On November 13th, 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 someday, 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?
Paramount and CBS DVD has released The Odd Couple: The Third Season, a flat-out hilarious four-disc, 23-episode collection of the memorable 1972-1973 season. Containing quite a few episodes that fans consider series' classics, The Odd Couple: The Third Season finds the show's premise firmly established and the gifted actors supremely confident in their roles. With very few changes to the format this go around, The Odd Couple: The Third Season focuses mainly on the apartment, and the eternal battle of wills between uber-slob Oscar Madison and Mr. Neat Freak, Felix Unger.
I've written extensively on Seasons One and Two of The Odd Couple (please click here to read my Season One review, and here to read my Season Two review), so there's no reason to go too deeply into the basic format of the series here. The premise, particularly in this solid middle Third Season (the show ran for five years), is the height of simplicity. Divorced and sloppy New York sportswriter Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) has allowed his friend, Felix Unger (Tony Randall), a psychotically clean and annoying portrait photographer/pest, to stay with him in his comfortable Manhattan apartment. Even under the best circumstances, any living arrangement between two people is fraught with conflict - which is an understatement for these two cosmically opposed roomies. Felix is constantly berating Oscar for messing up the apartment, for sleeping in a room that's a certifiable bio-hazard, and for eating and dressing like a hobo bum. And Oscar is constantly fighting his ulcer pains when he's enraged by Felix's fussiness, his fascist cleanliness and order, and his genetically imprinted ability to irritate anyone to the point of violence. And so it goes, week after week, with absolutely no sign (thankfully) of resolution. Like the basic Elements, slovenly Oscar and neatnik Felix abide and endure.
Firmly entrenched in the three-camera shoot production instigated in Season Two, Randall and Klugman knock each episode out of the ballpark in this exceptionally strong season. Stability is the name of the game in this third go-around. Only a few minor changes and distractions alter the steady course of this remarkably consistent season. Oscar's main love interest from Seasons One and Two, Dr. Nancy Cunnigham, is nowhere to be seen here. Her colleague, Dr. Melnitz (played by the delightfully dry Bill Quinn) shows up twice, but he seems an unnecessary reminder of Oscar's serious relationship with Nancy (an explanation of her disappearance isn't given). Considering how Oscar is portrayed this season - a strike-out with women who has to resort to computer dating - it's apparent the writers wanted to get more mileage and variation out of Oscar's unsuccessful swinging single's scene.
On the other hand, Felix gets a new steady girlfriend/friend, upstairs neighbor Miriam Welby (Elinor Donahue). What, exactly, the nature of their relationship is, remains unclear, but she'll stay around for the upcoming season, as well. Felix hasn't given up on his ex-wife, Gloria (Janis Hansen), though; she shows up a couple of times this season, and Felix makes it very clear that despite his enjoyment of Miriam, he wants to get back together with his wife (after all, as the opening narration states, that's the central premise of the show: Felix's stay is temporary, no matter how many years it lasts, and his ultimate goal is to return to his beloved wife). Friend Officer Murray Greshner (Al Molinaro) and Oscar's secretary Myrna Turner (Penny Marshall) have a greater presence this season, ably playing second bananas to Randall and Klugman, while poker buddies Vinnie (Larry Gelman, not seen at all this season) and Speed (Garry Walberg, only seen once) have drastically reduced screen time. A two-episode effort to introduce a new character, Puerto Rican hotel super Monroe (Andy Rubin) failed to click, and real-life wife of Jack Klugman, Brett Somers, shows up for a memorable single appearance.
Except for a couple of unforgettable excursions outside their apartment (including a trip to both Password and Let's Make a Deal gameshows), much of this Third Season stays resolutely house-bound. While economics may factor into that decision (after all, The Odd Couple was never a Top Thirty hit), I would guess that the writers recognized the inherent strength of original playwright Neil Simon's core premise: two polar opposites locked in combat within the confines of a New York apartment. And with this stability of environment and supporting characters, Randall and Klugman maintain an exceptionally steady tone to their performances. If possible, Randall is even more animated as Felix this season than last, while Klugman's Oscar rouses himself to true (hysterically funny) rage on several occasions. The fact that the actors were fast friends outside the set (and the fact that by all accounts, it was a happy, professional set, as is the norm with Garry Marshall series) certainly factors into their effortless rapport and their razor-sharp comedy timing. It's really a joy to watch these seasoned pros deliver big laughs with even marginally funny lines; nobody on TV today comes close to these guys, frankly.
