EXCLUSIVE: Neil Simon’s classic The Odd Couple is eying a return to television, with Matthew Perry as the star, co-writer and executive producer of a multi-camera comedy project for CBS, which has received a script commitment plus penalty. The new take on two mismatched roommates — the messy Oscar Madison (Perry) and the neat freak Felix Unger — will be co-written by Perry and comedy veteran Danny Jacobson, who previously co-wrote another multi-camera couple comedy with the series’ co-lead: NBC’s Paul Reiser vehicle Mad About You. The Odd Couple hails from CBS TV Studios and two of its top pods, Timberman-Beverly and The Tannenbaum Co. It marks Friends alum Perry’s return to multi-camera comedy filmed in front of a live audience after two single-camera shows — ABC’s Mr. Sunshine, which he also co-created, and NBC’s Go On. Simon’s play The Odd Couple premiered on Broadway in 1965 with Walter Matthau as Oscar and Art Carney as Felix and spawned a successful 1968 movie, in which Matthau reprises his role alongside Jack Lemmon as Felix, and the 1970 ABC/Paramount TV series, in which Oscar was played by Jack Klugman and Felix by Tony Randall. It ran for five seasons.
For Perry, doing The Odd Couple has been a dream 34 years in the making. “Ever since seeing the movie The Odd Couple when I was 10 years old, it has been a dream for me to play Oscar Madison,” he said. “To be given the opportunity to develop a modern version of it for CBS has put a permanent smile across my face. I met up with a wonderful writing partner in Danny Jacobson. We both have such a passion for the source material that we have instantly become obsessed with making this great. Plus, I think it’s time for me to be in front of a live audience again. I miss that. The search for Felix Ungar is on!”
Perry and Jacobson are executive producing the project with Carl Beverly & Sarah Timberman and Eric Tannenbaum & Kim Tannenbaum.
In addition to the hit 1968 movie and the 1970 series, there was an Odd Couple movie sequel starring Matthau and Lemmon; a CBS Odd Couple reunion TV movie; a short-lived The New Odd Couple follow-up ABC series with black leads produced by Garry Marshall; an ABC cartoon; and The Female Odd Couple, a female version of the play by Simon. Perry, who also recently recurred on CBS’ The Good Wife, is repped by CAA, Doug Chapin Management, and Paul Mayersohn; Jacobson is with CAA, Brillstein Entertainment and Mark Temple. Timberman is with CAA and Jeff Finkelstein & Ernie Del; Beverly is with CAA and Bruce Gellman;. The Tannenbaum Co. is with CAA and Jeff Finkelstein & Ernie Del.