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A Winner Is You!

At long, long last, I get to do something I was hoping to do a month ago: announce the stories that will be included in The Lost Worlds of Power!

By now, everybody who submitted something should have received an email from me letting them know our decision. And what a decision it was.

This was very difficult, and my co-editor James and I spent a good deal of time discussing every single submission. We may have had to turn down a good number of stories, but that doesn’t suggest that they were disappointing in any way. What it does suggest is that you guys set the bar surprisingly high.

We received almost uniformly excellent submissions, and while that means it made our final selection very difficult, it also means that the final anthology is going to be absolutely stellar.

So thank you to everybody who submitted. And now, without further ado…the stories that will be included.

…well, allow me a little bit more ado, because I absolutely have to post this glorious cover again. Seriously, every aspect of this book is exceeding expectations. We could not be happier.

The Lost Worlds of Power

The Lost Worlds of Power:

“Milon’s Secret Castle,” by R J Burgess
“The California Raisins: The Grape Escape,” by Samuel Clementine
“Bad Dudes,” by Ramona Donohue
“Double Dragon Warrior,” by Theodore Geise
“Monster Party,” by Tomm Hulett
“Marble Madness,” by James Lawless
“Yo! Noid,” by Jerod Mackert
“California Games,” by Matthew McKinley
“Battletoads,” by Philip J Reed
“Linus Spacehead’s Cosmic Crusade,” by J. Paul Roe
“Legendary Wings,” by Guy Vollen
“Renegade,” by Jeffrey Zoerner

So, there you have it: the games that you should spend the next few weeks watching in Let’s Play form!

Each story will be illustrated by the naturally illustrious Ron DelVillano, and the entire thing will be available here, for free, in ebook format. Physical copies will most likely be available as well, so stay tuned.

The above doesn’t represent the order in which the stories will appear, as that’s something we haven’t decided yet. I’ve listed them alphabetically by author. Because I’m an intensely structured obsessive insane crazy person, I promise to slave over the sequencing, even though nobody will really care. Please understand.

The next big question is the publication date. Well, I don’t know yet, and I don’t want to promise something unrealistic (AGAIN), so let’s just say that I’m aiming for late Spring. Keep an eye out here, and the moment we have something nailed down, I will let you know.

Thanks again for all of your submissions. I could not be happier with the final selections, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as we did.

…and, really…we enjoyed them a whole fuckin’ lot. Great job, everybody.

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

Here we are; the penultimate episode of ALF, season one. And here’s a quick little vocabulary lesson for everyone who thinks “penultimate” means “best” or “platonic ideal of” or some shit: it doesn’t. It means “the one with a bigass cockroach monster.” You uneducated bastards.

Let me get this out of the way right now: “La Cuckaracha” has a lot of problems. Okay? Keep that in mind, because I’m going to have quite a few nice things to say about this one, and I wouldn’t want you to get confused.

“La Cuckaracha” is flawed. At times, deeply so. And yet, God help me, this episode is fun.

In fact, I think I’d stick it alongside “For Your Eyes Only” and “Going Out of My Head Over You,” forming the trilogy of ALF season one episodes that are worth watching. Of course, we still have one left, so it’s possible that it will actually be a quadrilogy, but considering the fact that both of those other episodes were followed immediately by piles of steaming shit, I’m not optimistic.

One thing that I unreservedly love about this episode is that its premise follows both naturally and creatively from the fact that ALF is an alien. The show so rarely acknowledges this for anything other than a passing gag embedded in an otherwise unremarkable plotline that I feel the need to point it out whenever it does happen.

And when it does happen, the episode has a high likelihood of being good. All three episodes in the Not Bad Trilogy hinge on that fact, and wouldn’t be possible without that fact. And while there are other* episodes that rely heavily on it as well, most of them do not. And most of them are garbage. So the moment there is a plot tailored to take advantage of ALF’s extra-terrestrial origins, my ears perk up, and at the very least I end up appreciating the effort.

This episode even begins with a reminder of the fact that ALF IS NOT A FUCKING HUMAN by having him whip out a “slime ball” at the dinner table for dessert. Oddly enough, this scene was also in “Try to Remember,” making it yet another memory of ALF that the Tanner family had before it even happened.

What’s more, ALF says he found the slime ball while cleaning out his space ship. Why he didn’t already do this before they loaned the vessel out to a stranger for a week — or before he stripped the fucking thing down, removed all the plumbing, and reassembled it piece by piece — is something that no amount of creative commenting can rectify. (Prove me wrong, readers.)

So, yeah, like I said, this episode has its problems, and small logical inconsistencies like this are the least of them…but it has something to do with what ALF is, and that’s a huge step forward.

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

There’s not really a cold open in this episode. There is, but it’s pretty clearly just a single scene that has the credits shat into the middle. This isn’t a problem, but I want to point it out because the fact that the episode proper picks up about one frame after the cold open ends works to its advantage. “La Cuckaracha” feels like a version of ALF designed for the stage, and while it doesn’t take place in real time, the lack of too many “breaks” in the action gives it an interesting, theatrical personality that helps it to stand out, whether or not that was in any way deliberate.

