I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Neal Hefti -- The Odd Couple


For this week's ROY article, we're going back into TV land once more although at first, I've got to reference a movie that was based on a Broadway play. Interestingly enough, this isn't the first Neal Hefti creation to make it onto "Kayo Kyoku Plus" since the late trumpeter, composer and arranger was also responsible for the Batusi-happy "Batman" theme for television back in 1966.

The May 1968 movie is actually "The Odd Couple" based on Neil Simon's play of the same name, and it starred Jack Lemmon as the frustratingly neurotic neat freak Felix Unger and Walter Matthau as crumply slob Oscar Madison, two gents who have to share an 8-room apartment in New York (8 rooms?!) without killing each other. I haven't seen the film in its entirety but I do remember the famous jazzy theme song created by Hefti which has more of that 60s rom-com sheen when compared to the version played for the television series beginning in 1970.

Yup, it was the ABC TV series that I first got to know as a kid with Tony Randall as Felix and Jack Klugman as Oscar. I always thought that Randall outdid even Lemmon with the hilarious neuroses that billowed out of the character and then Klugman could get even more enraged (humourously so) than the sullen Matthau.

The Hefti theme here had a slightly quicker tempo (only 30 minutes with commercials, y'know) and the percussion was more pronounced. But whichever version came out, I always treated it as the comical and slightly sad-sack but catchy theme song that is still well-remembered among the older generations.

There were different openings for the series during its 5-year run but for me, it was always the first season opening credits that were my favourite with Randall and Klugman in oddball circumstances against some glorious shots of The Big Apple. It would still be 23 years before I finally made it out to New York City, though.

One of the highlight scenes from the series was the one where Felix somehow became the lawyer in a court case. The joke has probably aged into a creaky rocking chair but it's the one where he explains about why people should never assume. Yet, I remember seeing the episode in its first run as a boy and the laughter that came out of the studio audience that night.

Since the play, the film and the TV series, there have been remakes of "The Odd Couple" through film sequels, other TV series and even one cartoon featuring a fastidious cat and a slovenly dog on Saturday mornings, but I don't think any of them really passed muster. It just goes to show how much chemistry was involved between the tandems of Lemmon/Matthau and Randall/Klugman. Still, I think that as long as film and television and stage remain, there will probably be another attempt to capture the glory of "The Odd Couple" and of course, the theme has to be kept as part of the package.

After writing my last paragraph, I went out to watch a couple of hours of variety television on TV Japan, and unconsciously hummed the theme song. In any case, what were coming out as singles in May 1968 in Japan (and by the way, "The Odd Couple" did show up on cable over there much to my surprise and delight)?

The Golden Cups -- Nagai Kami no Shojo (長い髪の少女)

Purple Shadows -- Chiisana Sunakku(小さなスナック)

Kyu Sakamoto -- Ue wo Muite Arukou (上を向いて歩こう) as a re-release


  1. "The Odd Couple" was one of my favorite TV shows when I was a kid. I watched the reruns regularly up through the early 80s. I don't think I saw the movie until my late teens or early 20s, so Randall/Klugman were always Felix and Oscar to me. I've watched all the episodes available for streaming a couple times, but a lot of them are unavailable. Most of them hold up pretty well, although there are a couple that fall flat. The clip from the lawyer episode is one of my favorites, though, because when I was 7 or 8 years old, my doctor did the exact same thing during one of my checkups.

    1. Hi, Scott.

      I remember "The Odd Couple" being part of the Friday night lineup on ABC and it came after "The Partridge Family" since there was this network gimmick of bumpers where the main actor of the previous show would introduce the next show so Shirley Jones would actually be hyping "The Odd Couple".

      As with you, Randall/Klugman were "my" Odd Couple. It was interesting when the first season was filmed in the same labyrinth apartment for the earlier movie version but then went to that wide open set when they were filmed before a studio audience. Also fascinating was the fact that Penny Marshall and Al Molinaro were recurring faces on the show before they both joined the "Happy Days" family.


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