Reading too deeply into these things since 1981
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Hello, and welcome to the first-annual Noiseless Chatter holiday gift guide! The idea here isn’t like most gift guides, being as I can’t personally vouch for every product here, nor have I received any form of payment or exchange for including what you see below.

So what is this? Well, I’ve got a large number of very talented friends, and I wanted to take an opportunity to spotlight their wares specifically. If you still have shopping to do, I hope something below will appeal to you as a potential gift for a loved one. There should be plenty of time to receive any of the below before the holidays.

In order to avoid any appearance of favoritism, I won’t single out any of the products I can vouch for, but I will say that I can vouch for each of these individuals personally. They’re all great people, and if any of the below looks like it would make a good gift for somebody (or yourself), make the seller’s Christmas, too, by buying it through them.

If you are interested in anything below, and would like information regarding shipping and availability, be sure to contact the seller directly!

BOOKS

A Matter of Time:  Back to the Future Lexicon
A Matter of Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Lexicon
The Back to the Future films are more or less the gold standard for sci-fi comedies (though Ghostbusters might give them a fair run for their money). Which probably makes this a good gift for somebody on your shopping list, as it’s likely you know at least one major fan. This very thorough book contains information on every character, item and location in the series, and expands far beyond the movies, taking into account the official ride, the video games, the animates series, and more.
Where to Buy: At Amazon here, and you can read more about the book here.

Multiples of Six
Written by a friend of mine (whose name I won’t mention because this is published under a pseudonym and I don’t know if revealing it would make him want to beat me up), this is the first book in a series of three. The first two are available for purchase in both physical and ebook formats, but I’m spotlighting the physical because seriously, guys, don’t kill the industry. Multiples of Six is a familial mystery centered around one man who gradually learns more about his siblings…including one he didn’t know he had. It’s absolutely the type of story that will resonate strongly for a certain type of reader…and if you have that type of reader on your shopping list, give it a shot.
Where to Buy: At Amazon here, but if you’re opposed to shopping with them for any reason there’s a host of other options here.

The Garbage Pod: A Collection of Red Dwarf Fan Writing, 2003 – 2011
The Red Dwarf fan-site Ganymede & Titan (linked in perpetuity in the sidebar here) goes through long periods of relative inactivity, but when it’s actually cranking out articles it’s pretty great. There’s a stellar team of devoted writers that manage to blend genuine enthusiasm with a fair, clinical approach to the show, and this book collects a number of essays (some of them updated since they were published online), and would make a great gift for any fans of the show on your list. Be warned, though…their enthusiasm for the show is eclipsed only by their enthusiasm for creative profanity.
Where to Buy: At Lulu here, where it’s also available as an ebook.

FASHION

Kawaiicore Knuckle Dusters
Kawaiicore
“Creepy-cute” is their self-selected descriptor, and I’d have to say that’s pretty accurate. Run by probably one of the most talented people I’ve ever met (which, believe me, is saying something) there’s a very unique assortment of rings, earrings, necklaces and more here, and all of it is original to Kawaiicore. I have to recommend the heart-shaped knuckle dusters, because come on now. HEART SHAPED KNUCKLE DUSTERS. It’s not the kind of product that’s going to have universal appeal, but the folks it does appeal to are likely to go bananas over it, and that’s what matters.
Where to Buy: Right here.

BerryPolish
Handmade nail lacquer from two very talented, all around awesome sisters. Their shop only launched in late October, so they only have one style up for sale currently. This will change, though, as they gauge demand for other styles. It’s a tiny endeavor right now, which is why I’m very happy to spotlight it and watch it grow. They were also tossing in those great little monster fingerpuppets with orders placed by Halloween, so there’s every chance you’ll find a special surprise included with your Christmas order as well. (Not a guarantee. I really don’t know.)
Where to Buy: At their etsy store here, and you can help them select future styles at their Facebook page here.

Jules’ Jewels Jewelry
A great artist that I went to high school with. She has an etsy shop, but there’s nothing on display quite yet. However she does work on custom pieces of art and jewelry, and she has samples of her work on display at her Instagram page, which is linked below. Due to the nature of her work you’ll need to contact her ahead of time and discuss prices and details, which might sound a little cumbersome but I can promise you she’s a pleasure to deal with.
Where to Buy: You can request a custom order through her etsy shop here, or browse her work and contact her through Instagram here.

Origami Owl — Olivia Bellano, Independent Designer
Charming, customizable jewelry available through a very good friend of mine. She’s actually running a special deal outside of the main shop, which she asked me to post here. Unfortunately I couldn’t think of a good way to display the image due to the fact that I’m not the designer here, so you’ll have to click this for the details. But if you are looking for a gift (or several) it’s worth checking out. Again, that’s a special deal, so if you’d like to take advantage of it make sure to contact her directly instead of placing the order yourself.
Where to Buy: At Origami Owl here, or contact her directly through Facebook here

DIGITAL GOODS

Kid Tripp
Kid Tripp
I’ve already tipped my hand a bit on this one, as this isn’t the first time I’m mentioning Kid Tripp on Noiseless Chatter, but go read some reviews of this game. It wouldn’t be fair of me to say lots and lots of nice things about it here, but I do think it’s fine to encourage you to read the other nice things people had to say at the page linked below. It’s a side-scrolling touch-screen game with automatic movement, and it’s difficult. It also has a pretty fantastic soundtrack, and would make a great (and inexpensive) gift for the gamer on your shopping list.
Where to Buy: From the App Store here.

A Brief History of Time Travel
A Kickstarter success story, A Brief History of Time Travel is a six-episode science fiction radio comedy, also available with a making-of documentary and a companion book pdf. It’s a great buy for the comedy fan on your list, or for anyone already used to listening to radio shows, audiobooks or podcasts on their commute. (At least, that’s the only way I ever listen to them.) It’s worth mentioning here that the stuff you can buy digitally is going to be distributed in different ways depending upon where you make your purchase, so if you are shopping for someone else, make sure you keep that in mind during the checkout process so they actually receive it! Of course, you could also be buying this for yourself. And, yeah, you kinda should.
Where to Buy: From the official site here, though there is an option to buy it from iTunes there as well, if you trust that more for whatever reason.

Somos las Bolas
The closest thing to a conflict of interest on this list. This is actually a short film based on a story of mine, but I had nothing to do with making it and I receive no percentage of its profits. (I wasn’t even paid for the rights to the story. I’ll be seeing the director in court.) It’s the live action version of a tale about growing up, falling in love, and lots and lots of Ping-Pong. It also has a really awesome soundtrack that I used to have as a zip file but I can’t find it anymore so the guy should probably send me another one OKAY? If you care, I did do a commentary track for the film after it was finished, and I was pretty strung out on DayQuil when I did. So if you ever wanted to hear me ramble in semi-consciousness about things I barely remember writing, this is the DVD for you.
Where to Buy: At Amazon here. It’s available as a physical DVD, but I listed it here because I don’t have enough for a DVD section, and you can buy it for viewing on demand.

Zombie Simpsons: How the Best Show Ever Became the Broadcasting Undead
An ebook by the team over at Dead Homer Society, which is also linked in my sidebar, and probably always will be. It’s actually available in its entirety at that site for free, but you can buy the official pdf cheaply enough that it may well be worth it for those who want to enjoy it without having to be connected to the internet while being reminded of how much worse The Simpsons is now, and has been for a long time. It’s not as venomous and hate-filled as the main content on that website (though I do mean those things as compliments), and is actually a rather intelligent deconstruction of the show’s trajectory. Worth a buy for anyone on your list who stopped buying the DVDs after season 10.
Where to Buy: At Amazon here.

