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ALICE SERIES PILOT WITH MOVIE-TOMMY ALFRED LUTTER

year: 1976 starring: Linda Lavin, Alfred Lutter rating: ***1/2
The iconic sitcom ALICE, about a trio of waitresses working in a greasy spoon Arizona diner owned by a grumpy endearing slob, was based on an Oscar winning Martin Scorsese film starring Alice Burstyn titled ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE.

Although the movie can get pretty serious, by the mid-way point, when Alice and her son Tommy, after surviving a really scary guy (Harvey Keitel) and bouts of highway boredom, find a home in Tucson, Arizona on the way to Monterey, California where Alice dreams of becoming a singer…  By the time Alice finds her waitressing gig she puts her dreams on hold. Here we begin the sitcom’s pilot (written by the novel's author Robert Getchell), where Alice, played by Linda Lavin, waits tables in Phoenix, Arizona and meets a young smitten customer who pretends to be an agent.

Differs than the rest of the season: showing only Alice and Tommy
Polly Holliday’s now iconic Flo, a gum-chewing waitress with a wink for every trucker and a retort for any occasion, smiles when, for the first time, she utters the famous line, “Kiss my grits”... 

As if she were testing it out on the studio audience. Vic Tayback’s Mel (the only actor from the motion picture) and Beth Howland’s kooky Vera take the backseat – it’s all about Alice thinking she, like Burstyn in the movie, has a shot at fame. The biggest difference of the pilot is the character Tommy... Played by Alfred Lutter from the film, by the second episode he's replaced by the more TV-fitting blonde kid Philip McKeon. Perhaps Lutter was a bit too glib for TV audiences… but fans of the movie know he was arguably the best character.

Alfred Lutter's opening credit that's only seen in the pilot
So while the pilot is far from the best episode of the series or season, it sets the stage decently enough – providing Alice a job she’d keep for a decade.

BONUS TRIVIA: After Alice and Tommy realize they're not going to Hollywood, Tommy says under his breath, "Now I'm never going to meet Tatum O'Neal..." Which is ironic because that same year he co-starred with Tatum in THE BAD NEWS BEARS.
BUY THE ORIGINAL MARTIN SCORSESE FILM
BUY SEASON ONE OF ALICE
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