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ALF Reviews: “Jump” (Season 1, Episode 9)

December 12th, 2013 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

ALF, "Jump"
Alright, guys and gals. Strap yourselves in because this one is a da-hoo-zy.

…no, it’s not. It’s actually just a half hour of Willie mumbling to himself about how worthless he is. And, I have to admit, that’s definitely the way to get me on your side, but man is this episode lousy.

It starts off with Willie’s birthday party. Couldn’t they have spaced out these plots a little bit? Two episodes ago it was Brian’s birthday, and right before this we had three episodes in a row about ALF being in love with different women. This show hasn’t even hit ten episodes yet; does it really need to be repeating itself this much?

I don’t understand. It’s a show about an alien, for crying out loud. It shouldn’t be that difficult to come up with ideas for plots. Certainly not so difficult that in episode nine you have to throw up your hands and say, “Fuck it, we’ll do another birthday.”

Maybe this was the idea all along. Write a handful of scripts and then make minor alterations to them over and over until the show is cancelled. I can’t wait until the holidays; I’m hoping they do five Christmas episodes in a row.

Anyway, Willie is turning 45. And good for him; he doesn’t look a day over 60.

ALF, "Jump"

Willie kisses ALF.

I don’t have anything to say about that; I just wanted to take a screen grab in case you were interested in having it for your desktop background.

As strange as it feels to say this, I’m pretty sure this is the first Willie episode. I mean, I know it is, but it feels like that can’t be true. I think it’s just because he’s always such a presence in the show, even when he’s not doing anything. It’s hard for your eyes not to be drawn to the weaselly, stammering lunatic whenever he’s in the room, regardless of what else is going on.

But we still don’t know anything about him. It’s not that he’s a cipher; it’s that the only characteristic he has is that the actor playing him doesn’t bother to learn his lines until a few minutes before the cameras roll.

We don’t know what he does for a living, we don’t know what he likes or dislikes, we don’t know what he thinks of his own children, we don’t know what he thinks of his wife — except that he will never, under any circumstances, allow himself to have sex with her — and we don’t know his history. He’s just this guy who is always there.

So it’s probably good that we finally get around to learning about him, seven weeks after ALF devoted a full episode to the nosy neighbor we never saw again.

But I guess I might as well tell you right now that we don’t come out of this episode knowing anything more about Willie than we knew going in, which was pretty much jack shit. The fact that the writers can spend a whole half hour with one of their central characters and manage to say literally nothing about him is an almost impressive display of ineptitude.

ALF, "Jump"

The family gives Willie those trick birthday candles that don’t blow out, so ALF dumps water on them and ruins the cake.

A few episodes ago this might have been fine, because I’d love to believe that this is just his alien mind misunderstanding a concept you and I would be familiar with. But, again, two weeks ago it was Brian’s birthday. He was there. He knows that you eat the cake, and that you don’t fucking dump water all over it like an asshole.

It’s not enough that ALF has ruined Willie’s life? He has to ruin his birthday cake, too? Why is he such a massive dick?

Then the family asks Willie to give a speech, and ALF gets upset that nobody wants to hear him give a speech too. Later ALF is confused by the fact that Willie gets all the presents.

But, again, ALF just experienced an Earth birthday not that long ago, and he didn’t express any confusion then. He knows how this shit works. Maybe these episodes were aired out of order or something, but watching them in sequence it seems to almost deliberately underscore the fact that ALF isn’t confused by this stuff at all…he’s just a cockhole.

ALF, "Jump"

Willie’s speech is just a list of the people he lives with, and his relationship to them, so the viewers at home don’t get confused by the foreign concepts of “wife” and “child.”

It’s strange. I can’t imagine being asked to give a speech on any occasion and just saying, “Mike is my friend, Joe is my friend, Tammy is my mother, Otis is my milkman…” and having that go over well. People would probably think I had a stroke.

I guess it was easier for the writers to just list the names of the characters in the show than it would have been to give any thought to who Willie is as a human being. I know I’ve asked things like this before, but, honestly, why would you even pitch the idea that you do a Willie episode if you don’t feel like writing anything about Willie?

ALF, "Jump"

The kids bring Willie his gifts, and the first one he opens is from Kate. It’s the Cambridge Atlas of Astronomy, and the moment he turns his head ALF grabs it and starts scribbling all over it.

Kick this guy out! There is no reason to keep him around. At least yell at him! All he ever does is take your shit and destroy it. Willie’s been in possession of this book for all of two seconds before ALF ruins it. Why are there no consequences? How is this even a joke? It would be like me sitting next to you while you’re eating your lunch, and I smack the sandwich out of your hand before you can bite it. Am I a brilliant humorist, or am I a big chain of dicks?

