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ALF Reviews: “Looking for Lucky” (Season 1, Episode 3)

October 31st, 2013 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

"ALF," Looking For Lucky

After “Strangers in the Night” I was really, really worried that every episode of ALF would be that bad or worse. “Looking for Lucky” represents a Pyrrhic victory then, I guess, because it’s unquestionably better than that one while still being fucking terrible.

The episode’s title refers to Lucky the cat, which means we’re three episodes in and while we still don’t know anything about the family, we’re going to spend a half hour developing the character of their pet. Great. And Mrs. Ochmonek, with whom we spent a half hour last week, doesn’t even appear. It’s like the writers are doing everything in their power to procrastinate the moment that they will have to make a decision about who the people in this family are.

Anyway the episode opens with ALF attempting to hypnotize Lucky. He tells the cat he’s getting sleepy, and then he tells him he’s a bagel. We learn soon that this is because ALF wants to eat Lucky, but I don’t understand why he needs to precede this with hypnosis. Either eat the cat or don’t…there’s no reason to try to give it hypnotic suggestions. When you eat an actual bagel you don’t need the bagel to be aware that it’s a bagel. I don’t even know what ALF is trying to accomplish here. Seriously, does anybody know? What’s the point of this?

And, once again, why does ALF understand all of these Earth concepts? I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t get over the fact that the writers think it’s a good idea for ALF to have complete working knowledge of human culture. Wouldn’t it be funnier if we saw him discover hypnosis for the first time? Misunderstand its practice and purpose? Make some jokes? Because ALF swinging a pocket watch back and forth in front of a cat isn’t a joke, and “You are a bagel” isn’t a punchline.

Maybe it’s the writers who are aliens. They certainly don’t seem to grasp the concept of comedy.

Willie comes in and tells ALF not to play with priceless family heirlooms, referring to the pocket watch. He takes the watch back, notices it’s broken, and that’s that. Willie goes to work and doesn’t seem to care about the destruction of the thing that he was seconds ago so worried about. There’s another in the long line of ALF situations that are set up and resolved in the course of two lines.

Oh, and Willie: ALF breaks shit. Like, all the time. Stop leaving this asshole unsupervised.

"ALF," Looking For Lucky

Same credits sequence again, but it’s really starting to reveal to me how limited our understanding of these characters are. They’re ostensibly main characters, especially since every episode introduces them, but they barely appeared in the last episode and only Willie and Kate had any kind of real part in the events of the pilot. Every time I see Brian and Lynn, the Tanner children, I’m reminded that I have genuinely no clue what they’re like.

I couldn’t tell you anything about them. Lynn is on the phone in the credits sequence and Brian hugs ALF, but in the actual episodes so far they’ve probably had five lines between them. Do they go to school? Is Lynn seeing anybody? Does Brian have any friends? Do they give a shit that an alien lives in their house now? Can the writers really think of nothing for them to do? Why are they even there, then?

And what about Willie and Kate? I know Willie works…does Kate? Where does Willie work? What was their life like before ALF arrived? I have no clue, because all anyone in the family ever seems to do is stand around quietly while ALF does prop comedy.

It feels like the writing staff created these characters, but then didn’t want to do anything with them. They’d rather focus on the cat and Mrs. Ochmonek, which says a lot about how little they care about the family that was supposed to be at the center of this show.

"ALF," Looking For Lucky

ALF does the Risky Business thing by lip synching into a cucumber and wobbling vaguely along to an absolutely awful cover of “Old Time Rock and Roll,” which wasn’t that great a song to begin with. While he does this the audience (“audience”) laughs, which makes me feel worse than the homeless people I pass on the way home from work.

While he bops around from the chest up we see that the house is completely wrecked. Furniture is flipped over, trash is all over the place, stuff is smashed. Oh, and he also ate every bit of food in the house. ALF is dancing and doing silent karaoke while I take a moment to wonder, yet again, why in the world the Tanners let him live here.

Just kick him out. I know the first episode ended with ALF cracking wise and three quarters of the family yuking it up, but what benefit do they get out of keeping him around? They certainly haven’t been laughing lately. All he does is break stuff and put the family in danger of being caught. Shouldn’t he be contributing in some way instead of just going ape-shit when they leave and busting up their stuff?

"ALF," Looking For Lucky

The family comes home and stand around quietly while ALF does prop comedy. They’re obviously pissed that he wrecked up the place, but they’re content to let him finish his routine before they make too much of a fuss about it.

