I’d really hoped to make it through the end of season two before “needing” another break, so I’m more than a little bummed that last week was interrupted by an unexpected outage. As I mentioned in my previous post, the site went down because I had more traffic in October than my service plan allowed for. That’s not to say it’s never been higher (my “Ozymandias” review of Breaking Bad is probably destined to be my all-time most visited post), but taking a look at Google Analytics, I see that the average number of visits per day has about tripled from this time last year. Over the course of a month, that adds up, and I ended up exceeding my bandwidth as a result.
Mysterious commenter / antagonist E[X] suggested that if I post my screenshots in .jpg format, they’d eat up less bandwidth. And he’s right. (That adds up, too, unquestionably.) But…I don’t know. .jpgs always look lousy to me. I’ll post the first screenshot here again in .jpg format.
Do you notice a difference? Maybe it’s all in my mind, and it probably doesn’t matter anyway, but the fact is that there isn’t a comprehensive screenshot collection of ALF on the internet. I’m the last person who would complain about such a deficiency, but if I have the chance to provide one to actual fans out there while I’m already in the habit of reviewing the thing…I don’t know. I think that’s kind of cool, and they can be put to good use by others. The official ALF Facebook account has even burgled my screenshots lately, which is oddly flattering.
Do I love ALF so much that I feel compelled to present screenshots in their highest quality? No. Do I really think my reviews would be less popular or less well-received if I posted .jpgs instead of .pngs? No. But if I can make some passing fan happy, or quietly provide the ALF wiki with a usable photograph of Wizard Beaver, then I feel like I might as well.
These final episodes of season two should be interesting. Last week we had a surprisingly good episode: “I’m Your Puppet,” which was a fascinating look at the frustrations of working on this show filtered through the rigid format of the sitcom itself. And next week we have “Varsity Blues,” which is an episode I’ve been looking forward to ever since the start of season one. I haven’t seen it yet (unless I saw it as a kid and forgot, which is possible), and I won’t spoil it for anyone out there who doesn’t know what it’s about, but let’s just say that the plot description suggests it will deal with probably the longest-standing issue I’ve had with this show. Successful or not, that’s something I am very excited to see.
This episode was mentioned in a comment by FelixSH as being good. Or…better than “Movin’ Out,” anyway. He also singled out “I’m Your Puppet,” and that one was awesome, so potentially the end of season two might look a lot like its long-missed beginning: better than it has any right to be.
“Tequila” starts out with a scene that’s good without being particularly funny. Kate is preparing for a visit from her old college roommates, and because she wants to make a good impression, everyone has a chore to do. ALF and Lynn are polishing the silver, and this might be the first time that we’ve seen ALF and Lynn assigned the same task. The fact that they’re both bored by it makes it easy for the show to pass it off as an exercise in quiet bonding, and I love that.
ALF makes all the normal jokes you’d expect, and they’re neither more nor less funny than usual, but what I love is watching Lynn’s face. When Andrea Elson actually smiles (as opposed to acting like her character is smiling), it’s adorable. And whether she’s laughing out of turn or not, it suits the context: Lynn doesn’t want to do this, and will take any release she can get. The same tired jokes coming out of the same tired alien represent a small escape, and if you watch her face through this scene, you’ll see that she laughs at every single one of them. It’s sweet, and 100% believable.
Then Willie and Brian come home with groceries, and Willie screams at his wife to drop whatever she’s doing and come open the door for him.
God I hope Kate’s old roommates give her shit for dumping Joe Namath for this guy.
Anyway, ALF wrote shit on the wall, and I’m a bit disappointed by Kate’s over-the-top reaction.
Yeah, don’t get me wrong, this sucks. In theory. But it’s not like ALF wrote anything particularly objectionable…just something stupid. Unless there’s a dirty joke in WELCOME DORM QUEENS that I’m not getting. If he wrote HELLO YOU SHITTY HAGS I’d understand…and it’s not much of a reach to think that he would write something like that.
Kate’s gasp of horror when she notices this rings false. Anne Schedeen does her best with it, but the reveal of the writing isn’t enough to justify it, so it falls flat. Her immediate decision to cancel the dinner is even more out of scale to the problem.
Instantly a wealth of ideas present themselves as alternative solutions, especially since the groceries just arrived and she hasn’t even started preparing dinner. If there’s time to do that, there’s plenty of time to…
…paint over it. It’s high enough on the wall that nobody will accidentally touch it, so it doesn’t matter if it’s still wet.
