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The Noiseless Chatter Xmas Bash!!!

Hohohohohohoho!! I hope you are eating Thanksgiving foods, because it’s time to talk about Xmas! Specifically, The Third Annual Noiseless Chatter Xmas Bash!!!

For those who don’t know, the Xmas Bash!!! is pretty much the only reason anyone looks forward to the holidays. For the third year in a row I will be hand-picking an assortment of terrible, terrible, really, truly terrible Xmas specials, songs, and other curios from the annals of pop culture history. And we’ll watch them live, together, making fun of them and keeping each other sane in real time.

Honestly, it’s great. It’s like being at an Xmas party without having to put on pants, and the people there are actually really nice and they’re not wearing pants, either.

And once again, donations will be accepted for The Trevor Project, providing counseling and suicide prevention services for LGTBQ youths. It’s an important charity to me, and if you can spare anything at all to help those who need such support the most, I’d appreciate it deeply.

All you need to do is come here on the nights in question, and you should see the video player ready to go. Tune in…and make a point of joining the chat room. Lots of you guys are hilarious, and I’ll be drunk.

The dates and times are as follows:

Friday, December 18
8 P.M. Eastern Time

Wednesday, December 23 [encore stream]
8 P.M. Eastern Time

Yes, by popular demand I will be hosting the event two nights this year. It’ll be the same stream each time, but obviously the live chat will be different each night, so if you decide to tune in twice, great! Hopefully this will be more convenient for people who weren’t able to tune in last year.

The content itself is family friendly, so if you’d like to watch a string of cheesy Xmas specials on the big screen, you won’t have to worry about your Cousin Joey having nightmares for a week. The chatroom is uncensored, however, so be warned: someone may joke about farts.

There’s no way I could possibly oversell this fact: this is going to be the best Xmas Bash!!! yet. I’ve been dredging up specials over the course of the past few months, and they’re incredible. It’ll be a batch of seven, and you won’t be able to forget any of them, no matter how hard you try!

Why seven? Well, the first year our party got shut down by the anti-Xmas Bash!!! po-po, even though the stream wasn’t over. That meant that only seven specials were screened…but that was actually a pretty cool number, so I picked another seven last year. It’s tradition! AN XMAS TRADITION

What will you see when you tune in? I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but I do like to make lists of things, so here’s everything we watched at the previous two events. Hopefully this will make you really upset if you missed either of them. Oh, and it might give you some idea of what to expect this year.

The First Annual Noiseless Chatter Xmas Bash!

  • ALF, “Oh, Tannerbaum”
  • Lassie, “The Christmas Story”
  • Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, “Sabrina Claus”
  • Major Dad, “The Gift of the Major”
  • Charles in Charge, “Home for the Holidays”
  • Lost in Space, “Return From Outer Space”
  • Family Ties, “A Keaton Christmas Carol”

The Second Annual Noiseless Chatter Xmas Bash!!

  • ALF, “ALF’s Special Christmas”
  • The Fat Albert Christmas Special
  • Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, “Alpha’s Magical Christmas”
  • Christmas Comes to Pac-Land
  • The Partridge Family, “Don’t Bring Your Guns to Town, Santa”
  • Santa’s Magic Toy Bag
  • Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

This year I think we’ll have the best balance of well-intentioned garbage and out-and-out crap yet. And nothing, I promise, is as unwatchable as Santa’s Magic Toy Bag. Seriously, what an irredeemable pile of shit that was.

Anyway, tune in! You’ll see more reminders in the weeks to come, but I wanted to get you the dates and times as soon as I could, so that you could tell your loved ones that you’ll be unavailable to speak with them.

If you have any last-minute requests, demands, or threats, get them in now.

The Third Annual Noiseless Chatter Xmas Bash!!! I’ll see you there!

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

I’ve been doing nothing but urinating and playing Fallout 4 for the past week, so forgive me if I come off as slightly distracted…but I think I can push the game aside and focus on ALF for the couple of hours it’ll take me to write about it.

“Hooked on a Feeling” begins with Vault 111 opening at last, 200 years after The Great War has left the planet a barren wasteland. ALF is unfrozen in this dangerous new world, and left to fend for himself as he searches for his kidnapped son…

…okay, yes, I’m kidding, but as I made that joke, I realized that ALF and the Fallout series are actually worthy of comparison. (NO REALLY KEEP READING)

In each case, the backstory involves the nuclear destruction of an entire planet. In ALF‘s case that destruction is literal, whereas in the case of Fallout it refers to the destruction of civilization. In short, Melmac isn’t there anymore, while Earth still is.

But that’s not as material as you might expect. Earth is physically still there in Fallout, but it’s nigh unrecognizable. A few surviving landmarks remind you of what humanity has lost, but that’s it. ALF and the Lone Wanderer find themselves therefore in very similar situations.

Alien (to you) creatures roam the planet. You’ll never see anybody you know again. There’s a whole new set (or, rather, new sets) of laws and rules and mores you need to teach yourself…and if you’re not careful and you expose your origins to the wrong people (Melmacian refugee in one case, naive Vault-dweller in another), you are in very real danger of execution…or worse.

In each case as well the nuclear disaster occurs off camera. It’s something we hear about (whether through loading screens or Melmac Facts), but never see. This allows us, in the audience, to fill in many blanks as we see fit, but it also does a great job of reminding us of what’s important: something happened, yes, but more important is what happens to our protagonist next. The apocalypse happens off camera because the apocalypse is not the story; how our hero deals with the apocalypse is the story.

Interesting parallels. But the difference, of course, is that Fallout is interested in its own mythology. ALF has no interest whatsoever, which makes it odd that the writers built Total Nuclear Annihilation into their backstory at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I like that Melmac was destroyed by careless social idiocy. I think that’s one hell of a brave choice for a late 80s American sitcom. But since the show does almost nothing with it, I’m not sure why it made that choice. As it stands, Melmac could still exist and ALF could just be stranded on Earth for any other reason. A busted ship part, for instance.

It’s that simple. “A.L.F.” saw our alien hero fleeing the apocalyptic blast that swallowed his homeworld, which is exciting and great, but for all the show did with it ALF might as well have just run out of gas.

Fallout does a great job of questioning itself and finding interesting ways to explore its own premise. It relishes the opportunity to figure out why things panned out the way they did, how different regions dealt with and adjusted to the tragedy, and how everything we take for granted about modern life (not just in a technological sense, but in a social and cultural sense) can vanish in an instant…and how that changes, damages, and destroys humanity when it does.

ALF could not care less. Nor could ALF. He finds himself stranded in a whole new world…so he figures out when his favorite shows are on television and he’s pretty much adapted to his new life.

