straddling The Seventies
and The Eighties
, set in a diner and starring Linda Lavin as Alice. Inspired By
the film Alice Doesnt Live Here Anymore.
The series lasted from August, 1976 to July, 1985. A total of 202 episodes in nine seasons.
Alice's waitressing job at Mel's Diner was meant to be temporary while she got her singing career moving, but it stretched out to nine seasons. During that time, we met penny-pinching hothead Mel, the diner's owner; Cloudcuckoolander
waitress Vera; Alice's son, Tommy, and wise-cracking, slightly over-the-hill, good-time-girl waitress Flo. In the midst of all the schemes and hilarity that ensued at the diner, it was always Alice who remained level-headed and somehow always came up with a solution.
The series became quite popular, particularly because of Flo, who left for her own spinoff
a few years in. In her place came a Suspiciously Similar Substitute
, Belle, who was basically a blond version of the character. Although they (re)cast the actress who played Flo in the original movie, Belle didn't last long, and was replaced by JoLene. JoLene had a similar outspoken temperament to her predecessors, but was younger and less obviously promiscuous.Alice
is remembered for making the Catch Phrase
"Kiss my grits!" (as uttered by Flo) enormously popular for a short while. The show also gave Linda Lavin many occasions to show off her singing skills, and occasionally let her masquerade as other characters to give her a break from playing the ultra-normal, non-threatening Alice.
No relation to the SyFy
2009 movie Alice
Tropes served up at Mel's Diner:
- The Cast Show Off: Linda Lavin was cast specifically because of her singing talent.
- The Cameo / As Himself: One memorable episode featured George Burns visiting the restaurant. Vera thought he was God (having starred in the Oh, God! movies.)
- Art Carney appeared in another episode in which Mel had a scheme to can and market his infamous chili under the name "Chili Con Carney".
- And another instance with Robert Goulet, whom Alice was impersonating as part of a Zany Scheme.
- Actor/dancer Donald O'Connor appears to cheer on Vera as she attempted to break the world record for marathon tap dancing.
- Catch Phrase: The infamous "Kiss my grits!" The writers attempted to give the other characters catch phrases, none of which caught on to anywhere near the same extent. Mel's "Stifle it!" was the only other one with any staying power.
- Cloudcuckoolander: The "third waitress", Vera, generally caught all the "dumb" lines, but was also weird enough to qualify as this trope.
- Crossover: Boss Hogg and Enos Strate, of The Dukes of Hazzard, turn up in one episode. Boss Hogg is said to be JoLene's cousin.
- Dawson Casting: Inverted. Philip McKeon played his character's age, and memorably grew over a foot between seasons; Tommy went from being at eye level to Alice to towering over her.
- Do It Yourself Theme Tune: "There's a New Girl in Town", sung by Linda Lavin.
- Enormous Engagement Ring: Flo was once romanced by an oil sheik who gave her an engagement ring. The stone was so large the other waitresses thought it had to be fake. But then they did the "cut glass" test where Mel took the ring and scratched on the glass door to the diner. He tapped where he had just scratched with his knuckle in triumph. Then the circle he had just scratched fell out of the door.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Alice's showbiz career. One episode explored the trope by giving Alice several opportunities to join a traveling show, only for her to develop a severe case of hiccups every time she attempted it. Turned out it was a psychosomatic reaction, because she didn't want to leave her new life behind.
- George Jetson Job Security: Mel's toughness as a boss drove many of the plots, as did his waitresses – especially Vera and Flo – always seeming to be on the firing line for whatever offense was the main plot of the week. On several occasions, he did follow through with threats to fire them, but he always hired them back as he realized Vera and Flo (and later waitresses Belle and Jolene) were members of his extended family. Interestingly, Alice never seemed to be on the firing line, although she and Mel at times had heated moments.
- Greasy Spoon
- Lighter and Softer: This has more comedy and less drama than the movie.
- One Note Cook: Mel made a mean chili. Everything else was mocked mercilessly.
- Really Gets Around: Flo
- Recurring Character: Several regular customers, including Earl Hicks, telephone lineman Henry Beesmeyer, and police officer Eliot Novak; Mel's mother, Carrie, and his girlfriend, Marie; Alice's mother, Mona.
- Spin-Off: Flo. It didn't last long, and Flo never came back to Alice despite the character's popularity.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The two waitresses who replaced Flo: Belle, and then JoLene, Both of them were sassy Southerners, like Flo, but JoLene was clearly not supposed to be as sexually available as the other two.