Philip McKeon, the former child actor who played young Tommy Hyatt on the 1976-1985 CBS sitcom Alice, died today in Texas after a long illness. The elder brother of Facts of Life actress Nancy McKeon was 55.
His death was announced by family spokesman Jeff Ballard.
“We are all beyond heartbroken and devastated over Phil’s passing,” Ballard said in a statement. “His wonderful sense of humor, kindness and loyalty will be remembered by all who crossed his path in life.”
McKeon would go on to appear in such TV series as The Love Boat, Amazing Stories and Favorite Son but is best known for his first role as the precocious son of the title character in Alice. Linda Lavin starried as a recently widowed mother who relocates with her son from New Jersey to Phoenix and makes ends meet as a waitress while trying to launch a singing career. The series bounced around the CBS schedule during its first two seasons but became a hit as the lead-out of All in the Family on Sunday nights in October 1977. It was among primetime’s top 10 series in four of the next five seasons, falling to No. 13 overall in 1978-79 but climbing to No. 4 the following year. It wrapped in 1985, having endured more than a dozen time-slot changes.
McKeon appeared in more than half of the 202 episodes of Alice, which was the TV adaptation of Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974). The Tommy Hyatt role was played in the film by Alfred Lutter, who reprised the role in the Alice pilot before being replaced by McKeon,
He also appeared on TV game shows including The Hollywood Squares and The $100,000 Pyramid and later worked for 10 years in the news department at Los Angeles radio outlet KFWB-AM. He then moved to Wimberly, Texas, where he spent the past several years hosting a local radio show.
McKeon also had small roles on the big screen in films including Sandman, Red Surf and 976-EVIL II.
He is survived by mother, Barbara, and sister, Nancy.
Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.