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Modern-day Felix Ungers: Seven TV neat-freaks - VIDEOS

by Allison Waldman, posted Dec 16th 2008 3:02PM
Tony RandallDo you think when Neil Simon created the character of Felix Unger in The Odd Couple he knew that he was spawning a generation or two (maybe more) of Felix Unger wannabes? Today, over 40 years since Felix became part of our movie/TV collective conscience, there are lots of people and characters that bring to mind Tony Randall's alter ego.

It's Tony's Felix that I think is etched in our minds. He made Felix all he could be, and week in and week out -- opposite Jack Klugman's Oscar Madison -- he typified the ultimate neat freak, persnickety, hypochondriacally, impossible-to-live-with, supercilious know-it-all that made us cackle with laughter.

So, as I was watching TV -- an occupational requirement -- recently, it occurred to me that there are quite a few Felix Ungers on screen right now. Most are fictional, like Two and a Half Men's Alan Harper and, most obviously, Adrian Monk. But there are a couple of Felixes in real life on TV, too, like MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and ESPN's Mike Greenberg.

By my count, there are seven "Felix Ungers" currently on TV.

Check out the list I've compiled, and in case you've forgotten the situation for this definitive situation comedy and how Tony Randall perfected his Emmy-winning role as Felix Unger, or in case you've been on Mars for 43 years, here's a reminder:

1. Alan Harper, Two and a Half Men
Chuck Lorre must have been thinking of The Odd Couple when he started Two and a Half Men, sticking devil-may-care playboy brother Charlie Harper with his recently divorced sad sack brother, Alan. It wasn't just that Alan's wife Judith had thrown him out of the house telling him to never come back, like Felix. No, it was that Alan was so much like Felix -- an anal-retentive, slightly prudish smart-aleck covering his shnookiness. In fact, Jon Cryer plays it like Felix more than Charlie Sheen plays it like Oscar. For a really good example of Alan's Felixness, watch this scene:

2. Adrian Monk, Monk
No character on TV has ever been as obsessive-compulsive as Tony Shalhoub's Adrian Monk. If Felix had the Sherlock Holmesian skills of a Monk, he might have had a spin-off series as Unger, private detective (not to be confused with Jack Klugman as Quincy, M.E.). Felix was a much happier character than Monk. In fact, Felix once wrote a song called "Happy and Peppy and Bursting With Love," something you'd never imagine Monk doing. However, Monk's attentions to detail and need to clean are Felix-like. And Felix was as obsessed with his M.D. as Monk is obsessed with his psychiatrists, Dr. Kroger and Dr. Bell. Can't you just see Felix and Monk bonding over wipes?

3. Dr. James Wilson, House
This is a variation on The Odd Couple in that Oscar had to put up with Felix. At Princeton Plainsboro Hospital, Wilson has to put up with House. Even when he's tried to get House out of his life, he can't. And like Felix and Oscar, the two may grouse at each other, but they're each others' best friends. But Wilson has Felixesque tendencies, too, like being very prepared for any contingency. On a car trip with House, for instance, when his car keys are tossed in the gutter, Wilson has a coat hanger and wind-up flashlight to fish them out. And when House tosses the flashlight in the gutter, Wilson has a back up. Now, that's Felix! Just so you know that I'm not the only one who sees House and Wilson as Oscar and Felix, look at this homage.

4. Burton "Gus" Guster, Psych
Another bromantic pair of mismatched guys, best friends who are polar opposites. That's the Psych situation in which wild and crazy Shawn Spencer (James Roday) plays Oscar to Dule Hill's finicky neatnik, Gus. Nattily dressed, careful and practical, the one who follows the rules and holds down a job and is Mr. Responsibility, that's Gus. His obsessive attention to detail, including his super smeller, smack of Felix. Speaking of noses, Felix's nose was famous for his sinuses, which were invariably stuffed, and the cause of his honking. So far, Gus hasn't honked.

5. Mike Greenberg, Mike & Mike in the Morning
Felix is a fictional character, but there are real people who have Unger-like dimensions. There's an Odd Couple-like pairing on ESPN with Mike and Mike in the Morning, starring Mike Greenberg (the Felix) and Mike Golic (the Oscar). Greenie, as he's affectionately called, is a clean freak and often appalled by Golic's oafish slobby behavior. He's also really squeamish about anything medical. This commercial, for instance, is hilarious when you realize that Greenie would never give a kidney to anyone, let alone a fan. You can't imagine Felix giving a kidney either.

6. Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory
Oh boy, is Dr. Sheldon Cooper a child of Felix Unger, only a very brilliant child -- a genius -- with a brain transplant. Sheldon is more socially inept than Felix ever was, but the hypochondria and fastidiousness is pure Unger. Leonard is not particularly an Oscar Madison, but he finds it just as difficult to co-habitat with Sheldon as Oscar did with Felix. There's another way in which Sheldon and Felix are quite similar. Neither man thinks he's annoying. They believe they are completely right and correct in their need for order and organization. Here's a great clip illustrating how Sheldon seems to channel Felix.

7. Keith Olbermann, Countdown
You may think that all Keith Olbermann has in common with Tony Randall's Felix Unger is the sharp-dressed man angle. They're both snappy dressers. But I think when you hear Keith go off on one of his commentaries -- you know the ones I mean, Ben Affleck did a great parody of an Olbermann commentary on Saturday Night Live -- he can sound a lot like Felix when he got on his soapbox. Here's one of my favorite moments ever on sitcom TV, when Felix went to court to defend Oscar. Come on, doesn't Keith sometimes sound like this?

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Not a current show, but the female version would be Monica from Friends.

December 16 2008 at 10:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sheldon is perfect, no matter what. Nuff said.

December 16 2008 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Even though he's not on anymore, I always thought Niles Crane had a little bit of FU in him.

December 16 2008 at 3:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dave's comment

LOL, isn't that the truth! I'd say Niles Crane had much more than "a little bit of FU in him". He almost could've been Felix's (non-identical) twin brother separated by time.

December 16 2008 at 3:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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