Reading too deeply into these things since 1981
Header

Review: SelectSpecs.com

April 12th, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in review - (10 Comments)

SelectSpecs.com

These glasses were made available at no cost to me in exchange for a review. Details below.

I try to be pretty choosy about the products I review here. A film or book or album is always fair game, as far as I’m concerned, but products are a little hairier.

As some of you know, I lost my job a couple of months ago. It was nothing personal…just some unfortunate downsizing, and the president of the company wrote me a great recommendation. Great for the ego, but bad for the wallet.

As even more of you know, I’m insane…which is why I dove right into a 24/7 job hunt. I qualified for unemployment, but I didn’t want that. I knew I could do this on my own, and I figured that if I did have money coming in (however small an amount it might have been), it would reduce my incentive to find steady work.

Writing this, today, I have found employment. It’s contract work, but I love it, and I hope it turns into something full time. That part might be a story for another day, though.

Why all the setup? Because losing my job didn’t scare me into thinking I wouldn’t be able to eat, or pay my rent. I’d saved up enough that that shouldn’t have been a problem for a while, and even then I know my friends wouldn’t let me sink into starvation or homelessness. What did scare me was that I might get very sick, get in a car accident, or things along those lines. If that happened, I’d blow right through my savings (and, perhaps, then some) and be in dire straits far sooner than I expected. It’s scary that one big, unexpected expense can destroy you so easily.

As a glasses wearer, I have one more thing to be worried about. While I’m careful with my glasses, you never know what can happen, and if my roommate’s dog sat on them or something…well, that would be a several hundred dollar expense I simply couldn’t afford.

SelectSpecs.com got in touch and offered me a pair of glasses in exchange for a review. No money changed hands, though I was given a voucher for any product up to $45 in cost. It seemed like a great way to get a backup pair, and while for $45 I knew not to expect much, I figured it couldn’t hurt.

SelectSpecs.com

I was very surprised. The glasses I chose were closer to around $25, and they’re of a very good quality. That’s me wearing them in the first picture up there, with a case of bedhead because I forgot to write this review last night.

The second picture shows what I got in the mail. They arrived certified, which was nice, and though the packaging is just a thin, plastic envelope, the glasses were in good shape…due, no doubt, to the fact that they shipped in a complimentary case. There were also some inserts and guidelines, as well as a microfiber cleaning cloth, and overall I was impressed by how much you got for such a small expense.

The glasses themselves are plastic, right down to the lenses. (The hinges are metal, and they work well, but that’s it.) While this worried me at first, you’d actually never know unless you rapped your fingernail against the lenses. They look great, and they’re as clear as my much more expensive glass lenses. They’re very light-weight, which for some may be a selling point. I’m sure the frame is not as sturdy as a standard one, and that’s fine, because it’s not meant to be.

SelectSpecs is offering a service that I really appreciate: fast, attractive, inexpensive glasses. I wore these for a week straight before writing this review, and I’ve had no problems with them at all. While they may not become my primary pair, they’re perfect for when I go hiking, or jogging, or to a bar or something. Anywhere that I’m more likely to be careless or have to worry about external hazards, it will be nice to have this pair with me instead of the ones that will cost me a few hundred dollars to replace.

In fact, the glasses they sell start at $10. While of course I can’t vouch for the quality of their entire selection, I will say that if they’re even half as good as the ones I chose, that’s an incredible value.

Ordering was easy. In fact, I only ran into difficulty trying to figure out where to enter my voucher code…which isn’t something most folks would have to worry about.

You will need your prescription handy, so that’s worth noting. Otherwise you just pick your glasses, choose your color and lens options, decide on a shipping method, and check out. It’s very easy.

So if you or your kids want a second pair to be more adventurous with, want something new to wear for the sake of change, or you’ve already broken your primary pair and can’t quite afford to replace those frames yet, this is definitely a good service, and I’m positive I’ll be using them again.

It’s also nice if you want to dress up as somebody for Halloween, but that character wears different glasses than you do. You can buy a pair closer to theirs in your prescription for $10. You dork.

ALF Reviews: Season One, Reviewed

April 10th, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf - (11 Comments)

ALF, "A.L.F."

And so we’ve come to the end of ALF, season one. I have to admit, it was both better and worse than I remembered it being.