Anyway, the bag containing ALF’s slime ball also contained a cockroach that stowed away when ALF fled Melmac. We don’t see it as it falls to the floor, but from the verbal descriptions it seems very much like an Earth cockroach, except for the fact that it has blue eyes. (A trait which has no bearing on the episode except that ALF gets to make a Frank Sinatra joke later on. Thank God for that, right?)

Kate, understandably, wants to kill it. Willie, also understandably, wants to capture it unharmed, as it’s a unique specimen from a planet no longer in existence and might be worth studying. I can definitely imagine strong arguments on either end, but I’m going to side with Kate on this because fuck Willie.

Willie stands there describing the elaborate trap he’s going to make in order to catch it, and while he’s jacking off over his plans for the roach snatch, Kate grabs a can of pesticide and sprays it.

The camera holds on this image for a good long while, which I found funny. The sheer amount of empty time filled by Kate spraying poison onto an unseen alien bug made me laugh…but the fake audience did not join me, so maybe it wasn’t a joke and was just some unintentionally lousy pacing. Who knows. I laughed, though, so I’m going to count it. It’s also yet another example of Kate being the only not-totally-worthless-all-the-motherfucking-time Tanner, so forgive me for enjoying what I evidently was not meant to.

When she finally stops spraying it, they notice that the roach is gone. She starts looking for it, but Willie tells her to calm down, and this time I can’t imagine a strong argument for that perspective because there is now a pissed off space monster going apeshit somewhere in the place that they prepare their food.

Willie, you fucking dolt.

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

ALF goes into the living room to order some donuts — a running gag in this episode that isn’t very funny but isn’t offensively awful, either, so, again, PROGRESS — and then he pops up through the window and beckons for Willie to follow him.

He didn’t want to upset Kate, which is why he’s telling Willie in secret, but he found the roach: it’s now a foot long and apparently terrifying.

We don’t get to see it because ALF blew its budget on carving a treacherous network of death-trenches into the floor of every set, but that’s okay; we can rely on Max Wright and Paul Fusco, master thespians, to silently convey the horror for us.

Kate, once again the closest thing to an actual person anywhere on the planet, decides to hustle the kids THE FUCK AWAY FROM THIS.

Willie, once again Willie, tells her not to bother.

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

He killed it, he says. With the same spray that Kate used, he says. You know…the spray that made it grow 11 inches in about 30 seconds. This isn’t like the more or less understandable logical leap of ALF only now cleaning out his space ship after 24 weeks, because poking holes in that relies on us remembering what it’s been through in that time, which I probably only do because I write novels about every God damned episode of this shit.

This spray thing, however, doesn’t make any sense at all. Willie saw that this didn’t work, and he saw it just a couple of minutes ago. Granted, he doesn’t make the connection between the spray and the growth until the next scene, but at the very least he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that it did not kill the roach, so declaring victory is downright idiotic.

It’s all just an excuse for the roach to grow again, but surely they could have handled it differently. For instance maybe the roach knocked the can over and waded through the pesticide or something. Or maybe Willie was outside of the room when Kate sprayed it, building that trap of his perhaps, so that he didn’t actually see what she used on it. As it stands, it doesn’t make any sense.

I am amused by the fact that Max Wright enters the scene holding the can upside down, and then has to quickly turn it right-side up when he raises it triumphantly. It’s pretty clearly not a joke; it’s Max Wright holding a prop the wrong way and nobody telling him, making him look like an idiot when he realizes it halfway through his line.

Brian mentions that they named the roach Rodney, which ruffles Willie’s feathers because that’s his brother’s name. Firstly, that’s interesting, because I think this is the first we’ve ever heard of Willie’s family. Or, wait, maybe I’m wrong. He mumbled some kind of bullshit about them in “Oh, Tannerbaum” and how they always used to have a real tree, but I think this might be the first specific detail about them.

Secondly, why is Willie upset that his kid named a cockroach after his brother? Willie himself named a hamster after his wife’s dead dad, so get off your high horse, pal.

Thirdly…is Rodney the character that Jim J. Bullock plays when he joins the cast in the final season? I don’t know much about that except that he plays a relative of Willie’s, and it would be a hell of a boon for ALF‘s continuity if they turned this tossed-off comment in season one into a full-fledged character in season four. I guess we’ll wait and see. Or Dan_the_Shpydar can just tell me in the comments.

Anyway, Kate takes the kids and leaves Willie’s sorry ass…but unfortunately not for good. ALF and Willie panic because ALF called an exterminator, and that exterminator is almost certainly going to use a similar spray on the bug, which they now realize is what’s making it grow. So, yeah, that’s a bad thing, but does this actually prove that Willie Tanner is more worthless than the naked alien that lives in a laundry basket? Both Kate and ALF took steps to deal with the problem in some way…Willie just repeated the shit he already knew didn’t work and made the problem worse.

WILLIE IS THE NEW ALF

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

ALF hides in the kitchen and Willie confiscates the spray from the exterminator, who arrives quickly enough that the writers don’t have to come up with any dialogue between ALF and Willie lest they inadvertently characterize one of them.

There is a pretty good gag though when the exterminator picks up a magazine to kill the roach with, and Willie instead hands him a phone book.

