It’s come to this: an episode about ALF getting the hiccups.
That sure sounds like a riot.
Part of me doesn’t really mind. As we learned last week, the quality of the plot isn’t really an indication of the quality of the episode. If Lynn entering a beauty contest can lead to one of the funniest episodes yet, then ALF getting hiccups shouldn’t be written off immediately. And, hey, dude’s a space alien. Maybe your brother getting the hiccups wouldn’t be a story worth telling, but if you knew some guy from Jupiter who got them…well, that might get interesting.
Maybe ALF gets hiccups for the first time ever. He doesn’t know what they are, so he panics while the family tries to assure him they’re not dangerous.
That could be funny.
Instead, the episode does something that has more or less the same comic potential: it gives ALF the Melmacian hiccups. Instead of ALF being the one experiencing this bizarre condition for the first time, it’s the Tanners. That can work.
However, the writers don’t trust it. It’s a shame, because a simple episode about alien hiccups could lead to the same kind of comedy that “La Cuckaracha” gave us last season. Some silliness, some nice visual gags, maybe a character moment or two, and then the credits. Instead, though, they wrap the ALF’s-hiccups plot around a Kate Sr.-gets-remarried plot.
Talk about a match made in hell.
“Something’s Wrong With Me” opens with Kate Sr. and ALF squabbling over who gets to eat a cupcake, because when Kate Sr. shows up she makes damn well sure you know the episode is going to suck dick.
Then she announces that in one month she’s marrying Wizard Beaver, who I don’t think we’ve seen since “I’ve Got a New Attitude,” when the Tanners schemed to get them to fuck. She tells the family the news, and there’s a decent joke when she says that she wanted to share the big announcement with the people she loves most, as well as those she can’t stand. ALF says, “Willie, I think she means us.”
ALF’s wearing another Hawaiian shirt, but only in this scene, and no comment is made about it. I wonder if one of the ALF puppets was damaged in a way that a shirt could conceal, because every so often we’ll get one scene with him in one, and that’s it. When it’s for plot reasons, as in “Come Fly With Me,” I don’t get suspicious. When it’s some kitchen scene in an episode that doesn’t feature it elsewhere, I sort of do.
Having said that, I like seeing it. It injects a little visual variety into an otherwise very static sitcom. Typically, visual variety on live-action shows is a given, as the characters will change their outfits regularly,* just as real humans do. In this case, though, the title character is naked every day.
You don’t get much less variety than that.
Anyway, Kate Sr. is getting married in Kate Jr.’s house, because it’s a tradition in the Halligan family to do that and also because it’s cheaper than building another set. ALF is told he’ll have to stay in the garage during the wedding, which is totally worth pointing out because I’m sure everyone at home expected he’d be asked to perform the ceremony.
After the opening credits, everyone babbles about nothing, sitting around asking “Where’s Poochie?” until it’s time for ALF to come into the room. When he does, he’s holding one of those big plastic jugs with a straw in it. He drank all the water that the Tanners bought for the wedding guests.
But he had a good reason: it’s because he’s a dick.
lol no. He did have a good reason: it’s because he’s an asshole.
lol no. He did have a good reason: it’s because he gets off on fucking shit up.
lol no. He did have a good reason: it’s because he has the Melmacian hiccups, which he immediately demonstrates:
It’s a sharp, loud, explosively obnoxious belch-like thing, and he assures the Tanners that it will get louder every day, for an unknown period of years, before it goes away. In fact, his Uncle Tinkle had them for 50 years!!!
Oh noes!!!! If Kate Sr.’s wedding doesn’t go just right, I’ll be emotionally and electrically drained!!!
I’m being honest here: why should anyone care? Not the Tanners, I mean…but anyone at home. Does anyone watching give two shits about how well or poorly this wedding goes? I’m sure the entire reason the wedding is tacked on to this episode is to add some element of urgency to curing ALF’s hiccups, but, frankly, this show was pre-internet. Kate Sr. hasn’t appeared frequently enough (or recently enough) for the audience to be expected to remember her, let alone care about her. If she’s involved in somebody else’s plot, fine…but there’s no way on Earth any viewers at home would care about her own, or understand why she’s getting one.
So it’s a wedding between a woman we haven’t seen in a long time and some guy we’ve only seen once, neither of which we have any reason to care about, and neither of which the audience remembers much about, what with this predating wikis, youtube, and DVDs.
