Whew! Sorry for the delay, but either the Gilligan’s Island episode inspired me to hang myself by the neck until dead, or I threw everything aside to put together a fiction anthology. Whichever you prefer to believe is fine with me.
Anyway, the episode opens with ALF examining avocados for worms. Brian gives him an avocado with a worm in it, but then ALF gets pissed because there is not actually a worm in it. Once that happened and an imaginary audience wet itself at this brilliant comic subversion, I figured the cold open was over. But, nope. Something actually does happen…and it’s a pretty big thing to happen:
Mrs. Ochmonek sees ALF.
That’s also the plot of the episode, and I do like that there wasn’t any needless buildup. It’s kind of nice that the episode begins, and then this immediately happens. That’s about the only way you can pull something like that off and still have it be surprising, so I’m impressed that ALF nailed that much.
At the same time, though, it’s slightly anticlimactic. Mrs. Ochmonek meeting ALF face to face is a major development, and having it happen in such a mundane way (ALF is closing a gate and she sees him closing a gate) is a little disappointing. I don’t know. I guess we can’t have it both ways. Either we get the unexpected surprise up front, or we build to something more creative later.
A better writing staff could have managed both. For instance, open with Mrs. Ochmonek finding ALF in her cupboard or something, and then turn the episode into a series of narrated flashbacks that explain why he was in there. It would be like “Strangers in the Night,” only not fucking awful.
Admittedly, that would have to be a very different kind of episode; it would be about how Mrs. Ochmonek discovered ALF. With the story starting from that point and moving forward, as it does here, it’s one about how Mrs. Ochmonek deals with discovering ALF.
Neither option is necessarily better or worse than the other; both hinge upon what the writers do next. And being as ALF has a slightly better track record with wacky situations than it does with character development, it’s possible they made the wrong choice.
Then I see ALF and Mrs. Ochmonek scream and wave their arms and run around for a while and any doubt I might have had vanishes completely.
After the credits ALF is still flailing around and screaming, but I actually like what he does after that: he runs into the closet and hides. When Willie opens the door to see what’s wrong, ALF looks at him like a child that’s terrified he’s about to be punished.
This is one of those too-rare examples of ALF regressing into childhood on this show, and it’s a great thing to do with the character. The reason children in real life do silly things and say silly things and act in silly ways is that they don’t know much about the world they’re living in. Their existence is one of uncertain experimentation. Often this creates problems for the adults (or adult figures), because the child didn’t realize it was doing anything wrong.
When I was a kid, my cousin Charlie climbed into a my grandfather’s grandfather clock. (I can’t figure out a less awkward way to say that. There might not be one.) We were playing hide and seek, and he figured that that wouldn’t be a place my brother and I were likely to check.
He was right; we didn’t find him. My grandfather did. He pulled Charlie out and punished him, because he’d broken the pendulum by cramming himself in there with it. The clock never ran right after that, and while it was a really stupid thing to do, it’s only stupid through the eyes of an adult. As a kid, you don’t think about these things. You learn to think about these things by facing the consequences of what happens when you don’t. That’s how people grow up.
I’m sure Charlie’s face looked a lot like ALF’s does here when the door to that grandfather clock swung open. He didn’t mean to do anything wrong…but now he’s in trouble. ALF might be hundreds of years old, but he’s new to Earth. He, too, is learning these things and making these mistakes for the first time. He is, in the politest sense of the term, a big baby.
Oh he should be. I’m always so disappointed when ALF commands full and complete knowledge of life on Earth. It’s funnier — and infinitely more fruitful — when this creature with an adult mind makes the mistakes of a child. That’s where the comic mileage should be when the title character is an alien adjusting to our culture. There’s no comic mileage — at all — in having him already be familiar with this stuff. Then he’s just a hairy asshole.
The Ochmoneks come over, and Mrs. O is in a panic because she saw a monster in the neighborhood. Mr. O is not in a panic, and I swear to Christ I own that exact shirt.
