Pasadena, Calif. — CBS will introduce a new generation to The Odd Couple on Feb. 19 and star Matthew Perry said the reboot aims to bring laughs.
“What’s cool about this show is it’s just trying to be funny, just trying to make people laugh,” said Perry, who joked during the show’s TCA winter press tour panel that The Odd Couple will be as good as Dances With Wolves. “And it’s based on chemistry.”
Perry was joined onstage Monday by executive consultant Garry Marshall, executive producer Bob Daily and actors Thomas Lennon, Yvette Nicole Brown, Wendell Pierce and Lindsay Sloane.
“Whatever you do, you’ve got to have casting,” said Marshall, who worked on the 1970 TV adaptation of The Odd Couple. “This casting is tremendous,” joshing that Perry was his favorite on Friends but he didn’t know who Lennon was.
The Odd Couple gained widespread fame in 1968 with the big screen iteration of the Neil Simon play starring Walter Matthau as Oscar Madison and Jack Lemmon as Felix Unger. The TV version featured Jack Klugman and Tony Randall in the title roles.
“It’s such an elastic concept,” said Daily, who said the series goes back to the original Simon source material. “I mean the DNA of those two characters is seeped into television for the last four decades.”
But don’t expect The Odd Couple to be a carbon copy. They are making some changes, including a single Madison who is exploring dating in 2015 and a slight change in profession for Unger from a newspaper writer to a radio sports talk show host.
Perry admitted that when he first approached CBS, who had already been working on the reboot, others thought he would be a better Unger.
“In real life I’m much more of an Oscar,” he said. “It’s been a dream come true to play Oscar. It’s big shoes to fill but we’re doing our own thing.”
Lennon added on playing Unger: “I thought long and hard whether it was attemptable. Tony Randall is a major hero of mine and I was worried that I might be trying to do an impression of Randall.”
Other highlights from the panel included:
—Brown fielded questions about her work on Community and explained that she chose to leave Community before CBS brought her The Odd Couple. “It’s a family in the same way that Community was a family. That’s the only thing that’s different is the hours. The love and the camaraderie is still the same.”
—Perry addressed the relatively short-lived series Mr. Sunshine and Going On. “They at least aspired to be something different,” he said, adding that he forgot what the hours were like on a sitcom.
—The show’s theme song is performed by Trombone Shorty (a.k.a. Troy Andrews). Fun fact: The New Orleans musician got his nickname as a kid when he would participate in brass band parades.