Watching this show again is a strange experience. It’s a bit like going out and recognizing somebody you haven’t seen since high school. You say, “It’s so nice to see you again!” because it is. There’s a comforting familiarity, but the more you talk and the more you catch up, the more you realize you don’t actually remember this person.

You know the name, of course. The kinds of clothes they wore or the shape of their face. But were they friendly? Were they an asshole? Were they smart? Were they funny?

You have no idea.

You can’t remember who their friends were, how you met, or if you had anything in common. The only thing you remember is that at some point in your life, this person was there, and while it may be nice to see them again, the fact is that that’s all they ever were to you: there.

That’s been my experience with ALF.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

I watched the show the same way I watched every show as a kid: religiously. I loved TV Guide. I loved the Preview Channel. I don’t know why. I memorized listings. I knew which nights would be worth rushing through homework and dinner, and which would not.

I grew up loving television so much that I almost hate it now. I got burned out on it at an early age. I don’t even have TV service, and haven’t for many years, preferring to catch up on the handful of quality shows on Hulu or Netflix instead.

So revisiting ALF should bring memories flooding back. Right? Playing old video games, watching the movies I loved growing up, finding a vintage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle at a thrift shop…all of those things bridge the gap between the man I am today and the boy I was several dozen lifetimes ago.

Memories come back. Details. Scents and subtle sounds, as they say. Colors in the void.

But here I am, watching ALF, and I don’t remember jack shit.

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

ALF was one of the shows I always wanted to get home in time to watch, but before this experiment, I could haven’t told you anything about the show. He came from Melmac, ate cats, loved the song “Help Me, Rhonda.” What else?

It’s odd. I didn’t remember any plot lines, and, aside from the episodes I’ve now reviewed here, I still don’t. I couldn’t tell you anything that’s yet to happen in this show, even though I watched it every time it was on.

I’m tempted to just conclude that there’s a clear, qualitative reason for this: it sucked. But honestly, all kidding aside, that can’t be it. I watched plenty of lousy shows growing up, and I could still tell you at least one plot line. That’s what TV shows are, right? Little stories about a group of characters reacting to some weekly situation.

I remember Tim getting his head stuck to a table in Home Improvement. I remember Stephanie driving a car through the kitchen in Full House. I remember the Perfect Strangers staking out the newspaper office overnight to find out who stole Dmitri the sheep.

None of those were particularly good shows, but I remember them.

I still couldn’t tell you a mother fucking thing about ALF.

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

A large part of that, I think, is the fact that we don’t have a group of characters reacting to a weekly situation. We have ALF, who is less a character than an anthropomorphic Jay Leno monologue that lives in a laundry basket, and a weekly target for his ostensibly wacky shenanigans.

Most sitcoms — and certainly all of the good ones — have some amount of chemistry. The actors and characters bounce off each other in sometimes predictable but still entertaining ways.

ALF forcibly restricts this from happening. Instead of characters bouncing off of each other we have them maintaining a respectful distance so that nothing will get in the way of ALF’s comedy routine.

ALF, "Don't It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue?"

It’s bad writing, yes, but it’s also criminally disappointing. After all, for the millionth time, this is a show about a guy who came from space. There are so many things you can do with that; it’s a literally limitless concept. And yet it plays out in a more limited fashion than most sitcoms in general.

ALF takes up gambling. ALF sells makeup. ALF writes for a soap opera. Seeing how many episodes barely even acknowledge the fact that he’s not from this planet (and when they do it’s often for the purposes of a single throwaway gag) is a strange feeling. It’s like stumbling through a wormhole into a dimension in which the show MASH exists more or less as we know it…but the characters never mention the Korean War. Or like a version of Cheers in which nobody ever refers to the bar.

And those examples are settings. The settings of those show have more character than any of the actual characters have in ALF.

It’s clear to see why. When those shows were gestating, the creators had an idea: we’ll have this kind of show, with these kinds of characters, doing this kind of thing. That’s why even lousy shows are often memorable; they have a solid formula at their core. They know what they’re about, and while they may or may not be good at what they’re trying to do, they at least know what they’re trying to do.

ALF has no idea what it’s trying to do. It’s superficially a show about a family that lives with an alien. (Or, I guess, an alien that lives with a family.) But season one has been a weekly collision of incompatible intentions and overlapping confusions. Whereas MASH was probably conceived with certain specific, defining characteristics in mind (field hospital, gallows humor, absurdity of war, moral compass, inevitability, human stakes), ALF‘s list of defining characteristics was much shorter (a puppet, and whatever the puppet does that week).

