Oct 27, 2017

Alice and Tommy

Most 1970s comedies involved people who lived in big cities like Minneapolis (Mary Tyler Moore), Indianapolis (One Day at a Time), Chicago (Bob Newhart), and New York (The Jeffersons). .  But not Alice  (1976-85). Linda Lavin played Alice Hyatt, an aspiring singer en route from New Jersey to L.A. to jump-start her career, when her car stalled outside Mel's Diner in "small town" Phoenix (it actually had a sizeable population).

She took a "temporary" waitress job that lasted nine years, and meanwhile bonded with her boss, gruff, beefy Mel (Vic Tayback) and fellow waitresses: gutzy Flo (Polly Holliday), whose risque catchphrase "Kiss mah grits!" became a phenomenon; and mousy Vera (Beth Howland).  Alice also had a cute, wisecracking son, Tommy (Philip McKeon, left). 

Three ladies, a kid, and a bear?  I wasn't impressed.  Besides, Alice ran on Sunday nights, after the oldster-favorites 60 Minutes and All in the Family, opposite Battlestar Galactica or Chips.  I didn't start watching regularly until about 1980, when it was squeezed between One Day at a Time and The Jeffersons. 

It was a pleasant surprise.  The banter between the four regulars was sharp and witty, the plotlines were not terribly heterosexist, and there was ample beefcake: cowboys and muscular truck driver patrons of the diner, the various men dating the regulars, and Tommy's school friends.  Hunky Denny Miller (right) even played a gay character, the school coach: after he comes out, Alice hesitates about allowing Tommy to go on an overnight camping trip with him, but finally relents. Score one for tolerance!

Speaking of Tommy, during the last half of the series, he was 15-19 years old, the prime time for teen idols.  But he didn't get much play in the teen magazines, just a couple of shirtless and swimsuit shots.

This was the era of Scott Baio, Willie Aames, and Billy Warlock, so maybe he lacked the muscles to make a big splash.

There's a Philip McKeon hookup story on Tales of West Hollywood.

Several of the cast members were gay or gay friendly.  Vic Tayback and Polly Holliday were both rumored to be bisexual, and Phil McKeon, who has never married, is rumored to be gay (gay or not, he's even more handsome than when he was playing Tommy).

 His tv mom,  Linda Lavin, has performed with the Orlando, Florida Gay Chorus, and in 2012, she played the mother of a gay son in The Lyons on Broadway.


  1. I had a major crush on Tommy when I was a kid. Too bad he didn't do much afterwards, except some bad horror movies.

  2. Post more pinups of Tommy

  3. I remember those cut-off jean shorts "Tommy" wore on Alice - DAYUM! Really showed off PMcK's legs nicely, with no slight to his nice but and bulge.

  4. So that's where they got the idea for Hot in Cleveland.

    You forgot Mork & Mindy in Denver. Actually, it's funny, I thought modern TV erased much of the country: So many shows are in New York, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, or Washington, a few in Vegas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas, or Miami, an occasional shout out (or the opposite) to Chicago, Detroit, or Cleveland. Yeah, as far as TV is concerned, the Second City barely cracks the top 10. Even though Finis Valorum was a community organizer there. (Hey, there's finally a use for The Phantom Menace! Not sure if that's a good thing.)

    70s shorts! I'll never understand why the generation aware that shorts are comfy and easy to wear (It's a meme.) seems to prefer long pants even in 107°F weather.

    1. There was a fad in the 1970s for setting tv shows in "real" places, like Indianapolis, Minneapolis, and Boulder, though they rarely mentioned local landmarks.

  5. Oh, funny you should mention Robby Benson, he has a deleted sausage sighting in Running Brave. Probably deleted because so few Indian men are cut, so it wouldn't be accurate. Nothing really to write home about, though.

    1. It's on "Tales of West Hollywood," but you can't see much.


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