I'm going to go out on a safe limb here and say Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" is one of the greatest comedies of the 20th century. Finding its way from the stage to the now iconic pairing of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon as the slovenly Oscar Madison and neurotic Felix Ungar respectively, the film managed to work its way into a very exclusive club when in 1970 it was adapted for television, replacing Lemmon and Matthau with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, whose performances honored their big screen counterparts while managing to tread expanded ground as provided by the television format. Running only five seasons, the (first) TV incarnation of "The Odd Couple" has aged like fine wine over the decades and cements a place in the books of many comedy fans as one of the more worthy entries in the genre. Like all successful endeavours, having a hit film and TV series wasn't enough and the 80s would offer us "The New Odd Couple" a show I've never seen, but know merely by its premise of recasting with black actors. The 90s would bring us a big screen sequel with Lemmon and Matthau that was serviceable enough but at its point of inception, pointless given the pair's massive success with Grumpy Old Men and its sequel.
As is the trend these days, it's often far easier for the creative types running the show in Hollywood to either make a sequel or remake something entirely, and 2015 saw "The Odd Couple" being rudely awakened and slapped on CBS with one positive, the casting of Thomas Lennon and Matthew Perry as the ever bickering but platonically bonded duo. Debuting with 12 episodes in its freshman season, this "Odd Couple" hasn't surpassed "The New Odd Couple's" 13 episode run, but with a sophomore season on the way, it's bound to and for the life of me I can't fathom why...oh wait, in an era of "Two and a Half Men" running more than 10 seasons and "The Big Bang Theory" still infecting the airwaves, I sadly can, and like both those shallow one-note (ok, being generous, once in awhile they hit a second note) attempts at the sitcom formula, 2015's "Odd Couple" is devoid of the wit, charisma, and charm its previous big screen and small screen successes shared.
Stomaching more than a handful of episodes of this incarnation of Neil Simon's classic apples and oranges buddy comedy is truly a Herculean task and very quickly does the appeal of the primary players wear off. Perry looks perpetually bored as Madison, whose trademark slovenly behavior is so poorly visualized on-screen I could have easily mistook the whole debacle for a bad amatuer YouTube spoof. Perry's delivery is flat and pained; long gone are the smarmy one-liners he was known for on "Friends" or the more matured comedic stylings of his brief stint on "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." Perry at best comes off as a grump for unknown reasons and is a far cry from the authentic feeling world weary performances of Klugman and Matthau. Lennon fairs a little better but not by much; his performance at times is less natural and more self-aware of the shoes he's trying to fill and for a truly gifted character actor such as Lennon to be fumbling with poorly written scripts, is a painful sight. The writers sadly, almost instantly go to the area I feared they would and play Ungar's psychological hangups for more than one tasteless gay joke.
Over the course of the first season's 12 episodes, there's little in real character development, instead there are a handful of attempts to explore the love lives of our characters and when that's not at the forefront, putting them at irrational odds against each other seems to be where the writers seemed most safe. A mid-season tale wherein Felix tries to prove he's as physically competitive as Oscar feels entirely out of place with the miniscule character development leading up to it; in the 70s it would have felt authentic, here, with as thinly crafted a character's 2015's Felix and Oscar are, it reeks of lazy writing and pulling from prior greatness. When the writing isn't vomiting marginal one-liners at the audience, it's finding a way to shoehorn in lazy cameos. The season feebly attempts to bring audiences back for more with a tried and true cliffhanger, that had I even marginally been invested in this incarnation of the characters, would have put me off the series entirely, as it's incredibly mean spirited. Fortunately, this smaller debut season was over quickly and my time with this pointless remake is over.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer definitely hits the expected marks of a prime time sitcom. Colors are bright and in your face, while overall detail is strong enough to remind viewers it's a soundstage location, but not detailed enough to make you think you're watching a more painstakingly shot cable drama or feature film. There's a fairly minor amount of compression artifacts present but no glaring DNR or edge enhancement.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track is solid for a modern-day sitcom. Dialogue is sharp and centered, with enough warmth to make it lifelike and decent enough use of the surrounds to give the effect of the laugh track/studio audience off camera. It's a distortion free affair and doesn't really ever have an opportunity to stretch its boundaries beyond the classic studio sitcom format. An English Surround Stereo track (that is arguably just as serviceable) and English SDH subtitles are also included.
Apart from two brief featurettes "Season in Review: New Odd Couple, New Laughs" and " Reviving The Odd Couple" which cover the obvious: this is a revival of a classic and boy does everyone involved feel like they are breaking new ground, the only other bonus features are a gag reel and handful of deleted scenes.
From the poor, stiff performances from two generally funny comedic actors to the set design that almost looks like a strange homage to the apartment of Frasier Crane, this 2015 revival of "The Odd Couple" is truly odd in the sense that someone greenlit it past its disastrous pilot. Perhaps if it were an original idea, I could see its crippling mediocrity squeaking by for this 12-episode season, but riding the coattails of one of the greatest classic comedies as well as truly great vintage sitcom, this new version of Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison have zero to offer aside from the pain your face will experience from repeated palm strikes. Skip It.