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ALF Reviews: “Wild Thing” (Season 1, Episode 18)

February 13th, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

ALF, "Wild Thing"

Now this is interesting. The syndication edit of “Wild Thing” is only 18 minutes long. Typically they’ve been about 22 or 23 minutes, which reflect maybe two or three minutes’ worth of trimmed material. As I’ve mentioned before in these reviews, I’m disappointed by that, but not largely concerned. While it’s fair enough to assume that we’re losing some decent lines and maybe a moment or two of plot clarification, I truly doubt it would make the show better. Even if we operate under the assumption that all of the stuff that got cut was good, that still leaves us with the fact that any given episode of ALF only had two or three minutes’ worth of good stuff, and that’s a pretty lousy ratio.

Here, though, it’s a bit trickier, as we’re losing six or seven minutes’ worth of material. That’s basically a full act. In fact, Hulu divides its programs up by “act” so that it can show its own commercials. “Wild Thing” has an act break at both credits sequences, and that’s it; the entire episode proper is unbroken. Something really strange happened here, but I couldn’t tell you what it is.

It’s also mislabeled on Hulu as episode 19, when it’s actually episode 18. This…made me panic. I was afraid I had skipped an episode somewhere and would have to go back and do it. It turns out it’s just a mistake on their end, but the experience taught me that there is nothing more terrifying to me than the prospect of a lost episode of ALF.

Anyway, none of that has anything to do with “Wild Thing,” which starts with ALF and Brian on the floor trying to read each other’s minds. Brian keeps thinking of a fork, ALF keeps guessing wrong, and Kate comes in so ALF puts on some X-Ray Specs and talks about how sexy her underwear is.

18-minutes, 22-minutes, 60-minutes…it doesn’t matter. ALF is still ALF.

ALF, "Wild Thing"

ALF assembles the family in the living room. He asks where Kate is and is told she’s in the shower, so he walks into the bathroom and throws the curtain aside to get her. This is the second pervy thing ALF’s done to Kate this episode, and it’s also the second thing he did at all in this episode. Why do the writers think ALF is at his best when he’s behaving like a sexual criminal?

He then walks over and hangs up on Lynn’s phone call. She gets upset but it’s not like she was talking to anyone. She can’t have been, since she just had it pressed against her head while she nodded silently. This means either Lynn, Andrea Elson or the entire writing staff of ALF didn’t know how phones work. I can’t even make an educated guess as to which it is. Any of that is plausible.

There is actually a decent joke here. ALF tells Lynn that she looks different, and she takes that as a compliment until ALF asks if she used to have a mustache. She explains that she looks different because she got her braces taken off, and ALF replies, “Yeah, but didn’t you used to have a mustache, too?”

It was a line obviously written in because Elson had her real-life braces removed, which is something I wouldn’t have noticed if they hadn’t drawn attention to it, but I appreciate the fact that they decided to address the change. I also appreciate the fact that they assigned the job of addressing the change to the One Good Writer.

It’s interesting that ALF gets a bigger laugh with something they had to quickly shoe-horn into the episode in order to address a real-life change in appearance than it does with the rest of the script that was presumably given more time and attention.

ALF, "Wild Thing"

ALF explains to the family — in the vaguest way possible, presumably because the writers don’t know where this is going either (if you don’t believe me, just scroll down to the final screengrab) — that he’s going to go bananas.

Why? Because this is March 1, and every 75 years, on March 2, all Melmacians go apeshit. Good to know that Melmac inexplicably went by the Gregorian calendar.

ALF announces that Willie better hurry the eff up and build him a cage, because all this jazz goes down at midnight.

Why did he wait until now to tell the family about it? He only gives them a few hours’ notice that he’s going to embark on some hazily-defined rampage, but he knew this was coming for, oh, the past 74 years and 364 days or so. What’s more, he’s been here since August (as established by “Help Me, Rhonda”) which means he’s known the Tanners for seven months. Couldn’t this have been talked about any sooner?

