems to be more sex-obsessed, but he's still a slob and believable as Oscar. And I would even go so far as to say that the casting for this series was done pretty well. But the big question remains: will this even work?

This is certainly not the first time that a remake has been made of The Odd Couple. In fact, it is the second... third if you count the animated Oddball Couple. That isn't to mention that the series was a remake of a movie that was the remake of a play. It is understandable why they keep returning to this series (and even series that essentially were The Odd Couple but with different characters, like the 80s series Perfect Strangers), since mismatched roommates is one of the most quintessential themes when it comes to sitcoms.

Part of the problem here is that it is hard to tell who the audience is supposed to be. If it is fans of the original series when that originally aired, then there is the slight issue of those viewers being very old... in fact, a 25 year old (perhaps a younger demographic than that series even attracted) in 1970 would be 70 years old in 2015. I'm sure that isn't the audience that they're going for, which leaves younger audiences of today. But as I watched the pilot, the only way that I was able to relate to the characters was through what I knew about them in the original series. I feel that if a viewer didn't know the original series... and granted, there are some younger fans who have watched the original series... then it would be hard for them to relate to this series.

Even though I sort of did enjoy watching the pilot, one thing that was definitely lacking was the laughs. There wasn't a whole lot to laugh at in the pilot, but that isn't a total disaster as it is hard to pack in the laughs on a pilot. After all, a lot of the energy in a pilot is dedicated to just getting viewers introduced to the characters (even though fans of the original series have already had that introduction). It is hard to really judge how funny a show actually is from the pilot alone, but considering that there was nothing major to laugh at in here, I'm hopeful that future episodes will have more to laugh at.

Conclusion:

I'm not completely sure what to think of this series. I did enjoy the pilot (although it did drag on a bit, but it seems most pilots do anyway), and I think that the series has plenty of potential, with a lot of potential story ideas... and even if they run out, they can even recycle the old episodes from the original series (hopefully most viewers would be too young to notice). But that is also where the problem comes in. This series is a remake of an older series, and truth be told, there have been few (if any) successful remakes of sitcoms with a new cast.

The original series was never really a hit in the ratings, but did manage to coast along for five seasons. It is a lot harder for a series to be marginally successful on broadcast television in the current era, particularly on a network like CBS, and because of that, I can't say that I see this lasting too long. It will get a lot of initial attention since CBS seems to be heavily promoting this, and it also doesn't hurt that it is receiving the most coveted comedy time slot on the CBS lineup. But I think it will be an uphill battle to sustain the audience of The Big Bang Theory and actually bring in new viewers.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 3.5/5
Funniness: 2/5
Overall: 3/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 8:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • CBS.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • The Odd Couple Photo Gallery

    Preview:





  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

    HBO has renewed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver for its third and fourth seasons. Consisting of 35 shows apiece, season three will run on HBO in 2016, to be followed by season four in 2017. Presenting a satirical look at the week in news, politics and current events, as well as addressing broader issues, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver returned for its 35-episode second season Feb. 8, debuting new shows Sunday night (11:00-11:30pm ET/PT), exclusively on HBO. The show is the only weekly news-oriented comedy series to be presented on Sunday night. Taped in New York a few hours before it debuts on HBO, the show features a mix of Oliver's topical commentary on the previous week's events, pre-taped pieces and occasional guests.

    In the first season, which concluded last November, Oliver covered a wide range of topics, from net neutrality and Uganda's anti-LGBT laws, to Miss America, climate change and civil forfeiture abuse by the police.


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