Jump Leads
More sci-fi comedy in the form of an ongoing webcomic. I could have sworn physical copies were available but I couldn’t seem to find them anywhere anymore so I’m linking to the electronic versions. It focuses on two characters in the Lead Service, fumbling their way through parallel universes, hostile creatures and accidental witchcraft. I’m going to leave it to Ben to show up here and let everyone know where physical copies can be grabbed, if they can indeed still be grabbed, but in the meantime, the electronic versions make a good substitute for anyone who enjoys their graphic novels in digital format.
Where to Buy: At Wowio here.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

Toward the beginning of this project, I was speaking with a friend of mine, and I realized something kind of shocking: even though I remember watching ALF every week as a child, owning the toys and presumably enjoying it, I really don’t remember much as an adult about the show.

A few details stuck out, such as the fact that ALF’s real name is Gordon Shumway (a fact I expected to find out in the pilot, but apparently the Tanners didn’t give enough of a shit to ever ask, “Hey, who are you?”). I remembered that he was from Melmac, and that he ate cats. I remember “Ha! I kill me!” And, for whatever reason, I remembered that his favorite song was “Help Me, Rhonda.”

That’s about it. And, granted, I wasn’t very old when ALF was airing and it’s fair that I’d have forgotten a lot. But aside from a few miscellaneous bits of trivia, I didn’t remember anything. It’s actually kind of strange, because as an adult I’ve revisited many things I loved as a child, and I’m usually amazed at how much of it I remember. Whether it’s where the secrets are hidden in Super Mario Bros., the words to all of the songs in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or pretty much every line in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, adult Philip ends up feeling like he’s time traveling when he remembers so much so vividly.

With ALF, I remember nothing. At least, not yet. Maybe eventually we’ll get to an episode that will make my mind light up with recognition, but so far it’s just a garbage show that I can’t believe I ever enjoyed. I guess I must have only enjoyed it on a superficial level, because I sure as shit didn’t retain anything about it.

Anyway, I bring this up now because the episode is called “Help Me, Rhonda,” and I was pretty sure it would be about ALF tormenting everyone with the song or something. It’s not, but it’s also not a total lost cause, either. It’s an episode that seems to be trying to tap into the same vein as last week’s “For Your Eyes Only,” but this one feels more within ALF‘s wheelhouse than that episode did, simply because the approach is bungled so thoroughly.

Placing the two episodes side by side is actually quite instructive. In each case the show is trying to soften ALF, and in each case the show is trying to mine very similar territory (loneliness and homesickness). But whereas “For Your Eyes Only” largely succeeded at what it set out to do and seemed to suggest an alternate-universe ALF that wasn’t half bad, “Help Me, Rhonda” fails completely and reminds us of the actual-universe ALF we’re stuck with.

The episode opens with Brian and ALF dropping overt hints that it’s almost Brian’s birthday. We learn here that Brian is turning 7, and that ALF will be 229 in August. Then he and Brian talk about ALF’s experience of turning 229, which they discuss as though it already happened, meaning attention to this particular detail died in the space of a period between two sentences. ALF makes a crappy joke about blowing out the candles being easy, but lighting them being hard because your hand could catch on fire. The audience laughs and since it’s Thanksgiving I guess I’m thankful for the laugh track in this shitty show because otherwise I wouldn’t know that half of this stuff is meant to be a joke.

Kate and Willie ask Brian what decoration he wants on his cake, and this actually does trigger a memory, though not of ALF. I remember when I was about Brian’s age, being asked the same question. I wanted Bambi on my cake, because that had just been re-released in theaters and seeing it was still fresh in my memories. I really liked the movie, but my parents wouldn’t let me have Bambi on the cake, and were actually pretty rude with their explanations of why no son of theirs was going to have a birthday cake with Bambi on it. I guess I shouldn’t be too upset, though, because I’m positive that the lack of Bambi on my 7th birthday cake was the one thing that allowed me to make it through the rest of my life without fucking the anus of every guy I met.

Brian can’t decide what decoration he wants. Word of advice, kid…don’t ask for Bambi.

The pre-credits sequence ends on this harrowing cliffhanger, and, man, I really can’t wait to find out if Brian decides on a dinosaur or a fire engine. ALF really knew how to snare an audience!

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

After the credits we see ALF in bed, stroking off to a teddy bear in the tumble dryer. But it’s a very sad masturbation, because he knows he’ll never have another birthday with his friends.

This, I do have to say, is a promising start to the episode. In fact, “For Your Eyes Only” got my hopes up that this one might handle its exploration of ALF in a similarly satisfying way. I’m now convinced that “For Your Eyes Only” exists only so that I would lower my guard before “Help Me, Rhonda” punched me in the face.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

Willie enters the room in a loosely-knotted robe and I spend the rest of the scene horrified at the prospect of it slipping open. Also, what’s next to ALF on the floor? Was he drinking a beer? I’m okay with this, but as much as the show has alluded to him drinking, we’ve mainly only seen him with soda pop and juice boxes. I just find this to be an interesting detail.

Also interesting is the fact that he vents to Willie about his 228th birthday (they get the detail right this time) being a particularly bad one, because that was the day Melmac exploded.

So, wait. A full year has elapsed since ALF came to Earth? Maybe not, because it’s not ALF’s birthday, but the way they’re talking makes it sound like it’s coming up soon. I get that they might just be trying to link his sadness to Brian’s birthday, which reminds him of the fact that he has his own birthday, and that his last birthday was the day his planet exploded, and his next one will be his first birthday without his friends…but that’s a hell of a train of reasoning. It makes more sense if ALF’s sad because his own birthday is coming up, but we’re only seven episodes in so it can’t have been a full year.

I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m just upset because this episode is making me try to sort out the chronology of ALF. The worst part? It’s not even the last time in the episode I’ll be doing that.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

ALF gets wistful over Rhonda, who is presented as his ex-girlfriend, even though ALF then later contradicts that by saying they never went on any dates. Their first date was scheduled for the night of his birthday, but, obviously, the planet exploded and their fateful evening never happened.

He also mentions that just before the planet blew up, he and the rest of the Orbit Guards were called into duty, so, hey, more continuity! If Orbit Guard was the last job he held on Melmac, then he must have been a Phlegm dealer before that. It also suggests, at least potentially, that the nuclear disaster that decimated the planet was a war rather than an accident, if the Orbit Guard was called in.

Of course the Orbit Guard could have been like our own National Guard, which I guess is a lot more likely to be called into duty in the face of an accident than in open conflict. See? I told you this episode wasn’t done making me think about ALF to uncomfortable degrees.

This is off to a good start, though, no? A strong premise, a tender moment, some expansion of the ALF mythology. But don’t worry, we didn’t get two good episodes in a row. Boy howdy did we not get two good episodes in a row…

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

Willie shows off some serious gams while he tells ALF about Marsha Shankan. It was a girl that Willie was in love with, but she unfortunately moved to Toledo before Willie could embarrass himself thoroughly by asking her out in front of everybody and being so roundly rejected. He’s pretty clearly wallowing in the unresolved affection he had for another girl, which is a pretty fucked up thing to talk about while your wife is sleeping alone in the next room. He also almost refers to Kate as ALF’s mother during the story, which is even more fucked up.

At one point Max Wright says, “By the time I got the nerrrrrrrrvvv–up to ask her out…” and it’s pretty clear he forgot the line and stalled for time. Why does nobody ever ask for a second take on this show? I’ll never get used to just how poorly made this crap is.

ALF dickishly dismisses Willie’s heartache because it’s nothing that affects him personally, but since Willie’s going to lay next to his sleeping wife and jack off to the memory of some girl he knew in the sixth grade, I’d say they’re both on equal dick footing.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

ALF then…oh no. Oh, fucking no. A dream sequence.

