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HTF DVD REVIEW: The Odd Couple: The Final Season



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#1 of 49 Matt Hough

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Posted November 13 2008 - 03:15 PM


The Odd Couple: The Final Season
Directed by Jay Sandrich et al

Studio: Paramount
Year: 1974-1975
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 562 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English
Subtitles: CC
MSRP: $ 42.99

Release Date: November 18, 2008
Review Date: November 13, 2008


The Series

3.5/5

The fifth and last season detailing the lives and loves of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison continue merrily onward in the marvelous comedy series The Odd Couple. Tony Randall and Jack Klugman continue to display the same razor sharp timing and superb comedy technique that have made this series one of the greats. Yes, as in all of the seasons of the show, there were occasional episodes which didn’t rise to the high level of most of the series, and, to be honest, the overall quality of the writing in this final season wasn’t quite up to the level of the past two seasons. This final season of the show seemed to showcase Randall more than Klugman which may account for Randall‘s finally winning the Best Comedy Actor Emmy at season‘s end. There seemed to be a greater reliance on guest stars this season. Still, the show’s last season produced many pleasures and treasures.

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 in two episodes. Janis Hansen pops up again as Felix’s ex-wife Gloria memorably enough in the season/series finale, though Elinor Donahue makes several appearances as Felix’s girl friend Miriam during the season, too. All are as superb in their roles as the two stars.

Among the best of the season’s unforgettable gems, “The Subway Show” stands out from the pack as Felix tries his best to deflate Oscar’s assertion that New Yorkers are rude and uncaring. “Two on the Aisle” finds theater-ignorant Oscar using Felix’s enthusiasm for the stage to underhandedly help him write reviews for the vacationing theater critic. And Randall and Klugman memorably play their own fathers in prohibition Chicago in “Our Fathers.” (I interviewed Tony Randall in the early 1980s, and he told me this was his favorite episode. Of course, in other interviews during his career, I heard him express special fondness for “The Flying Felix” and “Password,” so who knows which one was his real favorite.)

Note on edits to the original broadcasts: “Strike Up the Band or Else . . . “ begins and ends abruptly with obvious missing music. Martina Arroyo’s opera selection is present in “Your Mother Wears Army Boots” but not her climactic “For Once in My Life.” Scatman Crothers’ little ditty is gone from “The Subway Show,” and “Together” is cut from “Two Men on a Hoarse.“ Surprisingly, we do get to hear “Born Free” at the end of “The Frogs,” “Laugh, Clown, Laugh” and “That’s the Way It Was in Vaudeville” from the Richard Dawson episode, and all of Paul Williams’ four songs in his starring show are unaltered as are Roy Clark‘s several numbers on his starring half hour. I’m sure The Odd Couple fanatics who know every second of the show much better than I will be able to add other alterations and omissions to this review thread, and I look forward to reading them.

Along with the aforementioned Paul Williams, Roy Clark, Richard Dawson, Scatman Carothers, and Martina Arroyo, other well known names appearing this season include Rob Reiner, Leonard Barr (three appearances), Leif Garrett, George Montgomery, Allan Arbus, Rona Barrett, John Fiedler, Cliff Norton, Pernell Roberts, Howard K. Smith, Guy Marks, Barney Martin, Elisha Cook, Jr., Dina Merrill, Jack Carter, Howard Cosell, Albert Paulsen, Rodney Allen Rippy, Dick Cavett, Victor Buono, Phil Foster, and John Byner.

Here is the list of the season’s 22 produced episodes on the three enclosed discs:

1 - The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly in Vain
2 - To Bowl or Not to Bowl
3 - The Frog
4 - The Hollywood Story
5 - The Dog Story
6 - Strike Up the Band or Else . . .
7 - The Odd Candidate
8 - The Subway Show
9 - The Paul Williams Show
10 - Our Fathers
11 - The Big Broadcast
12 - Oscar in Love
13 - Two on the Aisle
14 - Your Mother Wears Army Boots
15 - Felix the Horseplayer
16 - The Roy Clark Show
17 - The Rent Strike
18 - Two Men on a Hoarse
19 - The Bigger They Are . . .
20 - Old Flames Never Die
21 - Laugh, Clown, Laugh!
22 - Felix Remarries


Video Quality

4/5

The original broadcast ratio of 1.33:1 is faithfully rendered in these new DVD transfers. The images for the most part are very solid and steady. Color saturation is excellent, and accurate flesh tones really stand out. In fact, the image is so rock solid that toupee lines are easily seen in some shots and makeup lines can be discerned behind the ears of some of the actors. Of course, there are some white specks here and there, and there is a white scratch in the “Rent Strike” episode. Stock footage and some location shots look anywhere from soft to lousy usually, but they did in the original broadcasts as well. The episodes have been divided into 6 chapters.

