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ALF Reviews: “Baby, You Can Drive My Car” (Season 1, Episode 10)

December 19th, 2013 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"
Wow…ten episodes! We’re inching our way toward the midway point of season one, and the excitement is palpable. Wait, not excitement. That other thing. Excrement.

I really do have to wonder if the later episodes get better than this. Granted, I didn’t expect this show to be great viewing as an adult, and I certainly didn’t have the most discerning taste as a child, but what I’m really surprised by is how absolutely boring ALF is. For a show about an alien, it certainly isn’t doing anything interesting. ALF’s just a bad roommate, or an annoying house guest. He’s not an alien.

Sure, he might talk about his home planet every so often. And the script might refer to him as an alien. But he’s not one. Because if he were an alien, he’d have plots that reflected that fact…at least sometimes. But here? Once again? It’s a plot that could have been filled by some irritating uncle. He buys Lynn a car, and everyone’s upset because the gesture was made behind their backs. Wow, classic alien comedy right there.

So, yeah, the episode opens with Lynn talking on the phone to a friend, and Andrea Elson uses everything she learned about acting from playing Nutcracker #8 in her fifth grade Christmas pageant to clumsily reassure her friend that she will be borrowing her parents’ car later.

Then Brian comes in with a bunch of lint from the dryer because ALF thought it was worth something, but it’s not, so he tells Brian to throw it out and we get our opening credits.

If this is what “Baby, You Can Drive My Car” decided to lead with, then we must be in for a real doozy.

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

Once the credits end, Lynn goes through the exact same telephone conversation with her friend, just in case anyone tuned in late and would otherwise be confused by ALF‘s labyrinthine narrative style.

Willie and Kate come home with groceries, and Lynn is upset because the car broke down and was brought home by a tow truck. ALF thinks she says “toe truck,” and repeats the same joke over and over again in which he questions why a truck would be full of toes.

It doesn’t even build to anything. It’s just ALF repeating the word “toes” while the recorded dead people yuk it up. Watching moments like this in ALF is like watching a sitcom in another country, where you don’t know the language. Somebody on screen says something and the audience goes nuts, and you have no idea what was meant to be funny. Here, though, I understand everything that’s being said. It makes me feel like I’ve suffered a serious concussion and need to see a doctor.

Anyway, there’s no punchline to the brilliant toe material; ALF just repeats the same joke for the thousandth time and the scene fades out. It’s like we can literally see the show give up.

The car isn’t going anywhere, so Lynn cancels her plans to see The Pretenders in concert. Instead she has to settle for listening to her “Brass in Pocket” cassingle on her Walkman, while she sits in a fluorescent bean bag chair, wearing high-top sneakers and eating Pop Rocks, and various other references to 1980s teen culture.

While she does this ALF attempts to goad Willie into buying Lynn a car, and I’m not sure why. I mean, it’s possible that he thinks Lynn will shuttle him around now and again, like she did when he went to meet Jodie (hello Jodie! Hope you’re still lonely!), but it’s never very clear what his motivation is here.

Why is he going to bat for Lynn? Especially when all that happened is that she missed a concert. It’s not like the car breaking down made her miss her SATs, or her college entrance interview or something important. This isn’t really the time to lobby for a car for the teenaged girl when the more pressing issue is that Willie needs a functional car to get to and from work.

Willie has a different reason for declining, though: they used up all their credit fixing the garage after ALF crashed his space-ship into it. In a way, I’m happy because this suggests that they finally took the space-ship down off the roof. However that just raises the further question of where it is now. Seriously, where could they have stashed that thing? It was too big to bring inside. Did they just bury it in the yard like a dead hamster?

Lynn comes back in and Willie and Kate offer to pitch in half of the money for a car, but Lynn will have to pay for the rest. This is totally fair, and Lynn jumps right on board, offering to get a job immediately. Willie and Kate are hesitant, though, because Lynn’s grades aren’t very good and they’re afraid a job would only make it harder for her to study.

So…what? I don’t get this. They make the offer of paying for half of the car, and tell her she’ll have to pitch in the rest. That’s fine. But then they actively stand in her way when she volunteers to do the only thing that will enable her to get money. Why did they even make the offer? Were they just hoping she’d prostitute herself out a few times instead?

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

ALF helps Lynn study for…I don’t know. I have no clue what they’re studying for. It seems like a job interview, but Lynn literally got this idea about thirty seconds ago, so there’s no way she’d have one lined up already. Either way, ALF is helping her study the official handbook of Mr. Jim’s Chicken & Oysters. How did he get that? I have no idea. I don’t even know why the fake audience of long-dead relatives laughs like crazy whenever somebody says “chicken and oysters.” Is there a joke there I don’t understand?

Lynn falls asleep while studying and Kate comes in to check on her, at which point ALF bawls her out for forcing Lynn to get a job.

But…wait. Again, wait. Huh?