He dreams he’s back on Melmac, and I think it’s supposed to be a pretty accurate flashback as well as a dream. He’s at a diner or something, and he’s totally nude apart from his Orbit Guard armband. I mention this because the show doesn’t…it’s not a joke or a plot point, it’s just there.

See, this is weird to me, because everybody else in this scene is wearing clothes. I always just figured ALF’s nudity was due to the fact that they didn’t wear clothes on Melmac, and when he came to Earth he didn’t see a need to start. That’s fair. It’s the one thing that allowed me to overlook the fact that the Tanner household just has some naked dude lying spread-eagled on the sofa all day.

But now we see that they did wear clothes on Melmac. Everybody did. It’s just ALF who walked around town all day with his dick swingin’. Was he mentally ill?

ALF’s friend Skip has a few lines here, and the puppetry is really bad. His mouth doesn’t match his words at all, and it’s a great time to remember just how good Fusco’s puppetry is. It’s been the lone, solid highlight of these episodes so far, and putting him next to a puppetteer who had no idea what he was doing really makes me appreciate his talents more. Say what you will about the man himself, and I’ll say what I will about the show, but ALF’s puppetry is impressive.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

Skip makes some remarks about how bangin’ their waitress is, and, look! She totally is.

She serves the guys their food, and behind her you can see all the cat dishes on the menu. Commenter E[X] asked a few weeks ago why there were cats on Melmac anyway. Well, this episode doesn’t provide an answer, but I did want to take this moment to say I’m fucked if I know.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

ALF awakens screaming to the image of Willie touching him and stroking his chest, which is interesting because that’s precisely the image that I awake screaming from.

Willie shook ALF awake because the freeloading naked fuckhead was shouting and singing. What, at the same time? ALF asks what he was singing, and Willie says it was something by The Beach Boys. The one with Rhonda in the title.

Willie, if you heard the line “Help Me, Rhonda” then you know the name of the song. I don’t know why they didn’t just have him say that. Did they think it would make us feel clever to figure it out on our own? It would be like me saying, “I won’t tell you the name of my favorite Beatles song, but I’ll give you a hint: it has Jude in the title.” You won’t feel clever for figuring that out; you’ll just think I’m a moron.

Sad music comes on as ALF says he wants to go home. Which I guess qualifies as a twist since he’s spent every episode so far specifically not taking any steps toward going anywhere at all.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

It’s not enough that ALF gets free room and board and unchecked demolition privileges, he also has Kate rubbing his shoulders. Oh, and Lynn is also stroking his chest. I don’t know; maybe that’s just a Tanner family tradition.

The show actually goes a good job of making ALF look “sick,” even though the puppet doesn’t really change. They muss up his hair, lower his eyelids, and Fusco makes ALF’s movements look tired and sluggish. I swear, that man’s puppetteering is really good. Maybe what he should have done is sign up with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop or something, where he could show off that talent but not be in charge of the production. It’s not that he has no talent…it’s that he shouldn’t have been running the show.

ALF asks Kate to get the dustbuster and for some reason gets pissy that she won’t go out to the garage to get it right now. Lynn goes to get the dustbuster herself in order to defuse the situation, but then something wonderful happens.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

Kate comes over, sits on the couch, and tells him — thank you God! — to cut his motherfucking bullshit, and to cut his motherfucking bullshit right motherfucking now. She doesn’t give a flying fuck if he’s sick…he is not to speak to her that way.

Then she threatens, and I am not exaggerating, to punch his heart out.

Please Jesus, let that be the Christmas special.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

In a rare instance of this show doing something for a reason, we cut to the garage. Lynn is grabbing the dustbuster, and she notices that Willie and Brian are using their ham radio to ask if anyone who can hear them is from Melmac, because, really, that whole “Nobody can find out an alien lives here” was so six episodes ago.

There’s no joke in this scene, and the camera just awkwardly films Willie and Brian silently passing a tape recorder back and forth. This is so weird. The camera just keeps rolling even though nothing’s happening and nobody’s saying anything. They didn’t bother to write any dialogue? Is this show improvised or something? It’s so bizarre.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

We cut back to the living room, where ALF must have reinstated the pecking order because Kate is spoonfeeding him soup.

The first episode seemed to set up the idea that Kate was some cold, heartless, humorless shrew — my dream girl, basically — but I guess she’s really just a battered housewife.

Lynn comes back with the dustbuster and asks if she should clean now, but ALF tells her it would be better to wait until tomorrow. Then why did he get so pissed off that Kate didn’t get the dustbuster a minute ago? It’s not even a joke…and I know it’s not, because they don’t turn on the recording of dead people laughing.

Instead he hands Lynn his Last Will and Testament, which is when we find out his name is Gordon Shumway. Wow, lots of continuity in this one. ALF even suggests that he never mentioned that fact before because he’s embarrassed of it, which is pretty much the first time this nudist dickwheel has ever demonstrated having a sense of shame.

We don’t hear what the will says because the writers didn’t want to think of anything, so they have Willie and Brian interrupt with news that they’ve contacted another survivor from Melmac. I guess that justifies the fact that they spent the past week continuously broadcasting the information that they had a secret alien that lives in their house. That’s me told.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

We then…

…no.

No, I won’t continue until you all take a moment to soak in Lynn’s outfit.

A long, long moment. Jesus fuck.

…okay.

So, anyway, Willie managed to contact Skip, which is convenient because it’s one of the few puppets they already had made. Skip offers to stop by and pick up ALF on his way to Andromeda. I don’t know why Skip isn’t there already if that’s where he’s going. What has he been doing this whole time? Orbiting the Earth listening to ham radio operators talking dirty to each other?

ALF asks if Skip can come by next week instead, since it’s Brian’s birthday tomorrow, and on Friday “the transvestites are back on Donahue.” Once again the laughter doesn’t come and it’s really fucking odd…as though the laugh track feels as sickened by ALF’s use of transvestites as a punchline as I do.

But then Skip says that Rhonda is with him, and ALF says, “Forget the transvestites!” Which, I guess, is the punchline, because that’s when the audience laughs. What kind of family show is this? How many kids do you think turned and asked their parents what a transvestite was? And how many of them do you think got anything like an open-minded response?

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

The next day Brian is sad, because ALF is leaving and his birthday is ruined. ALF tries to comfort him the only way he knows how, by tweaking his boyboobs.

There is some evidence of the One Good Writer here, as ALF asks if he can take Lucky with him. Kate says no, and then ALF replies that they’d better let him out then. Willie opens ALF’s suitcase and the cat hops out.

Honestly, by the end of this show’s run, I bet I could compile a series of clips that might fool someone into thinking ALF was pretty good.

They bring out Brian’s birthday cake and we find out the decoration he finally decided on: he wanted ALF on his cake.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

It’s not supposed to be a joke, but I can’t help but laugh because even though we don’t get a clear shot of the cake, it’s pretty clear that they just globbed some brown shit on top, smeared it around a little and called it a day. That’s you, dickhead! Fuck you, ALF!

Everyone says goodbye to ALF and, again, there aren’t any jokes. It’s strange because they’re obviously not going to fool anyone into thinking ALF is leaving. The season isn’t anywhere near over, and even if he did go into space he’d pretty clearly have to come back so that there could be an episode next week.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

Willie gives some cockamamie speech about how enriched the family was by having ALF in their lives. To remind you, I’ll recap everything ALF’s done for them so far: destroyed their garage, tormented their neighbor, scared their cat away, made prank calls to the president, and ruined them financially. Cut the shit, Willie. Kick him in the ass and move on with your life.

Actually, last week he didn’t do anything too bad…he just went on a date with Jodie. Where’s Jodie? Will we ever see her again? I love how that episode ended with him asking her to trust him and that things would work out, then he never thinks about her again and she’s just heartbroken in her apartment forever.