Audio Quality

3/5

The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio track is decoded by Dolby Prologic accurately into the center channel. Since the show is predominantly talk, it’s important that the dialog be clear, and there’s no denying that it is that. Sometimes there’s some scratchy audio for a few seconds, and often the encode has a hard time dealing with high pitched voices and sounds without some distortion. Otherwise, it’s an acceptable mono track representative of its era.

Special Features

0/5

There are no bonuses, not even Tony Randall’s Emmy acceptance speech, disappointing since Klugman’s speeches were presented in the earlier box sets.

There are previews for I Love Lucy, Becker, and Perry Mason - 50th Anniversary Edition.

In Conclusion

3.5/5 (not an average)

Though the fifth and final season of The Odd Couple wasn’t the show’s best, thanks go to Paramount for at least making all five seasons available to fans with better than average transfers even when some shows have undergone some music adjustments. Obviously for fans, this release is recommended.


Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 49 Joe Karlosi

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Posted November 13 2008 - 08:44 PM

Quote:
Note on edits to the original broadcasts: “Strike Up the Band or Else . . . “ begins and ends abruptly with obvious missing music. Martina Arroyo’s opera selection is present in “Your Mother Wears Army Boots” but not her climactic “For Once in My Life.” Scatman Crothers’ little ditty is gone from “The Subway Show,” and “Together” is cut from “Two Men on a Hoarse.“ Surprisingly, we do get to hear “Born Free” at the end of “The Frogs,” “Laugh, Clown, Laugh” and “That’s the Way It Was in Vaudeville” from the Richard Dawson episode, and all of Paul Williams’ four songs in his starring show are unaltered as are Roy Clark‘s several numbers on his starring half hour.

If this is the extent of the edits this time -- and we do get all the Paul Williams and Roy Clark songs, as well as "Laugh Clown Laugh" -- then I can live with it.

I'm curious to hear what else winds up missing, but for all the complaining, looks like we've still gotten all five seasons on DVD, and Paramount isn't about to go back and restore anything. So whine away.

#3 of 49 Dave Scarpa

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Posted November 14 2008 - 12:02 AM

I wonder how much would have to be added to the MSRP of these sets to get all the music cleared and intact?

As for the Fifth Season I always thought it was the weakest of the bunch, I was never for the "Guest Star" episodes, hey Look Oscar Knows Roy Clark, Hey Look Richard Dawson. To me the Odd Couple was at it's best when it focused on Oscar and Felix, and not the stunt casting.
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#4 of 49 Joe Karlosi

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Posted November 14 2008 - 12:35 AM

I agree about the guest stars. Don't really need them, though I do like when Oscar spars with Howard Cosell.

#5 of 49 Corey3rd

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Posted November 14 2008 - 01:23 AM

The Odd Couple needed the guest stars in order to get those ratings boosts from the attention. Remember that this was a show that got canceled at the end of every season. it was not a ratings blockbuster. If anything, the guest stars made it the best written "variety show" on TV during that time. And where else are the kids going to get their fill of Paul Williams?
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#6 of 49 FanCollector

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Posted November 14 2008 - 01:59 AM

Glad to hear that some of the music I worried about was spared. "Vaudeville" I would have bet was doomed for sure! Does anyone know if "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" is safe in Strike Up the Band? It's not for Klugman's singing performance that I'd miss it, but the whole scene really turns on the song. I was just afraid the rights might be expensive, especially in an episode where they have to have "Cocktails for Two" intact. I also have a bad feeling about "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" in The Rent Strike. It's just a little joke, but it makes me laugh.

