CBS is reviving the classic sitcom/movie/play The Odd Couple for modern viewers, and while it basically looks like the same set-up as the 1970s series, there are a few key differences. I’m not talking about the actors or their character descriptions, either; I’m talking about there being women in the writer’s room, as that was apparently a major no-no back when ABC first brought The Odd Couple to the small screen. Not such “odd” behavior for the time, sadly.
Appearing at this year’s Television Critics Association winter press event, legendary producer and director Garry Marshall shared with audiences just how determined ABC was to keep female writers out of The Odd Couple back then.
They weren’t allowed, they wouldn’t hire any. I had three of the greatest writers. Susan Silver, who went on to Mary Tyler Moore; Susan Harris, who became one of the best writers in the world; and Susan Miller, who was the head writer on Saturday Night Live, all not hired. The network didn’t want them.”
Maybe they just had a problem with people named Susan? Seriously, though, that’s an egregiously damning admission from Marshall, even though it’s no secret that females in Hollywood have always had a rough time gaining headway. Harris ended up going on to create Soap, Benson, Golden Girls and Empty Nest, among other series, so it’s crazy to think about how varied the TV landscape would be had these three creative forces actually been hired on for The Odd Couple instead of going on to produce their signature series. (Just about all of which are better than The Odd Couple, in my opinion.)
Thankfully, Marshall says that’s all different now with CBS’ updated version, starring Friends’ Matthew Perry as Oscar Madison and Reno 911’s Thomas Lennon as Felix Unger. Marshall says there are “three great female writers” on staff there, and that they bring a better balance to the show, which is able to approach emotions and feelings far greater than the 1970s iteration.
This new Odd Couple is also able to handle talking about two adult heterosexual men living together without worrying about people thinking they’re gay. While the show’s characters will be able to broach the topic of sexuality here, that definitely wasn’t always the case. Here’s how Marshall explained that, according to THR.
The network was so afraid the audience would think it was two gay characters, so every week they said put more girls on it. We did scenes where they hugged and kissed, and it would drive the network crazy. Now they can talk about it!”
So, they could have women around as objects of gay-deflecting sexual attraction, but not as the people writing those scenes? Tsk tsk tsk.
CBS will pair both male and female viewers with The Odd Couple when it premieres on Thursday, February 19.