Neil Simon plans an ''Odd Couple'' times two for TV. After a decades-long absence from TV, the veteran playwright and screenwriter develops an ABC sitcom

By Gary Susman
November 07, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

Neil Simon may be celebrated for his plays (”Brighton Beach Memoirs”) and screenplays (”The Out-of-Towners”), but he hasn’t written for series television for a long time. Like 50 years. But the scribe is ending his hiatus with a new ABC sitcom, Variety reports, that sounds a lot like his most famous work, ”The Odd Couple.” In fact, the show has a couple of odd couples.

In the early days of TV, Simon broke into showbiz as a writer for Sid Caesar’s classic sketch-comedy series, including ”Your Show of Shows” and ”The Sid Caesar Show.” (Decades later, he’d fictionalize the experience in his play and TV movie ”Laughter on the 23rd Floor.”) Since then, he’s been busy on Broadway and in Hollywood, though 30 years ago, ABC developed a classic sitcom based on his play and movie ”The Odd Couple.” (Simon didn’t write for that show.) Like that series, Simon’s new show, which ABC hopes to debut in the fall of 2003, will focus on broken marriages and tight quarters. In this case, two couples split up, the men move into one house, and the women move into a house next door.

Simon has also done several made-for-TV movies over the years, and he’s currently working on one for TNT, an update of his 1977 feature ”The Goodbye Girl,” which won a Best Actor Oscar for Richard Dreyfuss. In any case, it’s good to see a 75-year-old bucking TV’s reluctance to hire series writers who are older than the characters on ”Friends.”

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