There is a good moment though when Kate wishes ALF luck, and he asks if that’s all she has to say to him. Then she adds that it’s a long trip, so if he has to use the bathroom now would be a good time. It’s especially funny because of ALF’s face after she says this:

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

I know I’m supposed to hate you, Kate. I know. But I just can’t.

Brian says, “I love you” to ALF, and ALF replies “Yeah, me too,” because he’s an asshole.

ALF then looks upward and says, “Goodbye, Mrs. Ochmonek, wherever you are.” Did she die? What the fuck is this? She had the entire second episode to herself, then they killed her off camera? What the hell is going on with this show?

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

Later that night the family is all gathered in the living room, sad. Brian is at the window so I guess ALF is just standing naked in the yard waiting for Skip to come. Great. The Tanners really do not give a shit about keeping this whole alien thing under wraps, do they?

And why are they not outside with him? I know he sucks and all, but even I would be standing out there just for the chance to see a UFO. These guys just hang out around the coffee table like it’s nothing.

It’s also strange that the birthday cake is sitting there, untouched. I mean, it’s fine if they’re too sad to eat it or something, but why are they carrying it with them from room to room?

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

ALF comes in to give Brian his birthday present, which are some fuzzy dice that the ALF crew dyed green. That’s so alien!

Willie then tells ALF to get back on the roof, and I feel like an idiot for assuming he was in the yard. Of course this show would stick the naked alien on the roof for the entire town to see. Of fucking course. My mistake. I’m such a dope.

Willie says that he’d better hurry because Skip will be there in 30 seconds, which is pretty ridiculously precise. If I told you I’d meet you at a restaurant at 7 o’clock, and you looked at your watch to see that it was 6:59:30, would you think, “Okay, he’ll be here in 30 seconds?” Of course not. You’d just think I’d be there soon. This show comes off like it was somehow written by people who’ve never interacted with human beings.

It turns out ALF is stalling for time because he’d rather stay with the Tanners than go wherever Skip and Rhonda are going, presumably because that might require him to get a job or respect other people’s privacy.

Willie, unbelievably, sees this as touching. He also does not grab ALF by the throat and throw him outside, to his great discredit.

ALF, "Help Me, Rhonda"

The family all turns to watch a strobe light switch on and off outside, which I guess is meant to represent Skip and Rhonda porkin’ off into the night.

That’s the end of that, though we do get a short scene of Kate and ALF eating the birthday cake, which is a bit strange since nobody else in the family — including the birthday boy — are around. Kate says she’s starting to warm up to ALF, and then ALF walks over to the couch and starts demanding she does all kinds of shit for him and what a hilarious end to the episode that is.

I don’t know. This one was really bad, and I’m a little confused by why we never saw Rhonda. With a very small rewrite they could have just turned the waitress into Rhonda instead of having her be this separate character that doesn’t do anything but get sexually harassed by ALF’s grabassing friends. Which raises the question for me now of what the point of that flashback was at all.

Seriously, I thought it was going to have something to do with Rhonda, and I guess it kind of does because ALF’s friend’s are dicking around with him about his crush on her, but that’s it. We don’t learn anything about her, despite the fact that ALF is still madly in love with her, apparently, and we don’t even see her. We hear her voice on the ham radio for about two lines, and then that’s the end of that. Wouldn’t the episode have worked just as well if it was Skip alone offering to give ALF a ride? Why bother setting up a love interest just to do literally nothing with her?

And that was a flashback of Melmac’s final night in existence. Isn’t it a little strange that it has nothing to do with the fact that, I dunno, it fuckin’ exploded a few hours later? What a bizarre thing to do. It would be like making a movie about a guy who knows the full truth about the JFK assassination, and he spends all this time talking about how he was there and saw everything, and then finally when we get a flashback to November 22, 1963 it’s the wrong time of day so we just see him having brunch with some assholes he went to school with. What would be the point?

I don’t know. I never will know. But I’ve already invested way too much thought into this episode so I’m done. This review is over.

Oh, and goodbye Mrs. Ochmonek. Wherever you are.

MELMAC FACTS: Ruth the Two-Headed Nurse was the Vanna White of Melmac. (And the Betty White.) Melmac exploded in August. 425 degrees is normal body temperature for someone from Melmac. I’d question why ALF then doesn’t cook everything he touches but I promised myself this review was over so FUCK IT THIS REVIEW IS OVER.

The Lost Worlds of Power

WELL HELLO.

I know things have been relatively quiet around here, but I promise that Noiseless Chatter isn’t gradually becoming an ALF review blog. It’s just a matter of the holidays coming up, and with them a pilgrimage back to my ancestral home: New Jersey. The ALF reviews should keep coming as planned, because I’ve got a bunch of them locked and loaded, but other updates might be slightly more sporadic. Nevertheless, you should visit this site every day, and if you don’t see anything new, just re-read everything else I’ve ever posted. It will enrich you as a human being.

But anyway, some updates!

The Lost Worlds of Power anthology is going to be awesome. I’m not exaggerating, either. It’s going to be like walking into your bathroom in the morning and finding an angel taking a shower, and you can see all of her breasts and everything. THAT GOOD. So far we’ve received five complete stories for potential inclusion, which isn’t bad considering that it was only announced about a month ago, and I didn’t expect many people to immediately quit their jobs and start writing terrible novelizations of NES games for free. Anyway, you do still have a little over two months…the deadline is January 31, 2014, and it’s looking more and more likely that we will have physical copies available for purchase after all. In short, this is going to be great. Get writing, and email me (or comment) with any questions you may have!

– Don’t forget the First Annual Noiseless Chatter Christmas Party! It will be held on the night of Monday, December 23rd, right here online, at this website. That’s Christmas Eve Eve, traditionally referred to as the holiest day of the year. I’ll provide more details as the date approaches, but what I’ll do is set up a chat room and host a live stream, so that we can all watch the ALF Christmas special together and share our hilarious suggestions of why Max Wright’s voice sounds that way. There will also be a few other surprises to stream, with the idea being that we all drink too much, say stupid things, and enjoy the company of everyone else who has nothing to do that night. I just made myself sad.

– Oh, and if the spirit moves you I have a wishlist at Amazon. Nobody is required or even expected to get me anything, but if you do feel like showing your appreciation for the site or contributing to my ongoing accumulation of pop culture ephemera, this is a good way to do it. If you decide not to get me anything there will be no hard feelings, and if you do decide to get me anything you won’t get any preferential treatment, except that every time you leave a comment here I’ll agree to reply with “LOL that’s the funniest thing I’ve ever read!!!” The choice is yours.

Loyal reader Ridley asked about the voting results from a while back. I declared ALF the winner, but that’s only because it was clear that that show got the most votes, and also I never did care what you think. But I didn’t actually tabulate them, so…here are the results of that unofficial poll that meant nothing to anyone:

ALF (6)
The IT Crowd (2)
The Simpsons (2)
The Venture Bros. (2)
Perfect Strangers (2)
Roseanne (2)

Then there was a whole mess of shows that received only one vote each. So let that be a lesson to you: never ask what the results of any polls are, because they’re never interesting, period.

– And, finally, be sure to like Noiseless Chatter on Facebook. I post a lot more often there, simply because I can quickly share interesting links and bad jokes that way. You’ll love it. It will change you as a person.

So, yes, I’ll do my best to keep some of the best writing ever to grace the internet coming, but with the holidays ahead it might get a bit slower. Regardless, for all my posturing and / or ironic self-deprecation, I love you guys.

Seriously. When I started this site, I would have been amazed that there was even one person who bothered to read it. Then there was, and I would have been amazed if there were two. Now fast-forward to today, and there are nearly four people who visit this place regularly, and I couldn’t be happier. I really do appreciate everyone who stops by, leaves a comment, or emails me to say I’m an idiot. It means a lot, and I look forward to continuing to do whatever it is exactly that I do in 2014.