That could be the joke (our oft-mentioned Roger on American Dad! lives a much richer social life than ALF does, but his adjustment period is suggested to have been about as brief), however the problem is that the family adapted to their new lives at least as quickly. Faced with incontrovertible proof of intelligent alien life — and, indeed, the prospect of actively harboring it from discovery in perpetuity — Willie takes a shower, Kate cooks dinner, Lynn studies for a test, and Brian sniffs glue under the bed.

The joke can’t be that ALF adjusts so quickly, because so does everybody. The joke can’t be that ALF doesn’t give a shit about this sudden reconfiguration of everything he knows about life itself, because neither do the Tanners. The joke can’t be anything, actually, because not even the characters are interested in the premise of this show.

ALF is just there. This is the way Melmac ends: not with a bang, but a whimper. The writers, the actors, and the show’s creator Paul Fusco had an idea that quite literally exploded with promise from the start…and none of them could wait to drill it into mediocrity.

ALF, whether the show cares to admit it or not, is a work of post-apocalyptic science fiction. It’s also, to my knowledge, the only one that does an entire episode about its protagonist eating cotton balls. It’s hard to imagine any way to exaggerate this for effect; the ALF we got is the most disappointing of all possibilities.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

“Hooked on a Feeling” showcases again, sadly, how poorly preserved season four’s masters are. There’s a worn VHS quality to the visuals, and a faint hum of static on the audio track.

And, again, I won’t hold this against the episode, but I will confess that it interferes a bit with my enjoyment. Sure, maybe the episode stunk and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway, but now it stinks and is annoying on a visceral level, so I feel the need to bring that up.

It opens with ALF breathing his disgusting breath all over the side of Lynn’s face and neck, holding it just long enough for Andrea Elson to consider the sweet release of teen suicide.

The family is unpacking groceries, including, of course, a bag of Kettle Chips in clear view. Was somebody on the production staff courting the heiress to the Kettle Chips fortune or something?

Willie comes in with Eric and asks who the fuck ate all the heads off his Q-Tips, as characters often do in great works of post-apocalyptic science fiction. SPOILER IT WAS ALF

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

After the credits ALF is laughing at a TV that isn’t on. Willie and Kate come in not to scream at him for braying mindlessly while the baby is trying to sleep, but to ask him if eating cotton has been affecting his mood. Man, on how many sitcoms can someone ask that question without it being a joke?

Willie tries to take the cotton away, which leads at least to a gem of a screengrab.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

He says he’ll ration it to ALF, which seems like an odd solution, but I guess I don’t actually know what the problem is. ALF is telling a bunch of shitty jokes and does an impression (as far as I can tell) of a Southern belle, but is this supposed to be out of the ordinary for him?

I get the sense that it’s supposed to register as though it is, but I certainly couldn’t tell you how this is any different from the shit he’s normally doing. Aren’t shitty jokes, offensive monologues, and howling laughter at shit that isn’t funny just another day with ALF in the house?

I think the idea is that the cotton balls are making him hallucinate…or act drunk maybe…?

Which is a pretty interesting idea in its most general sense. ALF is from another planet…another planet with a different atmosphere, composed of different elements, with gave rise to life forms of an entirely different physiology than what we know on Earth.

Okay, sure, they apparently breathe oxygen (and speak fuckin’ English), but aside from that they are very different creatures. Our junk food might provide their nutrients. Our fruits and vegetables might make them sick. And something we fight inedible might prove to be a powerful hallucinogen to them. It’s all in the way the body processes things; different bodies, different processes.

And it leads to a pretty funny moment, I guess, when ALF complains that without his cotton balls, “those Cheech and Chong movies are going to lose some of their poignancy.” I mean, I didn’t laugh at it, but I wanted to laugh at it, so that’s something.

I’m on board in theory, because that’s an interesting idea. But only in theory, because this show is a giant lump of shit, and the idea of ALF doing a “pot episode” fills me with nothing but hatred and dismay.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

Later that night, Max Wright and Anne Schedeen wake up in cold sweats after realizing what they’ve done to their careers.

Also, ALF is singing “Theme from New York, New York” at the top of his lungs. Eric doesn’t wake up crying, which means it’s probably too late to observe that somebody should have fed him at some point.

Of course, the aural gag of ALF’s performance is no substitute for actually seeing him in a funny hat, about to deepthroat a banana on webcam, so we cut to that next.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

Willie, Kate, and Lynn all rush to the living room to pierce his kidneys with knitting needles…the latter even though she has no lines.

I’m not complaining about that…just observing that it’s odd that Brian’s not around. Having no material for the kid isn’t an excuse, as Andrea Elson gets to appear in the scene. Come to think of it, we haven’t seen Brian at all. Was Benji Gregory accidentally left in a hot car or something?

ALF offers the family a bite of one of the couch cushions and suggests that they visit a plantation on Alabama so that they can enjoy cotton that’s still warm from the palms of a negroid, but everyone just goes to bed because that’s what they do when the writers can’t think of how to end a scene.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

The next scene has Brian in it, making his absence in the last scene even weirder to me, but, more importantly, it also has my favorite line.

Kate asks Brian if he told ALF breakfast was ready. He says, “No,” and she replies, “Oh, thank you.”

I’m legitimately going to miss Anne Schedeen. And I might even miss Brian if he keeps wearing awesome shirts like this one, which is patterned with overturned green skulls. Are you sure you’re not Mr. Ochmonek’s kid?

ALF comes in, weary and disheveled from the night before. Kate offers him some aspirin, and when she’s not looking he eats the cotton ball from the bottle…which is pretty funny.

Willie catches him doing it, but ALF says that Brian ate it. I guess the joke should be that there’s no way we’d believe Brian ate a cotton ball, but, come on, I wouldn’t put anything past this brainless kid.

ALF admits that he may have a problem, and sad music comes on while Willie takes his wife’s hand.


Am I supposed to be touched? Worried? I’m assuming this is at least a little bit parodic — what with it being a hand puppet eating cotton and all — but I honestly don’t know for sure that that’s the case.

ALF has treaded Very Special Waters before…most notably with “Tequila,” which sucked cock, and “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?” which was actually really good. That’s a 50% success rate, which is better than ALF has for anything else (except Dr. Dykstra appearances, I guess), but I’m not keen on seeing it revisited, especially since there’s no way in hell this crap is going to approach the heights of the episode with Jake’s mother.

If it leans on overt parody of Very Special Episodes, then we might be on to something. If it doesn’t…

…it’s too hideous to contemplate.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

After the commercials Brian has changed into a Hawaiian shirt and GUYS IT IS CANON THAT HE IS MR. OCHMONEK’S KID

ALF gets all pissy because they’re eating food and not giant cotton fluffs or something, I guess, so he leaves. Lynn mentions that the mother of one of her friends was in a support group that helped her quit smoking, and Kate suggests the loose idea that ALF could benefit from something like that.

