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ALF Reviews: “ALF’s Special Christmas” (season 2, episode 12)

July 31st, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

There is no God.

Even though I’ve seen “ALF’s Special Christmas” listed as two episodes in some places, the DVD version is the full, hour-long edit, which means I have to talk about this shit in one go. And, honestly, I don’t know what to expect. I’ve got 40 screengrabs and a list of notes that’s longer than most of my finished reviews. My impulse is to whittle it down to the observations I really feel compelled to make…but, at the same time, this is the last ALF Christmas special, and for some reason I feel compelled to give it a proper sendoff. I don’t know…I always feel generous around the holidays.

And…around the end of July.

It’s clear from the start that ALF considers this to be event TV. Aside from its super-sized running time, we see immediately that there’s a different opening sequence. That’s right…this does not even deserve a Captain’s Log introduction, because this is dead serious. The new opening is more like a movie, with the title and credits fading up over the action of the episode, already in progress.

In fact, “ALF’s Special Christmas” plays an awful lot like a dry run at ALF: The Motion Picture, and part of me wonders if it wasn’t, at some point, intended to be exactly that. The budget is far higher, the film quality is well beyond that of a standard sitcom, and there’s actual care taken with the direction of the episode.

Almost every visual concern I’ve had with this show is rectified here. There’s creative (and effective) blocking, there’s impressive camera work, there’s background business that lets the characters seem like they’re actually alive rather than waiting for their turn to react to ALF. It’s good, in that sense.

In that sense.

Because…wow. I’ve been warned about this one so many times, that I figured there was no way it could be as bad as I expected.

People, it was far, far worse. Mainly when folks warned me, it was because of the syrupy crap with the dying girl. And, yeah, that’s pretty bad, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg.

Well, enough stalling, I guess. We’ve got an awful lot of reindeer shit to shovel.

The episode begins with Willie driving the family to a cabin, and ALF is singing a presumably Melmacian version of “The 12 Days of Christmas,” which is all about cooking cats. He makes it to day 82 before anyone tells him to shut the fuck up, which, as far as I’m concerned, is impossible. Even the regular “12 Days of Christmas” is grating. It takes forever to make it through that awful, repetitive garbage. I always hate when it plays in a store around the holidays, because I know I’m stuck hearing it for the next nine minutes.

How long would it take to reach day 82? Who knows. I’m not doing the math. I just know it would be way too long for ALF to remain unstrangled.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

The Tanners make it to the cabin and the camera rotates around them as they spread out and — gasp! — do things. This is still a set on a soundstage, but by employing a little bit of technical artistry and asking the actors to do something other than stand in the background making funny faces, it feels less cheap. Less slapdash. More real.

Again, this episode isn’t good. In fact, it’s pretty terrible. But none of its problems come from its presentation, which is unquestionably top-notch for late 80s primetime television.

It’s very much of a piece with any of the interchangeable Christmas movies you might see on Lifetime or the Hallmark Channel in terms of its style. While those are never (and I do mean never) groundbreaking works by any rights, they are competently made, and, largely, they achieve the modest goals that they set for themselves. So, for ALF, it’s a compliment to be compared to those things; competency is a huge step up.

So, yeah. Think back on literally any Hallmark Christmas movie you’ve ever seen, and imagine that it starred Max Wright, Benji Gregory, and Paul Fusco. Boom, you have “ALF’s Special Christmas.”

Willie walks around the cabin, reveling in the great Christmas he spent there with his family when he was young. We don’t hear much apart from “Here’s where we hung the stockings,” and “We sang Christmas carols,” but it’s nice to see him giving even half a fuck about something for a change.

He tells Kate, Lynn, and Brian that they’re going to have a heartwarming Christmas full of joy and love, which is ALF’s cue to scream for help because he fell in the outdoor shitter.

What a merry act break!

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

When we return, Willie and ALF are unloading the family’s stuff from the car, and I’m so glad Willie had the good sense to enlist the help of the guy who just slipped into a vat of human feces.

The camerawork is nice here, as it trails around to the back of the car, and then gives us actual closeups for individual lines…which implies that they probably did more than one take of these scenes before throwing up their hands and saying, “Fuck it, nobody will pay attention anyway.”

I looked up who directed this episode, because it definitely feels like they brought in some external talent, but it was a guy named Burt Brinckerhoff, who directed a bunch of ALF episodes. Some of them were indeed quite good (this season he directed “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “Night Train”) but overall I wouldn’t say he’s a stamp of quality or anything (this season he also directed “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Prime Time”).

So, who knows. Maybe Brinckerhoff was a talented guy who just didn’t get the time or support he needed to elevate the show on a weekly basis. “ALF’s Special Christmas” absolutely proves that he has a good grasp on the language of visual storytelling, and it’s a bit of a tease that this guy doesn’t get to strut his stuff more often.

Whatever. The big joke in this scene is that ALF boxed up the TV, the microwave, and a whole bunch of other shit to bring to the cabin, because he didn’t realize there’d be no electricity. Willie is pissed, but really he’s just a fucking idiot. Did he not notice ALF boxing this stuff up? Did he not notice the appliances missing at any point? Did he not question this earlier when he was loading these heavy boxes into the car?

God damn, Willie. You stupid.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Then Willie does something really fucking weird: he talks to his son.

He tells Brian the story of his father losing his job and their house in the middle of December. Little Willie was out on the streets, but then Mr. Foley showed up and offered the Tanners a place to stay: this very cabin. It’s the best Christmas Willie remembers, so fuck you, Willie’s wife and kids.