That’s good. That’s funny. And it’s probably worth pointing out at this point that “La Cuckaracha” is credited to Jerry Stahl, who seems to be your unanimous pick for the identity of the One Good Writer. As I’ve explained before the fact that a particular writer is credited for an episode doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she had all that much to do with it, but I thought it was worth pointing out.

Of course, it’s also worth pointing out that the last episode for which he received an on-screen credit was “Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue?” which was basically a 21-minute music video about ALF wanting to squirt alien gooze into a teenager, so either way it’s pretty inconclusive.

Anyway, the exterminator goes into the bedroom and sees the enormous cockroach, and then runs out of the house screaming and flailing like Daffy Duck. It’s shit.

On the way out he has to do this unnatural thing where he takes the spray back from Willie, and it’s another one of those really awkward things that isn’t a joke and should have been sorted out in rehearsal, but this is ALF and I’m pretty sure we’re watching the rehearsal.

It’s followed by another good moment, though, as Willie peeks into the bedroom to see the cockroach himself, and emerges shaking. ALF asks him how big it is, and Willie replies, “That depends. Do you measure to the shoulders or the head?”

That’s a funny enough line on its own, but it’s also an act break, which is heralded by some suspenseful music swelling up. And I like that. The fact that the action hasn’t left the two main rooms of the house — which for all intents and purposes are connected — leads to a sense of claustrophobia. The unseen threat is also an asset to the episode, making the whole thing feel not only like a stage play but like a comedy of reaction. It’s nice, and it’s in large part effective.

In many ways, it feels like a pastiche of the sci-fi horror genre — B-movies with giant animals from space, specifically — but the episode unfortunately doesn’t wholly commit. Unlike “Lookin’ Through the Windows,” which did at least sustain its Rear Window parody through the end, “La Cuckaracha” hits upon a recognizable trope or sense of danger…but then pulls back and just lets it be an episode of ALF for a while. It’s a shame because a stronger commitment to the gag would have helped this one out a lot, and would have made its lesser moments more forgivable, simply due to the novelty of the experiment. Instead, “La Cuckaracha” comes off like a half-measure, and that’s disappointing.

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

ALF and Willie go into the shed to gather up some chemicals, and then ALF hides because Mr. Ochmonek comes in with the spray that the exterminator apparently dropped when he fled the Tanner house.

It’s…weird. First of all, giving us this short scene in the shed breaks the feeling of isolation and danger that came from trapping ALF and Willie in the house. It’s not necessary; we could have opened the next act with Willie coming back into the house with an armful of chemicals, having already collected them. Transporting both characters to the shed just makes it ridiculous that they don’t stay there while they formulate their plan. Why not stay out of harm’s way? They’re both openly terrified that the cockroach is going to eat them, so if they’re going to the shed for any reason, why don’t they stay there until they have a definitive plan for killing the thing? It’s even stranger to set the scene here as there’s no reason for Mr. Ochmonek to come looking for Willie in the shed. Sure, he could have tried the front door first, but, still, why have this crap taking place in the shed at all?

Secondly, the exterminator dropped the spray after leaving the house? The show already gave us a good reason for Willie to be in possession of the tank; he confiscated it, and the exterminator panicked and fled. That’s a reason for the tank to still be on the Tanner property right there, but instead they made the exterminator clumsily take it back on the way out…only to then drop it off camera so it could still be there. If they wanted Willie to end up with the spray, why didn’t they just let him keep it in the first place?

It’s shit like this that really makes me wonder if I’m right about these scripts being first drafts. Cutting literally one stage direction earlier would have made this entire explanation of why Mr. Ochmonek is returning the tank to Willie unnecessary. But they do at least manage to turn it into a secondary plot-point: before returning the tank, Mr. Ochmonek took it upon himself to spray the Tanner home with a shitload of the pesticide.

Again, it’s another excuse to get the cockroach to grow. And, again, it’s another application of pesticide that could have been handled much more gracefully than this clunky nonsense.

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

Willie puts on his jacket because he’s going to buy as much boric acid as he can in a last-ditch attempt to kill the thing. But ALF can’t come, and he’s afraid of being left alone, so he asks Willie to give him a hug, in case they never see each other again.

It’s…actually really cute. And a little sad. Willie has to leave to get the boric acid, and ALF can’t come because somebody might see him. For reasons totally organic to the situation, these two have to separate, leaving one of them locked inside with the very danger they’ve been trying to avoid. The hug has meaning. It’s a gag, but it isn’t just a gag.

It also has a great punchline as they separate and ALF says, “Now tell me that you love me.” It’s a strong moment, given more heft by the fact that there’s an actual element of risk to what’s happening…and that’s something that this show could really use a lot more of.

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

As soon as Willie leaves, the cockroach begins to skitter around, stalking ALF.

Yes, the cockroach puppet (what we see of it, which is never much at a time) looks awful. However it also seems like it’s supposed to look awful. I’m sure there were budgetary reasons that we couldn’t see a massive monster space roach running around, but “La Cuckaracha” is using that to its advantage: it’s having fun.

