Reading too deeply into these things since 1981
Header

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

Just as the Jodie episode gave way to the deplorable “Help Me, Rhonda,” last week’s experiment in competence spits us right into “Lookin’ Through the Windows,” which is awful. But before we dig into what happens in the episode, I’d like to talk for a bit about the concept.

“Lookin’ Through the Windows” parodies Hitchcock’s excellent Rear Window. It’s an undeniably great film with a solid central premise and culturally indelible imagery, which makes it a relatively common reference point for other films and TV shows.

The film stars Jimmy Stewart as a photographer with a broken leg. Boredom, limited mobility and an unfortunately timed heat wave lead to Stewart’s character spending nearly all of his time at an open window, and his idle hobby of watching the neighbors turns obsessive when he believes he’s seen evidence of a murder.

It’s one of those rare films that could probably be pieced together by those who haven’t seen it, simply because of how frequently it’s been referenced, parodied and ripped off. It’s also ALF‘s first attempt at singular, sustained parody (unless, of course, I’ve missing something along the way…do feel free to let me know in the comments), and even if it wasn’t doomed at this point to be compared to the Simpsons episode in which Bart believes he saw Ned Flanders kill Maude — the gold-standard of Rear Window sendups — it falls completely apart on its own. Compare it to better shows that mined the concept more fruitfully, and it’s disappointing. Remove it from any such comparison…and it’s still pretty disappointing.

The neighbors here, of course, are the Ochmoneks. I’d make a joke about how it has to be the Ochmoneks because there are no other named characters outside of the Tanner family, but that wouldn’t really be fair. Los Angeles is a notoriously small town. In fact, you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s not unlikely that there would be only a handful of families in the whole place, so good on ALF for verisimilitude.

The Rear Window stuff begins with the very first shot: ALF at a window with a pair of opera glasses. He’s watching the Ochmoneks argue, and every so often he makes a mark on a chalkboard to indicate who’s winning. Somewhat impressively, the writing staff not only incorporated the heat wave aspect — coupled in this instance with the Tanners’ electricity failing due to brown outs — but bothered to refer back to it throughout the episode. No, “Lookin’ Through the Windows” is not very good…but it does at least demonstrate some good impulses. Whereas ALF is frequently content to introduce ideas, details and even entire characters just for the sake of forgetting they exist a few minutes later, it’s nice that this episode has some semblance of internal continuity.

Willie comes in and tells ALF not to spy on the neighbors, which is fair, but then he suggests that he go play in the yard instead. It’s broad daylight, so here’s another example of the show forgetting — or ignoring — that ALF is supposed to be kept secret from the rest of the world. It’s pretty much established in the pilot as the single most important detail of the show, but I could count on one hand the episodes since that gave even half a shit about it.

For this to make even a modicum of sense, the Tanners would have to have ridiculously high, solid walls surrounding their home, something like we see in the movie Dogtooth. However we’ve seen the outside of their house in every establishing shot, and we know it doesn’t. If ALF goes out to play in the yard, he’s caught. End of story. Or, at least, I wish it could be.

ALF and Willie yak for a bit, and while they do there’s this gentle, smokey saxophone music playing. When their conversation ends, ALF leans out the window and yells at somebody to “knock off the sax.” I get the joke — we assumed the music was on the soundtrack, while it was actually playing within their reality — but beyond that…what the living fuckbucket? Who was playing the saxophone? Mr. Ochmonek? And why is it not okay for ALF to watch people through the windows, but it’s fine for him to lean out and shout verbal harassment at them? What kind of sense does that make?

God I wish I was watching Dogtooth.

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

The episode proper gets off to a pretty good start. It’s dinner time, and Kate sets a massive plate of food in front of ALF, who explains that it’s all part of a new diet he’s trying: “You can eat as much as you want of whatever you want.”

Then, when no further explanation is forthcoming, Lynn asks, “And you lose weight that way?”

To which ALF replies, “You do?”

It’s a solid gag that compounds nicely, and it taps into the way a visitor like ALF would believably misunderstand concepts we think are simple, something that really, really, really should be more of a factor in his characterization than it actually is.

What’s more, another very nice moment follows. The lights go out, and the family moans. Lynn laments having to reset all of the clocks yet again, and Kate, in the dark, replies wearily, “Let’s not. Let’s just live a few minutes behind everyone else.”

Every so often some actual humanity shines though these cardboard characters, and nearly always it’s through Kate. Not only does she call ALF on his bullshit, but there’s a kind of quiet, simmering frustration within her that suggests something deeper than the lines that they ask her to recite. I’m willing to bet that this comes entirely from Anne Schedeen, who manages to inhabit a place behind her words rather than on top of them, as the rest of the actors do.

Interestingly, though, the show just sort of has that line tumble out. The real punchline is that when the lights come back on, ALF ate all of the food. I’d wager Lynn’s (decently well-observed) line about the clocks and Kate’s response were both placeholder lines…a way to pad out the darkness so that when the lights came back on we could see the big reveal of ALF’s empty plate. The way the scene is structured, it’s very clear that that’s the moment that’s supposed to get the big laugh…the rest is just jogging in place.

The best line a few episodes ago was some shoe-horned explanation as to why Lynn doesn’t have braces anymore, and now it’s a line that’s literally being used just to space out what the writers think of as the big laughs. I’m amazed at how downright funny the tossed-off material is compared to the garbage that seemed to receive the bulk of the show’s efforts.

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

There’s a knock at the door and ALF is shooed away, so I guess they do care about keeping him a secret. Except when it comes to hollering nonsense out the window, in which case fuckin’ go nuts.

It’s Mr. Ochmonek, and he’s pissy because his wife is a bitch and nothing he ever does is right. It’s his own fault for marrying a character on the show ALF, though. If he’d waited a bit he could have married a woman on a much better sitcom, where she’d be allowed to be an actual human being and then they might have had a relationship instead of a series of plot-dependent spats.

Since this is already an overt nod to Rear Window, we know that ALF is going to think Mr. Ochmonek killed his wife. That’s fine. The execution (so to speak…) is not, but we’ll get to that. For now I just want to point out how strange it is that both stories to heavily feature Mrs. Ochmonek have touches of Hitchcock. Way back in “Strangers in the Night” the whole “plot” hinged on the fact that both ALF and Mrs. O wanted to watch Psycho. The scene in which ALF cross-dresses also suggests an aborted attempt to tie the themes together more tightly than what we got, but that’s just speculation on my part.

Here she gets her second turn in the spotlight, and it’s so that she can drive another story centered around a Hitchcock film. It’s coincidence, I’m positive, but a very bizarre one. I wonder if we’ll get a story in season two about Mrs. Ochmonek chasing Willie around in a crop duster. Or ALF hosting a cocktail party around her corpse that he crammed into a trunk.

