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Lara Jill Miller
A greasy-spoon diner in Phoenix, Arizona is the setting for this long-running series. The title character, Alice Hyatt, is an aspiring singer who arrives in Phoenix with her teenaged son, Tommy, after the death of her truck-driver husband. Alice is hired at a diner owned by Mel Sharples, a gravel-voiced, male-chauvinist fry cook. She works at Mel's Diner as a waitress while awaiting her big break at fame. Alice's fellow waitresses are the raucous, red-headed Flo and the naive, temperamental, less attractive Vera. Flo is later replaced by Belle, a Southern blonde, who is herself soon replaced by the spunky, curly-haired Jolene. Alice and her friends experience several interesting years together at Mel's Diner, which is frequented by quirky truck drivers, repairmen, and other blue collar types and by several Hollywood celebrities, who appear as themselves. Written by
Kevin McCorry <firstname.lastname@example.org>
What happened to "Alice"? You can't find it on DVD, can't find it on cable, and can't even locate it late at night in local syndicated reruns. It's hard to guess why the powers-that-be at TV Land or Nick at Nite haven't realized that this show would be popular as part of their lineup.
Anyway, this show set itself apart from many of its era by its semi-unpredictability. Every plot didn't have a happy ending, and there wasn't necessarily a "good" lesson taught to the viewer by the end. For example, in one episode when Flo enrolls in night school to finally earn her high school diploma, she has trouble concentrating on her homework, and is "forced" by Alice to stay home and study. Rather than provide the viewer with the happy and P.C. ending where Flo realizes the value of an education, the episode concludes with her sneaking out the window to go on a date. Presumably, Flo never gets that diploma.
The show did a good job presenting a blue-collar "diner" setting. None of the waitresses were beautiful, and outside of the endless parade of famous guest stars, the clientele shown in Mel's fit well with that of a '70s greasy spoon in a city like Phoenix. Supporting characters such as Henry and Earl -- everymen in all senses of the term -- fit in well with this motif.
Each character brought something to the show. Alice was the sensible single mom with big hopes and dreams. Vera was the childlike ditz. Flo was the outspoken, aging, oversexed country woman. Mel was gruff and selfish, but was kind-hearted beneath the surface. "Kiss my grits" became a household phrase.
Unfortunately, with Flo's departure, the show took a steady turn downhill. Diane Ladd's Belle and Celia Weston's Jolene were nowhere near as colorful as Flo, and as a result, the plots started to slip, as well. A lot of the later episodes were stupid and downright embarrassing. Many of the early elements that made this show great were simply missing in the later years.
Overall, this was a very entertaining show, and it's a shame that it can no longer be found. Hopefully this will change in future years.
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