They didn’t have any presents, but going by Willie’s earlier statements when they arrived I guess they had stockings and a tree. Oh well, it’s vague, and it raises a lot of questions that go bizarrely unanswered,* but it’s something. Willie is so rarely human that even this aimless, non-committal, half-assed attempt at backstory is welcome.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

ALF comes into the room with a sprig of holly, which Willie stuffs down the front of his shirt for no reason except so that they can later reveal it to be poison ivy, I’m sure.

Our favorite alien sex offender is wearing a sweater that Kate quickly recognizes as her gift to Willie, and then ALF reveals that he opened everyone’s gifts and tells them all what they got.

Why the hell did he do this? He’s not misunderstanding Christmas. This is at least his second one on Earth, and during the first one the concept of presents was about the only thing he understood. He’s fully aware of how this works; he’s just being a dickbag.

He also changed all of the tags on the gifts so that they look like they came from him, which is another level of holidickery, I guess, but also sort of moot since he already opened everything. Oh well. I guess he doesn’t give any more thought to the logic of his shenanigans than the writers do.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Willie gives a time-eating lecture about spoiling surprises or the true meaning of Christmas or who cares, there’s still 42 minutes of this shit left. Then Brian comes over and informs his dad that the sprig of holly was actually poison oak.

Damn, ALF. Ya got me! I thought it was poison ivy. I’ll never doubt you again.

So, yeah, fine, Willie has poison oak all over his chest now, but, really, can anyone explain to me why the fuck he stuffed it down his shirt in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been enough for him to have it on his hands? Do we really need to imagine Max Wright’s poisonous, oaky nipples for this gag to land?

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Willie then scolds poor ALF, and we know we’re supposed to feel sorry for the guy who just went out of his way to ruin Christmas for an entire family because some sad music plays, borrowing the melody from “Deck the Halls (With Poison Oak).”

He accuses ALF of not understanding Christmas, because he’s a fucking moron who doesn’t remember that they already did this plot last year. Then he asks Kate if it isn’t about time ALF learned how to behave himself, because he’s a fucking moron who doesn’t remember that they already did that plot like 35 times in a row.

He then meanly tells ALF he has to dispose of the poison oak in the woods, that meany, and ALF slinks away sadly, because the mean-headed mean man hurt his feelings, when all he did was deliberately ruin Christmas for the four people he always bankrupts and rapes.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Funnily enough — even though it’s, of course, not a joke — ALF doesn’t go deep into the woods at all. He just walks outside and drops the poison oak. We…didn’t really need the sad walking away music for that, did we?

Seeing ALF behind that boulder reminds me that this might be the only episode so far in which the cast didn’t have to worry about falling into a puppet trench and becoming paralyzed. Since we’ll never see the cabin or the hospital again, I don’t think they would have bothered cutting long passages into them as they did with the main sets. In fact, ALF is pretty limited in his mobility in the cabin scenes. He doesn’t get full roam like he does in the Tanner house, which does kind of support the idea that this new environment wasn’t laced with death traps. No wonder the cast actually seems happy.

And, of course, the rest of these scenes are outside. The ability to walk unafraid across smooth surfaces must have been Paul Fusco’s gift to the cast.

While ALF is outside, Mr. Foley pulls up. ALF calls to Willie, but Willie mishears him and thinks he said, “Mr. Foley is near.”

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

It’s Cleavon Little, people!!

The star of Blazing Saddles! A firm candidate for not only the funniest film ever made, but one of the most effective social satires Hollywood’s ever produced!

…and now he’s guest starring in “Melmac Christmas A-Go-Go.”

Anyway, since Mr. Foley’s here, Willie tells everyone his backstory. Even though, y’know, Mr. Foley could do it? Maybe? Nah…everything’s better when it comes from Max Wright.

It turns out Mr. Foley repairs old toys every year and delivers them to children in the hospital. But Mr. Foley corrects Willie: he says he delivers them to Santa Claus, who gives them to the kids.

The camera lingers on Mr. Foley’s one-shot for way too long, and there’s no laughter so I know that wasn’t supposed to be a joke. I guess it’s meant to be inspiring…somehow? I don’t know. I’d be a lot more inspired by the story of some old guy passing out toys to sick kids than I would am by an awkwardly long shot of somebody who just finished saying “Santa Claus.”

While Mr. Foley is standing still and the Tanners are quietly watching him blink, we see ALF open up the Foleymobile and get a hard-on over all the toys in it. He climbs in, and I’m glad, because it really is the next step in ALF’s natural progression to start fucking with a hospital full of dying kids.

Mr. Foley gives Willie an envelope which he says is his Christmas present, and then says his wife died a few weeks ago and drives away.

Really, ALF? You cast the lead from Blazing Saddles and turn him into a live action Hans Moleman? Let the guy tell a fucking joke.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Santa Cleavon gets to the hospital, and we see him pushing a big sleigh of toys through the halls. ALF, of course, is sitting in it like a big doll, which I guess might fool the kids, but how did it fool Mr. Foley? He’s supposed to have repaired these toys himself. Wouldn’t it occur to him as he unloaded the van that he’d never seen this enormous, hideous, breathing, heat-generating monstrosity before in his life?

Whatever. They parade through the halls singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” which must be Mr. Foley’s way of really twisting the knife for the kids who are too sick to leave their rooms.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

We get a crane shot of the Christmas ward, and see that ALF is the last toy left to be given out. Weird that none of the kids wanted a sociopathic alien rapist of their own.

