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Matthew Perry May Have Broken the 'Friends' Curse, But It Will Come at a Cost

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 26, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | February 26, 2015 |

I like Matthew Perry. Chanandler Bong was my favorite Friends character. Unfortunately Perry — in an effort to recapture a sliver of that old Friends glory — seems to be running down the comedy drain in pursuit of it. He was so good on The West Wing that he tried his hand at dramedy, but Aaron Sorkin let him down with Studio 60. He attempted to make a fairly good comedy in Mr. Sunshine (and by good, I mean: Drunk Allison Janney completely stole the show), but that show couldn’t find an audience. Perry then attempted to go broader with Go On, which was amiable and likable enough, but it had no teeth and it was cancelled after one season.

Perry has returned again, and in The Odd Couple, it feels as though he’s prioritizing success over quality. He’s a smart guy. He knows what’s funny, but it feels like here that he doesn’t care. He just doesn’t want to get cancelled again. A laugh-track remake on CBS — home of the successful broad, laugh-track comedy — feels like a sure bet.

It may work out for him, too, though it’s much too early to say (the premiere had strong ratings, but it followed the series finale of Two and a Half Men). The potential success, however, comes at a cost: The Odd Couple is not a very good show.

In Sunshine State, Perry ran a sports arena. In Go On, he was a sports talk radio host, and in The Odd Couple, he’s Oscar, the host of sports podcast (he’s certainly determined to make a sports profession work for him). He’s also a recently divorced womanizing slob. Felix, meanwhile, is a fastidious, neurotic neat freak. He’s also going through a divorce, and though Oscar and Felix have different approaches to life, the old friends realize that they need each other in lieu of their ex-wives.

It’s a fairly generic sitcom featuring broad stereotypes and exaggerated acting. It’s also not very funny, and as much as I like Perry, I’m not willing to stick it out for this show as I did for Go On, which managed to improve over the course of its one season (thanks mostly to the supporting cast). The Odd Couple is not a sitcom aspiring for originality; it’s a sitcom aspiring to appeal to as many people as possible, and in doing so, alienates anyone who actually cares about comedy.

It could certainly improve, as the premise gets pushed into the background and the show finds its footing, and it’s certainly better than We’re the Millers or Two and a Half Men. However, it’s clear that it’s aiming for that same demographic, which means it will invariably exchange witty banter for silly wordplay and bad sex jokes. On the other hand, while I won’t stick around, I won’t beman its success if it means good-paying jobs for the talented cast, which also includes Yvette Nicole Brown, Leslie Bibb, Dave Foley, Wendell Pierce, and Lindsay Sloane.

But if it fails, the next time out, Perry shouldn’t aspire to repeat the success of Friends. He should follow the Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc route: Make something funny and original, and take it to a network like HBO or Showtime where the ratings expectations are considerably lower. Better yet, he should take a supporting role on an already successful drama, like The Good Wife (where he showed up in a handful of episodes and disappeared).

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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