I’m really glad Mr. Ochmonek doesn’t wear glasses, because otherwise I would conclude that I’m seeing visions of myself from the future.
So, yeah, Mrs. Ochmonek saw…something. She doesn’t know what, but she doesn’t like it. At a loss for words, Willie blurts, “Are you going to form an angry mob?”
And you know what? I’ll admit it. That’s funny.
Every so often ALF hits upon something that it does well. I’ve already said a lot about the visual gags that land almost every time. I’ve already said that Lynn is quite funny (and only ever funny) when she gets to be a bit of an air-head, a more family-friendly twist on Kelly Bundy. But this line, taken in conjunction with “I won’t allow him to have a mustache” and “I’ll be 45 in August,” has me convinced that Willie crapping out panicked replies makes for a decent character quirk. All three of those lines have been funny, and they might represent the only sustained trait Willie’s ever had.
The problem with these things is that the writers stumble upon something that works, and then they keep moving. They never stick with any of this stuff. It just disappears and the best we can hope for is that they accidentally stumble over the same thing again later.
There is a nice callback to the pilot, when Mrs. Ochmonek says she’s positive she’s seen that monster once before. In that episode she glimpsed ALF through the window and called the Alien Task Force, a fact she reiterates in a few minutes. So, yeah. A few commenters have given me guff about assuming the Alien Task Force was operating publicly, and not, say, some shadowy organization kept under wraps by the government. And that’s my own fault; I guess I didn’t make it clear in my review of the pilot that the Alien Task Force is no more secretive in this universe than the local utility company.
It’s a little odd, though, that while Mrs. Ochmonek remembers seeing an alien and remembers calling the Alien Task Force, she doesn’t seem to remember that she saw it in this very house that she’s standing in now, and that she called them on the very people that she’s speaking with now, nor, of course, does she connect either of these things with the fact that she just saw the monster again on this very property. Why bother reminding the audience of this connection if you won’t have the only character it matters to remember it herself?
The adults go outside to look for the monster, and as they leave there’s a very welcome moment of internal logic. Lynn goes to the closet, but doesn’t open it. Instead she turns to Brian, who is in the kitchen. He flashes her the “okay” sign through the little window, and then she opens the closet.
It’s so very rare that logistical things like this are acknowledged by the show, and I couldn’t be happier to see this here. Somebody on the staff thinks about this shit, and that’s tremendously reassuring.
The punchline is lame, which is that he’s now wearing his Kermit the Frog costume from “For Your Eyes Only,” but considering the fact that the joke when he went in to the closet was that Willie was afraid he’d shit all over their shoes and jackets, I guess I should be thankful.
In the yard Mrs. O picks up an avocado and looks at the bite mark. Well, that was unexpected. I honestly didn’t think ALF looking for avocado worms was going to tie into anything, but it helps Mrs. Ochmonek conclude that she’s on the right track. After all, the bite only shows evidence of four teeth, which isn’t human.
Mr. Ochmonek’s reply doesn’t get much of a fake studio laugh, but I liked it. He says, “Your mother had four teeth.” That’s funny. But then the writers have him step on his own line by turning away and saying, “Bad example!!!!”
Yes, ALF. We get the joke.
They babble some pointless shit while Mr. Ochmonek acts like the only human being among them. Bored and tired with this nonsense, he sits down on some lawn furniture and toys with an avocado. At one point he tries to push Willie into telling Mrs. O conclusively that it’s silly to believe in creatures like that, and that was the perfect setup for a funny moment where Willie has to juggle the truth with what his neighbor believes the truth should be.
Unfortunately we don’t get one. Just some stupid, half-assed diatribe about aliens being freeloaders that in the context of this conversation should have been a dead giveaway that yes, Willie knows about aliens, yes, the one Mrs. Ochmonek saw lives in Willie’s house, and yes, Willie should be tortured and killed by the U.S. government.
Mrs. Ochmonek announces that she’s going to call the Alien Task Force, but Willie stops her on the grounds that they didn’t believe her the last time she called, so why would they believe her now?