But if ALF is really the last toy, and if he was sitting on top of all the other toys, did Santa Saddles have to pick him up every time he needed something else for a kid? And then set him back perfectly in place? ALF sure is lucky Mr. Foley is gentle with horrific toys he’s never seen before. What if he’d just dropped the “doll” out of the sleigh and ALF broke his neck and died?

Fortunately, ALF’s mysterious presence means Mr. Foley has exactly enough toys to go around, as the little sick girl at the end of the line gets stuck with him. I guess that was a pretty damned big stroke of luck, because if ALF hadn’t shown up, Santa Claus would have had to look a terminally ill girl in the eyes and say, “Tough shit.”

In fact, before Cleavon hands over the toy, he blabs for a while about how ugly and shitty that thing is. You know. That thing. This dying child’s only Christmas gift. So even though Mr. Foley’s supposed to be some really saintly guy, he sure is trying hard to make this terminally ill kid cry.

She likes ALF, though. She thinks it’s a female doll, due to ALF’s glorious tits, so she takes him back to her room, and the next time anyone saw her she was a semen-soaked corpse.

Merry Christmas, everyone!!

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Santa carries ALF to the girl’s room, bitching the whole time about how heavy it is, because he really wants her to feel guilty for wanting this thing. When Jolly Old St. Bitcholas finally leaves, the girl starts brushing ALF and talking to him.

She says her name is Tiffany and she’s eight, but not to worry, unlike that other eight-year-old kid in this show she’ll have something to do with the plot. Then she uses the remote control to crunch ALF in the adjustable bed, because the dying kid ward of the local hospital is a very natural place for physical comedy.

The nurse comes in and takes Tiffany’s temperature. She makes a really disappointed face when she reads the thermometer, which I’m sure is done to let the audience know that Tiffany’s really up Shits Creek, but within the reality of the show, what an awful thing to do. Who cares if Tiffany is dying? Your bedside manner is to look disgusted because she can barely stay alive?

This isn’t even a running theme in the episode. At least, not a deliberate one. We’re not supposed to see ALF as a dick, even though he ruined Christmas for the Tanners. We’re not supposed to see Mr. Foley as a dick, even though he made a point of rubbing in the fact that Tiffany’s gift was a real piece of shit. We’re not supposed to see the nurse as a dick, even though she rolls her eyes at this girl for being at death’s door.

This is a weird fucking episode.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Tiffany then returns to ALF and serves him fake tea. She tells him about her previous roommate, who had to leave because Tiffany is totes dying and that was making the other girl sad. But, you know, this is a hospital and all, so there’s probably going to be some sadness no matter what room you’re in.

She then grabs some earrings and is about to force them through ALF’s ears but, sadly, we don’t get to see a little girl mutilate him. He speaks up and reveals himself as a living creature.

The sad music plays while he explains that he’s not a stuffed animal, he’s in danger, and he needs to get home. So it’s like Follow That Bird, from a bizarro universe in which Big Bird was always stealing cars and spying on people using the toilet.

You know, as much as this episode is asking me to weep, Follow That Bird manages it almost without trying.

That scene where he’s painted blue and he sings the sad song?

Fuck. I get the shivers just thinking about it.

It’s a good point of comparison, actually. They’re both long-form stories about puppets who are separated from their families and want to get back home. They’re both emotional, but still intend to make us laugh.

Follow That Bird, however, is a really, really good film. Seriously. Watch it as an adult. It holds up.

“ALF’s Special Christmas” is its moronic, bastardized opposite. Sure, Follow That Bird had a bigger budget, and awesome songs, and better actors, but I’m not comparing them in any of those regards. I’m comparing them simply in terms of what they wanted to make the audience feel, and how they went about doing that.

There’s a reason that when Follow That Bird comes up, people tell me about how sad that scene of poor, blue Big Bird made them feel. And there’s a reason that when “ALF’s Special Christmas” comes up, people say, “Just you wait.”

Anyway, back to whatever the hell this is. Tiffany tracks down Santa Claus and returns ALF. Why is Santa still at the hospital? And how does he suddenly have a teddy bear to give Tiffany instead? I thought the whole point was that ALF was the last toy.

Ugh, who fucking cares. Santa takes ALF back and wheels him over to the gynecology wing.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Did you think I was kidding?

Nope. ALF and Santa chill in the gynecology wing.

Come the fuck on. Seriously. Just look at that image for a while and try to count how many things about it make you wish you were never born.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

I guess this episode was ALF‘s gift to the black community. Two whole paychecks! Now shut up about diversity, will ya?

Cleavon Little hangs out with his friend the gynecologist. Man, that just screams Christmas.

Cleavon gives Dr. T an envelope, and then the two of them read aloud from the “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” editorial. Only somehow they got their hands on a leatherbound 700 page collector’s edition. They’re aware of the fact that the original was something like 300 words, right?

When they’re done killing time by reading some much better writing, Cleavon asks about Tiffany. The doctor replies that there’s nothing he can do. Then we cut to a one-shot of the doctor so that he can make puppy dog eyes and crack his voice as he asks, “What are you supposed to say to a little girl who’s not going to see another Christmas?”

This guy’s a doctor, though. And he, evidently, works with sick kids. Has he never seen a child die before? I’m sure it never becomes fun, but if this guy starts crying at the mere prospect of one of his patients dying, maybe, just maybe, he isn’t emotionally equipped to be a doctor.