I’m going to spoil something for you here. Are you ready? If you really plan on watching “Looking for Lucky” yourself and being surprised, then stop reading now.

The spoiler: There is no consequence for ALF’s actions.

Put yourself in Willie’s shoes. You come home from work and all of your food is gone and everything in your house, everything you own, has been smashed to pieces.

It doesn’t matter if an alien did it. Whether it was a roommate, a pet, a kid, a criminal…whoever the heck destroyed the home in which you live, you’d flip out. If you could get your hands on the person responsible, you’d make sure there was some consequence.

Yet Willie doesn’t care. Not after this scene anyway. He shrugs it off, presumably writes a check for $12,000 to American Furniture Warehouse to replace everything overnight, and sends his wife off to buy groceries. ALF is not punished. ALF isn’t even lectured. When this situation is referred to again later in the episode, it’s referred to fondly. Everyone involved with ALF behaves like an alien except for fuckin’ ALF.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

Brian announces his continued existence by observing that Lucky is missing. Everyone assumes that ALF ate him, which is a conclusion they reach based unfairly upon the fact that ALF is constantly saying he will eat him.

Willie asks ALF where the cat is, and ALF burps.

Ready? I’m going to spoil something else for you here: ALF didn’t eat the cat.

Okay. Fine. I’m alright with this.

But then why is ALF behaving this way? They ask where the cat is, and he burps. He then jokes about chasing Lucky around with a fork. When he’s asked point-blank if he ate the cat, he says he needs to speak to his attorney before he can answer.

None of this makes any sense. If ALF didn’t actually eat Lucky, then why can’t he just stop dicking around and state clearly that he did not? He’s not helping his case here, he’s not helping his family, he’s not being constructive about the problem, and he’s not even lightening the mood. All he’s doing is infuriating people who are already concerned about the safety of their other pet…you know, the one that doesn’t tear up the carpets and break all the furniture while they’re away.

ALF’s behavior only makes sense if he did eat Lucky and was trying to cover for it. If someone killed your cat and you thought it was me, the last thing I would do is make jokes about chasing the thing around with knives and wanting to eat it. And if you asked me if I had anything to do with it and I said I wanted a lawyer, you’d think I was definitely hiding something. Why in the world would I say that otherwise?

I honestly have no idea what ALF or the writers were trying to accomplish here. No. Fucking. Clue.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

ALF coughs up a hairball and puts it in Willie’s hand while the man is trying to comfort his weeping son. It’s like dicks were invented just so ALF could be called one.

Willie then gives the camera his best Flintstones-style “It’s a living!!!!” stare, and I think I’ve managed to screengrab the precise moment that Max Wright turned to crack.

We’re eight minutes into a 21-minute show and all we’ve seen is ALF dancing and refusing to admit that he didn’t eat a cat. So what’s the next logical scene?

You guessed it! A heartbreaking sequence in which ALF writes a note of farewell to the Tanners and sets off to find Lucky. :(

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

Poor ALF! All he did was thoroughly vandalize the home in which he was allowed to live for free, and now people are mad at him because he behaved like a raving cock-biscuit while their kids were crying.

He writes a note to the family and we hear what he’s writing…somehow. It’s worth refuting the points he makes, because nowhere does the episode attempt to do the same. It would be fine if the point of “Looking for Lucky” was that ALF thought and acted one way, but then realized that he was out of line and came to understand the Tanners’ perspective. That would make some kind of narrative sense and it would remind us that the writers are aware of ALF’s personality flaws. Instead, though, the Tanners actually come around to ALF’s perspective, which reminds us that the writers got paid a lot of money to not give a shit about their own show.

ALF writes, “I’ve been accused of a crime I did not commit.” That’s fine. I believe you, ALF. But why didn’t you say so when you were asked? Why did you burp and joke and put your disgusting hairballs into peoples’ hands? Yes, it sucks to be accused of a crime you didn’t commit. But when you’re given a completely fair and open forum in which to express the fact that you didn’t commit it, and you decide not to say anything in your own defense, then that’s kind of on you.

ALF writes then that he’s been “accused by people I thought were my friends.” If you thought they were your friends, why did you joke around and belittle them when they were obviously hurt and concerned by the disappearance of their pet? Again, I’d like to remind you that by the end of the episode it’s the family that feels bad for the way they treated ALF, not vice versa. So what, with all due respect, the fuck?