Memorable episodes this season are myriad; most fans can count at least two or three from the roster among their all-series favorites. Big Mouth, the second-run episode, features a hilarious guest spot by "The Mouth that Roared," Howard Cosell. I'm Dying of Unger takes a frequently utilized sitcom set-up - the characters stranded at a remote cabin - and delivers some memorable laughs, including Felix's innate ability to turn the most innocent woodland creatures into menacing predators. The Odd Couples has wonderfully brassy and smart-assed Brett Somers (R.I.P.) return as Blanche Madison (her bedroom scene with Klugman plays how we might imagine their relationship really was). Felix's First Commercial has a funny turn by football great Deacon Jones (who can deadpan with the best of them). Password is one of the all-time greats, with Felix's idiosyncratic clues hysterically funny ("Lead.....graphite!"). Let's Make a Deal has smooth-as-silk Monty Hall hosting his iconic game show, with Felix and Oscar in a pantomime horse costume. Take My Furniture, Please has a terrific new "modern art" look for the apartment, circa 1973 (when Oscar sits in a chair shaped like a hand, he says, "I feel like an M&M."). And The Odd Monks and My Strife in Court rank with the very best the series has to offer. The Odd Monks has that certifiable genius character actor Richard Stahl as Brother Ralph, who invites the boys up to his monestary for some spiritual R&R. The memorable lines are too numerous to mention, but I particularly enjoyed Brother Ralph's unwritten commandment to Felix: thou shalt not fink. And My Strife in Court features perhaps the finest advisarial encounter between Felix and Oscar, as Felix humiliates Oscar on the stand by making him recount how he couldn't get a date ("I tried very hard, Felix," as Oscar tries to keep from strangling his roomie). And here we learn that Felix's nickname as a boy was "Felix the Pest," and that he was voted "The Boy Most Likely to Interrupt." Classic, classic TV comedy.
Here are the 23, one-half hour episodes of the four-disc box set The Odd Couple: The Third Season, as described on its insert. Just for fun, I've included some of my favorite lines from the episodes here. PLEASE NOTE: As with most vintage TV series released by CBS/Paramount, there is a small disclaimer at the back of the DVD slimcase that states, "Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions. Some music has been changed for this home entertainment version." There is no further explanation of what cuts, if any, were made. I did notice some obvious cuts. In The Odd Monks, Felix's segue into Look For the Silver Lining has been dropped, and in Oscar's Birthday, when Oscar's boyhood tap dancer teacher comes out for his surprise birthday party, her scene is awkwardly cut, most probably because Paramount didn't want to spend the thousands and thousands of dollars it would have cost to secure the music rights to these cues. Most of the episodes, though, time out at a little more than 25 minutes, which is about right for the original network run times. Edited TV shows are one of the hottest topics concerning DVD releases, and as a reviewer, I've taken both sides of the issue, depending on what title I'm reviewing. As always, the final decision should stay with the consumer, and what he or she is willing to put up with as far as refusing to buy cut series, or enjoying what's out there. It's usually a case-by-case basis. Here, with The Odd Couple: The Third Season, the show is so enjoyable, and the fact that most of the run times seem complete, prompts my favorable rating.
When Oscar's computer date turns out to be Felix's ex-wife Gloria, Felix is determined to prove that he is not jealous.
Felix banging his head against the wall, while simultaneously honking and singing Smile is a series highlight. Oscar: "I'm tired of going to my lonely bed every night." Felix: "Lonely bed? Everything you've ever owned is in there."
Stubborn Oscar needs to apologize to Howard Cosell, after he insulted the famous sportscaster during Felix's photo shoot.
Oscar: "You made my favorite: Boston Creme Pie!" Felix: Did you ever know a Monday I didn't bake?"
Felix is shocked when a beautiful client, who happens to be a royal princess, accepts Oscar's invitation to go out on a date.
The hysterically funny character actor James Millhollin has a small bit as a barber, styling Oscar's hair: Barber: "We could, eh...we could, eh, pull it forward, or brush it back, or we could, eh, fluff it up on the sides." Felix: "What do you recommend?" Barber: "A hat."
The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword
When Felix's corny poems earn high marks in his creative writing class, Oscar thinks the teacher is a fraud and confronts him.
Oscar to Felix: "Now I'm telling you. If you don't leave me alone, I"m going to flatten you. I'm going to roll you up on the typewriter, and I'm going to type, 'I HATE YOU!' all over your body! Single space!"
The Odd Monks
With Oscar's ulcer in high gear, and Felix working 14-hour days, they both decide to take advantage of a monk's invitation and go on a quiet retreat.
The genius deadpan Richard Stahl as Brother Ralph: "Well, if you want anything...just abstain." Felix to Oscar: "Monk of the Messy!" Oscar to Felix: "Saint of the Stool Pigeon!"
I'm Dying of Ungar
The roommates go off to a secluded cabin in order to finish Oscar's novel, but writer's block and Mother Nature keep getting in the way.
Oscar to Felix: "'Can't' is my favorite word. I use it all the time. I can't write the book. I can't pay back the money. I can't win on the horses. When I die, on my tombstone it's going to say: Oscar Madison -- couldn't."
The Odd Couples
Oscar's visiting mother is oversensitive about divorce, so Oscar and Blanche, and even Felix and Gloria, have to pretend they are still married.
Felix: "I think she [Gloria] is seeing another man." Oscar: "I think it's your imagination." Felix: "No, no, no. I've got proof. This morning I measured the seat belts in her car. The passenger side was abnormally loose." Oscar: "Maybe she went shopping with Kate Smith."
Felix's First Commercial
The only way Felix can direct his first television commercial is if Oscar can get a certain football player for the starring role. But Oscar wants to star in it, too!
