We’ve had a couple of double-sized episodes so far, but “Someone to Watch Over Me” is the first official two-parter. That means we get half a story this week…but that’s still three and a half more stories than usual!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
As I write this, I haven’t seen the second part yet, so maybe it’s unfair of me to dismiss this as a story that didn’t need to span two episodes. But, man, this episode feels like a complete waste. So little happens, which you’d think might leave room for small character moments, or fun dialogue, but it’s really nothing. I honestly could have watched a blank screen for 26 minutes and gone into part 2 with as much knowledge as I got from watching this.
It opens with ALF getting his hair cut while Willie hooks up a new phone. Neither of these things go anywhere, and I’m not sure either of them pays off down the line, so already we find a two-part episode spinning its wheels. That’s not a reassuring sign.
I admit that I like the idea of ALF getting his hair cut. It’s Lynn who does it, and she charges him $2 for the privilege. That’s cute, and it’s one of those nice (and oh so rare) moments of internal logic playing out on screen. In this case, it answered a question I didn’t even have, and I like that. I wish it built to…you know…a joke, or something, but I’m sure I’m just being greedy.
The Ochmoneks and Jake come over, saying they’ve been robbed. That bit of internal logic with ALF getting his hair cut? Yeah, that’s definitely not the rule for this episode.
See, the Ochmoneks arrive, and we can see it’s dark out. Fine. Mrs. Ochmonek says she hasn’t been able to call the cops yet, because her phone was taken. Also fine. The assumption I make is that that’s why she’s coming to the Tanner home; she wants to use their phone to call them. This is borne out by the fact that that’s exactly what she does. Again, fine.
But then when Jake is raised as a possible suspect, it gets shaken off because he would have been at school when the house was robbed. And…doesn’t school usually end around three o’clock in the afternoon? How could the house have been robbed during school hours, but they don’t even notice it until after the sun goes down? Wouldn’t this have made a lot more sense if they just all went out to dinner and came back to find the place burglarized? Why bother building this chain of events just to get to the point that they don’t make sense? It’s better to tell us nothing than it is to prove that you haven’t thought it through yourself.
Willie declares that he has a phone, and I think we’re supposed to see this as a nice coincidence since he just hooked it up, but he’s had a phone for ages. Was that the payoff for Willie’s new phone saga? Who fucking cares if he hands her a new phone or one that’s been in the house for years?
Whatever. The Ochmoneks come back later and say they’ve decided to start a neighborhood watch, because another house has been robbed. Gee, for the neighbors we’re supposed to believe are annoying assholes, they sure seem to care a lot more than the Tanners do about the people around them.
All of this would be fine if ALF had any awareness whatsoever of the fact that the family at the center of the show is a collection of living shits, but instead, no. They’re meant to be the people we like and identify with. I wonder if any of the writers actually bothered to watch this show when it aired. I kind of doubt it.
At the inaugural neighborhood watch meeting, the cop in charge makes some stupid joke, and the woman next to Kate says it sucked a dick.
Something about her line delivery made me wonder if she was the same woman who played Iola on Mama’s Family, and, sure enough, she was. She also, apparently, played Gunny on Major Dad, which was a connection I’d never made before, and it kind of blows my mind.
Not that I loved those shows growing up, but I definitely remember watching them. Way too much. So much so that this is the kind of shit I end up talking about on dates, ensuring that I’ll single-handedly keep eHarmony in business for many years to come.
The cop in charge — Officer Griswold — is played by the guy who also played Lenny Scott back in “Take a Look at Me Now.” I was pretty nervous about having to see that dipshit again, but he’s not bad here. He’s not great, but he plays the character well.
He’s a standard, run-of-the-mill, stock neighborhood cop. Clipped speech, blandly friendly. No real personality, but you don’t need that with character-types like this. He’s plug and play, and that’s fine. I just wish they had an actual story to plug him into.
Much more interesting — and impressive — to me are the marks on the foyer wall behind him. Those suggest that something used to be hanging there…and now it’s gone. The show — or at least someone who worked on it — remembered what actually set this plot into motion: the Ochmoneks have been robbed.
