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Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon Introduce Us to Their ODD COUPLE

Every generation gets The Odd Couple it deserves, from Neil Simon’s original 1965 Broadway comedy and its subsequent 1968 film adaptation starring Jack Lemmon and Walther Matthau, to the 1970s sitcom starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, to its current CBS TV incarnation. Premiering on February 19th, the 2015 Odd Couple stars Friends‘ Matthew Perry (who developed the project) and Reno 911!’s Thomas Lennon. Perry and Lennon appeared at this week’s TCA Winter Press Tour to talk to us about their Oscar Madison and Felix Unger, along with their co-star, Community‘s Yvette Nicole Brown, who plays sports writer Oscar’s assistant, Dani. Joining them were the original sitcom’s producer Garry Marshall (an executive consultant on the new show) and its executive producer Bob Daily, all of whom spoke about bringing the archetypal slob and neat freak roommates to a new generation of TV viewers.

On how 2015’s Odd Couple will differ from prior incarnations of the Neil Simon play…

Garry Marshall: Well, Neil Simon did a good job with these characters, but whatever you do, you’ve got to have casting, and I think The Odd Couple is still running someplace and holds up pretty good, and now this casting is tremendous — Matthew Perry, my favorite from Friends, and him [indicating Thomas Lennon], I didn’t know from Adam. [Laughs] I didn’t know what he’s doing. Suddenly, I’m here, sucking up to him, trying to get him to be in my next movie. So you’ve got two great people and a very nice supporting cast…

I don’t want to shock, but when we did our Odd Couple, we weren’t allowed to have women writers. Now there are women writers on this show. And Bob Daily runs a great ship, and I think that’s going to really improve the whole show, and it’s very exciting for me.

On the concept…

Bob Daily: It’s such an elastic concept. I mean, the DNA of those two characters has seeped into television for the last four decades. I spent five years writing on Frasier, and Frasier was basically The Odd Couple with one Oscar and two Felixes. Bert and Ernie are The Odd Couple. The Odd Couple has been repeated so many times. We’re going back to, as Garry said, the brilliant original Neil Simon source material. But those two characters, Oscar and Felix, are so iconic and they’re so timeless, and, it’s been forty-five years. So it’s time for a reinterpretation and for a new generation that’s not familiar with The Odd Couple.

Thomas Lennon: In terms of the Bert and Ernie aspect, we do take a lot of bubble baths together in the show.

Matthew Perry: More than you would think.

GM: When I was doing it, the network was so afraid that the audience would think there was two gay characters. So every week they said, “Put more girls in. Put more girls in.” So on purpose, Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, I used to shoot little moments where they hugged and kissed and sent it to the network just to make them crazy. Now they deal with it. They talk about it. It’s a much, much more modern show.

The Odd Couple 2

On playing Oscar when Felix is closer to Friends’ Chandler…

MP: It’s funny, when we started this project, a lot of people thought that I would be a better Felix, and I think it’s because Chandler was a little bit more like Felix. But in real life, I’m much more of an Oscar… It’s been a dream come true to play Oscar Madison. I mean, it’s big shoes to fill, but we’re doing our own thing and playing it differently. I do a slight Walter Matthau impression in the pilot. But I think the funniest joke in the pilot was from the original source material, that was in the play. So in writing the pilot, we came up with our own stuff. We used some stuff from Neil Simon. And the funniest joke in the pilot was written forty-five years ago.

On playing Felix…

TL: I thought long and hard [about] whether it was even attemptable because Tony Randall is a major hero of mine. And I was worried that I might be doing an impression of Tony Randall or something. But then when I remembered that he was really the third Felix Unger and I might be something like the fifth, I felt maybe there was something new to bring to it. So I did bring my cello and my yoga skills. [Laughs] And the OCD I brought myself. That I had. That’s not a big one…

I haven’t really played the cello in about thirty years, but once we started doing the show, I thought, “Oh, that’s the perfect thing that Felix would do.” One of the stage directions was “Felix is reading a magazine,” and I thought, “That’s just not quite annoying enough…”

It is amazing that I’ve been in television for twenty years and Garry Marshall’s never heard of me until today. That’s a big thing for me to wrap my head around.

MP: Yeah, but you’re going to be in his next movie. I was just his favorite character from “Friends.” [Laughs]

On the rumors that Yvette Nicole Brown left Community for The Odd Couple…

Yvette Nicole Brown: The Odd Couple came my way after I had asked to be released from Community. This is not something that I did instead of Community. I couldn’t do Community because of the hours. You guys know how single-camera is. It’s an eighty-hour week, and it’s just not conducive to someone… My dad has dementia. So it’s not conducive to someone that needs daily care. When I got the release from Sony and Dan Harmon, which was a wonderful gift, The Odd Couple was like a gift from God that came after. I want to make sure that’s clear because there’s been some confusion about why I left, when I left. So since you’re all here, I wanted to let you all know at once that that’s what it is. Now, this experience with these people has been a godsend — lovely work hours, funny, lovely people. It’s a family in the same way Community was a family, and the only thing that’s different is the hours. The love and the camaraderie is still the same, as you can see.

MP: And I’m doing The Odd Couple because my attempt at being a movie star failed. [Laughs]

The Odd Couple premieres Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 10pm on CBS.

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  1. Jane says:

    The Laugh Track is so annoying;  can’t watch it anymore.  I counted 169 Laugh Tracks on the second episode.

  2. John says:

    Tom Lennon’s money room is gonna get a whole new palate of Benjamins