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An ‘Alice’ Reboot is on the Way from Diablo Cody

In a way, “Kiss my grits!” already sounds like the kind of catchphrase the ‘Juno’ scribe would’ve written.
By  · Published on October 17th, 2018

Diablo Cody’s uncompromising writing often exists to test our patience, but sometimes we’re all the better for it. The women of her stories are, more often than not, a challenge to grapple with. Many tend to be snarky and some are definitely lovable, but all of them are downright important.

From the beginning of Cody’s screenwriting career, she has been concerned with giving female characters unconventional pathways to claiming their agency. Women of the quirky, kind, high-strung, and resilient variety — among others — are no strangers in her heightened fictitious worlds.

Whether Cody is navigating the comedy-drama mashup with her breakthrough Juno (which netted her the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay), Young Adult, and Tully, or delving into the gleeful world of hilarious horror with Jennifer’s Body, Cody relishes in writing scripts that buck stereotypes.

Hence, she could be just the right person to champion a remake of Alice, another classic women-led show that’s caught up in the current cycle of television reboots. According to Deadline, Fox has ordered a put pilot for a new take on the 1976 sitcom of the same name from Cody and 2 Broke GirlsLiz Astrof.

The first TV iteration of Alice, which was itself based on the Martin Scorsese film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, will be reimagined by Cody and Astrof, writing and executive producing the reboot. In the earlier series created by Robert Getchell (who also penned the Scorsese film), the eponymous protagonist Alice Hyatt (Linda Lavin) takes to the road with her young son in tow after she is widowed, hoping to realize her goal of becoming a singer. She finds work in a diner in Phoenix, Arizona, and here lies a brand-new life.

However, Cody and Astrof’s version of Alice sounds a little grittier from the get-go. Their heroine is escaping the clutches of a cheating husband. Along with her teenage son Tommy, Alice travels across the United States from her home in Long Island to start a new life on her terms. Then, as in prior Alice variants, she ends up in Arizona and works at a roadside diner, forming close bonds with her co-workers.

Notably, Alice’s story has evolved quite drastically across each of her onscreen appearances. Scorsese’s film is more dramatically impactful than the subsequent sitcom, dealing more directly with the heartrending moments of Alice’s sudden new circumstances. While there is something distinctly fairytale about the movie, Ellen Burstyn’s award-winning performance as Alice is full-bodied within this unexpectedly real film. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore doesn’t shy away from the wistfulness of the dreamer that Alice is, but it also lets her truly succeed when all is said and done.

Meanwhile, the 1976 show’s nine-year run on CBS picks up with Alice going about her day-to-day life: working at Mel’s Diner, raising her son, and trying to fulfill her erstwhile ambitions. Nine seasons is a lot of time to remain stagnant, but it provides plenty of time for us to get to know memorable supporting characters like Vera and Flo – Alice’s friends and co-workers – whose many catchphrases make up part of the series’ charm. CBS’ Alice is well-decorated with numerous awards, too, such as the Golden Globes for Best Television Series and Best Actress for Lavin.

Cody and Astrof seem keen to put their own spin on Alice‘s extensive legacy, possibly expanding on certain elements from the originating film and sitcom to come to a midpoint of dramatic and comedic balance for their show. Whereas the 1976 series omitted information about Alice’s deceased husband’s abusive tendencies, the reboot brings back a notion of this through his blatant infidelity. Alice’s son Tommy also seems aged up, and the shenanigans of teenhood won’t go unnoticed for sure.

I do hope that both Cody and Astrof make a winning team. Admittedly, the latter’s projects have left a lot to be desired. Of course, 2 Broke Girls, Becker, and the Everybody Loves Raymond spinoff The King of Queens were popular enough to the general public that they were renewed multiple times. However, not even charismatic leads like Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs could save 2 Broke Girls from tired “jokes” based on racist stereotypes. Kevin James and Ted Danson at least elevate The King of Queens and Becker to a passable if inconsistent level.

Comparatively, Cody fares slightly better with small-screen work, although the importance of her collaborations is paramount. Cody developed the flawed United States of Tara, a hugely heartfelt show that is ultimately bogged down by an uncomfortably contrived portrayal of its heroine’s dissociative identity disorder. The character of Tara is largely saved by a killer nuanced performance by Toni Collette. Thankfully, United States of Tara also features mesmerizing supporting characters (one of which is played by a young Brie Larson). It’s very easy to root for the family at the show’s core.

In contrast, One Mississippi and its semi-autobiographical slant — courtesy of co-creator and star Tig Notaro — keeps its feet planted firmly on the ground and absolutely thrives. The series is less of an expected comedy. Instead, it draws a sense of wryness from the dark and dreary process of suffering that its leading lady has to go through. One Mississippi is certainly off-beat, but stunningly authentic in depicting a woman searching for a semblance of healing when her life is turned upside down in more ways than one.

Frankly, Cody and Astrof already have the bare bones of a relatable story about women’s empowerment with two culturally significant versions of Alice at their fingertips. Should their individual writing habits mesh well together — preferably taking more of a leaf out of Cody’s slate with its abundance of rad women — this reboot could be a hit.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)