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The Odd Couple - The First Season (CBS DVD Version)


TITLE: THE ODD COUPLE - THE FIRST SEASON (CBS DVD VERSION)


Info:

Release Date: April 24, 2007 (Paramount/CBS DVD)
MSRP: $38.99
Number of Episodes: 28
Number of Discs: 5
Running Time: 698 Mins.
Language: English
Subtitles/Closed Captioning: English, Closed Captioned
Special Features:
Episode Introductions by Garry Marshall
Footage from Jack Klugman’s Book Tour
Interviews from The Mike Douglas Show
Original Promos
Gag Reel
Scene from Odd Couple stage play by Tony and Jack from 1993
Emmy Award Acceptance by Jack Klugman from 1973
Bonus Disc containing 4 of Tony and Jack’s favorite episodes.


Introduction:

On November 13th, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right, but he also knew someday he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his childhood friend, Oscar Madison. Sometime earlier, Madison's wife had thrown him out, requesting that he never return. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?

The majority of sitcom fans know this intro by heart, and anyone who's ever seen this show knows the answer is an absolute no. If they'd shared the apartment without incident, one of the quintessential 70s sitcoms ­ and a wonderful stage show and movie ­ would have never occurred. The show stars Jack Klugman as Oscar Madison, and Tony Randall as Felix Unger. The two are complete personality opposites ­ Felix is the stereotypical neat freak, while Oscar is anything but.

The first season was released from Time-Life late last year, so now CBS DVD is re-releasing it with different packaging and a bonus disc with bonus episodes.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

Oh goodness, where do I start? How about the beginning? The first episode, entitled “The Laundry Orgy,” has Felix and Oscar on a date with the Pigeon Sisters, which as it does in every incarnation of this story ends in disaster -- as they’re trying to have a poker game at the same time, so the date occurs in the LAUNDRY ROOM. As Garry points out in the commentary, and as fellow reviewer Skees noted his wonderful review of the Time-Life version, ABC HATED this episode, but aired it anyway.

In Felix Gets Sick ­ err…Felix gets sick. You have to love these descriptive episode titles. Anyway, Felix becomes bedridden due to illness, throwing Oscar’s weekend plans for a fun weekend alone into dismay -- among those plans a poker game and a date with a stewardess. In Oscar’s Ulcer, its Oscar’s turn to be ill -- Oscar develops an ulcer, causing Felix to be placed in a care position. In “The Big Brothers,” both members of the duo become “Big Brothers,” but while Felix tries to expose the kid to various cultural things, the boy prefers to emulate the less cultured Oscar.

In a true non-sequitur, in “It’s All Over Now, Baby Bird,” Felix is trying to search for a final resting place for his dead parrot ­ a bird never seen or mentioned before or after -- while Oscar just wants rid of the thing.

In “Felix is Missing,” Felix suddenly disappears without word on an assignment, and at various points Felix is accused of 86’ing him, while they’d also suggest suicide -- something you didn’t even consider on TV at that point, let alone in a “comedy.” Finally, in “A Taste of Money,” the duo’s 11 year old neighbor suddenly comes by $2000, attracting the duo’s attention.

No, no, wait a minute; I have to talk about “What does a Naked Lady Say to You?” Oscar has to tell Felix that his seemingly innocent, wholesome, new girlfriend is in fact the lead actress in a nude play, where Murray recognized her while busting her for indecent exposure. The actress playing the actress--Marj Dusay, who 10 years later would be cast in a recurring role as Blair’s mother on The Facts of Life.

She’s one of several guest stars for the season. In addition to the above, none other than Garry Marshall himself -- credited as Garry K. Marshall -- would appear in “I Do, I Don’t”. Albert Brooks would appear in “Oscar the Model” and “Felix is Missing.” Also appearing in “Felix is Missing” is someone whom only my game show fan readers would recognize -- Anitra Ford. Ms. Ford, probably an unknown to most of you, was in fact one of the INITIAL Barker’s Beauties on The Price is Right in it’s initial seasons -- now that’s a show that, while understand the technological limitations of it, I’d flip for season sets of. Howard Morton, who was on both Gimme a Break and The Munsters Today, guested in “A Taste of Money.” John Astin, actor of so many characters but most remembered as Gomez Addams, is in “Oscar’s New Life.”


