ALF Reviews: “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (season 2, episode 20)

Ever since Jake arrived earlier this season, I’ve been joking that Brian no longer exists. Or half-joking, anyway, because as we saw last week, the kid no longer has anything to do with his own plots. The writers have officially given up on him, which renders him stuck here, like a nail through a thumb that would do more harm to remove than to just leave where it is.

This week, we see exactly how empty the character is. While it takes them a little longer to elbow him out of yet another storyline that should feature him front and center, they know they’ve never bothered to develop him in any way so the episode has to happen around him. He’s just kind of there…and then he’s not…and then they bring him in for the final scene to pretend that he’s learned some grand lesson.

“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” plays like one of those movies in which a lead actor dies during filming, so they try to hide that by padding it out with scenes of other people talking about that guy, and reacting to things he’s done, leaving the audience — hopefully — to just assume he’s on the toilet somewhere, I guess, but is still totally like super important.

And while it’s not the worst episode of ALF (being as it does have a few very good lines), it does sink to depths that even the wonderful Anne Schedeen can’t redeem.

You’d be forgiven for not believing me, though, since we open on a great Kate scene. She walks in on ALF who has apparently been sitting under a sunlamp for five hours. He wonders openly why he isn’t getting a tan…which is a visual joke that works on its own. But then Kate touches him, and he screams. Even funnier.

What I like most about it, though? Look at Kate’s face above. (But…don’t look at her shirt.) Anne Schedeen is acting. Unlike the rest of the cast, she doesn’t just pause and react when it’s her turn to talk. She’s filtering the actions and words of others through her own character, and it often makes her the only thing on screen worth paying attention to.

If she had been in a better show, I think she’d be pretty fondly remembered. Instead she’s in ALF, where she gets nose-fucked by a puppet in her hallway and everyone’s pretty eager to forget any of this ever happened. She really was so much better than this show deserved, and that’s tragic.

She tells ALF that he’s got sunburn, and asks if he wants cold cream. He says, “Yeah, but only one scoop. I’m on a diet.”

I’m not even bothered by the “ALF I AM TALKING ABOUT COLD CREAM NOT ICE CREAM” line that explains the joke, because it feels like Kate is explaining something to the alien, rather than to the audience. There’s a big difference there, and it’s a difference that is only felt when the actor makes you feel it. The rest of these clowns deliver lines for the audience to react to. Anne Schedeen delivers lines for the characters to react to.

So, yeah. Enjoy this while you can, because before long this episode will sink far below her ability to keep it alive.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

We get the credits, and then Brian comes in covered in dirt. At first I assumed this was the Halloween episode, in which the corpse of Benji Gregory rises from its shallow grave in the studio parking lot and seeks revenge on the cast…but, no, it’s just Brian. He’s been in a fight.

I love that the late-80s way of showing that a character has been in a fight is to muss up his hair and rub soil into his clothes. Did kids actually fight back then? Nobody ever seems to throw an actual punch. I guess they just rolled around with each other in the garden, like that thing I wasn’t supposed to do with my cousin. :(

Brian explains that he got in a fight with Bobby Duncan. Kate asks who the hell that is, and rightly so, since last we heard Brian’s tormentor was that kid Spencer. Remember? Willie’s illegitimate child and keeper of Dr. Potato Famine. Oh well. I guess when you have a kid like Brian, you just take it as read that every day brings another bully.

Kate washes the implied physical violence off of him with a rag, and ALF offers to eat the kid’s cat as revenge. There’s another nice moment when Kate tells him that he shouldn’t fight, and Brian says that he did it because Bobby called Kate “old, ugly, and dumb.”

Schedeen pauses, but then repeats her advice not to fight…before mumbling, “That little brat.”

It’s good. She’s being a mother, but still being a person. Her feeling are hurt, and she’s upset, but she needs to set the example for Brian…while clearly believing the kid needs a slap. And this is why I love Schedeen; she’s capable of expressing multiple things at the same time. She doesn’t flip back and forth between settings; she’s a human being with complex emotions. What a rarity here.

Speaking of rarity, we then get a good ALF line when he says, “He’s entitled to his opinion.” And that, in itself, gets punctuated by a perfect Kate glower.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Maybe I’m just clinging to stuff like this because the rest of the episode is a pretty massive pile of dickshit, but is there anyone out there who doesn’t appreciate Anne Schedeen? Anyone watching this show or following this blog that thinks she’s not worthy of the praise I give her? Maybe I’ve just been driven insane by the show. If that’s the case, please tell me. You’re my last hope for a healthy perspective on things.

