The Odd Couple: The Final Season

The often cancelled, usually revived Odd Couple ventures outside the apartment and outside its central relationship in the fifth and final season.

The Odd Couple

Subtitle: The Final Season
Network: abc
Cast: Tony Randall, Jack Klugman, Al Molinari, Penny Marshall
Length: 562
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA rating: N/A
First date: 1974-09
UK Release Date: Available as import
US Release Date: 2008-11-18
Last date: 1975-03

Weddings are death to sitcoms. Moonlighting lost its bite when the two warring principals hooked up. Cheers righted itself with difficulty, only by ditching the romance (and Shelley Long), and enmeshing Ted Danson in further romantic difficulty.

The final season of the Odd Couple contains not one, not two, but three attempted weddings. The first, really only an opening salvo, marries off the nasal Myrna Turner (Penny Marshall) to real-life husband Rob Reiner. The middle episode “Oscar in Love” tempts the slovenly Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) with the joys of a ready-made family – but he backs out at the last minute.

But it’s the final wedding that drives a stake through the show’s dramatic conceit. In this last-ever episode “Felix Remarries”, Unger ties the knot again with his ex-wife Gloria and leaves the apartment. It’s the end to mainstream television’s longest-running male/male domestic partnership, a bickering, fond, excruciating combination of failings that seemed more durable than most marriages.

What saves The Odd Couple from mawkish sentimentality, even in this alls-well-that-ends-well ending, is that the two actors never break character. In the final scene of the final episode, Unger (Tony Randall) takes his leave of Madison, reminding him that dinner is in the oven.

“Oscar, what can I say? Five years ago, you took me in, a broken man on the verge of mental collapse. I leave here a cured human being,” says Unger. “I salute you,” he adds, dumping a full wastebasket of trash onto the floor.

Madison responds, “Felix, you know how I’m going to salute you? I’m going to clean it up.”

But when Unger leaves, Madison throws up his hands and says, “I’m not going to clean that up.” And as he exits, Unger sneaks back in and tidies the mess. “I knew he wouldn’t clean it up,” he says, in the show’s final line.

This is quite possibly the scene that won Tony Randall an Emmy for the final season, a gentle coda to a long, exquisitely choreographed conflict. No one changed, no one learned, no one grew, and so the show retained a baseline, reassuring realism that grounded its most fantastic moments. If there’s a single reason why The Odd Couple never “rode the shark”, it’s because both of its main characters remained exactly who they were, no matter how many bold faced cameo stars came and went and no matter how bizarre the plotlines became.

And let’s face it, the final season showed all the creaks and lurches of a show on its last legs. The writers seemed to have gotten bored with the Park Avenue apartment, so the two principals took road trips to Hollywood, to upstate New York, to the race track. They tired of the endless sniping between Unger and Madison, so they brought in Howard Cosell, Paul Williams and Roy Clark to liven things up. There is even a time-travelling episode in which Randall and Klugman play their own fathers in speakeasy-era Chicago. Anything, anything, anything, the show seems to scream, but another scene with Madison spilling potato chips on the rug and Unger fussily sweeping them up.

Yet, this inherent friction was what made the show work. Drift too far away from the claustrophobic confines of the apartment, and Madison became just another likeable slob, Unger a neurotic neatnik with self-esteem issues. Only together, and alone without mediating crowds, did they bring out the extreme in each other. If Unger wasn’t driving Madison crazy and vice versa, there was no show. If the two of them didn’t somehow reach an understanding, based on kindness and familiarity and recognition of each other’s faults, there was no resonance to these antics-crazed episodes. It was the relationship between the two of them that made the show both funny and sad, ridiculous and occasionally profound.

As a result it is the more modestly scaled episodes that work the best, the ones in which Randall and Klugman play most directly off each other. “Two on the Aisle” begins as a classic reversal of roles. When Madison’s boss insists that he review a Broadway play, Madison hoodwinks Unger into going instead, then pumps him for enough information to write the show up. The review, unfortunately, is excellent, and Madison must continue the charade for another three weeks.

It’s all very entertaining until the writers “open up the box” and Madison is asked to sit in on a television theater discussion with John Simon and other then-famous critics. Of course, he has nothing to say in such a setting – Unger has been doing all the work. So Unger decides to pose as Madison’s dentist, telling the host that all of Madison’s teeth have been pulled – and only he can interpret what his patient has to say. Unger, of course, gets carried away on the show. No one believes that he is acting as a mouthpiece for the incapacitated Madison, and he insults all the other critics to the point that they walk off the stage. But the main point is that what began as a very clever farce and fish-out-water switch devolves into the silliest kind of slapstick. The outside world nearly always makes Madison look saner than he is, and Unger crazier.

Yet in the confines of that apartment, their frequent conflicts and uneasy alliances makes perfect sense. They are opposites, but they complement each other. You can’t imagine what will happen to Madison once Unger really and truly leaves. Buried in a tidal wave of filth? Poisoned by his own cooking? Remarried? Dead of loneliness? It all seems infinitely possible when Unger closes the door on him – and on one of the oddest and most enduring partnerships in television.

The show is great. The DVD set is less so. Long-time fans will notice a couple of glaring edits – in the final “Felix Gets Married” episode, Jack Klugman’s dancing rendition of “Singing in the Rain” has been cut, perhaps because of the cost of buying the rights to the song. The same thing happens in “Your Mother Wears Army Boots”. In the original guest star Martina Arroyo sings “For Once In Your Life” to a rapt Howard Cosell. In the DVD, the song has mysteriously disappeared. Cost-cutting seems to have precluded any kind of bonus material as well.

But even done on the cheap, even in its last gasp of a season, The Odd Couple remains entertaining. Unlike a lot of television shows, it stays good to the very end, weddings, guest stars and silliness notwithstanding.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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