Packaging:

It’s the same style packaging that CBS DVD has used in other recent releases, such as Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Family Ties. The cover art is of Oscar and Felix posing -- Oscar with a cigar, Felix grinning disapprovingly (This isn’t even out-of-character, as Tony Randall was EXTREMELY anti-smoking, and was one of the first celebrity anti-tobacco advocates -- he infamously got on Johnny Carson’s case about the latter’s chain-smoking, for example). This is above the Odd Couple logo. Below the logo is a generic city skyline silhouette, with Oscar, Felix, and a suitcase in front. Behind the duo on the top half is a yellow background. The spine and back also are yellow, with the skyline in a while silhouette near the row of stills close to the bottom.

There is a plastic holder holding the first FOUR discs. The holder holds two plastic constructs that house one disc each -- one in front, one in back. Despite only one disc, they’re each laid out as if the discs were overlaid -- one will be near the top, the next near the bottom, etc. Getting to each disc requires flipping said construct like pages. The fifth disc is affixed at the top of the inside of the case itself. All five discs are the remarkably similar look that Paramount has used for ALL their other recent releases -- silver with the show logo at the top, and episode details at the bottom. Each disc has six episodes, except for the bonus disc, which has 4.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are a direct port of the Time-Life set, and the bonus disc is done in the same style. I’m thankful for this, as CBS DVD was horrible in this aspect even when they were still calling themselves Paramount. Luckily, the Time-Life set menus are intact, thus providing a nice navigation experience. The theme plays, and videos play in the background. The style of the menu is a “boxes” format, while the menu text matches that of the show graphics. Options include Play All and Special features on the left, while the episodes appear as a list on the right. Again, as with the Time-Life sets, a submenu comes up, and there are episode playback and where-applicable episode-specific special features. Before each episode is an audio commentary by Garry Marshall. Including the bonus discs -- so regardless of who puts out the rest of the sets first I darn well expect those audio commentaries to return on those season’s sets, if they don’t record *new* ones. Even the features have intros.


Video and Audio Quality:

Luckily, the only thing that CBS DVD changed about the discs was the art apparently. I don’t own the Time-Life set, so I can’t directly compare the two, but there’s nothing alarming that, per Skees review, wasn’t in the other version of this set as well. The episodes DO appear their age, and perhaps there could have been some cleanup effort, but with this studio’s recent track record leaving the Time Life versions alone are fine with me!

While I didn’t purchase the Time set, I do already have this season, from a mix of original broadcast and syndication, which allows for good comparison. These episodes are DEFINITELY the original broadcast prints -- all episodes run from 25-26 minutes, while the syndication cuts usually run in the 22:00 range. Chapter stops are placed at the times commercial breaks occurred in the original airings.


Special Features:

And we arrive at the meat, potatoes, carrots, and even the other vegetables in this roast of a review (did that make ANY sense?). The special features. I love it when I don’t have to skip this section, since it means the studio or individuals responsible for the set’s production actually care about the set in question. A lack of special features indicates that the set matters to no one at the studio. And boy does this set have special features.

I don’t feel it’s appropriate to just lift the wonderful info Skees provided, so here’s my take.

All 5 Discs:
Audio Introductions by Garry Marshall: Every episode features comments on the episode or show by Garry Marshall. Wonderful treats, and more shows should do this.

Disc 1:
1 Minute Promo for the Premiere on ABC. Is what it is -- they don’t even promote the show as a sitcom, surprising me. Of course, sometimes network promotions are weird -- The US is pretty much the only show that tries to promote NCIS as a “crime show,” for example.

