Can Matthew Perry’s ‘Odd Couple’ Beat the TV Remakes Curse?

The new sitcom gets a big launch this week as CBS bets that everybody still loves Oscar and Felix.
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The Odd Couple CBS Photo

Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon. (Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2014)

Remakes will always be popular in Hollywood, so we won’t harp on asking why, or sighing, not again….

Instead, as the new Odd Couple moves into prime time this week, premiering Thursday, February 19th at 8:30 p.m. on CBS, nestled between The Big Bang Theory and the series finale of Two and a Half Men, we’ll focus on what it has going for it besides that cushy time slot.

1. Excellent, timeless source material. Based on Neil Simon’s classic The Odd Couple, which spawned the 1965 Broadway play; the hit 1968 movie starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau; and the original TV series that ran for five seasons on ABC (1970-1975) and starred Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.

2. Good casting. In this update, Matthew Perry stars as slovenly sports writer Oscar Madison and Thomas Lennon (Reno 911!) co-stars as neat freak photographer Felix Unger. And it’s Lennon who’s the comedic spark that Perry plays well off of here. In the series premiere, Oscar the slob reluctantly allows his fussy former college roommate Felix to move in with him after both of their marriages fall apart.

3. Solid Showrunners. The executive producer is Bob Daily, who served as EP and eventual showrunner of Desperate Housewives, as well as writer-EP of the hit comedy Frasier (which, coincidentally, was very Odd Couple-like). Then there’s this: legendary producer-director Garry Marshall, who created and produced the original Odd Couple TV series, has a hand in this one too, serving as “Executive Consultant.”

Did we mention it’s got one of TV’s favorite Friends on board?

After a string of respectable-yet-disappointing series post-Friends (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine, Go On), Matthew Perry calls Oscar Madison “a dream role.” (He also says, “In real life, I’m much more of an Oscar.”)

The Odd Couple CBS Photo

(Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS)

During a recent interview with TV reporters, Matthew Perry told Bio that he isn’t worried about the hit-and-mostly-miss track record that haunts many television series remakes.

“It’s out of my control now, we did the episodes — I’m proud of them — so whether it works or not … to tell you the truth, if this one doesn’t work, I’m not sure what to throw out at people,” Perry told Bio, “because this is really good, and it’s a really good premise, it’s time to do it again. Tom [Lennon] and I work really well together, so if this one doesn’t work, maybe I’ll just go do dinner theater or something.”

Until viewers weigh in on The Odd Couple remake with their remotes, we decided to take a look at some of the best and worst TV remakes, just for kicks. (While there have been some real stinkers over the yearsThe Love Boat: The Next Wave, anyone? – we’re focusing on ones in more recent memory.)

Worst TV Remakes

Charlie’s Angels (2011) How do you bungle a show about butt-kicking babelicious crime solvers? Somehow, ABC managed to do so. A poorly cast trio of no-name pretty faces with zero chemistry or acting skills didn’t help. The iconic ‘70s self-proclaimed “jigglefest” was turned into a sizzle-less cheesefest and got cancelled after just four episodes. Sorry, Charlie…

Melrose Place (2009) Back in the ‘90s, “Mondays were a Bitch,” and solidified Heather Locklear as TV’s favorite vixen and ratings good luck charm. But, oh, how times had changed when the next generation of tawdry tenants flopped on Melrose 2.0 a decade later. Not even returning original cast members Thomas Calabro, Heather Locklear, Laura Leighton, Josie Bissett and Daphne Zuniga could save the show from abysmal ratings. It premiered to just over 2.3M viewers and steadily nosedived from there before it was evicted from The CW’s schedule after one season.

Knight Rider (2008) When a TV star is as closely associated with a role such as David Hasselhoff was to KITT and the popular ‘80s series Knight Rider, any successor is going to face a rough road. And that’s what happened to Justin Bruening when he took over 25 years later as Michael Knight’s son in NBC’s 2008 remake. It lasted just one short-lived season before riding off to the TV graveyard.

The Bionic Woman (2007) The unfortunately miscast Michelle Ryan proved to be a bionic disaster for NBC. After initially opening to strong ratings, the darker, glossier remake of the ‘70s series quickly fizzled out as ratings tanked amid rumors of drama behind the scenes; it was canned after just eight episodes.

Best TV Remakes

The Office (2005-2013) – This remake of the 2001 hit British comedy got off to a rocky start on American airwaves but is the perfect example of why networks should stick with some ratings underdogs and give them time to flourish. NBC’s Office went on to become a beloved sitcom that lasted nine seasons, won the Emmy for Best Comedy in 2006, helped springboard Steve Carell into a mega-movie career, while launching careers of unknowns like Rainn Wilson, John Krasinki and Jenna Fischer.

Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) A rare success story in which the remake was better than the original… the Battlestar franchise first launched in 1978 with a silly sci-fi series that lasted a single season on ABC before getting the axe. The do-over series took the crew and the concept much more seriously with much greater success in 2004, airing on Sci-Fi for four seasons, garnering an obsessive fandom, and is generally considered one of the best TV remakes ever done.

Hawaii Five-0 (2010) A sexy cast including Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park set against the back drop of a beautiful island – what’s not to like? The original 1968 cop drama had cool guy Jack Lord and a cool theme song, but everything else was pretty much open to a contemporary update (including that memorable theme song), which is why this series reboot worked – it fit right into CBS’s tried-and-true “crime time” mold, and five seasons later, 5-0 is still on the air.