Something like that won’t necessarily lead to a bad show, but it’s safe to say that the lack of direct focus would itself have to be a defining characteristic…a part of the show’s DNA, rather than an unfortunate byproduct of a production staff that wished it were dead.

That’s what’s frustrating about ALF: all that wasted potential. This show could have been good…but it also could have been a gloriously tone-deaf misfire. Instead it settled for a kind of intermittently competent blandness. In a word, it allowed itself to become forgettable.

I don’t think it’s coincidental that the three best episodes of season one are illustrative of richer directions this show could have taken.

ALF, "For Your Eyes Only"

“For Your Eyes Only” explored the emotional side of what ALF’s been through. His planet is gone, everyone he’s ever known is dead, and he’s confined to a single home on an unfamiliar world, unable to make friends. Now, yes, I’m admittedly a big sap when it comes to comedies that allow themselves to explore emotional territory and delve into the psychologies of their characters, but even if we disregard that, there’s still a lot of potential in the premise. ALF desperate for companionship, for acceptance, for respect…all of that could lead to infinitely funnier situations than the guy he lives with going skydiving, or his fat neighbor burying a slab of spoiled beef. This was the first episode to pose the question of who ALF is. There should have been a lot more of that, since ALF’s extraterrestrial origin is about the only unique thing the show has to offer.

ALF, "Going Out of My Head Over You"

“Going Out of My Head Over You” explored the logistics of living with a space alien. From simple things such as lying about where some hair on the couch came from to much larger inconveniences, like being unable to bring friends home, and getting driven batty by the creature’s strange quirks and habits, this too is a fruitful vein to mine for comedy. If “For Your Eyes Only” made us feel even slightly what ALF was going through, “Going Out of My Head Over You” shifts perspective and allows us to see the situation through Willie’s eyes. As it turns out, neither side is happy. ALF may be confined to the house, but because he’s there the family can’t have much of a social life either. ALF may think it’s unfair that he can’t eat the cat, but it’s the family that has to keep a close eye on him every hour of the day to prevent him from eating the cat. The central relationship of this show — ALF and Willie — is therefore defined by a sort of logistical stalemate. Each side wants it his way, neither side can have it his way, and both of them are too stubborn to meet in the middle. There are myriad ways to explore that theme satisfyingly (see any given episode of The Odd Couple), and while “Going Out of My Head Over You” absolutely does that — and also puts an unexpectedly sweet button on it — it’s an exception to the rule, suggesting a version of ALF that not only knew what it wanted to do, but knew how to do it.

ALF, "La Cuckaracha"

Finally, there’s “La Cuckaracha,” which explored the comic potential inherent in the simple absurdity of the show’s setup. By embracing the nonsense and — shocker! — having fun with it in the process, “La Cuckaracha” was one of ALF‘s most satisfying episodes. The two examples mentioned above pull the show into emotional and logistical territory, either of which, as we’ve seen, can work well. “La Cuckaracha” explores another area entirely, and proves that even if the writers and actors had no interest in treading relatively serious ground on a regular basis, they had another option available to them for a great sitcom: the complete dismissal of reality and characterization in favor of infective chaos. That would have been a great way to turn ALF into a memorable show, while also playing to its low-budget cheesiness and workshop-level acting quality. You can take the show seriously or not take the show seriously. Either way, it can work. The one thing that doesn’t work is taking it just seriously enough that you manage to fail on a regular basis. And that, unfortunately, is the ALF we got.

ALF, "It Isn't Easy...Bein' Green"

I have heard a few times that season two is better. Maybe it is. We’ll find out soon enough, but either way, I’m looking forward to it. Writing this series has been tremendously instructive to me as a writer. It’s one thing to watch ALF and say “this sucks.” It’s another to sit down and pull it apart, scene by scene, to figure out what’s working and what is not.

I’m grateful that I chose ALF for this project. At this point, I can hardly believe that I even posed the question of what to review. ALF just feels…correct.

It’s a show that does enough right that I get to look forward to a stray laugh or great episode, even at its lowest moments. It’s a show that does enough wrong that it’s always finding new ways to fail itself and its audience, meaning it stays pretty steady in its lousiness without growing tedious. And it’s a show that’s quirky enough that I’m surprised nobody’s given it this treatment before.

