Matthew Perry and Thomas Len­non are no real-life Odd Cou­ple

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Friends star Matthew Perry ad­mits his re­make of The Odd Cou­ple isn’t “ground­break­ing” and may even be a “throw­back” but that’s just the way he likes it.

In the decade since he played Chan­dler Bing, Perry’s tried a few dif­fer­ent shows on for size, with mixed re­sults. Drama Stu­dio 60 on the Sun­set Strip and sin­gle-cam­era com­edy Go On both had their fans, but failed to last be­yond a sea­son, while Perry’s own con­cept Mr Sun­shine (an­other sin­gle­cam­era com­edy) was canned af­ter only nine episodes.

But with The Odd Cou­ple, Perry re­turns to the tra­di­tional multi-cam­era sit­com in front of a stu­dio au­di­ence that was so in­te­gral to Friends’ suc­cess.

The re­make, in which Perry plays slovenly sports­caster Os­car op­po­site Thomas Len­non’s neat freak Felix, has be­come a hit in the US, av­er­ag­ing more than 12 mil­lion view­ers an episode so far.

“I tried for the last 10 years to do some­thing dif­fer­ent ... and then I re­alised the sit­com life­style and hav­ing an au­di­ence is just so much fun. I missed it,” Perry says. “We are do­ing sort of a — what’s the word I’m look­ing for? Just a clas­sic kind of com­edy thing … it’s not ground­break­ing.”

“The only twist is that it’s re­ally good,” adds Thomas.

“Like a throw­back,” Perry con­tin­ues. “Sure. I shouldn’t have said that. It’s not a throw­back!” he laughs. “It’s just funny.” Thanks to a tal­ented writ­ing team and a cast that in­cludes Com­mu­nity’s Yvette Ni­cole Brown, The Wire’s Wen­dell Pierce and NewsRadio’s Dave Fo­ley, The Odd Cou­ple has got more po­ten­tial than most tra­di­tional sit­coms.

“A lot of our writ­ers are from Frasier which is nice so the bar is very, very high. I’m a su­per crit­i­cal per­son and a writer, too,” says Len­non (he cowrote the block­buster film Night At The Mu­seum), “And I’ve been blown away by ev­ery one of our scripts so far.

The Odd Cou­ple con­cept has proved an en­dur­ing one since Neil Simon’s orig­i­nal play pre­miered on Broad­way 50 years ago this month. There’s the Os­carnom­i­nated 1968 film, the clas­sic ’70s sit­com with Jack Klug­man and Tony Randall, not to men­tion al­ter­nate ver­sions with a fe­male odd cou­ple, an African-Amer­i­can odd cou­ple and one with a dog and cat.

Perry, who de­vel­oped the show, co-wrote the pi­lot and is ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, is a diehard fan of the movie, Len­non’s “ob­sessed” with the TV se­ries and, with orig­i­nal showrun­ner Garry Mar­shall on board as a con­sul­tant, they weren’t about to rad­i­cally al­ter the con­cept. “It’s more mod­ern day and deal­ing with re­la­tion­ships and two guys in their 40s try­ing to date,” Perry says. “But the core of the show re­mains the same, which is two guys who are very, very dif­fer­ent living to­gether and driv­ing each other crazy.”

Of course, you can get away with a lot more risque ma­te­rial on TV to­day. Mar­shall says the “all-time fun­ni­est line ever” was cut out of the 1970s sit­com by cen­sors, where Os­car com­plained about Felix leav­ing notes ev­ery­where: “‘ We’re all out of corn­flakes. F.U.’ Took me three hours to fig­ure out F.U. was Felix Un­gar!”

The gag gets an out­ing in the first episode when Felix re­pro­grams Os­car’s elec­tronic sports ticker in his apart­ment. Weirdly, the sports-mad Perry re­ally does have a sports ticker in his real-life apart­ment.

Len­non, who ap­peared with Perry in body swap com­edy movie 17 Again, is the per­fect fit for the finicky Felix. Perry says he of­fered him the role within 10 min­utes of chat­ting to him about it.

“He just was the char­ac­ter,” ex­plains Perry. Thomas says that was news to him.

“Right af­ter I got the part, ev­ery­one I’d ever met said ‘Oh yes fi­nally!’ I thought: So have I been an­noy­ing ev­ery sin­gle one of you all this time by lint rolling you and with my dis­or­ders? And ap­par­ently the an­swer is: Yes, ev­ery­one I’ve ever met I was bug­ging just a lit­tle bit.”

In an­other case of life im­i­tat­ing art, Perry’s ex­girl­friend Lau­ren Gra­ham ( Par­ent­hood) plays his ex-wife Gaby on the show. It’s no big deal, in­sists Perry.

“I re­ally like work­ing with her and we have a good chem­istry to­gether. We’ve been friends for years so it’s been re­ally fun.”

Thomas says that his real life friend­ship with Perry is not that far from the show.

“It’s very sim­i­lar ex­cept that we, in real life ... we prob­a­bly get along at least 15 to 20 per cent more than the char­ac­ters do, right? Some­thing like that.” THE ODD COU­PLE, CHAN­NEL 10, MON­DAY, 7.30PM

Matthew Perry and Thomas Len­non in The Odd Cou­ple.

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