Anyway, Willie opens ALF’s gift next. Wait a minute…I thought ALF was confused by the concept of Willie getting gifts a minute ago…but now he already got him a gift? It’s one thing if he’s confused because this episode was supposed to come before the one with Brian’s birthday, but now they’re ignoring what they bothered setting up a few sentences ago.

This fuckin’ show, y’all. This fuckin’ show.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what Willie’s kids got him, tough shit. He never opens the presents. I bet that makes them feel good. They go out and get some thoughtful gifts for their dad on his birthday, and he just leaves them wrapped on the table without a second thought so he can exchange small talk with the alien who lives in their laundry room.

Can you imagine how you would feel if you were seven years old, and you got your dad a gift for his birthday, and he just left it in the wrapping? You’d probably cry yourself to sleep.

But I guess these kids have seen Willie favor ALF over them every second of every day since he arrived, so this probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anybody but stupid old me.

ALF, "Jump"

ALF’s gift to Willie is a box of old photographs he found. For whatever reason, they’re photographs of men that Kate used to sleep with before she married into a life of sexual dissatisfaction with Willie. It’s a little strange that Kate reminisces about how good-looking her old fuck buddies were on her husband’s birthday, but he just sits there quietly so I guess he doesn’t care and neither do the writers.

One of the pictures is of Joe Namath, and the joke is that she used to get railed by Joe Namath. I hope you can keep up with the amazing comedy.

I don’t know…talking about exes isn’t always the smartest move when you’re in a relationship with someone else — and talking about the sex you had with your exes is almost never a good idea — but don’t you think it would have come up at some point in the past that Kate was with Joe Namath? I remember when I was in college and I was seeing this girl. It wasn’t anything serious, but one of the first things she told me was that she’d been with Tom Jones, and had a picture of him naked on her phone to prove it.

…and prove it she did.

I didn’t get jealous at all. I wasn’t puzzled. Because damn, son…that’s Tom Jones! If you were with a celebrity, I’d say it’s fair game to mention that. It’s kind of impressive. That’s why I keep telling people that I slept with the pink Power Ranger. I didn’t, but I’m pretty sure that the woman who will finally be impressed by that is my soul mate.

But yeah, Kate had some kind of love affair with Joe Namath and keeps a shoebox full of Polaroids of him, but Willie never knew, and now that he does know he couldn’t care less. He finds a menu in the box instead, and it has a list written on it.

It turns out to be a list that he and Kate made of all the things they wanted to do before they die. (“Let Joe Namath go deep” is obviously crossed out.)

Kate’s list included things like running with the bulls in Pamplona, and getting published in a major literary magazine. We’ve never seen anything from Kate to indicate that these might have been realistic desires for her, but the episode tells us that she actually did them, which does round her character out a bit. It doesn’t fill it in, or anything, but I’m happier knowing that Kate likes adventure and enjoys writing, because it at least suggests that she is a character.

Willie’s list, then, should really shed some light on who he is. Right?

Nope. It just says “build a better mousetrap,” which is the vaguest sort of non-committal bullshit any writer’s room has ever come up with, and then it says something about jumping out of a plane, because that’s the plot of the episode. There’s really no other reason. Willie finds an old menu and decides to jump out of a plane. Sprinkle liberally with stalling and dream sequences, and boom, you’ve got an episode of ALF.

ALF, "Jump"

Later that night ALF walks in on Willie in the shed, and he’s…

…wait. So “build a better mousetrap” was meant literally? There’s no laughter so I really don’t know if this was meant to be a joke. “Build a better mousetrap” is just a sort of general phrase meant to imply innovation. I wondered why nobody asked Willie what the living shit he meant by that, but now I see that it’s because they all immediately understood that Willie, for whatever reason, wishes to be responsible for improving actual mousetraps as we know them.

This is absurd. Ditto his prototype there. What is that? It’s a fishbowl, a bell and some cardboard. Does Willie even know what a mousetrap is? Has he never seen one before? Since when is he so obsessed with them? And how could he both be obsessed with them and build something this tremendously shitty? This is something I would have done for the fifth grade science fair. And I would have gotten a D.

This useless contraption at least retroactively explains why it took him 10 years to finish assembling his ham radio. This guy really is just a moron. We’re supposed to believe that the guy who tried to make a mousetrap with pipe cleaners could contact extra-terrestrial life? God fucking fuck this show.