This is where the episode takes its main turn into solid B-movie horror territory, and it’s also the best part. It’s safe to say that the cockroach isn’t scary, but the atmosphere is at least tense, and there’s a feeling — at last — that the folks working on this show are enjoying themselves. That’s evidenced in the moment when the cockroach pushes open the kitchen door and shoves a bunch of shit off the end-table. It doesn’t do that because it’s scary…it does that because it’s fun. It’s a nice touch, and I don’t need to believe in the existence of the cockroach in order to enjoy it. I only need to invest in the situation, and I do…because, at last, it’s a pleasure to do so.

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

ALF flees to the bedroom and attempts to phone for help, but the cockroach kicks down the door and he then must flee to Willie and Kate’s bathroom. There’s some impressive understanding of visual grammar here as ALF backs slowly through the small room, leaving himself with less and less room to evade the monster, and the camera holds tight focus on him the entire time.

It emphasizes not only the claustrophobia, but the impending end of the episode. This is it. The hero was trapped before, but now he’s even more trapped. Earlier, there was no exit. Now there’s no room at all. He’s fenced himself in, and the tight camerawork underscores that quite nicely.

There’s even neat little nod to the pilot when ALF finds himself next to the toilet. He considers it for a moment, and says, “Hmm…no-one ever told me where these things lead…”

He doesn’t attempt to escape through the shitter, but I like this. This bathroom was pretty much his first experience of life on Earth, and now, trapped, he’s worried that it might be his last.

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

The cockroach hacks through the door with its roachcock, managing to evoke The Shining without ALF screaming “There’s Johnny!!!” or something. It’s admirable restraint for this show.

We then get a POV shot from the roach as it closes in on a terrified ALF:

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

He has just enough time to try to fight it off with a plunger, but it doesn’t work. He then grabs some perfume and sprays it around hoping to buy himself some time…but the scene ends.

The next thing we see is Willie returning home with the boric acid, and he finds ALF sitting on the living room floor. He says, “What did you do??” and then we cut to this:

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

…and it’s really funny. This is like the cut to the smoking television in “Weird Science.” The timing is perfect, and it’s starting to seem like this silent, visual punchline is something that ALF might come to do very well.

It turns out the perfume killed it. Willie says that he got that perfume for Kate on her birthday, and ALF asks, “Why? Did you have a roach problem then, too?” EVEN ALF’S DICKITUDE IS FUNNY GUYS

This one…wasn’t half bad. I actually quite liked it, with a few reservations. I wish they committed more to the stylistic experiment than they did, because what we’re left with doesn’t lean enough into the curve to be as memorable as it should be, but by ALF standards it’s positively stellar.

There’s a short epilogue about ALF bringing a Venus Fly Trap into the house…which is actually from Venus. It eats a pencil and that’s that, ho ho ho, but the fact is that the bulk of this episode was pretty damned good, so who cares about the pointless closing gag?

In a way I wish that this were the season finale, because it would be great — and reassuring — to end on a high note. But we still have one episode left.

I have a bad feeling about this.

MELMAC FACTS: On Melmac, cockroaches have blue eyes. Melmac also had a Detroit, which produced a lot of good R&B groups. Melmac’s Detroit was infested with Jaffies, blood-sucking maggots that take the shape of their host, and it became known as Jaffytown.

—–
* These would be the pilot, “Help Me, Rhonda,” and “Wild Thing.” That’s a grand total of six episodes (by my count) out of 24 that have anything to do with the identity of the show’s title character.

Palmer Scott InterviewOne of the things I really love about Facebook is that a huge portion of Tim & Eric’s stable of actors is not only active there, but are given a platform to reveal themselves as what they are: really, genuinely awesome human beings.

Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! isn’t just one of my favorite sketch comedy shows; it’s one of my favorite shows, period. A huge reason for that is supporting cast. As exciting as it is to see Ted Danson, Jeff Goldblum or Fred Willard pop up for some silly skit, the actor star power is overshadowed by the minor stars, who gave the show much of its identity, and a bizarre, passive feeling of continuity.

One thing I’ve been wanting to do for a while is compile a set of interviews with the supporting cast, and I finally found a reason to kick it off: Palmer Scott — best known for “Sit on You” — is auctioning off his iconic Tim & Eric shirt on eBay. (You can find the listing here.)

With limited time and no preparation, Palmer agreed to a quick interview in order to promote his auction. So, if you’re interested at all, please do click through and place a bid. In the meantime, enjoy my brief chat with Mr. Scott, and stay tuned…hopefully this will not be the last Tim & Eric interview you see here!

1) Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up?

I was born in Salt Lake City. No, I’m not a Mormon. And I was raised in an unincorporated area called Kearns. I was very interested in mythology and astronomy as a child, and as I got older history and science fiction. In junior high I became enamored of The Lord of the Rings.

2) When did you decide you wanted to become an actor?

In the fourth grade I started entertaining other students by doing impressions of cartoon characters and The Penguin. This slowly led to doing theater.

3) Were you familiar with Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job before you auditioned?

No, I’d never seen Awesome Show. I was only familiar with Tom Goes to the Mayor from one or two episodes.

4) How did they find you?

