“Isn’t it Romantic?” represents something of a breather. At least, I assume it does. The reason I say that is that the next three episodes…well, I have reason to worry significantly about each of them. I won’t get into why (that might be spoiler territory), but it suffices to say that I think we’re in for a very problematic trilogy.
So, since this is just a “regular” episode, I guess I should be happy to have this half-hour of normalcy before all hell breaks loose. Then again, a half-hour of normalcy by ALF standards is a big pile of shit, and that’s exactly what we get here.
This show really can’t manage two good episodes in a row, can it? Every single time it manages to give us a solid installment, it’s immediately followed up with fucking garbage. To wit:
“For Your Eyes Only” > “Help Me, Rhonda”
“Going Out of My Head Over You” > “Lookin’ Through the Windows”
“La Cuckaracha” > “Come Fly With Me”
“Working My Way Back to You” > “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Island”
“Oh, Pretty Woman” > “Something’s Wrong with Me”
“Night Train” > “Isn’t it Romantic?”
I don’t know. I guess it’s better to spread out the good ones than to lump them all together, but all this does is make me feel like an idiot when I enjoy an episode and hope the show might be getting good.
This one opens with Willie watching Casablanca. He’s crying, and, well, of course he is. He’s lived an entire life in a sitcom so devoid of anything like human beings that when he encounters some piece of media that handles them well, his entire worldview falls apart.
There could be something made of the fact that Willie is watching a romantic movie alone, especially considering the plot of the episode that follows, but nothing is. Apart from “La Cuckaracha” and maybe another one or two episodes, the cold opens are totally unrelated to the main storylines. So much so that I wouldn’t doubt that they shot a bunch of them up front without any regard to which episodes they’d end up stitched to.
All of this is fine, but it does make for a few bizarre coincidences, where it feels like nobody on the show realized that the cold open could have resonated thematically with what was to come. Two pieces of the puzzle are sitting right next to each other, but nobody cared enough to put them together.
Anyway, “Night Train” is over which means ALF is back to being a dickcheese on legs. He walks in, spills popcorn everywhere, and switches Casablanca over to some Godzilla movie. Willie chides him not because ALF has no respect for anybody else who lives in this house, but because scary movies give ALF nightmares.
That much…I kind of like. Not Willie’s specific reaction, but the implication. This is another of those rare times that ALF gets to be a child. He wants to watch scary movies, he’s drawn to watching scary movies, but when he does, he’s terrified. We had a similar joke about ALF watching Aliens a few weeks ago, and way back in episode two a midget dressed like him skulked around the house trying to watch Psycho. I’m sure this is all coincidental — again, nobody’s bothering to fit the pieces together — but it’s a nice accidental character trait.
Then ALF sees a giant stop-motion penis on the TV and runs away screaming.
…what the hell is that? Did the writers not know what Godzilla even is? I’ll give you a clue: he’s not a fuckin’ brontosaurus.
I understand that they might not have wanted to license actual footage from a Godzilla movie just for this quick cutaway, but in that case, why show us the TV at all? Can’t we just hear Godzilla roar and then have ALF run out of the room? It wouldn’t have been funnier than this, but it certainly would have felt less stupid.
This is like pretending ALF is watching King Kong, then showing us a giant octopus. It’s a totally different animal, you shits.
Nobody on this show cares. I’m convinced. Three times a season the One Good Writer breaks into the office, leaves a completed script behind, and vanishes into the night. That’s the only plausible explanation.
The episode proper begins with Willie heading out to see a play alone. Kate’s staying behind so that ALF doesn’t wreck the house, which Willie fails to interpret as code for “I’m going get plowed by Mr. Ochmonek.”
They talk for a bit about how ALF needs to learn how to behave himself sometime. You know. Like in those nine or ten episodes where that already happened. Willie tries to convince Kate to come, but can you really decide to go to a major play in Los Angeles last minute, without a ticket? I mean, I guess you could find a scalper, but shouldn’t this conversation have happened weeks or months ago, when Willie bought his own ticket?
