Ah, Logo TV. The network feeds my sitcom addiction. A couple of months ago the network started airing reruns of “Alice,” the 1976-1985 sitcom about a single mom from Jersey whose goal is to head to Los Angeles but she gets stuck in Phoenix when her car breaks down. To earn money, she takes a job as a waitress at Mel’s Diner.
The show is campy (Flo’s outfits), not super-funny (some of the “zingers” just sit there) and antiquated in terms of race and gender (the other day I noticed Flo’s jacket had little confederate flags sewn on the sleeves).
There are cringe-worthy moments — the way Mel is always yelling at the waitresses to get back to work because they are “gabbing” too much or lazy, or his insulting nicknames for his waitresses (“Dingy” and “Blondie”). The waitresses wear dresses, but at least they end at the knee and don’t reveal cleavage (except Flo, who doctors her uniform just a bit).
The women aren’t forced to be sex symbols. Flo is a sexpot, but I get the sense it’s her choice (much like Blanche in “The Golden Girls”). Even when the Flo character left and was replaced by Jolene, Jolene didn’t adopt the sexy persona.
Alice is a smart cookie. She’s the lead role and she’s unfazed and tough, much like Ann Romano in “One Day at a Time.” A single mom running a household and not taking any crap.
And as tough and grouchy as Mel is, you understand he’s not really running the diner. Those women are in charge. Nearly once an episode Flo is telling him “Kiss my grits!” Without them, he’s nothing — he’d never be able to keep the diner afloat. And he’s not exploiting them or cheating them — he’s not a rich guy, just a blue-collar worker like them. After all, he lives in a tiny studio apartment, where his bed juts into his living room.
Where have all the sitcom no-nonsense women gone? Any wonder why I spend so much time with Logo, Oxygen, TVLand, and Hallmark instead of network TV? “Alice,” “The Golden Girls,” “One Day at a Time,” “Roseanne,” “Kate and Allie,” “Designing Women,” “Murphy Brown” — those were pretty great shows to grow up with.
Enjoy the “Alice” theme song!