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ALF Reviews: “Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2″ (season 2, episode 17)

September 18th, 2014 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

Alright…so I scheduled this post incorrectly, keeping all of you (ALL OF YOU) in suspense for another week as to how this crrrraaaaazy caper would play out. I’m sorry to have done that, because this episode doesn’t even tell you.

Last week’s cliffhanger — which saw ALF trapped in the Ochmonek living room while police were outside, or something — is resolved off camera.

Yep, “Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2” opens with Mrs. Ochmonek angrily explaining to Willie that the burglar was in her house again, and as block captain he screwed up big by letting him get away.

We then cut to ALF, hiding upstairs with Brian, and…

…oh, okay. You caught me. That was the giveaway. God knows Brian’s not going to be involved with whatever the fuck happens here.

No, the “resolution” to the cliffhanger takes place over the course of this entire episode. I have a few things to say about that, but we’ll get to that later. The screengrab above actually comes from the recap at the start of the episode. Surprisingly, the recap is funny.

Really, it is. Playing with similar meta-comedy to last week’s “preview,” in which the footage was swapped out for black and white car crashes, this time the recap is edited deliberately poorly, with snatches of sentences from different characters, regardless of context or chronology, strung nonsensically together for a humorously uninformative “reminder” of last week’s events.

Of course, this joke was probably pretty easy to pull off since nothing really happened last week. They could have grabbed almost any lines from anywhere in the episode and they would have seemed out of context. Because, seriously, what was the context? I’d have more trouble stringing together moments that even suggested a story than I would avoiding such moments. In fact, I think I’m starting to understand how the writers (and / or editors) hit upon this gag.

What this joke does is inadvertently remind the audience that they wasted their time watching the show last week. The show can afford to jerk around with the recap, because there was literally nothing worth remembering. At one point, ALF realizes the problem and “corrects” the recap…giving us the last minute or so of Part 1, more or less unbroken.

Which means the recap is thus: ALF is in the Ochmonek house, and the police are there. Out of a 24-minute episode, that’s the only thing that mattered. I guess I feel at least a little bit vindicated by the fact that even the show agrees with me that the cliffhanger was the only salvageable part of that pile of horse shit.

So, there. That’s how Part 2 opens: with a clear acknowledgement of the fact that this shouldn’t have been a two-parter at all. Hope you like that big middle finger there, dear viewer, because it’s not going away any time soon.

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

Now that we’ve been assured that Part 1 could have never existed and we’d all be just fine, the episode proper begins with ALF calling Willie on the phone. You can hear the police outside on both ends of the conversation, which is a nice touch. In fact, when the Tanners first hear the sirens, they assume it’s another one of ALF’s false alarms, since those have been happening constantly since he became block captain.

I’d tell you to keep that in mind, but the part that makes it seem really odd follows immediately: ALF shouts to the police that he’s armed, dangerous, and off his medication.

Now, see, the cliffhanger last week raised the question of how ALF would get out of the house. I predicted they’d botch it, but I didn’t think they’d botch it so substantially that ALF’s solution is to escalate the situation and ensure that he can’t escape from the house.

There’s nothing else ALF could mean to do by saying these things. Right? Sure, he’s from another culture, but confirming to the police that he’s in the house — and pretending to be a massive danger to them and to everybody else — only means that they’re going to try harder to capture him. No adjustment for cultural difference is going to change that.

Here’s why it’s doubly frustrating: last week, I was left with a genuine puzzle. I knew ALF had to get out of the house, but I couldn’t see any reasonable way for him to do that. What this episode did was remind me that I’d forgotten a clue: ALF’s false alarms.

See, that’s your natural, organic solution right there. ALF raised so many false alarms as block captain that this could simply be another one of them. All ALF has to do is hide long enough for the police to realize that that’s what it is, and let them quietly go away.

That’s how ALF gets out of the house, in a well-written episode. That’s why we would have just been reminded of the false alarms…in a well-written episode.