…wait. So Willie knows that Mrs. Ochmonek called the fucking government on him and ratted him out for harboring extra-terrestrial life? And Mrs. Ochmonek knows that he knows? Neither of them are acting like this is new information, so I guess they must have discussed it at some point in the past. I wonder how that conversation went.
Try it. Call the government (we don’t have an Alien Task Force, so try the FBI), tell them that you see aliens in your neighbor’s house, and don’t rest until they come out and investigate. Then, after they leave, tell your neighbor that you’re the one who called the FBI. See if you end up with the kind of relationship where you stand around in the yard together, studying avocados.
And also, so what if they didn’t believe her the first time? She knows she saw something. ALF even said her name before they ran around like Yosemite Sam with his ass on fire. Why not call again? What is there to lose? Especially since the alternative proves to be Mrs. O running down the street, calling her neighbors by name and declaring there’s a monster on the loose. She doesn’t want to risk looking foolish by placing a phone call in private, but she’ll do this without a second thought?
Willie and Kate react to Mrs. Ochmonek the same way I’m reacting to this episode, and I can’t decide whose reaction is better so you get them both.
The Tanners go back into the house and fuck around for a bit until Brian comes in and declares that Mrs. Ochmonek has assembled a crowd outside of her house, which rightly worries everyone.
But then we cut to two days later, with ALF and Willie doing some buddy comedy in the shed.
So I guess we’re supposed to believe that all of these unseen neighbors that were whipped instantly into a frenzy just…quietly decided a confirmed alien sighting wasn’t as interesting as they’d thought?
ALF is under “house arrest” until this whole thing blows over, but isn’t he always? That could have been the joke, but ALF, Willie, and the episode in general are all treating this like it’s something new. Why are we supposed to believe that ALF being confined to the house is any more inconvenient now than it is at any other point in history?
Brian comes in with a flier that has ALF’s face on it. Willie’s nervous because that means word is getting around. ALF is angry because the ears are too big. He tells Brian to go erase all the ears, which he runs off to do. Willie, because he’s not a human being, does not correct him.
There is a nice moment of restraint, though, right afterward. Brian leaves the shed and sees Mr. Ochmonek. We don’t see this…the entire exchange takes place outside, and we’re still in here with Willie and ALF.
Brian greets Mr. O loudly, obviously so Willie will hear him and prepare for the visitor. Mr. O asks where his dad is, and Brian shouts that he’s in the shed, adding, just as loudly, “Alone!”
Mr. Ochmonek, baffled by the kid shouting at him, shouts back some words of thanks.
It’s a nice little exchange, and it plays miles better because it unfolds off-camera. It’s a rare example of ALF giving the audience credit.
Mr. Ochmonek is distraught. His wife is going out of her mind, and it’s driving him crazy, too. Not because he’s tired of her crap…but because he loves her and doesn’t know how to help. This guy really is the only human being on the show, isn’t he?
He’s worried about her. He feels embarrassed that she’s turning into a laughingstock. And he feels awful because he doesn’t know what to do.
This is nice. This is human.
Then Mrs. Ochmonek comes in, overjoyed, and he stands up to hug her thinking that she’s broken out of her delusion. THIS IS ALL HUMAN YOU FUCKS
But, no. That’s the end of anything human in this shitheap of an episode. She’s happy because she’s been invited to appear on The Lenny Scott Show, which is some local talk-show in the ALF universe that is absolutely certain to be good!
Surprising no-one, The Lenny Scott Show is a very strong contender for worst. period. scene. period. ever. period. Yes, even worse than the music video ALF made about wanting to cum in Lynn’s hair while she napped on the couch.
Right after that scene in the shed we cut to the family watching the show, because God forbid the writing staff come up with some connective tissue.
Lenny Scott is played by some pointless fuckfaced nobody. No, I didn’t look him up. No, I don’t want anyone else to. If I find out this guy had any kind of career — at all — I’m going to lose whatever small amount of faith I have in the American viewing public. If this guy was ever on television outside of his appearance on ALF, it better have been in a news report about a tragic shark attack.