ALF convinces Willie to skydive, due to the fact that the episode really needs something to happen at some point, and it was either that or give Willie a goal that has anything to do with who he is as a person. Willie agrees because it will be the first thing he’s ever done in his own show.

ALF, "Jump"

Eventually Willie goes to bed, and he immediately starts asking Kate about her exes, because the last thing any man wants to do on his birthday is have sex.

He presses her for information about how successful they are, so I guess he was jealous after all, but he didn’t show it in any way in the earlier scenes because the script didn’t mention anything about it until now. Kate reassures him that the past is the past, and she’s happy with she’s with him because he’s safe and boring and ugly and creepy. He then tells her he’s going to skydive tomorrow, but she’s either asleep or cares even less about it than I do.

And then…yup:

ALF, "Jump"

It’s a dream sequence. In it, Willie is graduating from something. One of Kate’s exes — the one he was worrying about a moment ago — is apparently a Roger Daltrey impersonator in an Indiana Jones hat. He talks for a while about how awesome he is while Willie stands quietly off to the side. And I’ll give ALF some credit for that much, because I can’t imagine Willie is creative enough to dream about anything other than formal ceremonies taking place on a cheap sound stage while he shuffles around and mutters to himself in the background.

ALF, "Jump"

Then Joe Namath comes out! Woo! And it’s really him! Not like the Roger Daltrey guy I mentioned a second ago. That was just a hilarious joke that you really liked. This, though, is the REAL JOE NAMATH.

I’m guessing this was a big event that the network advertised endlessly for like a week in advance. “See Joe Namath on the next ALF! You’ll never believe what happens!” Crap like that, making people believe he was going to be hanging out with ALF or getting into some adventure with him. Then people tuned in and saw that the big guest star was actually just shaking hands with Max Wright in a high school gymnasium. Take that, hypothetical idiots who looked forward to something.

This dream sequence goes on forever. Willie asks for Joe Namath’s autograph, and Joe Namath writes something about complimenting Kate on the unforgettable snugness of her rectum. Then he says that the only reason he didn’t marry her was that she was looking for somebody safe and predictable, which you’d think Willie should take as a compliment, but it really just pisses him off.

I don’t even understand why. What’s the problem here? That you’re the thing your wife wanted you to be when she married you? The fact that he’s just a useless dweeb must be coming as a shock to him for some reason. How he made it 45 years without even suspecting that fact is beyond me. I guess every time Willie looked in the mirror he saw Steve McQueen staring back at him.

Joe Namath jumps off the stage and it sounds like he’s falling, and Willie calls down to him, so it must be a flying graduation ceremony or something, and I’m less confused about that than I am by the fact that there are only seven minutes left in the episode and literally all that’s happened is that somebody ruined a cake and Willie discovered another reason not to fuck his wife.

ALF, "Jump"

Then ALF comes out and my god who cares.

Why are these episodes so padded? They end up recycling plots, but it’s not because they have anything new to do with them. They just set some idea up in the first scene, then dick around and kill time until the credits roll. How is this show so awful? Why did I even like it as a kid? Nothing happens.

Joe Namath comes back on stage, along with Indiana Daltrey. There’s this third guy there too that nobody introduces, but everyone’s hanging around with him like he’s been there all along. I guess it’s somebody else Kate fucked, but we’ve never seen him before and he’s never referred to. Did he have a scene where he showed up and explained who he was in this dream, but it was cut out? And is it possible that they could cut anything out of this sequence and still have it feel so bloated?

Willie doesn’t even react to this new guy. I guess he’s always getting belittled by strange men in his dreams and this is no big deal.

They all start chanting for Willie to jump, like they’re trying to pressure him into doing it, but that’s pretty strange since Willie has already said a bunch of times in real life that he’s going to do it, so I don’t understand the point of having this big long dream sequence that exists just to convince him to do it all over again.

ALF, "Jump"

Willie then trains himself to hop off of a step ladder onto a mattress, and if the fact that he still hasn’t opened his son’s gift didn’t scar Brian, this image certainly will.

Brian then does the jump better than his father does, and Willie takes the opportunity to describe to ALF the dream we just saw, in case we forgot quite how padded this episode is. ALF just hangs around listening to it and why in fuck’s name does nothing alien ever happen in this show? This is a full episode about Willie worrying about doing something that literally nobody — himself included — gives even one tiny shit about. This might have worked as a sort of “breather” episode amidst the more frantic installments of alien hijinx, but they’re all like this! They’re all nothing.

I can’t say this enough: this is a show about a fucking alien. Why is it that when they’re tossing out ideas in the writers’ room they come up with things like “an old woman watches a movie” and “the cat runs away?” I have no explanation for why they’re so defiantly uncreative with their own premise.

