Reading too deeply into these things since 1981
Header

ALF Reviews: “Hail to the Chief” (season 2, episode 11)

July 24th, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

When I started this review series, I tried not to look at plot summaries. I saw a few, because that’s what happens when you use the internet for anything ever, but I more or less forgot them quickly. A few specific plots, however, stuck in my head, either because they sounded monumentally stupid, or because some other folks warned me about them.

As I mentioned in last week’s review, three of those episodes come right in a row, starting now. This is the Trilogy of Terror, and I’m worried about every one of these.

“Hail to the Chief” gets the party started with a fantasy episode about ALF running for president. I’m already not a fan of fantasy episodes of good shows, so tossing an even less consequential plot than usual into this garbage factory isn’t exactly promising.

I don’t know. As much as I love Futurama and The Simpsons, the Anthologies of Interest (and its less-structured relatives) and the Treehouses of Horror just don’t do much for me.

It’s not that I hate them. The good ones make me laugh. The lousy ones are over with quickly enough. So, really, I’m not complaining…I’m just not the kind of guy that gets excited about fiction within fiction. I tune in to shows I enjoy so that I can spend some time with those characters, in that setting. Scrambling up the characters and swapping out the setting, therefore, leaves me a bit less engaged.

I guess the thing is that I’m not interested in the question of “What if Alan Partridge was actually a medieval knight? And his catchphrases would all be slightly altered to be period-appropriate puns. Wouldn’t that be funny?”

Well, maybe. Maybe not.

The point is that I found the character funny already, which is why I’m tuning in, so the question of whether or not I’d care about this alternate version of the character that I’ll never see again is kind of moot.

Then again, ALF sucks. Alternate versions of these characters may well lead to something fun, and, surely enough, “Hail to the Chief” opens quite nicely.

It starts with the camera following Willie from the kitchen door over to the table, where it comes to a rest as Willie sits down. I think every single time the camera does something interesting on this show, I take note. It means somebody cared.

There’s no reason the camera couldn’t have been stationary, with Willie stepping into frame and then sitting down. In fact, that’s pretty much always how things happen on this show, and that’s okay.

It’s unnecessary movement, but unnecessary movement is charming. Somebody’s fiddling with the language of the medium, and I like that. It’s not a visual highlight or anything — though such unexpected camera behavior has been in the past, as in “La Cuckaracha” — but it’s nice. It’s something somebody tried, and that’s why it stands out. Somebody tried.

Anyway, ALF is filling out a voter registration form, which causes him to muse on the concept of the pencil. This is also nice, because it makes sense that something we’d see as mundane might actually be pretty fascinating to an alien visitor. Willie’s not an alien, but he is a nerd, so when ALF brings up the question, he excitedly replies that he’s heard many theories about where pencils came from.

ALF says, “How about the shortest one?” Willie, deflated, replies, “The stationery store.”

This is nice, because ALF gets to be a dick without being too much of one (being disinterested in long theories about the evolution of the pencil is something we can sympathize with), Willie gets to be excitable and disappointed in fast succession, and a show-opening warmup gag flows naturally from the DNA of both characters. That’s a great start, so it’s a shame that it’s all downhill from here.

Then Willie reminds him that he can’t vote, so filling out that form is fucking stupid, at which point ALF launches into an elaborate plan that would allow him to vote, which hinges upon him marrying Lynn.

You know, I didn’t mention it in that review, but “Night Train” also had a joke about ALF saying he’d marry Lynn. Maybe that was the original idea for a heartwarming series finale, instead of the one we actually got, with ALF getting hauled off screaming to an underground vivisection facility.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

It’s the night of the presidential debate, and ALF has hidden all the effective satire. Lynn is going to the mall, even though this is the first election she’ll be able to vote in.* She’s heading to the mall with her friend Julie, because Lizard got a job at the new Wiener On A Stick place.

Why is Lizard working at Wiener On A Stick? This guy successfully performs brain surgery on dying animals. Won’t some vet hire him? He really needs to work a shitty fast-food job in the mall? This dude’s got a skillset. Why are they treating him like any other high school dipshit?