DAMN THATS SOME FINE URGENCY
The next morning ALF comes into the kitchen and makes a bunch of noises.
Sorry, but as with the mating call in “It Isn’t Easy…Bein’ Green,” there’s no way I can do the sound justice. So I’ll embed a video that features around forty seconds of this scene.
I really do hate having to resort to video, what with these reviews being writing exercises and all, but certain things are beyond adequate description. In that little clip, for instance, you heard what the hiccup sounded like.
…but now imagine that that sound happens every minute or two, throughout the remainder of the episode, at unexpected times, whether ALF is on-screen or not.
It’s as though the writers asked themselves the same question I’ve been asking: is it possible for ALF to be a more obnoxious presence?
The answer is yes. Just have him blast noise into the room with unpredictable regularity, bringing the action of the episode to a screeching halt every time. EASY PEASY LEMON SQUEEZY
Everybody’s worried because Kate Sr.’s wedding is tomorrow. But…why is it tomorrow?
The episode opened with Kate Sr. making it clear that this event was to take place a month in the future. Why would they have had her say that if they were going to leap immediately over the next 29 days with no reference to anything that happened? See what I mean about these scripts seeming like a first draft?
And while I’m not upset about it — the actor who portrays him is far better than the usual ALF standard — I’m kind of surprised they brought Wizard Beaver back. After all, they swapped out Lynn’s boyfriend and Willie’s boss, so it’s not like they give much of a shit for building a consistent roster of non-Tanners. Would anyone really be surprised if it turned out Kate Sr. was marrying somebody we’ve never seen before? Maybe some guy named Zipzip Prairiedog?
Mr. Ochmonek comes over wearing yet another shirt I actually have. ALF scurries into the living room and Mr. O complains that his wife couldn’t sleep because of all the noise. He slept fine, though; he couldn’t hear anything from his bedroom.
That’s a cute joke, and I like that. Thinking back to the beginning of season one, there’s no way I would have believed that Mr. Ochmonek would grow to become a highlight of this entire show.
Or maybe he didn’t grow and it’s the rest of the show that fell on its dumb ass. Either way.
ALF, of course, hiccups, and Mr. Ochmonek says that must be the noise that kept his wife awake. Willie comes up with some lame excuse though that I literally forgot in the time it took me to click over into the other window and take notes. Man…you know it’s bad when I literally can’t remember what just fucking happened before I started writing about it.
Mr. Ochmonek leaves, because fuck investigating the other room, even though there’s always noise and chaos and god knows what going on in there every time he comes over.
ALF pops up through the plot window. He sets down a goblet or some shit, and shatters it with his hiccup.
In all honesty, can you even imagine a face that more deserves to be hit with a shovel?
ALF is operating at a level of annoyance that’s almost unbearable in this episode. That’s a tricky thing for even good writers to pull off. I remember hearing Graham Linehan talk about this, in regards to one of the characters in Father Ted.
He said that if you try to make a character annoying to the other characters, you run a very serious risk of making that character also annoying to the viewers at home. In this case he was referring to Father Noel Furlong, and I got the sense that he was very careful to structure the comedy so that the audience would find things funny that the characters on-screen would not. That would help to both keep us at a distance from the annoyance, and keep the characters at a distance from the relief that laughter brings. It worked well.
In other examples, you’d have someone like Ned Flanders. He annoys Homer, but isn’t likely to annoy the audience. Why? Because it’s his politeness that annoys Homer. It’s a very specific kind of annoyance that isn’t bothersome for folks at home to endure in the way that it’s bothersome to Homer.
Or Gareth in the original Office. The fact that we had four major characters to cut between in any given episode meant we never had to stay with any of them too long. Gareth wasn’t likely to annoy us because we’d only see him for as long as it was necessary to get to his punchline, and then we’d hop on to somebody or something else. For Tim, however, the annoyance was understandable; he didn’t have the luxury of cutting away. We might have to deal with him for a few minutes in every episode, but Tim is stuck next to him for eight hours a day. Martin Freeman does a great job of making us feel the frustration, but we don’t actually have to experience it first-hand.
Here, the idea seemed to be that if ALF was going to annoy the family, he must also annoy the audience. If he’s not just as irritating to the folks at home, then the show isn’t doing its job.
