Entries 11 through 15
15. The Odd Couple
The Odd Couple was originally a 1965 Broadway play by Neil Simon. In the play, Art Carney was Felix Ungar, the neat freak, and Walter Matthau was Oscar Madison, the slob. Jack Klugman would later replace Matthau, but Matthau would return to the role in the popular 1968 film, where Felix would be played by Jack Lemmon.
Then came the TV series, which started in 1970 on ABC. The TAG-your-IT game between Matthau and Klugman continued, as Klugman reprised the role of Oscar. Tony Randall (from Mr. Peepers) would step in as Felix.
The story is simple enough – generating laughs from two men living together who have polar opposite lifestyles. The famous opening narration was featured during the show’s first and second seasons. It was narrated by voice actor Bill Woodson.
Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?
Randall and Klugman would reunite in 1993 for a made-for-TV reunion film based upon the series. In 1998 Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau resurrected their roles for the film The Odd Couple II, produced by Neil Simon.
14. Sanford and Son
“Oh, this is the big one! You hear that, Elizabeth? I’m coming to join ya!”
The amazing Redd Foxx as Fred G. Sanford, a 65-year-old junk dealer in the Watts neighborhood of southern Los Angeles (he lived on South Central!) Demond Wilson starred as Lamont, his son. Another favorite from mastermind Norman Lear.
Here’s a bit of trivia we find amusing: one theme in the show was a drawer full of various reading glasses, where Fred would open the drawer and try on various glasses until he found a pair that would work. They weren’t very effective, as Fred would still have to hold the material a ways away from his face. The Other Donald happens to have this very same problem!
Some of the show’s original material is now considered too controversial to air on network television and is routinely edited in syndication. The instrumental theme song of Sanford and Son is called “The Streetbeater”, and is written and performed by Quincy Jones. Everybody knows it. Don’t you, you big dummy?
In 1980, NBC tried to bring the show back as Sanford (starring Foxx minus Wilson) but ratings were horrendous. You truly can’t go home again.
13. Good Times
The sitcom Good Times was ostensibly set in Cabrini-Green. Although Cabrini-Green was never mentioned by name as the housing project in which the Evans family of Good Times lived, exterior shots of Cabrini-Green were shown in both the opening and closing credits sequences. This sitcom was famous for Jimmie Walker and his character J.J.’s famous line “Dyyynomite!!”
More proof that 70s sitcoms were basically composed of a large family under patriarch Norman Lear, main characters Florida (Esther Rolle) and James (John Amos) originally appeared on Maude, who, of course, originally appeared on All in the Family. We enjoy the theme song by Dave Grusin and Andrew Bergman for both its gospel influence and the lyrics (“Temporary lay offs – Good Times – Easy Credit Rip offs – Good times…”), even though we didn’t watch the show all that much (we were What’s Happening fans).
12. Barney Miller
Captain Miller tries to remain sane while running a police station manned by pessimistic nearing-retirement Philip K. Fish, naive Polish-American Stanley “Wojo” Wojciehowicz, suave African-American Ronald Nathan Harris, philosophical Japanese-American Nick Yemana (who makes awful coffee every day), diminutive (and obsequious) detective-wannabe Officer Carl Levitt and old-school, rambling superior Chief Inspector Franklin Luger. Neurotic Puerto Rican Detective Chano Amanguale was replaced by soi-disant intellectual Arthur P. Dietrich from the third season on.
What else can we tell you about Barney Miller..umm, Abe Vigoda’s in it! Honestly, we don’t think we have ever seen an episode of this show in its entirety. Maybe because we got bored once the theme song is over. But damn, this theme song is funktacular and unmistakably 70s. Listen to that bass line! (performed by Chuck Berghofer)
11. What’s Happening!!
Hey, Hey, Hey!
What’s Happening, like Sanford and Son, takes place in Watts. We used to watch this show all the time. We loved all the characters and their quirks. Obviously the most popular here is Rerun (played by the late Fred Berry). We should probably start a poll like “What What’s Happening character are you?”. By the way, Henry Mancini did the theme song!
A sequel to the show called What’s Happening Now!! premiered in 1985 and ran for 3 seasons. Fred Berry left by the second season and his character’s disappearance is never explained. Martin Lawrence appears in season 3 in one of his first roles.
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