Well, I’m not — despite what has been said — an “internet actor.” I’ve been working in Los Angeles since 1994, and was doing commercials and television in Salt Lake since 1991. Awsome Show was a regular audition. They asked for comedic actors doing dramatic monologues, so I cut a piece from a play I’d recently done and went in with that.

5) How do you feel about the enduring love for such a silly song about sitting on people?

I’m amazed by the attention “Sit on You” has brought to me, and it would be really ungracious of me not to appreciate what it’s done for me.

6) Do you get recognized in public?

I’ve only had positive experiences from people recognizing me. I’ve been stopped on the street, the subway, buses, even in a hospital. I will always stop for a picture, preferably one where I’m sitting on the person!

7) Were you hired for Awesome Show specifically for “Sit on You”? Or was that just one of the things they wanted to have you do?

I was hired just for “Sit on You” only, but the fan reaction was so positive they brought me back.

8) Who are some of your biggest influences as an actor?

Zero Mostel and Jonathan Winters.

9) What was your response to seeing the lyrics to “Sit on You” for the first time? And for that matter, “Make My Bub-Bubs Bounce.”

With both of those songs my first thoughts were “Where are they going with this?” and “I hope I can do what they want.” I always try to be as professional as I can be on any set.

10) How much direction were you given for those skits?

The blank-faced character was from Tim Heidecker, but all the dancing is from me. Eric has always wanted me to be more bizarre and animated when I’ve done things for him.

11) What’s your favorite Tim & Eric skit that you did not appear in?

I don’t want to say, because many of the other actors from the show are friends. I don’t want to be seen as favoring one over another.

12) If you had total creative control, what would be your dream project?

Someone is working on a project that is still in the initial phases that I really want to do. The only thing I can say is that it’s a short film. As I’m not one of those actor/writer/director/producer types, all I want is a reasonably funny role in a sitcom. Maybe a college professor, or an office manager.

13) Tell us a little bit about working with Richard Dunn.

I only worked on one skit with Richard, unfortunately. It was the tennis game between Tim & Eric. But I did talk to him a few times. He was a sweet man and wrote a poem for me that I’ve misplaced, much to my chagrin.

14) Do you have friends or relatives that don’t quite “get” the humor that had you sitting on people and promoting healthy shrim levels?

Yes, I have some friends and family that are totally mystified by the whole Tim & Eric phenomenon. But some of them weren’t all that thrilled by my episodes on Nip/Tuck.

15) Your first major role was in an episode of Frasier. That seems like a pretty great start to a TV career.

It was wonderful! I had a three day contract, my own trailer and go to meet everyone in the cast. Peri Gilpin and Jane Leeves are beautiful with no makeup on. The only person I didn’t get to talk to was Kelsey Grammer.

16) Which cast of Saturday Night Live was the best?

I have to go back to my youth and say the original cast was by far the best! Jane Curtin, Chevy chase, Dan Ackroyd, how could you go wrong?

17) It seems like you’ve remained friends with many of the other Awesome Show stars. Why do you think everybody became so close?

This business gathers many people who seem to be either really nice, or evil incarnate. For some reason, Tim & Eric always seemed to cast the nice ones.

18) Who on the cast do you wish you could have worked with more, and why?

Again, I’d hate to play favorites. All the people on Awesome Show are unique and gifted individuals.

19) Can you tell us anything about the pilot you recently shot with Adam Carbone?

It’s not really my place to talk about it. Remember, an actor is just an employee. Adam and others have been working on this project for years, and it’s not my place to spoil it for them. But it’s really funny as hell.

20) You openly interact with fans on your Facebook page. How would you describe the Tim & Eric audience?

Tim & Eric fans run the gamut from teens who like the vulgarity of “Poop Tubes” to grandmothers who like to keep their minds fresh and not live in the past. The main thing they have in common is a broad sense of humor and the ridiculous, as well as a kindness of spirit.

BONUS: Say anything to the readers that you didn’t get to say above!

Because of the state of the economy I’m still flogging my short book Sitting My Way Through Life, and I have the original “Sit on You” shirt for sale on eBay.

ALF, "Weird Science"

Counting this episode, I have only three reviews left to do in season one. I’m…kind of amazed how quickly this has gone by. I mean, when all is said and done it will still have taken 25 weeks, which is nothing to sneeze at, but it doesn’t really feel that long. In fact, I’m almost sad that ALF only has four seasons.

Almost.

This one starts with ALF calling Willie home from work for an emergency: the TV broke. ha ha. That’s it. That’s the whole scene in one sentence.

Since there’s nothing more to talk about before the credits roll, I’ll take this opportunity to mention something that’s been on my mind for a while: the Tanners really have fuck-all to do with this show, don’t they?

In theory, the premise of ALF should be “a family secretly harbors an alien from outer space.” And you’d be forgiven for remembering the show as actually being about that. I sure as heck did. But now, watching it as an adult, it’s not that. It’s “an alien does whatever the fuck he pleases, with special guests: the other people in the house.”