It’s exactly the kind of backward interpretation you’d expect from people who didn’t actually know anything about how comedy works. Or maybe even what comedy is.
Willie and Kate visit ALF in the garage because that’s where the next joke is supposed to happen. ALF is looking through his old Orbit Guard** stuff, trying to find his medical encyclopedia. He’s hoping to find a cure for the hiccups, which is fine, but why wasn’t this the very first thing he did? Those hiccups can’t be pleasant (for him or us), and he knows they can go on for years, so why wasn’t this an earlier idea?
Whatever. He hands Willie a tube, and Willie asks what it is. ALF says it’s nuclear waste from his spaceship.
And, okay, maybe that’s the face most deserving of a shovel.
Seriously, Max Wright? That’s the face that’s meant to convey to compound realization that your entire family is sterile, cancerous, and dying of radiation poisoning?
To be fair, it builds to a funny punchline. ALF takes the tube back and corrects himself: that’s actually his tube of crayons.*** It’s a funny idea, but the bathetic comedown would have been far more effective if Max Wright had actually sold the dreadful concern. As it stands he just looks like he sat in gum.
ALF says he only ever had to use the medical encyclopedia once, when he was mauled by a Gnarf. Then Kate says, “Gnarf?” and ALF launches into his standup routine.
This happens a lot. ALF says something ridiculous, a human repeats it back to him with a question mark at the end, and he tells his joke. That’s pretty much the go-to template for any acknowledgement that ALF is an alien, and not some squatting drifter.
ALF: Mmm, meatloaf. Reminds me of Melmacian Mnrrblespirts.
LYNN: Melmacian Mnrrblespirts?
ALF: Yeah, they’re like Venutian Mnrrblespirts, but from Melmac!
[Willie cums everywhere]
Obviously that’s an exaggeration. Lynn doesn’t get any lines.
Anyway, they find the book**** and ALF reads the cure: a glass of cat juice. Kate replies, “Cat juice?” and ALF proves my theory correct.
So “cat juice” is what you get from squeezing a cat they way you’d squeeze an orange. Have I mentioned what a great show this is for families to watch together? But forget that; this raises a serious question of internal continuity. If ALF’s Uncle Tinkle had the Melmacian hiccups for 50 years, why didn’t he drink cat juice? Cats were on the menu in Melmac’s restaurants. They were readily available as a staple food. Why would you hiccup for five decades without taking this cure? It would be like suffering for half a century of your life because you didn’t want to drink a glass of apple juice. I don’t care if you don’t like it…you’d drink that shit on day one.
There’s an establishing shot that indicates daytime, but when Kate opens the front door it’s clearly night. Nobody on the production staff knew what “establishing” meant.
It’s Kate Sr. and The Beev, making out for no reason. I guess they’re just in this scene for the hot tonsil action.
When they arrived Kate was busy making decorations, and breaking in her wedding bolo. Then Willie comes home and says they can’t find another venue for the wedding, which makes one wonder why he waited until 11 o’clock the night before the ceremony is supposed to take place to start looking.
The Wiz leaves for his bachelor party, because it’s not time for him to hear the hiccups yet.
Yeah, did you forget that every fucking minute or so ALF is bleating loudly into the microphone? I sure didn’t. I definitely envy all of you who get to read this instead.
Kate Sr. is pissed because ALF is going to ruin her wedding the same way he ruined her grandchildren’s anal hymens.
AND OKAY THAT IS THE FACE THAT NEEDS THE SHOVEL
What’s with this episode and funny faces? If you pulled out all of these and the blasts of noise from ALF’s hiccups, it would barely be the length of a pudding commercial.
The humans discuss the problem and come up with what is probably the most intelligent solution to anything that anyone on this show has ever come up with: make cat juice.
Not real cat juice…just whip something up, tell ALF it’s cat juice, and hope for the placebo effect to kick in.
And…that’s…yeah. I…that’s actually a really smart way out of this pickle. I’m impressed, writers. I really am.
Sure, ALF has had cat before, and the Tanners presumably have not, so maybe he’d know from the taste that it wasn’t the real mccoy, but I’m willing to give them that. Drinking a glass of beef juice probably doesn’t taste too much like eating a steak, so maybe the fact that this mystery drink doesn’t taste much like cat meat won’t be the tip off one might think it is.
They bring ALF the cat juice in the shed.