This would have made a lot more sense if Willie was going to a movie instead. You don’t need to buy tickets for those in advance, so that would have been the smarter setup.
But it’s not a movie. It’s a play, only so that Willie can say it’s called Cats and ALF can make a funny face.
So Willie leaves and ALF sits at the kitchen table throwing drinking glasses at Brian.
He’s trying to teach him to juggle, I guess, by throwing them at the kid. Brian manages to catch them, which is nice, and then Kate comes in and puts a stop to the horse shit. But what kind of joke was this?
Seriously. Step back from the fiction of the show, and think about the reality of what’s happening on stage. Benji Gregory could have gotten injured, very easily.
ALF isn’t a guy in a suit looking out through the eyes. He’s a puppet being operated by some schmoe beneath the floor boards. To be blindly pitching glassware at a fucking eight year old kid is beyond negligent; it’s fucking cruel.
What if a glass hit the kid in the face? What if he failed to catch it and it shattered on the countertop, and a big jagged shard hit him in the eye? What an irresponsible, despicable thing to do for the sake of a shitty joke.
For a while I was able to console myself with the assumption that the props were actually clear plastic, but when Kate gathers them up you can very clearly hear the clinking of glass. So either ALF had a truly fantastic foley artist (…erm, yeah), or the fuckbags who made this show really did just throw glass at a little boy.
Lynn comes home from her date with Lizard, and Brian’s disappointed because it’s his bed time and he doesn’t get to hear how many knuckles.
So, yeah, Lynn is still with Lizard. Which is odd, because in “Oh, Pretty Woman,” which came immediately after the episode in which we met Lizard, she was upset that a guy named Rick ditched her for a prettier girl.
Professional ALF review commenter Mark Moore posited that “Lizard” could just be Rick’s nickname, which, fair enough, but “Some Enchanted Evening” told us that Lizard’s real name is Eric.
So…it’s got to be a different guy, right? I guess I could conceivably imagine a guy named Eric being called Rick, but I’ve never actually encountered that. Rick is usually short for Richard. And even if that guy at the dance was Lizard after all, why would he have two nicknames? Do we really need to keep straight the fact that Eric / Rick / Lizard are all the same guy that we’ve seen a whopping once ever?
I don’t know. I think Rick and Lizard are two different people, which makes it pretty hard to feel sympathy for Lynn getting ditched at the dance when she was ditching her boyfriend to be there with some other guy in the first place.
Anyway, after a long night of Lizzing out, Lynn pours herself a good, stiff drink in the form of two fingers of apple juice.
Damn, girl, go easy. You got school in the morning!
Since Kate is out of the room getting Brian ready for bed,* ALF casually alludes to the fact that Willie and Kate aren’t doing well as a couple. And by “casually alludes to the fact that Willie and Kate aren’t doing well as a couple,” I mean he explicitly tells Lynn that they’re getting divorced.
She says that’s bullshit. He says fuck you. She says Fuck me? Fuck me? Fuck you, pal. Then they fuck each other and Lynn finishes her apple juice.
I don’t know. It’s just a lot of time-wasting, but I like this conversation because we get to see Andrea Elson reading cue cards while she waits for ALF to finish talking.
Man, for a show that took 100 hours per episode or whatever to film, this crap isn’t any more professional than what any community theater could throw together in 20 minutes.
In the next scene ALF is being nice, so he cooks Willie and Kate a fancy dinner, just like in that other episode where this exact thing happened.
It’s kind of weird, because the events of “Working My Way Back to You” are mentioned by Kate in “Isn’t it Romantic?” She refers to ALF blowing up the kitchen, which was indeed the climax of that much, much better episode. So while ALF is spoiling us with an incredibly rare acknowledgement of any kind of internal continuity, we’re also meant to forget that episode, because the joke here is that all the food ALF cooks is horrible, when that episode established that he’s the best chef in the family.
