A successful film was transported to the small screen a few years later to bring the blue-collar world of Mel’s Diner to viewers with the show Alice.
Based on the film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, the tv series debuted two years after the movie on CBS in August 1976, starring Linda Lavin as the title character of a waitress working at Mel’s Diner in Phoenix.
Vic Tayback reprised his role as the diner’s owner, with Polly Holiday playing the smart-ass Florence Jean, Beth Howland as the neurotic Vera and Philip McKeon as Alice’s son Tommy. The tv show’s theme song “There’s a New Girl in Town” was performed by Lavin, who was an established Broadway performer.
Each episode was mainly set in the diner, with occasional scenes at Alice & Tommy’s small apartment, while a few regulars added to the mix, including Earl, Tommy’s basketball coach, Henry, a telephone repairman and several guests stars including George Burns, Robert Goulet and Desi Arnaz.
Each episode focused on the personalities of the characters, drawing viewers in with the antics, fights, commentary and occasional social commentary. Flo’s catchphrases “Kiss my grits!” and “When donkeys fly” became infamous phrases in pop culture. Despite many pot shots at Mel’s cooking, his famous chili were the focus of several episodes, including one where he was invited to The Dinah Shore Show.
Although the original film was focused on the survival of a single Mom, this show also added to the on-screen depiction of blue collar people, just trying to make an honest dollar.
I used to watch this show regularly, not because I was such a huge fan, but it seemed like real people to me as a young kid.
Like so many series, this tv series lasted longer than perhaps it should, with nine seasons. But the lasting impact of a group of waitresses and a cook was one that showed how real people really lived.