And…wait. Waaait.

Isn’t this guy a gynecologist? What the fuck was a gynecologist going to do to save an 8-year-old girl? Is she dying of ovarian cancer? What the hell is going on here?

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

ALF sneaks back into Tiffany’s room and tells her to keep quiet so that nobody knows he’s in there with her, giving your creepy Uncle Lou a little more to work with when he spends the night.

I don’t care that we didn’t see how ALF snuck away, but I do kind of care that Cleavon never notices that he’s gone. It was the ONLY THING IN THE FUCKING SLEIGH CLEAVON.

Tiffany shows ALF a picture she drew of them both. ALF is a glob of brown shit, but the important thing is that Tiffany drew herself with wings, because ALF‘s audience is going to cry if it kills Paul Fusco.

They talk for a while about the true meaning of Christmas, of course, and the little girl says it’s not about giving presents. “It’s about giving yourself.” Creepy Uncle Lou is having a field day.

Santa Cleavon told her that, and ALF says, “After meeting you, I know what he means,” which is almost sweet…but it just makes me think that Tiffany’s lucky she won’t live through many more nights. Remember Jodie? And that Mexican kid? ALF has these touching moments all the time. He makes some pretty nice promises, Tiffany, but believe me, he never visits.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Willie opens his Christmas gift early and sees that Mr. Foley gave the family the cabin. Well, that moves the plot along so I shouldn’t complain, but what fucking time is it? Has nobody noticed that their autistic space pet hasn’t been seen in God knows how long?

Eventually they do realize it, but Jesus Christ, how many hours have to go by before they start to wonder about the unsupervised alien they left dicking around in the woods?

Tiffany confides in ALF that she has to move on to “another world” soon and there’s nothing even the bestest gynecologist in the whole wide world can do about it DO YOU UNDERSTAND SHE’S DYING YET, ALF’S SPECIAL AUDIENCE?

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

ALF consoles her by telling shitty jokes about eating cats, which works, because if there’s one thing that comforts a dying child it’s the thought of somebody’s pets being eaten alive by beasts.

Then something really, really bad happens.

Tiffany says, “I love you, ALF.”

But that’s not the worst thing…

ALF replies, “I love you too, Tiffany.”

…but that’s still not the worst thing.

ALF takes her hand and presses it to his face.

AND THAT IS STILL NOT THE WORST THING.

Nope.

The worst thing…is this:
ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

God fucking dammit.

Really?

I think this is supposed to make us cry with him, but that tear is just stuck to the side of his face. It looks like a white mole.

Follow That Bird becomes an even better reference point. Remember when Big Bird, sad and alone, opens his eyes and a tear comes out?

That kills me.

Why? Because it’s unexpected, maybe. And probably because it’s a real tear. Or…real water, anyway. It’s a very, very human emotional response, coming from a puppet.

But…no. It’s not a puppet. It’s Big Bird. Big Bird is a character we understand. Big Bird is in a situation we want him to overcome. Big Bird is our friend. It hurts, because that tear rolling down his beak is something we recognize. We know the feelings that go along with that tear…and we don’t want Big Bird to have to feel them.

Here? It just looks like somebody got careless with the hot glue gun.

Anyway, the image makes the musicians sad, at least, and they respond by playing “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” which is a very artful reminder of all the things ALF came upon over the years.

We then join the Finding Bigfoot Christmas special, already in progress.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

The Tanners walk around the woods, shouting for ALF. Narratively, it’s a complete waste of time. Visually, though? It’s kind of lovely.

The camera dollies perpendicular to the Tanners, revealing each of them in turn, then scurries ahead and circles inward to wait for them. When the four arrive, they’re perfectly in frame.

Jesus Christ…see what happens when you bother to storyboard an episode, ALF? You look like you know what you’re doing!

Anyway, we’re back in the hospital and…

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

OH MY GOD THE MIDGET.

It’s a Christmas miracle! Thank you, ALF. This really was the one thing I wanted this year, and as you know I’ve been very good.

We don’t see the midget much anymore. In fact, I wonder when we’ve seen him last. Part of this must be the crew getting better at what they do, meaning they use the actual puppet more and don’t have to resort to wrapping a little person in ALF’s empty flesh, but…man. I kinda miss it.

Anyway, I have no fucking clue what ALF is doing running around in the halls, but he crawls into the bottom of a conveniently draped gurney, and then a pregnant woman gets plopped on it.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Great.

She’s going into labor, and her husband is the most annoying caricature of a flustered idiot male imaginable. They guy who plays him is terrible, but the woman is actually pretty alright. She doesn’t get any good lines or anything, but she’s a perfectly capable actress.

I looked her up to see if she did anything else I’ve seen. Her name’s Molly Hagan, and she’s been working pretty continuously in small parts here and there, so, that’s good. What really brought some memories back, though, was seeing that she played the angel on (in?) Herman’s Head.

For those who don’t remember, Herman’s Head was a high-concept sitcom about…some guy, I guess. I dunno. The gimmick was that you could see his thoughts playing out, represented by four (I think…) little humans that lived in his head and argued and stuff.

Molly Hagan played the angel, and I remember thinking she was really cute. I was probably nine years old at the time, but believe me, if I ever met her I would so offer her a stick of my Juicy Fruit. And then pee all over myself.

Dr. Gyno and the idiot husband wheel her into an elevator alone, and press a button for another floor, apparently, and then are somehow surprised when the doors close and the elevator takes off without them.

What the fuck did they expect?