ALF, "Keepin' the Faith"

ALF is a show everybody seems to remember and everybody seems to have watched…and yet so few people seem to like it. I’d ask, “Well, why did we all watch it then?” but the fact is that I’m still watching it now.

There really is something addictive about it. We weren’t just dumb children who liked looking at a puppet; the show really is seductive in its unintentional stupidity.

I cheated slightly above; there is one specific moment I remember watching as a kid. ALF asks Willie for his wristwatch so that he can do a magic trick. Willie hands it to him, and ALF sticks the watch in a sock and smashes it with a hammer. The watch, of course, is destroyed.

My mother, watching with me, said, “Why did he give him the watch?”

And yet she was right there with me, watching this garbage every week. My brother was there, too. And my father.

And millions of others all over the world.

Not one of them could justify Willie handing ALF that watch. But all of them tuned in the following week, and the week after that.

ALF is not a good show, but like a fire at a carnival it’s a spectacular tragedy. You know the memory will fade and you know it’s healthier to just turn away…but you don’t.

At least, I didn’t.

And I won’t.

Roll on, season two.

ALF, "Baby, You Can Drive My Car"

Die komplette Serie, DieWell, at least slightly unexpectedly, some folks out there are willing to chip in to buy me German ALF DVDs. In my last review for season one, I said this:

If anyone out there is feeling generous enough to shell out for copies of the season two, three, and / or four boxsets that were released in Germany, I’ll use those for my reviews moving forward. The reason I specify the German releases is that those are the complete versions of the episodes…not the syndicated ones I’m reviewing here. All other regions, as far as I can tell, got these shorter edits. […] I’m perfectly happy to keep reviewing these as they are; I just figured I’d ask.

A few folks offered to pony up to prolong my misery by several minutes per episode, culminating in commenter ERK finding this, which he says came to $66.94 after shipping. I didn’t check his math because fuck math.

So I figured I’d open the flood gates here: if you would like to donate anything to buy me die komplette serie of ALF, you can do it through PayPal. Just send whatever you’d like to send (and nothing, I want to reiterate, is a totally valid amount) to…

reed[dot]philipj[at]gmail[dot]com

From what it sounds like, if people donate I should be able to just pay the rest myself and make up the difference.

If I do find myself in possession of the rest of the episodes of this show (which the Germans refer to as The Triumph of the Willie), I will not only be able to review the complete edits moving forward, but I will also write up a bonus installment at some point, in which I review all of the scenes cut from season one. It’ll be like a clip show, but even more agonizing than usual.

Furthermore, I don’t want this thing. So after my reviews are done maybe I’ll host a raffle or a contest and give it away. We’ll see. No promises (mainly because I don’t even have the damned thing yet) but I think it’s pretty likely that I’ll manage to pass it forward to some unfortunate person who is going to have that cover art staring back at them from the shelf.

So, yes. PayPal anything you like to reed[dot]philipj[at]gmail[dot]com.

Make sure to include your name, because I’d like to thank you in some way. If you wish to remain anonymous, that’s fine too…but unless that’s the case, do make sure to let me know who you are.

And with that, I’ll leave you to consider how much money you’d like to pitch into the Make Philip Watch More of This Shitty Puppet Show fund. (I’m almost positive it’s tax deductible!)

…actually, no. I’ll leave you with this instead. THAT COVER ART YOU GUYS
ALF eyes Poland...

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

This, as the theme song to another terrible old sitcom goes, is it. We’ve reached the end of ALF, season one. That’s 25 episodes in the can, and 74 left to go. Of course I’m not counting Project ALF, but I’m 99% sure I’m going to do it. A loyal reader has offered to send me a copy, so I think it’s just a matter of figuring out how to tackle it.

Speaking of sending copies, if anyone out there is feeling generous enough to shell out for copies of the season two, three, and / or four boxsets that were released in Germany, I’ll use those for my reviews moving forward. The reason I specify the German releases is that those are the complete versions of the episodes…not the syndicated ones I’m reviewing here. All other regions, as far as I can tell, got these shorter edits.

If you’d like to shoot one my way, get in touch. If nobody wants to…believe me, that’s fine, too. I’m perfectly happy to keep reviewing these as they are; I just figured I’d ask.

After this episode I will take a break from reviewing for a few weeks, but “bonus” installments will still go up on Thursdays, ensuring that your recommended weekly dosage of ALF will continue uninterrupted. How will you ever repay me?