ALF, "Wild Thing"

Willie apparently doesn’t know the difference between a “cage” and a “wooden box,” but that’s okay, because nobody remarks on it which means they don’t know either. Then again, he still doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be helping ALF prevent, so I can’t blame him too much for not being particular about it.

You’d think the episode would explain at some point what happens to ALF during this isolated bout of insanity, but it doesn’t. I thought this sort of artful dodging was building up to a reveal at the end that he becomes really nice for a day. Or lactates everywhere. I don’t know. Point is, I thought we’d find out something.

In this edit, though, we don’t. Maybe the longer edit made more sense of it. As of right now, I’m just assuming that this is ALF’s “Amok Time.” ALFmok Time? Anyway, what I’m trying to say is I’m disappointed that this episode doesn’t climax with his and Willie’s duel to the death.

ALF tells Willie not to release him under any circumstances, but then he says he has to use the restroom and Willie opens the box, which earns him a stern lecture from ALF. Willie apologies, locks him back in, and ALF tries the same trick, which earns the audience an incomparable line reading of “Forgaeeerrrrhhtt ittt” from Max Wright. Man, I’m not even through the first season and I’ve already gotten so used to Wright’s delivery that I barely even notice it anymore. I think that’s the first sign of dementia.

ALF then starts impersonating Lynn, Brian and Willie, but I don’t know how that’s supposed to be a trick since they’re all standing right there and obviously nobody would be fooled by it. It’s also strange that the lip synch is so terrible. They use actual lines from those actors, so all Fusco has to do is open and close the mouth on the puppet, but it barely matches up at all. I mean, I’m sure it’s more difficult to “match the flaps” when somebody else is talking than when you are, but shouldn’t a puppeteer at least be able to do a halfway decent job of it? It doesn’t even seem like he’s trying.

ALF, "Wild Thing"

That night Brian is walking around the house unsupervised, and since Willie and Kate both knew full well that ALF would be going berserk in a fragile wooden crate, this illustrates what fantastic parents they are. Seriously, do they even like their kids? They might not. The took the precaution of keeping ALF safe by boxing him up, but no precautions whatsoever to keep their kids safe?

ALF tricks Brian into opening the crate on the grounds that it’s already sunup in Melmac time. (Melmok Time?) So I guess this whole “I go nuts on March 2” thing really meant “I go nuts for six hours on March 2 while everyone’s asleep and wouldn’t notice anyway.”

Brian then gets locked in the cage, because he’s a fucking idiot. ALF doesn’t even try. He just says, “Can you check inside the cage?” So Brian does, and ALF closes the door. Check for what? There was no attempt made to justify this with even a flimsy explanation. There’s a script for Friends floating around the internet that was hand-written by an eight-year-old kid. It’s a thousand times more coherent than this.

ALF, "Wild Thing"

Also, ALF the unregistered sex criminal has now graduated to locking children in wooden crates. I just want to leave you with that thought.

ALF, "Wild Thing"

Willie, Kate and Lynn all enter the living room at sunup, and Brian screams for help. In the most ridiculous piece of sitcom blocking ever, these three idiots stand around wondering loudly about whether that’s Brian in the cage or ALF doing another impression…which is a valid question, but also one that could be resolved immediately by any of them stepping around to the front of the cage where Brian is clearly visible.

Of course, Brian could also move to one of the windows on the side, where he’d be visible to them, and he doesn’t do that. Speaking of which, I have no idea why he’s calling out through the front window in the first place when that’s not where his family is standing, so fuck it. He’s no better than they are. The whole Tanner clan deserves to be torn to shreds by a horny alien.

Eventually they do manage to step four inches to the side. They see that it does look like Brian, but they’re not convinced that it isn’t just ALF shape-shifting. Think about that for a moment. I’ll meet you when you’re done.

Good stuff, eh?

They ask Brian a bunch of questions to determine that it’s really him, and the one that convinces them is when he’s able to identify Kate’s maiden name as Halligan, which is correct. However, that’s also the one thing they ask that they already know ALF knows as well; he was channeling the ghost of Sparky Halligan only three episodes ago. So in order to determine that this is not the alien, they ask their son something that both he and the alien would know.

Good stuff, eh?

