Ever wonder how the same two colleagues can work together on case after case? This is something that has come to my attention after prolonged exposure to daily doses of Quincy M.E. (QME) on Network TV while growing up in the 70s/80s, as well as syndication on A&E, ITV, COZI, NBC/Universal Streaming, and now most recently GETTV. In fact, I have wondered many times if Quincy writers and directors embraced Neil Simon’s “Oscar and Felix” personas while filming Quincy, rather than deviating from Oscar (Oscar Madison), Mr. Klugman’s alter ego. Upon close study, I am finding this to be more the case than not.
Most Hollywood directors note that getting everything to go right on a shot takes a tremendous amount of work. While others feel that there’s no real science to making a scene work, it’s what each actors bring to the shot. But let’s face, it in either case “type casting” does occur – whether we are aware of it on a conscious or unconscious level. Monahan and Quincy are perfect examples of this principle. How so? Let’s take a hard look at their track record together.
Although QME writers used contemporary subject matter, many episodes mix a bit of humor with a large call for social consciousness. This is just the beginning of the eery similarities between The Odd Couple and Quincy M.E.
Does anyone think this was a deliberate action by the producers of the show? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, something should be said for an actor’s need to re-invent him/herself on stage or in front of the camera. However, this feat is nearly impossible when one has played roommate to neat-nick Felix Unger for so long. Still, we are left with the question of whether Mr. Klugman is really playing Quincy as Oscar Madison, Oscar Madison as Quincy, or Jack Klugman as Quincy.
Part of the answer to this question lies in examining Monahan’s motives for interacting with the protagonist of the show. On more than one occasion, Monahan has been quick to note that Quincy shouldn’t play detective. “You don’t see me running around playing doctor, do you?” can be heard saying in the background. No, Lt. Frank Monahan is an important investigator for the City of Los Angeles and in the early days of the series, would probably bite his bottom lip and cringe when he visits a new crime scene, only to discover Quincy already there!
And of course, there’s the fact that these two men are socially together “talking shop” after hours at Danny’s. Whatever the occasion – dining, card playing, or socializing, these two men are probably together way more than Yogi and Boo-boo. And while it’s no coincidence that actor Garry Walberg recognized by many Odd Couple fans, as Speed, was pulled into the show when creators showed Klugman the script, it’s clear that although he plays a serious role, they’re also friends in real
There are even times when you could look at the small screen with the sound turned down, and swear you were looking at a dialogue between Oscar and Felix. Even the tone, in the way the two characters interact with one another, suggests a messy vs. neat attitude! Time and again, Quincy proves he’s much more willing to get his hands dirty to solve a case where as Monahan simply wants homicides handled “nice and neat.” Remember, an old Odd Couple episode where Felix wants Oscar to set up a
“Vegas Night” for his opera club, only to have it turn into a total disaster? Felix hints to Oscar, “Well, I
thought maybe you could get a couple of your friends to set it (the gambling) up so we keep winning…”
Although the nature of a 70’s sitcom is quite different than a dialogue scene from Quincy, there are similar comical moments when Monahan investigates a case and has to call Quincy on a cold, wet stormy night. Reluctantly, Quincy agrees and when he arrives asks Monahan, “Did you take a look at the body yet?” only to have the police lieutenant respond, “What? You know I don’t like to look at things like that! Why do you think I had you come over?”
Often enough, Klugman and Walberg have been known to switch their interpretations of “Oscar and Felix” role-playing on the series, as in a scene where Quincy wants Monahan to follow up a potential lead only to have Monahan set him straight. Here, Monahan reminds the good doctor, “Quincy, we got enough real crimes in this city, without worrying about the possible ones?” to which Quincy responds, “Well, maybe you would have fewer real ones if you paid more attention to the possible ones!”
To me, Quincy will always be lovable old Oscar – whether seating in front of a game with a beer and popcorn or solving L.A.’s most baffling homicide cases. Cheers!
Chief online influencer of all things Quincy. Currently, I operate as a content creator & editor to The Quincy Examiner – Online Home to the godfather of all today’s forensic detective TV series. When time permits, I run the gauntlet with young and old family members as we surpass this post-COVID pandemic! I follow up with all communication but the social links below are probably the best way to find me quickly! Enjoy the site and come back again soon… that’s doctor’s orders! Be well!