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

Speak of the devil, Mrs. Ochmonek comes over to retrieve her husband, and Mr. Ochmonek eats some corn.

There’s some preposterously unnatural dialogue in which Mr. Ochmonek reveals that he believes the Tanners spy on him while he fights with his wife, which would make sense if he was confronting them, but instead it’s delivered as an off-hand comment to the very people that he’s essentially accusing of voyeurism. It’s ridiculous. If you believed your own neighbor was spying on you in your weakest moments — actually believed it — would you bring it up with him in some chummy “you’ll never guess” kind of way? Of course not…you’d be pissed off and confrontational. None of this makes any sense.

Fortunately for that shitty moment, though, it gets eclipsed by a much worse one. Willie attempts to assuage Mr. Ochmonek’s concern, which leads to Max Wright choking his way through the line “No. No we don’t. Noh one…in this roooom…whaatches you, through yurwindows.”

And then…oh yes, dear reader, there’s more…Lynn suggests that it might be their “poltergeist,” which nobody comments on or acknowledges in any way, even though this is pretty conclusive evidence that the girl is suffering from acute mental illness.

The fuck this show the fuck.

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

That night Lynn comes into the laundry room to say goodnight to ALF, and there’s a near-miss here with what could have been another great joke. ALF says he’s speedreading a book, and Lynn asks him what it’s about. He says, “I have no idea.”

On its own, that’s funny. The joke should end there, with the implication that he’s gliding so quickly over the words that he’s not comprehending them. But instead the writers take it further and try to turn it into a joke about how he’s wearing the fur off of his finger by moving it across the page so quickly.

Damn, guys. They sure reached pretty far to make sure that joke dropped dead, didn’t they?

Lynn leaves and ALF hears the Ochmoneks fighting again, so he goes over to the window and hot damn this is a great screengrab:

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

I know I’ve praised Fusco’s puppetry many times before, and I stand by everything I’ve said, but I do think it’s worth drawing some additional attention to the physical ALF puppet itself. It’s impressively articulated for something that seems so simple. Everything from the way the eyebrows move to the ability of the ears to perk up like a dog’s contribute to ALF’s “reality,” and I like that a lot. So far we’ve seen ALF elated, depressed, sick, terrified, dazed, and whatever else, and each time the emotion registers. The odd thing is that when I started reviewing ALF, I thought the easiest thing to do would be to make fun of how fake the puppet looks. Little did I know that would actually be the one thing I couldn’t criticize at all.

ALF runs into Willie and Kate’s bedroom and shouts that he just saw Mr. Ochmonek murder his wife with an ice pick.

Okay, now I can criticize.

See, usually in a Rear Window parody (and in, uh, Rear Window) the protagonist doesn’t actually witness the murder; they infer that there’s been a murder, and then go nuts trying to prove it. If they saw a murder then there’s not really a story. How could there be? The protagonist picks up the phone, calls the cops, and the murderer is arrested before he has time to clean up the evidence. The end.

ALF botches this crucial aspect, though not surprisingly I guess. By having him actually witness the crime, it raises additional questions that the episode isn’t up to answering…a complication compounded by the writers’ choice of the murder weapon: an ice pick.

Think about that. As I’m sure you know, Mr. Ochmonek didn’t really murder his wife. (It would be a pretty dark sitcom if he had.) So by having ALF “see” this happen — rather than assume it — the writers raise an unanswerable question: what the fucklights could possibly be happening that looks like an ice pick murder?

Picture an ice pick murder. Honestly. Picture a man stabbing his wife repeatedly with an ice pick until she dies. What else could that possibly be? If you see that happen, is there any possibility at all that you actually witnessed something benign? The whole plot of this episode falls at the first hurdle, because nothing that isn’t an ice pick murder can possibly be mistaken for an ice pick murder…and then, of course, they still need to provide some rational explanation for what really happened.

Do they pull it off? Place your bets now.

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

Willie tells ALF to fuck fucking off, so ALF goes to sleep and dreams that Mr. Ochmonek is stalking the Tanner house with an ice pick. One thing I have to say is that even though this episode sucks dick, it sure did lead to an article full of great screengrabs.

There’s not much to this dream sequence, but — and I mean this — it gives us some very effective imagery. It’s also miles better (and infinitely more relevant) then either of the dream sequences we’ve gotten from Willie so far, so I’m all for this.

Anyway ALF wakes up screaming his head off, and the Tanners all arrive in the kitchen to check on him at the same time, making it seem like they not only share a bed, but a hive mind.

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

Willie chastises ALF for spying on the neighbors in the first place, which is what caused his paranoia. It’s a fair thing to say at this point, but I really wish it was an excuse to bring back Dr. Larry from last week. Seriously, I’d give anything for this show to ditch its original concept and become Dr. Dykstra: Alien Psychologist.

They all go to bed and ALF goes back to the window and you don’t even have to scroll down because you know what the fuck he sees.

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

ya dudes mr ochmonek is totes burying a corpse

The episode is over and Mrs. Ochmonek is dead forever. Good night, everyone!

…no, it’s still going. It’s the next morning, and ALF does the only logical thing you can do after watching your neighbor brutally murder his wife with a sharp instrument: he calls the murderer and pretends to be conducting a survey on behalf of the BBC. He asks Mr. Ochmonek the difference between American TV and British TV, and then he asks if he killed his wife.

Kate hears him and hangs up the phone before Mr. Ochmonek can produce a story-ending “no,” and then it’s suddenly nighttime again. What a day that was!

As Willie gets ready for bed he glances out the window and sees ALF snooping around the Ochmoneks’ house, which causes him to make this face:

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

Wowsers.

This is the big pulse-pounding moment in Rear Window; Jimmy Stewart can’t leave the house, so he sends Grace Kelly into the murderer’s home to investigate. When The Simpsons did it Bart couldn’t leave the house, so he sent Lisa into the murderer’s home to investigate. In this show, ALF can’t leave the house, so he says fuck it and does it himself anyway.

Why the writers threw themselves into a Rear Window parody without wanting even slightly to adhere to the conventions that would render it watchable is beyond me.

Anyway, Willie calls Mr. Ochmonek on the phone to distract him so that ALF can escape the house, but ALF is a dick so he dicks around all dicklike instead.

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

I fucking hate ALF, you guys.

Mr. Ochmonek talks to Willie for a while, and explains that the difference between American TV and British TV is that in Britain they respect their audience. I’d be impressed by the fact that they tied this phone conversation back to a previous one if it weren’t for the fact that they did it as an excuse to give a big “fuck you” to their own viewership.

“We keep ALF alive because we get paid to,” they seem to say. “What’s your excuse?”