I get the feeling this was the doing of Paul Fusco. The show itself looks like it’s built around the premise of a family dealing with their extra-terrestrial house guest, but in fact they’re just there. They almost never have anything to do that isn’t directly related to ALF, and even then they’re just passively responding to the shit that he pulls. They seem to have no say in their own lives, because they really don’t; the show is driven entirely by ALF. This is why they wait quietly while ALF delivers long monologues, react to his antics with funny faces or vague bemusement, and stand around asking “Where’s Poochie?” whenever ALF isn’t on screen.

Personally, I think that’s a big reason that ALF hasn’t had a cultural resuscitation of any kind, the way The Brady Bunch, The Addams Family, The Beverly Hillbillies, Dragnet, even the fucking Smurfs have had. Those are all relics of bygone eras in entertainment, and whether you like their rebirths or not — believe me, I won’t argue that you should — the fact is that their formats and universes allowed there to at least be a chance for rebirth.

With ALF, that’s not the case. Its format was nothing special, and its universe is non-existent. There is no universe; it’s just ALF. Unlike The Muppets, ALF doesn’t come with a storied history and limitless potential for comedy. He’s just one character…and not much of a character at that. He headlines the show, but doesn’t have the enthusiasm of Kermit. He’s tremendously self-centered, but not with the amusing vanity of Miss Piggy. He spits out one liners, but lacks the sadness at the heart of poor Fozzie. And he’s constantly pulling off zany shit, but the writers can’t think of anything “zanier” than stealing a lawnmower, which means even his most outlandish moments don’t measure up to Gonzo’s tamest ones.

Why am I comparing him to Muppets? Well, because The Muppets are a perfect illustration of why they were suited for a rebirth, and ALF is not: they’re more than what they do. There are always at least two levels at play with any given Muppet: what they’re doing, and what they’re feeling. Jim Henson and his crew didn’t rely exclusively on jokes to make people laugh…they relied on characterization. That’s why they’re suited for recontextualization; it’s worth putting them in new situations to see how they’ll react. With ALF, there’s no such need; he reacts the same way every time, regardless of context, because neither he nor anybody around him are actually characters.

Fusco clearly wanted ALF to be the star, which is fine. The problem is that by streamlining the rest of the cast — very often to the point of irrelevance — he’s not giving ALF anyone to bounce off of. He never gets to grow, develop, or surprise. He’s always just ALF, because Fusco imagines there’s only room in the spotlight for one.

If Fusco and his cronies were interested in creating an actual world for ALF to play in, we’d remember him more fondly. We’d be more interested in seeing him reinvented and recontextualized. But since there was never any context to begin with, what’s the point? By forcing ALF to be the star — not just of this show overall, but of every moment of this show — Fusco ironically ensured that he’d be completely forgettable.

See? Told you I had nothing to say about the intro.

ALF, "Weird Science"

The broken TV seems to set the plot in motion…but really doesn’t. It’s another one of those episodes that feels like two unrelated scripts got stapled together and nobody cared enough to pull them apart. For most of the episode it seems like it’s going to be about the TV, but then all of a sudden it’s a Very Special celebration of the lovers, the dreamers and ALF.

God. Get Muppets on the brain once and they just don’t go away. Also, I can’t wait to see the new movie. The Great Muppet Caper is one of my favorite films of all time, and this seems like a feature-length celebration of that one. Can. Not. Wait.

Ugh, fucking ALF.

So anyway the TV is broken, which is yet another brilliant example of the kind of magical stories you can tell when your main character is a space alien. ALF paces around the living room at a loose end, because even he can’t figure out what he’s supposed to do with a plot like this. He bitches about the TV to Willie for a while, and then Brian comes in saying he needs help with his project for the Science Carnival.

The running joke is that the Science Carnival has clowns.

Re-read that sentence a hundred thousand times and tell me if it gets progressively funnier. If it doesn’t, you might as well skip this episode.

ALF says he’ll help Brian, but then Willie says the same thing, so ALF talks some smack about the “rain gauge” Willie invented that he found in Lynn’s closet. I don’t even know where to begin with that sentence. So I really fucking won’t.

Willie bristles that ALF made fun of this alleged piece of shit invention because he’s hella into meteorology dudes and totally has been forever, just like all those other hobbies of his that never get mentioned again, and then Brian goes off to do the project on his own because fuck these guys seriously fuck them.

ALF, "Weird Science"

It’s another day and ALF is still pissing and moaning about the TV. Kate tells him he can have the portable TV in their bedroom, but that’s too small for King Dick of Cock Mountain. He wants Willie to have the big TV repaired, but Willie says he’s going to ship it back to the factory in Libya because it’s under warranty. I don’t know where to start with that sentence either SO I REALLY FUCKING WON’T.

Brian comes in with his model of the solar system which is a big pile of shit because nobody helped him with it.

ALF, "Weird Science"

Why didn’t anyone help him with it again? Were ALF and Willie arguing about the TV for 24 hours a day? I know Brian walked off in the last scene, but couldn’t one of his god damned parents check in on him and offer to help at some point? What if he choked to death on one of these styrofoam balls? How many weeks would pass before these assholes even noticed?

They make a point of the fact that he did it alone, and I guess I’m glad they did because he entered the room with Lynn, which would have made me think she helped him. But, nope. I guess they just stuck her in this scene because they had nothing else to do with the character.

