Why remake The Odd Couple? The question really, according to the executive producers and stars of the upcoming CBS sitcom, is: Why not?
"The Odd Couple has been repeated so many times," executive producer Bob Daly told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter previews on Monday. "But I think those two characters are so iconic and so timeless. It's been 45 years, so I think it's time for a new iteration."
Much like the 1970 TV show (based on the movie based on the play), the sitcom centers on the sloppy Oscar Madison, this time played by Matthew Perry, who moves in with his obsessively clean friend Felix Unger (Reno 911's Thomas Lennon). "It's been a dream come true to play Oscar Madison. It's big shoes to fill, but we're doing our own thing and doing it differently," Perry said.
Coming off two short-lived and slightly darker single-camera comedies (ABC's Mr. Sunshine and NBC's Go On), Perry said he was happy to return to a multi-camera sitcom shot in front of an audience similar to Friends. "I'm pretty proud of both of those shows. They had their moments. They at least aspired to be something different," Perry said. "This show is just trying to be funny. We're just trying to make people laugh."
It helps that the show has a secret weapon in Garry Marshall, who was an executive producer on the original sitcom and serves as an executive consultant and the remake. "He's there every week pitching jokes, pitching story lines," Daly said. Added Perry: "Just to have Garry's endorsement alone was huge."
Signing on as a consultant was an easy decision for Marshall. "Neil Simon did a good job with these characters but whatever you do, you got to have casting," Marshall said. "It holds up pretty good and now this casting is tremendous."
Perry said that precisely because of the show's cast, which also includes Community alum Yvette Nicole Brown, The Wire's Wendell Pierce and Lindsay Sloane (Horrible Bosses), the new version of The Odd Couple is "more of an ensemble show," according to Perry. "It's a really talented group, so we're using everybody."
The differences don't end there. Unlike the original series, the writing staff now includes female scribes. Also unlike the original, the network is no longer scared of the connotation that Oscar and Felix might be gay. "Now they deal with it. They talk about it," Marshall said, recalling the network's instructions on the original show to put more women in the show. "It's a much, much more modern show."
That also means more sex! (Or at least conversations about sex). "The issue of sharing an apartment with someone while you're sexually active has come up," Daly said.
Although the first episode borrows from the original material - "the funniest joke in the pilot was from 45 years ago," Perry said - that's where the similarities end. "We have not been using any dialogue, any story lines from the old episodes," Daly said. "We're trying to reinvent the show for 2015."
The Odd Couple premieres on Thursday, Feb. 19 at 8:30/7:30c on CBS.
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