…hang a sheet over it. Explain that there’s a crack or some water damage there that’s being fixed tomorrow.
…come up with a cover story about Brian doing this, thinking it was a nice gesture. It’s not like the kid has any other role on the show; might as well make him the designated scapegoat for ALF’s shenanigans.
And those are just the first things that come to mind. I’m sure you guys could come up with a dozen more. But because there’s some crayon on the wall and she married a worthless piece of shit who gives up after five seconds of caressing it with a damp sponge, Kate calls her pals and arranges to meet them at a restaurant on their old campus.
They do, and it’s what Alan Partridge would sagely describe as a load of women talking blabbering crap. The conversation is stilted and hollow. They don’t really feel like old friends, to me. They feel like four actresses at a table exchanging background information about the characters they barely get to play.
It just about builds to what could have been a great storyline, though: after her three friends discuss all the rad shit they’ve been up to, they ask Kate what she’s been doing. “Nothing,” she replies, and the delivery is perfect. Schedeen sells the sadness of it without making it feel like Kate’s aware of the sadness. It’s the kind of thing somebody says without thinking that turns out to be more truthful than anything they say when they are.
But that’s about it. It’s a shame, because way back in “Jump” we learned that Kate used to do a hell of a lot. You know. Before she married the sentient pepperoni log we call Willie.
The suggestion that her friends are still living exciting, fulfilling, successful lives might suggest that it’s Kate who took a wrong turn…or, at least, offer enough of a suggestion to that effect that she can explore it throughout the episode before realizing she’s happy where she is, and that that’s what matters.
Nothing groundbreaking, but something recognizable. And it’s a shame that her “nothing” response just sort of gets swept away. I want to see that episode. Schedeen could sell it. I wish they’d let her.
Two of her friends leave — I don’t know who they are, so let’s just call them Pancho and Miffy — and she’s alone at the table with the third, Maura.
It’s an odd scene, and I know Schedeen is a stronger actress than this episode is letting on, so she may have just gotten some very poor — even by ALF standards — direction.
See, as soon as the other two depart, Kate starts telling Maura how proud they all are of her, and of what she’s accomplished, and it sounds so desperately supportive that the same take of this line could play over a scene of talking Maura down from a tall building.
We find out in a moment Maura is depressed, but Kate doesn’t know that, and indeed is shocked to find out. So why is she already talking to her like a suicide prevention operator?
Maura begins to cry, and Kate believably doesn’t know how to handle it. It’s probably been a long time since she’s had to deal with anything like somebody’s real emotions. Certainly before she moved onto a soundstage webbed by deadly puppet trenches.
That much, I buy. What I don’t buy is Maura asking if she can stay at Kate’s tonight, and Kate replying, “Uh…no.”
Sorry. The next scene lets us know that what she’s worried about is Maura finding ALF, but the delivery just makes it sound like Kate’s a bitch. And the thing is…she’s not.
She’s chilly. She’s stubborn. She lacks a sense of humor. But all of this, we’ve seen by now, is productive. She runs a tight ship, and her intentions are good. She’s not selfish, really. Yes, she wants things her way, but she wants them her way because she’s convinced that’s the best way for her family. And considering the pack of idiots she lives with, it’s hard to fault her for arriving at that conclusion.
So, no. Kate would not turn away a crying friend with a callous, “Uh…no.”
She’d make an excuse, maybe, but “Uh…no” is reserved for when ALF wants to dance naked on the roof, or when Willie wants to touch her boobs.
Not a friend in need. That’s not Kate.
She calls home to tell Willie that a friend will be spending the night. While he’s on the phone, ALF climbs a ladder with a bucket of paint so that the ladder can fall over and the paint can ruin the couch.
It’s fucking stupid.
The only funny part is watching ALF fall, which is impossible to catch in a good screenshot, but it looks like they just stuffed the old midget suit with leaves and dropped it from the rafters. Brilliant.
In the next scene, Willie has disposed of the couch…apparently.
Seriously, where the hell is it? He set up the cot because ALF ruined the couch, yes, but WHERE IS THE COUCH? You can’t expect me to believe Max Wright fucking shouldered a sofa out of the house all on his own. And even if he did…why? Wouldn’t it be easier to just drape a sheet over it?
Willie tells ALF that he’s not sleeping in the garage tonight; he has to sleep in Brian’s room. You know, because “you’re not sleeping in the garage tonight” was a such a massively successful plan when Uncle Albert came to stay.