Let’s walk through this from the start. The problem is that Lynn doesn’t have a car. Fine. Willie and Kate offer to pay for half of it, if Lynn can pay for the rest. That’s also fine…and it’s the last time anything makes any sense in this episode, because immediately both Willie and Kate forbid Lynn to get a job. Next scene, ALF yells at Kate for forcing Lynn to get one.

I can’t even follow this. What’s happening? Did they get several drafts of the script mixed up while they were filming? Why is it so hard to keep it consistent? They can either want her to get a job or want her to not get a job, and either is fine. Just pick one and stick with it. I don’t see the benefit of jumping back and forth without even being aware that that’s what they’re having the characters do.

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

Lynn gets the job, I guess, because she’s in a Mr. Jim’s uniform serving boxed meals to her family. There is a pretty funny moment — the requisite one per episode — when she gives her little brother a kid’s meal and a “game card.” He asks her how it works, and she says that if you scratch it off and uncover three oysters, you win a free pack of cigarettes. I can’t express how grateful I am to that One Good Writer…

Then Lynn walks out of the room to get changed and because she doesn’t have any more lines. Willie and Kate, of course, then further confuse the issue of just what the fuck they want: Kate says that they should buy Lynn the car outright, and Willie replies that it’s important that Lynn sees this job through.

SO AGAIN.

FUCKING WHAT.

Do they support her decision to get a job or not? Again, either is fine…but which is it? First they want her to earn money, then they don’t want her to get a job, then they force her to get a job (off-camera, apparently), then Kate doesn’t want her to get a job, then Willie says it’s important that she has a job. The dead people aren’t laughing so I know this isn’t some intentionally comic flip-flopping; it really is just the work of writers who never bothered to figure out ahead of time how these characters were supposed to act, and then also never bothered to go back and give the script a second pass after it was done.

What a terribly written show.

ALF comes in and asks where Lynn is, and Kate says she’s getting changed. ALF calls out to her and Lynn answers from what sounds like about ten feet away, so I guess she’s getting changed in the living room? The Tanners are one fucked up family.

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

ALF bought Lynn a Ferrari, because of course he did. He’s an alien without a job who can’t leave the house. What else would he do but buy expensive cars for people?

How does he do it? Well, all of the plumbing in his space-ship was gold, apparently, and he worked through a broker to cash it out and buy the car. The fact that he worked with a broker who never wanted to meet him personally doesn’t bother me too much, because I absolutely believe that there would be crooked enough folks out there that won’t ask any questions when presented with enough money. Especially in a comedy show. That’s absolutely fair game.

What does bother me is the idea that ALF somehow stripped his space-ship apart completely, and pulled out all of the solid gold plumbing without having anybody notice him doing this. Wouldn’t that have been a pretty huge job? And, again, just where is the space-ship? How was this done without anybody ever being aware?

And so much for fixing the thing, I guess. This is probably just ALF’s way of ensuring they’ll never fix it while he’s sleeping and fire him off back into space. What a dick.

What bothers me even more is the fact that with a very small tweak, this could have been a more alien story after all. Instead of giving ALF a broker and having him understand innately how to make large purchases in Earth currency, they could have just had him get it wrong. He could have seen a television commercial advertising “no interest, no payments,” or something, and ALF assumes that means the car is free. Cut to the Ferrari in the driveway and Willie freaking out because he knows they’ll have to pay for it.

That works a lot better — in a lot of ways — than a puppet buying the car outright with his own heretofore unmentioned cache of golden plumbing.

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

Willie calls everyone back into the kitchen, except for ALF, to have a talk. He’s not comfortable with the fact that the family now owns a $90,000 car, but for some reason he is comfortable enough to leave that $90,000 car in the unsupervised care of an irresponsible alien. It’s fine, though, I’m sure, because there’s absolutely no chance of ALF fucking everything up.

He wants them to return the car, but Lynn wants to keep it. They talk for a bit about why it’s not a good idea for Lynn to have a car like that, and then Willie decides that they’ll wait until tomorrow to return it, and that’s fine, I’m sure, because there’s absolutely no chance of ALF fucking everything up.

Then the family stops and listens for a moment to hear the sound of ALF fucking everything up.

Who would have guessed??

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

They run outside just in time to see ALF speeding off into the night. He left skidmarks behind in the driveway, because it was cheaper to show that than a puppet driving a $90,000 car around a studio backlot.

Personally, I don’t see what the problem is here. This alien’s been fucking things up for ten weeks solid. If he wants to pilot an unfamiliar vehicle through the dark at dangerous speeds, more power to him. Change the locks and thank Christ he was the first to go.

The phone rings inside so they all go back into the kitchen to answer it, because having a group of people walk from the kitchen to the driveway and then back to the kitchen over and over again really makes for some fantastic television.

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

It’s ALF calling from the car phone. He’s on his way to Oxnard, where he’s invested in a mango farm.

The fuck is this show.

Seriously. The fuck. Is this show.

There’s some limp worry about somebody seeing ALF, but he assuages their fears by telling them he’s driving too fast to be seen. Then a bee flies into the car and ALF flips out and the line goes dead.

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

Once again, good. Fine. Let the fucker go.