I really don’t care if ALF’s particular degree of culinary expertise isn’t consistent from episode to episode, but why bother reminding us of the episode that revealed him as a master chef if they don’t want us to remember that he’s a master chef?
There is one funny moment, though, when he makes Willie and Kate cover their eyes before entering the room, which causes Willie to talk into the doorjamb and hurt his arm. I find it more entertaining than I probably should that Paul Fusco just commanded Max Wright to walk into a wall for the sake of his personal entertainment.
So, yeah. ALF makes a whole buncha gross shit for them to eat, and he holds up a clearly empty bottle that we’re supposed to believe is champagne that he ruined by sticking a worm in it. I guess they didn’t want to fill the bottle with liquid because ALF is just a puppet, and it would therefore be all too easy for him to spill some on the table or the floor.
Which makes perfect sense, until you remember that the crew thought that having the puppet hurl glass at an eight year old in the previous scene was just fine.
The production staff on this show valued Benji Gregory’s safety less than they valued a cheap tablecloth. Let that sink in.
While they talk, Willie and Kate argue about whether Lynn is old enough to get fingered in a ski lodge hot tub instead of under a blanket while they watch movies with her family.
So, I guess that’s the whole problem. Lizard invited her on a ski trip, which might have been nice to hear about earlier than this, and this manufactured obstacle proves ALF unwittingly right. He thought Willie going to plays alone was proof that they were having marital problems. Really, though, they just have fun in shifts so that one of them can stay behind and keep ALF from destroying the few features of the house that he hasn’t destroyed already.
Whatever. They fight and storm out of the room. Seriously, what happened to the graceful storytelling of last week? What a piece of crap this one is.
ALF comes into Lynn’s…
He tells her to call 911, because Willie and Kate have been fighting all night, which he knows because he spends all of his nights under their bed hoping to hear them passionlessly hump.
HAVE I MENTIONED THAT THIS IS A GREAT SHOW FOR FAMILIES
Can anyone tell me who’s on that poster behind Lynn? Not that I think the writers gave any thought to what she’d listen to…I’m just curious.
ALF tries to rope Lynn into helping him reunite Willie and Kate. And, you know what? I like that this is becoming an ALF / Lynn story. I don’t like the story itself, or how it’s told, but I like that this is a perfectly realistic reason for two characters to work together…something we haven’t seen since “For Your Eyes Only.”
It works because they each have an investment in keeping Willie and Kate together. Lynn doesn’t want her parents to separate, and ALF needs a place to live / rape things. Again, this makes perfect sense.
But, well…didn’t Willie and Kate used to have another child? I can’t remember his name. Byron or something. He was kind of worthless, but you’d think if he’d ever be a natural fit for a plotline it would be this one.
Were the writers just hoping the kid would die in the glass throwing scene?
Actually, I guess not, since there was a little exchange afterward with Kate shuttling him out of the kitchen. Maybe when she said she was going to put him to sleep, she meant that in kind of an Al Pacino way.
ALF decides they’ll re-recreate the Tanner honeymoon, which will get them back together, because Melmac. Lynn tells him they went to Niagara Falls, and then the two of them work tirelessly to recreate that famous location detail for detail in their living room:
Okay, I get that they recreated the hotel rather than the actual falls…but then why bother telling us Willie and Kate went to Niagara Falls? Why not just say they went to…I dunno. Miami, or something. Some place that sounds nice, but doesn’t call to mind very specific images that we’d then expect to see recreated.
If you’re trying to create the illusion that you’re in Manhattan, we expect a view of the Statue of Liberty. If you’re trying to create the illusion that you’re in Paris, we expect a view of the Eiffel Tower. If you’re trying to create the illusion that you’re in Colorado, we expect a view of a bunch of kids getting shot by a madman.
