For years since the success of Two and a Half Men, CBS has been explicitly seeking sitcoms that fit The Odd Couple formula so maybe it was only a matter of time before they would give up and just literally remake The Odd Couple. The casting of this show feels equally inevitable. On the one hand, Matthew Perry as Oscar and Tom Lennon as Felix could be seen as brilliant because it’s so perfect, but it’s almost so obvious you can’t help but feel like you’ve already seen this show.
Aside from the occasional use of a cell phone or tablet, there was no attempt to make this iteration of The Odd Couple feel current. The poker scene where Oscar and Felix’s mutual friends are scared off by…Felix cleaning and cooking?…was repeated almost verbatim from the original Neil Simon play. The idea of Felix cleaning cards while they played poker wasn’t funny in freshman drama class and it’s still not funny. It’s time we as a society let this one go.
The outdated gay jokes were terrible, if not surprising. But the show goes above and beyond simply being homophobic with its absurd standards for masculinity. There’s a joke about Felix drinking tea. There’s a real missed opportunity for an actually interesting comedy here, if only the target of these jokes was the incredibly fragile male ego, that dictates anyone who’s not constantly wearing a shirt with a sports logo on it, guzzling a beer, and trying to get with a hot babe isn’t a real man. But, unfortunately, there’s no satire. The show is completely serious in expecting us to laugh at things like Felix doing yoga, as though every guy in New York City hasn’t tried it at least once.
It’s not just ideas of masculinity that are held to some ridiculous standard. A line early in the episode attempts to imply that Oscar is broke, then we see his incredible apartment. A character played by the beautiful Lindsay Sloane makes self-deprecating jokes about her appearance. We’re supposed to laugh at this show, but instead it’s extremely depressing, as you wonder who could possibly live up to this show’s standards of a normal, okay human being.
I guess it needs to be mentioned that the cast is, of course, brilliant. Aside from the always charming leads and the aforementioned Lindsay Sloane, it also has Wendell Pierce (The Wire), Dave Foley (The Kids in the Hall), Yvette Nicole Brown (Community), and Leslie Bibb (GCB). However, when the material is this bad, having cast members I know are brilliant when given the opportunity doesn’t do much besides serve as a pleasant reminder that better TV shows exist.
There’s a moment in the episode when everyone is discussing just how unbearably gay Felix acts, and Foley’s character says that he’d actually like to have a gay friend– for real, everyone reacts with absolute horror at this suggestion. He explains that he just wants one to seem more progressive. Pierce’s character responds, “You already have a black friend. What are you trying to prove?!” That’s this show in a nutshell.