Also, Lizard being a more or less consistent boyfriend for Lynn in season two makes “Oh, Pretty Woman” even more odd. Why was she at the dance with Rick? Did they really write her a new boyfriend just for one episode? Was that script left over from season one, and they never bothered to fix the guy’s name?

Willie comes home, announcing that he found Lizard’s wiener delicious. Kate’s mad, but it’s not Willie’s fault; he called to tell her he’d be eating dinner at the mall. By the way, ladies, if your husband calls to say he’d rather eat dinner at the mall than with you and your children, you’re about to be served divorce papers. Just sayin’.

Willie asks ALF why he never writes down his phone messages, to which ALF replies, “They’re hardly quotable.” That’s actually funny.

Then Brian says, “Hey! The presidential debate’s starting!” which is the final proof anyone should need that the staff had absolutely no clue how to write lines for an eight-year-old boy.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

We see the candidates: Senator Hossenfeffer and Congressman Peal, two assholes we’ll never see again even though one of them is destined to become the leader of the free world. There’s also a John McLaughlin cameo for all the ladies watching at home.

It’s odd to me that they’d go for a fictional president. Usually when a show does that, it’s because that particular fictional universe requires it. Think The West Wing. It’s a clue that the world we’re watching is very much like the one we occupy, and may even see events unfold that are similar to the ones we’ve seen, but they’re not the same. Things can, and often do, turn out differently. It’s a chance to see reality through a distorted lens, and an easy way to distort that lens is to swap out the one person that the entire world knows by name: the President of the United States of America.

Here, though, I’m not sure what’s going on. We’ve already seen (or…heard) Ronald “Win One on the Crapper” Reagan, so for a while we were in actual America…and now we’re in bizarro America.

Even stranger is the fact that this episode aired nowhere near a presidential election. It aired in 1987…exactly midway through Reagan’s second term. There wouldn’t be another presidential election until 1989, when George Bush I ran against (and defeated) Michael Dukakis.

So, what year is it in the ALF universe? Is this taking place in 1989? Was Reagan impeached in this fictional wonderland that actually sounds really awesome now? Ugh, who knows. TV shows air their Halloween episodes around Halloween and their Christmas episodes around Christmas. Surely it can’t be too much to ask that they air their election day episodes in a fucking election year.

One of the candidates — I don’t care who — says, “As Joe Biden once said, we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” The fake audience laughs at the misquote, but it’s really strange to watch this while Diamond Joe is the real-world Vice President. It still doesn’t make it a good joke, but it does make it one that, all at once, could play today without any alteration. In fact, it may be even funnier today, albeit for a different reason. It seems slightly prescient.

I’m not familiar enough with Biden’s history to know what kind of figure he cut in late-80s American politics, so somebody do please fill me in. I know how this joke plays right now, but I’m genuinely curious to know how it played in 1987.

Paul Fusco launches into his soap-boxing bullshit, just like he did with the power of imagination and / or pig-headedness in “Weird Science.” This time, he’s fixing the world’s problems, through the brown bathmat he wears on his hand.

ALF decisively declares the way to balance a budget (“Spend less than you make.”) and achieve world peace (by telling both sides to kiss and make up).

In the later years of M*A*S*H*, Alan Alda began using his role as “Hawkeye” Pierce to rattle off thinly-veiled commentary on the state of the world, but M*A*S*H* was a legitimately great show, Alda a legitimately intelligent man, and “Hawkeye” a legitimately nuanced character.

I think I can leave it to you to figure out why this similar impulse isn’t working for ALF.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

That night ALF walks into the master bedroom and announces that he can see Kate’s tits through her bedclothes.

Some other stuff happens but it’s just aimless, vaguely political bullshit intended to kill time before the big fantasy sequence.

There’s a joke about ALF telling them not to lock the door, because he might have some more questions to ask later, and then Willie runs cartoonishly over to the door and makes a big, exaggerated fuss about trying to lock it. It’s fucking awful.