They’re not even fleshing Willie out as a character here. He doesn’t have a fear of heights or some bad memories of air travel as a kid…he’s just going to jump out of a plane. There’s nothing to be overcome except the episode’s running time. It’s terrible.

ALF, "Jump"

Kate comes in and doesn’t seem to mind that this is what she ended up when she could have had Joe Namath. He tells her about his plan to skydive, and she reminds him in the politest possible way that nobody on the face of the planet gives a living fuck about whether or not he does this dumbass thing he wrote on a menu two decades ago, and going through with it doesn’t change at all who he is as a human being, whatever that might be. It’s a pretty reasonable perspective, but Willie feels like he has to do it, because that’s what it says in the script, so to hell with this woman who loves him for who he is.

ALF, "Jump"

Willie is sitting in a fake airplane while somebody off-camera blows a hairdryer into his face. Everyone’s waiting impatiently for the point in the episode at which they jump out of the plane, and for once I can identify with somebody in this show because that’s exactly what I’m doing too.

I really have to wonder why they did cut out that third guy’s scene in the dream sequence. It’s not like they had anything else to show in this episode. The whole thing is just padding. It could have been two minutes long and the edit wouldn’t have lost anything of substance. Why bother trimming a whole character out if all you’re going to do with the extra time is show Max Wright waiting quietly for the credits to roll?

ALF, "Jump"

Everyone jumps out but Willie, who gives this little speech to the instructor about why he won’t do it. But the instructor can’t hear him over all the noise, so Willie decides to jump after all. I’m not sure I understand the logic behind that decision, but then again I don’t spend my evenings alone in a shed building implausible mousetraps so what would I know?

We then cut to some stock footage of a parachuting baboon, and the fake audience expresses their approval.

ALF, "Jump"

Seriously, what the fuck is that? That’s not human.

ALF, "Jump"

Later that night everyone yuks it up in the shed, and I guess we’ve learned a valuable lesson about always having to live up to all the people your significant other has ever slept with, and making sure to put yourself in mortal danger whenever the opportunity arises to do something nobody cares if you do.

Joe Namath isn’t listed in the credits, at least not that I could see, which I’d like to think was a non-negotiable demand of his for appearing on ALF. That way he could just tell people they hired a look-alike and he had nothing to do with this garbage.

Anyway, my Christ was that a bad one. It was framed as an episode about Willie, but really it was just the characters wasting time until they could get to the skydiving scene, which lasts all of thirty seconds. It’s not even like there was any conflict; I know the Kate-Fucking Three in the dream sequence all chanted at him to jump, but he already said he was going to do it. He doesn’t even change his mind until he’s in the plane, and then because the instructor can’t hear him he does it anyway.

I know nothing more about Willie than I did last week.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I know the show wants me to think he married a slut.

Ninety more episodes to go. I hope in one of them we learn that Kate also slept with Charles Nelson Reilly. Because I could actually start looking forward to this show if I knew I’d eventually get a little bit of Charles Nelson Reilly.

MELMAC FACTS: One of ALF’s parents was an asteroid polisher. Which is more than we know about either of Brian and Lynn’s parents.

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11 Responses

  • Sarah Portland says:

    That kiss between Alf and Willie is pretty tender. Alf’s eyes are closed gently to receive the kiss. I might have to write some bad slash-fic about it.
    About half-way through this review, I started thinking that if this was really a show about an alien, the every episode should be jam-packed with strange hijinks and alien drama, with episodes like this interspersed just to flesh out the human characters and take a break from the fast-paced world of hiding Little Brown Men From Melmac. Which was then expressed. I briefly considered saying that “great minds think alike”, but I find it more likely that either Phil or I must secretly be the One Good Writer. Or maybe both.
    Just for the record, I’d like to state that Arthur Weasley could have built a better Muggle mousetrap than Willie. It would contain a rubber duck, just in case rubber ducks are integral in catching mice, but it would be a damn sight more effective that what Willie has made.

  • Halibut says:

    Tom Jones? Jesus! Were you dating the crusty old librarian?

  • RaikoLives says:

    “There’s nothing to be overcome except the episode’s running time.”
    -
    This is perhaps the most beautiful, succinct piece of phrasing I’ve ever heard about bad TV.
    -
    And I have to say, I rarely laugh out loud when reading things on my own (no fault of yours, I just don’t) but ““Let Joe Namath go deep” is obviously crossed out.” made me not only laugh out loud, but go and tell my wife immediately. Thank you, Phil. Yours is a service that has enriched my life.



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