Then the elevator comes to a clunking stop and…oh, shit. You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s not enough that ALF has to learn the true meaning of Christmas. It’s not enough that ALF has to bond with a cancer moppet.

No: ALF also needs to deliver a baby.

FUCK. YOU.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

The doctards call the guy who dresses as Santa once a year to fix the thing. Why is he still hanging around, anyway?

They can’t call the maintenance crew, because “they’ve all gone home.” Seriously, people, what the living fuck kind of hospital is this? They don’t stagger their employees’ shifts? I know it’s a holiday and all, but shouldn’t somebody have to be on the clock? The patients sure as hell don’t go home for Christmas. What if something happens? Something like…EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS?

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

And then this happens, and we can all feel relieved that a space monster is trapped in the elevator with this helpless woman, and will soon fiddle blindly around with her genitalia.

Man, this is the second most gynecological Christmas I’ve ever had.

Think about how stupid this is. This woman doesn’t know anything about ALF. Okay, fine, we know she’s not in danger, but shouldn’t she be frightened in something other than a comical way? What if he has good intentions, but also razor-sharp talons? What if he eats human fetuses instead of cats? We know he hasn’t cleaned himself properly, or sterilized his fur or anything. And didn’t this episode open with him swimming in human shit and playing with poison oak?

WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING I HATE CHRISTMAS

Incredibly, the department store Santa fails to single-handedly repair the entire hospital’s elevator system. So ALF is forced to spring into action.

alfep2122e

Whew! Good thing all elevators keep a copy of this book behind an emergency window.

We cut back to the husband and Dr. Cliff Litterous running around the stairwells, then with the sound of a baby crying we’re back in the elevator, where everything went juuuuust fine.

See? You friggin’ women, complaining about childbirth. Look how easy that was! A space alien with no knowledge of human biology delivered and cleaned the baby in the time it took us to watch some idiots run up the stairs. Quit complaining.

alfep2122e

The woman says she needs a pretty name for her pretty girl, which you’d think maybe she and her husband could have talked about at any point during the past nine months, but ALF suggests “Tiffany,” and she immediately agrees with the rodent monster that crawled out from beneath her gurney and yanked a screaming child from her cootie-coot.

Seriously, I’m sorry, but come on. Really.

If you were alone in a tiny room with no way out, going into labor, and a fucking creature you’ve never seen before appeared, would you let it deliver your baby?

Hell no. You’d scream yourself hoarse and focus every ounce of energy you have left into kicking its God damned teeth out.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

But, nah, fuck all that, it’s over. We never find out how they got out of the elevator, how she explained the childbirth, how (and why) she covered up ALF’s existence, and how ALF made it back to the fucking sleigh.

Anyway, Mr. Foley’s eighteen-month-long residence as Santa Claus has come to an end, so he’s pushing the sleigh out. But why is he out of costume? Why now? What if one of the kids sees him?

He stayed in costume while repairing elevators and playing grabass with his gynecologist buddies, but now that he’s pushing Santa’s sleigh he’s just dressed as Mr. Foley?

Dr. Victor Ulva shows up, so I guess he didn’t think it was worth hanging around with the woman and her newborn, even though she’d just given birth under unexplained circumstances in a filthy elevator without any of the proper equipment or monitoring.

He opened his Christmas present early, and saw that it was a big check. He surmises something’s wrong, because Cleavon…Cleavon likes his money. Doc tries to return it, but Cleavon won’t take it back, all but shouting, “I’m killing myself tonight, you bimbo. Why is this so hard for you to figure out?”

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Back at der Tannerhaus we see Willie trying to assemble Brian’s new bike. Again, visually, this is lovely. There’s good camera work, nice blocking, and perceivable warmth from the fireplace.

Brian is sad, though. He wants to know if ALF is coming home, because if he doesn’t, that’s the end of the show, and this is kinda the only acting gig he’s ever going to get.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

ALF is in the back of Mr. Foley’s van, dressed like Santa for no logistically reconcilable reason whatsoever. And why is he still surrounded by toys? I thought, again, that the whole idea was that ALF was the last toy for that little sick girl. Maybe Mr. Foley just gives away the toys he doesn’t like.

Mr. Foley drives along through the night, silently reflecting upon the fact that he was once the star of a great movie. This in turn reminds him of It’s a Wonderful Life, so he pulls over on the bridge to kill himself in what ALF hopes we will consider an homage. Foley’s first name is even George, for fuck’s sake.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

ALF appears and tells him not to jump. After all, Mel Brooks might one day turn Blazing Saddles into a musical and let him make a cameo.

Cleavon Little concludes that this chubby monkey in a Santa suit is the actual Santa because fuuu-uuuuuuu-uuck you!

Sure enough, ALF convinces Mr. Foley not to kill himself in front of all the kids watching at home, as they much prefer rape scenes.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

I’m sorry, but this is way too much for one episode. ALF has to learn the true meaning of Christmas, comfort a dying child, deliver a baby in an elevator, and stop Cleavon Little from killing himself. Oh, and he also has to get back to his family. This is a busy fucking hour.

It’s like the end of Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray runs around solving everybody’s problems, but when it happened there, it represented the culmination of the film’s message and the protagonist’s growth as a human being. Here, it’s some space alien dicking around one week, becoming a heavenly Christmas angel the next, and then dicking around again the week after that. There’s no growth at all, because this isn’t actually ALF. This is Touched by a Fusco.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

Mr. Foley drives the naked mole rat he believes is Santa Claus to the cabin the Tanners are staying in. ALF acts nervous about having to go down the chimney, but why exactly does he have to go down the chimney?

