Photo credit: Darren Michaels/CBS © 2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

Photo credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc.

“The Odd Couple”

March 13, 2015

Valli Herman

Neil Simon’s blockbuster play, “The Odd Couple” has a life of its own. After nearly 1,000 performances on Broadway from 1965 to 1967, two revivals, a movie version starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, a 1970s television series starring Tony Randall and Jack Krugman and even a Saturday morning cartoon, there is a lot of history to mine.

Costume Designer Julie Bennett Block honors the past while invoking the present for the newest iteration of “The Odd Couple,” a half-hour comedy on CBS. “Friends” alum Matthew Perry costars as the messy Oscar Madison and Thomas Lennon is the fastidious Felix Unger. Though Costume Designer Ann Roth designed the original Broadway production, Block has added subtle touches to update the familiar characters.

“You have the audience in their 40s and 50s that knows ‘The Odd Couple,’ but then you also have a young 18-to-25 audience that wants to watch a fun, cute new show,” she said.

“Though Oscar may be a little messy, he’s still attractive–a sexy messy. The clothes fit him. He just organically looks great, even though he might have picked the shirt up off the floor,” she said. Block accentuates Perry’s leading-man allure with the occasional cashmere sweater and sharp suit, but Oscar is Oscar–a guy who likes his vintage Mets T-shirts, cozy corduroy shirt and worn-in jeans.

Lennon’s Felix is rarely without a vest or cardigan and his wardrobe reflects his anal-retentive nature: “It’s very organized. It’s very thought out,” she said.

“The vests are symbolic emotionally and aesthetically of his uptightness, but they also give him a regal, English elegance,” Block said. A vest layer also allows Block to mix textures and patterns–a striped tie with a plaid shirt and a tweed vest. Suede lace-up brogues from Allen Edmonds give him a casual polish, along with cotton trousers by Mason’s, a more modern alternative to dress pants.

“There is a subtlety that still connects to the original, but with a modern edge, because I am trying to connect to two different audiences,” she said. The new series also features recurring female characters who allow Block to give the show a fashion edge. The attractive and interesting women are, at last, something that both Oscar and Felix can admire.

“The Odd Couple” airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m./7:30 Central on CBS.

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