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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What happened to my piece of the cake?

What's On? Wednesday: Gimme A Break!

Let me start off by saying, I love Nell Carter. I think she was funny and talented and could deliver a line that would have me laughing. The show Gimme A Break! was a cute vehicle for her and it lasted six seasons with many cast changes along the way. Now I realize that the show was centered around her helping out the Chief and his three daughters after her friend (the Chief’s wife) passed away, but my favorite episodes put them in the background.

The episodes with Alvernette Jimenez (Kamelle) were the funniest and most enjoyable for me. Alvernette played her friend Angie and guest starred in a very limited number of episodes. In fact, the first season had her on the show only twice and each season after that she would appear only once, maybe twice if we were lucky. In total, of the first five seasons before Nell’s character moved to New York, Angie appeared approximately six times. That’s it!
In season three, the show introduced a new character called Addy Wilson played by Telma Hopkins (who I loved on Bosom Buddies). Why? I like Telma and enjoyed her on the show, but Nell already had a friend to play off and do the “Lucy and Ethel” or “Laverne and Shirley” type situations that they invariably got involved in. It pushed Angie even further into the background of characters that populated the show. They also introduced Officer Simpson played by Howard Morton into the cast as a somewhat dimwitted character. Why? They had Angie. Basically, they already had a character that was Addy and Officer Simpson all rolled into one. Not to take anything away from Telma Hopkins and Howard Morton, because I liked their characters, but I feel that Alvernette was underused.

Angie and Nell fit the contrasting body styles of the great comedy duos like Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy. They also had the great straight man vs. scatterbrain combo that is also a popular comedy bit like Burns and Allen or Martin and Lewis.

Alvernette was a tall, lanky, beautiful young woman who would play Angie with just the right amount of cluelessness and cuteness that it didn’t grate on your nerves. Angie’s voice had a high pitched singsong delivery and the giggle that came out would make me roar. Angie would drive Nell a little crazy with her own sense of logic and yet there were times she was shown to be smarter than others (or even herself) thought.

Some examples of lines Angie would say:

Personal meditation mantra:
Angie: “Today is the first day of the rest of day.”

When asked if she thinks two guys have stood her and Nell up:
Angie: “My Frank, well, he’s only stood me up once and even then he had a good excuse.”
Nell: “Yeah? What was that?
Angie: “He was kidnapped by men from Mars.”
Katie: “You bought that?”
Angie: “It’s true, he even brought back one of their candy bars.”

Nell is mad at the Chief:
Nell: “That man’s brain is so small , you could suck it through a straw and never touch the side.”
Angie: “I used to have trouble with drinking with straws, then I started taking the paper off them.”
Nell: “Angie, baby, how can such a small head hold so much air?”
Angie: “I sleep with the windows open.”

Sitting on a barstool next to Nell:
Angie: “Oh Nell, look, there’s another room just like this one”
Nell: “Angie, that’s the mirror over the bar.”

Or earlier that episode:
Angie: “Excuse me, I’ll be right back, I think I have to go to the ladies' room, can I bring you anything?”
Nell: “No, you just go. Oh, go for me while you’re there.”

When she returns:
Angie: “Hi, Nell, I’m back. Guess what, you didn’t have to go.”

Guy offering to buy her a drink:
Guy: “Have you ever had a Black Russian?”
Angie: “No, but I once spent the weekend with a one-legged Mexican.”

Nell Carter’s reactions to these situations and lines were some of the funniest faces that Nell delivered. She was always good at reaction shots, but the exasperation she showed with Angie were the best.

“Let me get this straight…You…Angie McDaniel…a girl who has to take off her blouse to count to two…”

Alvernette didn’t appear in anything after her last appearance on Gimme A Break!. People around the internet have little bits of information out there about her after she left acting, but it’s really a shame that she didn’t appear more on the show. The chemistry between her and Nell Carter made the few episodes she did appear stand out and shine. Mom Smackley and I have often stated that we wish the show had just been about the two of them with the other characters being part of the ensemble. It could have been that Nell still lived with the Chief and his three daughters, but we wish it was she and Angie that got into most of the predicaments each episode.


  1. Oh, how I loved Gimme a Break back in the day! I'd forgotten all about the Angie character. Thanks for reminding us how funny Alvernette was - and what a loss we had when Nell left us.

  2. Thank you for this! I always thought she was hilarious, and also wondered whys he didn't appear on the show more often.

  3. I'm watching GAB now on a flashback show, and I had to google Alvernette. I really liked her too!



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