Eh, who cares if I’m crazy. I fucking love her, and she’s about the only thing I can count on from week to week, so sue me.

The next day, or whenever the hell Brian changes his shirt, ALF gives him fighting lessons in the garage. He reveals that he was known as “Sugar Ray” Shumway on Melmac, because he loved shitty 90s pop.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

ALF tells Brian that he can’t drop out of school to avoid bullies, because otherwise he’ll end up hanging around the house all day, eating and watching TV. CAN YOU GUESS THE PUNCHLINE AT HOME?

Of course you can. But that doesn’t stop Brian from explaining it by saying, “But I want to be like you!”

It doesn’t land, as you might expect, and it serves as a perfect illustration of my earlier point: Schedeen delivered an unnecessary explanation, but because she was acting it made sense: she was explaining something to ALF, not to us. Benji Gregory only knows how to recite half-memorized lines from a piece of paper, so he ends up delivering this particular unnecessary explanation to us.

Big difference, and one that comes down entirely to acting chops. You can speak the words somebody else wrote for you, or your character can do the talking.

I’m not trying to be too hard on Gregory; I just find him to be a good case study. Acting is difficult. Really. It is. And this is a kid without any real experience doing it, being handed shitty dialogue and being made to perform it under shittier conditions. I’ll joke about him, sure, but I don’t dislike him.

It’s not that he’s bad at what he does…it’s that he’s incompetent. I know that sounds insulting, but what I’m getting at is that he never learned what it meant to be competent. Nobody here taught him. “Good enough” was ALF‘s motto, which is why the good actors brought their talent in from the start (Anne Schedeen and Jack LaMotta), and the lousy ones never got any better (Max Wright and Benji Gregory).

Of course, we do have an exception in Andrea Elson, but I’m sure that’s because she worked of her own initiative to get better, likely learning what she could from Schedeen and the other good actors that dropped in for guest appearances. It’s not because the setting was conducive to her learning these things, and it’s definitely not because the director or anyone else bothered to coach her…if she learned anything, she learned it on her own.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

ALF tries to steal Brian’s candy bar, which Benji Gregory was kind enough to hold perfectly, rigidly in frame throughout the conversation, like the script-reciting automaton that he is. He then gives ALF the candy bar, and ALF eats it so fast! lol!

Brian even gets to deliver a zinger! “You eat fast, Sugar Ray!” It’d be an embarrassing line for even the best of actors, so if you can make it through Benji Gregory slurring it out without flinching, you’re a better man than I.

In fact, he seems to channel the mushmouthed inflection of Max Wright. “Yhou EEatf-fast shuggeray.” Coupled with the extremely delayed physical reaction to ALF trying to grab the candy, it almost seems like while Andrea Elson was learning quietly from Anne Schedeen, Benji Gregory was stuck at the Max Wright Actor College.

Anyway, ALF chops a board, then he tries to chop another board, but he fails to chop the other board, so he makes a face and vibrates.

Good shit.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Willie comes in to tell Brian that he just heard what a massive wiener he is. Then he sees that ALF has injured the hand that loves him the way his wife used to, so he attempts to massage it back to functionality.

We get a pretty good line stranded amongst all the bullshit when Willie tells ALF, “If you really wanted to help, you’d teach him not to fight.” ALF replies, “He already knows how to do that.”

Good shit.

No…really this time.

Then we get some more Willie backstory. Unlike anything we learned in “Night Train,” though, this is something we probably could have guessed for ourselves: Willie used to get his nuts handed to him. His bully was named Clarence, which I think implies that even Willie’s guardian angel couldn’t resist giving him wedgies.

He tells Brian that once he decided not to fight back anymore, Clarence moved on, because it stopped being fun for him.

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard every sitcom dad in history give this same advice…but has this ever worked in real life? I can tell you for sure that the kid in my school who got picked on the most literally never raised a hand to his tormentors. Ever. And they definitely didn’t stop. Why would they? If anything they’d leave the kid who intermittently stands up for himself alone in favor of a reliable target.

I don’t know. I was never a bully. And — thanks to this other kid serving as a hell of a convenient distraction — I was never bullied, either. But from what I’ve seen, fighting back is the only hope you have. Not fighting back just cements you as a punching bag until you hang yourself in the closet.

