CBS’ new Odd Couple a hit with Garry Marshall


Garry Marshall, photo by Margie Barron

Garry Marshall   (photo by Margie Barron)

Garry Marshall is keeping an eye on one of his favorite old shows. He’s an executive consultant on CBS’ sitcom reboot of the Neil Simon classic The Odd Couple. Marshall, the creator/producer/writer of The Odd Couple TV series starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, approves of the updated comedy starring Matthew Perry as the messy Oscar Madison and Thomas Lennon as neat-freak Felix Unger, who are forced to move in together. The series also stars Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), Wendell Pierce, and Lindsay Sloane. All appeared with Marshall and executive producer Bob Daily at the winter Television Critics Association press tour to promote the show.

The cast members reported that Marshall has been on the set pitching jokes and telling stories. During the interview panel it seemed as if Marshall was holding court with colleagues who respect and enjoy the legacy that Garry has as an actor, director, writer, and producer. But they especially appreciated him being the creator of the original Odd Couple TV series. In 1970 Marshall, with partner Jerry Belson, developed Neil Simon’s play (also a successful movie in 1968 with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau) for television.

Marshall said, “The Odd Couple holds up pretty good. Neil Simon did a good job with these characters, but whatever you do, you’ve got to have casting, and now this casting is tremendous. So you’ve got two great people and a very nice supporting cast. I really think it’s got a terrific shot.”

He’s happy that this new version will have diversity in the writers’ room. “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. I think that’s going to really improve the whole show, and it’s very exciting for me. I like to keep doing things, you know,” said the proud founder-owner of Toluca Lake’s Falcon Theatre (in the Los Angeles Valley) which always features a great season of stage comedies at his theater.

Another difference with the new Odd Couple is that the network and audiences aren’t going to make a fuss about two men living together. Marshall revealed, “When I was doing it, the network was so afraid that the audience would think there were two gay characters. So every week they said, ‘Put more girls in. Put more girls in.’ So on purpose, I used to shoot little moments where they (Klugman and Randall) 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.”

And Marshall said it was time to revisit the show “that kind of made my career. It was the first show that I ever did that was a hit.”

Of course, Garry went on to create Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Mork & Mindy, and direct and produce great movies such as Pretty Woman, Princess Diaries, and Beaches.

Now he’s is helping with the new Odd Couple as a consultant, and former Friends star Matthew Perry, who is also the executive producer, said, “Just to have Garry’s endorsement alone is huge.” #

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years. Frank Barron was the editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they contributed to numerous publications.