What we get instead is ALF threatening to murder a shitload of policemen and then claiming to have hostages. Why he thinks pretending innocent people are also in the house with him and in danger of getting killed is going to make the police leave him alone is beyond me. Escalating the situation in Part 2 is a perfectly reasonable thing to do from a structural standpoint, but the narrative has to justify it. Otherwise it’s just a character artificially ramping shit up for the hell of it, and that’s exactly, brainlessly, what we have here.

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

Iola is there with the cops, which might seem a little odd on its own, but it’s actually pretty fair. She lives on the same street, was part of the Neighborhood Watch, and other anonymous townsfolk are collecting to watch the events unfold anyway. So I’m okay with her being here.

Especially since we find out she’s an actual character.

Oh yes. Stay tuned.

For now she just tells the cops to knock the door down with a battering ram. They don’t have one, so she asks where he tax dollars are going. Decent enough for a filler moment, but it actually lays the groundwork for what follows…which itself is the unexpected highlight of the episode.

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

Officer Griswold shouts to ALF through a megaphone, inquiring about the safety of the hostages. Behind him, a man slowly strangles himself because he just realized he’s in an episode of ALF.

I do like the way this episode is shot. Visually speaking, it has character. With the exception of some brief detours to the Tanner house, everything in this episode feels unique. It creates a decent, dark atmosphere, taking advantage of the facts that this is happening at night, and that ALF can’t turn on the light. The net result is something that manages to stand apart from most other episodes of ALF in terms of presentation, and that is an inherently good thing.

In fact, with the police cars and the horde of extras, not to mention the new set that is the Ochmoneks’ lawn, this is pretty likely an expensive installment…which might be why a “Part 1” exists. In order to find room in the budget for a pricier episode, they probably needed to toss off a cheapie. Story-wise, Part 1 gave us nothing. But for those balancing ALF‘s books, its interminable scenes of idiots wasting time and Willie’s musical interlude freed up an awful lot of cash to be spent elsewhere.

Iola gets another nice moment, telling the police that in America they don’t “negotiate with terrorists,” and should therefore just fucking kill ALF already. I’ve earned this boner, and I’m going to enjoy it.

The police then threaten to use teargas, and she screams, “YES!!! TEARGAS!!!!” and then whips the crowd into a chanting frenzy. It’s nice, because Iola’s dangerous insanity gets layered on gradually. In Part 1 there was an otherwise innocuous question about getting to carry weapons. Eariler in this episode, she suggests a battering ram…ostensibly, though, to be deployed in aid of the hostages.

Now, however, she’s simply relishing the potential violence, and that’s the kind of escalation that works. It escalates her right into having a character trait, which ensures that we will never see her again.

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

Very surprisingly, ALF beats Kevin McCallister to the punch by two years when he turns on a violent movie to simulate gunfire. It doesn’t make much more logical sense than it did in Home Alone, but at least in that case it was some dumbass pizza guy who fell for it. Not…y’know…A SQUAD OF TRAINED POLICE OFFICERS IN LOS ANGELES WHO PROBABLY KNOW THAT GUNFIRE OUT OF A TV SPEAKER IS NOT EASILY MISTAKEN FOR THE REAL THING.

If you’ve ever been to a firing range, you are already aware that there’s a massive difference between a gun going off a few yards away and whatever you’re hearing in even the most realistic film. In this case, it’s ALF flipping on an old Western, which isn’t going to sound anything at all like actual, real-life gunfire.

I’d be willing to buy that the police panic simply because it’s a loud and unexpected burst of noise, but that panic wouldn’t last more than a second or two…just long enough for them to see that nothing’s actually being damaged, nobody’s getting hurt, and they’re not in any danger.

Why is ALF simulating gunfire anyway? Because that will convince the police that there’s nothing here that needs their attention I FUCKIN GUESS

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

Officer Griswold yells at ALF to hold his fire, while Max Wright, in a gleeful crack haze, faces the wrong camera.