As for the guest stars...I felt there was a wide variety. The shows with Allan Ludden and Bobby Riggs were absolutely first rank episodes. Some, like the two Monty Hall shows and the first Howard Cosell one, are fine. And some, like the Roy Clark appearance, were pretty forgettable. It seemed like sometimes the writers developed a story idea that worked comfortably within the format and sometimes it was more forced. And sometimes it was unfair--according to an interview I read, the last episode produced ("Your Mother Wears Army Boots") was an accident! Tony Randall had invited Martina Arroyo to guest and the producers had an arrangement with Cosell. Since it was the last episode ever, though, they had no choice but to combine the visitors into one very bizarre story.

According to the same interview, by the way, none of the guest stars helped the ratings much, not even Cosell and Bobby Riggs, whom Garry Marshall claims were the only two they invited specifically for ratings boosts.

#7 of 49 Matt Hough

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Posted November 14 2008 - 02:41 AM

The ratings for the show were never stellar. It became instantly popular in syndication after the network run, but it was never more than a "nervous hit" for ABC.

"Tumbling Tumbleweeds" as sung by Red River and his Saddle Sores is certainly in the episode.

#8 of 49 Brian Himes

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Posted November 17 2008 - 04:10 AM

Can't wait to get this tomorrow. I'm so glad to have this series completed on DVD. After TimeLife wasn't impressed with sales of season 1, I was worried that we wouldn't get the rest of the series.

#9 of 49 pitchman

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Posted November 17 2008 - 06:04 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MattH.
The ratings for the show were never stellar. It became instantly popular in syndication after the network run, but it was never more than a "nervous hit" for ABC.
Quite right, Matt. I can't help but wonder how much scheduling may have played a part in the program's slightly lackluster ratings. Didn't ABC air it at the end of their two-hour kid-oriented T.G.I.F. block for a few seasons? We'll never know for sure, but I have to think that if the show had been given a better time slot on a better night, better ratings might have followed...

I'm glad that CBS/Paramount did see fit to issue all five seasons and I will be picking up this new release to complete my collection.
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#10 of 49 Joe Karlosi

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Posted November 17 2008 - 08:28 AM

One store owner told me the release date was moved back a week. I don't know if he was talking about his own store, or the release in general...

#11 of 49 Joe Tor1

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Posted November 17 2008 - 12:16 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by pitchman
Quite right, Matt. I can't help but wonder how much scheduling may have played a part in the program's slightly lackluster ratings. Didn't ABC air it at the end of their two-hour kid-oriented T.G.I.F. block for a few seasons? We'll never know for sure, but I have to think that if the show had been given a better time slot on a better night, better ratings might have followed...

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't ABC's T.G.I.F. from the early nineties -- including things like Urkel and Dinosaurs?

I distictly remember, with great fondness, the ABC Friday night lineup at the end of the 1974-1975 season, that included Kolchak the Night Stalker, The Odd Couple, and Hot'L Baltimore. All of which were cancelled at the same time! It was a sad experience -- and it's nice to know that I'll now have two of those series complete on DVD.

#12 of 49 pitchman

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Posted November 17 2008 - 03:21 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Tor1
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't ABC's T.G.I.F. from the early nineties -- including things like Urkel and Dinosaurs?

I distictly remember, with great fondness, the ABC Friday night lineup at the end of the 1974-1975 season, that included Kolchak the Night Stalker, The Odd Couple, and Hot'L Baltimore. All of which were cancelled at the same time! It was a sad experience -- and it's nice to know that I'll now have two of those series complete on DVD.
I just checked, Joe, and it looks like we both may be partially right. The Odd Couple aired on Thursday night when it debuted in 1970 and was a part of this lineup: Matt Lincoln @ 7:30 pm, Bewitched @ 8:30, Barefoot in the Park @ 9:00, The Odd Couple @ 9:30, and The Immortal @ 10:00 pm. Although not called T.G.I.F. per se, the ABC Friday night lineup that The Odd Couple was part of from 1971-1972 included: The Brady Bunch @ 8:00 pm, The Partridge Family @ 8:30, Room 222 @ 9:00, The Odd Couple @ 9:30 and Love American Style @ 10:00 pm. In 1973, ABC shuffled the lineup as follows: The Brady Bunch @ 8:00 pm, The Odd Couple @ 8:30, Room 222 @ 9:00, Adam's Rib @ 9:30 and Love American Style @ 10:00 pm. In 1974, ABC moved The Odd Couple back to Thursdays where it served as the night's lead-in: The Odd Couple @ 8:00 pm, Paper Moon @ 8:30, Streets of San Francisco @ 9:00, and Harry-O @ 10:00 pm. The Odd Couple was not a part of the 1974 ABC Friday night lineup you recalled, but it did include: Kodiak @ 8:00 pm, The Six Million Dollar Man @ 8:30, The Texas Wheelers @ 9:30, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker @ 10:00 pm.