So, enough stalling. The sooner I finish this the sooner I get to enjoy a break from it, and that’s some damned good incentive.

“Come Fly With Me” is, as nearly every other episode is, a title borrowed from a song. It’s one that was popularized by Frank Sinatra…as was “Strangers in the Night,” the first ALF episode with a proper title. I’m sure it’s unintentional, but it’s a pretty interesting way to bookend the season. Both of these episodes also feature a large amount of Ochmonek action, too, but, again, I’m positive it’s a coincidence.

This one begins with ALF in the living room, excitedly telling Willie that he won a copy of Cat Lover’s magazine. Yes, isn’t it just like ALF to end the season by enraging me with apostrophe abuse? Can’t just let me walk away without fisting me in the ass, can you?

Willie however knows that ALF didn’t win jack shit. What happened is that ALF filled out a bunch of Publisher’s Clearing House* forms and subscribed to the magazines; he didn’t win them, he bought them. Willie then opens the front door and a bunch of magazines slide into the house, because for no reason whatsoever they were leaning against the door rather than stacked up next to it.

It’s not really funny or stupid enough to warrant a mention, I guess, but since this is the season finale I think we should all take a moment to appreciate Max Wright’s inimitable — thank Christ — line readings:

“You’ve subscryyyb’d to HUNdrets of MaGaZeeeeeNS!”

Classic.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

The episode proper begins with ALF believing he’s won a talking toaster, as well as other goodies for the rest of the family. It turns out to be one of those real estate schemes, though, where they wine and dine you in exchange for subjecting to you high-pressure salesmanship. Mr. Ochmonek then comes over wearing the BEST SHIRT EVER with a new trash can for Willie, because there was magazine refuse blowing all over the Tanners’ yard.

Mr. O even reaches into the trash can to show Willie some of the inserts, which establishes that not only did he buy Willie a trash can on his own dime, but he ran around their yard collecting all of the junk Willie let blow around like an asshole, too.

Much as I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to think of Kate as a shrew-hearted icebitch, I think we’re supposed to view Mr. Ochmonek as a meddling pain in the ass. And yet Kate comes across as the most human character on the show, and Mr. Ochmonek is starting to seem like a really nice guy. When’s the last time a Tanner demonstrated a comparable measure of selflessness? I’d certainly rather get stuck next to this guy on a bus than Willie. At least when he talks it doesn’t sound like his kidney is on the verge of exploding.

Anyway, Mr. Ochmonek got the same real estate offer that ALF was excited about, and he suggests that they go together. He even offers to fly the Tanners out so that they can make a vacation out of it. There’s no charge, because Mr. O is able to borrow his friend’s plane.

It’s here that we learn Mr. Ochmonek was a pilot in the Korean War. This is the kind of thing the show does often — some late-game introduction of a major character trait that somehow was never mentioned before — but here it makes sense. This is only the fifth or sixth time we’ve seen the guy, and maybe only the second time we’ve spent substantial time with him. It’s fair that we’d still be learning major things about his past.

Willie, on the other hand, just looks like an even bigger piece of shit for not knowing this. How long has he lived next to the guy? The guy that buys him shit and cleans his filthy-ass yard and is friendly to Willie even though he suspects — correctly — that the Tanners spy on him? And he is learning this pretty major bit of information for the first time. What the hell kind of social worker is Willie if he can’t even bear to make small talk with his neighbor?

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

The guy might be annoying — though it’s hard to say, since everybody on this show is annoying — but he’s not a bad guy. He’s certainly nicer to Willie than Willie is to him, but Mr. Ochmonek is meant to be the butt of the joke. In fact, the whole Korean War revelation is just setup for the big punchline where he shows Willie the scar he received in combat. Kate walks in at just the wrong time and assumes…I don’t know…that her husband was going to suck him off or something?

It makes no sense. It’s just a fake audience laughing their fake heads off because an old man was about to take off his shirt.

Take that, you injured war hero piece of shit.

Guys, I have to say this: I like Mr. O.

And seriously take a look at that BEST SHIRT EVER.

The family complains after Mr. Ochmonek leaves that they might have to see him in a bathing suit, or share the same bathroom. Jesus Christ, ALF.