Willie eventually remembers, along with the writers, that he’s a social worker, and he tells Officer Griswold to let him go in so he can reason with the burglar. That…is actually a viable excuse for Willie to get into the house, but I’m kind of sad that this is only the second time ever that Willie’s profession has had anything to do with the story, and neither of those times did it involve the quelling of unwanted sexual advances being made on his wife or daughter.

Officer Griswold doesn’t let him in, however, so even though the writers realized they could connect these things, they also didn’t wanna.

It leads to a funny moment, though, when Officer Griswold responds to Willie’s assertion that he’s a social worker by saying, “What are you gonna do? Give him a welfare check?” That’s not the funny part…the funny part is Iola’s overplayed laughter, in wonderful Mrs. Doyle style, punctuated by her slapping the cop on the shoulder.

This, deliberately or not, works as a decent barb against people who would make a joke like that, and taken in conjunction with her previous words and actions, it further cements Iola as a very specific type of conservative. I’ll give you a hint: she’s not the kind you want to live next to unless you’re absolutely sure your entire family is white.

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

We then cut to the dugout to check in on all the actors that were benched this week. They’re observing the standoff from the kitchen window, which is odd, as there’s no reason they can’t walk outside to watch it, and the kitchen window doesn’t face the front of the Ochmoneks’ house anyway.

Brian worries that ALF might go to jail, but Jake makes a joke about jail not being so bad because did you know he’s from Brooklyn? Ya, manicotti, fuggettiboutit.

Kate gets my favorite line of the episode here, simply because it reminds me that however much meandering bullshit we have to wade through with this show, she’s still Kate: “ALF’s not going to jail. Though a short sentence might do him some good.”

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

We get a few more nice moments, with Officer Griswold observing that it’s going to be a long night, to which a fellow officer responds, “Why? Is this the night we set the clocks back?”

It’s a joke that does a pretty poor job of establishing some disposable nobody as comic relief — which you really don’t need in a sitcom anyway — but on its own it’s a pretty decent line. Or maybe I’m just glad we’re getting actual jokes instead of ALF playing Westerns on TV while cops run in circles shitting themselves.

A reporter shows up on the scene, which leads to mostly lame garbage, except for when Iola tells him, on live television, that he’s fucking terrible. But, she says, he’s also cute, and explicitly suggests a one-night stand.

“Think about it,” she tells him. “I’m a widow.” Then she strolls away in what is clearly her idea of seduction.

She is a character. Whether or not you find her antics funny — and while I largely do, I certainly don’t find all of them funny — you have to appreciate the fact that this neighbor, who has never been seen prior to the very story we’re watching, is already miles ahead of most of the series regulars in terms of characterization.

Beverly Archer — who plays this character — is almost certainly entirely deserving of the credit. Unlike the “dumb policeman” and “basic policeman” characters we’ve also been introduced to for the sake of this aimless nonsense, she takes the lines she’s given and provides her own connective tissue (which those in the industry refer to as “acting”) to flesh out the unwritten spaces in between.

The disparate elements of unintentional characterization — humorlessness, right-wing insanity, bloodthirstiness, compulsive domination, sexual creepiness — come together into one cohesive whole, simply because Archer makes the effort to connect them. We never get anywhere near a clear picture of who she’s supposed to be through the writing itself, but with somebody who understands how comedy works delivering the lines, so much of the work gets done passively, organically, and naturally.

Looking her up to learn her name revealed to me that she also appears in Project: ALF, the series-capping TV movie. I have to assume she plays a different character, but at least we know somebody will be worth watching in that travesty.

The pizza that ALF demanded arrives, and Officer Griswold calls to ALF to come out and get it. He’s actually about to do it until Willie shouts at him not to, and ALF says, “Oh, yeah.”

That’s funny. It’s worth a chuckle, anyway. But, damn, what does Willie have to do to get kicked out of this crime scene? Grab their guns and start shooting them? At this point he’s actively interfering with police business, and they hardly even seem to care. I guess that makes sense, though. The LAPD is famously easygoing.

