Tuesday, November 13, 2018


Neil Simon, whose comic touch in “The Odd Couple,” “Barefoot in the Park” and many other hits on stage and screen made him the most commercially successful playwright of the 20th century — and perhaps of all time — has died, according to his representative. He was 91.

From “Come Blow Your Horn” in 1961 to “45 Seconds From Broadway” in 2001, 30 of Simon's plays opened on Broadway, including five musicals for which he wrote the book. Seventeen of them ran a year or more, and many were subsequently embraced by theater's grass-roots, seen year after year across the nation as staples of community theater, dinner theater and high school productions.
- Eric Boehm, The Los Angeles Times

From Wikipedia:

Marvin Neil Simon (July 4, 1927 – August 26, 2018) was an American playwright, screenwriter and author. He wrote more than 30 plays and nearly the same number of movie screenplays, mostly adaptations of his plays. He received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer.   

During 1961, Simon's first Broadway play, Come Blow Your Horn, ran for 678 performances at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Simon took three years to write that first play, partly because he was also working on writing television scripts. 

During 1966, Simon had four shows playing at Broadway theatres simultaneously: Sweet Charity, The Star-Spangled Girl, The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park.   
Simon has twice rewritten or updated his 1965 play The Odd Couple, both of which versions have run under new titles. These new versions are The Female Odd Couple (1985), and Oscar and Felix: A New Look at the Odd Couple (2002).

I’m sorry it took the death of Mr. Simon for me to realize he belongs in the Television Crossover Hall of Fame.  He should have been installed years ago during the month of September when we traditionally honor those working behind the scenes in the television business to expand the greater TV Universe.  And it is with one of his plays, originating in the metafictional universe of WorldStage, which made him eligible for membership in the TVXOHOF….

From Wikipedia:
“The Odd Couple” is a play by Neil Simon. Following its premiere on Broadway in 1965, the characters were revived in a successful 1968 film and 1970s television series, as well as several other derivative works and spin-offs. The plot concerns two mismatched roommates: the neat, uptight Felix Unger and the slovenly, easygoing Oscar Madison. Simon adapted the play in 1985 to feature a pair of female roommates (Florence Ungar and Olive Madison) in “The Female Odd Couple”. An updated version of the 1965 show appeared in 2002 with the title “Oscar and Felix: A New Look at the Odd Couple”.  

In 1985, Neil Simon revised “The Odd Couple” for a female cast. “The Female Odd Couple” was based on the same story line and same lead characters, now called Florence Ungar and Olive Madison. The poker game became Trivial Pursuit with their friends becoming the girlfriends: Mickey, Sylvie, Vera, and Renee. The Pigeon sisters became the Costazuela brothers, Manolo and Jesus. 

As for “Felix and Oscar: A New Look At The Odd Couple”....

From Variety:
Neil Simon’s latest version of “The Odd Couple” is a new paint job on an old vehicle. The car has lost some of its original charm and the engine shows the heavy wear of its mileage, but it’s still a classic. In this second revamp — women took over the lead roles in a 1985 version — Simon rewrites, but he doesn’t really reimagine. Joe Regalbuto manages to make the character of Felix his own, more so than John Larroquette does with Oscar, but he doesn’t do anything surprising. Regalbuto just seems comfortable in the role, fussy, needy and always on the verge of tears — and he cleans his sinuses with aplomb.

At this point in the run, Oscar and Felix actually get upstaged by the upstairs neighbors who come to dinner — typically, the menu has changed, but not the structure of the scene. Initially, these neighbors were two British sexpot sisters, then Simon transformed them into Spanish brothers for the female-lead version. Now they’re Spanish sisters, and the third time’s the charm. In two pitch-perfect performances, Maria Conchita Alonso and Alex Meneses make every one of the one-liners funny — no matter how predictable and overdone they are. If Simon and company could find a way to make the Oscar and Felix scenes this refreshingly silly, they would have a livelier piece of theater on their hands. 
- Steven Oxman

O’Bservation: WorldStage is not my bailiwick, but I assume it’s like the TV dimension of ToobStage:  Events of that world and its inhabitants repeat for eternity, with subtle changes in the look.  Sometimes they are repeated but with the influence of some character like Mr. Sweet in Toobworld – the events are set to music.  (“Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “Cyrano”… which I just saw last weekend, as a matter of fact.)  In this case, a whole subplot was rewritten so that the English sisters living upstairs are now Spanish.  

Let’s move on to the Cineverse and its version of “The Odd Couple”….

From Wikipedia:
“The Odd Couple” is a 1968 American comedy Technicolor film in Panavision, written by Neil Simon, based on his play of the same name, produced by Howard W. Koch and directed by Gene Saks, and starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. It is the story of two divorced men - neurotic neat-freak Felix Ungar and fun-loving slob Oscar Madison - who decide to live together, even though their personalities clash.  

– Matthau reprised his role of Oscar from the Broadway original, but it was Art Carney who originated the role of Felix on the stage.

So now, let’s take a look at “The Odd Couple” and how it fared in five different TV dimensions.  The highlighted summaries are from Wikipedia, save for a more expansive one for the German Toobworld televersion.


“The Odd Couple”, formally titled onscreen “Neil Simon's The Odd Couple”, is an American television situation comedy broadcast from September 24, 1970, to March 7, 1975, on ABC. It stars Tony Randall as Felix Unger and Jack Klugman as Oscar Madison, and was the first of several sitcoms developed by Garry Marshall for Paramount Television. The show is based on the 1965 play of the same name, which was written by Neil Simon, as well as on the play's 1968 film adaptation. Felix and Oscar are both divorced. They share a Manhattan apartment, and their different lifestyles inevitably lead to conflicts and laughs.

