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Created By: Robert Getchell
Stars: Linda Lavin, Philip McKeon Vic Tayback, Polly Holliday (1976-1980), Beth Howland, Diane Ladd (1980-1981), Celia Weston (1981-1985) Charles Levin (1984-1985), Marvin Kaplan (1978-1985)
Country of Origin: United States
Number of Season: 9
Number of Episodes: 202
Executive producers: Thomas Kuhn and David Susskind
Original Channel: CBS
Original Run: August 31, 1976 to July 2, 1985
Alice was a popular American television sitcom series which ran from August 31, 1976 to July 2, 1985 on CBS. The series was based on the 1974 film, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. The show stars Linda Lavin in the title role, the widow who moves with her young son to start her life over again, and finds a job working at a diner.
Alice Hyatt becomes a widow after her husband, Donald, dies in a truck accident. She is unemployed and has a young son, Tommy. She and her son moved to Los Angeles so Alice can try to get a singing career going. In the meantime she takes a waitress job at Mel's Diner. (The outside shots at the introduction of the show were of a real diner, named Mel's.) Alice works for Mel Sharples, the obnoxious and cheap owner/cook. Other characters include her friends and waitresses Florence Jean Castleberry ("Flo") and Vera Louise Gorman. Flo is mouthy and horny. Vera is nervous and confused.
Polly Holliday left the show to do a spin-off series named Flo in the middle of the 1979-1980 season. On Alice the story had Flo leaving for Houston to take a hostess job but then she deciding to run a failing bar in her hometown of Cowtown, Texas. Polly Holliday never did guest appearances on Alice after beginning Flo. There were flashbacks that included her. Diane Ladd won an Acedemy Award nomination for playing Flo in the film version of Alice. She joined the cast of Alice as Isabelle "Belle" Dupree. She played a strict but kind woman. Her character wasn't a big hit with the fans of Alice.
The rumor is that Ladd didn't get along with her co-stars. Her character wasn't in the flashbacks during the final episode. She had left the show in early 1981. The script had her leaving to become a backup singer in Nashville. Celia Weston joined the cast of Alice. She was a happy and noisy truck driver. She played the part of Jolene Hunnicutt.
Jolene arrives at Mel's after her male truck-driving partner makes passes at her. Mel agreed to hire her temporarily so he could recover damages caused by her. The Jolene character lasted until the end of the series, four years after her character arrived on Alice. Jolene often claimed to be related to to Jefferson |Davis "Boss" Hogg (Sorrell Booke's role on The Dukes of Hazzard).
Sometime after the start of Alice the show focused more on Vera and her policeman's dating and marriage. By the 1984-1985 season Lavin didn't get much enjoyment from the Alice character so she often directed episodes or played Vera's landlady, Mrs. Walden. When she did this Alice was absent from the show. In the summer of 1985 Alice is kidnapped by a well-meaning country singer. He wants to take her to Nashville to get her singing career going.
The series ended on July 2, 1985. In the last episode Mel sells the diner for a lot of money. Mel gave each waitress $5000.00 as a farewell bonus. Jolene opened a beauty parlor in her hometown; Vera got pregnant and planned on being a housewife; and Alice got a recording contract and moved to Nashville.
Martha Raye played Mel's mother. Mel had a girlfriend Marie. One of the semi-regular characters included Alice's mother Mona Spivak (played by Doris Roberts). She caused trouble for Alice like Doris Robert's character Marie on Everbody Loves Raymond. George Burns, Desi Arnez, Jerry Reed, Dinah Shore, Art Carney, Eve Arden, Telly Savalas, and a young Jay Leno appeared on the show. Jay Leno played a motorcycle rider.
That's a lot of famous people all on one show. I bet it wouldn't happen today. A lot of shows today have one or two special appearances but the main characters have to make the show a success on their own otherwise.
Scenes from Mel's Diner were only used in the opening credits of the pilot. For the rest of the series the same show of Vera with the straws flying out of her hands is used.
One of the Diner's regular customers was Henry (Marvin Kaplan), a telephone repairman. He always talked about his wife, Chloe (played by Ruth Buzzi in one episode).
A running gag was that Mel's diner often got damaged or destroyed, for example Flo crashing a truck through it, and the girls landing a hot air balloon in the diner. A funny line used when the girls crash there balloon into the diner is "We went to the bad place and it looks just like Mel's!"
Mel hated when the waitresses were late for work and had a time clock installed. The girls outsmarted Mel and his machine by using time sheets that gave them lots of overtime. When Mel figured out what was going on he threw the time clock out and wasn't so picky about lateness. Mel hated the girls having other jobs and would often fire one or all of the girls. He would always end up hiring them back by the end of each episode.
Mel was popular for his chilli. In one episode a critic (played by Victor Buono) tried his chilli and dropped dead. Mel and the waitresses thought the chilli killed him but he actually was killed by the Peking Duck he had prior to coming to the Diner.
In a later episode Art Carney tried to get Mel's chilli recipe but didn't get it. The chilli got Mel onto Dinah Shore's show. Mel could only take one of the girls with him for the appearance but in the end Mel decided to all the girls, Alice, Flo,and Vera.
The "Kiss my grits" phrase used by Flo was popular from the time the Flo appeared on the show. It was supposed to be "Kiss my honeydew" but that didn't get laughs. It might work today but we may never know. Another funny phrase used by Flo was "When donkeys fly". One of Mel's famous lines is "You stow it" which he would use to silence the waitresses when they caused trouble.
CastThe door to Mel's Diner. The waitress void was filled by the introduction of Alice Hyatt in the first episode.
Linda Lavin - Alice Hyatt Philip McKeon
Tommy Hyatt (Alfred Lutter briefly reprised his role from the movie but was replaced after the pilot episode)
Vic Tayback - Mel Sharples (Tayback reprised his role from the movie)
Beth Howland - Vera Louise Gorman
Polly Holliday - Florence Jean "Flo" Castleberry (1976-1980)
Diane Ladd - Isabelle "Belle" Dupree (1980-1981) (Ladd played the role of Flo in the movie)
Celia Weston - Jolene Hunnicutt (1981-1985)
Martha Raye - Carrie Sharples (Mel's mother) (1978-1985)
Charles Levin - Elliot Novak (1983-1985)
Marvin Kaplan - Henry Beesmeyer (1977-1985)
Victoria Carroll - Marie Massey (1978-1984)
The show was often compared with Three's Company in that it also went through three different blonde cast members during its run.
"There's a New Girl in Town", music by David Shire, lyrics by Alan & Marilyn Bergman; performed by Linda Lavin. Several different arrangements of this tune were used throughout the series' run.
Click here to check out this Alice tribute video
Principal character Alice Hyatt, played by Linda Lavin.
Click here to check out this Alice tribute video
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