In the comments for last week’s review, FelixSH pointed out that Willie always looks like he’s on the verge of falling asleep. I thought that was funny, but then moments like this remind me that he’s no better when he’s flailing around like an imbecile. Max Wright has two settings as an actor, and neither of them are anything like human.

On his way to bed Willie mumbles, “At least Mr. Ed stayed in the barn at night,” which is indeed true. To my knowledge Mr. Ed never hid under the mattress to listen to Wilbur fuck.

Willie gets into bed and Kate is already asleep. She’s not even pretending in order to keep Willie’s oily tendrils off of her; she’s really sleeping, and we enter a dream sequence to prove it.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

Obviously the dream is Kate and ALF running against each other for president, because obviously the dream is Kate and ALF running against each other for president.

John McLaughlin is there, which makes sense. When you have a guest star so well-known for his comic timing, you make sure to use him as much as possible.

Johnny “The Bod” McLaughlin asks ALF about the environment, at which point ALF starts rapping.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

You think I’m fucking with you?

I am not fucking with you.

My solution to pollution will help your constitution, so send a contribution, and start the revolution, n’huh n’huh.

Kate, speaking for everyone who has ever lived, tells him to knock it the fuck off. John McLaughlin replies, “Quiet. Rap-Master ALF is on a roll.” Which strikes me as something that must have been said at least once a week to silence the One Good Writer.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

ALF then gives McLaughlin a Wiener On A Stick. I was picturing a corndog of some kind, but apparently a Wiener On A Stick is just an uncooked Oscar Mayer frank on a wooden skewer. Yum.

His real “solution to pollution” is to catch all the factory smoke in big balloons, and yeah, it’s dumb, but it’s a dream sequence so whatever.

But then, just like that, the dream is over.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

Kate wakes up mumbling, “ALF, ALF.” He replies, “That’s my name! Ask me again and I’ll tell you the same!”

Then the same exact thing happens immediately.

This seems almost like it was supposed to be a catchphrase, so I don’t know. Maybe he says it in every episode from now on.

Funnily enough, I haven’t heard much in the way of his other catchphrases. “Ha! I kill me!” and “Yo!” come to mind, but I think he also said, “No problem!” or some shit, too. Maybe these were just things the marketing department used to sell dolls, because he certainly doesn’t seem be saying this stuff very often in the show.

ALF asks Kate why the moderator on TV didn’t ask any of the tough questions, such as “Are you going to be a good president, or a bad president?” Kate asks what kind of question that is, and ALF says, “Well, if he says a bad president, I’m not going to vote for him.”

I laughed at that…but the laugh track didn’t. I actually thought it was one of the better jokes in this episode, but I guess it wasn’t a joke at all. That’s one good thing about a laugh track: you can always tell when the writers aren’t trying to be funny.

Here, I guess, they weren’t. Was this supposed to be some touching moment of insightful innocence? If so, let me be the first to say fucking fuck you.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

Kate goes to sleep again, and this time ALF is the moderator, I guess because she couldn’t dream up any more jokes about ALF being a candidate.

It’s here that Kate reveals her full name: Katherine Daphne Halligan-Tanner. You know, way back in the middle of season one (“I’ve Got a New Attitude”), I made this smartass remark:

We can have an episode with ALF and Willie trapped together in a car and learn literally nothing about them from anything that they say, but strap Willie to a rocket and fire him at the moon and have ALF travel through time to save him and that’ll be the scene in which we learn that Brian’s middle name is Frank.

And now, look. We need to have a dream sequence that gets revised as a second dream sequence in an episode about ALF running for president to find out that Kate’s middle name is Daphne.

Fuck.

Anyway, ALF tricks her because he asks if her plans to deal with unemployment will help his brother get a job, then when she says yes he reveals that he has no brother** and starts calling her a liar.

They bicker for a bit about whether or not she’s a liar, because even Kate’s dreams are padded for time. When she wakes up she sees ALF putting her jewelry on.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

This episode is fucking terrible.

In fairness, there is a funny moment here. Willie wakes up and asks what’s going on, and ALF says, “Go back to sleep, Willie. This doesn’t concern you.”

