Glad to see there was such a positive reaction to THE ODD COUPLE. My first staff job was on THE TONY RANDALL SHOW, done for ABC in 1976. In that show he played a judge in Philadelphia. It was produced by MTM and we had quite a writing staff. The creators/showrunners were Tom Patchett & Jay Tarses (who had run the brilliant BOB NEWHART SHOW), Gary David Goldberg (created FAMILY TIES and BROOKLYN BRIDGE), Hugh Wilson (created WKRP and had a long feature directing career), and me and my partner, David Isaacs were the two young schleppers. That was it. No consultants. Just the six of us.
David and I were originally signed to write a freelance episode and from that we got invited to join the staff. Production was well underway when we came aboard. At our first table read Tony stood up with an announcement. He had just been to England during a hiatus and informed us that the British sitcoms were so far superior to ours. There was no contest. American sitcoms were shit. Then he sat back down and we had the reading of the decidedly American script David and I had just written. I thought our staff career was going to last one day.
But happily he liked the script… and us. At the time I was single, bringing dates to filmings (hoping that might help me get lucky) and after the show I would always introduce them to Tony. He would praise me to the heavens, how they couldn’t do the show without me, etc. All total bullshit but the girls were impressed. Say what you will about Tony Randall, he was the best Wing Man I’ve ever had.
He was also the consummate professional. Not only did he know all of his lines, he knew everyone else’s too. And he rarely went up on a line during filmings. When he did he would turn to the audience and quip, “Well at least I didn’t say ‘shit’.” And that would send them into hysterics.
He never ad libbed during our show but I too heard the stories that on THE ODD COUPLE he and Jack would sometimes be given scenes to improvise. I believe it. Tony was that gifted.
I loved working with Tony Randall. Of course it helped that he thought I was funny and that I didn’t smoke.