When I first saw this tweet from The Onion, I chuckled:
But then I realized that I never posted anything here in response to the loss of Jack Klugman, the stage, film, and TV actor best known as Oscar Madison on the TV version of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple.
My having not done that is really unacceptable.
Throughout my entire childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, continuing until I moved to the west coast in 1988, reruns of The Odd Couple were broadcast nightly on New York’s WPIX, channel 11, and I watched them, was thoroughly entertained by them, over and over and over again.
I had friends who shared my passionate love of The Odd Couple, and we’d rattle off bits from the show, from one liners to entire scenes, and the jokes never, ever got old.
It’s tempting to say that Klugman, as Oscar, was my favorite, but the truth is that he and Tony Randall, as Felix Unger, were such an amazing team that it diminishes both of them to play favorites.
That said, Klugman’s Oscar Madison was refreshingly different from most adult male characters on TV. He was flawed (divorced!), utterly unpretentious, a man who loved the simple things in life, a slob, and yet a man with a very successful career as a sportswriter.
Most of all, he had a big heart, pushed to the breaking point over and over again by Felix’s annoying, often maddening, eccentricities, always to cave in time and again, to remember that Felix, warts and all, was still his friend and someone worthy of patience and compassion.
The character may have been written that way, but Jack Klugman brought Oscar to life in a thoroughly believable way, and even though Walter Matthau was great as Oscar in the film version, I always think of Klugman as Oscar first and always will.
R.I.P., Jack. Thanks for the memories.