You like old sitcoms like Alice and Step By Step? Want box sets of them? Tough shit, you’ll take these six-episode rip-offs and like it.
Alice: Linda Lavin, Vic Tayback, Beth Howland, Philip McKeon, Polly Holliday.
Step By Step: Patrick Duffy, Suzanne Somers, Staci Keanan, Sasha Mitchell, Brandon Call, Angela Watson.
"Yeah, I’m ‘The New Girl in Town’ and I’m feelin’ good. Wanna make something of it?"
Alice was the TV adaptation of the of the 1974 Scorsese movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Any More, with Linda Lavin in the titular Ellen Burstyn role as a widow who seeks to head to California to become a singer but gets sidetracked in Phoenix with her teenage son, Tommy. In this case, Alice gets sidetracked for nine seasons. Instead of singing tunes, Alice ends up slinging hash at the local Mel’s Diner, which is owned by the gruff yet loveable Mel (Tayback) and employs the ditzy Vera and sassy Southern Belle, Flo, as waitresses. Alice tries to balance her aspirations to make a better life for herself and Tommy, while trying to survive Mel yelling at her and Vera and Flo every five minutes and Flo saying “kiss mah grits” every six minutes.
"Okay Carol, so exactly how long is it until I can sleep with either of your daughters and not be arrested?"
Whereas Alice was quite a bit more of an original concept, Step By Step was the blue collar ‘90s rip-off of The Brady Bunch. Patrick Duffy is a construction worker with three kids who meets a beautician, Carol (Somers), also with three kids and they spontaneously get married. Add said kids (Keanan, Call and others) as the squabbling brood and Sasha Mitchell as the dimwitted, surfer dude neighbor, Cody, and you’ve got another cookie cutter family sitcom, which I just love…
"I’m sorry, Mr. Miller, but I don’t quite get it when you say, ‘Me Tarzan, you fresh meat…’"
Don’t be suckered into buying these. Can’t put it much more plainly than that. These are another couple of entries in Warner Bros.’ beyond lame Television Favorites DVD series. I’ve had the opportunity to rant about these before (Night Court, Drew Carey Show, Welcome Back Kotter). The TF series is a slickly-packaged cock tease of a franchise whereby WB take six random episodes of the sitcoms in their library and slap them on a disc rather than giving them the box set treatment deserve (or at least some of them deserve). Wouldn’t be surprised if this is just a public test run to gauge interest in a title. So don’t be a guinea pig.
"Hey, get a look at Pam’s face. Man she’s looking pretty pissed since I traded up…"
Regarding the two titles themselves, Alice is one of the longest running sitcoms of the last thirty years, clocking in for nine seasons from 1976 – 1985; while Step By Step stunk up TVs for seven seasons from 1991 – 1998. I definitely remember watching Alice and liking it, especially Flo. It’s not always easy to create an iconic TV character, but Flo definitely stands out in my memory most about that show. I also can respect the fairly original premise of the show (albeit from a movie), taking place in a diner. Whereas Step By Step is such a tired retread of so many tired retreads before it: a family sitcom with a quirky neighbor. Whoa.
"Yeah, this is Krako, get me Starfleet Command. I just want to know how the f$%k I ended up running some shithole diner after I gave up my piece of the action…"
The episodes offered on the Alice set include the Season 1 episode, Alice Gets a Pass, where she gets hooked up with a handsome pro football player (Denny Miller) only to find out he’s gay; and The Odd Couple, where Alice regretfully lets Flo stay with her when her trailer is stolen, only to discover she’s a total slob. Other episodes include Close Encounters of the Worst Kind (Season 2), where the waitresses and Mel air their dirty laundry at each other; Block Those Kicks (Season 3), in which everybody at the diner try to kick bad habits; Cabin Fever, and the emotional Flo’s Farewell.
"Mmm, Jack…uh, I mean Frank…"
Step By Step offers up the pilot episode in which Carol and Frank spontaneously get married during their separate Jamaican vacations and then have to find a way to break it to their unsuspecting kids. There’s also the Season 1 episode, Rules of the House when Carol tries to set up new rules for the entire family to follow, including setting a limit on TV watching time. Rounding out the list is J.T.’s World (Season 2), Christmas Story (Season 3), I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Season 4), and Your Cheatin’ Heart (Season 7).
"Well hell Flo, If I knew you meant those were your grits, I would’ve kissed ‘em all you wanted…"
In head to head comparison, I’d say Alice is definitely the more memorable of the two, and the better, as they did more with seemingly much less production value. Step By Step disappears in a sea of similar sitcoms so much so that there’s virtually nothing to make it stand out from say, Full House, Home Improvement, My Two Dads, Family Matters (except for the family in that sitcom being black of course) or a thousand other sitcoms just like it. But if you were a fan of either show, do yourself a favor and wait until the box sets come out.
"So even though we’re technically brother and sister, there’s nothing actually wrong with us getting it on?"
"Nothing except the fact that we’re both barely older than the milk in the fridge…"
The Television Favorites sets are at least packaged decently, with nice cast pictures for cover art, although in this case the Alice cover is better, with a nice photo from the heyday. The pictures for both look fine, although Step definitely looks better because it was shot on film whereas Alice is 30-year-old tape. Similarly, Step’s audio is slightly better because it’s Dolby Stereo and Alice is in Dolby Mono. There’s not a single feature for either, another non-selling point.
Step By Step: 3.0 out of 10