Willie mentions that this advice came from his dad, and Brian asks if that’s the same grandfather that used to talk to corn chips. That’s an interesting bit of color. Willie’s dad must have gone through (or is going through) a period of dementia that Brian was around to see. I still don’t know if the guy’s alive or dead, but at least we know that during that ailing, helpless time of his life, the Tanners sat around making fun of him.

Whatever. Willie gets sick of talking to his son and initiates sex with the alien.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

The next day, or whenever the hell everybody changes their shirts, Kate is pissed because ALF stuck all of his karate boards in the fireplace. She chews him out for wasting perfectly good lumber.

…and, sorry. But, yeah. Not even Anne Schedeen can sell that bullshit.

Of all the things Kate could have gotten mad at ALF for (leaving splinters everywhere comes to mind, or actually burning the wood but not opening the flue), she’s mad that he wasted perfectly good lumber.

Kate Tanner.

Says, out loud.

That she’s mad at him.

For “wasting perfectly good lumber.”

She tries, dear reader. She really does. But although Kate is large, and contains multitudes, she does not give a flying fuck about the Tanner supply of good lumber. And she certainly isn’t so emotionally invested in it that she’ll fly into a rage if good lumber isn’t put to appropriate use.

Good fucking lumber.

Good lumber my ass. God damn this awful show.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Brian comes home and reveals that even though he didn’t fight back, Bobby Duncan still rubbed a bunch of potting soil into his jacket.

ALF pops up through the plot window and suggests solving violence with violence, like they used to do on Melmac.

And then — you know what? — I just about forget about good lumber. Because there’s one hell of a tantalizing moment.

Willie hears this suggestion, and he pointedly asks him if he remembers what happened to Melmac.

ALF replies, “It blew up in a nuclear holocaust. Why?”

And…wow. That’s both a good joke and some nice, potential shading of ALF’s history. Willie, of course, tries to overexplain the connection to the audience, but I’m not disappointed by that. I want to know more. The fact that we don’t get a clear answer here isn’t a bad thing…if anything, it just shows what a good job the show did (accidentally, no doubt) of getting my ears to perk up.

Is the “violence with violence” approach the reason Melmac is gone? Maybe so and maybe not. The fact that ALF can’t see the connection between what he just said and the “nuclear holocaust” he remembers can mean one of two things:

1) He’s a fucking imbecile, because Melmac actually was destroyed in needless conflict and he’s learned nothing, or…

2) Willie’s wrong, and the nuclear accident that destroyed Melmac was coincidental, not caused at all by any sort of hostile act.

They both give up on the conversation, so that’s where we’re left. Maybe the show wants us to believe that it’s one of those things, specifically, and not the other, but, as far as I can tell, they’re both equally valid in the face of what little we’ve heard.

I wonder if we will get any kind of definitive answer about Melmac. I’m assuming not, but I have to admit that these little snatches of dialogue are interesting.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

There’s another good line when Kate asks Brian if the bully insulted her again. Brian says, “No. Dad.” Surprised, Willie asks what Bobby said about him. Brian replies, “He said you must have been desperate to marry someone like mom.”

It’s a legitimately clever moment, and it’s not the last one in the episode. (It is the second to last one.)

That laugh dies pretty quickly, though, because ALF pops up through the plot window again to announce that he called Bobby’s father, impersonated Willie, threatened him, and invited the guy to come over and kick Willie’s teeth out.

Man, what an effortless way to advance the storyline. You’d hardly even notice how this episode was slapped together out of disparate script pages if I hadn’t pointed it out.

Damn that’s good lumber.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Bobby’s dad comes over and Willie stammers out a bunch of padded bullshit until the credits roll.

Well, not really. But that’s certainly how it feels. This Max Wright stutterlogue goes on so long that Paul Fusco starts to feel insecure, and we cut to ALF in the kitchen for no reason except to assure us that he hasn’t ceased to exist.

Anyway, Mr. Duncan starts hitting on Kate and calling Willie four-eyes, which is the single most hurtful insult in the world after all the rest of them. This makes Willie snap, and he calls Mr. Duncan “Shorty.”

The whole thing reeks of false escalation, but it leads to the best moment in the entire half hour. It gets no laugh from the audience, but I love it: Lynn steps into the tension of the living room and says, “Mom? Dad? Is it time for church yet?”