Why does she even exist? Nothing against Andrea Elson, who sure as hell doesn’t get much to work with, but if they killed off the character between episodes, would anything actually change in any way?

ALF says Brian is missing two planets out past Pluto: Dave and Alvin. Willie tells Brian not to listen to ALF, and so ends another extraordinary day of sitting around the living room with a space alien.

ALF, "Weird Science"

The next afternoon Brian comes home and gives ALF some serious ‘tude. Turns out he put those extra planets in after all, and now he’s banned from the Science Carnival. I can’t even take any joy from ALF being on the receiving end of some bitching for once, because Benji Gregory delivers all of his lines with a bizarre, misplaced inflection that makes him sound like the raw audio from a Peanuts special.

There is a good joke here, though: after Brian leaves, ALF picks up the phone — SEE HOW THERE WAS A PHONE ON THE TABLE SO THE PUPPET WOULDN’T HAVE TO MOVE THAT IS THE MAGIC OF HOLLYWOOD FOR YOU — and dials information, requesting the number for “Brian’s teacher.”

That’s funny! Just like the speed-reading joke from “Ochmonek of Darkness” was funny! And just like that joke, they immediately piss all over it. In this case it’s ALF realizing his mistake and correctly asking for the elementary school’s phone number. Hilarious. I’m so glad he figured it out; the last thing I’d want is for a sitcom to keep me laughing.

Then, after the commercials, we see this:

ALF, "Weird Science"

Uh…what? This scene was in “Try to Remember.” You know…that clip show from halfway through the season. I even had a caption contest about it.

At the time I thought it was some dumbass gag snipped from syndication — as, indeed, many of the clips in that episode were — but I guess they included a clip of an episode that wouldn’t even be shown until the end of the season? For crying out loud, the whole conceit of that episode is that the family is reminding ALF of the things they’ve been through so that he can get his memory back. In this case they reminded him of something that hadn’t actually happened yet.

My brain hurts.

So I guess this episode was filmed a long, long time ago…and just sat in the can until now. I’m not surprised; it’s certainly not a very good one. Maybe they were hoping to bury it toward the end of the season where nobody would notice it.

Anyway, yeah, you already know what happens here. Willie is fixing the TV, so ALF plugs it in while his hands are inside, reminding Max Wright of who’s boss around here.

ALF, "Weird Science"

Lovely stuff. The fake audience whoops it up over the near fatal electrocution of a sitcom dad.

Somebody comes to the door, and ALF thinks it’s Consumer Ed, some TV personality who reports on scams and flams. He called the guy, apparently, even though the broken TV has nothing to do with any kind of scam at all as far as I can tell.

And I really thought it would be Consumer Ed, because this is ALF and who the fuck cares who comes to the door on what flimsy pretense anymore.

But, no! It’s…

ALF, "Weird Science"

Marcia Wallace! Holy shit!

I’m genuinely surprised we get to see her again, because usually when I like a character on this show, Paul Fusco hits them over the head with a shovel and buries them under the shed. But, wow. Here she is.

She introduces herself as Principal Lyman, and since this episode was shot before the clip show in the middle of the season, I guess this is “technically” the introduction of the character, meaning we should have recognized who she was in “It Isn’t Easy…Bein’ Green.” But who cares…she’s always Marcia Wallace to me.

ALF, "Weird Science"

She wants to talk to Willie about the phone call he placed earlier to Brian’s teacher…one “Miss Larva.”

…yeah. Miss Larva. And the last time we saw Marcia Wallace, she was in an episode with something called Dr. Potato Famine. Man, ALF writing staff…save some hilarious names for the rest of us!

There is actually a really good moment when Marcia Wallace asks if Willie’s family is home. He says no. Marcia Wallace then says that she thought she heard him yelling at somebody before he opened the door.

Willie replies, “Oh, that was probably the TV.” And then we cut to this:

ALF, "Weird Science"

…which is the single funniest sight gag ALF has done.

It’s actually good. The rhythm of the joke is great, the timing of the cuts to and back away from the smoking TV is perfect, and the uncommon angle of the room helps it to stand out as a legitimately strong comic moment. Everything about this small gag works…it’s this show’s equivalent of cutting to Homer’s spice rack. It’s that good. Who let the One Good Writer into the editing room?

But, as they say, all things must pass. We still need to wade through the horse shit that constitutes the rest of this episode, so I hope you enjoyed your brief moment of fresh air.

Marcia Wallace sits down and refreshes Willie’s memory of the phone call, where he learns that he threatened to pull Brian out of school. Willie excuses himself and heads into the kitchen to hatefuck ALF.

ALF, "Weird Science"

ALF, however, pulls out his Melmacian star chart, and proves to Willie that Dave and Alvin exist. In fact, Willie is able to identify Planet Dave as being “Chiron,” which was discovered in the late 70s — really, in our actual universe — and was briefly under consideration to be named a 10th planet.

I’m…more than a little bit shocked that the writers bothered to tie ALF’s fictional planet into some real-world cosmology. That’s actually kind of cool.