Whatever. I laughed. Anything that has Paul Fusco reminding Max Wright that he’s worthless gets a pass in my book.

Kate goes back to sleep so we can have a third God damned dream sequence. Jesus Christ, ALF, commit to the fantasy or just fucking forget it already.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

This time, ALF is Kate’s image consultant, and, man, that really is my nightmare. ALF having total control over Kate’s character. That’s downright bone-chilling.

Anyway, the Tanners show up to congratulate Kate on her debate.

Willie says: “You were great, honey!”
Lynn says: “Yeah, mom! You were terrific!”
Brian says: “…neat!”

Again, no laughter, so I guess her son’s crippling autism haunts her dreams.

Why is Kate running for president the only consistent thing in these sequences? Wouldn’t it be better if ALF were the one running, and maybe Kate’s role keeps changing? You know, she’s terrified of him getting elected, so in each dream she’s the opponent, the moderator, the image consultant, whomever else, each time trying to make ALF fail and look like an idiot in front of the voting public, who only end up loving him more? Make it spiral out of control as she tries to reveal him for the idiot he is, unintentionally securing his win every time?

Man, that sounds like a much funnier episode than ALF wearing silly costumes.

Then we cut to another dream within the third dream, because why the fuck not.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

Post-image consultation, Kate’s dressed like some loose secretary from the 1920s and goes by the name Sigourney Tanner.

I’m sorry but…come on. Was this the show’s way of punishing Anne Schedeen for making the rest of the cast look bad? I actually feel embarrassed for her. She’s the one human being who found something to work with in this shitheap of a show, and this is what she gets? She did not deserve this.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

She wakes up again because Jesus Christ this episode is awful. I do think you could organize each of these screengrabs of her waking up in order and come away with a pretty good illustration of a woman sliding quickly into a state of abject misery, though.

Anyway, while she’s awake ALF says he’s going to run for president, so they could sell shit like this in stores.

And then we get another fucking, fucking, fucking dream.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

Hey, look, ALF is president. I hope you think that’s a funny enough joke on its own, because it certainly doesn’t go anywhere from here.

Most interesting to me are the pictures behind him. The one on the left is probably his family, so I wish we could see it better, but the one on the right is a photo from the dream sequence we saw in “Help Me, Rhonda,” since that’s the only time they ever built a Melmac set.

The more I think about this, the stranger it gets. How is a photograph of one character’s dream appearing in the background of a different character’s dream? Man, I thought Inception was complicated.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

Kate comes in, having been defeated by ALF, which means her dreams circled all the way back around to the idea of running against him. You know how I always say these scripts feel like first drafts? This is why I always say these scripts feel like first drafts.

ALF offers her popcorn, which he popped “over the Eternal Flame,” and I’m glad, because I was getting really worried the episode would end before we got a joke about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Kate presses him about what he’s done for the country, and special guest star Paul Fusco discusses through ALF how he was able to solve homelessness and unemployment in one fell swoop: he built houses for each of the homeless people, and everyone’s employed because they’re building those houses. #fusco2016

There’s a bunch more crap about what a great leader ALF is, and then I guess somebody on staff drew this…

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

…so they put it on the screen as a static image for a while with no punchline.

How nice of this show to produce its own fan-art. It really saves the audience the trouble of ever having to give a crap.

Kate wakes up again. Why not.

Seriously, as many times as she falls asleep and wakes up, it’s less an episode flowing from beginning to end than one that just keeps giving up and starting over.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

She and ALF talk for a bit about how she dreamed he was president, and he was right about everything, and really good at finding logical solutions to complicated problems, and also she’s not sure if there’s a man out there named Paul Fusco, but if there is she’s sure he has a great body, a peerless sense of humor, and genitals that taste like heaven.

Then she pats his hand and they agree that a country that adored ALF would be a truly beautiful thing, I guess, and the audience claps because, hey, that’s right, ALF is just a big bowl of frosted applesauce. He’s a true national treasure, and anyone who doesn’t appreciate that hates freedom.