That was the best Lynn moment ever. I know she’s not the most reliable actor on the show, but when she wants to, Andrea Elson gives good lumber.

Willie physically throws the guy out of the house, and we hear the crashing of garbage cans. Though this is pretty fucking stupid even for ALF, there’s a valid sense of Willie having crossed a line.

Or maybe I’m just going easy on it because it leads to the second best Lynn moment ever when she makes this face:

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

The next day, or whenever the hell everybody changes into a robe, ALF is blabbing about how he called a bunch of people and threatened them on Willie’s behalf.

Remind me again why they don’t just sever ALF’s spine while he sleeps? Why the hell is he not even being threatened with eviction? He’s entering Willie in fucking Bloodsport.

Oh well. The important thing is that we’ve hijacked another Brian plot. There I was, stupidly thinking the episode about Brian getting beaten up would be about Brian getting beaten up. Little did I know it was actually about ALF siccing the city of Los Angeles on Willie’s pasty ass.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

A serious sight for sore eyes, Mr. Ochmonek comes over with his wife. Funny how when the show started, it seemed like Mrs. Ochmonek was going to be the “main” neighbor, and her husband might or might not tag along. Liz Sheridan is by no means a bad actress (see Seinfeld, which made much better use of her talents), but Jack LaMotta leaves her in the dust, and I’d like to think that the writers at least appreciated what they had, and started using Mr. Ochmonek more, making his wife the optional add-on.

He congratulates Willie on knocking some sense into Mr. Duncan, because that guy’s kind of a dick. Kate asks how he knows about that, and Mrs. Ochmonek says she told everyone in town.

Tee hee, sure, but I’m only reporting that because it leads to a fucking gorgeous moment.

Mr. Ochmonek says, “Yeah. There’s three ways news can travel. Telephone, telegraph, and tell Raquel.”

On its own that’s nothing, but look at the screengrab again. Mrs. Ochmonek hears this joke — which she knows is coming, and which she must have heard a thousand times before — and turns to Kate with a huge smile as he tells it. “Isn’t he the best?” she’s asking silently.

This joke isn’t just lame, it’s extremely out of date. When was the last time anyone used the telegraph to spread news? Mr. Ochmonek is telling a joke he may well have told back when he was wooing Raquel* in high school.

And she still loves it.

She thinks her husband is hilarious. This isn’t a joke she’s sick of hearing…this is a reminder of why she fell in love with him in the first place. I can’t stress enough how lovely this moment is, and it bears repeating that I believe the Ochmoneks love each other. I do not believe that of the Tanners. These are the people I’d rather spend time with, because they’re at least recognizably human.

Then Mr. Ochmonek jokes about leaving before Willie throws him out “like yesterday’s garbage.” He even makes a little production out of carrying himself to the door by his shirt color.

Give them just a few lines and a little bit of physical business, and the Ochmoneks will show us what a difference it makes when we’re watching actual characters instead of people on a soundstage.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Mr. Duncan comes over again and Willie decides to show Brian that you don’t need to fight in order to resolve your problems. Then Mr. Duncan actually sees Brian and asks if that’s really the kid that gave Bobby a black eye, which is a twist marginally less believable than finding out Willie was formed in a lab accident.

Whatever. The guy’s being pretty nice overall, but he mentions he works as a scrap metal dealer, which for some reason causes the Tanners to make fun of him over and over again. Even Kate, with Anne Schedeen proving again that there’s only so much anyone can do with dreck like this.

The joke isn’t even that the Tanners are awful people. As far as I can tell, the joke is that this idiot works as a scrap metal dealer. What an idiot! Everyone, look at the idiot! This idiot probably wouldn’t know good lumber if it bashed his skull open, the idiot.

It actually makes me feel pretty bad for Mr. Duncan. He might be an asshole, but with no amount of self-awareness whatsoever, the writers are having the Tanners bully him, and hoping we’ll laugh along. When we last saw him, yes, he called Willie “four-eyes.” But, y’know, Willie retaliated by throwing him into a row of trash cans, so I don’t think it’s Mr. Duncan who needs a comeuppance.