Anyway ALF then makes some references to The Fugitive and sets off to find Lucky and clear his name. Well, okay, finding Lucky would indeed prove that you didn’t eat him, but what about the huge mess you made? All of the groceries that you ate and didn’t replace? The fact that you left the window open so that Lucky could escape in the first place?

Locating Lucky can’t “clear his name” because he actually is guilty of a whole load of things that the family should still be upset about. Yes, okay, he might not have eaten the cat, but that’s just one item on a long list of things that ALF should desperately need to atone for.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

The next morning Kate and the kids joke around in the kitchen about how they’re all starving because ALF ate everything and didn’t leave a scrap of food for anyone else. Again, why are they letting him live here? What benefit, exactly, are they getting from it? They sure seem chipper for people who didn’t have dinner and had to wait for a trip to the grocery store before they could have any breakfast.

Lynn gets a few lines here and had a couple in the Risky Business aftermath, and I almost feel bad about pointing this out but her delivery is really strange. It’s like the actress is making a conscious effort to pronounce each word correctly and clearly, which makes all of her sentences sound like they’ve been strung together by a robot. This in conjunction with the fact that many of Brian’s lines are clumsy overdubs probably goes a long way toward revealing why we haven’t heard much from them.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

As if he knew that we were talking about terrible line readings, Willie comes into the kitchen with a microscope, forgets his line halfway through, and then just starts over because he knows nobody working on this show is paying enough attention to ask for a second take.

It turns out that he analyzed the furball ALF coughed up, and it’s not Lucky’s hair; it’s ALF’s own!!!!

He therefore concludes that ALF is innocent.

NO. NO.

NONONONONONONONONONONONO.

NO.

ALF is not innocent. ALF destroyed your home. ALF is the reason you haven’t eaten since lunch yesterday. ALF is still responsible for the fact that your cat is missing.

This proves nothing, but Willie is convinced that he’s solved the crime and owes ALF an apology. Even with this in mind, that’s still not the strangest thing about Willie’s revelation: When a furry animal coughs up a furball, isn’t it usually composed of its own fur? I don’t understand why this is such a shocking development. The Tanners live with a cat. Do they think that every time Lucky’s coughed up a furball it’s because he hunted, killed and consumed another cat? Of course not. It’s because he’s covered in fur and that’s going to happen. Ditto ALF.

This doesn’t make sense, and in no way does it suggest that ALF is innocent of anything. I guess I still don’t know what Willie does for a living, but I think I can safely conclude that he’s not a lawyer.

Also, this is what Willie does all night? Sit in the shed with a microscope, staring at ALF’s magnified pubes? Who put all the furniture back together? Kate? They also made her do the shopping. No wonder she’s so miserable.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

They find ALF’s note and decide to go after him. We get a montage of ALF showing Lucky’s picture to other cats, and then we see the family asking strangers if they’ve seen ALF, complete with descriptions of and gestures meant to indicate his alien features.

…um, WHAT?

Again, in the first episode the family was concerned about ALF so much as going near the windows, lest a neighbor see him and call the government. Now, two episodes later, the family is wandering around town openly asking people if they’ve seen the space alien that they illegally harbor in their home.

What kind of sense does this make? What kind of sense could this ever possibly make? Every episode of ALF I’ve watched so far has seemed like an ingenious, scathing parody of the stupidity of the concept. And yet…it’s not. This is just the way the show works. And it reaches its pinnacle, perhaps, at the end of the montage:

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

ALF is spotted! By another human being! Not just that, but he’s lassoed around the neck, and if the animal control guy just pulled the noose a little tighter I’d never have to write another one of these reviews again.

This is it, guys! ALF has been captured!

These are the end times! This is precisely the sort of thing everyone was afraid of from day one! So I’m sure that was follows will be tense and exciting and…

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

…oh. The animal control guy just thought ALF was a dog.

For the fiftieth time this episode: fucking WHAT?

ALF looks nothing like a dog. And it’s this guys job to catch dogs. I have no clue what’s going on here. Maybe if the animal catcher was blind or something. Or if ALF was in a dog costume. But no, the animal catcher just thinks ALF is a dog, what with his walking on hind legs, speaking English, and having full, articulate use of his hands and fingers.

This is so disappointing. You know those news stories you see every so often? The ones where somebody caught a really creepy looking fish? Or when some bizarre animal corpse was found on the side of the road? The media goes nuts playing with the idea that it could be some mythical creature instead of a half-decomposed and bloated coyote. People love making a spectacle of that stuff. And this guy just caught one that’s still alive!