The Tanners really are the shittiest family on Earth; the guy just bought them a trash can, did their yard work, and invited them along on a free trip, but the moment he leaves, these cockrags stand around bitching about how ugly he is. And, somehow, we’re supposed to like them and dislike Mr. Ochmonek. Huh?

What a pack of assholes.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

ALF then comes into the room dressed for the trip, and they break it to him that he can’t come because all he ever does is fuck things up left and right, and also he’s an alien. I don’t know, I don’t care. There’s no chance in hell Paul Fusco would let the show go more than thirty seconds without ALF so of course he’ll end up going with them.

But seeing him dressed like this is actually bringing back a lot of memories. Not of this episode, exactly, but of ALF in a Hawaiian shirt. In fact if you do a search for “ALF Hawaiian shirt” you’ll get a lot of results. Click on “images” to see how often he’s been merchandised wearing one, and you’ll get an idea of how recognizable an accoutrement it became.

The ALF cartoons also slapped a Hawaiian shirt on him for his “default” look, and I find that interesting. If you buy a Bart Simpson doll, the odds are good he’ll be wearing the orange shirt and blue shorts that he wears most often in the show. Buy a Kermit the Frog doll and the odds are good he’ll be naked, because he usually is naked. ALF, though, somehow became popularly merchandised with an outfit he’s, so far, only worn once, for the purposes of a joke.

I wonder if he starts wearing it more frequently later or something. Either way, yeah…ALF in a Hawaiian shirt brings back a lot of memories.

…of ALF in a Hawaiian shirt.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

During the flight everyone sits around pissing and moaning about the free fucking vacation that fell into their laps that, really, they don’t even need to go on if they’re just going to be constant shitheads about everything.

Mr. Ochmonek at least has high spirits, pretending to make captain’s announcements and pointing out interesting landmarks, cementing himself as pretty clearly the only one on the entire plane that any reasonable human being should want to spend time with.

There’s a weird moment where Lynn complains about the cargo they’re taking with them, which is a bunch of pigs, and then she asks why they have to fly facing backwards.

That in itself is a fair question; why would the seats be facing backwards? Willie replies that it might be so that they can keep an eye on the pigs, and there’s an extremely clumsy cut halfway through the word “pigs,” zapping us into a scene of the Tanners back on solid ground.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

This might be the most poorly made show I’ve ever seen.

Willie gives a nice tip to Danny Bonaduce and the family gushes about how nice their room is. There’s a blandly funny sequence with a salesman who comes into the room and immediately starts a sales pitch, complete with slide show, but it’s nothing special.

It’s a decently effective reminder of the fact that getaway offers like this are really just misleading ways to fence you in to buying something you don’t want or need, but that’s about it. It’s nothing the laziest stand up comedian couldn’t do better, but it’s at least competent.

Willie shoos the guy away, and then takes a big shit in his pants when he opens a door and sees ALF.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

ALF reveals that he stowed away in Kate’s suitcase, having removed all of the clothes she packed. That…must have been a big suitcase for him to fit inside of it and still have a functional spine, but whatever.

There’s a funny moment next as there’s a knock on the door, and we hear Mr. Ochmonek shouting excitedly to the Tanners about the fact that they have adjoining rooms. ALF moans, “Can’t we shake this guy?”

Sure, it’s at the expense of good Mr. O, but here the joke is on ALF’s lack of self awareness. It works because it’s not just the “haha, this old man was seriously injured in the Korean War and is now being really nice to us, what a loser,” crap we got before.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

That night, Willie creeps around the living room while his family sleeps, because he hears the Ochmoneks snoring and hates it and for fuck’s sake man, do you bitch for 24 solid hours a day?

What an asshole. I mean, I’m willing to believe that within the ALF universe the Ochmoneks are bad neighbors, however all I’m seeing is the family reacting to them as though they’re bad neighbors. So far the Ochmoneks have been nothing but nice, gracious, and accommodating. It’s like watching Homer get fired up at an overly-polite Flanders, but without…you know…the fact that that’s the joke.

He wakes up Lynn and then they panic when they realize they have no idea where ALF is.