He gets it anyway, though, when Kate, for some bullshit reason I don’t care about, grabs him and throws him into the garbage again because fuck you for having a crappy job the Tanners don’t approve of.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Willie then gets down on one knee and asks Brian to marry him. He also delivers this week’s moral to the audience: in spite of what we’ve just asked the folks watching at home to celebrate, violence is totally a bad thing, so don’t throw your neighbors into trash cans…but if you do, do it twice, I guess. I dunno. The episode’s over. If you don’t like it you can suck ALF’s balls.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

In the short scene before the credits ALF fights one of those inflatable wobbler things that he calls “Mummy-hammad Ali.”

That’s all you need to know about that.

It ends with Lynn coming into the living room to announce that Brian and Bobby have stopped fighting. Why she’s delivering the news and not Brian himself is a question that can only be answered by the fact that Lynn is not played by Benji Gregory.

Ugh. This one was fucking lousy. And yet, there have certainly been worse. Oh well. This was the first episode on the final disc of season two. The end is in sight.

I can do this.

MELMAC FACTS: On Melmac somebody called ALF a snitch, just because ALF turned him in to the Secret Police. ALF says they used to call him Sugar Ray Shumway, but he never got far as a fighter owing to his “glass nose.” Raccy the Raccoon was a hero on Melmac who taught everyone to wash their food before they ate it. On Melmac they had no respect for good lumber.

* Yes, her name is Raquel. I know I’ve only ever referred to them as Mr. and Mrs. Ochmonek, but that was because I thought it was funny to do so. Now that they’re both becoming characters, though, I may show them some proper respect by using their first names when appropriate. So, here you go. They are Raquel and Trevor.

21 thoughts on “ALF Reviews: “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (season 2, episode 20)”

  1. So, I’m not watching these episode for episode but do we actually SEE or HEAR ALF doing these impersonations of people? Like, Max Wright voicing ALF while he was on the radio for the nieghbourhood watch, or here on the phone? They used the little boy when ALF was in the box, right? Or was that only when Brian was actually IN the box? I only wonder how deep Fuscoe’s ego/paranoia runs and if he ever lets anyone else do ALF’s voice, even in circumstances when it would be appropriate. By your description here, I take it ALF just STATES that he was on the phone as Willie, but has it been done elsewhere? It’s one of the few things ALF can do that gets recalled from time to time. Seems odd they’d use it if Fuscoe won’t let other people do the voicing for it.

    Another great write up, Phil. Laughed out loud several times. “Look at that idiot! Probably wouldn’t know good lumber…” It was pretty apparent by that point that you really did NOT like the lumber gag. Nicely done.

    1. Nah, we never see or hear it. In “Wild Thing” the rest of the cast does indeed supply the lines during his impersonations of them, but in “Someone to Watch Over Me” they just tell us that ALF has some kind of device that allows him to sound like Willie. We never HEAR the device make him sound like Willie, but we are led to believe the other characters do.

      In this episode (and countless others), ALF just pops up to say, “Yo, I impersonated you and now you’re fucked.” We don’t get to hear it actually happening. I think the only example of non-Fusco dialogue coming out of ALF is “Wild Thing.”

  2. “Maybe I’m just clinging to stuff like this because the rest of the episode is a pretty massive pile of dickshit, but is there anyone out there who doesn’t appreciate Anne Schedeen? Anyone watching this show or following this blog that thinks she’s not worthy of the praise I give her? Maybe I’ve just been driven insane by the show. If that’s the case, please tell me. You’re my last hope for a healthy perspective on things.”

    So out of curiosity (and lack of anything better to do), I went ahead and watched this episode to see if she’s any good, or if you’re just nuts. It was a bit hard to tell, honestly. She was obviously better than most of the other players, but it may be that Anne Schedeen is a middle-of-the-road actress surrounded by less-talented people. No matter what, because she tries a little harder, the rest of the cast is going to make her look good.