ALF bitches about it not having an umbrella.
ALF bitches about how the cat better not have been roadkill.
ALF bitches about it not being kosher.
ALF finally drinks it.
ALF bitches about having to piss now.
Did I compliment the writers earlier? I don’t think so. Whatever. He stops hiccuping. Thank Christ.
Hey, look, it’s the wedding. Lynn is videotaping it.
She tells Brian to say something, but he doesn’t know what to say, so he holds up an imaginary microphone and says, “Hi, I’m Ted Koppel, and this is Nightline.”
…why did this even happen? It wasn’t a joke.
Granted, on shows like Full House you’d have kids doing cute stuff just for the sake of it, but here, this isn’t a baby. You don’t get away with the cuteness excuse. It’s a child actor who is already uncomfortable in his own skin being crammed into a tuxedo and forced to do this bullshit impression.
Why did anyone think this was worth watching? And why, as we near the midpoint of season two, were the writers completely incapable of coming up with anything for Brian to do?
Also I’m pretty sure Kate isn’t wearing a bra.
The Reverend Merkin Muffley signals to Colonel Sanders that it’s time to play the wedding march.
The room is populated, once again, by extras we’ve never seen before and will never see in the future. Man, I bet this show sure wishes it had some characters in it.
Couldn’t they have brought in the Halloween party guests from two weeks ago, at least? That would add some suggestion that the Tanners actually know people.
Or the Ochmoneks. Why didn’t they invite the Ochmoneks? The wedding is literally being held next to their house, but they’re not allowed to come? All of these bullshit nobodies who don’t even have names are probably using their lawn as a parking lot, but they don’t get so much as an invitation?
Fuck. You. Tanners.
Wow, look at this happy couple. Can’t you just feel the love?
The ceremony begins, and everybody hears ALF sniffling loudly in the kitchen. Willie and Lynn stop the wedding to chase him out to the garage, where he says he just wanted to be a part of the family, which he says in every episode, right between two scenes in which he ruins shit and tries to kill everyone.
Lynn assures him that the only reason they make him hide in the shed is so that nobody will find him and take him away. They care about him. Then she mentions that the cat juice was fake, because of nothing.
ALF starts hiccuping loudly again, causing Kate and Kate Sr. to run out to the shed, too. Brian is left without comment at the wedding. Even his own family can’t think of anything to do with him.
Anyway, they discover more lines on the parchment, and learn that another cure for Melmacian hiccups is raw spinach. Lynn leaves to get some and comes back in a matter of seconds with a fistful. They make him eat it, and the episode is over.
The short scene before the credits is Wizard Beaver and the new Mrs. Kate Sr. Beaver leaving for their honeymoon. We didn’t get to see the wedding at all. Well, we saw the beginning, I guess, but then ALF made some noise and we went to the shed, to spend the rest of the episode with a puppet who had the hiccups.
For an episode in which Kate Sr. gets married, they sure didn’t want to write anything about Kate Sr. getting married.
Maybe if she was actually a character it would have been easy. But she’s not. So it was DIFFICULT DIFFICULT LEMON DIFFICULT
I recently read something online from a fan of ALF saying that season four is by far the worst. I didn’t read any specifics, but hot damn, if even the fans were disappointed by the final season — if this was considered at least passable in their eyes, and they still thought season four was garbage — we’re in for a hell of a ride.
Melmac Facts: Willie and Kate got married in 1967, in her mother’s house. ALF had an Uncle Tinkle and was once mauled by a Pit Gnarf. Melmacians have only 10 major organs, eight of which are stomachs. ALF has a tattoo. On Melmac, Pop-eye the Sailor Man is considered a geek. So…I guess they did get Earth entertainment up there?
* Barring shows like M*A*S*H* or Red Dwarf or something, in which there are uniforms or a general scarcity of outfits in keeping with the show’s context.
** The boxes, which we’ve seen before, are actually labelled ORBIT GUARDS, even though I think the Orbit Guard is only ever referred to in the singular. Maybe a relic of an earlier draft? Or some boner the props department pulled that nobody gave a shit about correcting? YOU DECIDE
*** Yet another thing ALF went back to grab instead of helping anybody else flee the exploding planet. This might be an interesting list to keep track of…
**** It’s called A Furry Home Companion, and I’m not sure if I’m embarrassed or not for laughing at that.