Willie spits caustic sarcasm at her because he can’t exactly shuttle ALF over to the Betty Ford Clinic, nor can he invite a group over and tell them he’s a rare talking dog or something, you dumbass hag of a bitchwife fuck.

What a dick, this guy. I look forward to the next time ALF fans pop up in the comments to tell me that Willie is a much nicer guy than I give him credit for. As I’m concerned those people are commenting from a separate plane of reality.

Yes, I understand that he has a point; ALF can’t be revealed to the world, even if the world can help him solve this problem. But no, by no means do you need to verbally assault your wife for trying to find a productive solution…especially when you don’t have any better ones yourself.

Oh, but, wait…Willie does have a better one, even if it doesn’t occur to him: Dr. Dykstra.

Willie has a longtime friend who already knows about ALF and has an established history of helping him through psychological issues. Hell, he’s a psychologist, and he visited the house twice in the past week. Looks like we can get ALF some therapy after all.

So what was that bullshit about your wife’s idea being monumentally stupid and worthy of dickish scorn? You know somebody who can facilitate exactly what she suggested, and you know he can do so successfully.

But, no, it’s better to ruin dinner for the whole family by acting like an asshole and making your wife feel dumb for trying to help.

Tell me again, phantom commenters, why you believe Willie would be great at social work.



Willie IS A SOCIAL WORKER. He must deal with addiction issues all the time. Like, every single day.

Why is he drawing a complete blank here? Why is he making fun of his wife’s suggestion that someone may be able to help ALF? Why is he not volunteering to help?

I’ll tell you why: because he isn’t a social worker. Willie sitting here bitching at his family while ALF ODs on the carpet is the social work equivalent of a fire fighter sitting motionless on the sofa while his house burns down. Yes, he’s off the clock, but no, that doesn’t mean he becomes instantly incompetent and forgets that he’s been specially trained for exactly this situation.

Willie’s not a social worker, folks. The show tells us that he is, but it has yet (outside of maybe one scene in the ant farm episode) to show him doing anything a social worker actually does, behaving in any way like social workers actually behave, or caring about anyone who isn’t himself.

Fuck this show, and fuck this fucking fuck.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

Then the family suggests another way their suggestion would work, making Willie’s assholish response seem even less deserved and more out of line: they could invite a support group to the house, with Willie pretending he has the problem. That way ALF can overhear their responses and benefit, indirectly, from their help and understanding.

All things considered, that’s not that stupid an idea, but Willie mumbles and grumbles because his family fixed everything, I guess. Last week he got upset because ALF fixed his radio. And he’s always shitting all over the Ochmoneks for the nice things they do for him and say to him.

I’ve never, ever seen a character so constantly pissed off by the nice things people do for him. Even Scrooge changed his ways by season four.

Willie, having no idea how grateful he should be that Kate is handing him a resolution to this episode rather than a stack of divorce papers, begrudgingly goes along with it, making sure she knows how much he hates her for suggesting it.

What a guy.

Then ALF eats a bunch of lint out of the dryer, which muddies the pot analogue somewhat as we learned in “Baby, You Can Drive My Car” that lint was valuable on Melmac.

So is it marijuana, or money? Well, in this episode it’s one, and in the other episode it’s another.

Then again, cotton is a major component of U.S. currency (75% or so of every bill, unless that’s recently changed) but I can’t imagine that was a conscious connection on behalf of the writers. More likely they forgot that they already built lint into the Melmac Mythology in a different way. Those idiots. It’s like they aren’t even reading my Melmac Facts!

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

The support group arrives in the next scene, and I admit it’s impressive that ALF landed a cameo from Leisure Suit Larry so late in its run. In the kitchen ALF makes fun of the women on the right for being overweight.


He also says that the pâté Kate is serving looks like cat food…which reminds me: where’s Lucky?

I think the last time we saw him outside of the intro credits was “Tonight, Tonight,” but that obviously wasn’t part of the show’s main continuity. (And I have a sinking suspicion they just slapped any old cat in Joan Embery’s lap without regard for resemblance.) So when was the last time Lucky had anything to do with the show? I couldn’t tell you when he last appeared, or was even directly referenced. And why not reference him NOW THAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT CAT FOOD?

A commenter flippantly suggested at some point that ALF ate Lucky and hypnotized the Tanners into believing he was still around. I’d credit you if I remembered who you were (remind me!), so along with Brian being Kate and Mr. O’s illegitimate lovechild, I’m willing to say that “Hooked on a Feeling” passively cements that as canon as well. This episode sure is doing a lot of unintentional world building!

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

Kate brings the appetizers out, which is the show’s excuse for letting everyone else get a few digs in at this woman for being heavy. It’s kind of shitty, actually, and it reminds me of just how needless and cruel the jokes about Randy’s intelligence felt in “Torn Between Two Lovers.”

There and here the show seems to want us to laugh at characters for something they can’t help. It’s not undercut or commented on in any interesting way; it’s just a tacit invitation to point and laugh at someone different. (It’s not that far removed from the show’s treatment of the Ochmoneks, come to think of it.)

And that’s…pretty fucking awful. I imagine that the purest episode of ALF would just be some unfortunate, unattractive person standing quietly center stage while the entire regular cast laughs at him and calls him names.

There is, however, a moment I love here…and, yes, it actually involves a fat joke.

One of the other women at the meeting comments nastily, “Is there anything on that tray you don’t want?”

Hilarious, right?

…no, of course it’s not.

But the delivery is so deliberately hammy, so intentionally melodramatic, so beautifully drawn out (“Is there anything on that tray you dohhhh-n’t wahnt?”), that I love it.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

I love it because this woman, whoever she is, realizes full well what a cartoony piece of bullcrap she’s been cast in, so she pitches her performance in a way that lets us at home know that she knows it’s bullcrap.

Jack LaMotta does the same thing by giving his character a clear personality beyond what’s written on the page. Bill Dailey did it by rising above the material he was given and treating it with a degree of professionalism that it didn’t deserve. This woman does it by becoming a live action Cruella De Vil.

In short, she’s having fun with it. She’s in a crappy show, she’s given a crappy line, and the whole joke here is that she gets to shit on someone for being fatter than she is.

Her response? She becomes an exaggerated villain in a way that displays clear self-awareness. Look at her eyebrow, for crying out loud! She raises it high after delivering her line…a promise to the audience that she knows what she’s doing, and that doing it is the only way she’ll come out of this shit with her dignity intact.

There’s even a great little flourish to her performance afterward, as she glides behind Kate and the heavy woman, her face appearing briefly between them as she does so, and we see that she’s holding the same expression.

