One could excuse Matthew Perry if he feels snakebit. Since Friends disbanded in 2004, Perry has led respectable but ultimately rejected efforts in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Mr. Sunshine and Go On. Fortunately, Perry’s latest project, a sitcom reboot of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, has a few things going for it that his previous attempts did not.
It’s got a solid foundation of well-known source material from the 1968 Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau film and the 1970s Tony Randall/Jack Klugman TV series. It’s got an incredibly simple premise. And it’s on CBS, who’s giving it a plum premiere slot (Thursday, Feb. 19, at 8:30pm ET/PT) between The Big Bang Theory and the series finale of Two and a Half Men, and who tends to be a little more forgiving if ratings aren’t through the roof.
Perry plays slob sportscaster Oscar Madison, whose divorce forces him to live with his also-divorced fastidious photographer buddy Felix Unger (Thomas Lennon, Reno 911!). It was something of a dream role for Perry. “I was driving in my car one day and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to do The Odd Couple again? Wouldn’t it be nice to play Oscar Madison?’ And then I found out they were doing it at CBS, which is where I wanted to do it, because CBS is the place that can launch shows and actually people watch. So I wrote the pilot and it all came true. It’s one of those weird things where everything came true.”
This incarnation of The Odd Couple puts a modern spin on the classic, with fatherhood, divorce and dating being drastically different from what decades-ago Felix and Oscar dealt with. But the tale of mismatched roomies has a timeless quality, as does the humor that arises from it. “I was a big fan of the movie,” Perry says. “I know every line from the movie. So we stole a few lines from the movie and put it in the pilot. And it’s really interesting that jokes from 30 years ago get big laughs now.”
Photo: © 2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved Credit: Monty Brinton