Everybody runs around screaming ALF’s name, which seems like a pretty stupid thing to do if ALF is supposed to be a secret and they already know that the walls are thin enough that they can hear people snoring, BUT WHAT THE FUCK DO I KNOW

Anyway, ALF comes in with some catfish that he caught; he wanted to surprise the Tanners with catfish in bed. This is the best kind of ALF: the ALF that means well, but can’t quite get it right. In fact, this episode does a few things right, so while it’s by no means good (at all), it’s at least nice to not end the season on a total misfire.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

They shoo ALF away because Mr. Ochmonek is at the door again, so the naked alien takes Brian into the bathroom with him to “scale the catfish.” This, praise Jesus, is not any kind of euphemism.

Mr. O comes in and hears the electric razor going. He says it sounds like their son is shaving, to which Willie fumblingly replies, with a line I actually really like, “I won’t allow him to have a mustache.”

It sure is nice to get an end-of-season hat-tip from the One Good Writer.

Anyway, Mr. Ochmonek, big fucking asshole piece of human garbage that he is, invites the Tanner family out for a pony ride. Ugh. Can you believe the nerve of this dickbag? How could anyone stand living next to a guy who is constantly giving you things and flying you places for free and inviting you to join him for fun activities what a nightmare my god

They don’t want to go, because he’s old and he snores and should be shot to death.

Why are the Tanners such a bunch of ungrateful tits?

Of course that’s not the only reason; they’re also concerned about leaving ALF in the room. This concern becomes paramount when Mr. Ochmonek reminds them that they all need to attend a mandatory sales pitch in exchange for the trip.

It’s more than a bit silly to me that Brian and Lynn’s presence at the pitch would be mandatory. Do these real estate shysters really believe that a fourth-grader holds any buying power within the family?

I can’t imagine that it would raise any red flags if Willie and Kate pretended that one or both of their kids was sick, so that ALF wouldn’t be left unsupervised, but there I go again, forgetting what show it is I’m watching.

The family stammers some vague suggestions of worry, and then there’s this really bizarre moment when Mr. Ochmonek looks directly into the camera and just…stares.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

It’s like one of those reaction shots in The Office. You know, after David Brent says something that shocks the entire room, and Tim makes desperate eye contact with the film crew as if to silently ask, “Are you getting this?”

Only ALF isn’t a mockumentary, there is no film crew in the room within the fiction of this show, and I have genuinely no clue what Mr. Ochmonek is supposed to be staring at while the episode waits quietly for him to get his shit together and move the scene along.

This fuck is this show.

Anyway, the entire family goes down to dinner with the Ochmoneks, and I guess that’s the big sales pitch. Mrs. Ochmonek scolds her husband for chowing down on shellfish because he’s allergic, but he tells her to fuck off.

Willie frets about ALF being alone in the room, but Lynn assures him that everything’s going to be fine, because he has the talking toaster to keep him company.

And we cut to this:

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

…and this is funny.

ALF is really getting good with these cutaways. The smoking TV, the dead cockroach, and now this. I don’t want to oversell it because God knows I’m guaranteed to eat my words eventually, but as of right now I actually have faith in this show to nail its visual punchlines. It’s earned that faith.

As an added bonus, the “talking” toaster just keeps saying things like “toast” and “toasting.” The fact that ALF is enamored enough with it to keep ordering full loaves of bread from room service is pretty funny, and plays into a childlike fascination with novelty junk that really should be a larger aspect of the character.

Again, “Come Fly With Me” might not be much good, but it does manage to give us some nice flashes of what ALF, as a character, should be. He’s at his best when he’s bright-eyed, enthusiastic, and destructively helpful. He’s at his worst when he’s burning the house down, prank calling the president, and fingerfucking the children. Or maybe I’m just too picky.

But this nice visual punchline isn’t the end, of course, because — altogether now — this is ALF.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

We return to dinner, and Willie sees the hairy cornflake running around in circles through the window. ALF picks up a fire extinguisher — which was stored outside, for…some…reason… — and runs, presumably, back up to the room.

…and that’s it. Vacation over. ALF started a fire with the talking toaster by cramming it full of catfish, and the Tanners are kicked out of the hotel. Off camera, of course, because that’s easier than writing funny dialogue wherein Willie has to explain to management why he was toasting catfish.

The episode sure went through a lot of trouble to get the Tanners into a situation that it apparently couldn’t wait to yank them right back out of.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

We’re back on the plane, and Willie’s complaining about how everything is awful, at which point ALF pokes his head out from behind a curtain and delivers the episode’s other — and last — great line: “You haven’t stopped complaining since I burned down that room.”