How many fucking people need to see ALF / get murdered by ALF before these morons just leave well enough alone and let the fucking space creature stay in the shed? There’s no reason given at all, and I certainly can’t think of one. Can you?
Why is it smarter in any way to hide ALF one room away from their guest than it is to hide him in a completely separate building? Especially when he wants to be in the other building? Yes, I know he likes Brian, but he doesn’t like spending the night with him. The kid always wants to cuddle afterward and talk about their feelings.
Kate and Maura arrive back at the house, and Kate calls Lynn in to say hello. She doesn’t call her son because to hell with him.
Maura is a lawyer, which I’m only mentioning now because Lynn starts swooning over her performance in the People v. Fusco case. So, yeah, like “I’m Your Puppet,” we get a little dose of meta comedy. Unlike “I’m Your Puppet,” though, it goes nowhere, and just seems bizarre.
Why is a teenage girl with no interest in law going ga-ga over some case we don’t hear anything about? Of course, People v. Fusco does eerily presage the class action suit I’m putting together on behalf of everybody who sat through this season’s Christmas special.
Massive shocker: the thing that was absolutely guaranteed to happen the moment Willie told ALF he had to sleep in the house happens.
Seriously, I’m all for plot contrivance. I am. I know we have about 20 minutes to tell a story front to back, and if logistical corners need to get cut, so be it. But in this case, it’s not a corner being cut at all. It’s Willie saying, “ALF, we need you to stay out of the way of our guest, so instead of sleeping where she will never in a thousand years find you, you’ll be sleeping a few yards away.” And it makes no sense whatsoever.
It was the same thing in the damned Uncle Albert episode. You can contrive for ALF to be in an easily-discoverable place, but we need reasons for ALF to be in an easily-discoverable place. You can’t just shit him there; you need to do at least a little bit of legwork.
Maybe the garage has caved in from some of ALF’s antics. Maybe he broke his leg falling off the ladder and needs to be in the house so Brian can take care of him. Maybe he’s in the shed, but Maura comes out because she hears him rocking out to “Billie Jean.” There are any number of ways to address this in a way that at least makes some superficial sense.
Instead, the Tanners keep addressing the problem of hiding ALF by making sure he’s out in the open.
No sense is being made. Period.
So far, the contrivance has been no worse than the one in “We’re So Sorry, Uncle Albert.” But the result is worse. At least Uncle Albert did a rational thing when he discovered ALF: he dropped dead on the fucking spot.
Here, Maura assumes ALF is someone named Sammy and invites him to have a drink.
The next morning they’re still chatting. Okay, so, Maura’s drunk. Fine. She sure drank a lot of tequila judging from that screenshot, but an hours-long conversation with a space alien is not allowed.
Sorry. It’s not.
At some point she’d have to realize this wasn’t who she thought it was. Maybe if she just saw ALF in passing. Or if they only spoke for a few minutes. I’d still be a little skeptical at her lack of panic, but rapping with a moonman until the sun comes up doesn’t raise even the smallest flag for this woman?
Drunk or not, I call bullshit.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but any time I’ve been drunk, any warped perception has been in terms of interpretation. You know? Somebody tries giving you a hard time, but you’re so happy you hug him and don’t realize you’re being insulted. Or somebody says something perfectly benign and you suspect you’re the butt of a joke you’re not alert enough to understand and get upset.
In other words, drunkenness causes you to misunderstand things, certainly. (Or at least makes it faaaar easier to do so.) But it doesn’t make you see things that aren’t there. I might hear something a friend says and interpret it incorrectly, but I don’t look at my friend and see Mr. Peanut. I might stumble around, having trouble remembering my address, but while searching for my house I won’t look at a tree and see a lung.
So, no. I’m sorry. You cannot have a protracted conversation with an alien from an undiscovered civilization without batting an eye. God, I have enough trouble talking to regular human beings when I’m sober. I can’t begin to imagine how a drunken conversation with an extra-terrestrial would go.
Later on Willie and Kate hear ALF stumbling drunkenly around the house. At first I was puzzled by their lack of reaction, but then I realized that by this point the Alien Task Force are the only people in LA that haven’t seen ALF, and this is nothing new for anyone.
Maura tells ALF — who she still thinks is Sammy — that he shows up whenever she drinks, arriving around the third margarita and leaving sometime during her blackout. The fake audience of long-dead nobodies doesn’t laugh, so I guess this is supposed to be a sad and tender moment.
It doesn’t work for two reasons, though.
