Warner Archive releasing the penultimate 1983-84 eighth season of the workplace sitcom "Alice" provides a nice Halloween treat; this DVD set almost guarantees that Archive will release the final season in time to give your favorite sofa spud the complete series on DVD for Christmas. The final holiday note is that Archive deserves thanks for keeping the packing style consistent for every release.
One spoiler regarding S9 is that it follows the modern sitcom trend of a grand finale. Every lead character has a big life change that makes him or her much happier than he or she was when the series began.
A review of the Archive S7 release provides a chance to read about prior adventures of the titular waitress/aspiring singer (Linda Lavin) and her wacky co-workers at Mel's Diner in Phoenix. It is hoped that the posts on the earlier seasons will be copied from Unreal TV 1.0 to this site by the end of 2018.
Archive beginning the S8 set with two S7 episodes that were intended to air in S8 demonstrates the typical Archive integrity. The third episode "Mel is Hogg-Tied" is the actual S8 season premiere; it also is an early cross-over episode. Additional fun comes in the form of this outing being a twofer regarding "Alice" themes.
The cross-over comes in the form of sleazy redneck good ole boy Boss Hogg of the fellow CBS series "The Dukes of Hazzard" visiting the diner. The first half of the twofer is that he is there for reasons that include visiting Southern-fried waitress Jolene Hunnicutt (Celia Weston of "Modern Family). Hogg is one of the long string of relatives who create comic mayhem on coming to visit a relative who works at Mel's. Aptly the mother of all such guests is Carrie Sharples (Martha Raye), who is the mom of diner owner Mel. Carrie makes 12 such visits throughout the run of the series.
The second half of the twofer is in the form of the Mel foolishly losing ownership of the diner; the rest of the story every time is that the gang must join forces to comically put right what once went wrong. The solution this time fully cements that formula.
The two S8 Carrie episodes have surprisingly dark notes. The first one has her apply for a job as a nightclub singer only to blatantly be told that she is too old for the job; one warning is that this one includes a scene with Raye and Lavin in "Flashdance" style aerobics outfits that you never will be able to unsee.
The second Carrie episode begins with that frequent flyer having a near-death experience that profoundly affects her. Her subsequent devotion to telling the truth leads to a revelation that greatly upsets her son. One spoiler is that there are fewer laughs than usual in this one,
We further get Lavin enjoying her occasional indulgence in playing another character. This time it is Debbie Walden, who is the Jewish mother landlady of Vera. The "sit" that leads to "com" is Mel stringing along this lonely lady in order to taste her goodies.
Although we are deprived of an S8 episode in which a celebrity who plays himself or herself paying a heavy price for coming into the diner, we do get Florence Henderson as singer Sarah James. James comes into the diner seeking directions and finding a fiance. One spoiler is that this does not involve Carol Brady getting busy with Reuben Kincaid.
The icing on the wedding cake is that S8 includes the biggest occasion in "Alice" lore since the S4 departure of fan fave. Flo. (A review of the Archive release of the spinoff "Flo" also is near the top of the list of posts to copy over from Unreal TV 1.0.) S8 E7 is a lucky one for ditzy waitress Vera (Beth Howlnd). She meets and soon marries cop/soulmate Elliot Novak. The "com" includes a wacky misunderstanding leading to Elliot being the second husband of Vera.
The two "issues" episodes provide another reason to watch; Mel learns a hard lesson about the importance of making his business handicapped accessible. The other outing is a twofer regarding cruelty to circus animals and the importance of not discriminating against people based on am unusual physical characteristic.
The appeal of all this is that "Alice" reminds us of a kinder and gentler sitcom era in which most characters were likable and the good heart of the "villain" earned that person a great deal of leeway. Further, the writers provided adequately amusing comedy to not have to rely on shock value. Not only can you watch "Alice" with your grandparents, all of you can equally enjoy it,