Criminal Minds: "Amplification"

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Last summer I got into Barney Miller for the first time in my life. I just started catching it on Antenna TV. I really like it. The more I learn about New York in the 70's, the more interesting it becomes.

I caught the two-part series finale of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, a show I've come to appreciate a lot more in reruns than I did when it was live. 

As we come to the end of the series run, the Banks household is in transition. Eldest son Carlton is about to transfer to Princeton University. Eldest daughter Hillary is about to move to New York, as her daytime talk show is going national. Kid sister Ashley is going to New York too; Hilary's move will allow Ashley to enroll in the Academy of the Performing Arts. 

When the first half of the two-part episode opens, butler Geoffrey announces he plans to retire and move to England to get acquainted with the son he never knew he had. 

All this leaves Will a bit bereft, as he has no grand plans beyond finishing college where he is. As he worked for Hillary's talk show, her move puts him out of a job. Then Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv decide that with the nest emptying out, they're going to sell the house and move back East. This really puts Will in a funk, since he now also has to find a place to live. He confides in Carlton, but insists that Carlton not bring this up to Uncle Phil; he wants to solve this problem himself. 

There are a couple of fun cameos of possible buyers for the house: Phillip Drummond and Arnold from Diff'rent Strokes, and George and Louise Jefferson from The Jeffersons, checking out the property with their maid Florence. There's a last moment of Uncle Phil tossing Will's buddy Jazz out the front door (a running gag using repurposed footage each time it occurred).There's a final moment with Carlton and Will doing "T"he Carlton Dance, "to the tune of Tom Jones's "It's Not Unusual," naturally.

There are goodbyes with each of the family members and, most of all, a final heart-to-heart between Will and Uncle Phil. Will is afraid of disappointing Uncle Phil, as everyone else is moving on and he has no goals, that he came to the Banks home six years ago as a relative, and became family.

Worse, he's afraid of Uncle Phil leaving with as poor an impression of him after six years as he did when they first met. Uncle Phil tells Will he is mistaken about what that first impression was. He says he saw Will then as a young man full of potential, and today as someone about to realize it. "You are my son," he says, and insists that Will take part in the weekly round of phone calls he will have with his other children.

It was nice. Not four-hanky nice, like the Barney Miller or The Mary Tyler Moore Show finales, but at least three hankys.

Some time before that, I watched the Alice series finale. It begins, as every episode does, at Mel's Diner. Mel opens for business and tells regular customers Henry and Earl hat he's sold the joint for a lot of money to a developer who plans to tear it down and build something else on the spot. Mel is happy, but a bit afraid of how the waitresses will take the news.

When they show up to work moments later, the waitresses take the news quite well. Alice has decided to go for it, move to Nashville and jump start her singing career. (Recall that the show began with her leaving New Jersey on a cross-country drive to California to do just that nine seasons ago. But Alice's car broke down in Arizona, she got a job a Mel's to pay for repairs and she and her son Tommy have been there ever since.) 

Fellow waitress Jolene isn't too upset, either; her grandmother died and left her some money, so she intends to open a beauty salon. Vera, however, faints dead away at the news Mel's is closing. They take her to the doctor, and she learns she's pregnant! (There is the clear although unstated assumption that recent newlywed Vera will no longer be interested in working with a child on the way, especially as hubby Elliott, a police officer, has just been promoted to detective.)

Things jump ahead to the last night Mel's Diner is open for business. The crew and the regular customers reminisce about times at the diner, punctuated with clips from past episodes. Mel surprises Alice, Vera and Jolene each with a check for $5,000. Mel and Alice's son Tommy exchange heartfelt goodbyes, Tommy calling Mel a second father and Mel grateful that Tommy is the kid he got to raise. 

Vera and Elliott pledge to name their kid "Melvin." Mel gives them his goofy sailor hat. "You save this for the kid," he says.

They give each other goodbye hugs, and then leave, and Mel turns out the lights and locks up one last time. 

As Alice was never that great of a show, this isn't that great of a finale. But it does rate two hankys.

I've never seen either finale. As you say, Alice wasn't that great of a show. As you probably know, it was inspired by the similar (but more serious) movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), which had most of the same named characters and is worth watching. Vic Tayback actually played his same character in the movie, in the Alice series and had a one-episode appearance in the spin-off Flo.

I have always enjoyed every episode I've seen of Fresh Prince, a much better show. Comedy shows that can successfully blend comedy and real-life lessons/problems are always head-and-shoulders above others.  

Richard Willis said:

I've never seen either finale. As you say, Alice wasn't that great of a show. As you probably know, it was inspired by the similar (but more serious) movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974), which had most of the same named characters and is worth watching. Vic Tayback actually played his same character in the movie, in the Alice series and had a one-episode appearance in the spin-off Flo

I've never seen Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, although I am aware it is the basis for the TV show Alice. Not only did Vic Tayback reprise his role from the movie in the TV series, so did Alfred Lutter as Alice's son Tommy, at least in the pilot episode. Lutter was replaced after the pilot because he was taller than Linda Lavin, but it didn't take long for the kid who replaced him, Phillip McKeon, to grow taller than Lavin as well.

Richard Willis said:

I have always enjoyed every episode I've seen of Fresh Prince, a much better show. Comedy shows that can successfully blend comedy and real-life lessons/problems are always head-and-shoulders above others.  

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996) overlapped with The Cosby Show (1984-1992), which got a lot more acclaim, but I always thought Uncle Phil was a better and much cooler dad than Cliff Huxtable.

Uncle Phil had Will's back through any number of scrapes, and put up with Will, Carlton and Jazz even though they often were disrespectful of him. Uncle Phil, however, was very patient with them, because he had life experience that they didn't have. Will and Carlton often didn't know what they didn't know, but Uncle Phil did. 

Will also thought Uncle Phil was a fat cat who forgot where he came from, and didn't realize that Uncle Phil had street smarts. He revealed them in one glorious moment, when Will wound up losing his car to a pool shark:

Great scene!

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