ALF, "Wild Thing"

Willie goes to check for ALF at the Ochmoneks’ house, because that’s where Lucky is staying, apparently. How did the Tanners convince them to take the cat for the night when they weren’t going anywhere? What was their cover story? If you took your cat to the neighbor’s house because you were away for the weekend, that makes sense. If you took your cat to the neighbor’s house just to get rid of it for the night, they’d think you were hosting an orgy.

Anyway, this is the first time we’ve seen Mrs. Ochmonek since the second episode, and she makes her triumphant return solely so that Willie can come over in the middle of the night and say, “I was hoping I could get Lucky,” which is an entendre so obvious even Three’s Company would turn up its nose at it.

Also, who out there is volunteering to do the ALF / Daft Punk mashup that the internet so desperately needs?

Mr. Ochmonek goes upstairs to get the cat, and Willie sees ALF behind Mrs. Ochmonek. I’m pretty sure this screengrab is an accurate representation of Max Wright’s crack hallucinations:

ALF, "Wild Thing"

Mr. Ochmonek can’t find the cat, and when he comes back downstairs there’s a noise in the kitchen, so the elders go to investigate. Meanwhile ALF comes out of a totally different room with a toaster oven, asks how long to preheat it before cooking a cat, then he laughs and leaves again.

The Ochmoneks come back, so Willie pretends he was the one laughing so loudly, and suddenly I’m convinced that the entire character of ALF really is one series-long crack hallucination.

ALF, "Wild Thing"

Every time Mr. and Mrs. O leave the room ALF appears, and then he disappears before they come back. Again, if this is what was left after cutting all but 18 minutes of this episode, I can’t imagine we’re missing much.

Eventually they find Lucky, and ALF escapes on their riding mower. I know it sounds like I’m making this episode up in the throes of my own crack hallucination, but all this shit is really happening.

GOOD STUFF, EH?

The lawnmower theft happens off camera, and then we cut to the Tanners hanging out in the shed, listening to police broadcasts and mapping ALF’s path of destruction through LA. All of his shenanigans happen off camera, pretty obviously for budget reasons, and that’s understandable. What’s not understandable is why they wrote an episode about a reign of alien terror if they couldn’t afford to shoot any of it.

I know I complained a few times (okay…every time) about the show never having ALF do anything alien, so I should be happy; this is a story about an alien, and probably the only one we’ve seen so far. Yet we still don’t get to see him doing anything alien, because the one alien thing they’ve ever decided to have him do can’t be filmed with anything less than the budget of a Michael Bay movie. Great planning.

Anyway, they draw on a map for a while and then we get this:

ALF, "Wild Thing"

This show can’t even stick Willie on a couch without it looking like the most ridiculous thing in the world.

Kate and Lynn return from their drive around the neighborhood, but they didn’t find ALF. That’s okay, though, because the episode’s ending and he turns up on his own. He returned to the Tanner house because he read Brian’s mind, or some shit, which isn’t so much the coming together of two plot threads as it is the writers reminding us that this episode had a beginning.

They have a heartfelt reunion in front of their wide-open front door, even though they know full well the police are actively scouring the city for the alien that left a path of destruction leading right to their house. Again, nobody thinks to step a few inches to the side.

ALF, "Wild Thing"

ALF quotes Yogi Bera, Plutarch, Proust and Shakespeare because even after it’s trimmed all to hell ALF is still padded like crazy.

The short scene before the credits is ALF further padding out the episode with yet more quotations, and then he and Willie go out to the shed and see a tiger.

ALF, "Wild Thing"

ALF kidnapped it from the zoo and then forgot about it. The fake audience of nobody who ever lived applauds in appreciation of the…uh…whatever this is.

Guys, “Wild Thing” was awful. This might actually be one of the worst. I’d like to say it was even worse than “Strangers in the Night,” but that wouldn’t be totally fair since for all I know a fuller edit would have done this one a lot of good. I doubt that, but…still. Benefit of the doubt and all.