A Link Between Worlds

I haven’t been very impressed with the past few Legend of Zelda games. Actually, that’s putting it a bit too lightly; I think the past few Legend of Zelda games are terrible. And I don’t mean “terrible” in a relative sense, with me comparing them to the incredible highs the series has achieved in the past and calling them failures because they don’t have quite the same resonance. No, I mean “terrible” as in “these really are some lousy games.”

And so I didn’t get my hopes up about A Link Between Worlds, which was released this past week after many months of buildup. After all, I’ve been burned a bit too much by the past couple of releases. And yet I took the plunge anyway, and I’m glad I did. Not only because I absolutely adore the game on its own merits, but because it’s helping me to see, and to articulate, the problems I’ve had with the series lately. It not only illuminates them…it seems to deliberately atone for them.

The game, as you can probably tell from the comparative screenshots above, takes place in the same world as A Link to the Past, which is quite likely my second favorite Zelda game. I even chose it as my favorite thing from 1991 when asked to make such a selection, and it’s a choice I absolutely stand by. It is, for all intents and purposes, an absolutely perfect video game experience. And I’m choosing my words carefully here; I really do think of it as an experience.

The plot is not much to speak of; it doesn’t go much further than the standard boilerplate “kingdom in peril” that the first game already used, and it doesn’t really get any deeper here. But that’s a good thing. Yes, that’s right…for all of the bickering about chronology and intra-series cross references and alternate timelines, worlds and universes, Zelda is at its strongest when it doesn’t try to tell a story.

Flash back to your first time playing the original game. I can’t tell you that your experience with it was anything like mine. Actually, I can more or less promise you that it wasn’t…but that’s okay. In fact, again, that’s a good thing.

I remember playing it as a kid and being absolutely terrible at it. It was fun, don’t get me wrong, but with a wide open world like that, I wasn’t sure what to do. And I don’t mean that I was confused about my objectives…I meant that I did not know how I would survive.

At this point in my life, I was used to video games that broke their experiences into sequential chapters. Whether it was clearing a board of pellets and ghosts or leaping triumphantly at a flag pole, I felt as though I was in good, careful hands. I’d have to use my own cunning to figure out a way to achieve that goal, but there was a sense of safety and of security in knowing that somebody, somewhere, had taken the time to organize these things for me.

It’s easy to understand the appeal. If you succeed, you will be assigned the next objective, and it will be a little harder. And that was okay, because we trusted them. Games were designed as gradual challenges, to be ratcheted up at regular intervals. I may not have known what was coming next, but I trusted that it would never be unfair. I was secure.

The Legend of Zelda opens with its blackness parting like a curtain, revealing a stage upon which you are the only actor, in a show with no script. There is no security. There is simply a world for you to explore. And that’s why it’s remembered so fondly today, and why the series is still alive; there was a genuine sense of adventure, because the literal unknown stretched out in all directions around you.

Your experience of fumbling through the game is a lot different from my experience of fumbling through the game. 200 people could be asked to give a play-by-play of how they made it through The Legend of Zelda, and the only overlap would be in the tiny details. They collected the pieces of the Triforce. They slayed Ganon. They rescued the princess. Everything else would be — and must be — a more personalized story, something unique to their own experience that enfolded entirely, silently, within their own minds. Compare that to Super Mario Bros., which would be exactly the opposite: the main experience of the game would be identical no matter who you asked, with the only deviations coming in the smaller details…such as where they decided to farm for lives, or whether or not they used a Warp Zone.

There’s no right or wrong approach. The continuing success of both franchises proves that well enough. There’s a comforting, charming sense of advancement in addictive platformers, and there’s an unforgettable sense of excitement and surprise that comes along with open-ended adventure.

A Link to the Past built upon the formula of the first game — and rejected nearly everything from the second — to create what was ultimately a much more refined experience. It’s a purposeful retread over old ground, and it’s done for a respectable purpose: there was new hardware, a new controller, and new ways to do so many things better.

And it did do so many things better. The sense of adventure was left intact, but the world felt more real. More deliberately constructed. More coherent. Which only intensified the effect of your inevitable trip to the Dark World. That was a brilliant gameplay wrinkle that worked only because the Light World felt so genuine. It felt like an actual place, rather than a large and varied battlefield. If it hadn’t, it wouldn’t really have meant much to see it in such disarray, to find familiar landmarks gone or perverted, to see the palette of deadness tossed over the formerly lush grass and trees.

When I was a child playing The Legend of Zelda, I didn’t know how I would survive. Survival, for me, was more important than advancement. So I kept to the areas that felt safe to me. I could fight weak enemies over and over again, amass the cash that would let me buy the items that would make me stronger, and then I’d peek out a little bit. I’d let the screen scroll me into a new area. Sometimes it felt safe, because I had more abilities at my disposal. Other times I still felt unprepared, and so I retreated back. The point was, though, that this was a game that I could experience on my terms. The Legend of Zelda didn’t care where I went, or when I decided to go there. It didn’t care about the sequence in which I tackled the dungeons, and it didn’t even seem to care if I tackled them at all.

A Link to the Past was like an incredible punch to the gut, because I felt much safer in the overworld this time than I had in the original game. Sure, there were some difficult enemies, but it never felt like I was more than a few screens away from sanctuary. So I explored more recklessly. I was emboldened.

…until I found myself banished to the Dark World. Just like in the original game, I was in an area that suddenly made me feel overwhelmed. Unlike the original game, however, I wasn’t allowed to go back to my safe spot. I was trapped…and the only way out was forward, through what I dreaded most. Today it’s a development that probably feels quaint. To a ten-year-old boy playing the game in a dark room late at night, however, it was the stuff of nightmares. The Legend of Zelda was a game that had already stripped me of my security, and now A Link to the Past stripped me of whatever small amount of comfort still remained.

The original game didn’t care if you ever grew up and matured as an adventurer. A Link to the Past said, “You mature now, or you don’t get home alive.”

I loved it. And I still love it. I’ve played through it many times since, and it’s an experience that simply feels timeless. Yet there was an unfortunate side effect to A Link to the Past saying “You do this now.” What it did was set a precedent for all of the games that followed. And while Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker probably constitute the single best three-game run in any series ever, the fact remains that the “adventure” was dismantled.

A Link to the Past relied on the sequential usage of items more than either of the previous games, and it set the stage for the series to rest on its laurels. Whereas items were necessary to progress in the first two titles, they now started to fall into a predetermined chronology. It was no longer a case of choosing to go somewhere on a map…it was a case of choosing to go somewhere, realizing you needed an item to get past the barricade, seeking out that item, finding out you need some other item in order to find what you’re looking for, and so on. Adventure is striking out into the unknown…and by constructing these chains of mandatory causality, the Zelda series gradually forgot what adventure meant.

It found substitutes, of course. Ocarina of Time built a genuinely engrossing story, totally revamped the combat system, and featured positively breathtaking visuals for its day. Majora’s Mask — my particular favorite — delved into deep, hallucinogenic abstraction, and re-built the Ocarina world from the ground up as a Twilight Zone-worthy hellscape of death, despair, and inevitability. The Wind Waker turned the entire concept of a video game into an interactive, gorgeously animated cartoon. There was enough to keep us distracted from the fact that as “open” as they may have still seemed to be, the Zelda games had been reduced to level 1, level 2, level 3, and so on. Those labels were missing, but their effects were felt. The original game was an empty stage upon which you could act as you saw fit. The later games were more like massive murals of great adventures that were thrilling to look at, but which you could never get inside.