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"

The short scene before the credits is really short. In fact, that picture is basically it. Kate is snoozing on ALF’s lap, and while that’s an incredibly cute image, it’s tempered somewhat by the knowledge of how many times ALF has raped this lady.

Whatever. It’s over. It was fucking terrible, and yet, somehow, not quite as bad as I feared.

It was oversimplistic and uninspired and offensively didactic, but at least it stopped short of ending with ALF turning to the camera and saying, “Hey kids, we all had a lot of fun this week laughing at politics. But you know what’s no laughing matter? The democratic process. Be sure to register to vote, even though major elections won’t be held for another two years. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to shit some cat bones. HA!!”

In last week’s comments, FelixSH said that he thought “Hail to the Chief” was their attempt to do with the ALF / Kate dynamic what “Night Train” did with ALF and Willie. Sure enough, the ending scene here with Kate sleeping on him does kind of support that notion enough that I’m willing to buy it…but man, they will never top the ALF / Kate magic of “Working My Way Back to You,” will they?

That should have been left as the final word on their relationship; a kind of passive aggressive stalemate that also represents a comfortable stasis. That was good. Kate dreaming of ALF running for president, and then dreaming that he’s not, and then dreaming that he’s still not, and then dreaming that he did run and was elected…yeah, it doesn’t lead to the ending this episode thought it earned.

Instead of dreaming that ALF was awesome, what if she dreamed that ALF was a piece of shit, damaging the country, and…no, wait. Forget that. Ditch the entire pointless presidential bullshit and just have Kate experience a nightmare about ALF accidentally killing Willie or something. Something that bothers her…but then the next day ALF does something really nice for someone and she realizes she likes him and it was just a stupid dream.

I don’t know. That probably wouldn’t be a great episode, but it’s hard to think of anything that wouldn’t improve “Hail to the Chief” as it stands.

It’s over, though. And next week…

…oh, fuck. Why did I have to go and remind myself of what comes next week?

It’s “ALF’s Special Christmas.” And it’s a motherfucking hour long. May God have mercy and split this into two shorter episodes on the DVD. …please.

Melmac Facts: On Melmac ALF was a registered Democat, which was both a political party and a doo-wop group. Also, if they didn’t understand something on Melmac, they broke it.


—–
* This puts Lynn’s age at 18, so even though she’s still a teenager, I guess we can take solace in the fact that ALF is no longer trying to diddle an underage girl. Now he’s the socially acceptable kind of sex pest. In researching voting ages, I did discover that some states allow 17 year olds to register to vote as long as they’ll turn 18 by or on election day, but California isn’t one of those states, so Lynn is officially 18.

** This doesn’t go in the Melmac Facts because this is just Kate’s dream. I wouldn’t take it as definitive proof that ALF doesn’t have a brother just yet. Look at me. All givin’ shits.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 You can leave a response, or trackback.

31 Responses

  • Ridley says:

    It’s “ALF’s Special Christmas.”

    I’ve hidden all the eggs.

  • ERK says:

    This was one of the episodes I had a hard time sitting through. Any of them that have these awful dream sequences are the absolute worst. ALF is terrible enough when it’s set in the show’s own reality, but it’s far worse when they put Alf and the Tanners in some pointless dream or some parody sequence. It just feels like the writers are scraping the bottom of the barrel of storylines when this is what they decided was worthy enough to air on TV.

    Just wait until you get to the 2-part Tonight Show parody titled “Tonight, Tonight” in the early part of the 3rd season. Not sure if anybody’s warned you about that one yet, but it’s a whole hour of what is some of the worst television I’ve ever witnessed. Painfully unfunny, completely boring, and atrociously written, but I actually sat through it all just to see just how low the ALF show could get. It has to be the worst episode of the series. So buckle-up for that one… it makes “Hail to the Chief” look like a masterpiece.

  • Tane says:

    I still can’t believe this episode
    I mean every episode before this has tried to justify ALF’s actions in some way or another, but this one seems like it’s outright trying to make ALF look like a saint with so little subtlety that it’s painful…… Maybe the show would be better if Willie was the alien.