This isn’t an instance of ALF stumbling into something and needing help…the assball bought this car himself, climbed into the car himself, started the car himself, sped out into the night himself, and is now dicking around on a highway himself. If a bee flies into the car and he crashes into a ditch and bleeds to death, good riddance.

But Willie is worried about him. I have no idea why. I really don’t. Let him crash. Let the government scoop him up, dead or alive. ALF needs to face some consequence for his actions, or you’re going to have him piloting vehicles he doesn’t know how to drive along unfamiliar roads every other night. Why do they allow this shit to continue?

Anyway, guess where they go next.

No, seriously. Guess.

Do they go to bed? Do they hang out in the shed? Do they go to Mrs. Ochmonek’s house?

No, they go back to the driveway. Almost all of this episode consists of these idiots walking back and forth between the kitchen and the driveway. Were all of the other sets being fumigated this week or something?

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

They go back to the driveway because they hear a crash, and sure enough ALF drove the car into the garage. Hilarious. It’s also covered in filth and branches so I guess he was smashing his way through the neighborhood, which you would think might convince this family of imbeciles that it’s about time to start laying down some rules. Instead they just rush to the car to make sure he’s okay. Fortunately he is, and the Tanners are relieved that he will still be around to drive them ever deeper into debt.

Willie, to his credit, starts screaming his ass off at ALF. But is this really the wisest thing to do right now, in the driveway? Think about it. If you were sitting in your house right now, and you heard a car squealing down the street that then collided with your neighbor’s garage, wouldn’t you at least look out the window to make sure everything was alright? What if someone was dying out there? What if it started a fire? You’d at least take a look to see if you should call for help, and that would doubly be the case if you then heard a loud altercation taking place immediately afterward.

But, no. Nobody comes out to see what’s wrong, so Willie’s perfectly safe screaming at a naked alien in plain sight. Maybe ALF’s assorted antics over the past 10 weeks have killed off the rest of the neighborhood.

Anyway, ALF makes amends to Willie by promising the sell the car the next day, and using the money to fix the garage. Willie is happy with this, and nobody seems to realize that they might have a hard time selling a totaled motor vehicle that was just driven through the side of a house. But, hey, what do I know about cars, right?

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

Somebody does buy the car, I fucking guess, because the next day the garage is fixed and Brian and ALF are in the driveway repairing Willie’s old car. These are exactly the two people in this house that should be working unsupervised on somebody’s engine, so I’ve got absolutely no concerns with this development at all.

Willie comes over and is touched by the fact that two people who have no experience of cars short of driving them through people’s yards and destroying the house with them have taken it upon themselves to dick around with his only form of transportation. He even shows his appreciation by climbing into the driver’s seat and turning to wither the souls of everyone watching at home:

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

Willie then tries to back out of the driveway but ends up crashing into the garage again, and I honestly have no idea what the joke is here.

Did ALF and Brian ruin the car and cause this to happen?

Is Willie just a dipshit?

I have no clue. Either way all of the cars are now wrecked, the house is destroyed, and nobody has any money, so the episode is over.

I don’t even have anything to say about this one. What a heap of garbage. I could summarize the plot by saying that the Tanner family ran into and out of the house a bunch of times, and then some cars got crashed. This one was almost as bad as “Strangers in the Night” in terms of how clumsily it was put together. Nothing really happened, and even then it felt needlessly complicated. What could the pitch session for this episode even have been like?

I don’t know. I can’t invest too much thought into this trash. The writing staff certainly didn’t.

And does Lynn still have that job? Ugh, who knows.

I’m sick of this, so let me end this review on a joke:

Chicken and oysters.

There. Yuk it up, you dead assholes.

MELMAC FACTS: On Melmac they ate dogs as well as cats. Great. Also gold was worthless there, but foam was very valuable. Interestingly, ALF keeps lapsing into the present tense when talking about Melmac. I wonder if the show will ever “forget” that it’s supposed to be destroyed.

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7 Responses

  • Sarah Portland says:

    I’d like to know how the fuck Alf’s feet reached the pedals. Dude is shorter than Brian. You can see the bottoms of his feet when he sits back on the couch.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      I’m…surprised I didn’t pick up on that. I guess it says something when someone can write 4,000 words about how ridiculous the episode is without even getting to the most basic logical flaws.
      -
      This show, Sarah Portland. This show.

      • Sarah Portland says:

        When dealing with a shitstorm, one will often report on the amount and consistency, but will sometimes overlook aroma. As long as it was understood that said storm occurred, this is fine. Also, fair few people think about the logistics of things like I do. It’s an annoying habit. For instance, can one actually grow mangoes in Oxnard?

  • Jeff says:

    “Is there a joke there I don’t understand?”
    .
    Phil, you are so naive it’s cute.
    .
    ALF wants to buy Lynn a car so he can bang her in the backseat, which is why any healthy male would want to buy her a car. The name of this restaurant is a sly innuendo that his real intent is to stick it to her in the old chicken & oysters.
    .
    I’m sorry for that, I really am. But it had to be said.



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