Willie is impressed, but he says he can’t tell Marcia Wallace about this. ALF questions him about it, asking why, and the laugh track takes a break so that Paul Fusco can deliver his big, stirring monologue about the importance of dreamers, about keeping an open mind, and all that hooey that nobody ever remembers ALF saying because it’s self-congratulatory bullshit.

Really, though, why can’t Willie tell this to Marcia Wallace? We’ve just established that Dave is actually Chiron, which does exist, and which he can prove to her. Can’t he just say that he was teaching Brian about Chiron, and that’s what the extra planet was? The second extra planet could be from a further discussion he had with his son, about how our knowledge is always expanding or something, and Brian took it to heart and added another planet to represent that.

I don’t know. I’m reaching. And for that to work somebody would actually have to buy Willie as being a good dad who would discuss things intelligently with his children or take an interest in their school work, so obviously that’s off the table. Still, he can explain at least one of these planets on non-insane non-Melmacian terms, so why wouldn’t he do that at least?

I guess it wasn’t a good idea for the writers to tie Planet Dave into real-life cosmological fact after all, since they’re now having the characters treat it like something only a space alien could know about. What was the point of doing the work to connect the fictional dots to our real ones if you then can’t have the characters do the same?

ALF, "Weird Science"

Willie pusses out of pussing out, though, and gives Marcia Wallace the same speech we just heard, about the importance of open minds and dreamers and here’s to the crazy ones and all that crap.

The doorbell rings again and it’s Consumer Ed because jesus christ this show.

ALF, "Weird Science"

Consumer Ed starts talking about the TV, but Marcia Wallace thinks he’s talking about Brian getting kicked out of school, which makes no sense whatsoever because Willie didn’t even know she was coming over, so how in shit’s name could he have organized an intervention in the form of a live news broadcast?

At least, I assume it’s live, because Consumer Ed and his film crew hang around letting these idiots talk about the Science Carnival, which is not something he would ever do if he needed to film an actual consumer affairs report for later use. This has nothing to do with his assignment. At. All. If Consumer Ed went back to his boss with this tape of two nobodies talking about a fucking fourth grade space project they’d think he had a Howard Beale style meltdown and have him committed.

ALF, "Weird Science"

Anyway Kate, Brian and Lynn come home, and Marcia Wallace gives the dreamers speech a third time, so that it can go on the news, along with the announcement that Brian will be allowed to display his unpainted styrofoam balls on popsicle sticks in the Science Carnival.

…and I’m sorry, but I can’t hold this in any longer: yes, “dreamers” have a place in science. Yes, “dreamers” helped us achieve flight and circumnavigate the globe…both examples which are used by the episode. Yes. Yes.

But we just call them “dreamers.” They weren’t really, because things didn’t stop with the dream. They did research, they experimented, they attempted, they explored possibilities. In short, they were scientists. Maybe not by trade, but certainly by nature. We call them “dreamers” because that’s a nice and romantic way to put it…but what we really mean is that they pulled the dream down and turned it into fact through dedication and hard work.

Here, the opposite is happening. Yes, there’s a Planet Dave and a Planet Alvin. But thick-headedly insisting that they exist is not the same as proving they exist. The former might be the work of a dreamer, but is insistence without evidence the kind of thing science needs? Is that inspiring? Of course not. ALF and Willie may know those planets exist, but nobody else does. The inspiring thing would be to prove they exist. Fuck, Willie’s already got one in the bag. That is the kind of dreamer science needs. The kind that doesn’t just ask, “What if…?” and walk away, but the kind that asks, “How do we figure this out?”

The kind that does something. ALF (and then Willie, and then Marcia Wallace) seems to be endorsing the viewpoint that if you believe something and the facts that everyone else has access to don’t support it, they have no right to tell you you’re wrong.

But isn’t that kind of…false? At the very least, what you should do in that situation is gather facts that demonstrate that you’re right. That’s what science is. What ALF wants you to do is piss and moan until people stop telling you that what you believe is demonstrably false.

…you know, that guest appearance ALF made on Bill O’Reilly is suddenly making a lot more sense to me.

ALF, "Weird Science"

Ugh. ALF.

Anyway, the family gathers around to watch the news report, so I guess Consumer Ed really did finish and edit a piece about the grade school Science Carnival when what he was supposed to report on was consumer affairs. Is anybody in the entire ALF universe an even vaguely capable human being?

The family doesn’t get to hear all the angry calls from confused viewers, though, because the new TV starts to smoke and it catches fire and that’s the punchline of the entire episode so fuck you.

MELMAC FACTS: On Melmac ALF was known as Mr. Science, but can’t fix his space ship because he’s not good with tools. That’s also the reason he dropped out of dental school. Melmacians only have four teeth. ALF almost collided with Planet Alvin on his way to Earth. He also stopped on one of the planets to take a dump. God damn it.

Just a quick update here, to hopefully tide you over before the big announcement at the end of those month regarding which stories will be included.

By the grace, kindness, and all around incredibleawesomeness of Sindi Johnson, I am pleased to present to you…the cover.

The Lost Worlds of Power

This is pretty much final…any changes at this point will be minor. So enjoy, because I love this, and I’m very much looking forward to getting you a finished product. Thanks for your patience. It will be worth it!

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