  • Sarah Portland says:

    “It’s the night of the presidential debate, and ALF has hidden all the effective satire.”
    Great. I snorted into my lunch. You owe me a new yogurt, Phil.

    Also:
    http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/06/24/history-of-the-pencil/

  • Mark Moore says:

    Maybe Kate’s full name isn’t canon either, since it’s mentioned in a dream.

    Man, this episode seemed more pointless than usual.

  • Dan_the_Shpydar says:

    I hate to be _that guy_, but this error caused me physical pain …
    .
    “There wouldn’t be another presidential election until 1989…”
    .
    No.
    .
    1988.
    .
    I love ya Phil, but … ouch. ;)
    .
    Regarding the Biden joke, in some respects it may have been funnier then, as though Biden was a well-known of Congress at the time member (at least to people who followed politics) , the fact that the quote would be attributed to essentially a random senator adds to the humor of the character’s gaffe.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      Jesus. I’ll leave it for the sake of posterity but, yeah, you’re right. Definite carelessness on my part, but I’ll chalk it up to presidential elections being held in November, while inaugurations happen in January. So, yes, well spotted! Bush I won the 88 election, but took office in 89.

      The real reason I’m embarrassed here? I remember the Decision ’88 skits with Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz so well. I had no excuse!

      • Dan_the_Shpydar says:

        Heh, it’s all good. You are certainly entitled to a flub or two every now and again, especially since it must take all your willpower to keep from jamming knitting needles into your eyes as you selflessly plow through reviewing these episodes to provide us all with ALF-tastic entertainment.
        .
        By the way, that screencap of Anne Scheeden with her one eye half-closed is what i imagine was her normal reaction upon reading the episode scripts each week. :D

  • RaikoLives says:

    “In the later years of M*A*S*H*, Alan Alda began using his role as “Hawkeye” Pierce to rattle off thinly-veiled commentary on the state of the world, but M*A*S*H* was a legitimately great show, Alda a legitimately intelligent man, and “Hawkeye” a legitimately nuanced character.”

    This could be, to me, the greatest thing I’ve ever seen you say. Well, read. Read that you’d typed. I keep saying how much I love M*A*S*H and I hear how “Alan Alda got all preachy at the end” and I think that, really, by then he’d earned the right to write and direct as he wanted. Plus, as you say, he’s an intelligent man and a nuanced character on a truly great show.

    I’m actually watching M*A*S*H right now.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      Preachiness isn’t an inherently bad thing, and I wish people would take that into account before bringing it up as some dismissive black mark against later-era MASH. I share your frustration.

      Honestly I’d hold up MASH as the gold standard of how to work overt real-world commentary into a fictional universe.

      …and, thinking on it, I’d also hold up MASH as the gold standard of lots of other things. Blending comedy with tragedy. Building a roster of rich secondary characters. Making the most of a sitcom budget. Dealing with the departure of a central actor. Wrapping up a long-running show.

      MASH was fucking great.

      • RaikoLives says:

        That finale is one of the few movies that can consistently make me cry. Like, every time. And do not get me started on Lt. Col. Henry Blake’s leaving of the show.

        • Philip J Reed says:

          I almost mentioned that. The finale…it probably won’t surprise too many folks to know that it makes be cry like a baby.

          But Henry? Ohhhhhhhh fuck, Henry.

          I remember being…eight or nine maybe? No older than 10. And I’d gotten in the habit of watching old reruns on a local station that had nothing else to show. That’s how I saw most of The Odd couple and The Honeymooners. At one point they cycled in MASH, which I was already familiar with, and that was great, because I liked the show.

          And at some point, after a few weeks or months of catching the late-night reruns as I could, that episode. I honestly could not believe it. I couldn’t sleep after it, and to this day I can’t even think about it without feeling it all over again.

          Excellent, excellent, excellent piece of television. And 100% earned.

          • RaikoLives says:

            The fact that people got pretty riled up about it – the end of Season 3 – still mystifies me. The fact that no character – major or secondary – had died, in a show about a war, after 60-odd episodes is just amazing. Like, nowadays, we’re much more used to it but I suppose in the 70’s they weren’t really prepared for it? On a “family” show? Apparantly even on the day of filming they were unsure how it was going to play out, and only brought out the script for the cast for that final scene a little earlier. Some of the cast were a little upset, expecially since they then went and had the farewell party for Mclean Stevens. But the emotions the cast show in that scene are pretty intense.