I get that he wouldn’t want Mr. Foley to suspect that he’s not Santa Claus, but Mr. Foley drove away. We saw that happen. Nobody’s watching ALF now. Why can’t he just climb down from the roof and knock on the door?

And how the shit did he get on the roof to begin with?

Arrrrhghghghghhghhh.

None of this makes any sense. He’s clearly afraid of going down the chimney and returning to his family as a charred and stinking corpse, but he does it anyway, for no reason whatsoever.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

He gets stuck in the chimney and the fake audience goes nuts.

The puppet is upside down? Hilarious! But, wait…wasn’t some little girl really sick, and an old man lost the will to live, and some newborn is now dying of alien space flu?

Who cares! Fuck those assholes. The puppet’s back with these people we still…don’t really know! That’s all that matters and Christ died so you could watch this so shut the fuck up.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

In the short scene before the credits, the Tanners go to the hospital, where Mr. Foley has been hired on as a maintenance man, thanks to the talent he displayed the previous night when he failed to fix anything. Willie gives Mr. Foley his cabin back, the Tanners give Tiffany a fuckload of gifts, and ALF waves at her through the car window.

Then Mr. Foley recites “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” a second time, and we’re treated to a touching version of the ALF theme song that has sleighbells in it.

Jesus. That…

…god.

That…fuck.

Fuck.

FUCK. THAT.

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"

What a cloying, melodramatic, unfunny piece of sappy horse shit. I don’t even know what was going on. Any of these plots (lost ALF, sick chick, suicidal old man, ALF pulling things out of a prostrate woman’s vagina) would have served an episode on their own, but we get them all at once. I found it a little puzzling at first that seasons three and four don’t have Christmas episodes, but now I see why. They used up every storyline imaginable on this one.

In the spirit of the season (a season, anyway) I’ll say a few nice things about this episode. It looked great, for starters. Visually this was a competent experience, front to back. And even though there’s a dying little girl in a lot of it, she wasn’t a terrible actress. Not great, but when it comes to kids, “not great” is actually great. And this episode reminded me that I used to really want to sleep with the girl in Herman’s Head.

But that’s it. This was the cheapest piece of self-indulgent mush I’ve seen in a long time, and I find it more than a little hilarious that this episode about ALF making the world a better place for everyone he meets is followed in a few weeks by one where he murders Willie’s uncle.

So, yeah. My God. I actually, no joke, need some time to recover from this one.

I die, dear readers, so that you might live.

At least we’re halfway through the Shit Trifecta. And the season, come to think of it. Surely it can’t get any worse than this.

Right?

…surely?

Melmac Facts: On Melmac there was no pavement and no silverware. MEEEEERRY CHRISTMAS!!

—–
* What was Willie’s dad’s name? What job did have have that he lost? Why did he lose it? How did they know Mr. Foley? How long was the family homeless? Any of this would be interesting to know…but it would also reveal character, and God fuckin’ forbid.

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18 Responses

  • ERK says:

    Holy crap, I never saw this one! This looks atrocious! I have to see this episode ASAP. I can’t believe a kid’s show, the goddamn X-mas episode no less, would feature dying children, childbirth in an elevator, and a suicidal black Santa Claus. WTF! This is blowing my mind.

    Quick question… during that scene with Willie putting together Brian’s new bike, was there a fire going in the fireplace? Just curious to see if they showed that, then lately had Alf go down the chimney and suddenly there’s no more fire. Seems like the type of thing the ALF show would do. :-)

    • Philip J Reed says:

      “Black Santa suicide” really should be one of the lines in We Didn’t Start the Fire.

      Yeah, there was fire in the fireplace at that point. You can kind of see it smouldering underneath ALF when he’s hanging in the chimney still.

  • Ridley says:

    “I’m working for Paul Fusco!”

    I watched this last week making it the second of two ALF episodes I’ve seen, the second Christmas episode, but the only one I’ve seen the ending of.

    You’d think the plot would be ALF learning through Tiffany and gynaecology that he’d made a mess having jerked Willie about and would appreciate life/Tanners more but nope.

  • FelixSH says:

    I´ve only seen this episode one time, and that was long ago, so I only remembered the girl. It´s probably better that way, though. This seems to be the most special of all special episodes. I´m just surprised that there wasn´t a kid on drugs.

    [Quote]
    “How long would it take to reach day 82?”
    [/Quote]

    Well, if you ask…(sorry, I couldn´t help myself):
    Assuming that it takes 8 seconds to sing the first part (on the first day…) and 2 seconds for every added part (These are values from an experiment) you get the following formula: 8*x + 2*(y*(y-0.5*(y-1))). With x being the part where you are (singing until the end of the second day means x=2) and y=x-1. That would result in 7298 seconds or a bit over 2 hours.