It’s genuinely funny, but the shot isn’t framed properly so the camera doesn’t quite catch the joke. (Hence the lack of a screengrab.) This suggests to me that either the production crew failed to properly frame their own shot (plausible), or this woman — Marcia Firesten, who doesn’t seem to have had many roles in other things — invented the flourish on her own, and the crew wasn’t expecting it (more plausible).

Either way, I love it.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

The meeting begins, and Willie flounders a bit while introducing himself. I guess the Tanners didn’t decide what Willie’s lie was going to be, because he says he’s trying to quit smoking…while Kate told the group earlier that he’s afraid to leave the house.

Jesus Christ, people…if you’re going to infiltrate a support group on false pretenses, at least figure out what the fuck those pretenses are. Is that too much to ask? How much of an idiot is Willie that he didn’t bother to prepare a lie beforehand? He knew what the plan was!

It’s kind of annoying, not least because Willie’s floundering is usually pretty funny (see “Lies,” which I’m becoming more and more convinced will be the runaway best of the season).

Here, though, it’s just the camera fixed on Max Wright while he makes faces and eats up time.

It’s much funnier when he’s actually blurting ridiculous explanations…otherwise we’re just watching a confused old man slobber all over himself. And it sucks.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

Willie escapes to the kitchen, which he’s able to do because the support group people aren’t characters; they’re just actors who aren’t in this scene, so he can take all the time he needs.

He and ALF touch boners for a while, and then he says that he doesn’t know what to say to the group about why he smokes. He tells ALF that this whole arrangement was made to help him get better, so he has to want to get better, which is something I understand but which I also can’t see affecting the way a totally separate conversation in a totally different room with totally different people will pan out, and fucking fucking fucking fucking fucking fucking fuck this episode sucks.

Willie says he’ll steer the conversation to something ALF can relate to, and then he re-enters the meeting to talk about raping his kids.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

Actually, he just goes back to the “won’t leave the house” thing, so I wonder why the smoking was introduced at all. It feels like a setup for a comic complication that never actually comes.

Willie says he doesn’t want to be seen, because he’s not from around here. Then he’s asked where he’s from, and Willie, too quick, replies, “Ohio.” That’s where Leisure Suit Larry is from, so he starts asking if Willie knows any of his old friends. And then Cruella De Vil jumps in and says, “Do you ever think that everything is going to come crashing down around you, burying you in an avalanche of hopelessness?”

She holds his wrist while she asks this…and then keeps holding it. I love this woman. Can she replace 90% of the actors on this show moving forward? I’d have a lot more faith in the remainder of season four if she did.

ALF calls loudly for Willie, because fuck this show.

Willie goes in to check on him and presses him for a reason that he eats cotton, as though that’s what the entire episode is asking, and if we just figure that out the problem will solve itself. Odd; I thought we’d established that he was eating cotton for its hallucinogenic properties.

Maybe that’s what Willie’s asking — “Why do you need to escape through narcotics?” as opposed to “What do you get out of taking narcotics?” — but the phrasing is weird, and it’s only in writing this sentence that I’m able to figure out what Willie seemed to be getting at.

ALF, as sitcom characters do when there’s only a few minutes left in an episode, comes to a realization: he wants to go outside, and he doesn’t like people telling him what he should and shouldn’t do.

Great! Those problems solve themselves. Open the door and let him strut to certain doom. Everybody wins!

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

Admittedly, it moves into stronger territory when ALF says that he wants to see others who are like him. “I want to go home,” he says.

And, as we know, he can’t do that.

There is no more home. Something happened…and there’s no going back. Whatever you want is behind you, so you need to start wanting something — anything — that’s ahead.

That, the episode suggests, is why he turned to eating cotton. Which is great and all, but wasn’t this a drug addiction allegory? Is the episode suggesting that junkies are just lonely and want to return to their home planets? That they’ll stop taking drugs the moment the articulate what’s missing in their lives? Because that sure as shit isn’t true.

What actually happened here? It feels as though one problem was introduced, but the episode ends by resolving another.

Actually, scratch that; it doesn’t end by resolving anything; ALF still can’t go home. Instead the episode begins with one problem and ends with him mentioning another.

How interesting. How bizarre.

ALF goes on about missing his family and friends, which would be touching if it didn’t look like he was also giving Willie an under-table Handy Jay:

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

The therapist comes in to check on Willie, and to ask who was yelling about wanting to go home. Willie says it was he himself yelling, so the therapist does what a sitcom therapist does and says, “Isn’t this your home?”

Willie passes this off as some kind of awakening, and that’s that. The therapist and the support group leave. Wow, Willie sure provided lots of support to his fellow members, didn’t he?

ALF also complains about not getting to have a child of his own, which he did back in “Having My Baby” as well, but you might have missed that because we were all arguing about abortion.

Anyway, with the entire plot resolved by virtue of ALF mentioning a bunch of issues nobody can help him with, we get to the episode’s money shot of Willie eating a cracker.

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

In the short scene before the credits…

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"


ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

please no

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"


Countdown to Jim J. Bullock existing: 1 episode
Countdown to ALF being desanguinated in front of the Tanners: 18 episodes

MELMAC FACTS: Melmac had Saturday Night Aphid Chews. ALF and Rhonda went “harness racing” one night, and she helped him out of his bridle. (It was established in “Stop in the Name of Love” that ALF and Rhonda never actually dated — Melmac blew up before he got to take her out — but this wasn’t necessarily a date.) Willie says that ALF always jokes about Melmac…something ALF doesn’t dispute, which may mean that some of the previous Melmac Facts are retroactively false. SUPER SORRY


I loved Goodfellas when I was younger. Well, okay, I still do. It’s a brilliant film, and occupies a pretty high spot on my list of all time favorites, but it was especially meaningful to me when I discovered it in middle school or so. It was the first film that I didn’t just enjoy, but that I appreciated.

It is, unquestionably, an artistic masterpiece. It has to be, because when I first saw it I had no concept of the language of film, and very little idea that the medium could be meaningful. I liked things or didn’t like things…there was little I could articulate beyond that, and little I could understand.

Goodfellas was the film that punctured that bubble for me. It was something I enjoyed, but it also impressed me in ways I’m still figuring out decades later.

Scorsese’s visual mastery, for instance, was arresting. I sat rapt, over and over, watching the same scenes unfold in ways that felt fresh and new every time. And for a good long while, this was the film I’d point to whenever I wanted an example of a director who used existing pop music as perfectly integrated components of his own work. The body discovery sequence set to the piano outro from “Layla” deserves to be in some cross-media hall of fame.

It was — and continues to be — a movie that affects me in ways I don’t fully have language to express, and while there’s a lot that remains beyond my cinematic understanding, I’ve always had a logistical question regarding the climax to the famous “shinebox” sequence.

