“Friends” star Matthew Perry‘s newest series takes one of television’s oldest premises into 2015 on CBS’s remake based on Neil Simon’s 1965 play, “The Odd Couple,” which was also made into the 1968 film and an ABC sitcom during the early-70s.
In accordance with the Simon premise, CBS’s 2015 version finds sloppy Oscar Madison (Perry), a sports radio host, welcoming his college pal Felix Unger (“Newsreaders” actor Thomas Lennon) into his home after separating from his wife. An allergy-prone neat freak, Felix proceeds to clean Oscar’s home, alienate Oscar’s sports buddies and endear himself to Oscar’s beautiful neighbor, Casey (“GCB’s” Leslie Bibb), and her quirky sister, Emily (“Horrible Bosses” actress Lindsay Sloane).
As CBS only made the premiere episode available to critics, I can say that there is some chemistry between Perry and Lennon that I’d expect to grow on later episodes. But, it’s tough to say since comedies need some time for the cast to find their footing.
Perry performs as one would expect him to on a multi-cam comedy with an audience. He’s high energy, eyes working the room and prone to react with tick-like body movements. In contrast, Lennon performs Felix in a much more reserved, quiet way.
In a nod to the “The Odd Couple’s” place in pop culture, the CBS remake decided to address the gay undercurrents that have always surrounded the story about two single men living together. Spoiler alert: Felix is not gay.
The supporting cast is strong. Bibb doesn’t play the dumb blonde. Rather, she gets everything that Oscar is throwing at her, but has a very modern take on the kind of relationship she’s interested in. Sloane is a sleeper surprise for me. Like Lennon, she underplays the role and it works for the character’s need to speak the truth about those around her and her own new divorce.
“Community” actress Yvette Nicole Brown also plays a small role on the premiere episode as Oscar’s assistant. He records his radio show at home and she only appeared for a few minutes at the top of the episode. Again, it was too little time to critique her acting, but it does make me wonder how the show will utilize her on future episodes.
As a fan of Perry’s, I’ve been rooting for him in all his attempts to return to television. I was a big fan of his last NBC comedy, “Go On,” and was surprised when NBC decided to cancel the solidly-watched (by NBC standards) show.
Perry’s fandom is perhaps not sizable enough to carry his shows at NBC, which has struggled to find audiences for its comedies in the last several years, so CBS may just be the place for him. For whatever reason, CBS’s older-skewing viewers show up for its programming and may find some enjoyment in this remake of a classic.
As for big, belly laughs, there were a few. But, I’m not the kind of guy that goes for your usual joke setup and delivery that plagues multi-cam comedies. Nevertheless, I was entertained and curious about where the episode would lead.
The premiere episode is a solid introduction to Oscar and Felix’s new world. The curiosity of how they’ll form their living situation and what role the supporting cast will play may bring people back for more episodes.
But as for this critic, I’m not quite hooked. And if others feel the same way and with the overabundance of TV options today, then that doesn’t bode well for “The Odd Couple.”