Anyway, ALF gets home and he managed to steal Mrs. Ochmonek’s false teeth, so Willie goes to bring them back.

Why is any of this even happening? Call the cops, ALF, you piece of shit. You believe you watched a woman get stabbed to death in her home and your response is to turn it into a physical comedy routine. Jesus Christ.

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

After Willie leaves, Kate and Lynn rush over to the window in time to see Mr. Ochmonek charging at Willie with an ice pick.

I love that every window in the Tanner home affords a perfect, clear view of everything happening inside the Ochmonek house. Seriously, no matter what room these assholes are in, they always see perfectly into the other house. Do the Ochmoneks live in a giant glass dome?

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

The lights go out again, and Kate rushes over to save Willie from being murdered by Ice Pick Ochmonek. ALF, two whole days after he should have done this in the first place, decides to call the cops.

They arrive almost as quickly as Kate does, which again makes sense because cops in LA are probably bored out of their minds waiting for something to do. But, hey, that’s what happens when you’re a lawman in such a tiny, quiet town.

It’s explained that Mr. Ochmonek never murdered his wife with an ice pick and wasn’t going to murder Willie with it either; he was using it to make Willie a nice cocktail!

Well, if that’s the case, why was he charging at Willie with it? And what the fuck was he doing driving it repeatedly through his wife’s heart? See, this is the kind of question you’re left with when you have your characters actually “witness” this crap. No attempt whatsoever is made to explain what actually happened between he and his wife, but the cocktail explanation with Willie defies all human logic. In what way does mixing a drink resemble an active threat to kill another man?

Here’s an experiment you can do at home to find out. First, invite a friend over, and mix him or her a nice, refreshing cocktail. Take careful note of their expression and demeanor as you do so.

Next, invite another friend over. When this friend arrives, grab an ice pick, approach them threateningly, and act like you are about to murder them. Take careful note of their expression and demeanor as well.

Now it’s time to review your findings. Did you notice any overlap whatsoever between the way these two people interpreted your actions? No? Nothing at all? How strange!

In ALF these two actions are easily and frequently mistaken for one another…but something tells me you’d have a hard time duplicating the results.

Of course, even if we accept this, that still leaves the small matter of the corpse wrapped in a tarp that Mr. Ochmonek buried in his back yard. But, no, don’t worry about that either! It was actually just a side of beef that started to rot, and he was getting rid of it.

The police accept this far too easily. For starters, who — in the name of shitstabbing Christ on the cross — disposes of bad meat by digging a hole and burying it? And why wrap it in a tarp? Did the tarp go bad, too?

And secondly, when they ask where his wife is he responds that she’s at her sister’s house. There are no followup questions and no attempt to make contact with her to verify the story. That’s insane. Somebody called and reported a murder. The police followed up on it and were unable to find the victim. The murderer says she’s fine, but admits he buried a crapload of beef in his back yard. And they’re fine with that. What — with all due respect — the fuckfuckfuck.

Even by sitcom logic, they need to dig up that yard. First the Alien Task Force, then Social Services, and now the LA Police Department have all been shown to operate on the honor system. And that’s insane. I’m not saying that Mr. Ochmonek killed her (it’s a family sitcom, so we know he didn’t), but since when is “I buried some old meat in the yard and my wife is totally chilling with her sis” an airtight alibi?

Dig. Up. The yard.

But, no. That’s it. We’re meant to be as satisfied by this solution as everyone in the show is. I won’t spoil the ending of Rear Window, but I will go back to that Simpsons episode. Remember the conclusion, when it turned out that Ned killed a houseplant and not his wife? That was a deliberately unsatisfying, illogical solution to the question, because that was the joke…and it was still a hundred times better than what ALF gives us here with a perfectly straight face.

Oh well. It’s over. There’s some short scene before the credits, as usual, but I don’t care about that. Instead I’d like to take a moment to appreciate Mr. Ochmonek’s shirt.

ALF, "Lookin' Through the Windows"

Because daaaaamn Mr. Ochmonek. It’s no wonder you look so proud in a fine ass shirt like that. You can bury my spoiled meat any day.

Now stop reading this shit and go watch Dogtooth.

Polyhedra and the Media

February 25th, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in guest post - (19 Comments)

Personal musings on new geometry and the state of journalistic integrity in the information age
by Adam Lore

adam1 icoshaedron tesselations

Newly Discovered Forms

I really like polyhedra.

Okay, that is a bit of an understatement, I am completely obsessed with polyhedra! So when I heard that a new type of these shapes had supposedly been discovered I became very excited.

(Just really quickly, for anyone unfamiliar with the term, a polyhedron is a solid three dimensional geometric shape with straight edges and planar faces.)

As it turns out, though, the media coverage of this new finding at first left me totally confused about what was discovered. In the first articles I read, there were conflicting reports and major errors. It was unclear whether these were new at all, and there was a lack of clarity as to exactly what attributes these new shapes had.

adam2 platonic solids

You see – my apologies to those of you who already know this stuff – people who study the attributes of polyhedra are usually interested in the ones that are highly symmetrical. One well known group is the group of Platonic Solids. A cube is one of these, because it is made of ‘regular’ polygons (squares), every polygon is the same, the polygons meet together at a vertex in the same way at the same angle, and none of the vertices is “caved in”. It becomes interesting to try to figure out which other shapes have all of these qualities, and to find that there are only 4 other shapes like this. (Now we have a problem. Both the 3rd group, the rhombic polyhedra, and the new, fourth group have more than one type of face, and many of the faces are not equiangular, thus not regular.)

adam3 archimedean and rhombic

Then, if we allow the criteria to include polyhedra that are made out of 2 or more regular polygons instead of just one, we get 13 new ones, called the Archimedean Solids. (A rigid version of a soccer ball, also known as the truncated icosahedron, is a prime example of one of these.) By this new criterion we can also include prisms (which are just two of the same shape in the floor and ceiling, perhaps a pentagon, connected by squares along the rim) and anti-prisms (the same thing but with triangles instead of squares along the rim.) Then, there are some other ones, too, but the point is, there is a very specific limited amount of these things. (Problem: There are infinite numbers of prisms and antiprisms.)