O'Bservation: Felix and Oscar were inducted into the TVXOHOF as the January Classic members in 2002, the year we paid tribute to TV duos.  And it is because of that indelible narration at the beginning of each episode that I decided to wait until today, November 13, to honor Mr. Simon....


In 1980 ZDF produced a six-part series called Felix and Oskar . Heinz Baumann played Oscar, Horst Bollmann as Felix. In 1991, Michael Günther filmed for the ARD “A Strange Couple” with Harald Juhnke as Oscar and Eddi Arent as Felix.  

(O'Bservation: The following segment was written for Fernsehserien.de)

A cheerful series about a strange couple. 6 pcs. German sitcom by Peter Vincent and Peter Robinson based on the play by Neil Simon, directed by Michael Kehlmann.

After their respective divorce, the friends Oskar (Heinz Baumann) and Felix (Horst Bollmann) move together into a shared flat. The official Felix is a morbidly order-fanatic, the sports reporter Oskar leaves havoc wherever he is. These differences regularly cause a stir. Blanche (Evelyn Hamann) is the ex-wife of Oskar.

The series was a simple copy of the successful and much longer-lived US sitcom men's business, which had already preceded the movie “A Strange Couple” and of course the eponymous play.

 German Toobworld is an alternate dimension in which the Germans dominated the world and forced its inhabitants to accept the German language as the primary language.  American-made TV shows which have been dubbed into German might be found in this Toobworld, but home-grown adaptations take precedence.  (This holds true for other Toobworlds dominated by other languages.) 


‘The New Odd Couple’ is an American sitcom that aired on ABC from 1982 to 1983, and was an updated version of the 1970s television series ‘The Odd Couple’. ‘The New Odd Couple’ was the second attempt to remake a series of one of Neil Simon's plays with a primarily African-American cast. The first was ‘Barefoot in the Park’ (which also premiered on September 24, 1970, the same day the original ‘Odd Couple’ series did).  

O’Bservation: Black Toobworld is the alternate TV dimension in which certain TV characters are black.  Or events within that world were altered drastically because Africans weren’t treated as a minority and instead were the dominant race on the planet.

For example, because there was no slavery in that Toobworld (at least not on the scale we have in our own history), there was no Jim to run away with Huckleberry Finn in that world’s televersion of the Mark Twain story.  (‘Climax’ – “The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn” [1955].  According to the IMDb, “
To appease censors of the time, the African-American slave Jim, who is such an important character in the original novel, is completely omitted from this adaptation, along with all mention of the slavery issue.”) 


‘The Odd Couple’ is an American multi-camera television sitcom that aired on CBS from February 19, 2015 to January 30, 2017.  The series starred Matthew Perry as Oscar and Thomas Lennon as Felix; it was a pet project for Perry, who also served as the show's co-developer, co-executive producer and co-writer.

 Toobworld2 is the Land O’ Remakes where new versions of previous shows are housed (unless something determines that they should be situated elsewhere.  (For instance, the previously mentioned ‘The New Odd Couple’ was placed in Black Toobworld because of its special circumstances.)  Other shows which fall into this dimension would be the second versions of ‘The Fugitive’, ‘Hawaii Five-0’, ‘MacGyver’, and ‘The New Addams Family’.


In the fall of 1975, ABC aired a cartoon version of the play entitled ‘The Oddball Couple’, produced by Paramount and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. The roles were played by a neat cat named Spiffy and a sloppy dog named Fleabag. 

O’Bservation: Live-action TV characters often have doppelgangers in the Tooniverse – Superman, Batman, Gilligan, the Brady Bunch, Mork, Exigius 12½ (better known as Uncle Martin O’Hara),  and Laverne & Shirley.  But this may be a rarity in which previously established TV characters have been translated into “funny animals”.  (There is an artist whom I know online and she recreates episodes of ‘Columbo’ with funny animals replacing the originals.  In her world, Columbo is a fox, all the Jack Cassidy killers are rabbits, Robert Culp’s four roles are wolfhounds, each of Patrick McGoohan’s four murderers are variations on bears.)

So there you have five TV dimensions in which Neil Simon’s immortal characters exist.  And if you don’t want to include ‘The Oddball Couple’, I’m good with that.  We still have the four other live-action dimensions, more than enough to qualify Mr. Simon for membership in the Behind The Scenes category.

But you have to admit, there never would have been an "Oddball Couple" had it not been for Mr. Simon creating "The Odd Couple".

And in front of the camera, he got the chance to actually meet characters he created in the main Toobworld!


While filling in for the vacationing theatre critic at his newspaper, Oscar got to meet other critics like Dan Sullivan and John Simon.  And he and Felix got to meet Neil Simon on the streets of NYC.  We’ve seen authors who played themselves, but if they did meet characters they created, they are usually being portrayed by TV characters.  And with authors played by others who met their own creations, but usually in a fantasy dream sequence.  Here we had Neil Simon playing his own televersion and getting the chance to meet the living, breathing televersions of Felix and Oscar.  It’s a heady experience for this televisiologist to view.

So welcome to the Television Crossover Hall of Fame, Neil Simon.  And thank you for all of your wonderful theatrical output, but especially Felix Unger and Oscar Madison whom you’ll find have already arrived in the TVXOHOF.


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