Felix: "Don't toy with me, Oscar! I'm a loaded pistol!"
The First Baby
Over lunch, Oscar recounts to his secretary Myrna the time Felix was banned from the hospital, just before Gloria gave birth to their daughter Edna.
Oscar [in a flashback]: "I've got to hand it to you, Gloria; I could never live with that guy."
Although Oscar is dead-set against it, Felix is determined to throw him a surprise birthday party, with a unique theme that he is keeping secret.
Felix: "I thought you had a date with Crazy Rhoda with the overbite?" Oscar: "I did. She had to go to the dentist." Felix: "The dentist at 9:00 at night?" Oscar: She broke a tooth opening a bottle of beer."
When Oscar is invited to be a celebrity player on a game show, Felix begs to be his partner. But during the broadcast, Felix gives him rotten clues.
Oscar to Felix: "Aristophanes is ridiculous!"
The Odd Father
Felix is worried when his daughter Edna never wants to do anything but watch television. Then Oscar gets her interested in becoming a Little League umpire.
Oscar: "I'm exhausted. Make me a sandwich, will ya?" Felix: "My daughter hates me. I'm thinking of jumping out the window." Oscar: "Leave the sandwich on the ledge."
Don't Believe in Roomers
Oscar helps out a mysterious, free-spirited girl by letting her spend the night. Then he and Felix both start to fall for her.
Felix discovering a strange woman in his bed: "It's not my birthday." Oscar: "Sports to him [Felix] is the Betty Crocker Bake-Off."
Sometimes a Great Ocean
Felix takes Oscar on a cruise in order to relax and recover from his ulcer. But when Felix becomes activities director, the passengers stage a mutiny.
Felix to ulcer-suffering Oscar, playing solitaire: "You're not cheating, are you? Because cheating causes guilt. And guilt causes acid."
I Gotta Be Me
Tired of all their constant bickering, Oscar and Felix decide to consult Myrna's therapist, who suggests they try role-reversal.
Felix: "He's going to wash his hands in the kitchen sink!" Oscar: "What do you want me to do in it?" Felix: "Don't you dare!"
The Ides of April
A nervous Felix is called down to the local IRS office, where he divulges the fact that Oscar doesn't always file his taxes.
Accountant to Oscar, in his bedroom: "Why don't you just bring the tax examiner in her and plead insanity?"
With encouragement from Felix, Myrna decides to quit working for Oscar and devote himself full time...to becoming a tap dancer!
Felix: "'Responsibility' is my middle name, mister!" Oscar: "And 'Pest' is your first name, mister!"
After Felix's opera group goes bust when their casino night loses money, Oscar tries winning it back in a game with a well-known pool shark.
Felix: "You mean some of these are professional gamblers? Oh, no! Oh, no! How could you do this to me? Professional gamblers know how to win. I want people to lose, like you."
My Strife in Court
When Felix volunteers to get rid of an extra ticket to a Broadway show, he and Oscar are arrested for ticket scalping and must stand trial.
Oscar, to Felix on the stand: "And when you went to a marriage counselor, what happened?" Felix: "He kicked me out of his office." Oscar: "And?" Felix: "He wrote on my chart, 'Lunatic!'"
Let's Make a Deal
Oscar's old college pal is now a game show host, so the two roommates sneak onto his show in disguise to try and win Felix a new bed.
Felix: "Oh! A rotisserie! Oh, I've always wanted that! Oh, we blew it!"
The Odyssey Couple
In order to make Oscar's mother happy, Felix fixes him up with a Greek girl. But first they need to get acquainted with her traditional Greek family.
Oscar: "He asked me to dance." Felix: "Go ahead! I saw it in Zorba the Greek." Oscar: "It's not okay. I saw it in Boys in the Band!"
Take My Furniture, Please
After Felix paints the apartment, he redecorates it with outrageous modern furniture. So Oscar replaces it with junk from a discount store.
Felix, commenting on Oscar's decorating tastes: "Anywhere I look, something offends my senses! Oscar, it looks as if you got this whole place free with a full tank of gas!"
The Murray Who Came to Dinner
When his wife kicks him out, Murray the Cop comes to stay with Felix and Oscar -- and now he's ready for a swinging bachelor lifestyle!
Oscar: "Don't just sit there, Murray. Take out your gun and shoot him."
These full frame, 1.33:1 remastered transfers for The Odd Couple: The Third Season look terrific. Grain is apparent, but it's to be expected considering the original source. Colors are bright and vibrant. No compression issues.
The Dolby Digital English mono audio track accurately recreates the original broadcast presentation. Close-captioning is available.
Unfortunately, there are no extras for The Odd Couple: The Third Season.
Stability is the key word for The Odd Couple: The Third Season. The premise is in full swing, and Tony Randall and Jack Klugman settle in comfortably in their iconic roles. They'll forever be Felix and Oscar. This remarkably solid, consistent season doesn't have a misfire in the bunch, and many episodes rank right up there with series' favorites. Bright, sophisticated, urbane TV farce at its very best. I highly recommend The Odd Couple: The Third Season.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.