It’s an unnecessary reminder, which is exactly why it’s so welcome. Somebody took the time just to do it, knowing that the camera wouldn’t linger on it and the characters wouldn’t comment upon it. They did it because they cared, and it works well, because we don’t see the Ochmonek interior very often, so a passive visual flourish like this tells us something’s missing, even if there’s no way we’d otherwise remember that something used to be there.
Officer Griswold Downey, Jr., asks if anyone there would be interested in establishing a neighborhood watch. But…I kind of thought this was a neighborhood watch meeting. Why would anybody have come if they didn’t have interest in one?
Whatever. The important thing is that way too much shit happened in this episode that didn’t involve ALF, so we reveal that ALF’s been watching everything through binoculars.
Whew! He’s at home with Brian and Jake, so this is the perfect time for him to get a big boner and explain that it’s because Officer Griswold asked for street walkers and Kate raised her hand.
HELLO ONCE AGAIN I WOULD LIKE TO REMIND YOU THAT THIS SHOW WAS GREAT FOR FAMILIES
ALF making sex jokes to little boys — one of them the son of the subject of these jokes — is a more than sufficient dose of Fusco, so we cut back to the meeting.
Officer Griswold says the neighborhood watch won’t be very effective if they don’t have a central location to call into with their reports, so he asks if anyone has radio equipment. Willie, of course, says nothing, but eventually Mrs. Ochmonek outs him. Officer Griswold then asks if he’d be willing to use that radio equipment and be block captain, and Willie says no.
Why. The fuck. Did he even come to this? And why. The fuck. Are the Tanners so God damned unwilling to help anybody ever? You’d think the joke at this point would be that these fuckheads are self-absorbed, worthless idiots, but no. The writers have no idea what they’ve created. At all.
Mrs. Ochmonek nominates Willie anyway, because she’s such an annoying bitch who doesn’t want her neighbors to get robbed, even if preventing these crimes means cutting into Willie’s long evenings of sitting alone on the couch doing nothing.
Iola asks if they get weapons, which was probably a funnier punchline before neighborhood watches started killing black teenagers for sport.
The next day or whenever the fuck Willie is setting up his equipment. He’s wearing a captain’s hat and calling himself The Sentinel, but if he’s so excited about this then why did he decline the position in the first place?
There are a few ways you could go with this. You can make Willie gradually turn into an obsessive block captain, for instance. Or you can reveal that Willie was once hall monitor, or something, and went mad with power, which is why he declined this position…but now that he’s been forced into it, his madness resurfaces. But that’s not what happens.
In fact, nothing happens. First Willie doesn’t want to be block captain. Then he’s block captain and nuts about it. Then he lets ALF be block captain and doesn’t care. From one extreme to the other and back again in the space of about one minute, with no attempt at an explanation. Lovely stuff.
The reason ALF gets to be The Sentinel is that he can use voice manipulation gadgets, or some other vague bullshit, to make his voice sound exactly like Willie’s. We never hear his voice change at all, so I guess we just have to take the show’s word for it that when people hear him on the other end of the radio, it sounds like Willie.
Of course, one thing they could have done is give us a scene where we see Mr. Ochmonek on patrol, or something, and while we know it’s ALF doing the talking, the voice we hear coming from the walkie talkie is actually Willie’s. So, I don’t know. ALF can say a bunch of clearly un-Willie things, like “I really want to eat a cat!” and “Do you think I could get Lynn pregnant and not have her mother find out?” Then Mr. Ochmonek can make funny faces and the audience of dead fake people can clap.
Of course, writing a scene like that would mean giving Max Wright jokes to perform, and that’ll happen over Paul Fusco’s dead body.
Anyway, ALF gets left unsupervised to do whatever the fuck he wants on the radio while pretending to be Willie, which Willie is perfectly fine with because fuck you fuck you fuck you so hard.