    [Quote]
    Then Willie does something really fucking weird: he talks to his son.
    [/Quote]

    Does Brian say something there? Or anywhere in the episode? Oh yes, the poison ivy, because the only things the writers can come up with for an 8-year old is some exposition.
    Anyway, what I think here is that this is one of the problems of the show: The Tanners nearly never talk with each other, and if they do it is because of ALF, or problems created by him. The only exceptions that come to mind are a few short scenes between Willie and Kate.
    Lynn should interact with Brian from time to time. They are siblings. Maybe she could make fun of him, help him with his homework, play something with him, I don´t know, anything. But than, Brian is not a character but a cipher.
    What I want to get to is that the show would have been stronger if there were at least a few episodes were ALF is not the center of attention. The way it is, the Tanners are not really main characters. They are secondary, and only used for ALF and whatever he does. Maybe that is a reason why the Tanners are so lame and we don´t know anything about them. They just didn´t really matter.
    The better episodes are partially better because they treat the Tanners as people. “Working My Way Back to You” gave Kate space to act as a person. “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “Night Train” did the same thing for Lynn and Willie (and even ALF himself). Or take “For Your Eyes Only”, were there is a genuine interaction between ALF and Lynn, that could have been used as a basis for a deeper (platonic) friendship between them. In all these episodes are the people at the center, instead of most others were they are only used as ressources for the plot.

    Anyway, I could still write a page about the single Tanners, but this is already too long and has not much to do with this episode anymore.
    The next episode should be at least the normal level of ALF, so it should feel sort of good after this one.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      I’m pretty sure I’m going to quote this comment at some point. Very well-observed.

      …and thanks for doing the 82 Days math. I was quietly hoping somebody would!

  • Mark Moore says:

    Hmm, so ALF probably probed that woman’s hoohoo, right?

    After he’d fallen into shit.

  • RaikoLives says:

    If “Touched by a Fuscoe” isn’t a biography of the Puppet Master himself, then I call shenanigans on the whole thing.

    Is it possible, Phil, that this Christmas episode – nay, Christmas SPECIAL – is in fact worse than the Full House christmas episodes? Sure, no Uncle Joey. Sure, no rousing speech at an airport from some dickweed with greasey hair. SURE, there’s no ugly twins getting what they want with no regard for anyone else. But this clusterfuck sounds like it trumps them all. Diseased Alien delivers baby! Eight-year-old girl declared dying by emotional gynecologist! Black Santa talked from suicide by midget in alien in Santa suit suit! You have a style much more sedate than our dear friend Billy Superstar, so it’s hard to tell, but I can almost hear the weed-enhanced swears and bile filled descriptions being hurled at an episode this bad.

    The Simposons episode “Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie” is obviously about adding new characters, shaking things up when they get stale and terrible (terrible) input from producers who have no idea. But it constantly occurs to me reading about how little the Tanners even get to EXIST without Alf around that Fuscoe is like Homer Simpson, whose ideas for making Poochie more popular included the always beautiful line of “Whenever he’s not around, all the other characters should be saying “Where’s Poochie?”” which is, I’m sure, how Fuscoe writes – or mandates that the show should be written – when it comes to the “human” “characters”, and ALF.

    Did Lynn get ANY lines?

    • Philip J Reed says:

      This is definitely more competently assembled than the Full House Christmas specials…so I guess it’s up to you how much that really counts in its favor. Beyond that, though…I’d hate to be the guy who watches them side by side to determine who served up a more shit Christmas.

      Lynn did get a few lines, about how much she hates the cabin. And she called out for ALF. But, yeah, the entire family gets a pretty short shrift.

  • Holy shit what an obnoxious cloying attempt at drama. I’ve never read a more embarrassingly cobbled together string of bullshit saccharine nonsense in all my life. This show is so disgustingly trying to cut open your fucking veins, tear out your heartstrings, and tug on them while using you as Paul Fusco’s newest puppet. OH NO THE LITTLE GIRL IS DYING AND THE BIG FUZZY PUPPET THAT’S COVERED IN POISON IVY AND MAX WRIGHT’S DIARRHEA CAN’T DO ANYTHING BUT CRY :'( :'( :'( Thankfully we got that obnoxious moment of Al Jean’s sperm dribbling from ALF’s eye so we could realize how this obnoxious furball rapist is the one who’s REALLY hurting from all this. Not the dead girl who finds jokes about eating cats hysterical. Just like America did for some fucking reason.

    Then we get to see him cutting a baby out of a woman. Look at that fucking monstrosity. Imagine it with scissors near your vagina. Just think about that, and dwell on it, let it sink into your fucking skull. That hideous little monster ripping a baby out of your womb. MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!

    And you know what kids want to see on Christmas? A man contemplating suicide on their favorite puppet show. It’s fun for the whole family on the ALF Family Christmas!!

    This special should be about ALF learning things and helping the Tanners with his unique perspective. Instead it’s all about how miserable the Tanners are without ALF and how ALF is fucking amazing. I’m surprised ALF doesn’t have a time machine and whenever he’s gone the characters aren’t asking “Where’s ALF?”

    Thank you for tearing this to shreds, I can’t even imagine someone out there finding this episode able to grip their emotions. It’s the most fucking obnoxious attempt to drill into your soul with every cliche in the book to get you to feel SOMETHING. Obviously the laughs weren’t fucking coming so they wanted to check the audience’s pulse and make sure they weren’t as dead as the people laughing at the puppet shenanigans week after agonizing week.

  • Sarah Portland says:

    “He tells Kate, Lynn, and Brian that they’re going to have a heartwarming Christmas full of joy and love, which is ALF’s cue to scream for help because he fell in the outdoor shitter.”
    As someone who regularly hoses shit off of cats, I cringed at this notion. ALF is a walking shag rug. It would take all day to get all of that out. In the meantime, he’s your own personal fecal-scented air freshener. What a fitting centerpiece for said Shit Trifecta.

