By its second season, Alice became a real hit, finishing the year at #8 in the Nielsen ratings. Mel Sharples (Vic Tayback), the proprietor of Mel’s Diner, a greasy spoon eatery in Phoenix and his waitresses, Alice (Linda Lavin), Flo (Polly Holliday) and Vera (Beth Howland) have become a griping but ultimately loving family. Alice, a widow with a twelve-year-old son named Tommy (Philip McKeon) is the level-headed one; Flo is man-hungry and sassy, but really has a soft heart and Vera is scatterbrained but sweet.
Alice lasted nine seasons and avoided becoming a fossil of its era in part because of the writing. Very few of the episodes are products of their time; the issues addressed are still topical. Above all, the cast is completely enjoyable. Tayback is perfect as the gruff owner/chef who really is the heart and soul of the series. Regularly exasperated, yet funny, Mel is tenacious in his efforts to keep the diner financially successful while dealing with the antics of his wait staff. Not to be outdone, Polly Holliday’s Flo became a cultural icon as her Southern fried sassiness and take no prisoners attitude—she told Mel, Kiss my grits!” countless times—endeared her to millions. Ditzy Vera tends to be on the sidelines of most stories, but her sheer cluelessness always gives her a few memorable lines. Linda Lavin’s title character of Alice often acts as the straight man.
Warner Archive recently released the complete second season of Alice on DVD (they made season one available in June, 2012). All 24 episodes are collected on three discs. Though there are no special features, the season’s 23rd and 24th episodes were actually held until the fourth season but are included here for the sake of historical accuracy. As such, these include an alternate opening credits sequence and re-recording of the Linda Lavin-sung theme song.
Below is a list of the included episodes:
1.) “The Second Time Around” Flo gets a visit at the diner from a man who just happens to be her third husband.
2.) “The Indian Taker” An Indian refuses to leave the diner, claiming that Mel’s is built on sacred ground. Special guest star: Victor Jory.
3.) “86 the Waitress” When Mel hires a new waiter, it doesn’t sit well with the ladies when they learn that he is earning significantly more than them.
4.) “Alice by Moonlight” Alice takes a job moonlighting as a singer in a dive bar. Morey Amsterdam guest stars.
5.) “Single Belles” The girls go for a night out at a singles bar, with some surprising results.
6.) “Sixty Minutes Man” A customer at the diner may or may not be famous for his criminal activities.
7.) “That Old Back Magic” Mel becomes Alice’s temporary houseguest after he throws his back out during a visit.
8.) “Love is Sweeping the Counter” A very unexpected romance seems to be blooming at Mel’s Diner.
9.) “A Semi-Merry Christmas” A Christmas Eve trip to see Alice’s family in Denver doesn’t quite go as the gang planned.
10.) “Oh, George Burns!” When the legendary comedian drops by Mel’s, Vera is convinced George Burns is actually God, the character he played in a movie. George Burns guest stars.
11.) “The Eyes of Texas” Good heavens, Flo needs glasses!
12.) “Love is a Free Throw” A high school friend of Tommy’s is in love with Alice.
13.) “Close Encounters of the Worst Kind” Alice’s psychology class puts everyone at odds with each other.
14.) “The Pharmacist” The diner becomes the scene of a protest over food additives.
15.) “Love Me, Love My Horse” Flo’s brother visits and ends up wanting Alice to marry him.
16.) Florence of Arabia” An Arab sheik wants to take Flo as his fourth wife.
17.) “The Cuban Connection” A famous fashion photographer, whose wife happens to be friends with Alice, finds his marriage in trouble due to his constant philandering. Desi Arnaz guest stars.
18.) “Mel’s Big Five-O” Mel has difficulty facing his fiftieth birthday.
19.) “Don’t Lock Now” The gang finds themselves locked in the storeroom. Nedra Volz guest stars.
20.) “Star in the Storeroom” After learning that Flo once babysat country star Jerry Reed, everyone pesters her for tickets to his concert. Jerry Reed guest stars.
21.) “Mel’s Recession” Mel might have to fire one of the waitresses as a cost cutting move.
22.) “The Earthquake” Everyone is on edge, after an Indian predicts that an earthquake will hit the area.
The next two episodes were filmed during the second season, but ultimately didn’t air until the fourth season.
23.) “The Reporter” Fearing for his life, an investigative reporter ducks into Mel’s Diner.
24.) “The Bus” The gang must deal with a busload of passengers who are stranded, when the bus and driver disappear.
Presented in 1.33:1, this transfer isn’t terrible, but fairly typical of shows shot on video. Colors aren’t exactly vibrant, but they don’t look washed out. I noticed a few scratches here and there, but generally fans should be pretty pleased with these episodes considering their age.
Presented in Dolby Digital, the audio is fine, with the laugh track kept well below the dialogue. No subtitles or closed captioning are available.