Even more padding as we spend some time listening to Willie play “The Letter” on the piano. I have no idea why we’re watching this. It’s nothing to do with the plot — even in a loose thematic sense — and doesn’t contain any jokes. Couldn’t they at least have had him play “I Fought the Law” or something? I’ll let you folks in the comments suggest other ideas for songs that have anything at all to do with whatever the shit we are watching right now.
The Ochmoneks come over and quit the neighborhood watch because Willie’s been dicking around too much on the radio, a revelation that causes him to make this face:
I’m shocked, too, Willie. How in the world could you have predicted that turning your identity over to ALF and literally never checking back in with him would backfire this way?
There is one very funny joke here, though: The Ochmoneks tell Willie to retire their code names: The Phantom, and Lolita. Yeah, yeah, but the real laugh comes when Mrs. Ochmonek leaves the Tanner house and her husband says, “Right behind you, Phantom.”
Sorry BUT I LIKED IT.
Willie goes out to the shed to yell at ALF, which is a more pressing situation in his mind than the fact that he just heard Jake making overt, aggressive sexual overtures to his daughter. Best to leave those two unsupervised and go argue with a puppet.
Commenter J. Paul (who knows a thing or two about cosmic crusaders) mentioned in a response to my review of “The Boy Next Door” how absurd it is that Willie sits idly by listening to this kid sexually harass Lynn, making no effort to stop it.
Remember, folks; the show wants you to believe this man is a social worker.
He yells at ALF for a while, until we can all be reasonably sure that Jake is done groping his teenage daughter against her will, and then leaves. Once he does, ALF sees Leo Tolstoy breaking into somebody’s house.
He dials the house phone, which Willie answers. Willie listens to ALF panicking about the burglar, and then hangs up. I understand this is supposed to be a Boy Who Cried Wolf kind of thing, I guess, with ALF having established himself as an unreliable block captain, but in light of literally everything else we’ve seen him do in this episode it just comes across as another example of Willie not giving a shit about anyone who isn’t him.
ALF then calls Officer Griswold who hangs up on him, too, so the space alien grabs a wrench to murder the burglar I guess.
It’s the Ochmonek house, and when ALF gets inside the burglar flees. Oh, but Officer Griswold felt bad about hanging up on him so now the police are here and ALF’s fucked.
And you know what? I’m okay with this cliffhanger. It’s a decent one. ALF is in a seemingly inescapable situation, with serious consequences. These aren’t even “he’ll be mistaken for the prowler” consequences…these are “he’s going to be flayed alive by the Alien Task Force” consequences. What’s more, there’s no obvious way out for him. We’re left with a genuine puzzle: we know he’s not going to get captured, but, at the same time, we don’t see any way for him to avoid capture.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m positive part two will bungle the shit outta this, but I appreciate where we leave ALF. Of course, even giving this episode that much credit, there’s a serious problem when the only good thing about the entire experience is a clumsily-established cliffhanger you know will be dicked up next week anyway.
One thing is for sure: this story did not need to be two episodes long. It could either have ended with ALF realizing he went too far with The Sentinel bullshit and ruined the neighborhood watch for everyone, or all of this could have been condensed to about five minutes of screentime, opening with the formation of the neighborhood watch due to recent crimes, and with this ALF-is-Trapped moment serving as the first act break.
There is one cute moment, though, in the pre-credits scene. ALF narrates, “Next week on ALF…” and then we see some black and white footage of old-timey car wrecks. It’s good, and, if anything, I can appreciate it because that kind of wrong-footage meta joke is so far outside of ALF‘s comfort zone that I have to give it props for trying.
But then ALF fixes the mistake and we see an actual clip from next week, which is of ALF standing in the Ochmoneks’ living room, wondering what to do. Wow! Certainly glad I got a peek at that heart-pounding action to come.
Not much to say about this one, so I’ll turn it over to you folks in the comments: what bone-headed way are they going to resolve this cliffhanger next week? My money is on Jake raping Lynn to create a diversion so ALF can escape, then Willie leads the cops in a rousing rendition of “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”