    What I got from the rest of the episode was a lot of unnecessary over-explaining (did they really think so little of their audience?) and a weird moment where Mr Duncan asks Kate for a beer and she grudgingly fetches it. Here’s my issue with it: who in that house drinks beer? We’ve seen ALF drink it, but is Kate really supplying alcohol to that furry asshole? It makes more sense that she might be buying it for someone else and ALF keeps helping himself to it, but the logical conclusion is that she buys it for Willie. Frankly, I buy Willie as a beer-drinker as much as I bought him as a football fan: he isn’t the type. Willie as a social worker ( however shitty) makes sense. It’s a quiet, white-collar job where he’s made to be an invisible cog in the lower echelons of the government. Willie as an amateur astronomer and ham radio operator (however quickly dismissed) also made sense for the character, as well as Willie the model train enthusiast. But I mostly see him trying it once or twice in college, deciding that he didn’t care for it, and walking away. I don’t see Kate as a beer-drinker, either. If anything, these are wine and coffee people. The only reason that beer was in the fridge was so that Duncan could request it and Anne could deliver the icicle-laden line of “Sure, it’s ALMOST noon.” That beer’s sole purpose was to gain a cheap laugh and and attempt to underscore the difference between the rough-around-the-edges Duncan and the “more civilized” Willie. Which leads me back to the beginning of Why Is It There In The First Place? It’s like Frasier Crane talking about how only rednecks like NASCAR while admiring his Dale Earnhardt poster.

    Crimony, did I just spend 30 minutes typing out a paragraph about the logic of beer in the Tanners’ fridge? Why do I even give a shit?

    1. You are, of course, right. The writers simply have the Tanners as stand ins for “normal people” (which I imagine said like “local people” in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) so any kind of “character” they have is invariably only really there for the punchline. To be fair, though, I’m not surprised so many traits are lost after each episode is done. You don’t expect them to go back and check the old episodes, do you? I mean, then they’d have to WATCH this crap! Or even READ the awful scripts! And we all know, once that script hits the first draft, it’s the last time anyone in the writers room sees it.

      1. That’s part of it, though. It’s so freaking lazy that I want to bash my head in on the kitchen counter. I don’t know of any creative endeavor that includes character-building of any kind (writing, acting, even painting/sculpture) that doesn’t thoroughly delve into the reasons of why each character acts in certain ways or carries certain objects with them. It needs to make *sense.* It’s fine if it drives the story, but needs to make sense for the character. Like the aforementioned hobbies of astronomy and ham radio worked well for the story of Guy Makes Contact with Alien Life Form, these things also worked well as hobbies for Willie’s character, which I find easiest to describe with the word “mousy.” I don’t know exactly how the writing functions on this show, but I believe that most shows have a “bible” in which character traits are mapped out to give a sense of consistency. And presumably, Paul Fusco was involved in not only the writing, but the on-stage acting and the editing as well, which means that he probably saw these slip-ups and decided to shrug it off because no one would notice. I can’t stand that sort of thing in character development, which is why this show infuriates me: they’ve proven multiple times that when they put forth the effort, they actually produce something of quality. The Jodie episodes are good, not just good “for ALF.”
        I don’t remember who said it, it was either Phil or Billy Superstar from FHR, but it was mentioned at some point that these shows were not meant to be watched and scrutinized multiple times by fans. They would usually be watched once when the show originally aired, and possibly a few times, years later, out of order, due to syndication. Nobody would notice if something was off, because no one was supposedly paying attention. But the invention of the VCR meant that one could tape and replay the episodes over and over to one’s content. Fast-forward a few years, and we’re marathon-watching these same shows, where each inconsistency is glaring. This is how we notice Rick and Lizard – who the hell is this girl dating? Both? Are they a polyamorous triad?
        This is what really kills me about this show – it’s fucking lazy. As early as 1989, the writers of The Simpsons noticed that people were taping tv shows to rewatch at home, so they began packing in jokes and sight gags that would only come to light with multiple viewings and freeze frames. I know that ALF came before The Simpsons, but even Star Trek had a bible way back in 1967, so as to ensure that things remained consistent from episode to episode. Writers of today’s shows may have to be extra-careful in their content so as not to set off a flurry of frantic fanmail, but the writers of yesterday’s shows do not get a pass simply because they thought no one was watching closely enough.

        *sigh* Fucking beer.

        1. Beer is a very common beverage and I can see WIllie drinking one. He’s not a six pack a night kind of guy, but a six pack can lasts months in a fridge. WIllie is the type of guy that would watch a football game now and then, but have a rudimentary understanding of what he is watching while Anne grew up watching it with her dad.

      1. Meh, they seem too straight-laced for that. ALF introduced Brian to beer in an earlier episode. It makes more sense that Brian is hiding a substance-abuse problem, shotgunning cans of beer in the shed after school.
        Oh God – “ALF’s Very Special After-School Special.”