Just to be clear, the new forms are a modification of a previously known class of cages called Goldberg cages. (A cage can have nonplanar faces.) (Here I will be treating the modified forms as a group themselves). So, this newly discovered group of polyhedra by neuroscientists Stan Schein and James Gayed have the following attributes:

adam4 equilateral polyhedral

They are convex, which means they do not have parts that are caved in,
they do not have equal angles but they do have equilateral edges (meaning each edge is the same length), and
all of their faces are “planar”, which is very important, meaning that the faces lie flat and do not bulge in or out.

adam5 georg harts goldberg polyhedra

George Hart’s Goldberg polyhedra models

At first I thought that mathematician and polyhedron model builder George W. Hart had already worked out the math for these same shapes, but he confirmed via e-mail that the models he had made “have planar faces but generally are not equilateral. So, their result is new because of the equilateral property and (in my quick reading) appears to be correct.” (Thanks, George!) In a recent Science News article on the subject mathematician Branko Grünbaum makes the same confirmation, “It is correct, and the result is new.”

adam6 schein and gayed

Stan Schein (left) and James Gayed (right)

The Schein-Gayed Innovation

So, basically what Schein and Gayed did was they took a previously known group of ‘Goldberg cages’ with icosahedral, octahedral and tetrahedral symmetry, described back in 1937 by mathematician Michael Goldberg, and modified them. The original Goldberg cages bulged out and did not have edges of equal length. Later, George Hart made modified versions that did not bulge out before, but those did not have equal edges. Schein and Gayed worked out the necessary math and modified the Goldberg cages to be both planar and equilateral, thus convex equilateral Golderg polyhedra with polyhedral symmetry! (An object with ‘polyhedral symmetry’ has icosahedral, octahedral or tetrahedral symmetry.) Their discovery adds one new class to what were previously only 3 known classes of convex equilateral polyhedra with polyhedral symmetry. So you see, what they did was actually quite innovative and – in my view – a pretty important discovery in this particular field of study.

adam7 goldberg spherical polyhedra

Now, it took me a while to sort all of this out. The articles that showed up on Google news had conflicting reports and major errors. The best article* out there did not show up in the search results. A particularly atrocious little article on Gizmodo.com (called “These Brand New Shapes Are a Class of Their Own” by PJ Smith) mistakenly reports that the new shapes have equal sides and equal angles, “a combo that’s actually never been seen before.” This is completely false, in more ways than one. In fact, I could be wrong, but as far as I can tell, every single sentence in the first two paragraphs of the Gizmodo articles is incorrect!

(the best article: science news: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/goldberg-variations-new-shapes-molecular-cages)

http://gizmodo.com/these-brand-new-shapes-are-a-class-of-their-own-1523136222

Gizmodo Falsehoods

Gizmodo: “The criteria for being your own type of three dimensional solid is all about whether your edges are equal lengths, and whether your faces are regular polygons.”

This is false.

Gizmodo: “Discovered by UCLA neuroscientist Stan Schein and UCLA neuroscientist James Gayed, Goldberg polyhedra (pictured left) do have sides that are all the same length, but its polygonal faces have equal angles.”

Doubly false- Schein-Gayed versions of the Goldberg Polyhedra were on the right (not the left) and the faces do not have equal angles.

Gizmodo: “And surprisingly enough, that’s a combo that’s actually never been seen before.”

False, combinations of equal edges and equal angles have been seen before, as well as combinations of just equal edges.

Gizmodo: “The Goldberg polyhedra’s properties, specifically their equal angles, give them a rounded, spherical appearance.”

False, they don’t have equal angles so their spherical appearance could not possibly arise from having equal angles.

I am not going to go through the whole thing, but I think you get the point. How is it that this is what passes for journalism today? This guy just copied an article from another website, an article that was almost as far off from the truth, went further and misunderstood every detail of the first article, took no effort to check his facts, obviously did not consider looking at the original research paper, and turned in and published pure garbage. What is even the point of writing about something if literally every single sentence is wrong? Why is this considered acceptable? Why do we not have higher standards than this?

adam8 Various polyhedra

1) Kepler-Poinsot Solids 2) Heptagonal polyhedra 3) Johnson Solids 4) Waterman Polyhedra
“All of these classes of polyhedra are wonderful. Why compare?”

adam9 uniform polyhedra models

Uniform Polyhedra Models

Another frustrating aspect of this is the outright dismissal by some sources of Schein and Gayed’s findings. One article by the Daily Mail is entitled: “Scientists discover a new SHAPE for the first time in 400 years (but it just looks like a football)”, as if there have been no new shapes discovered since the 1600’s, completely ignoring the works of Coxeter, Penrose, John H. Conway, Gosset, Schlaffli, J. C. P. Miller, Michael Longuet-Higgins, Norman Johnson, Steve Waterman, or Nikolai Lobachevsky, to name just a few. Reducing the findings to “but it looks just like a football” is all too typical.

Correspondingly, the Comment sections are filled with smart aleck remarks of this nature:

adam10 smart ass quotes

Weeding through this kind of misinformation and utter garbage is the burden of the information edge.

adam11 goldberg-polyhedron

Beautiful Objects – an Interview with STAN SCHEIN

“We never gave any thought to applications.
We are basic scientists interested in beautiful objects”

But so on the bright side, which really is the side we should be focusing on, Schein and Gayed’s original paper on the topic was easy to find, an excellent read, and along with it was Stan Schein’s e-mail address. I sent him a quick e-mail, and he promptly responded, recommending the much better article in Science News, which I also highly recommend to anyone interested in the topic!. Stan was very polite and accommodating, responding back and forth several times, asking what my own field of study was, and clarifying my misunderstandings from poorly written articles. He even allowed me to conduct a little mini-interview with him!

James Gayed and you seem to have discovered not just a new sub-group of polyhedra, but an entirely new approach to finding new forms that seems to have been overlooked by mathematicians until now. Do you anticipate this leading to more discoveries soon by other researchers using the same method and applying it to different groups of shapes?

Schein: We use the Goldberg construction, dating to 1937, to generate the cages. Not new. We do have a new approach to transforming these to polyhedra. We ourselves hope to discover more new cages and polyhedra. How soon others do it, we cannot say.

adam12 freelance_Icosa-T25-planar

How do you feel the public and the media have responded to your new findings? Do you feel your work has been under appreciated, over exaggerated, misunderstood? Any notable clarifications you would make to articles that have been published?

Schein: We are surprised by the level of interest. We are impressed by some of the coverage, particularly the article in Science News, the PNAS blog, and a piece in Der Spiegel (in German).

Are you aware of any interesting properties of the duals of this sub-class of Goldberg polyhedra? (For example, the dual of a cube being an octahedron, replacing the faces with vertices.) It would seem that some level of symmetry would be lost, but traded for another.

We do not see much that is interesting in the duals of these Goldberg polyhedra. But, please note that the dual of a cage or polyhedron has the same symmetry as the original.

Do you feel that there is something particularly more appealing or useful, more important, about the particular combination of a polyhedron being convex, planar, and having equilateral sides and polyhedral symmetry? Do you think that other classes of polyhedra with high symmetry in other ways but that lack one of these are less important?