It’s silly, sure, but those are kind of the only reasons to set scenes like this in those places; they contain these sorts of cross-cultural landmarks. When the landmarks are not there** it just feels like the writers didn’t give this any thought.
Why invent the idea that they went to Niagara Falls if the “recreation” isn’t going to take the specific image of that area into account at all? This could literally be any hotel anywhere in the world instead. Why pick a location that you can’t, or won’t, do anything with?
Willie and Kate come home, separately, from wherever they were. And…come to think of it, where was Kate? Willie was probably at work, but what does Kate do all day? This would have been a great opportunity to tell us how Kate spends her downtime*** aside from wetvac-ing alien shit out of the carpet.
Oh, okay. Brian is still alive, and he’s dressed as a bellhop, which makes the fake audience of dead people laugh, because they know that’s the closest this kid will ever get to being involved in comedy.
The fact that this is all they had Brian do in this elaborate scheme ties into why I think one of the next three episodes is going to be problematic…but that’s a story for another day.
Lynn is dressed as a maid, and she welcomes the Tanners to Niagara Falls.
I really, really, really love Anne Schedeen’s face here. Willie is playing along and seems to think it’s cute, and I’m pretty sure the idea is that Kate is in a similar state of mind, but I like to think of faces like this representing a bleeding-through of Schedeen’s frustrations with the show itself. Even when she’s given the chance to express something other than seething hatred, it still manages to come through.
God. Look how miserable this kid is. I know I’ve observed before that in almost any given screenshot from this show, the cast looks like they’re quietly inventorying all the ways they could possibly kill themselves, but I keep bringing it up because it keeps holding true.
At least Andrea Elson manages to smile here. Benji Gregory, growing up on the set of ALF, never learned how to do that.
I’m also realizing that my website is by far the largest collection of ALF screenshots on the web.
Now I’ve forgotten how to smile, too.
Then ALF goes ballistic and starts licking Kate’s clitoris.
No…he’s actually trying to carry her over the threshold, because Melmac or whatever, but even so, Willie’s just standing there while an alien beats his face repeatedly against his wife’s crotch BECAUSE THIS IS A GREAT FAMILY SHOW FOR FAMILIES
Kate’s even shouting at ALF to stop doing it, but he ignores her, holds onto her hips, and keeps forcibly mashing her vagina against his face.
Yet another great thing to normalize for kids. Hey, little tykes! If you’re fiddling around with somebody’s private parts and they tell you to stop…don’t! You’re just being funny! Dig in!!
Jesus Christ. How rapey is this fucking show?
Anyway, when ALF grows tired of nose-fucking Willie’s wife, he shows them the room. He redecorated it to look exactly like their old hotel room, which he was able to do because for some reason they had the furniture in the basement, and yes, that’s bullshit, but jesus christ who cares ALF just raped this lady.
Kate notices the glowing HOTEL sign out the window and asks where he got it. He says he found their HAPPY NOEL sign in the basement and modified that. Believe it or not, the fact that there’s no T in HAPPY NOEL isn’t the stupidest thing about this.
No, the stupidest thing about this is that Willie gets angry at him, because he bought that sign for Lynn on her first Christmas.
Seriously, come on. Who gets a fucking baby a gigantic neon sign for Christmas? She’s not even a year old, so not only will she not be able to read it, but she won’t know what the fuck it means when this asshole tries to explain it to her. Also, staring directly into massive neon tubing cannot be good for an infant’s eyes. And what if she tried putting her mouth on it, or even touching it? She’d be shocked and / or burned horribly.
None of this is the joke, by the way.
We just hear that ALF desecrated Lynn’s first Christmas gift and we’re supposed to feel like he did something hilariously uncouth. Frankly if I was in somebody’s basement and saw a gigantic HAPPY NOEL sign, the very last fucking thing I’d think was that it was the first gift he gave to his newborn daughter. He might as well have gotten her a box of nails.
In the epilogue to “Night Train,” I believed Willie and Kate were in love.