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

The Ochmoneks return and wonder what’s going on, as well as who beheaded their lawn Santa. It’s a decent visual gag, and serves as another nice character detail. In…several ways, actually.

Can “Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2” please end with the police gunning down ALF and the Tanners and the show being revamped to star the Ochmoneks and their horny widow neighbor?

The reporter than comes over to interview them, and Mr. Ochmonek wonders on live TV why his house keeps getting robbed when he doesn’t have anything. He then posits that the Tanner house, which is right next door, would be a better target, since they have a computer, a telescope, a Waterpik…

And this is exactly the kind of “annoying neighbor” the show should portray Mr. Ochmonek as more often. He intends no malice, but he’s putting the Tanners in needless danger, which would give Willie & Co. a reason to hate him that we can understand. Instead, Mr. Ochmonek almost always comes across as a genuinely nice man that we’re supposed to believe is a nightmare to live next to, with the show making no effort to provide us actual reasons to believe it.

Something like this — a well-intentioned, but poorly considered, speech on live TV about what a great target he’d have thought Willie’s house to be — works perfectly to provide such a reason, but I have a feeling this is more of a welcome exception than a new direction.

Whatever. The police say they’re going to blow up the house, or something, I don’t know, so Willie stands up and runs inside, where ALF hugs him.

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

Man, these cops really should have had Willie hauled away a long time ago, or at least shot his knees out when he made a dash for the front door. It’s a sweet moment, though, and I’m almost willing to just accept it, because I like that Willie put himself in danger for ALF.

I mean, I wouldn’t have. And I don’t even believe that Willie really would have. But it happened, and that’s fine because it’s pretty damn cute.

They talk for a bit about how utterly fucked they are, but then Willie has a brainstorm: he’ll hide ALF in the hamper with a walkie talkie, and put the other walkie talkie in the window, that way the police can come in and see that there was no burglar here at all; he was broadcasting — for…some reason? — from another place entirely.

But why place the walkie talkie in the window? Why not place it next to the window, or under it, or anything else? Putting it in the window should make it pretty easy to see, so even if they don’t notice Willie’s oily mitt placing it there, surely they’ll notice that it wasn’t there before.

Speaking of which, Willie turned the lights on…shouldn’t that render he and ALF pretty clearly visible through the windows? The darkness made sense. Maybe the cops would see that whoever was inside was tiny, but beyond that he’d still be a shadow at best. Now the living room is lit up like an aquarium, so why isn’t the jig up?

And ALF was clearly pulling back the curtains to yell things at the cops, so how are they going to believe it was a walkie talkie all along?

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

Willie opens the door and they shoot him and he’s dead and that was the last episode of ALF I hope you liked it.

…sadly, I’m lying. He calls out that there’s no burglar in there after all; it was just a walkie talkie. Well, that sure explains with no room for suspicion why Willie was fucking around in there alone for so long.

The cops come in and find the walkie talkie, which is indeed broadcasting ALFchat, but for some reason they can’t hear the alien speaking in the hamper which is right next to them.

The LAPD decides that everyone should go home and never speak of the hostage situation — which should ostensibly still be going on, since they believe the burglar to be broadcasting from elsewhere — again. The news reporters, the neighborhood, and the Ochmoneks (whose home was actually being robbed) are all okay with this for no reason whatsoever.

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

The Ochmoneks wonder why Willie is taking their hamper home, which is a perfectly valid question that he has no answer to, and these people who were just robbed ten zillion times in the past week have no problem letting him leave with it, even though it obviously contains something conspicuously heavy.

Willie takes the hamper outside and Officer Griswold shouts, “Let’s hear it for Willie Tanner!” which is the only time in the history of the English language that those six words have been arranged in that sequence.

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"

The crowd chants its love for Willie, and in the short scene before the credits ALF makes some noise. I don’t care. I don’t want to talk about that.

What I want to talk about is this: the unspoken, unseen absurdity of what happens here.

Granted, there’s plenty of spoken and seen absurdity, but think about Part 1. What was it that set this entire plot into motion?

A robber.