In the film, a made man named Billy Batts is celebrating his homecoming in a bar owned (or at least controlled) by Henry Hill (Ray Liotta). Batts makes an ill-advised attempt to greet Tommy (Joe Pesci), and ribs him about his childhood job shining shoes. Tommy clearly bristles at the reminder…tensions flare and are temporarily defused, but Batts asserts his dominance and insults Tommy one final time. Tommy leaves, but not without instructing Henry and Jimmy (Robert DeNiro) to “keep him here.” Later that night Tommy returns to find a much emptier bar, and our three heroes brutally murder Batts and dispose of the body.

That’s the scene. What confused me when I was younger was the role of Jimmy “The Gent” in this…specifically, how culpable he was for Batts’ murder.

When Tommy returns, Batts is speaking to Jimmy. Jimmy sees Tommy approach, and Batts does not. I couldn’t figure out at the time what Jimmy actually did next: did he grab Batts so that Tommy could beat the shit out of him? Or did he try to pull Batts away to avoid the political nightmare and fatal vengeance that indeed followed these events in the film? Yes, before long Jimmy is kicking the man to death on the bar-room floor, but that’s after the assault is already underway. Did he at first attempt to prevent it?

Now it’s clear to me that he holds Batts for Tommy to hit. I’ll blame the worn-out VHS on which I watched the film so many times for the confusion, but my original question was at least in keeping with logistical issues within the film.

Jimmy, after all, is older and more experienced than Tommy and Henry. He knows full well the danger all three of them will be in if Batts — importantly a made man — is attacked or killed by them. And though Tommy does imply he’ll return later, there’s no denying the sense of surprise (especially for Henry, the nearest thing to an audience surrogate) when he actually follows through on his threat.

Jimmy might be on Tommy’s side, but there’d be many reasons for him to prevent the assault, whether he had the foresight to think it through or simply reacted on instinct. Either way, I could understand — and must have, in some sense, wanted to see — his intervention.

But he doesn’t intervene. He holds Batts. He throws him to the floor. He helps Tommy do what Tommy came back to do.

Which itself leaves me with a new question: when did Jimmy decide to let this happen?

As outlined above, there are many reasons to stop this…and only one to let it happen: respect. Tommy, Henry, and Jimmy work together. They’ve been through a lot. They’re close. When one of their number is disrespected, it falls to others to make things right, whatever the cost.

But is it really that simple? I wonder.

Jimmy pushes back on Batts a little bit after the initial verbal confrontation with Tommy, and Batts is indeed “kept there” until Tommy returns.

But how do you read this behavior?

Did Jimmy actually know what Tommy planned on doing (again, Henry clearly did not) and made sure to facilitate it? Or was he just coincidentally talking to Batts when Tommy walked in, and decided then to help his friend enact revenge?

I honestly can’t decide. I can see it being intentional (Batts is very intoxicated when Tommy returns, which may suggest that Jimmy was plying him with alcohol to keep him weak and unaware), but at the same time that seems like a lot of work to get to an outcome that’s just as bad for Tommy as it is for Batts.

Throughout the course of the night, while waiting for Tommy to return, would Jimmy never reconsider the danger he’s placing all of them in? Letting Batts leave — or encouraging him to leave — would have let a small instance of disrespect go unpunished, but it also would have saved all of them from fatal retaliation…

…which makes me wonder if Jimmy was indeed just drinking with the man and didn’t think at all about Tommy making good on his threat until he actually shows up to do so.

I go back and forth on this one. I don’t know which is the case…if Jimmy kept Batts there expecting Tommy’s return, or if he made a split-second decision to help Tommy knowing it was too late for any other option.

It’s a major question for me, as I think either answer suggests a pretty different Jimmy. The former possibility suggests a crueler, more dangerous Jimmy, and the latter suggests a cooler, more faithful Jimmy. Cooler and more faithful goes well with my overall reading of his character, but they’re both fair possibilities.

So which was it? I have a feeling this isn’t even a question for many people; they’ve probably always read it one way or the other.

What I’d like to know is, which way did you read it?

ALF, "Mind Games"

I’ve more or less resigned myself to the fact that we’ll never see Jodie again. On any other show, this would register as mild disappointment at best. After all, while a great character may be retired on those shows, there will be other reasons to tune in from week to week. That’s why they’re great; our enjoyment doesn’t hinge upon one or two small things that we hope will make an appearance. On ALF, however, her loss is significant.

As you probably remember, “For Your Eyes Only” was the first episode of ALF that I genuinely enjoyed, and it’s still something of a high water mark for the series. ALF befriending a blind woman wasn’t just a great idea; it had solid followthrough. It was a funny episode that also managed to make me feel sad for the insane alien rapist who lived in the laundry basket. There was a sweet and welcome honesty to his relationship with Jodie, and while I’ve enjoyed other episodes since, that’s still the first one that comes to mind when I reflect on my favorites.

She returned in “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” which was nowhere near as good, but was still enjoyable. Jodie’s actress brought a unique, fragile charm to the show, and though I’m sure she was created for ALF to spit blind jokes at, she still managed to be human. She wasn’t simply a target; she was a friend. She was some cross-dimensional emissary from a parallel universe version of ALF that let characters be characters, and I loved having her around…however briefly.

But she’s not in this season, as far as I can tell, and she wasn’t around in season three, either.

Jodie’s gone, and ALF has apparently decided it didn’t need one of its most effective characters, and one of its few genuine achievements, after all. Coupled with the fact that Jake didn’t survive to season four, this does not bode well for characterization in ALF‘s final stretch.

Jodie did make one final appearance in “We Are Family,” which sucked on toast. But that’s hardly her fault, and her appearance was arguably the best thing about the episode. Only arguably, though, because that episode also saw a visit from Dr. Dykstra…the other character I always mention when listing ALF‘s few genuine achievements.

Dr. Dykstra first appeared in the best episode of season one, “Going Out of My Head Over You.” He was a psychologist friend of Willie’s, and he’s obviously someone the family trusts deeply. After all, they deliberately revealed ALF’s existence to him. And yes, okay, since then ALF has met everyone in LA, most everyone who has ever visited America, and 194 of 266 Popes…but at the time, ALF meeting another human was something that actually mattered. (See also, and not coincidentally, Jodie.)

Then he appeared in the great season two episode “I’m Your Puppet.” That’s when the show (surprisingly, incredibly) turned the camera back on itself, and gave us a full half-hour of meta commentary and vented frustrations. As with “Going Out of My Head Over You,” Dr. Dykstra’s appearance seemed to indicate that we were watching something smarter than the average episode. The writers used him where — and only where — he’d do the absolute most good. He was deployed, it seemed, only when an episode deserved him.

And, like Jodie, he had two major appearances, followed by a minor one in “We Are Family.” And that was it.

Until now. Jodie may be gone. Jake’s body may be cooling in the ground. But Dr. Dykstra is going to grace us with his presence one final time.