  3. Great review, I always look forward them, especially on annoying Thursdays like today. Thanks. :)

    Man, when I first saw that picture of Lynn and laughed I thought I might have been mean. But it´s hilarious, what an awesome face.

    You know, I would like a sort of reboot for this show, maybe as a cartoon. They are of pretty good quality these days. There are so many interesting things that you could do with this show, with all the stuff that is already in this version available. ALFs backstory is pretty interesting and tragic, and could be shown more and more as the show goes on. The whole family could be shown as malfunctioning, hating the Ochmoneks for being horrible people, while they are actually nice, only from time to time slightly annoying people (sort of like Ned Flanders, but with one or two traits). Brian as a neglected boy who nobody cares about and who has no friends. Lynn as the honest and nice person of the family, who can´t take the situation anymore and is nearly never at home, caring more for her friends than her family because she doesn´t know how to help. Kate as the embittered housewife, who had envisioned a great carrier for herself, but is now stuck with a husband she can´t stand and children who she blames for having to stay at home. Willie as the lazy, incompetent father, who has no idea what to actually do with himself, but always looks for new hobbies, so that he doesn´t have to spend time with his family.
    ALFs role here would be to annoy, but also to help the Tanners, and bring them to face their problems. He is a new variable and would shake things up pretty heavily. He could be a friend to Brian, and together they learn about growing up/living on Earth. But he would also involontarily act as a bad friend, because he doesn´t know how people on Earth behave, which would show the others that they have to take care of the boy. With Lynn he could have a friendship, similar to the one he has now. She would be the one he trusts and she would also be the one who would defend him when necessary. Maybe he could give her some advice on romancing stuff (maybe a bad one at one point, to strain their friendship). For Willie, ALF could renew the sense of mystery on wonder the he had back in school, and put him out of his depression. This could be used to learn more about the backstory of what happened on Melmac. And with Kate, he could develop a love-hate relationship, like here, that is often used for funny jokes. Maybe also to remind Kate of the fact that she actually cares about her family, but also to make her get a job, take up a hobby, or whatever that she needs to do to get happy again.

    I dunno, maybe this sounds more interesting in my head than it actually would be, but I´m sure that you could do something really cool with the material that is given here. And sorry for abusing the replies with my babbling, after this annoying they it felt good to write this.

    1. I dunno man. I’ve had the same “they should remake ALF” thought too, mostly while reading Phil’s delicious verbage on how/why/where the show is going wrong and missing its potential, but “dysfunctional family meets alien who helps them become better people” is pretty much the last thing I’d want to watch, given the state of media entertainment these days. When you have shows like House of Cards, Breaking Bad and True Detective, plus animated shows like Rick and Morty and Venture Bros., I just don’t feel like ALF has a place anymore. Maybe if the formula was mixed up a bit? American Dad (as Phil has rightly pointed out) has pretty much lampooned the subject of “alien living with family” to death, and anything you do will just be covering the same ground. I’m all for adaptations, and it might be able to work, but thinking about it myself I had to come to the conclusion that we’re better off without more ALF on TV.

      I’d kinda love to be proven wrong, to be honest. But I think most of the “good material” is Phil’s commentary. Ad we already have that! Right here! Every week! Woo!

      1. We’ve probably all reached this conclusion at one time or another because it’s so frustrating to see the potential that they squandered, especially when they produce something that doesn’t suck. In my tiny little world, wasting time and money are minor offenses, but wasting potential is a major crime. Remember, kids: in half-assing it, you let everyone down.

        1. It’s so sad when you can SEE the potential, and the mistakes that were made, and you can’t understand WHY or HOW the material got made the way it did. Like a meal made with your favourite ingredients but prepared all wrong so it just doesn’t work at all.

  4. So what you’re saying is, lumber can be good? Or bad?

    I love the nickname ALF gives Willie when he throws Duncan out. “Willie Boom Boom Tanner.” What good lumber! :D

    I too, think Anne Schedeen is very underappreciated and she is probably the best one of the core lumber–er, I mean, cast.

    Anyone notice how washed out these late season 2 episodes seem to be? In terms of color? It’s very bland. A lot of season 2 episodes were taped out of order. Kate’s hair goes from long to shortish to long again. In season 3, there’s 2 episodes that got held back until season 4, so Kate is clearly still pregnant but they try to hide it. Plus she got a pixie cut in season 4 but in the episodes held over, her hair is long again. They make it seem like she still did have the baby though.