Tony Randall on the Mike Douglas Show (approx. 6 min.): As a fan of talk shows like this (I don’t mean the dreck that passes as talk shows these days during daytime), any clip of any show I get my hands on is welcome. In this case it’s the always-interesting Mike Douglas show. The clip is from right after the show’s 1970 premiere. I’m always disappointed that talk shows are an entirely un-rerunnable format for the most part. Shows like Mike Douglas, and especially The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, will probably never be seen again just because networks can’t see the profit, and it’s a shame.

2 Different Commentary Tracks on “The Laundry Orgy” ­ one features Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson, the other features Carole Shelley, who portrayed one of the Pigeon Sisters in, at various times, the television version, a stage version, and a film version.

Disc 2:
Tony Randall AND Jack Klugman on the Mike Douglas Show. This is from a few months later, and runs a bit over 7 minutes.

Then there’s the rather nice and surprising commentary track, with Jack Klugman on “It’s All Over Now, Baby Bird”. It’s always nice to hear from Mr. Klugman again, though I also wish Tony Randall were still with us -- having them do tandem commentary on an episode or two would be absolutely wonderful.

Also on that episode is a promo for that episode -- the video quality is god-awful, but it was that way on the Time-Life set as well, and is due to the presumption these promos would NEVER be seen again.

Keeping the train rolling is Disc 3. Garry Marshall has ANOTHER full-length commentary track on the set, this time on “They Use Horseradish, Don’t They?” In addition are home videos from Jack Klugman’s book tour from “Tony and Me”. Videos run 6:22

On Disc 4 is the gag reel ­ short at 1:13. They’re nice bloopers, and most were probably erased over the years, but I wish more were available. Next is 3 minutes of footage from Jack and Tony performing the Odd Couple stage play in the 90s. I’ll only echo Skees’ sentiments that they should have included the whole performance. Perhaps as a bonus disc on a future set? Please? Then there’s Emmy Presentations -- running a bit over a minute. It’s a clip from the Emmy awards when Jack Klugman won in 1971. The BEST part though is that, for something that brief, they actually have commentary BY JACK. Wonderful stuff.

Then we get to the fifth disc, which didn’t exist in the Time-Life set.

Sleepwalker (Season 2, series episode #28) 25:32: Simple commentary by Garry -- since he references “future DVD sets,” that’s both a good sign, and a sign they’ll replace the commentary -- providing Garry’s still with us. Oscar develops a sleepwalking problem, starts attacking Felix.

Password (Season 3, series episode #58) 26:08: Garry pretty much admits this is EVERYONE’S favorite episode on-staff. Password host Allen Ludden and his wife ­ you might know her -- Betty White -- guest star. I LOVE this episode. Allen invites Oscar to be a celebrity guest on Password, and Felix -- an ultra-fan of the show, pesters Oscar to let him be his partner.

Last Tango in Newark (Season 4, series episode #72) 25:52: Garry spends his time in the intro commentary talking first about the guest star -- then mentioning that they’d switched to a live audience -- not a laugh track -- at this point.

The New Car (Season 4, series episode #76) 26:04: One of the first sitcom outdoor-indoor episodes, as noted by Garry. This explored the fact that folks who live in New York, who own a car, struggle to find somewhere to park it. AND DICK CLARK CAMEOS. Yippee! I’m ending this now, I can’t top Dick Clark.


Final Comments:

If the rest of CBS DVD’s recent releases were like this one, the television fan base would be building shrines in their honor instead of burning their merchandise in effigy. This is one of the finer DVD sets I’ve ever reviewed. The packaging is the only black mark against it, but it was this way in the Time-Life set as well.

Buy this set. Now! You won’t regret it. One of the greatest TV shows ever and one of the few recent CBS DVD releases where true care was put into the production. Buy it now. If you own the Time-Life sets, honestly, I don’t know if I’d sell them to buy this version, but if you didn’t buy this set the first go-around, DEFINITELY BUT IT. As for recommendations for the next set? Just do everything that was done for this one. STRONGLY RECOMMENDED.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4/5
Special Features: 4/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Seth Thrasher Seal of Approval

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 04/21/07

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000MGBSH6/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

Questions or comments about this set? Post on our message board:

http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=199093


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