PASADENA, Calif. — CBS has brought in an expert to help launch its remake of “The Odd Couple” starring Matthew Perry: the legendary producer who adapted Neil Simon’s Broadway play into the television series that starred Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.
Garry Marshall, who went on to create “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley” and “Mork & Mindy,” is helping Bob Daily, the new show’s executive producer, as a consultant. Cast members say Marshall is on the set each week pitching jokes and telling stories.
Marshall, a neighbor of CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves, came on at Moonves’ suggestion. Daily said he got into the business partly because of his love for the shows Marshall made, so he was happy to have him. Marshall, 80, said a big factor in coming back was that it’s being made in a studio close to his home.
“Just to have Garry’s endorsement alone was huge,” said Perry, who plays Oscar Madison to co-star Thomas Lennon’s Felix Unger.
Marshall said he was happy to revisit the show. “It was the first show that I ever did that was a hit,” he said. “It kind of made my career.”
His involvement was a reminder how times had changed since the original sitcom aired on ABC from 1970 to 1975. In the 1970s, the show had no women writers. Marshall said ABC wanted to have as many women actresses around the two lead characters as possible because the network thought viewers might believe they were gay.
Daily, a former writer on “Frasier,” said the concept of “The Odd Couple” is durable and it was time to update it.
“ ‘Frasier’ was basically ‘The Odd Couple’ with one Oscar and two Felixes,” he said.
The show is updated for the times: Madison isn’t a newspaper sportswriter, he hosts a sports radio talk show. But it doesn’t rely on old scripts or story lines. There was one exception, with a joke on the show’s pilot lifted directly from Simon’s play.
“The funniest joke in the pilot was written 45 years ago,” Perry said.
Perry brought the idea of a remake to CBS at about the same time as the network had independently been thinking about reviving it, so the timing proved fortuitous.
Perry, the “Friends” star whose recent sitcom “Go On” didn’t make it past its rookie year on NBC two seasons ago, said he wanted to come to CBS because he believes it knows how to launch shows better than any other network.
“What’s cool about the show is we’re just trying to be funny,” he said. “We’re just trying to make people laugh.”
The remake debuts on Feb. 19. New Orleans artist Trombone Shorty recorded a new version of the show’s theme song.