We began with an interest in self-assembly. The ‘parts’ that self-assemble are generally the same, so if the part is equivalent to an edge, then all the edges have the same size (length). We also suppose that in some situations it might be easier to assemble parts that result in planar surfaces than parts that have to contend with twisted surfaces that are out of plane or far out of plane. We used that logic to understand why the protein clathrin self-assembles into only certain fullerene cage structures and why the carbon atom self-assembles into only those cages that all have isolated pentagons. We are also interested in symmetry point groups that characterize cylinders, like nanotubes, as well as the icosahedral, octahedral and tetrahedral ones.

I have noticed that you have excluded most prisms and anti-prisms from your area of focus, it seems because of their lack of polyhedral symmetry. Is there anything about polyhedral symmetry specifically that you find to be important or interesting?

Good point. The Archimedean solids, like the soccer ball or truncated icosahedron, have one type of vertex and more than one type of regular face. Prisms and antiprisms do as well, but they do not have polyhedral symmetry. Polyhedral symmetry is appealing for reasons related to the prior answer. And, as Crick and Watson observed in 1956, virus shells (capsids) are likely to have helical or icosahedral symmetry because these elegant structures can be assembled from a very small number of parts, perhaps one in many cases, with a minimum of rules or genes.

A lot of media coverage of your findings have emphasized “400 years”. Where would you personally place the importance of the findings within the context of other polyhedron-related discoveries in the past 400 years? (For example,could you compare the new polyhedra with the Catalan Solids, Kepler’s Star polyhedra, Norman Johnson’s solids, Coxeter’s many findings, results in higher dimensional polytopes, etc).
All of these polyhedra are wonderful. Why compare?

adam13 First_compound_stellation_of_icosahedron

There seem to be many potentially beneficial applications of your findings. Does this drive your research, the hope that the applications of your discovery can help humanity, or are you content with pure abstract discovery just for the sake of understanding geometry better and finding something new, regardless of how it changes the practical world?

We never gave any thought to applications. We are basic scientists interested in beautiful objects. However, now that we have something new, it makes sense to think about uses. For example, in our paper we cite a wonderful article in the NY Times that described spherical computer displays and associated software that help children and adults alike to understand changes in the earth and its climate. Think what would happen to the so-called “debate” about climate change if everyone (including our political leaders) could see it for themselves on the spherical display. These displays could be much less expensive and thus more widely used if they were made from chips (like the planar faces of the Goldberg polyhedra). Also, we wonder if the Goldberg polyhedra could be used as designs for inexpensive but beautiful housing in disaster areas.

Any indication yet that you are aware of that your findings could influence string theory, particle physics or cosmology?
No.

adam14 24-cell

Concerning future research, do you anticipate that your method of transforming cages into polyhedra by adjusting dihedral angle discrepancies to zero, or similar methods, will lead to new findings in other aspects of geometry, such as new 2-dimensional tilings, or previously unknown higher dimensional polytopes? Is this an area of interest for you? Are there any other particular classes of polyhedra you are excited to explore?
It would be wonderful to extend the work to higher dimensions, but it is hard enough to think clearly about those objects without having to worry about metrical properties like edge length, angles in faces and planarity

Thank you, Stan. I will be looking forward to any new discoveries to which this may lead.

So, there you have it, folks. I guess the moral of the story is that if you sort through all of the noise and cynical trash out there, and if you are willing to put in a little extra effort and patience, pretty much anything you ever wanted to know is at your fingertips with the click of a button. And there are still plenty of new things to be discovered. Yes, journalism has become increasingly unreliable, but at the same time our ablity to simply do it ourselves is become increasingly easier. What a frustrating yet particularly wonderful and splendid time period to be alive!

I will now leave you with this quote from the great Johannes Kepler:

“We do not ask for what useful purpose the birds do sing, for song is their pleasure since they were created for singing. Similarly, we ought not to ask why the human mind troubles to fathom the secrets of the heavens. The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.”

References:
Fourth class of convex equilateral polyhedron with polyhedral symmetry related to fullerenes and viruses
(the original paper by Stan Schein and James Maurice Gayed)
http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/02/04/1310939111.abstract?sid=ecc1b2dc-28a3-4ffd-a274-31537de9daf3

Science News -Goldberg Variations
https://www.sciencenews.org/article/goldberg-variations-new-shapes-molecular-cages)

Scientific American article with video by George Hart about Goldberg Polyhedra (2013)
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/goldberg-polyhedra-mathematical-impressions-video/

Gizmodo’s atrocious article
http://gizmodo.com/these-brand-new-shapes-are-a-class-of-their-own-1523136222

New Vegas

Well, I’m off to sunny Las Vegas, where the wine flows like prostitutes, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve asked a few talented honchos to fill in for me while I’m gone, so Noiseless Chatter won’t be going dead, and you should still check back, because these guys know more than I do, and one of them wants to talk about math or something.

You should follow my new-ish Twitter feed if you aren’t already doing so…I’ll try to keep posting things there and sending pictures and stuff because hot damn, baby, I have always wanted to go to Vegas and this is going to be GREAT. I heard there’s a neon light there somewhere and I’d really like to see it.

There will still be a new ALF review on Thursday, but I won’t be around to fix all the typos I missed before it went live. There shouldn’t be too much of a drop off in activity here, mainly because I never post all that much in the first place. Yes, it’s now that my laziness will truly pay off.

Also, regarding The Lost Worlds of Power: as I’ve mentioned, we got…well, let’s just say we got a lot more in the way of submissions than we expected. Originally I had wanted to reply to everybody by the end of this month…but that’s not going to happen. I’m only about 1/3 of the way through them, but I’m hoping I can pick up the pace a bit in March and be done before April. I apologize for the delay, and I know everybody’s excited to hear the results and which pieces they can look forward to reading in the finished anthology, but I want to make sure I take the time to evaluate every submission thoroughly and respectfully, so your patience is appreciated!

Anyway, I’ve got a travel toothbrush, prescription sunglasses and a bag full of Hawaiian shirts. I’ll see you in just over a week.

Gordon Weston Shumway

February 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf | internet | Meta - (8 Comments)

A month or so ago there was a pretty interesting Facebook trend; folks would post an offer to create art of some kind to the first five people that “liked” their status, and then each of those five people would be obligated to post the same offer to their friends. Sure, it’s silly, but I also thought it was kind of neat. So neat that I posted it twice…for a total of ten people.

I wanted to share here the art I did, because while I went into it having no idea what to do, I thought at some point about ALF recreating famous scenes from the life of Christian Weston Chandler. And, well, once I got that idea in my head, there was nothing I could do but buy a pack of colored Sharpies and get to work.

