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DVD Review: The Odd Couple – The Fourth Season

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The Odd Couple is a kind of rarity in television. Based on the 1968 film that starred Jack Lemmon as Felix and Walter Matthau as Oscar, many feel that the series starring Tony Randall as Felix and Jack Klugman as Oscar equaled or surpassed the quality of the film. Both Tony Randall and Jack Klugman received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for each of the show's five seasons. Even more amazing, ABC canceled The Odd Couple at the end of each season during the series' five-year run because of poor ratings, only to bring the show back after it scored so well in the Neilsens during summer reruns.

It's easy to think of Jack Klugman in his other famous television role in Quincy M.E. (1976-83). Even though Tony Randall co-starred in a slew of popular motion pictures, including Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957), Pillow Talk (1959), Let's Make Love (1960), Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1963), to name a few, it's hard not to think of him as Felix Unger, the fastidious neat freak with nasal passage issues stuck in a permanent state of fussiness.

OddCouple_S4_Still_PK_7767_0005.jpgThough Klugman may be as fondly remembered by some for his role as Dr. Quincy, he was just as effective at making Oscar Madison his own. Oscar was as slovenly as Felix was clean, had little use for utensils, plates or Felix's house rules, but loves sports and his job as a sports writer. He was always grumpy but, unlike his roommate, didn't sweat the small stuff. He always believed things were going to work out one way or another.

The Odd Couple was a bit of a departure from the formula executive producer Garry Marshall would develop for his later sitcoms. While Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Mork & Mindy relied heavily on slapstick and physical comedy, the humor of The Odd Couple came from the personalities and eccentricities of the characters, funny dialogue, and the unique friendship between Felix and Oscar.

Having watched all four seasons of The Odd Couple on DVD, I think that while the show was still very enjoyable, by season four the writers were beginning to run out of original ideas. As a result, some of the episodes lack the comedic edge and originality of previous seasons. In early seasons, the plots of episodes didn't matter so much, because the back-and-forth dialogue between Felix and Oscar was really the focus of the show and could keep any plot afloat. However, in season four, the writers seemed to get away from that formula by bringing in a lot of extra characters and fleshing out storylines rather than focusing on the interplay between the roommates.

For this fourth season the writers framed a lot of shows around flashbacks and recollections, which frankly are some of the series' weakest episodes. However, there are still a few strong episodes that help to make up for the weaker ones. "Cleanliness is Next to Impossible" is a classic episode that has the roommates in a role reversal, as Oscar all of a sudden becomes a neat freak when a date is turned off by his slovenliness. "Maid for Each Other" has Felix going on strike, Oscar bringing in junk food, and Felix hiring a cleaning woman to help around the house.

Like a lot of 1970s series, this season of The Odd Couple featured quite a few famous and semi-famous guest stars. Let's Make A Deal host Monty Hall, Playboy's Hugh Hefner, tennis players Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, Dick Clark, dancer Edward Villella, former Detroit Lions star Alex Karras, singer Jaye P. Morgan, DJ Wolfman Jack, opera star Marilyn Horne, and actors John Byner, Teri Garr and executive producer Garry Marshall make appearances.

Here's a rundown of the 22 episodes presented on four DVDs on The Odd Couple – The Fourth Season DVD Set.

1. "Gloria Moves In" – Felix's ex-wife is having her house painted, and when Felix offers her a place to stay he gets his hopes up for reconciliation, driving Oscar and Gloria (Janis Hansen) crazy in the process. A surprisingly weak season opener.

2. "Last Tango in Newark" – Felix drags Oscar to a ballet appreciation dance, and Felix takes control after dancer Edward Villella is late for a performance of Swan Lake. This episode features the humor Randall and Klugman were so skilled at delivering.

3. "Odd Decathalon" – Spurred on by Oscar's lower insurance rates, Felix challenges Oscar to a competition to determine who's in the best physical shape.

4. "That Was No Lady" – Felix is smitten with a woman who turns out to be the wife of an extremely jealous NFL football player. Former Detroit Lion and future Webster star Alex Karras guest stars.

5. "Odd Holiday" – A flashback episode that tells the story of how Felix, Oscar, and their wives took a vacation together in an attempt to save Oscar's marriage.

6. "The New Car" – The roomies win a car in a radio contest, but the real hassle is finding someplace to park. Dick Clark guest stars as himself.

7. "That is the Army Mrs. Madison" – Another flashback episode tells the story of why Oscar isn't in his own wedding picture.

8. "The Songwriter" – When Oscar dates Jaye P. Morgan, Felix is certain he can write a tune for her next show. Elinor Donahue guest stars as Felix's girlfriend Miriam Welby and Wolfman Jack appears as himself.

9. "Felix Directs" – Felix decides to make a documentary about Oscar, and attracts the attention of a real producer.

10. "The Pig Who Came to Dinner" – When Oscar loses everything — including Felix and the apartment — betting with Bobby Riggs, Felix hatches a plan to win it all back. Billie Jean King guest stars. If you don't remember all the hype surrounding the Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King tennis match, this one might be lost on you.

11. "Maid for Each Other" – One of the best episodes of the season has Felix going on strike, Oscar binging on junk food, and Felix hiring a woman to help around the house (Reta Shaw).

12. "The Exorcists" – In this funny one, Felix is convinced the air conditioner is haunted by a ghost.

13. "A Barnacle Adventure" – Oscar and his dentist try to convince Felix to invest in a new product: barnacle-made glue.

14. "The Moonlighter" – Another excellent episode has Oscar slinging hash at a greasy spoon to pay off a loan, and Felix "saving" him by hiring him as an assistant.

15. "Cleanliness is Next to Impossible" – Oscar turns into a neat freak after a women he dates confesses to being turned off by his slovenliness.

16. "The Flying Felix" – Oscar tries everything to help Felix over his fear of flying, including flying with him to Houston. Typical sitcom storyline, but offers some funny lines.

17. "Vocal Girl Makes Good" – Marilyn Horne plays Felix's new discovery, but is too shy to appear in his opera unless Oscar is in it as well.

18. "Shuffling off to Buffalo" – Felix's brother gives him a job in Buffalo, to Oscar's delight.

19. "A Different Drummer" – Felix tries to get his old college band on Monty Hall's nostalgia program.

20. "The Insomniacs" – Felix can't sleep, and that means neither can Oscar. This episode is a lot funnier than it sounds.

21. "New York's Oddest"  – Fed up with citizen indifference, Felix joins the Police Reserve, dragging a reluctant Oscar along. Another great one.

22. "One for the Bunny"  – Felix gets his first big assignment: photographing a Playboy centerfold. Hugh Hefner guest stars.

While season four of The Odd Couple wasn't quite as funny as previous years, the show remained a highly entertaining series and Tony Randall and Jack Klugman continued to show just how good a team they were on the small screen.

The Odd Couple – The Fourth Season is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio and the picture is remarkably crisp and clean. The audio is presented in Dolby digital 1.0 mono, but sounds remarkably good for a non-stereo mix.

This set does not include any special features.

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