            Also, I heard Alan Alda tell a story about the night the finale aired. The cast went out for dinner and the streets were empty. Abandoned. Everyone was watching it. Even today it still ranks as one of the most highly rated shows in US TV history. At least in scripted shows since “The Big Game” does pretty well each year. Nowadays, with such a fractured audience it’s unlikely that anything will be that big again. Breaking Bad, Sopranos, Scrubs, How I Met Your Mother… None of them pull the figures of M*A*S*H with the rise of cable and digital and streaming.

  • Megan says:

    I’m not familiar enough with Biden’s history to know what kind of figure he cut in late-80s American politics, so somebody do please fill me in. I know how this joke plays right now, but I’m genuinely curious to know how it played in 1987.

    At the time, Joe Biden would have been best known for alleged plagiarism of a speech he gave, I don’t remember the details.

    Also, as long as we’re doing M*A*S*Hchat, is it just me or did Hawkeye’s perceived “antagonists” become appreciably more nuanced throughout the show’s run? I mean, Larry Linville’s cool and all, but Frank Burns was a cartoon character by the time he left, and I seem to recall Colonel Blake’s authority was mainly respected when he didn’t exercise it. Compare that to Potter, who lives and breathes Army while still getting respect from Hawkeye (and, by extension, the audience), and Winchester, who is allowed to be both an insufferable asshole and good at what he does, a fair portion of the time. I dig that kind of nuance–I like my insufferable asshole characters to be also smart and competent, and my improbably nice and good-natured doctors to also derive unseemly glee from the pranks he pulls, and my aw-shucks naifs to also be weaselly little perverts (I don’t think it would have been a bad thing for Radar to leave sooner, honestly).

    • RaikoLives says:

      You are, of course, completely correct. As the show and the creators matured they seemed to know what was “needed” to make the show work. If Radar had gone a season earlier, I’d have been cool, but his whole “crappy leave and crappy send off” work great, for me. Kinda like Henry he has to leave them doing what they do. At least Henry got a farewell though. Winchester is just great. He becomes a little cartoony towards the end, too, but being a really good surgeon so that Hawkeye can’t constantly berate him for it is nice. Hate the man, not the Doctor. Just watched the intro for BJ and I have to say I do somewhat prefer him to Trapper. Hawkeye and Tap were almost too similar. BJ is able to be a part of Hawk’s world, but he’s also a step out of it too. Not sleeping around and getting (as) drunk. Oh god I can feel an essay starting… I love M*A*S*H.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      Did not know of the plagiarism thing! That actually makes this a decently funny joke, which is good, because it’s the only joke either disposal candidates gets to make.

      And yeah, it’s amazing how an already great show managed to turn cast changes into a strength rather than a weakness. In almost all cases (Cheers being a notable exception) when the show loses an actor, the impulse is to plug the hole and move along. MASH, several times, actually used cast departures as an excuse to evolve. Whether it’s more nuanced characters, as you’ve mentioned, or completely new dynamics (best represented by Colonel Potter).

      Jesus Christ. How many comedy shows care anywhere near that much anymore?

      • Sarah Portland says:

        None. But I feel like M*A*S*H was not an ordinary comedy. It was more tragicomedy, if you ask me. Sure, they had their crappy canned laughter (which you didn’t need to tell you when something was funny), but they also had their Things That Make You Go Hmmmm moments. It was a group of people struggling to maintain their sense of humanity amidst a war, which if done right, can result in something fantastic, something that cherishes the small, lovely moments of life, and allows you to ride the roller-coaster of sadness with the characters.
        On a slightly different note, I never liked M*A*S*H as a kid. But as an adult, I’d let Alan Alda read the dictionary to me.