Mr. Ochmonek starts hallucinating due to all the shellfish he ate, and passes out. Mrs. Ochmonek is taking a dump, continuing the tradition of ALF using that as its go-to reason for any character to be out of the room at any given time. I’m pretty sure the only things anyone does in this universe is shit and make funny faces while an alien tapdances.

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

Anyway, ALF flies the plane, because of course he does.

He also does a bunch of tricks which require Willie and Kate to stumble around pretending the plane is doing loop-de-loops or whatever bullshit nonsense nobody cares about.

Now, granted, this isn’t totally out of left field. I hate it, don’t get me wrong, but ALF has flown before. It was a UFO, as the episode points out, but it’s possible that they functioned similarly enough that he might be able to figure out some basics. Who knows? If the principals of flight are the same on Earth as they were on Melmac, then the main hurdle would just be figuring out the controls.

Of course that’s a massive and potentially fatal hurdle…but this isn’t impossible. I’m happy to allow it.

What I’m not happy about is that this conflict is introduced, ALF slips into the pilot’s seat, and he’s immediately a fucking Blue Angel.

Willie and Kate make some scared faces, ALF lands the plane (off camera, natch), and that’s it. Everyone’s safe.

And that’s, in a word, bullcock.

This is what sinks the episode for me. Not that it was good before this, but this scene is what pulls it down into unsalvageability.

I’m not mad that ALF landed the plane.** I’m mad that the episode glossed over his landing of the plane.

That’s pretty major. Keeping a plane in level flight isn’t the difficult thing for untrained, de-facto pilots. That’s easy. It’s landing that’s the major problem, and potentially the most interesting for a work of fiction to explore. How many shows and movies can you name that feature scenes of ground controllers relaying instructions to somebody who doesn’t know how to land?

Countless. Because it’s immediately recognizable as a tense and dangerous situation. ALF is a sitcom so, yes, I’m aware that tension is not its forte. But just as easily a situation like that could be mined for laughs, and I’m more than a little disappointed that the writers hit upon this idea, and decided instead to just cut back to everybody unharmed on the ground.

You know what would have made this a good episode? Mr. O passing out on the way to their vacation…not on the way back. “Come Fly With Me” should have been 20 minutes of ALF struggling to fly and land the plane. The show could have toyed with the conventions of airplane disaster films the same way “La Cuckaracha” played with sci-fi / horror. The family would have to keep Mrs. Ochmonek unaware of both ALF’s presence and her husband’s condition. The lion’s share of the episode would be ALF engaging in funny dialogue with an air traffic controller who is desperately trying to explain in simple terms how to achieve complicated things, without being aware that he’s speaking to an alien who can’t understand them.

It could have been a nice, fun episode with an element of risk, and a great way to end the season. “ALF has to fly a plane” might not be the most original story idea in history, but it’s a lot better than just cutting to the characters safe at home and saying, “oh btw ALF flew the plane.”

ALF, "Come Fly With Me"

So, that’s the episode. Everybody’s safe, and ALF’s toaster shits out some burnt catfish. What a metaphor for anyone who stuck with this show through 25 episodes.

Oh well. At least this one didn’t end with the family reminiscing fondly about the mortal danger ALF put them in, like they did at the end of “On the Road Again.”

Willie and Kate did thank him for saving them, though, which is fine…to a degree. Yes, it’s true that if ALF hadn’t been there when Mr. Ochmonek passed out, they could all be dead. However if ALF hadn’t stowed away and / or hadn’t stuffed catfish into the fucking toaster, they wouldn’t have been forced to fly home while Mr. Ochmonek was under the influence of hallucinogenic oysters, so maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to sing his praises.

But, hey, it’s over!

I made it through 25 episodes of this shit without missing a single week, so I honestly do believe I deserve a bit of deep breathing before moving on to season two.

Next week I will post a more general review of season one (something I’m more than happy to adopt from Full House Reviewed) and then I have another couple of surprises to follow. So stick around.

Thanks for reading. It means more than I can say, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to have such excellent commenters along for the ride. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go make fun of a crippled Korean War veteran for not being conventionally attractive.

—–
* If you remember, Publisher’s Clearing House used to have Ed McMahon as a spokesperson. He’s also namedropped in this episode. I bring this up because I believe he stars in ALF‘s next clip show. That’s sure to be good.

** Although, you have to admit, crashing and killing the Tanners would have ended the season on one hell of a riveting cliffhanger.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...