What's fascinating to note is that even as late as 1970, network prime-time lineups were still kicking off at 7:30 pm. Also, it amazes me how one-hour programs were being scheduled to start on the bottom half of the hour rather than the top. Imagine a lineup where a big hit like Bewitched starts at 8:30 rather than anchoring the hour at 9:00 pm! Posted Image
Gary

#13 of 49 Joe Tor1

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Posted November 17 2008 - 05:25 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by pitchman
I just checked, Joe, and it looks like we both may be partially right. The Odd Couple aired on Thursday night when it debuted in 1970 and was a part of this lineup: Matt Lincoln @ 7:30 pm, Bewitched @ 8:30, Barefoot in the Park @ 9:00, The Odd Couple @ 9:30, and The Immortal @ 10:00 pm. Although not called T.G.I.F. per se, the ABC Friday night lineup that The Odd Couple was part of from 1971-1972 included: The Brady Bunch @ 8:00 pm, The Partridge Family @ 8:30, Room 222 @ 9:00, The Odd Couple @ 9:30 and Love American Style @ 10:00 pm. In 1973, ABC shuffled the lineup as follows: The Brady Bunch @ 8:00 pm, The Odd Couple @ 8:30, Room 222 @ 9:00, Adam's Rib @ 9:30 and Love American Style @ 10:00 pm. In 1974, ABC moved The Odd Couple back to Thursdays where it served as the night's lead-in: The Odd Couple @ 8:00 pm, Paper Moon @ 8:30, Streets of San Francisco @ 9:00, and Harry-O @ 10:00 pm. The Odd Couple was not a part of the 1974 ABC Friday night lineup you recalled, but it did include: Kodiak @ 8:00 pm, The Six Million Dollar Man @ 8:30, The Texas Wheelers @ 9:30, and Kolchak: The Night Stalker @ 10:00 pm.

What's fascinating to note is that even as late as 1970, network prime-time lineups were still kicking off at 7:30 pm. Also, it amazes me how one-hour programs were being scheduled to start on the bottom half of the hour rather than the top. Imagine a lineup where a big hit like Bewitched starts at 8:30 rather than anchoring the hour at 9:00 pm! Posted Image

Gary:

As you said, we are both “partially correct”. Your research is indeed correct on the Thursday and Friday evening lineups for the start of ABC’s 1974-1975 season.

The problem was (and it seemed to be a consistent problem for The Odd Couple) that its timeslot was often chaotically shifted, and building or maintaining an audience must have been difficult even for a quality show like this.

The research book I have, “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows 1946-Present” by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, shows how each fall network schedule began – and this reflects things exactly as you say – but it does not account for the changes that occurred throughout the season.

I said that “…the ABC Friday night lineup at the end of the 1974-1975 season included Kolchak the Night Stalker, The Odd Couple, and Hot'L Baltimore.” You are quite correct on how the season started, but that is how the season ended.

Kolchak (the best sci-fi oriented show from the seventies, IMHO) was shifted down from 10:00 PM to 8:00 PM, Hot’L Baltimore was added mid-season (which may be why you do not mention it), and the Odd Couple was sent off to expire in the Friday Night Graveyard.

I was 20 at that time, and recall even delaying dates until Saturday because I liked these particular shows so much – and that I was very sad when that “whole night” was cancelled. (Though I can’t recall what else rounded out that lineup… whatever it was I didn’t watch it!)

And yes, the Prime Time schedule began at 7:30 until about 1971 – with Sunday remaining an exception to this day. Some regulation about “giving back that half hour to local stations”. So, where we once had almost universally family friendly, early evening network series at 7:30, we quickly had game shows and then trashy magazine shows.