This was hugely fun, and I hope you enjoy / are disturbed by what you are about to see. The deeper I got into this project the more I realized that ALF and Chris Chan have a lot in common, thematically speaking. But that’s a story for another day.

Gordon Weston Shumway

Reference:
Christian Weston Chandler

Gordon Weston Shumway

Reference:
Christian Weston Chandler

Gordon Weston Shumway

Reference:
Christian Weston Chandler

Gordon Weston Shumway

Reference:
Christian Weston Chandler

Gordon Weston Shumway

Reference:
Christian Weston Chandler

Gordon Weston Shumway

Reference:
Christian Weston Chandler

Gordon Weston Shumway

Reference:
Christian Weston Chandler

Gordon Weston Shumway

Reference:
Christian Weston Chandler

Gordon Weston Shumway

Reference:
Christian Weston Chandler

Gordon Weston Shumway

Reference:
Christian Weston Chandler

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

Ever since “For Your Eyes Only,” also known as the Jodie episode, I’ve had a solid reference point for what ALF can achieve when it gives a shit. It would be one thing if the show was consistently bad, or if it had some sort of lame, go-nowhere premise, but neither of those things is true; the writing periodically achieves cleverness, and the premise — I’ll argue this to my grave — is excellent. The problem is that the show is so frequently content with lazy scripts and storylines that have nothing to do with the main selling point: a space alien living in an unfamiliar world.

“For Your Eyes Only” was an exception. It was more or less front-to-back good, it had a surprising depth of emotion, gave us the show’s first (and so far only) rounded character, and it built upon a key aspect of the show: as an alien, ALF can’t leave the house, and therefore he feels lonely.

Most episodes of this show, as I’ve argued in the past, could swap ALF out for a neighbor, a hobo, an annoying uncle, or anything else, and almost nothing would have to change. Scripts feel like they’ve been reappropriated from other shows, and the closest thing to an identifiable artistic voice here is “incompetence.” In “For Your Eyes Only,” though, ALF’s bond with a blind woman and (unfortunately) short-lived bond with Lynn are both rooted firmly in the show’s central concept. ALF, for once, couldn’t be swapped out for any other sitcom archetype; the whole reason the story could be told at all was because it was specific to this character, in this situation, facing this issue.

So when I speak wistfully about the Jodie episode like an old lover, it’s not to dwell so much as it is to remind myself — and yourself — that ALF is capable of better work. Reviewing this show isn’t taking shots at an easy target…it’s taking shots at a lazy target. The show can do better, has done better, and should do better. “For Your Eyes Only” is the only real evidence that this can work.

Or, was. Because now, as the first season winds slowly to a close, we get another glimpse of greatness from ALF. “Going Out of My Head Over You” taps into the nature of the title character, and like “For Your Eyes Only” expands upon it and explores it in an unexpected way. It represents the most significant sustained competence since that episode, and it may actually hit more impressive highs.

So, you know, if you want a disappointed review, go read “Wild Thing” again.

…or just keeping reading this. Because, to be honest, the first half of it or so is pretty ropey. It starts off with Brian lying about a basement flood, because his friend wants to sleep over and that can’t happen with ALF in the house.*

Willie doesn’t like that Brian told a lie, and gives a little speech about how lying is always wrong…and I really can’t tell if this is deliberately ironic, since lying about things is crucial to the concept of the show. They are harboring extra-terrestrial life, after all. In fact, in a moment there’s another scene about lying, and I started to get the impression that that would function as a kind of theme in the episode, or at least give “Going Out of My Head Over You” its moral.

Neither happens, which makes it feel — as usual — like a first draft. The writers had some ideas while they worked on act one, stumbled upon something else as they wrote act two, and then never went back to change the opening. Even at its best ALF has problems…and the first act of this episode is nowhere near ALF at its best.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

Hey, speaking of that, ALF just happens to walk into the living room and ejaculate water out of a flower onto Willie’s face and neck. It’s not quite as overtly sexual as the facial scene in “Keepin’ the Faith,” but Max Wright shielding his eyes and mouth from the unexpected squirt (and ALF gyrating with pleasure) definitely makes this repulsive in its own uncomfortable way.

The moment is redeemed, however, if we look at it as setup for a genuinely great line. Brian asks where ALF got the squirting flower, and he replies that he sent away for a whole box of silly novelties like this. Then he marvels, “That Taiwan must be the most fun place on Earth!”

That’s not just a funny line — and it really is a funny line, especially with Fusco’s wide-eyed, innocent reading — but, again, it’s crucial to who ALF is. He’s an alien, and he’s drawing connections based on his limited experience. We see a box of junk, but he sees a box of fun. We see the “Made in Taiwan” stamp and we think it’s cheap garbage, but he sees it and thinks the entire country must be a wonderland straight out of Willy Wonka. It’s comedy and it’s character work. Don’t blame me for getting excited; usually we get neither.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

Mrs. Ochmonek comes over, so ALF scurries off into the kitchen. She’s only here for this scene and doesn’t do anything but sit on ALF’s whoopie-cushion (a moment that is emphatically not redeemed by any clever lines). However her presence does require Willie to actively lie about ALF — in terms of explaining the whoopie-cushion, and the hair all over the couch — which I took as more evidence that this would be an episode about dishonesty. After all, if it’s not, why have this scene at all?

The thing is, a dishonesty episode would be a pretty good idea. Willie frets during act one about instilling a sense of honesty in his son. That’s a fair point of concern for any father, but in this case it’s complicated by their environment; Willie doesn’t want Brian to lie, but he’s raising him in a house in which lies must be told regularly. There’s a perfect narrative cross-section there…it’s a general, relateable human story, and it’s also a story that addresses the unique context in which this show takes place. Played correctly, we could end up with something like what Hank goes through in the Venture Bros. episode “Assassinanny 911.” Relateable conflict; exceptional circumstance.

We don’t get that here, and it’s frustrating. It’s like playing Hot and Cold with a friend, seeing them get so close to what they’re looking for, and yet they can’t find it, however obvious it seems to you. This was a good idea. Granted, I do like what we get instead, but there’s no reason that such a strong topic should be relegated to setting up a different plot altogether. It was worth an episode of its own far moreso than Willie jumping out of a plane or Kate Sr. getting pissed off at a soap opera.

Oh well. The important thing is that Willie goes into the kitchen and ALF jizzes in his eyes again.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

It’s strange that they reanimated Mrs. Ochmonek for this episode and “Wild Thing,” but in both cases they just have her hang around for some irrelevant scene and then disappear again. Her entire purpose here seemed to be to pad out the space between the two times ALF wets Willie** and that hardly seems worth bringing her in.

