They had the pathos of Gleason and Carney, from The Honeymooners, the physical comedy of Denver and Hale, from Gilligan's Island, plus terrific writing. While the show is definitely a period piece from the 1970s, it is not immured there. Like The Honeymooners, with a bit different set of accoutrements, the series could be set anywhere in human history.
In a bit of irony, the role of Felix, as first played on Broadway, in Neil Simon's play, was essayed by Art Carney. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon took over the roles in the 1968 film version, but neither had the exact chemistry Klugman and Randall did. By the fifth and final season the show had developed the aura of The Honeymooners, in that one knew what would happen, but not exactly how it would happen. As the saying goes, this show never jumped the shark.
I recently ordered the series on DVD, but did not get the bowdlerized versions from Paramount, because too much of the original music was cut out. Instead, for less than half the price of the 'authorized' version, I got a Hong Kong made DVD set that lacked any bonuses, and was copied from local television stations, in syndication. 2 of the 8 disks were defective, but I'm getting replacements mailed to me. There are some missing scenes- usually the final minute long epilogues in about 20% of the episodes, but all the musical numbers are intact. Hell, if the studio is going to steal from the show's fans, then fuck them, and get the series for less, but with more included.
In the final seasons, use of guest stars rose, and the series made use of that tactic better than any other tv series did. Note this classic use of Password host Allen Ludden and his wife Betty White:
In an earlier essay on the series I wrote:
Like GI, TOC left its mark on pop culture. Oscar & Felix- the names alone- invoke the archetypes of slob & neat freak, wild id & anal retentive ego. The famous episode where the boys appear on the game show Password, is still remembered for Oscar’s slow boil-come-to-a-head-clue of Aristophanes to elicit Felix’s reply of ‘ridiculous’. The most famous quote from the series was the great line: ‘Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS of U and ME.’ This line was Felix’s in the episode ‘My Strife in Court’. Felix was in court for scalping opera tickets to a woman. While cross-examining the woman in court, Felix asked the woman if he told her he had been selling the ticket. The woman says she just assumed he was. Felix pounces & nails her with the ‘assume’ quote.
Here is that scene:
Here is a clip of outtakes from the series:
In short, while there were great shows in the 1970s that were more political, none was better at what a sitcom is about, comedy derived from certain situations, than was The Odd Couple. Randall and Klugman reigned supreme.