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The Play

"The Odd Couple" began as a play written by Neil Simon. It premiered
on Broadway in 1965 at the Plymouth Theatre in New York City, starring
Walter Matthau as Oscar and Art Carney as Felix. Later in the show's run,
Jack Klugman took over the role of Oscar, which he played until the show
ended its Broadway run in 1967. Simon's inspiration for the play was his
brother Danny, who was divorced and was rooming with a divorced friend,
to cut expenses and save for alimony. The roommates began to get on each
other's nerves, and Neil told his brother, also a comedy writer, that the
premise would make a great play. Danny started to write one, but later
gave up and suggested that Neil write it instead.

The Movie

In 1968, the play was made into a movie starring Walter Matthau as Oscar,
and Jack Lemmon as Felix. Most of the script from the play was the same,
although the setting was expanded: instead of taking place entirely in Oscar's
apartment, some scenes took place at various outside locations.

The TV Show

The tv show began in the fall of 1970, and it was produced by Garry
Marshall, with no involvement from Neil Simon. Reportedly, the producers
originally wanted to cast Art Carney as Felix and Martin Balsam as Oscar,
while ABC wanted Tony Randall and Mickey Rooney. Randall was the first of
the pair to be hired - Garry Marshall came to see him and asked him to
do the show. Randall didn't accept the part right away, but eventually Marshall
talked him into it. Marshall called Klugman to offer him the part of Oscar.
Klugman at first turned the role down because he considered himself a theater
actor and did not want to do television. Shortly before production on the
show was scheduled to start, he changed his mind.

Although the show never made it into the top 25 in the Neilsen ratings,
it lasted for five seasons and 114 episodes. The show's highest rating came
in the 1972-1973 season, when it charted at #36.

The first season of the show was quite different from the ones that
followed. It was filmed using only one camera, and used a laugh track instead
of a studio audience. Many characters from the play appeared in the show,
such as the Pigeon Sisters, and Oscar and Felix's poker playing buddies.
When the second season began, the other characters were eliminated, except
for Murray the cop (although Vinnie and Speed popped up occasionally in some
later episodes) and the show was now filmed in front of a live studio audience,
and used three cameras. A different apartment set was also used.

The New TV Show

In the early 1980s, Garry Marshall decided to remake the show, this time
with a primarily African-American cast. "The New Odd Couple" lasted from
October 1982 to June 1983, which may be partly because 8 of the 13 episodes
produced were simply remakes of episodes from the original series. In this
series, Felix's ex-wife is named Frances, which was her name in the play.
Murray, Speed, Roy and the Pigeon Sisters also appeared in the show. It
starred Demond Wilson (best known from "Sanford and Son") as Oscar and Ron
Glass (best known from "Barney Miller") as Felix.

The New Play

In the 1980s, Neil Simon also got into the act of remaking the Odd Couple.
He wrote a new version of the play which featured female characters in the
lead roles. The two main characters were renamed Olive Madison and Florence
Unger, and instead of poker, they got together with their friends for a weekly
game of trivial pursuit. The British Pigeon Sisters were changed to the Spanish
Costazuela Brothers, Manolo and Jesus. "The Odd Couple (Female Version)"
premiered on Broadway in 1985, starring Sally Struthers and Rita Moreno,
and ran for nearly a year.

The TV Reunion Movie

In 1993, Tony and Jack reunited for a tv movie called "The Odd Couple:
Together Again." While several of the original cast members appeared in
the movie, Al Molinaro (Murray) and Janis Hansen (Gloria) did not, and other
performers were cast in their roles. In the movie, Oscar has just had surgery
to treat his throat cancer, requiring the removal of one of his vocal chords,
which made his voice sound like a raspy whisper. Meanwhile, Felix's daughter
Edna is getting married. When Felix starts to drive Gloria and Edna nuts
with his involvement in the wedding plans, Gloria throws him out of the house
for a few days so she can take care of the wedding in peace. Naturally,
Felix moves back in with his friend Oscar.

The Movie Sequel

In April 1998, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reprised their movie roles
as Oscar and Felix in "The Odd Couple 2." The plot involves the fact that
Oscar's son is engaged to Felix's daughter. Oscar and Felix, who haven't
seen each other in 17 years, meet up again to travel to the wedding together.

The New, New Play

In the new millenium, Neil Simon again decided to rewrite the play, in
order to bring it up-to-date. "Oscar and Felix: a New Look at the Odd Couple"
premiered in 2002, starring John Larroquette as Oscar and Joe Regalbuto as
Felix. Simon said that he had rewritten about 70% of the original material.
The basic story is the same, but includes new jokes and one-liners, and
references to current aspects of pop culture such as e-mail and cell phones.
The British Pigeon sisters (Gwendolyn and Cecily) were changed to Spanish
sisters (Ynes and Julia). The play was also restructured into 2 Acts instead
of 3 as in the original.