    “Willie is so rarely human that even this aimless, non-committal, half-assed attempt at backstory is welcome.”
    Given that Raiko brought up FHR, I have to wonder: has Willie passed the “3 character traits maximum” requirement? He used to ride trains, he plays with ham radios, he was once homeless, and he once made future plans to skydive. My God, does this make Willie more well-rounded than Uncle Jermsey? Hmmm, that’s some tree-falling-the-woods-of-pop-culture shit right there.

    “What if he’d just dropped the “doll” out of the sleigh and ALF broke his neck and died?”
    Phil, you tease.

    “Then Mr. Foley recites “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” a second time, and we’re treated to a touching version of the ALF theme song that has sleighbells in it.”
    Wait, we don’t even get the ubiquitous sitcom Christmas card shot of the cast, framed by a festive wreath of holly, while an invisible pen writes “Merry Christmas from the Tanners”? Fuck you, ALF. I want my money back.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      Willie’s definitely accumulated more than three traits…but they tend to be disposable. So while this may well make him more well-rounded than Uncle Jesse, he’s also a lot less consistent. Full House was damned predictable at every point, but even halfway through season two I couldn’t tell you much about Willie that hasn’t been contradicted or discarded.

      AND NOPE, NO CHRISTMAS CARD AT THE END. Dammit.

      Looking at those last few screengrabs, I realize ALF almost _did_ fall down and break his neck…he just got stuck in the chimney instead. What a Christmas cocktease.

  • Edward says:

    Just wanted to comment that the “glorious comeback” of ALF to DirecTV Latin America is about to begin. They’re supposed to show 30 episodes selected by Paul Fusco himself, but the EPG says they’ll simply shoe episodes 1 and 2 today:

    Alf – S01EP01

    Luego de que Gordon Shumway, el último sobreviviente del planeta Melmac, tiene un accidente espacial y cae en el planeta Tierra, es adoptado por la familia Tanner. Como su nombre es tan raro, deciden llamarlo Alf.

    Comienza: lunes, 04 agosto 2014 14:00 | 30 minutos

    Rating: G

    Alf – S01EP02

    Comienza: lunes, 04 agosto 2014 14:30 | 30 minutos

    Rating: G

  • TaneZense says:

    In the previous review I said that they weren’t even trying to disguise the fact that ALF was considered a deity and a god among the puppets anymore, but this…. This is another whole level.
    Dying little girls?, A probably diseased space alien delivering a baby?, black depressed Santa killing himself (which, if I remember correctly, also means that the second black person they put in an ALF’s episode tries to kill himself, It’s probably me, but I’m picking some weird messages from all of this, even more than usual)? Why?, just why?, any of these three concepts would have made for terrible Christmas specials, but all three?, at once?, was Fusco trying to create his own ALF cult or something?, or was he doing all this for the lolz?, because I honestly think there is no way that someone could have looked at this, even conceptually, and have thought “mm, yeah, I think this would make for a really awesome, funny, and emotional Christmas special”, not only that, but I think that the fact that they actually put all that effort into the presentation only makes the fact that everything else about the episode is horrible really stand out, combine that with the fact that, well, the execution of the plot is dealed in the classic ALF way, and…. I really, really pity you, and I hope that you get the necessary psychological help to erase the memory of watching this thing soon, for your own good.

  • Stephen says:

    lol I never even thought about all the plot holes. Why is he dressed as Santa when he climbs back into the truck? Why was he running around the hall after the crying scene? How did he get out of the elevator? One thing that always bugs me is that when the dad is in the stairwell and you hear the baby crying, he starts calling for Sam. He is not referring to the wife, who he calls Denise. Are we supposed to assume that they named the baby before hand?

  • kim says:

    I admit I didn’t even know this episode even existed until I got the DVD box set and I can see why, this special is really a mixed bag for me, I did like how it was better filmed and the actors had a little more to do. I do get a sense of what paul fusco was trying to portray here, ALF does not really understand the true meaning of chistmas and suppose to see through the eyes of a dying child and I get it was suppose to be sentimental to remind of what christmas is all about, but god damn, I could not get past of how depressing it was. I think the biggest problem with this episode is that it fails to bring us back to that happy point, in most christmas specials and movies we see the main characters going a tough time to make all sad and feel sorry for them which brings to the low point of the movie, but then towards the very end everything turns out fine and everyone as a happy christmas. in this special the only happy ending we get is that ALF is reunited with the tanners and the old black guy does not kills himself, but the little girl still dies so that sad thought still remains in our minds. and also fuck you, the scene when ALF cried made me cry, I knew it was fake, but it still made me cry god damn it! but I agree on the scene where ALF delivers a baby in a elevator was fucked up and weird. so yeah, I can agree somewhat the this a combination of obscure ideas that did not make any sense and did not flow together well to make a compelling christmas special.
    also side note: I know in a hospital stuff like stuff animals are not allowed to taken to sick people because the outside germs on them might make their condition worse. so Mr.Foley giving these really sick kids stuffed toys was a really bad idea, not to mention to give something as filthy as ALF was to a terminally ill child was a extremely bad idea. so yeah, the premise for this episode would of never worked in real life.

  • Casey says:

    Saw this today: http://video.wired.com/watch/huggable-robot-befriends-girl-in-hospital

    I can only imagine Paul Fusco called up MIT, hurt that they hadn’t at least consulted with him.

  • Joe Sugar Ray Willie Namath the Pooh says:

    So Tiffany really did die from Cystic fibrosis. Not the actress that played Tiffany, but some fan of the show.

    http://i.imgur.com/KxUqT5A.png

    Cystic Fibrosis is rarely funny.



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