While Klugman is best known for the portrayals of Oscar Madison on ABC’s The Odd Couple and Dr. Quincy on NBC’s Quincy, Klugman has been present on the small screen since the early days of television, with roles in series such as Kraft Theatre, The Twilight Zone and Naked City (the latter two he guest starred in multiple times), in addition to The Untouchables, I Dream Of Jeannie, and Love American Style.
But his big break came when he starred opposite Tony Randall in The Odd Couple, an adaption of Neil Simon’s Broadway play and the 1968 theatrical – a classic case of two polar opposites living together thanks to unforeseen circumstances (Odd Couple is truly one of the best conflict-sitcoms of all time.) Truly underrated during its 1970-75 run, Odd Couple became a solid performer in off-network syndication for decades afterward.
After Odd Couple’s conclusion, Klugman returned to his dramatic acting roots in Quincy. Originally launched in 1976 as a part of the rotating wheel of NBC’s Sunday Mystery Movie, Quincy became a weekly series in early 1977. Quincy’s role as a forensic examiner broke new ground and was the forerunner for more recent crime dramas such as DaVinci’s Inquest, CSI, and Bones. Quincy ran until 1983, and became an early-fringe syndication staple (notably on CBS O&Os, including WBBM-TV in Chicago and KCBS in Los Angeles.)
During Quincy’s run, Klugman testified in Congress regarding the availability of orphan drugs, used to treat diseases such as Tourette’s Syndrome. An Orphan Drug Act was passed in January 1983, credited to two episodes of the series: Seldom Silent, Never Heard (aired 3/14/81) and Give Me Your Weak (aired 10/27/82).
In 1991, Klugman reunited with Randall for a series of snack-food commercials for Anheuser-Busch:
The duo also pitched Yoplait yogurt and Challenge Yahtzee. Both revived their roles in the 1993 TV movie Odd Couple: Together Again for CBS. Jack Klugman’s real-life battle with throat cancer was included in the storyline as his character suffered the same aliment.
Post-Quincy, Klugman appeared opposite John Stamos in the NBC sitcom You Again, which ran for 26 episodes between February 1986 to March 1987. Klugman went on to guest roles on Diagnosis Murder, Third Watch, and Crossing Jordan.
In 2008, Klugman sued NBCUniversal for refusing to share a quarter of the syndication profits owed him from Quincy. Universal Television produced Quincy andwas sold in syndication through MCA TV. NBC and Universal studios merged in 2004 and a 51 percent majority share was acquired by Comcast in 2010. As far as it is known, the case is still pending.