Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Odd Couple Was Filmed Before A Live Studio Audience

With all due respect to NBC's Must-See TV Thursday night lineups of the mid-80s through mid-90s, TigerBlog thinks that the glory days for the American situation comedy was about 10-15 years before that.

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show." "Happy Days." "M*A*S*H." "Maude." "Barney Miller." "Taxi." "The Bob Newhart Show."

How about the incredibly underrated "WKRP In Cincinnati?"

"All in the Family" was more than a sitcom; it might be the single most influential show in American TV history.

For all of these shows, TB's favorite is without a doubt "The Odd Couple."

The show aired from 1970-75 and was actually cancelled at the end of each season, only to be renewed before the next one. It's a TV version of the Neil Simon play and then subsequent movie.

The title couple is Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, two friends who get divorced and end up living together in their New York City, where Oscar is a sportswriter (who curiously seemed to work 9-5 and had his own secretary, two things TB never saw in his 11 years in that business) and Felix is "a commercial photographer, portraits a specialty."

The show wasn't really about anything other than how the two men interacted and their relationships with others. It makes no political statements, doesn't explore any controversial issues or offer anything to the national dialog.

It's just funny. Very, very funny. With great characters.

TB saw the original versions on TV and then saw the reruns hundreds of times each in syndication, to the point where he can recite basically entire episodes from memory all these years later.

His favorite episode is probably the eighth one in the series' history, when Felix is forced by Albert Brooks to use Oscar as a model in his Mandar Cologne add. Either that, or the one in the last season when Roy Clark plays Oscar's old Army buddy Wild Willie Boggs. Or maybe the one where Oscar and Felix have to find a new frog for Felix's son Leonard after his original frog ends up in the blender, leading to one of the classic lines in the history of American culture, given by Richard Stahl, an actor who apparently made his entire career playing random people on "The Odd Couple," after he hears that the new frog is not a Yugoslavian Jumping Frog but instead a frog from New York City: "An American frog? You bet I'll fix him."

TB hasn't seen many episodes of late, but he did stumble onto a few on Channel 11 in New York that aired at 3 and 3:30 a.m. on a few weekends, so he set the DVR.

In all, he ended up with four episodes, one of which is another of his absolute favorites, the one with the ghost in the air conditioner, including this exchange between the boys and Dr. Clove, the occult specialist that Felix is considering to do an exorcism:

Felix: "Dr. Clove ... exactly what kind of doctor are you?"
Dr. Clove: "I'm an orthodontist. But I gave that up years ago. This is my real love, the occult."
Oscar: "You like all this spooky stuff?"
Dr. Clove: "Beats cleaning bubble gum out of braces."

Watching those episodes took TB right back to when he was younger and watched the show all the time. It was almost as if he could picture the young TB - the one with long hair, parted in the middle, feathered back - watching the show.

He had a similar experience when he saw the CD of pictures that Margot Putukian, the Princeton team physician, gave to TB from the men's lacrosse trip to Costa Rica.

As TB went through the pictures, they put him right back at all the highlights of the trip.

There was the World Cup qualifier. The ziplining. The clinics with the Costa Rican team. The game against Costa Rica, in which TB was a ref. The beaches at Samara and Tamarindo. The community service project where the town center was painted and the field improved. The guides and the drivers.

It's hard to believe that all of that was more than two months ago already. It seems like five minutes have passed.

It's been much longer, of course.

The summer always flies by, and this one seems to have gone particularly quickly. The quiet feel to the campus has vanished, as soccer players are already getting started, to be followed in short order by the rest of the fall sports teams.

Jim Barlow, the men's soccer coach, was just in TB's office, and TB pointed out that his team has its first game two weeks from tomorrow. Two weeks? How is that possible?

Once again, the entire cycle of an athletic year at Princeton has come and gone, and now it's time for another one to begin.

Amazingly, the summer is almost gone, even if Costa Rica doesn't seem so far away.

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