Twilight Princess was my first true Zelda disappointment, because it was not only as rigid as ever, but now it no longer seemed to be any fun. The palette was dismal, the character design uncreative, and the gameplay wrinkles just felt like less effective clones of things the series had already done. Skyward Sword rectified the graphical approach somewhat…at least in the sense that it let its characters be characters. But it also featured a control scheme that wanted to be immersive but instead reminded you with literally everything you did that you were just playing a video game. It also featured the most intrusive tutorial character yet…a spirit named Fi that literally never shut up, and would constantly feed you puzzle solutions whether you liked it or not.

The evolution of the Zelda series — and this is something that A Link Between Worlds has made clear to me — has gone something like this: adventure, then regimented advancement, then games that don’t trust you at all to play them.

I didn’t want that. And so I fell out of love with what was once the most exciting adventure a boy could have with a controller in his hands. That was okay, though. People grow up. We leave some things behind, and other things leave us behind.

But A Link Between Worlds won me back. Not just because it takes place in a world we’ve already seen, but because of what it does with that world. Just as the Dark World was a sucker-punch inflicted upon every child in the early 90s, A Link Between Worlds uses the comforting familiarity against us. It reaches back to the game that unintentionally introduced stodginess and rigidity to what was once an open and exciting formula…and it creates a new time-line. In this one, the adventure is still yours to have. In this one, your experience will be different from my experience, and those in turn will be different from the experiences of 198 other people making their way through the game. The series has never left us, but that’s something we haven’t seen in decades.

A Link Between Worlds does to A Link to the Past what that game did to The Legend of Zelda. It gives us largely the same experience, but it builds upon and refines it in ways we didn’t even consider. In this case, it’s down to tighter controls, non-sequential dungeons, and a shop that rents out items to you. Almost all of the items. You can take them and leave them as you please. This means that if you need to melt an icy barricade, you don’t need to figure out where the Fire Rod is, and then work backward through the chain of reasoning to figure out all the items you’ll need before you can get it; you just go rent the Fire Rod.

That might sound like the game is easier, but it’s actually not. It’s more difficult when you have the freedom to do what you’d like to do. Why? Because it’s your responsibility to get it right. The game isn’t providing the gradual accumulation of important items like it used to…it literally lays them all on the table and wishes you luck. For the first time in more games than I can count, The Legend of Zelda trusts me.

And that’s why I love A Link Between Worlds. Forget the lovely graphics. Forget the great soundtrack. Forget the funny dialogue and silly — but addictive — mini-games. All of that stuff has been with us all along.

What matters is that it rediscovered its own sense of adventure, and that, once again, it wants me to have fun playing it.

I hope we do get more Zelda games in this vein. Because it really is a lot more fun when you have responsibility for your own actions. That’s what Zelda should be all about. Not cut-scenes and long lectures from your mandatory helper character, but a sense that it’s up to you to figure this out. The odds are against you, you’re alone, and the fate of the world is in your hands.

Sure, it’s intimidating…but it’s the only way you can correctly consider yourself a hero.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

Well, I’d love to be able to report that ALF finally managed to slap together a decent episode, but I can’t say conclusively that prolonged exposure hasn’t just driven me insane. Either way, I found myself kind of liking “For Your Eyes Only.”

In a relative sense, at least. When it comes to ALF, you need to grade on a curve. It’s a bit like someone attacking you with a baseball bat that has a nail in it. If that happens enough, and eventually the nail falls out and you’re just being attacked with a normal baseball bat, you’ll probably feel kind of relieved.

So that’s what “For Your Eyes Only” is. It’s not great. It’s not even all that good. But you know what?

It’s better. And I’ll take that.

Of course, as surprising as this is, it also makes me feel somewhat vindicated in my previous reviews, as a lot of what makes “For Your Eyes Only” work is stuff that I’ve been hoping they’d address all along.

Maybe this episode bears a greater stamp of that One Good Writer. I don’t know.

What I do know is that when I saw the plot description — “ALF befriends a blind woman,” or something to that effect — I definitely didn’t expect I’d be watching the best episode so far. The way things have been handled in previous episodes I half expected ALF to burn down her house and dance a jig on her mother’s corpse.

And maybe the entirety of my relative goodwill toward the episode is due to the fact that that didn’t happen. I don’t know. I’m just kind of gobsmacked that I didn’t hate this one, y’all.

…which you might not have guessed since I seem to be so hesitant to describe what’s actually happening when the episode begins, so here you go: ALF frosts a cake with some toothpaste.

Forget for a moment the fact that ALF knows all about ordering pizzas and selling cosmetics and political call-in shows and the complete works of Alfred Hitchcock, because he doesn’t seem to know that humans don’t eat toothpaste and Play-Doh.

He’s being a dick, right?

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

For once, no. He’s not!

Granted, a toothpaste cake and Play-Doh pate sound pretty gross, but he’s doing it in honor of Willie and Kate’s anniversary.

That’s…kind of sweet, actually. And this sweetness is why I actually enjoyed “For Your Eyes Only.” I don’t want to get ahead of myself, though, so let’s just look at this scene in isolation. Not isolation from the rest of the episode, but in isolation from the rest of the show.

Imagine, in other words, that we haven’t had to sit through five terrible episodes. Imagine, instead, that this is the pilot. This is the very first thing you see.

ALF’s mess-making here is due more to a child-like desire to do nicer things for his family than he actually can. He’s no chef, and this isn’t something anyone would want to eat, but his intentions were good. This is a toddler making inedible pancakes for his parents on a Sunday morning. It’s cute.

When I mentioned earlier that we have to forget how much he knows about Earth in order to accept this, it’s because I’m all too happy to do so. Yes. Let’s please forget everything that came before this. Because this is a smarter approach to ALF.

We can still have him wreck the house. We can still have him be a massive inconvenience. We can still have him sink the family financially. The difference, though, is that this ALF does it because he doesn’t know any better. That other ALF — the one who’s starred in the previous five episodes — does it in spite of the fact that he knows better. This ALF is an adult who seems child-like through the filter of a culture he doesn’t understand. That ALF was a dick with feet.

ALF still breaks dishes as he carelessly sets the table for Willie and Kate, but I’m willing to allow it.

I’m not laughing at it, because the sound of things breaking isn’t really much of a joke, but I’d go along with it, and make allowances for it, because this is the ALF I want to see more of. “For Your Eyes Only” plays almost like an episode of the ALF that should have been, beamed by accident into our universe from one where the show had a significantly better writing staff.

…again, however, I have to assure you it’s not good.

It’s just a lot better.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

Willie and Kate have to leave, though, because they made other plans. They’re going to see Nicholas Nickleby, and ALF, hurt, shouts spoilers at them about the play.

Wait…really?

I know usually when I type “Wait…really?” in one of these reviews it’s because I want somebody to enter the room and stab me so I don’t have to continue, but here I’m…I’m just kind of shocked that they’re making literary jokes about a Dickens deep cut. This is so much better than that pointless Three Stooges back and forth last week. This is…well, maybe not clever. But intelligent, at least.

I’m willing to overlook the fact that ALF graphically alluded to the hot, sluggish anniversary fucking Willie would subject Kate to later, because…this kind of isn’t totally awful writing.

Even ALF’s active dickishness here makes sense. It’s not well-founded, but he put a lot of effort into something selfless (for what’s pretty fuckin’ clearly the first time in his entire worthless life), and his family didn’t stay around to enjoy it.

Yes, it’s a bit self-centered of ALF to get upset that a couple made plans to go out on their anniversary, but it’s self-centered in a childlike way that works very well. This is the kind of character development he needs. He can’t just be a rampaging asshole…he needs a justification. This is something American Dad! learned about Roger very early as well. While the number of “asshole Roger” episodes is pretty high, they’re always balanced out by other episodes that soften him.*

It’s not because American Dad! needs us to like Roger; it’s because American Dad! is smart enough to know that it will be funnier if we like Roger. If he didn’t have those more “human” moments and was always a destruction-and-abuse delivery machine, he’d…well, he’d be ALF.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

Time passes and we see that ALF has eaten the cake by himself. He calls out for Lucky, because he wants some company, but the cat doesn’t come.