Seriously, this is bad. His acting is just atrocious, and for that to stand out on this fucking show, you can guess just how bad he has to be.
I suppose it’s possible that he’s trying to be this bad, for some reason, but I refuse to believe that any human being would choose to act this way on purpose. I think he just believes it’s funny. I guess the ALF casting director did too. Or maybe they just foresaw this blog and wanted to hasten my inevitable suicide.
Lenny Scott, I guess, is supposed to be some kind of trash-talking confrontational blowhard of a talk show host. So…what’s the problem? Far from dating “Take a Look at Me Now,” a scene like this should cause it to resonate even more strongly with a contemporary audience, what with Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and the rest of those clowns making a living not by discussing, but by obstructing.* We could toss Rush Limbaugh into this category as well, but he was already pretty well established by the time ALF came around, so finding resonance there isn’t something that would only happen with hindsight.
The problem is that no talk-show host in history has ever operated like this. Yes, hosts berate guests. Yes, hosts make other people look stupid so that they look better. Yes, hosts have members of the audience chanting their name. Structurally, this is fine. But Lenny Scott himself is…inhuman.
The idea seems to be that everything Mrs. Ochmonek produces as “evidence” of the alien is slapped down in some tremendously witty way by Lenny Scott. The audience goes ballistic. But…nothing he says is really funny. And none of it comes off as improvised.
This guy is a terrible actor. When you have an old woman sliding you a plate of mashed potatoes that she shaped to resemble ALF, you can let the absurdity carry a lot of the comic weight. By all means, crack a joke, but crack that joke in such a way that you build on the comedy inherent in the situation, rather than try to replace it.
In the case of the potatoes, Lenny Scott sees them, and then turns to the camera and says in a far-too-rehearsed groan that it sounds like this alien came from “the planet Spud.”
The audience goes wild. Why? How is that even a joke? It’s not witty; the show wants us to believe it’s witty, but the actor delivers a line in such a way that it’s so clearly not improvised, and yet even though it was written in advance it still makes no cockfucking sense.
Lenny Scott’s direct inspiration seems to be The Morton Downey, Jr., Show. I actually remember that show quite well. My father used to watch it a lot. Downey would get a hell of a kick out of pitting guests against each other, and turning confrontation — often violent confrontation — into strangely addictive television. Of course, we still see the echoes of that today. Compared to any given episode of Maury, Morton Downey, Jr. would probably look like Sesame Street. At the time, however, it was downright scandalous.
That’s what Lenny Scott is supposed to be, but Morton Downey, Jr., never would have kicked off such a trend if he listened to a guest say something, turned directly into the camera, mugged like Jim Carrey, and choked out a line that resembled a joke in literally no culture or society that has ever lived on this planet.
Once again, the writers of ALF seem to have no clue what actual television looks like.
God, this really doesn’t end, does it? This is terrible, terrible shit dudes.
And look at the wall around the TV. Why is it a completely different style and color than the rest of the walls in the Tanner living room? They would have had to have gone out of their way to film this in front of the wrong wall. THEY ALREADY HAVE THE FUCKING SET BUILT THE FUCKS
Anyway a stuffed bird descends from the ceiling and Lenny Scott says Mr. Cuckoo wants to fuck Mrs. Ochmonek and my Christ what is this.
The Lenny Scott Show just keeps a-rollin’. Why are they giving so much of the episode over to this shit? They must think it’s funny. I don’t know. Lousy scenes find their way into even great shows, but it’s pretty fucking rare that so much time is just spent watching crap like this play out with no attempt at evolving the joke or developing the plot.
Mrs. Ochmonek pulls out the avocado, and Lenny Scott makes some faces and says, “It’s the invasion of the guacamole snatchers!” which makes even less sense than Planet Spud, because why would avocados be snatching guacamole? That would be like us going to another planet that eats people, and stealing a big vat of human guts. Why would anybody do that? Why am I thinking about this? And why, if ALF wants to convince us that Lenny Scott is hilarious, is this the fucking material they’re giving him?