A robber. Not ALF fucking around and being mistaken for a robber, but an actual robber that was actually robbing actual things from actual people. The Neighborhood Watch was formed, ALF saw the robber, and eventually set out on foot to capture him.

Fine.

At the end of the last episode, the robber escapes through the window and…

…that’s it.

Part 2 is about ALF ensuring that the robber gets away, and is free to rob another day. Where did he go? Who knows. The point is that with ALF performing an all-night standup routine for the LAPD, the criminal is able to escape easily. Had ALF just hidden or something and not threatened gun violence and invented hostages and ordered pizzas or any of the other shit he did, the cops would have figured out the truth: if there was a robber, he’s not here anymore. They could put out an APB with whatever information they had — remember, ALF saw the guy and could provide a description to Willie, who could then pass it on to the police — and be on the lookout.

Instead, by convincing the police that he was the robber, there was no need for any of the cops to be looking elsewhere. In fact, elsewhere was the last place they should be looking, since the situation was unfolding here, in one specific home, and the cops were rightfully concentrating their efforts there.

So, yeah. The episode says nothing about this. The episode doesn’t even seem to realize this. ALF aided and abetted the escape of a criminal for literally no gain of his own whatsoever. This is the magical space Jesus that “ALF’s Special Christmas” tried to convince us was making the world a better place.

Oh well. At least he’s been a true and available friend to that dying little cancer girl.

Right?

Is she dead?

ALF doesn’t care. He’s got policemen to distract from their jobs of keeping the public safe.

Fuck. You. ALF.

MELMAC FACTS: Willie’s middle name is Francis. Melmacians have green blood. ALF is claustrophobic, even though he’s hidden in suitcases and boxes and shit with no problem before.

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6 Responses

  • Mark Moore says:

    Wow. I never would have imagined they’d bungle it this badly.

    What’s with the bit where ALF and Brian are hiding out early on? Are that and the bit where Mrs. O complains to Willie part of the recap of Part 1, or is it the beginning of the new material, and the majority of the episode is a flashback?

    • Philip J Reed says:

      That was just me making a terrible joke. The episode opens with a recap (first a phony one, then a straight replay of the last minute or so of part 1) and after that we get the new material.

  • FelixSH says:

    My guess for ALFs actions is that he wanted to stall for time. Maybe he waited for Willie to come up with a plan?
    Anyway, nice review. I especially liked that you took a bit time to talk about Iola. Partly because stuff like this – talking about details instead of just running through the plot – are the reason why I enjoy your reviews so much (I know, I´m repeating myself ;)), but also because I like it when you enjoy something about the show. While I have fun reading your rambling about bad stuff (Gravel Gus is still one of my favourite parts), I´m glad that you are able to find enjoyment out of the show from time to time, that this project is not just suffering for you.

  • Casey says:

    I’m actually honestly excited now to see whether the 3 episodes of ALF that Beverly Archer wrote (2 in season 3, 1 in season 4) are any good.

  • Sarah Portland says:

    A civilian fucked up their crime scene multiple times, then the police cheer that same civilian later on when he supposedly fixes everything? Are the writers serious with this shit? They write cop parts with the same careless bullshit that encouraged them to write an episode where soap operas are filmed in one day.
    Honestly, Phil. How do you put up with this crap week after week?

  • kim says:

    yeah, this episode is kind of the prefect example of writers that write themselves into a corner and use a lame excuse to get out of it, I read somewhere in an article about how to write a story is that if you give the protagonist a lucky break in a dire situation, it is proof of lazy bad writing. here ALF gets his lucky break by willie rescuing him with a half ass plan that somehow works and everything is forgotten about. in a way I do like the premise for this episode, but it was could have been executed a lot better, you do make a good point as to why ALF would escalate the situation to make it worse for him, it would of been better of just kept quiet and hide in the house, but my guess as that ALF is not very smart and just does the first thing he thinks about out of panic of the situation and the rest of his actions could of been to stall long enough for to come up with a plan. either way, the way the handled this episode was not very good.



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