I’m just glad it’s over. This one felt about 10 times as long as the clip show, even though that one ran almost a full hour. Oh well. Next week’s episode is called “Going Out of My Head Over You,” which sounds like a title that would have fit just as well here. Are we in for another double-header with the same plot? We can only hope!

Join us next week for that review, same Amok Time, same Amok Channel.

MELMAC FACTS: Every 75 years, all the inhabitants of Melmac mow the lawn and kidnap a tiger.

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25 Responses

  • Jeff says:

    “Elson had her real-life braces removed, which is something I wouldn’t have noticed if they hadn’t drawn attention to it.”
    .
    Oh, Phil. I used to be just like you. I insisted to anyone who would listen that I didn’t spend entire episodes of ALF staring at Elson’s mouth. Finally I realized that no one was buying it and that people would actually respect me more if I just said, “My name is Jeff, and I stare incessantly at Andrea Elson’s mouth.” So I did. And although my proclamation was met with disgust–I was 45 years old at the time–I knew in my heart that I had won a minor victory… over myself if nothing else
    .
    Be acceptable, or be real. The choice is yours.

  • Megan says:

    The definition of “madness”, here, is “to act more or less as ALF always acts”. Honestly, I see nothing different about what ALF does here besides the fact that any other episode would have been focused on squeezing twenty minutes of alleged hilarity from “and now the Tanners have a tiger! HA!”

    • Sarah Portland says:

      I have to agree. This is not any different from the shit that he usually does. What a rip-off. I was promised madness and got the status quo.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      Yeah, good call. I was at least expecting some kind of physical transformation or something. In the episode where he gets sick, he looks and acts like he’s sick. In the episode where he bumps his head, he looks and acts like he bumped his head. In the episode where he’s meant to be having a psychotic breakdown, he looks and acts like ALF.

      On a better show, that would have been the joke.

      But this is ALF. Jokes are not welcome here.

  • iratgamer says:

    I’m surprised ALF didn’t do the x-ray specs thing on Brian.

    Though, I’m not really. ALF probably doesn’t need x-ray specs to know how sexy Brian’s underwear is.

  • RaikoLives says:

    I’ll be starting a collection to pay for Philip’s therapy when he’s finished these reviews. Otherwise he’ll be the one locking little boys in “cages” and stealing fauna from the zoo.

    And really, what kind of “path of destruction” can he have caused on a ride-on lawnmower? Running over some lawn ornaments, garden hoses and the occasional pet dog is hardly “finger of God” territory.

    This damn show.

  • Sarah Portland says:

    Firstly, that box looks cozy as fuck. I would fill it with pillows and blankets and make it my Reading Fort. No Grown-Ups Allowed.
    Secondly, ALF looks baller in those x-ray specs. Like something out of Cafe 80’s in Back to the Future Part 2. I would be okay seeing those again.
    That’s all I got for Things That Didn’t Suck.
    Moving on.
    There was no insanity here, just the same shit he does all the time, only this time, the writers didn’t use some lame backstory to explain it, ie, stealing the Ochmoneks’ riding mower because he broke into their house and stole their toaster oven, and needed a getaway vehicle when they called the cops. Lacking an explanation qualifies as madness here. Also, did we get a reason why all of Melmac goes nuts on the same date? (Brother, that is also a Star Trek episode – “The Return of the Archons”. Everybody goes batshit crazy at 6 pm. Also a show with mass hysteria that is not properly explained.) Did every Melmacian steal his neighbor’s riding mower every March 2nd? Dick around with the toaster oven trying to make a snack? Most. Boring. Madness. Ever.
    Shapeshifting. I just… fuck you, ALF writers. Are they presuming that their audience is stupid, or just the Tanners? Actually, given that this show was on for four years, that’s not a bad assumption.
    Every now and again, it seems like you can pick out why something is made. For this episode, I’m guessing that the story is “My brother trains animals for a living, and he needs to see if his new tiger will behave on a set. We can only have him for a few seconds, but it’ll be free.”
    “Okay, cool. We have a free tiger. Now what do we do with him?”

