[Please note, this was written before episode 2 aired]
In this era of remakes and reversionings, it seems like it was only a matter of time before someone started looking at the old sitcoms. What better way is there to tap into nostalgia than in half-hour comedic bite size chunks, after all?
This seems like a slightly different case, though. The Odd Couple was originally based on a stage play by Neil Simon, even as it was made into a movie in 1968, a television series in 1970, and then a sequel movie in 1998 (and a couple other unsuccessful versions along the way). This new television series stars Matthew Perry (Friends, Mr Sunshine) as the generally unkempt Oscar Madison, and Thomas Lennon (Reno 911, Sean Saves the World) as the super-tidy Felix Unger.
Right up front, this show presents a lot of opportunities that it doesn’t seem interested in banking on, especially with respect to gender identity. Oscar and Felix are recently separated from their wives (the latter being quite a bit more recent), and Felix shows up at Oscar’s apartment looking for a place to stay and a shoulder to lean on. Upon seeing the state of the living space, he immediately goes about working his magic to make it presentable. He even endeavors to cook for Oscar’s friends when they come to visit. It’s sadly at this point when the writing slides distinctly into catering to stereotypes, no pun intended. Felix’s gravitation towards tasks that in the past would have been dominated by women, along with his choice of foods to serve, cause Oscar’s friends to question Felix’s sexuality. Oscar takes steps to brush it off with the line “he [seems] like it, but he’s not”. In the multitude of productions over the years, Felix has been played with varying levels of flamboyance, so it really felt like they dropped the ball by addressing the issue with anything other than a defensive “well, why does it even matter?” The fact that it was followed up by a mention of the “token” minority member, didn’t help either. Luckily, Felix was out of the room at the time, so he may be able to salvage it in the future. It would have meant more coming from Oscar, though.
If this was just about two very different people trying to figure out how to co-habitate, that would be one thing, so I’m really hoping this isn’t a case of media taking one step forward and two steps back.
I don’t watch a lot of sitcoms because I don’t like being told when to laugh, but I think I’ll try to keep an eye on this one just to see what they end up deciding to do. According to listings, there are only seven episodes, and it says it’s completed.
[If you have a topic you’d like me to cover in a future article, please don’t hesitate to email me at Sara at otdt.net.]