Firstly, we don’t know who this person is. At all. She’s a lawyer, she was Kate’s roommate, and she drinks. Granted, that’s more character development than almost anyone else on this show, but it’s still not enough to make us care about her. See why that “nothing” comment in the bar was so much more enticing? We know Kate. That means that when she is the one working through something, stakes are involved. We’re interested to see how it turns out. Instead, it’s somebody we just met, and will never see again. It doesn’t actually matter.
Secondly, this is not how drinking works. Honestly, it feels a little like the alcoholism stuff was written by a kid who only knew booze from after-school specials.
Alcohol is not a hallucinogen. It has the potential to be a terrible, terrible thing when misused or overused, but that doesn’t mean it makes imaginary people appear and chew the fat with you until you pass out.
I’m curious as to how much drunk acting on television is true to life. It’s hard for me to come up with many examples; typically it’s overplayed for broad laughs (Barney on The Simpsons is a good example, or Jack on Father Ted), or it seems to spring directly from the tee-totaling minds of The American Temperance Society. It’s very rare that any show, even the great ones, manage to do drunkenness right. (The “Thanks for the Memory” episode of Red Dwarf comes to mind…and not much else does.)
I’m going to open up to you folks.
I grew up with an alcoholic father. It was not pleasant. I have terrible memories that I wish I could shed, but I can’t. I’m stuck with them. I don’t want to be, but alcoholism is an absolutely awful thing to endure. The memories of being around it dig deeply into you, and not one of them will be pleasant.
So I’m not opposed to a didactic “don’t drink” episode. I don’t need one, but if it’s a message a TV show wishes to pass along, well…more power to them.
But instead of building a storyline or a plot point around what can actually happen when somebody’s drunk, these shitty shows have a strange habit of inventing something stupid, and treating that like it’s the reason we should exercise moderation.
In this case, it’s little goblins who visit Maura. Which, with all do respect, what the fuck. I remember an episode of Family Matters in which Urkel drank some spiked punch and fell off the roof, clinging to a clothesline, after having invented a dance named after himself that everyone else at the party spontaneously did along with him. And at some point in school we had to watch a video in which some kid accepted a sip of beer from an older friend, and then he could never shoot hoops again because a fleeting taste of Coors Light is enough to make you dizzy for life.
I’m not standing on the outskirts making fun of ALF for wanting to do an alcoholism episode. I don’t think it’s necessarily lame or quaint or idiotic. But since alcoholism is something that has affected my life — directly, deeply, and irreparably — I’m concerned by how many shows and specials want to address the problem without actually addressing the problem.
Have Maura try to drive home and crash into the mailbox or something. It can be small-scale. She doesn’t have to hit a kid. But have her do something that reveals an actual danger of drinking too much.
Have her say something stupid to Kate, insulting the woman who gave her a place to stay for the night when she needed a friend. The next morning she can reflect back on what she’s said and be horrified.
Have her get drunk and trip on something, falling down and giving herself a black eye. Maybe ALF has to carry her back to bed, so they can still meet if that’s so fuckin’ important.
These shows try to horrify people without even touching upon how these things can turn horrific. Their cautionary tales exist in a sort of fantasy land where even the worst possible outcome isn’t all that bad. Drink too much and some invisible creatures will keep you company? Sounds fun, actually. And god knows I’d drink however much liquor was necessary for a party full of strangers to gather ’round and spontaneously Do The Reed.
It’s bizarre. It’s like a show trying to make a point about gun control, but it uses for its example a scene in which the main character drops a pistol on his toe and it really hurts.
If you want to say something about the issue, say something about the issue.
Don’t invent a harmless version and act like you’re afraid of that. That’s not helpful, and it’s disrespectful. Trying to warn somebody of the reality of a topic like this absolutely requires an acknowledgment of that reality, and if you need to “invent” a different outcome, it needs to be as bad as or worse than what we see in real life. This isn’t advice…this is a rule.
ALF comes into the room and they all talk for fucking ever about how much he needs to barf.
Willie remembers that in college, they sued to call Maura “Boilermaker,” because she drank a shitload of boilermakers. So…Willie and Kate went to college together? That’s kind of interesting. I guess. Has this come up before? Of course it hasn’t. Who am I kidding.
ALF goes into the bathroom and we hear him barf for fucking ever.
We cut to Lynn and Maura having breakfast. It’s just basic, time-killing bullshit until it’s time for Lynn to go to school, at which point she tells Maura how proud she is and how she wants to be like her when she grows up and all the same kind of shit her mother was saying last night at the cafe. Why are the Tanners in suicide prevention mode lately?
