Odder Couples

Wedded bliss? Wedded blitz is the rat-a-tat-tat of spousal firefare going on between martyred marrieds Eddie (Brad Garrett) and Joy — hah! — Stark (Joely Fisher) in a battlefield that makes "War of the Roses" look like its mined with sparklers.

Caught in the crossfire of their verbal bullets, next-door neighbors Steph (Kat Foster) and Jeff Woodcock (Eddie Kaye Thomas) think of their march down the aisle as a minuet when compared to the Starks' joyless Frug. After all, they are happy and in heat, communicating in the passionate body language that honeymooners call their own romantic tongue.

But can they play the Newlywed game and come out winners? Don Pardo, what are their parting prizes? Steph and Jeff, here they are, chosen specially for you: Life lessons from living next to a twosome who take their vows of " 'Til death do us part" as the ultimate parting shot and chance at happiness.

The odd couples of the cul-de-sac? Airing Thursday nights on Fox, the debuting " 'Til Death" tills the ground of heaven and hell, trod by the young couple and the Jung couple, the despairing deposit of a collective consciousness of marital spats and quarrels.

Desperate housewife and daring housewife … one abetted to bitch about her sexless life, the other abedded in joyous rapture.

Will these four ever come together and meet half-way in happiness — or hell?

There's much to smile about in a show that goes for laughs and lust, in which old wives tales are told by their even older husbands. And for co-star Thomas, that's a welcome face-off with another character he has played to perfection — even if that character's punim was more pained than pleasant.

"I'm smiling a lot on this show; Paul Finch didn't smile much," says Thomas, whose "American Pie" character stifled smiles when not nailing Stifler's mom.

But don't even think Woodcock's career is one smiley face: "People who smile that much," quips Thomas, "usually are hiding something."

Smile and the world smiles with you; laugh — and the laughtrack's sweeter? Is Jeff Woodcock really Paul Finch all grown up?

"I really don't know," says the actor who himself has shown much growth — besides being 6 foot 2 inches — ever since appearing as a 10-year-old in the Brooklyn Shakespeare Company's production of "Richard III."

This is a first for Thomas — playing a grown man with a responsible job. He's the virginal vice principal to the more vice-ridden Eddie, who teaches at the same school.

"It's kind of cool," says Thomas, 25, of being allowed to act his age — or at least near it.

Scram, Peter Pan? "It's nice to play an adult role, going beyond college age."

As for his own high school daze … His real-life school vice principal "didn't leave much of an impression on me," he says, the Jewish jester in him surfacing. "But then again, it's an intensely hated job."

What's to like in portraying an educator? The whole role of mentoring — helping young students — is one Thomas considers important, whether the education be on campus or passing a screen test. The mentor he mentions as mensch of the year: Actor Elliot Gould, "a wonderful, beautiful human being."

Mash notes from a fan: He also enjoys playing the ultimate "American Dad," even if the cartoon character is two-dimensional.

As for "Death," well with a name like Woodcock, you know he has to be good: "We got those jokes out of our system early."

But what he hasn't gotten is the wedding band that adorns — or damns — the characters' ring fingers.

Is he closer to the couple high-fiving the institution, or the other giving it the finger. "Being married at work," says the single, who is not a husband but plays one on TV, "is enough for me." 



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