  • FelixSH says:

    Hi, I just found this and, as a fan of the show, enjoy the reviews. My enjoyment of the show itself is based on pure nostalgia. I know that it´s bad and the characters are bland, but it has a very relaxing effect on me (like sitcoms in general have).

    Anyway, I wanted to point out a few things that seem to have been cut (I´m going with the german version, that´s the only one I know).
    First, the whole point of his change is that ALFs desire to eat a cat can´t be constrained anymore, at least for this few hours. In this time, he will do everything to get one. That´s the reason why he gets the tiger and why Lucky is kept by the Ochmoneks.
    Second, there is a scene where Willy builds the “cage”. ALF explains to him that it isn´t comfortable and sturdy enough, because he needs to rampage. Then he shows Willy a photoalbum which contains a picture of how the cage should look. Another one shows ALF riding on a pony and one shows the green sky and orange clouds.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      Yes. this is great! Please do feel free to let me know what was chopped out in these edits…I find things like that fascinating, whether or not I actually enjoy the show.

      It’s interesting that they cut the explanation that his urge is to eat the cat…but then how does that work? Why would every Melmacian has an irresistible urge to eat cats every 75 years if they were readily available at restaurants there? What a bizarre cultural evolution. (Or total BS on the part of the writers. EITHER WAY.)

      And why is ALF tearing around LA on a riding mower? The tiger thing does at least tie into his desire to eat cats (though I didn’t mention it in the review, that part of the explanation was at least kept intact), but what about his rampage through the city? It would have been a better story — and made more sense — if he chased a cat up a tree or something, and the cat escaped, and then ALF was trapped up there, or in a treehouse, and had to find a way out without someone seeing him.

      That would also have been much easier to pull off within their budget, sparing us scenes of the Tanner family sitting around a radio like they’re stranded on Gilligan’s Island.

      Eh, I’m babbling now. But I’m genuinely interested to hear about anything else you recognize has been cut…if only for the sake of comprehensiveness. Thank you! I’m glad you enjoy the show, and I hope you stick around for the rest of it!

  • Katie Idler says:

    Like your above commenter, I also enjoy ALF for purely sentimental reasons. That being said, this episode scared the ever-living shit out of me. My memories are of absolute terror. The cage, Brian wandering around the house late at night, the voice-mimickery (?) of other household members! Jesus shit that still gives me the willies. I don’t know why, but this could be a Mr. Meatloaf episode, it was that unsettling for me. I’m sure time has done it’s job and I could watch this with no problems today, but 8 y.o. katie was not f-ing amused.

  • Jessica says:

    So ALF goes crazy and the wildest thing he does is steal a lawnmower? Even that is like a watered-down version of his joyride in the Ferrari. Quite frankly, for him to come off as any crazier than making vague bomb threats to the President, he would literally have had to anally violate the entire Tanner family with a double-pronged Melmacian dildo, and even then I’d be skeptical.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      You know, this show is doing a number on me…because you’re exactly right. It’s a watered-down version of what he already did in “Baby You Can Drive My Car,” except we’re meant to believe this was him going apeshit and that was just normal, everyday ALF. Then when you toss in threatening the President, this garbage doesn’t even rank. This is practically one of his best-behaved episodes. That never registered with me. I think I’m sick.

      And I’m pretty sure if he did sodomize the family with a double-pronged Melmacian dildo, that wouldn’t register with me either…except for a mental note to add it to the Melmac Facts.

  • Mark Moore says:

    So why DO Melmacians have to be locked up for doing mildly annoying things once every 75 years?

  • kim says:

    “Why? Because this is March 1, and every 75 years, on March 2, all Melmacians go apeshit. Good to know that Melmac inexplicably went by the Gregorian calendar.” first of all, this line actually made me laugh. XD
    but yeah, this episode was pretty crazy, not just in the plot, but in the editing and everything else that goes on in this episode. I have the more complete version of this episode and those missing minutes do add the story a little bit, but not by much. i think this episode would of been more interesting if ALF went through are more different change, like he becomes really violent or something, but no, he just becomes more of an asshole then he already was and does not care about anybody in his way.

  • Vivian says:

    That picture of Willie on the couch is golden.



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