This episode and one other (“Fever”) represent the last of my high hopes for season four. Let’s see if this one at least lives up to its pedigree.

Oh, right, the opening scene. ALF tries to get the family to play the home version of Jeopardy! with him. They each in turn tell him to suck a dick.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Later on ALF watches Willie solder some shit.

I do actually like this. In the opening scene Brian was on his way to his Scout meeting, which was a nice bit of unexpected continuity. Furthering that, Willie was on his way to outside to work on his ham radio…which is his longest-standing hobby, being as we first saw him messing around with it in the pilot. (I guess it’s also possible that his ham radio fucked with ALF’s navigation system, causing the alien to crash into the garage in the first place, which is as good an argument against building a ham radio as I can possibly imagine. But I don’t think there was any definitive connection there.)

On top of that, ALF referred to Lynn as a college student, and Kate…well, Kate drove Brian to the Scout meeting, because she’s a woman, and it’s her job to take care of the kids while Willie dicks around in the shed. (Eric is not mentioned, but since everyone is doing something else, we can rest assured that he’s weakly gurgling for help from the family that will never hear him.)

All of this continuity is interesting to me, and the credited writer for the episode is Jerry Stahl…your vote for the identity of the One Good Writer. On top of that, we know Dr. Dykstra shows up. These are great signs; all of the ingredients are in place for a pretty good episode of ALF.

Willie then explains to ALF why he’s fascinated by the ham radio. Sure, he could pick up the phone and call anyone he wants, but he says that ham radios are about the challenge. It’s about teaching yourself how to make machines behave the way you want them to behave. It’s about using your own two hands to create, to connect, to converse. To conjure up strange voices from all over the world. And, man, this is awesome. It’s not brilliant writing or anything, but for one of Willie’s hobbies to have an actual justification…I feel spoiled. It means that somebody didn’t just say, “Willie likes ham radios.” They asked, “Why does Willie like ham radios?” and then they answered it.

It’s like what happened in “Night Train” on a smaller scale. That episode explored Willie’s model train hobby, and fleshed out his backstory in doing so. This episode, at least in part, is taking a recurring detail that began in the pilot and giving us a reason behind it. And even if this episode turns out to be shit, SPOILER it does SPOILER, I appreciate that.

Anyway, Willie’s trying to install some whatever the fuck thing so he can talk to Australia, and he says he’s been at it for three months. ALF twists a screwdriver and that does whatever it’s supposed to do and some guy with a shitty sitcom Australian accent immediately comes over the radio to greet them. Hilarious. At least it shut Willie up and we don’t have to worry about him getting a chance to become an actual character before the show ends.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Later on ALF is bothering Brian. He’s irritating the family because he’s bored; there’s nothing on TV, he says, and he’s read all the books in the house.

I call significant bullshit on the latter since we’ve only ever seen ALF read tabloids and Cyrano de Bergerac, and we know that Willie has a pretty meaty library in the garage. Even a voracious reader would need substantial time to get through all of that. What’s more, ALF at no point acts like a well-read individual. Shit…he can’t sit still, so when exactly is he plowing through Willie’s Modern Library collection? You think this jackass who can’t go two seconds without dancing a jig on the coffee table sat quietly for several weeks and read Ivanhoe? I sure as hell don’t.

Brian is working on earning his Bachelor Living merit badge. I’d make fun of that, but this is great preparation for Benji Gregory’s life without a steady paycheck.

ALF tells him that the dinner he’s making sucks balls, then he does a conga with broccoli and throws vegetables around the room. You know, like everyone well-versed in world literature is wont to do.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Next it’s his turn to piss off Lynn. He does so by sleeping instead of exercising with her, or something. Dr. Dykstra, take me away.

I find it interesting that in each case ALF is meant to be bothering the family member, but he actually helped Willie. It would have been better if he got hair inside the ham radio or something, so that even if he installed the Aussie-to-English translator he’d still leave Willie with a reason to be upset. As it stands ALF just helped him do something he was already having trouble doing himself, so why does that make Willie angry? Think of all the extra time this leaves him with to not help his wife raise any of his kids.

I do have to admit I like the little vignettes of ALF interacting one on one with each of the family members in turn. I mean, they’re shitty vignettes, yeah, but it’s an interesting impulse and it helps a show that’s four years old find a little bit of freshness in its approach.

Then ALF goes…

ALF, "Mind Games"

…back to the shed? That’s odd. We already had the Willie scene out here.

I mean, okay, this set does make sense for both scenes. Willie’s ham radio is in there, and Kate is refinishing a bureau which is a valid thing to do in the shed. Fine.

But it’s odd that we’re here with just Willie, leave for a bit, and then come back to see just Kate. Why not have her do this in the driveway or something instead, for the sake of giving us a fourth location? That would help the “isolated adventures with each member of the family” thing land a bit more strongly.

And speaking of which, since Kate is in the shed, why isn’t Willie helping her do this? He’s just had his entire afternoon freed up thanks to ALF re-kafoobling the energy-mo-tron, or whatever. Can’t he help his wife do anything? Ever? Did he leave her to lug the fucking bureau out here by herself, even though he was going out to the shed anyway?

This fuckin’ guy, people.

ALF tells her that the thing she’s doing is really fucking boring, even compared to all the fucking boring fucking things her fucking boring family fucking does.

She tells him not to touch the bureau, so he does and then she has to rip his hand off of it. She apologizes to him even though he just fucked up her entire project by doing what he was specifically asked not to do. He complains that he doesn’t have a middle finger.


ALF, "Mind Games"

Oh. There…you are. I guess?

It’s a really odd moment. There’s no transition at all. ALF leaves the shed, then the family is making dinner in the kitchen and Dr. Dykstra walks in. Willie asks, “What’s your professional opinion?” And that’s it.

No introduction. No scene of Willie deciding to call his old friend the psychologist. Just Dr. Dykstra strolling into the room as though he lives in the broom closet and struts into and out of the Tanners’ lives as necessary.

At least he’s immediately funny, though. He tells Willie, “He’s bored.”

Willie asks if there isn’t some deeper, underlying psychological reason.

Dr. Dykstra, straight-faced, replies, “Maybe boredom.”

A moment like that goes a long way toward showing what a real comic talent can do with mediocre material. The “boredom” bit isn’t inherently funnier than most ALF dialogue, but it works because of the performance. Dailey knows how to deliver a line in a way that Max Wright — who could easily have had the exact same exchange with Kate in a Dykstra-free episode — doesn’t. In other words, Dailey knows how to make material work, even when the material doesn’t necessarily deserve it. He’s willing to do the heavy lifting as an actor, rather than settle for reading the lines he’s paid to read and then go home.