  5. you make a good point about anne schedeen showing she is a better actor and benji is not. no,i don’t think you are crazy, while anne is a moderately decent actor she is still probably the best actor in ALF as she actually puts effort into the lines she is given while is often pretty obvious it shows benji just staying out the lines he memorized, but really you can’t blame him for that, very often child actors are lousy because they little experience of how to act and considering what he was given with ALF, he isn’t given much to grow as an actor.
    i like that you mentioned the fight violence with violence thing ALF mentioned and how that his planet blew by nuclear holocaust because i feel there is a lot of wasted potential right there! ALF is given a pretty tragic backstory, but the show barely goes into it, ALF does mention it a few more times how his planet exploded, but all we know is the was because of a nuclear war and that’s it! it could mean ALF experienced first hand a pretty traumatic experience and that violence didn’t solve anything, but the fact that he can’t make that connection with the fighting brian is going through is a bit dumbfounded. it makes ALF seem really dumb witted, not just by how things work on earth, but how things went on on his own planet.
    I also found it amusing that this episode is confusing on it own moral, it never a good thing to fight violence with violence, but if someone is acting like a dick, it’s okay to go ahead and kick their ass.

  6. This episode features a great example of my absolute favorite thing about this show. Lynn being (what Professor Impossible might call) a giggle-puss. It’s something you’ll only see if you’ve been watching along. . . which I’m willing to admit I have been.

    If you keep an eye on Lynn, you’ll see that she gets herself into these laughing fits and then tries like hell to cover them up so she doesn’t ruin the take. Her face turns red, she puts her hand over her mouth, her lips are pressed together, etc. In this episode she even started shaking because she was trying so hard not to laugh. It’s probably the most unfiltered, real and HUMAN thing in this entire show and I love it.

    (I think you might have pointed out an instance of this in one of the earlier reviews, Phil, but I’m not totally sure!) By the way, after seeing Andrea Elson on Facebook the other day (still waiting for that friend request to be approved) I’ll say that if she’s needful of good lumber, I’ll gladly provide. Phone number’s on the website. I do yoga, too.

    Onto something serious: TV dads telling kids not to fight. It’s funny this should come up; not a week ago I was having one of those “remember when you were little” conversations with my mother, and an incident came up where, in elementary school, three kids held me down and beat the shit out of me. I told her I’m glad it happened because understanding what it’s like to be the weaker person paid off later when I went in the Marines, took martial arts classes, etc. etc. In other words, that understanding made me want to protect people who needed it, not bully people who were weaker than me. Being bullied was shit, but it was fertilizer for empathy.

    Her response wasn’t “oh, well then everything turned out okay.” Nope. She said, “I tried to teach you to reason with bullies and it was a huge mistake. I should have just told you to kick their fucking asses.” Mom’s words. Thanks mom!

    So, yeah. Being an easy target is every bit as bad as it sounds. Reasoning with people is great, but I’m a lot happier knowing that I can JUDO KUNG FU NUMBCHUCK someone if I have to.

    1. Some girls were picking on my older sister at our bus stop when I was in Kindergarden and she was in 2nd grade. My dad told me, “put some rocks in your book bag and hit them with it.” Good Ol’ dad, but I never learned how to be a victim.

  7. [I don’t know. I was never a bully. And — thanks to this other kid serving as a hell of a convenient distraction — I was never bullied, either. ]

    I am a little surprised you weren’t a bully the way you bully poor little Benji Tanner.

  8. Look at Leave it to Braver, the Brady Bunch and ALF to see how things changed for the better. In the 50’s, TV dads seemed to be adamant that their son fight the bully. I remember Ward Cleaver ranting about how the Beav didn’t fight back after getting a black eye. , but there was a reason. In 1970 the Brady Bunch Greg gave Peter a pep talk about how he had to fight Buddy Hinton Mike said Peter shouldn’t fight him. But later he gave him pointers just in case he didn’t leave him alone. Here in the late 80’s, Willie tells Brian to be civilized and ignore him, and Brian himself didn’t wasn’t even out for a rematch.

  9. This seems unique in the cavalcade of television bully episodes; We never physically SEE the bully. Not only that, but instead we see the DAD AND the mom stand up to the bully who was shorter than both of them.

  10. I mean, they stand up o the bully’s DAD and inadverdently shove him into garbage cans. It seemed intentional when Kate did it

Comments are closed.