Maybe they had a contract with Liz Sheridan — or Lady Seinfeld, as she likes to be called — for a certain number of episodes, and so they squeezed her into as many as they could late in the season because there was nowhere else to put her.

This show is so crappily made that I find it hard to write about the episodes I like without inadvertently reminding myself of why they’re so few in number.

Okayokayokay that’s enough of that. Back to the episode. I need to remind myself of why I like this episode. Let’s just see what…

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

…oh, come on.

Willie skulks around the house in the middle of the night and finds ALF standing in his bed wearing a wooden box and making robot noises.

I’m trying to help you here, show, but I really need you to help me too.

Willie then steps on some tacks that ALF put on the floor and then when he leaves he steps on some more tacks that ALF put on the floor.

Guys, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just really sick. Maybe I’m dying.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

Willie gets in bed with Kate and immediately initiates…lol nah I’m kidding. He talks about ALF. What a fun, sexy time for her.

He bitches on about ALF’s everlasting dickshit, and Kate suggests that he see a psychologist. In real life this would be the precursor to her next suggestion, which is that they get a divorce, but here she’s just trying to address his concerns. It’s nice of her, but I don’t know how Willie seeing a therapist is going to resolve the issue, which is that ALF’s been jogging in public, throwing tacks everywhere, and having robot dance parties in the middle of the night. I’m not saying a therapist is a bad idea, but I am saying it would be an indirect approach at best. Especially when, you know, they could just kick him out of the house.

Seriously, I know I bring this up a lot, but why does ALF have all of the power in this house? Why don’t they issue him an ultimatum? He’s fucked the moment they toss him out on his ear, so why do Willie and Kate act like he’s the one holding all the cards? Fuck this guy.

It’s even more puzzling if Willie’s concerned that keeping him in the house is cultivating a sense of dishonesty in his children, but nevermind, that part of the plot is over with. We’re doing something different now.

ALF then comes into the bedroom with a banana to watch Willie and Kate sleep. But you probably could have guessed that.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

Willie goes to see the psychologist; they’re old friends who haven’t seen each other in a while I think. They greet in that slightly stilted way that two adults do when they’re glad to see each other but still not sure what to say, and that’s fine, but then Dr. Dykstra does a weird thing where he opens Willie’s jacket and says, “What’s that?! What’s that?!”

I think the idea was that he was referring to Willie having put on weight, but it actually looks like he’s making fun of Willie for getting an awkward boner. In fact, I’d believe that long before I’d believe that Max Wright had anything like a gut.

This is the pivot-point for the episode as the plot proper is set in motion, but before I get into that I want to take a moment to point out a little bit of stunt-casting*** that I didn’t notice until I did some research to remind myself of the doctor’s last name. (As they’re on friendly terms, Willie mostly calls him Larry.)

Dr. Dykstra is played by Bill Daily, who played Howard Borden in The Bob Newhart Show. In the waiting room there’s another patient played by Jack Riley, who was also on The Bob Newhart Show as Mr. Carlin. Later in the episode, ALF actually name-drops that show. And what was Bob’s profession? Psychologist. It’s a nice bit of subtle resonance, and the episode doesn’t draw any direct attention to it. That’s…pretty awesome, and evidence that somebody who worked on this show cared about something other than punching out on time.

Anyway, Dr. Dykstra correctly susses out the fact that Willie might have a problem. He amazingly deduces this, I guess, from the fact that WILLIE WENT TO SEE A PSYCHOLOGIST. Willie, however, tries to pretend everything’s okay, and, for once, incredibly, Max Wright’s hollow, dusty line readings fit the context; he does his best to lie to Dr. Dykstra but then blurts, sadly, “I have a creature from outer space living in my house,” and it plays like a sincere admission of defeat from a man genuinely miserable with his life.

It’s…a very effective moment. It manages to serve as an almost retroactive characterization, as it recontextualizes every single line of dialogue the man’s had. It’s a late-game attempt to squeeze some character into Willie, and unquestionably it should have happened much sooner, but the important thing is that it works.

Will it carry over into future episodes? Well, I kind of doubt it. But that isn’t something we should hold against “Going Out of My Head Over You.” It just means it will work better in isolation than as part of a series, just as “For Your Eyes Only” does.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

Willie shows Dr. Dykstra a Polaroid of ALF as proof that he’s not crazy, and Willie ends up offering a vague kind of apology for being upset by ALF, saying that he “has some wonderful qualities.” We might even be meant to agree with that, but watching this with the knowledge that ALF’s been a sentient dick in every one of his earlier scenes it just makes Willie’s character seem even more pathetic and defeated…a man attempting to justify his complacency in a life of abject misery.

I know I’m spending a lot of time talking about what’s essentially a pretty short scene, but it’s actually quite good. It’s unquestionably Max Wright’s finest hour, as some writer figured out a way not only to play to the actor’s strengths, but to recontextualize his perceived weaknesses.

The entire character gets reframed completely; the awkward, sputtering nuttiness of his delivery isn’t anything unique to this exchange, but it has a home here. It’s never been normal, but now a change in context lets us know that that’s A Good Thing, because we’re not supposed to register it as normal. It indicates a problem. The episode is telling us that this is why Willie’s been this way all along. It’s an obvious retcon, but it’s a welcome one.

The honesty plot might have been ditched, but at least they managed to replace it with another topic specific to the premise of the show, and one at least as worthy of exploration. Kate’s rationale for sending Willie to Dr. Dykstra was a bit limp (again, Willie wasn’t complaining about feeling upset…he was complaining about ALF dickin’ out every hour of the day), but once the episode does get him there, it makes it worth the bumpiness of the ride.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

Dr. Dykstra asks to come to the Tanner house in order to observe ALF. There are obviously two levels of interest at play here: personal, and professional, and that complicates something later on in an interesting way.

First, though, the family tells ALF that they have good news: a guest is coming over, and he won’t have to stay hidden all night. Fairly enough, ALF panics, afraid that they’ve tired of the dickcloud hanging constantly over their heads and turned him in to the Alien Task Force.**** Willie and Kate rush to assure him that’s not the case…but why? Let him think for a while that there’s some consequence for the shit he pulls.

In this episode alone he’s squirted all over Willie’s face, annoyed people with a whoopie-cushion, pierced Willie’s foot with a tack, bothered people in the middle of the night with some kind of robot dance, and then ate a banana while watching Willie and Kate in bed. Oh, and last week he carved a path of destruction throughout Los Angeles that led directly to the Tanners’ front door, in case you forgot. He should believe he needs to watch what he does, but instead Willie and Kate trip over themselves to assure him that he doesn’t. It’s insane.