Because in just a few lines, and with only one half of the conversation audible, there was a sense of honest relief that everything was okay. I’m glad we heard Schedeen’s side of the conversation, because if we’d heard Max Wright’s it may have been markedly less effective.
Here, even though the entire episode is about the fact that they’re in love, I don’t believe it.
Maybe it’s because these two lack chemistry. Schedeen’s a pretty solid actress, so I believe her when she’s frustrated, I believe her when she’s happy, and I believe her when she says she’s glad she married Willie. But when they’re in the room together, I don’t believe it. And I really do have to blame Max Wright.
Schedeen found a person inside of her character, and so when she acts and reacts, that’s what we see. Max Wright has no interest in doing anything but slurring his lines in the laziest way possible, which not only means we never see the “person” inside of Willie Tanner, but it makes it impossible for the person inside of Kate Tanner to connect with him. There’s simply nothing there. He leaves her hanging.
Strand Willie in the woods and Kate can gush all she likes about how much she loves him. Put him in the same room, though, and it rings false, because Wright’s not holding up his end of the deal.
This is probably also why Kate’s scenes with her mother are so lousy; without chemistry, it doesn’t matter how hard one actress is trying. We need everybody to try, and ALF fails to inspire its cast to do so.
Anyway, enough of that shit. Willie remembers that on their honeymoon the water pipes exploded just as they were about to kiss, so of course ALF appears in the window and ejaculates all over them with a garden hose.
The fake audience applauds this brilliant climax, wherein Willie said, “Ahhha suuure do hhope AHHLF d-…doesn’t spray-us with a gahhardennhose…” and then ALF sprays them with a garden hose.
It’s bad enough to have a laugh track yukking it up every time you make a shitty joke, but how egotistical do you have to be to make that fake audience applaud them?
Whatever. The hose shorts out the neon sign and ruins the bedroom, then the firefighters come and blast Willie with a firehose. All of this happens off camera, of course, and in the next scene we see Willie and Kate thanking ALF for doing something so sweet.
The episode ends with Willie sick on the couch and ALF tries to kiss him and holy God do I hate this show for the love of Christ my god
Melmac Facts: ALF refers to the destruction of Melmac as a “nuclear booboo.” That doesn’t necessarily rule out war, as even if that fateful nuke was detonated deliberately, that in itself could be reasonably be referred to as a “mistake.” Melmac had a National Rag on the Martians Day. (But…what nation? And didn’t ALF say before that Martians were extinct?) On Melmac, playing Tug of War with a cat takes your mind off your troubles, but doesn’t solve anything, and the best way to get a couple back together is to recreate the happiest moment of their marriage. Duke of the Mist is the hotel where Willie and Kate shared their honeymoon, and they checked in on July 11, 1967. Willie has an Uncle Ned. Either Willie or Kate has an Aunt Agnes. ALF had a Grandpa Satchel who used to say “Don’t look back; something might be broken.”
* Do parents really have to get eight-year-old kids ready for bed? I mean, maybe check on them to make sure they brushed their teeth and didn’t just run the water, sure, but actual supervision? Brian seems a bit old for that, but then again I don’t have experience raising kids of my own. I hate mine and make a point to never see them.
** I’ve used this example before, but only because I really love it. In Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums there’s a scene in which the Statue of Liberty should be clearly visible…but due to some careful blocking, the landmark is completely obscured by one of the characters. It’s there…we feel it…we expect it…but the fact that it’s artistically withheld becomes a kind of joke in itself. Anderson shot the scene on location, presumably because he thought something would be lost if the statue wasn’t really there. What I’m trying to say is that you don’t always need to do something overt with the recognizable landmarks of your setting, just that if you’re not going to show them at all, there needs to be some reason for that. Otherwise, all we’re going to do is wonder why you chose that setting in the first place.
*** Though, why was she gone at all while Willie was at work? Wasn’t the fact that one of them had to keep an eye on ALF at all times kind of the premise of this episode?