This is why I love having him around. Even if his previous episodes had been crap, he’d still be able to make his lines work, at least. And that would unquestionably have been worth watching.

Dr. Dykstra then explains to the Tanners that ALF is an adult, something that the family (and viewers) would be forgiven for forgetting. Plying ALF with video tapes and games and toys will only keep him occupied for so long, as he needs to be engaged with as an adult and not as a child or a pet.

That’s a valid observation, but I’m waiting to hear what he has to say about the fact that it’s been four weeks since the Tanners last acknowledged their third child.

I was a bit worried this would be Dr. Dykstra’s only scene, setting up the second half of the episode in which the family tries to treat ALF like an adult With Hilarious Consequences, but, fortunately, he’s hanging around for dinner at least.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Man, nobody can rock a hot pink sweater like Bill Dailey. All you fuckers better respect.

Kate serves everyone and Dr. Dykstra says, “Thank you, Kate.” I fall out of my chair at hearing these words for the first time in 81 episodes. All it takes is one guy acting like a human being to make you remember what a bunch of self-absorbed, shitty assholes the Tanners are.

Dr. Dykstra initiates conversation with Willie, asking about work. Willie falters desperately because this is an area of his character’s life that’s never been developed at all, but eventually he decides to spin some bullshit story about a colleague who is “competitive.”

By this Willie means that the guys wants raises and promotions ahead of Willie, which sounds fine to me. Working hard while Willie Cuntin’ Tanner gets raise after raise and promotion after promotion for doing nothing sounds like a living nightmare; no wonder this guy has it out for him.

In fact, I’m sure the writers aren’t aware of how significantly Willie undercuts his own argument, but he actually says that this guy is taking on a bigger case-load than he is. So he really does do more work than Willie, and is therefore bettering the lives of more clients. You know…the kind of thing social workers are supposed to do instead of bitching endlessly about competitive coworkers.


Anyway, after Willie’s done pissing and moaning, he turns and asks ALF for his opinion.

ALF, in a great visual moment, is stunned by being asked to contribute to the conversation. It’s really well acted, actually, with some very effective puppeteering from Paul Fusco. I like it.

Willie explains that he values ALF’s judgment, to which ALF replies, “You what my what?” It plays better in speech than it does in text, but, trust me, it’s pretty funny.

ALF shares his opinion. He says that if Willie feels like he needs to compete, he should compete with himself. Which, yeah, makes sense to me. Willie’s a carping little oily dickbag; if he feels threatened by someone at work, he should focus on doing a better job himself. Dr. Dykstra agrees with ALF, too, confirming that I’m not yet totally insane.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Dr. Dykstra then draws Kate into the conversation. She says that she feels bad while she’s at work, because she’s neglecting Eric. Somehow she says this without anyone picking up on the irony that Eric has been neglected throughout this entire episode, this very scene included, even though she’s been home the whole time.

She’s worried about returning to work, and again ALF is asked for his opinion. He says that she went back to work after having Lynn, and Lynn turned out fine, so there’s nothing to worry about. (For good reason, her lack of similar success with Brian goes unspoken.) Dr. Dykstra agrees with him again, and ALF creams everywhere. To be fair, I would cream, too, if Bill Dailey acknowledged something I said.

Brian has a problem, too: he doesn’t like math. ALF dismisses this because he’s not even a real boy. Lynn’s problem is that she’s been dating Danny Duckworth for over a year (more continuity! Poor Randy!), but she still gets jealous when he fingers other girls, and cums in their mouths. ALF gives advice to her that is somehow not “Dump his sorry ass,” and then he says that he’s found his calling: he’s going to become a psychologist.

Bill Dailey silently prays that this doesn’t become a two-parter.

ALF, "Mind Games"

The next day ALF reads a psychology book and spews a bunch of disconnected mumbo-jumbo at the family and that eats up a bunch of time.

It kind of sucks, actually.

The whole “treat ALF like an adult” plot was a good idea, and it seemed to be on an interesting course — what with the family actually talking to each other and all — but right before the commercial break ALF declares he’s totally a psychologist now, and then that’s what we do for the rest of the episode.

It’s a big disappointment, and a complete derailment of the show’s momentum. It’s like two halves of different episodes were stapled together with no regard paid to whether or not they actually fit, and that’s a particular shame right now because the episode was just getting good.

We took some mediocre ALF-is-annoying crap, and eventually found an interesting way of dealing with it. As soon as that gets going, though, we flip the table and start a whole new, less satisfying story. What a gyp.

ALF, "Mind Games"

I think the writers were aware of it, too.

If the DVD chapters are anything to go by, ALF episodes are structured like this: a brief opening scene / the intro credits, act one, act two, brief closing scene / closing credits. The commercial breaks fall at my commas. Act one and act two in most episodes are of about equal length, which you’d probably expect for broadcast purposes. But in this episode act one is about 12 minutes long, and act two — with all the ALF-is-a-psychologist-now nonsense — is about 5. They knew, I’m sure, that act two was much less interesting, and so they wrote a few pages of psychological bullshit for ALF to say and called it a day.

Which is fine; I agree with them that act two sucks a fat one. But then why not write a different act two? Why not end My Dinner With Dykstra some other way? Or keep Dr. Dykstra around for the rest of the episode to gradually lose his cool and bludgeon ALF to death with a lobster mallet?

Instead the whole second act is forced and condensed. Even Willie flips out on ALF too quickly; he does it because the episode needs to end soon, and not because ALF has said or done anything especially annoying to push him over the edge. He just tells ALF to go fuck himself because it’s time to tell ALF to go fuck himself. By normal ALF standards this is expected — if still disappointing — but by the standards set by the previous Dr. Dykstra episodes, this lack of care is downright insulting. It would be like getting a third Jodie episode in which she and ALF have a 30-minute long flatulence competition.

Or I guess 15-minutes long, with Jodie disappearing and the episode turning into one about ALF eating Willie’s prized collection of celebrity pubes.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Oh, wait. Dr. Dykstra is back.

Okay. I guess he popped out of the broom closet one more time for a snack and got roped back into this shit.

Willie tells him ALF has gotten carried away, to which Dr. Dykstra rightly responds, “You know ALF gets carried away with everything he does. What motivated you to let it go this far?” Willie, extraordinary social worker than he is, tells Dr. Dykstra to eat his ass with this psychology bullshit and just go fix whatever the fuck needs to be fixed so ALF will shut up.

This. Fucking. Guy.

Dr. Dykstra, to the discredit of mental health professionals everywhere, does not jam a fork in Willie’s eye and go home.

ALF, "Mind Games"

At dinner ALF pulls his psychological horseshit out and turns to Dr. Dykstra for support. Dr. Dykstra tells him his psychology game is pretty wack. They bicker for a bit before Dr. Dykstra says, “I think this is just another temporary obsession to draw attention to yourself,” which is the verbal equivalent of neutering ALF with a lemon zester.