BUT GUYS I LIKE THIS ONE SO LET’S FOCUS ON SOMETHING FUNNY LIKE THE WAY A VEGETABLE TRAY APPEARS MAGICALLY IN WILLIE’S HAND

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

It’s a very clever bit of foreshadowing for season four’s “Mind Games,” in which it is revealed that Willie is a telepath.

…no, it’s just shitty editing. I used to point out stuff like this a lot more when I didn’t realize I was watching syndication edits. Now I’m reluctant to do so, because it’s possible that when the show originally aired things didn’t jump around like this. I guess it doesn’t really matter, though. Whether the terrible editing was there from the start or a symptom of syndication, the fact is that somebody who edited ALF did a really awful job. Sometimes it’s like playing a motion version of Spot the Difference.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

Dr. Dykstra arrives and greets Willie and Kate, then looks at ALF and says OH MY GOD. It’s actually kind of funny, probably because Bill Daily is a gifted comic actor and even manages to imbue a horrified recoil with some degree of politeness. He’s a good character, and I’d love to see him again.

I never fuckin’ will, but, you know.

I do have to give the show some credit for having everyone without the last name Tanner react appropriately when they first see ALF. Mrs. Ochmonek shrieked, Kate Sr. thought she was dreaming, the Frito Bandito thought he was about to be murdered, and now Dr. Dykstra momentarily loses his composure, in spite of having steeled himself for the encounter. That’s one thing the show’s been quite good about, and I like that.

They sit down to eat dinner, and because ALF is aware that Dr. Dykstra is there to observe him, he’s on his best behavior. What’s more, he refuses to admit that he’s usually any less reserved. Willie and the rest of the family try to point out that this isn’t the “real” ALF, but ALF won’t budge. He’s polite, complimentary, and calm, and he’s trying to convince Dr. Dykstra that that’s how he always is.

Dr. Dykstra senses that something’s off. He suggests role reversal, with ALF playing Willie and Willie playing ALF, because while he got his Masters in Psychology he minored in Basic Sitcom Convention.

I’ll admit, it’s a hackneyed premise, but what follows is seriously funny. ALF and Willie impersonate each other with one eye toward showing Dr. Dykstra what it’s like to live with the other, and the other eye toward pissing each other off. It manages to be both aggressive and passive-aggressive at once, and it’s easily the best scene ALF has given us yet.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

Willie’s impersonations of ALF consist of putting his feet on the table and belching rudely…and in a genuinely clever choice, Max Wright doesn’t actually have Willie burp; instead he just says, “Braaaaaaap.”

ALF then tries out his own impression, mimicing Willie’s boring dweebiness by suggesting that the family spend the evening conjugating verbs.

Willie fires back with his ALF impression, demanding food because he hasn’t eaten in half an hour. ALF responds with his Willie impression, denying him a meal on the grounds that they fed him last month.

I absolutely love the insight we’re getting into each of these characters, as simple concepts end up filtered through very different perspectives, and we see how each would perceive the same thing in a completely different way, leaving both of them unsatisfied as well as unaware of how the other feels.

Andrea Elson laughs during the scene, and from the way she glances off to the side as she tries to hold it in I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t intentional. That means that even the fucked up take that remained in the episode rather than being reshot works in this context…she’s nervously laughing at her father being made fun of as he makes fun of their permanent house guest. The struggle not to laugh is Andrea’s rather than Lynn’s, but it’s a mistake that enhances the reality of the scene. “Going Out of My Head Over You” is really taking the weaknesses of this show and turning them into strengths. I’m…kind of impressed, and now you know why I keep using the word “recontextualizing.”

The scene also plays like Fusco and Wright venting some frustrations at each other. The infamous tension between the two actors is channeled smartly by the writers here, and you can hear it in their performances. There’s a pent-up viciousness there that I know is genuine, because neither of them are nearly good enough actors to fake it.

What’s more, it stays funny. Willie leers at Lucky and threatens to eat him, and ALF says they can’t eat the cat, as written in “Household Rule #856, Subsection D, paragraph 2.” Then Willie says he doesn’t like rules, and there’s a brilliant little flourish as he tosses his napkin in the air, which is obviously Willie’s idea of how to break rules. Then he catches it and sets it down neatly, because he’s still Willie.

THIS IS GOOD.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

It’s rare enough that the show gets one joke right…it’s always exciting when it manages to build another good joke upon the first. Here every joke is funny, and we get a good several minutes of back and forth that actually feels like it was pulled from a much better pool of writers.

Things get resolved a little too cleanly, but this is a sitcom, and things do need to be reset before the episode ends. I can’t even complain, because the resolution is natural, and it builds from what we’ve just seen. It even folds in another “flaw” from the show and makes it fit: Dr. Dykstra says that whatever the problem may be, the fact is that ALF and Willie don’t get along, so ALF should move out. In fact, Dr. Dykstra would be happy to take him in…and while we know ALF isn’t going anywhere, it impressively fits the degree of personal curiosity the good doctor has invested in the situation.

Willie expresses concern that ALF might get caught if he’s not there to look after him, a concern that helps him realize that he actually cares about ALF. ALF is happy to hear this, and explains that he cares about Willie too, and appreciates the fact that Willie keeps him safe and sheltered and fed.

Just like that, we have our explanation for why Willie and Kate don’t kick him out or issue that ultimatum: they like the guy. It’s something that’s been suggested before, but never felt. Here, at last, it’s felt. I’m not sure that I buy it, but I don’t even mind that, because the episode worked to make it fit, and in its second half at least it did so with an impressive efficiency.

Ladies and gentlemen: my new favorite episode of ALF.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

The final scene before the credits is only a few seconds long, but it’s actually really nice. It’s ALF watching Willie and Kate sleep again, but when Willie rolls over, ALF pulls the blanket back over him so he won’t get cold.

I’m…amazed. The episode took an extremely creepy situation from earlier in the episode, and turned it into something sweet by the end. That’s not an easy task for any show…for ALF to pull it off it’s downright alchemy.

This might be my longest review yet. I hope it is, because this is certainly the episode that deserved it most. And hell, by this point I think I’ve earned it too.

MELMAC FACTS: Chewing with your mouth closed is considered very rude on Melmac, because people think you’re hiding something.

—–
* Actually, now that I think about it the pilot ended with Lynn being concerned about a sleep-over of her own, and everyone was fine with ALF being there as long as he dressed up like a woman. I didn’t think that was a good idea at the time, and now that we see the sleepover rules have changed, we can only imagine what kind of crap ALF must have pulled then…

** You’re welcome.

*** Courtesy of The ALF Wiki, which is a thing that somebody made.

**** Is this the first time the Alien Task Force has been mentioned since the pilot? I honestly thought that would be more of a looming threat to the characters than it seems to be BUT WHO CARES THIS ONE WAS GOOD YOU GUYS DON’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...