Yes, Maura’s a fuckin’ wreck, but neither of the characters find this out until after the deliver their “you have so much to live for” speech. It’s really odd.
Maura starts crying again and Willie guides Lynn out of the room in the first human gesture I’ve seen in the entire episode. It’s something I can see an actual adult doing with their actual child, with the intention of explaining later. Willie, being a shit father, is probably not going to explain later because he’ll be busy staring vacantly at the wall, but this part of the process, at least, is familiar.
Kate confronts Maura about her drinking problem, and it’s…not all bad. Kate gently asks her how much she drank, leading the conversation without being confrontational. Maura defends herself by saying she’s under a lot of stress and is fighting with her husband…which isn’t an excuse, but is a perfectly valid way of explaining a one-off night of stupidity.
Neither wants to push too hard, and both are clearly uncomfortable. It’s actually a decent enough scene, if we didn’t need to keep cutting to ALF doing nothing in the living room because Paul Fusco is constantly paranoid that people will forget who the show is named after.
In fact, y’know what? This conversation is way too close to being effectively relateable, so let’s just send the alien waltzing in without any reason.
ALF announces to Maura that only she can see him; he’s invisible to Kate and everyone else. Maura, in spite of the fact that she’s stone-sober now, believes this. If it was absurd for her to have this conversation last night after a bottle of tequila, it’s upgraded to fucking ridiculous that she could have it again, now, sober, in front of another person who just sits there quietly waiting for this to resolve itself.
ALF, through his talent of spewing nonsensical bullshit that fictional characters flick themselves off to, saves the day. He appeals to Maura’s sadness and desperation, and gets her to admit she has a problem.
Which…y’know, Kate was kinda doing on her own. One friend to another.
These are two people who have known each other for decades. They have a history together. They trust each other and they care about each other. When Kate allows herself to understand that Maura has a problem, she is finally ready to help Maura with that problem.
All of this comes dangerously close to being a logical resolution to a serious subject, so of course it gets interrupted by ALF, the magical booze gnome, strolling in from the living room and tying everything up with a neat little bow.
It would be fine if this was the joke. Perhaps Kate was doing just fine, but ALF comes in with good intentions and fucks it all up. This late in the episode that wouldn’t make much sense, I know, but what happens doesn’t make any more sense anyway.
Why does ALF have to intrude on this scene? Were they trying to make a point about recognizing the problems you have, or were they trying to make a point about how awesome ALF is?
I guess it’s the latter, because the short scene before the credits has a letter arriving from Maura, who assures the Tanners that even though she will never be seen again, she’s doing great and will be forever.
Kate thanks ALF and tells him that they owe him “a big one.” You know. Because he explicitly disobeyed their orders by skulking around the house the night they had a guest sleeping in the living room, and then rudely interrupted a very serious conversation Kate was having with a fragile and desperate woman.
You know, this episode could have been pretty good if it weren’t for this show’s frustrating tendency to cram ALF into as many scenes as possible. And that’s the problem with this show as a whole. ALF, as a character, suffocates everything else. The good stuff happens around the margin — Kate’s background business, Lynn giggling, Willie dropping his crack pipe — because it has to. At the center of the show, whether or not he has anything to do with the story or has any reason to be there, it’s ALF. And that’s draining.
It’s like having your annoying uncle show up at every party you attend. Sure, any one of those nights could be fun, but after a while…won’t you just stop going?
So, yeah. Alcoholism is bad, but you know what’s the opposite of bad?
ALF. He’s just great. His jokes are wonderful, and he solves so many problems that two human beings speaking like adults could never hope to solve.
What’s all this shit about admitting you have a problem and letting the ones you love help you through it? The real solution is the saintly alien who pretends to be an imaginary drinking buddy and sorts your life out, and sometimes rapes the kids.
How many of these episodes are just going to be about how perfect ALF is? It’d be one thing if he was ever actually helping anyone, but instead he just sort of causes problems and sometimes offers up half-assed solutions that only work because the episode has to end sometime.
See, when I was growing up, I always thought that my father needed help. That he needed to open up to somebody — anybody — about whatever it was that made him drink so much. That he needed to look at himself in the mirror and say, “I have to slow down.” That he needed to reflect upon what he was doing to himself, to his friends, to his job, and to his family.
I see now that what he really needed was a wisecracking alien to tell shitty jokes, rip a fart, and tap-dance out of the room.
Fuck you, ALF.