…And they called that PROGRESS?

Joe.

#14 of 49 Joe Karlosi

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Posted November 17 2008 - 09:46 PM

Quote:
the ABC Friday night lineup that The Odd Couple was part of from 1971-1972 included: The Brady Bunch @ 8:00 pm, The Partridge Family @ 8:30, Room 222 @ 9:00, The Odd Couple @ 9:30 and Love American Style @ 10:00 pm.

Ah, that's the lineup I recall when I was 9-10 years old. It was the perfect time to be a kid. Every Friday Night my parents would go to my aunt's house right around the corner and have their weekly card game. All us kids would be in the living room at the TV set watching this lineup, all the cousins together. Good memories. It would always be time to go home somewhere in the middle of 'Love American Style'... but we kids didn't know what all that mushy stuff was all about anyway!

#15 of 49 pitchman

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Posted November 17 2008 - 11:58 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Tor1
Gary:

The research book I have, “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows 1946-Present” by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, shows how each fall network schedule began – and this reflects things exactly as you say – but it does not account for the changes that occurred throughout the season.

Joe.
Great minds think alike... That is the very same book I have! I grabbed it off the shelf after reading your post about T.G.I.F. I referenced the fall schedules in the back of the book, but I guess I should have looked further! Posted Image

Cheers,
Gary

#16 of 49 TVAdam

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Posted November 18 2008 - 07:33 AM

My fears were realized today when I bought the DVD. There is an edit in the final episode. Right after Felix and Gloria are married, Oscar gets excited and says "I'm Free! I'm Free!" Then he starts to sing 'I'm Singing in the Rain." The singing has been cut out. After he says "I'm Free!" a few times, it fades to black and opens up with the final scene of the show. So one of my favorite moments of all five seasons is NOT in the DVD.

I have mixed feelings about the DVDs. It's better than nothing, but I don't consider my collection to be the complete series. It's just every episode. But not every complete episode. Posted Image

#17 of 49 Joe Karlosi

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Posted November 18 2008 - 10:24 PM

That really sucks. I've actually been defending the "need" for some of these musical edits in these Paramount sets, but I'm really annoyed to hear that the "I'm singin' in the rain!!" finale has been chopped off.

#18 of 49 FanCollector

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Posted November 18 2008 - 11:57 PM

I, too, have tried to be reasonable. I certainly understand that music publishers can be mercenary in their pricing, even sometimes totally unwilling to allow songs to be reused. However, I have concluded, to my own satisfaction only, that Paramount is largely responsible in this case. It just doesn't make sense that music publishers were willing to give Paramount Home Entertainment great, cheap deals on songs, but when it changed over to CBS Video, they decided to raise their prices? Or that Sony and Disney get much cheaper rates for standards than CBS/Paramount? The music cuts seem to reflect a different corporate philosophy than was in place before.

As I, and many others, have said before, I'll still take the deal. The shows are better with 20 seconds cut out than with 3 minutes cut out and this is the only game in town for episodes this nearly complete. I don't want to take a "principled stand" and have nothing. (I continue to hope that The Fugitive releases continue.) The bargain seems to be that CBS/Paramount cuts costs by trimming the music and then releases many times more shows than all the other studios. They also give things a chance. Almost none of their shows have been abandoned, and the few that have been got at least three full season releases before they gave up.

But I agree that the shows are not complete by any means. And at this point, with the new set just out, I count nearly thirty episodes that have been edited over the course of the series. That number is alarmingly high and I wish there had been another way.

On a more specific note, has anyone watched "Our Fathers" yet? Why is the running time so short? Same question for "Two on the Aisle".

#19 of 49 Anthony Hom

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Posted November 19 2008 - 06:54 AM

The "singing in the rain" sequence cut is a disappointment, as is the throat operation episode with "together" when they hop around tied up in the chairs, priceless joke! BTW, did they cut out Oscar singing "mona lisa" like Nat King Cole? and what about "buckle down winsocki" did they even cut that one, too?

#20 of 49 FanCollector

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Posted November 19 2008 - 10:32 AM

They cut Cocktails For Two!!

I assumed they would make cuts from that episode, but I never thought they would cut Cocktails For Two! The show hardly makes sense without it. Just sad.


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