But he sticks it in a cage next to some dogs and that’s that. The lack of imagination in this show is almost admirable. God knows I couldn’t write shit this dumb for this long and still be able to face myself in the mirror.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

Lucky is placed into the cage across the room from ALF, because of course he is, and a few seconds later a little girl enters the room with the gigolo she pimps out to lonely old ladies.

I was all set to make fun of this girl’s acting, but then she immediately becomes my favorite character when she sees ALF in the cage and instructs the animal catcher to “Gas it. Nobody’s going to want it.”

Woman who played this little girl however many years ago: if you’re reading this, get in touch. I owe you a high five.

To nobody’s surprise, the girl chooses to take Lucky home. This continues the ALF tradition of set-up and payoff occurring so closely to each other that there’s actually no distinction.

ALF — concerned that Lucky is going home to a new family that’s smart enough not to leave it home alone with a creature that constantly tries to kill it — picks up his water bowl in both hands and runs it noisily back and forth against the front of his cage, which is so totally what a dog would do.

The animal catcher then opens the cage, as the best way to deal with an openly aggressive animal is to release it into a room full of people.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

Unfortunately ALF doesn’t get to save Lucky, because just as he’s released a midget in an ALF suit swoops in and makes off with the cat instead.

The creature that everyone still seems to believe is a dog then waddles out of the room on two feet with a cat slung over its shoulder, and we cut back to the Tanner house because nobody sees anything strange about this.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

ALF reveals to the family that he brought Lucky home, but the family is just glad ALF is safe. Of course they are; if he weren’t around, who would starve them, break their heirlooms, and touch their son’s sleeping butthole? Willie then returns home with Lucky, because the cat ALF saved was just some look-alike.

I don’t even know why this development occurs since it doesn’t lead to a joke and the episode just ends. Well, ALF does joke about eating the cat he rescued, but this time nobody gets upset because they all finally realized how wonderful it is to live with a creature that fucks up your life at every turn. The Tanners are glad to return to their state of normalcy, in which none of them can ever leave the house again if they’d like to have a house to come back to.

I really don’t understand this show. I’m not a proponent of every episode having a moral or anything, but I am a proponent of television that at least understands what it’s doing. For a straight-faced show like ALF to have its titular character engaging in all manner of destructive shenanigans, it’s very odd that the big conclusion is that the family loves him for who he is…rather than that he needs to start trying to reign in his sociopathic behavior.

“Be yourself” is a fine takeaway for kids, but “Continue to be yourself even while you’re hurting the people who care about you” probably isn’t.

It’s just strange to me…as though ALF was the fore-runner of these “unlikeable hero” comedies we see all over the place now, only it didn’t realize that he was unlikeable. That almost qualifies as a compliment, and it would scare me that I’m ending an episode review on a high note…but then they re-play the Risky Business bullshit under the end credits and all is right with the world again.

MELMAC FACTS: Lynn says that on Melmac they eat cats the way we on Earth eat cows. Only, y’know, they hypnotize them into believing they’re bagels first.

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15 Responses

  • Jeff says:

    God damn, Phil, these write-ups are FUNNY. I rarely laugh aloud, but I do several times per ALF write-up. Word!

  • E[X] says:

    Why are there cats on an alien planet?

    • Philip J Reed says:

      That’s…something I never actually wondered about! Probably because I used to love this show as a kid, and I took “cats on Melmac” as a given. Its oddness didn’t stand out to me the way other things did. Good question!

      Maybe cats are native to Melmac and were actually brought to Earth by early visitors? Wasn’t something like that a Futurama plot at some point?

      But, yeah, no. I’m overthinking it, though I know there’s some Melmac stuff in later episodes, so maybe it gets explained? I’m not holding my breath.

  • Maxwell Smart says:

    The infuriating thing about ALF is the infuriating thing about Dennis the Menace.