Man, I’m actually yearning for the heady days of the Gilligan’s Island crossover.
We cut to who knows when, and Lynn is going to see Fantastic Voyage with her boyfriend Lizard. For some reason, though, she doesn’t say the title of the film. She just describes it. I guess the episode was running short, even though 74% of it consists of unedited rushes from The Lenny Scott Show, so they had her recite a plot summary of a movie that doesn’t even get referenced again. Good stuff.
Anyway, the episode, fuckawful though it is, manages to wring out one more decent idea: ALF feels guilty. Willie’s sad for Mrs. Ochmonek, Mr. O’s sad for Mrs. Ochmonek, and even Mrs. Ochmonek herself is sad…all because she knows what she saw, and nobody will believe her.
ALF wants to help her, in some way. She’s not insane, obviously, but everybody thinks so, because they didn’t see what she saw. In turn, this causes her to think she’s insane, and the cycle repeats.
You can imagine the kind of episode we would have gotten if the ALF writing staff had any fucking clue what they were doing.
ALF peeks through her window while she’s watching TV, and then he rigs up some kind of thing so that he can beam live footage of himself to her TV from a camcorder.
See? I’m not exaggerating. The people who produce this television show have no concept of how television actually works.
For some reason he’s wearing a diving mask and some silverware and fuck you just fuck fuck you. He speaks to her through the TV, telling her aliens are real and not to worry.
Then Willie and Kate come into the garage and catch him doing this, and they all bicker about what’s going on, with ALF even calling Willie by name, and for some reason Mrs. O puts none of this together.
She first saw the alien in Willie’s bathroom. Then she saw the alien in Willie’s back yard. Now she’s watching the alien argue with Willie on live television. And she suspects nothing.
ALF turns on “Thus Spake Zarathustra” and warbles some blandly inspiring nonsense to Mrs. Ochmonek, yakking about wonder and spacemagic and all the same bullshit he already talked about in “Weird Science,” only it’s even less-assed here than it was in that terrible episode.
Anyway, the show’s over. Mrs. Ochmonek now knows she isn’t crazy, and she’s happy again.
But, wait. If she knows she’s not crazy, and she also now has further evidence that there is intelligent life in outer space, doesn’t that just raise further questions? Of course it makes sense that she’d be glad she’s not insane, but if a space alien — an actual space alien — appeared on your television and had a conversation with you, would you end it by thinking, “Whew, I’m not nuts. Now I can go back to living a normal life”?
And, come on, in a show that has an openly operational government agency called the Alien Task Force, people still get teased for believing in extra-terrestrial life? Then why the fuck aren’t they burning down the Alien Task Force? You can’t have it both ways. This would be like having a fire department in a city in which nobody believes in fires, and if anyone did they’d be ostracized…yet taxpayers are still happy to foot the bill for the fire department.
Whatever. Who cares. They had a whole episode to play with the premise of Mrs. Ochmonek thinking she was going insane, but instead we got Morton Lenny, Jr., and a climax in the form of ALF hacking an old woman’s television.
I don’t have anything to say about the short scene before the credits. It’s just Mr. Ochmonek coming in to assure the Tanners (and the audience) that Mrs. Ochmonek is going to be back to her old self for next week’s episode.
What I do have to say is that my goodness is that a glorious shirt. It says JOSEPHINE, I think.
I have no idea who or what Josephine is, but I want that.
I really do. ALF is no longer a sitcom to me. It’s a Hawaiian shirt shopping network.
* It probably comes as no surprise to find out — if you didn’t already know — that I lean left. But I don’t (and would not) criticize these men for their beliefs. I tend to agree with liberal perspective, but not on all counts, and by no means would I ever dismiss an entire party — any entire party — on the basis of a few bloviating idiots. The issue I take with these men, specifically, is their methodology, which I find to be tremendously toxic and damaging. In the interests of fairness, I’d also toss fucking Nancy Grace into that pile. Christ almighty is that woman scum.