Remember Lucky? I think this is the first time we’ve heard him referred to since he got a whole episode to himself in “Looking For Lucky.” And speaking of which, what the fuck happened to Mrs. Ochmonek? She got the second episode of the show to herself and we haven’t seen hide nor hair of her since. Why do they bother having us spend all this time with these characters we’ll never see again?

We still don’t know what Willie does for a living. And, come to think of it, how long has he been married to Kate? It’s their anniversary, and this would be a nice, organic time to relay that information to us.

But, again, the writers don’t know. They don’t know anything.

But no.

No!

I’m not going to get sidetracked by the larger problems with ALF, because I’m enjoying this one, at least slightly, and fuck me if I’m going to let that slip away.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

Look at that picture. Isn’t that better than seeing ALF singing into a God damned cucumber?

ALF turns on the radio and hears a call-in show (he sure loves those things). Specifically, he hears a woman named Jodie calling in, talking about how sad she feels because she recently moved to Los Angeles and doesn’t fit in. She also says that people act strange around her when they find out she’s not like them.

It’s pretty on the nose, and ALF’s cries of “I can relate!” aren’t the most subtle hints in the world, but I’ll take it, because this is something that really did need to be addressed: ALF is an outsider.

I don’t care what the previous episodes said. He’s not going to be dancing around the living room and calling the president and sexually harassing children…he’s going to be homesick. This is good. This is exactly what the show needs, because it both acknowledges its central concept (something it usually seems bizarrely reluctant to do) and deepens ALF’s character (if only because he’s actually demonstrating an emotion, however shallow).

Again, it’s not great writing; it’s something that needed to be addressed. What impressed me isn’t that they addressed it masterfully — because they didn’t — but simply the fact that the show hit the right notes. It doesn’t make it good, but it does make it competent. And that’s a huge step forward.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

So obviously we learn what city and state the Tanners live in, finally, and we also learn their phone number: 555-8531. This is because ALF calls the radio show and asks them to give Jodie his digits, saying, “Tell her she’s found a friend.”

They do, and Jodie calls him.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

We don’t get to hear the conversation, though, because they’d rather cut to a scene of ALF obnoxiously clipping his toenails in the living room the next day.

One of his toenails lands in whatever the hell Kate was carrying on a try, and though she doesn’t say anything, she makes the exact same face I make when I have to deal with ALF’s bullshit.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

So, yeah, it’s not a very good episode. But I’m supposed to be focusing on the positive, since there finally is some positive, so, yes. The plot of “For Your Eyes Only” revolves around ALF’s feelings of homesickness, loneliness, and isolation. It also redefines his dickishness (well, most of his dickishness) as an unfortunate manifestation of his naivete, rather than as a ruthless desire to physically destroy the home and belongings of innocent people.

That’s not only the best plot yet, it’s the first one that makes any sense. And…well…it still gets better.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

The phone rings, and it’s Jodie.

I know I made this observation as a joke last time, but I’m really starting to think Willie just had ten thousand phones installed after “Pennsylvania 6-5000.” Seriously, there’s a phone in every shot, and nobody has to reach very far to grab one when they need it.

And why doesn’t anyone care that ALF is talking on the phone to people? The last time this happened he ordered $4,000 worth of makeup and…

…no. No no. Let it go, Philip.

Enjoy it while you can. You may never get another chance.

Deep breaths. Let it all go. Allow yourself to be taken away by the dulcet stammers of Max Wright.

…ahhhhh.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

ALF hands the phone to Willie because he’s going to finish his conversation on the kitchen line so SERIOUSLY THERE ARE LIKE PHONES FUCKING EVERYWHERE AND…

…and that’s okay.

That’s…yes. That’s okay. The Tanners can have as many phones as they want. It’s fine. Just…fine.

Anyway, I thought that Willie would listen in or something instead of hanging up, but he doesn’t, so I’m not sure why they bothered to have ALF start a conversation here and finish it somewhere else. I guess it’s so we can hear the hilarious sound of ALF smashing more shit.

I can’t really tell what happened. I think he laughed so hard at one of Jodie’s jokes that he knocked a gravy boat over, which is exactly why I tell all of you to read these reviews as far away from your gravy boats as possible.

Why it happens is academic, because all it does is set up the running gag of the episode: ALF breaks a fuckload of shit somewhere, then shouts out that nobody should walk barefoot in that room. It’s not even a joke that layers itself or evolves in any way; it’s literally just the sound of stuff breaking followed by ALF saying the same exact thing and…

…and that’s…okay.

ALF…can say whatever he wants to say. It’s fine. I don’t live with him. He’s not my responsibility.

Deep breaths…

…and continue.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

Kate sweeps up the gravy boat, and ALF tells a joke that cracks him up so hard he flails his right hand off to the side and makes sure it knocks a glass onto the floor so that Kate can sweep that up, too.

I guess I’d like this a lot more if ALF just slapped the table or something and the glass was close enough to the edge that it just fell off, but instead he pretty clearly went out of his way to smack it over so I’m kind of starting to hate him again.

All I need to do is keep in mind what happens later in the episode. Or, rather, all of the house-burning abuse of a blind woman that doesn’t happen.

In fact, this is where we find out Jodie is blind, and there’s…kind of a nice conversation about that. ALF says he made a date with Jodie, but Willie and Kate aren’t having it, even when he tells them that she’s blind.

ALF and Brian, however, both understandably childlike, ask why that is. Is it because Jodie’s blind?

It’s not, but the way it’s handled is, again, impressive in its competence. The two “children” here miss the point, which is that ALF can’t leave the house. Even if Jodie can’t see him, somebody else might. Meanwhile the adults are trying to be both fair and rational…but end up in a situation where they feel like they’re not being either.

There’s even a great joke when Willie tells ALF he can’t borrow the car, and ALF promises, “I won’t let Jodie drive.”

I…I am actually totally conflicted. As long as I separate “For Your Eyes Only” from the rest of ALF so far, it’s not so bad. It doesn’t quite work as a short film or anything, but it does work as a pilot for a much better show than this one actually is.

There are shades of Roger in ALF’s invention of a new backstory for himself. He’s from Cincinnati, he sells wholesale band equipment, and he has two children (twins) from his brief marriage to a woman named Kathy Rigby. None of that is very funny in itself — though I do enjoy the specificity — but Kate says that eventually Jodie might find out the truth. ALF replies angrily, “Not if Kathy Rigby keeps her mouth shut.”

That’s pure Roger. And it’s funny. Maybe the One Good Writer actually did graduate to American Dad!

There’s even another funny exchange when the family tries to tell ALF that he has friends, but I won’t type that one out because I think this review is close enough to a record of my descent into madness already.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

ALF slinks off sadly because he’s not allowed to see Jodie, and…whoa! We find out where he sleeps!

It turns out he’s got a little setup in the laundry room. Man, this episode is answering questions left and right. Did the writing staff suddenly eat a balanced breakfast or something?

ALF speaks to a sock with eyes on it — which he calls Mr. Ginsburg — and I have to admit I’m a sucker for puppets using puppets. Remember when Fozzie Bear took up ventriloquism? That was a childhood mindfuck of the highest order.

Of course, because this is ALF, he tells a joke so funny that he must smack Mr. Ginsburg’s eyeballs off. We hardly knew ye.

Willie and the kids come in to cheer up ALF, and it must be motherfucking Christmas because Willie spins a Frisbee directly into ALF’s face. This really is the episode of my dreams!