ALF realizes that he’s probably been making the family feel bad, just as Dr. Dykstra just made him feel bad, so he’ll stop forever since the episode is over.

Okay, I guess.

But Dr. Dykstra was present for ALF’s announcement that he was becoming a psychologist. So…what did he say to that? “Okay”? “Good luck”? “Sounds rad”?

Sure, I understand why he told Willie that he needs to control his fucking space alien, and that’s a valuable lesson that the family ignores because of course they do, but what kind of response did he have at the moment ALF declared his intentions? Within the universe of the show? We saw a commercial, but did Dr. Dykstra just vanish from existence until the script needed him again? He must have said something. And it must have been something that at least passively allowed ALF to continue in his delusion.

Now, though, we find out (understandably) that he doesn’t support ALF’s decision. So…what the fuck actually happened?

It’s also, structurally speaking, pretty odd that they need to call the guy in to fix something that broke while he was already there, but whatever. Who cares. This shit is over, and I need to get over it, too.

ALF, "Mind Games"

In the short scene before the credits, Willie and Kate make dinner for the fifth fucking time this episode. They hear ALF on a radio call-in show talking about family law, and then run off to punch him in the scrotum.

Kind of a disappointing send-off for Dr. Dykstra, but he was still the best thing about the episode so it doesn’t exactly reflect poorly on him. I think when even the reliable Dr. Dykstra ends up stranded in a shitty episode, we can pretty clearly see how little the writers were trying by season four. In his previous appearances, it was an excuse to up their game. Here, it’s an excuse to coast.

And while Bill Dailey did perfectly fine work, it’s a shame that the writing behind him was nowhere near as good.

It’s also a shame that there’s a bit toward the end when the family all agree that Dr. Dykstra is really annoying, which is such an unnecessary (and massively untrue) fuck-you to one of the only good characters the show’s ever had, but my feelings on that can only be expressed by a jet of blood spat directly at my computer screen so I’ll just call these guys assholes and feel good on Bill Dailey’s behalf that he’s completely done with this dumbass show…even if the door did hit him on the way out.

Countdown to Jim J. Bullock existing: 2 episodes
Countdown to ALF being violently lobotomized in front of the Tanners: 19 episodes

MELMAC FACTS: To earn a Bachelor Living badge on Melmac, you had one week to build a singles bar in the woods using only twigs and bark. Bakeries on Melmac were called Health Clubs, and ALF’s once voted him Bod of the Month. ALF used to practice yoga on Melmac and his mantra was so long and ridiculous I’m not typing it.

Fallout 4

In spite of a great start, lots of helpful suggestions, and tons of encouraging words and feedback, it’s safe to call the Kickstarter. As I write this, there are 34 hours to go, and we are nowhere near our goal. Barring a miracle — and we all know Jesus won’t intervene, due to Starbucks pissing him off with their DISRESPECTFUL COFFEE CUPS — the campaign is as good as over.

We will not hit our goal.

The series will not happen.

And yet, I’m proud. I’m happy. And I’m enormously grateful.

We set our sights on something, we worked toward it, and we did our best to make it happen. If it didn’t happen…well, that’s disappointing, sure. But we — myself in particular — learned a lot from the experience. And while we didn’t raise the funds we needed, every dollar that was pledged means the world to me.

Honestly. Every single dollar. If you pledged, thank you. Deeply and truly, thank you.

If you didn’t?

Thank you, too. Because I know you at least considered it, however briefly. You clicked the Kickstarter link, read a bit about it, maybe watched the video…and determined it wasn’t for you. You weren’t interested. You, as Mr. Burns once observed so wisely, would be happier with the dollar.

And I’m no less grateful for that. I’m thankful to those who thought about it and decided to pledge, and I’m thankful to those who thought about it and decided not to.

From the kind words we received — and one offer I was sadly unable to accept — I know that there is an audience for a series like this. I’ve failed to find that audience, but that’s okay. We come out of this wiser, more prepared for next time, with a better idea of what people want, how to get it to them, and who those people are.

This has been a big learning experience for me. I’ve noticed that a lot of folks who had been eagerly following the campaign and talking to me regularly about it have quieted down in the past few days, as the realization sets in that the goal won’t be met. I assume this is because they expect me to be sad or upset in some way. And…sure, I am. But sadness isn’t what I’m feeling primarily.

I’m feeling gratitude to everyone who pledged, chose not to pledge, shared the link, offered their feedback, shared their thoughts, wished us luck, expressed their excitement, or even just listened politely while I bleated on and on about this project that didn’t interest them.

I love you guys. And I’m proud of the little community we’ve built up here. The world — the internet in particular — is full of negativity. For the support that I’ve gotten from you guys — now, in the past, presumably in the future — I cannot express my gratitude enough.

You’re good people. You’re great readers. You’re a community I wouldn’t trade for anything. And I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather fail in front of.

I’ll write more, I’m sure, but for now…I think that’s all I’ve got in me. I’ll leave you with the message I sent to each of the other authors involved with the project. “It’s not failure,” I wanted them to know…

…even if it’s not exactly a success. At this point I think it’s safe to call the Kickstarter. And I accept for full responsibility for not managing it as effectively as I was convinced I could. I tried many things…a few of which panned out, but none of which hit the way I needed them to hit.

It’s been a learning experience, for sure. If that were all it was, I’d feel fine about it. But I do want to take a moment to thank all of you for your help, your patience, your drive, and your enthusiasm for a project that didn’t quite get off the ground. Of course I wish I had more to show for my efforts, but, mainly, I wish there were more to show for yours.

I don’t see this is a failure in itself. With better management I think something like this could work extraordinarily well. Those who did pledge obviously saw something in the project, and in your titles specifically. People out there wanted to read what you had to say. People out there looked at your summaries and thought, “That sounds great. I want to own that book. I want to help to make this happen.”

It’s not that there aren’t enough people out there to make this happen, or that not enough people wanted to read what you had to say. It’s that I (not we) failed to reach enough of those people.

In my estimation, there’s no stronger team of writers than the ones who are getting this email. I wish I had better news for them, but as great a start as we got off to (and it was legitimately great), I was unable to maintain that momentum. And I apologize.

I’ll be in touch with all of you, for sure. I’m not going anywhere, and I’d still love to work with each of you in some capacity. This project, for all the love and excitement behind it, just wasn’t the one that would work out. Maybe in the future we can give it another go, or come together to produce something even better.

But whatever it is, whatever it turns out to be, and whenever it happens, I’ll be sure that I can make use of your time more effectively.

It’s not a failure; it’s just something that didn’t happen. And things don’t happen all the time.

Here’s to the stuff that eventually does.

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