        • RaikoLives says:

          The copy of M*A*S*H I… uh… “obtained” has the canned laughter tracks removed. It is a massive improvement. It was originally intended to not have it, which was why it was filmed the way it was. There’s not much “waiting for the laughter” like there is in a lot of canned laughter shows.

          I think the episode after Radar leaves, when we get word that BJ’s daughter Erin meets him at the airport and calls Radar “Daddy”, is my favourite acknowledgement of a character’s departure. Hunnicut getting thrown for a loop by this news, his getting drunk and just having the whole weight of being there become too much gave the usually stoic and somewhat reserved character a real shot of humanity. He was holding it all back quite well but missing out on the little things like that was the hardest thing for him. Like, it wasn’t some giant permanent change, but it was nice to see. Plus, then we got Klinger having to learn to be Radar, which was a nice through line for the season.

          • Philip J Reed says:

            Any idea if the complete series DVD box set has the option for no laugh track? Because that might just cause me to buy it right now.

            • RaikoLives says:

              The customer reviews on Amazon make mention of “with or without laughtrack” on the collection, and that the collection is just the individual season releases all-in-one. So, from that, yeah. It seems so. The big collection also comes with the Robert Altman film that started the whole thing, which is a nice bonus. The song which would become the M*A*S*H theme is very dark when you hear it with lyrics.

      • Alana says:

        I hated MASH so intensely as a child that my parents literally made me sit in one place and watch it is a punishment for bad behavior. I decided to try it as an adult and I can see why everyone loves it, though I personally watched it obxe and avoid it again now if anything else is on. Except westerns which I despise most. I personally enjoy shows like Alf as much as shows like Good Times& All in the Family. Worlds apart, but stupidity can entertain also. I never liked Green Acres until I got past the stupidity and saw it fully. I also really wish and hope sometime you review a decent show like all in the family, and maybe another cheesy but still one I love show, maybe One day at a Time, or WKRP. Thatd be cool as I enjoy your reviews immensely.

  • Edward says:

    And now ALF is the official spokesman of DirecTV Latin America! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQg_L_URQS0 They’ll show “the best 30 episodes” of the show, starting from Monday the 4th on OnDirecTV, a channel meant for subscribers of DirecTV Latin America.

  • Alana says:

    I must say I look forward to your Alf reviews each week to the point I wish you did more than one per, and wish you did a second show at the same time also. More hilarity to read for me. I may be one of the few, but I do not need to “care” abt a character before I am invested in their situation. I can know next to nothing and thats fine, or everything and thats fine also. I do more reading than most,and highly literate but I also try to only watch classic shows and 80 s 90 s shows. I grew up in the 80 s mostly. Our world was Alf, Cyndi Lauper, Mad Max, ET,Michael Jackson, Punky Brewster, classic arcade games, scratch n sniff, and movies. Thats how it was then- cheesy, and I loved it! I am cheesy now. I now am almost 39, grown woman now,still dress in goth punk attire, listen to metal, and indulge in all things 80s. Any review you do on old shows good or bad I will gladly and anxiously read.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      Thanks, Alana! I appreciate your comment. Glad you’re enjoying, and glad you’ll be sticking around.

      I’m already considering doing another show after this. As much as I’d like to review two shows weekly in theory, the logistics of it probably wouldn’t work out too well. For a while I thought of doing Red Dwarf along with this…and while I’d still like to do that show, I’m glad I just stuck with one for now.

      It…takes a toll.

  • kim says:

    yeah, I can actually agree with you that this episode was pretty bad, this was one episode I actually had a tough time sitting through. kate having all the different dreams sequences and having ALF constantly wake her up to ask stupid questions about the election made little sense to me. I get the ALF doesn’t really understand how the election process works in the US, but doing it in parts of a dream sequences and in real life really breaks up the flow of the plot. the dream sequence would of made a hell a lot more sense of was just one dream with kate running against ALF for president, ALF wins and when he first becomes president things are going great, but as the years go on ALF starts to put America down in the shitter, like are most recent presidents have done so far. but no,we got this. I was actually surprised kate didn’t go into a madding rage and go after ALF with a knife or even yell at him to go to the fuck to sleep.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *