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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Rural > Spinoff > Alice: The Complete Fourth Season (1979 - 1980)/Flo: The Complete Series (1980 - 1981/Warner Archive DVD Sets)

Alice: The Complete Fourth Season (1979 - 1980)/Flo: The Complete Series (1980 - 1981/Warner Archive DVD Sets)

Picture: C+ Sound: C+ Extras: D Episodes: B/C+

PLEASE NOTE: Both sets are only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the links below.

The Linda Lavin show Alice was such a megahit that like All In The Family, Happy Days and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Warner TV and the show's producers rightly considered that a spinoff would make sense, especially since Polly Holliday was such a massive success as Florence Jean Castleberry. The show was still in its prime peak form and was (and still is) a show people love, even if they do not see it on TV as much as they used to. So during the 1979 - 1980 Fourth Season of the show, a clever idea was launched to spin off the red-headed sexpot and in a smart move, Flo would leave 2/3rds of the way through the show.

For starters, Alice: The Complete Fourth Season was as hilarious as the previous seasons and still managed to be political and smart while being hilarious, but its success meant more stars would suddenly start turning up at Mel's Diner include great turns by Art Carney and Telly Savalas with George Savalas. Martha Raye returns as Mel's mother Carrie twice, getting married this time out. Dinah Shore shows up as herself and has the diner gang on her show, much to her near regret and we get the usual high quality set of character actors making the show al the funnier.

But as this was all going well, Flo would leave and be replaced by an old friend of Mel's, Belle Dupree, literally reuniting Vic Tayback (who played Mel in Scorsese's original Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore theatrical film) and the original Flo from that film, Diane Ladd. It was big news that Ladd would take over for Holiday's Flo, even though she was not playing the original character. A witty blonde with her own style and ideas, Ladd instantly created a strong successor to Flo (or both Flos for that matter) and the show stayed on course with 8 shows that would give Ladd an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a comedy. The best of these was an episode where Belle teaches mousy, troubled Vera to be sexy, which is pure comic brilliance.

With the original show secure and continuing to score insanely high ratings, the same was hoped for in its spinoff. But Flo: The Complete Series (1980 - 1981) would be a little different. Like Alice, Flo breaks down on her way to her new job, parks at a bar she used to go to all the time, though she does not recognize it and after a talk with the bartender (series regular Geoffrey Lewis at his more humorous) is unhappy it might become a Chinese Restaurant, so she decides to buy the place!

Created by Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon, who later masterminded the Vicki Lawrence spinoff Mama's Family (which ironically ran exactly as long as Flo in its network run, until it was picked up for four more seasons in the new syndication market for first run shows in the 1980s; see more on Mama elsewhere on this site) filled out Flo's background and assembled a fine cast including the great Joyce Bulifant, Lucy Lee Flippen, Leo Burmester, Sudie Bond as Flo's mother and Stephen Keep Mills. To its advantage, it did not try to imitate Alice or any other show on TV, but between getting too serious for its own good, having teleplays that isolated the characters too much in their own world and not enough conflict or challenging situations for Flo, the show started to drag narratively and in the ratings.

Still, it has its moments, a theme song by no less than Hoyt Axton (Joy To The World, Never Been To Spain, The Pusher) who makes a guest appearance as himself towards the end of the series, as well as guest turns by James Cromwell, Robert Englund, Bob Hastings, Alan Oppenheimer, Woodrow Parfrey, K Callan, Barbara Babcock, Joanna Cassidy, Linden Chiles, Leonard Stone, an early guest appearance by Tayback as Mel and Forrest Tucker back as her estranged father. Holiday did not change the character any and tried to expand her appeal and depth, but again, this was meant to be a funny comedy like its predecessor and CBS cancelled it after on 29 episodes (here on 4 DVDs).

Too bad, because this has potential, but just held back too much too often, but now, it is a curio with somewhat of a cult following and like its predecessor show, is long overdue for a DVD release which it finally gets here.

Unfortunately, despite all this great and even historic TV, there are no extras on either set for some off reason though the status of both shows call for it. It is still great the shows are finally available officially, but they were far more popular, influential and enjoyed than many might realize now, so both sets are still reason to celebrate if you love great TV.

The 1.33 X 1 image playback on both sets are very good with few flaws, halos, aliasing errors or staircasing, but these are older NTSC analog tapings so expect limits. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound on both shows also can show its age in distortion and some flaws here and there, but I have not heard these shows sounding better before and the improved clarity makes enjoying the comedy easier.

As noted above, you can order both sets, all previous Alice seasons (reviewed elsewhere on this site, plus the rest to come) and more; go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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