  • kim says:

    yeah, I gonna let this review slide because I don’t like this episode very much, pretty much all the reasons you stated, the plot of this episode defeats the entire premise of the show. the tanners don’t want him to go out in public thinking if someone saw him they would report him to the alien task force, but here ALF wanders the streets were anybody could see him, not to mention he gets capture by a dog catcher, gets put in a bound, speaks english, rattles a bowl around in the cage, takes the cat out the little girl’s hands and runs off and no one questions the fact he might be an alien! it does make me wonder if they really thought this episode out.

    also you did raise a good question, why do the tanners keep him around? they certainly don’t seem to get anything out of it and they can’t leave him alone for very long without him totally trashing their house. I guess it is because they have some sympathy for him, how little it may be, I mean ALF as two choices here, live with the tanners or get captured by the alien task force and be tortured to death. it kind of like having a homeless person living with you, he is annoying and trashy, but if you knew he would meet a pretty gruesome fate by being kicked out the house, you feel some what sympathetic for him, wouldn’t you? so really it is kind of they keep him around not because they like him, but because they have much choice in the matter.

  • Stephen says:

    One of my favorite lines from this episode. After ALF coughs up the hairball, he says he’s innocent until proven guilty and something about being accused. Willie responds with “Not when the accused … coughs up the VICTIM!”

  • torm says:

    This episode really shows how much the writers were aching to force ALF out into the real world. ALF is the ostensible star of the show, but you can’t have him be the focus of every episode because the logline requires he stay cooped up in the house. So the writers found a clever loophole by making everyone that seems him a total blithering idiot. First it was Mr. Ochmonek cracking wise about a kangaroo, and now OK PAUL from Eraserhead thinks he’s a dog. Okay. At least in the later seasons we have old dudes dropping dead from the mere sight of his hideously phallic nose.

    I by and large like ALF. I think it’s one of the more interesting sitcoms to exist, and reading about its production will never not be interesting. And yeah, there’s some nostalgia there too. But I’d be lying if I said its writing staff was very lazy. The ALF cartoon show which focused on ALF on Melmac had a lot of writers come over to that from this show, and it’s not hard to see why. They want to write about an alien doing alien things, but ALF requires him to stay in the house. Couldn’t they just have ALF disguise himself and then go out and do things? Think of the potential. I mean, I’ll accept it, even if simply putting on a hat won’t make him look human. It’s a logical leap, but if you play it straight nobody will question it. Roger from American Dad! doesn’t look too human either, and yet I really don’t care that nobody in the show thinks he’s human, because the show treats him as one when he’s disguised and that’s that. ALF sometimes makes ALF look like an alien to humans (Flaky Pete, Gravel Gus) but if the writers want him in public without consequence they’ll just unnaturally make characters dumbasses. Oh, he’s a kangaroo. Oh, he’s a dog. Yeah, how ALF is recognized isn’t something you can flip-flop on, writers… he has a pretty apparent non-human form and he doesn’t look like any animal at all. People would recognize this behemoth as being otherworldly if you don’t disguise him.

    Anyway, I think the reason the Tanners don’t kick ALF out is that they know he’ll blab about what happened to him when he comes to earth, and they know that won’t end well for them. In the ALF movie, it’s revealed that after the task force learns of ALF and the Tanners hiding him, they end up dumping the Tanners in Iceland. (It was just a shitty way of ensuring the actors didn’t have to appear in the movie, but canon’s canon.)

    • Philip J Reed says:

      I just want to say that I always get a little thrill when somebody new discovers these and goes through the reviews in order, leaving comments. I appreciate all comments, don’t get me wrong, but something about those folks who marathon these and leave their thoughts along the way is tremendously satisfying. So thank you for that, and for your insight!

      • JewCanoe says:

        I’m on a marathon right now. As an indie author and artist, I love when something I’ve worked on gets read by people, like an anthology I have a story in, or maybe a book I did a cover for. So — I totally feel you on that feeling, man!

        In that first review, when you talk about Alf coming in Willies wife, I chuckled fucking hard. I was born in the early 80’s, and while I know of Alf, the memories are hazy, like looking through plastic wrap. I do remember the ALF MOVIE and sitting on a couch viewing it and I remember Alf getting thrown into a black van/personal carrier (military) by the ATF. These reviews are interesting because I don’t remember ploy points, just what Alf looked like.

        • Philip J Reed says:

          You’re just in time! We’ll be doing Project: ALF in a few weeks. Thanks for the kind words. Enjoy the two or three plot points you’ll find in the next 96 episodes!

  • Outsider65 says:

    These write ups make me laugh in a painful way. Thanks to you, Ive now imagined ALF licking himself… It’s probably the conclusion the writers wanted you to come to, though.

  • Kart korral says:

    I have come to the conclusion that having dozens of different writers for this show made all the episodes jarring to watch. Remember bonanza and how the characters were developed?



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