Directed by Jerry Paris et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 596 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
Release Date: January 22, 2008
Review Date: January 12, 2008
Of all of the fantastic sitcoms that originated and flourished during the 1970s, The Odd Couple stands tall. Based on the hit Broadway play and subsequent smash film version, the TV incarnation was blessed by perfect casting of its two leading characters and a momentous decision late in the first year that subsequent seasons would be filmed in front of live audiences thus keeping true to its origins as a stage piece. The Odd Couple is one of the medium’s great comedy series, and the third season may be its finest hour (or, more specifically, its finest twenty-three half hours).
Tony Randall and Jack Klugman play the perennially squabbling misfit roommates Felix Unger and Oscar Madison. Felix is the neat freak and Oscar is the slob: a simple premise that episode after episode paid off in hearty belly laughs. And with two of the most accomplished actors around in Randall and Klugman whose razor-sharp timing and unbeatable teamwork in their scenes together made them howlingly funny, the series couldn’t help becoming a classic. It’s amazing that the show never really gained a large following during its five year prime-time run. Only in syndicated reruns did the show gain a wide, enthusiastic audience who recognized its greatness and have kept its memory alive. How wonderful that the seasons of this remarkable comedy series are continuing to be made available to us: three down and two to go.
Where to start with the great episodes from this edition? In season three, Oscar and Felix try their hands at being monks, they help each other through the birth of Felix’s first child, they work together to keep their respective divorces a secret from Oscar’s disapproving mother (though a later episode dealing with Oscar‘s mother lacks continuity in the established relationships), they go to court to beat a ticket scalping rap, Oscar’s flaring ulcer forces Felix to book them both on a cruise for senior citizens, and the two roomies appear on “Let‘s Make a Deal.” The two greatest episodes of the season are both pure showstoppers. In one, a crisis counselor suggests that Felix and Oscar switch roles so Felix becomes the slob and Oscar becomes the fussy nitpicker. And in one of the series’ finest moments, Oscar and Felix become contestants on the game show Password in one of the most brilliant and fall-down funny episodes in the history of the series.
Allen Ludden and Betty White guest starred in that famous Password episode, and among other guest stars who appeared during season three were Randall’s former co-star from Mr. Peepers Wally Cox as an apprentice writer, football stars Deacon Jones and Bubba Smith in separate episodes, Elinor Donahue in the recurring role of Felix’s girl friend Miriam, Jean Simmons as a princess whom Oscar falls for, Monty Hall as himself playing Oscar’s former college roommate, and Howard Cosell playing himself as Oscar’s nemesis.
As for the regulars and recurring characters, Al Molinaro returns as the sweet-natured cop Murray, and Penny Marshall is there as Oscar’s slow-talking, not overly bright secretary Myrna Turner. Janis Hansen pops up occasionally as Felix’s ex-wife Gloria, and Klugman’s then-wife Brett Somers appears once again as Oscar’s ex-wife Blanche. All are as superb in their roles as the two stars.
Here’s the third season episode list contained on the four discs:
1 - Gloria, Hallelujah
2 - Big Mouth
3 - The Princess
4 - The Pen Is Mightier Than the Pencil
5 - The Odd Monks
6 - I’m Dying of Unger
7 - The Odd Couples
8 - Felix’s First Commercial
9 - The First Baby
10 - Oscar’s Birthday
11 - Password
12 - The Odd Father
13 - Don’t Believe in Roomers (the season’s weakest episode)
14 - Sometimes a Great Ocean
15 - I Gotta Be Me
16 - The Ides of April
17 - Myrna’s Debut
18 - The Hustler
19 - My Strife in Court
20 - Let’s Make a Deal
21 - The Odyssey Couple (the season's other weak episode)
22 - Take My Furniture, Please
23 - The Murray Who Came to Dinner.
The 1.33:1 aspect ratio of the original broadcasts is retained for these transfers. Though obviously lacking anamorphic enhancement, this is undoubtedly the best I’ve ever seen The Odd Couple look. True, some herringbone and plaid jackets flash, but colors are strong and flesh tones are very natural looking. The stock footage inserts in the episodes to set the New York City locations looked soft and dirty then, and they still do. Ironically, the season’s best episode “Password” has a moment when the image goes from strong and solid to soft and dirty for a minute or so and then returns to normal. None of the other episodes display this momentary anomaly. Each episode has been divided into 6 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. As the series is undoubtedly a verbal one, the recording of all the witty banter is well done for the period in which the show was produced. The enthusiastic audience response to the on-stage antics and the occasional music cues also occupying the center channel never intrude on understanding the dialog between characters. The liner notes also warn that some music has been changed, but I couldn't denote where that might have occurred.
Sadly, there are no special features at all in the set. The gag reel that was presented in the first season box set of The Odd Couple would actually have fit better here since all but one of the outtakes are from season three.
Jack Klugman won an Emmy playing Oscar Madison (his second for the role) for the third season of the show, and though it was richly deserved, so, too, were many other participants in this grand third season worthy of recognition. The set may feature no bonuses at all, but the marvelous set of episodes that make up this box are a bonus to fans who should celebrate having another terrific season of the show in their hands.