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

Christ that’s glorious. I don’t even mind that I couldn’t get a good shot of the Frisbee actually smashing into his awful stupid face, because I got to watch it over and over again while trying. That was its own kind of special reward. I hope the clip show is just this on a 60-minute loop.

Lynn is then left behind while the Tanner men head out to the back yard, probably to high-five each other over the fact that they just whipped a hard piece of plastic into ALF’s fucking freeloading face, and she feels so sorry for the lonely alien that she offers to help him meet Jodie.

The sheer competence with which this development is handled is astounding. Again, it’s not good or anything, but one character reacting in a human way to another character is leagues ahead of previous episodes, which would have resolved this by having the government come, and then ALF is mistaken for a dog, so Brian hijacks Air Force One and Willie slips in cow shit.

This is much, much better.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

More Roger (and I do mean this as a compliment) when we see ALF in disguise. Part of me wants to say that they should have made some effort to hide his face, but then I realize his nose wouldn’t allow for a mask, so they did pretty much do the best they could…even if he does just look like Kermit the Frog in his reporter outfit.

Before ALF goes in to meet Jodie, there are a few more reminders of how childlike he is. He asks Lynn why Jodie has so many rooms if she lives alone…because he doesn’t understand what apartment buildings are. Then he reaches into the pocket of his coat and pulls out a glove, but gets scared because he thinks it’s somebody’s hand.

This is not the ALF who was totally familiar with everything on Earth that we got to know in the previous episodes. This is much more interesting, and the panic when he finds the “hand” is actually pretty funny. Fusco’s been pretty much on target this episode. His puppetry has been the lone highlight of this show so far, but this time he adds to that with a vocal performance that effectively sells most of what the episode’s trying to convey.

For God’s sake I like this.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

Jodie comes to the door and ALF, in his nervousness, introduces himself as “not an alien.” God damn it, ALF, stop being funny.

You know, if this really were the standard of ALF episodes, I’d enjoy this project a hell of a lot of more. (And, consequently, you’d enjoy it a lot less. Swings and roundabouts.)

I got a little nervous when we first saw Jodie, because the way she looks in the wrong direction made me worry we were going to be in for a lot of broad and cruel humor at her expense, especially since ALF has previously proven to us that all humor must be at somebody else’s expense.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

I know it’s not strange in any way to remove your hat and coat when you enter somebody’s house, but since for ALF that essentially means he’s stripping down naked before he sits on her furniture, that does seem a bit forward. Of course, it’s an approach that served me very well in college so who am I to judge?

There’s some standard joking about ALF eating lots of food and getting a boner when she mentions her cat, but what interests me here is the interplay between them regarding her blindness. What absolutely stood out to me as dangerous territory for the idiots in the ALF writer’s room actually ended up being the highlight of the series so far.

Why? Because ALF behaves like a person.

He’s still dickish, but he’s dickish in a very human way. He keeps telling Jodie where she is in relation to things in the room, and he describes what things look like to her. Is that a very insensitive thing to do to a blind person? Yes, it is. But here’s the thing: people do it anyway. And they don’t do it because they’re assholes…they do it because they think they’re helping.

ALF’s naivete — at least in this episode — is behind this. He’s being a jerk, but he’s being an accidental jerk, in an awkwardly relatable way.

Of course, this would play a lot differently if Jodie’s feelings were hurt, but that’s the great thing about it; Jodie comes across as a woman who’s come to terms with her blindness. She’s not happy about it, but she’s aware of it. And, what’s more, she’s aware of the many different ways well-meaning people will end up embarrassing them both.

ALF’s being an ass, but he’s not being an ass in any way she hasn’t heard before. She’s become comfortable enough with her disability to know that ALF’s attempts to help are coming from a good place.

I really like this scene. Again, there’s plenty I would change, but as it is? It’s downright decent. We have two characters dancing around a touchy subject in cringe-worthy ways that are still completely understandable.

Give ALF something simple like a dog catcher or a nosy neighbor or a pizza delivery guy, and the show will fuck it up. Give it a time-bomb like blindness and it somehow manages to get through just fine.

Maybe it’s because they had to take the time to handle this one correctly. Presumably they wanted to be funny, but they also didn’t want to actually hurt anybody’s feelings. If this is true, then it means they would have had to invest more effort than usual. It’s not just pitching an idea and worrying about how to write it later…it’s pitching an idea, and then worrying about whether or not they’ll be able to write it at all.

They had to figure this out before the pen ever hit the page, and I’m glad for that, because they added depth to a character that had none, and introduced a strong new character as well.

Bravo, “For Your Eyes Only.” Credit where credit is due, absolutely.

These are two lonely people who need each other more than they even realize, and they are doing their best to navigate their way through a conversational minefield.

It’s actually good.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

Lynn starts calling ALF’s name through the door, because she needs to get him home before Willie and Kate come back and discover him missing. The fact that they actually bothered to address this is astounding in itself.

Jodie hears her calling, though, and assumes it’s Kathy Rigby, ALF’s imaginary ex-wife. ALF tries to explain that it’s not what she thinks…it’s the girl he’s living with, and she’s only sixteen years old.

So, creepy? Yes. But this, again, is accidental creepiness that feeds from ALF’s childlike misunderstanding of social norms. This isn’t him telling Lynn to tilt her head back so he can splooge on her face…this, whether you find it funny or not (and it’s certainly okay if you don’t), is at least the product of deliberate, relatively careful writing.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

Jodie tells ALF to tell her the whole truth, but he can’t do that. In fact, ALF says, he can’t tell her any of the truth. And, okay, the sad music kicks in and that’s at least slightly corny, but this is a good moment. Jodie is hurt, because she feels as though she’s being lied to. And she’s right. But she doesn’t know what she’s being lied to about, and ALF can’t tell her. He’s at least honest enough to tell her that that’s true, she is being lied to, but he’d like her to trust him.

She says that it feels like she’s taking a bigger risk than he is, and ALF tells her that she has no idea. He then takes her hand without realizing what he’s doing, and pulls it away. But it’s too late…she’s felt it. And she says nothing when he leaves, but it’s clear that she knows he isn’t human.

The episode proper ends, and what a great, open conclusion. It’s undercut somewhat by the fact that there’s always a brief pre-credits scene, but that’s an excellent choice for an ending.

I have a feeling we’ll never see poor Jodie again, but who knows? I’d like to be wrong…but I kind of doubt that I am. Which means this episode works even better in isolation than I thought. The unseen promise of a relationship between these two could have fueled an entire — and, I’ll say it again, much better — show. Instead it’s relegated to a single episode with no real conclusion, but since it’s the best episode I can’t really complain.

These are two characters who need each other, and want to be with each other, and could benefit from each other, but can’t actually be together. THAT IS GOOD WRITING ALF SEE IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

The short tag scene involves Lynn rushing into the house to clean up before Willie and Kate get home, and we get a short, three-second glimpse of the midget hobbling across the floor in his ALF suit, just in case anyone watching during the original broadcast was afraid this wasn’t going to be a terrible show anymore.

Why couldn’t they have just tilted the camera up another couple of inches? Then Fusco could have used the actual puppet and we wouldn’t have had to make the midget walk across the room just so we could replace him with a puppet a few seconds later anyway. It doesn’t make any sense, but I sure am glad even the best episode of ALF ends by dropping a perfect dollop of shit.

MELMAC FACTS: ALF was an “Orbit Guard” with someone named Squeaky Macintosh. I guess this was before he became a car salesman. Or after. I don’t care. Either way, ALF says that Squeaky didn’t have any friends, either. “Of course,” ALF says of the difference between them, “he was obnoxious.” That One Good Writer was damned busy this week…even the Melmac Fact is funny.

—–
* For a particularly brilliant example of this, check out “The One That Got Away.” While it’s not a terribly even show, I’m always impressed at the impressive highs American Dad! is able to reach when it wants to.

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