You might remember in my review for “Tequila” that I said the next episode was one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, but that was bullshit because I’m an idiot. I have no clue what “We Are Family” is about. The one I was thinking of is “Varsity Blues,” which comes next. I’m kind of disappointed, because I wanted to end the season on some kind of ridiculous nonsense instead of one I’m predisposed to enjoy. WOE IS ME
My confusion actually carries through much of the first scene, because Willie is discussing the very issue I’m looking forward to being addressed in “Varsity Blues”: the fact that ALF muthafuckin bankrupts these idiots.
Granted, the dialogue doesn’t get quite that far, but when an episode opens with Willie chiding ALF for racking up a $300 phone bill…well, that seems like a pretty good ingress to dealing with the larger financial problem. It’s not, though. It’s the opening to an irrelevant episode about Jake. Remember him? He’s like Brian, only he has a personality, character traits, and the writers only have to pay him when he has something to do.
Whatever. We’ll deal with that later. Right now we’re covering the phone bill, which is so high because of all the phone sex ALF has been having with Lynn. Then there’s the matter of additional fees for all the photos of his junk he’s been FedEx-ing to Brian. Really this crap is just killing time until the Ochmoneks come over, which is fine, because I actually like them.
I can’t get over how much Mr. Ochmonek has grown on me as a character. Granted, it might be some form of desperation, like in those old cartoons with two characters starving to death in a lifeboat, and to each other they each look like big turkey legs. I’m dying for something to enjoy consistently, so I start salivating whenever I see Porkchop Ochmonek.
I don’t know. I think he’s funny. They come over to invite the Tanners to Jake’s graduation party, and they’re excited because he finished the eighth grade after only one year. “He’s so smart, it’s scary!” Mr. Ochmonek says, and it’s actually a good line.
Jack LaMotta doesn’t get much to do with Mr. Ochmonek, but he makes his lines count. We then get a nice moment when he asks Willie to répondez s’il vous plaît, which I fucking love because Mr. O — with his master’s degree in Art History — isn’t entirely the uncultured boob he seems to be. He’s got a little more going on beneath the surface, even if he doesn’t realize that himself, and I think that’s great. The fact that he didn’t just say “R.S.V.P.,” or “So are you comin’ or what?” doesn’t quite qualify as a joke. It’s funny, but it’s funny because it’s an unexpected reveal of character.
Starving in a lifeboat or not, I’ll take moments like that anytime.
Also, note that the Ochmoneks are inviting the Tanners to one of their family events. This season alone the Tanners hosted a Halloween party and a wedding without inviting the Ochmoneks, who live right next door and probably have to deal with the noise and all the extra cars. In the review for “Something’s Wrong With Me,” ALF analyst Mark Moore left a comment saying that it was understandable that the Ochmoneks wouldn’t be invited to the wedding, as they really had nothing to do with the couple. Which, unquestionably, is true. And yet, the Tanners have nothing to do with Jake. ALF seems to have a relationship with him, but, obviously, the Ochmoneks don’t know that, and ALF, just as obviously, isn’t invited.
The Ochmoneks are inviting the Tanners because that’s the polite thing to do. These people are happy to invite the Tanners, just for the sake of offering. The Tanners wouldn’t be caught dead wishing the Ochmoneks a merry Christmas, let alone inviting them to one of their social functions.
Remind me. Again. Who the bad neighbors are supposed to be.
After the credits Willie comes into the kitchen, and ALF scolds him, asking him if he ignored the sign on the door. It reads GENIUS AT WORK. Willie then strolls over to ALF and says, “I’m sorry. I didn’t make the connection.”
This is another one of my favorite things about the show: Max Wright being given a laugh line that the editors purposefully withhold laughter from.
It’s an odd kind of bleed from the on-set political conflict, and it’s so easily apparent because the show has a laugh track. When an audience response — and the length of that audience response, and the enthusiasm of that audience response — can be controlled with a dial, it means that whenever an actor delivers a line like this without getting a response, it’s a clear and deliberate “fuck you.”
Max Wright was vocal in his irritation that ALF got all of the best lines for himself, while all Willie got to do was walk back and forth shaking his head. So, here, he gets to crack a joke.
I love moments like these, because they reveal a lot about what working on ALF must have been like. Complain enough, and you’ll be given a laugh line to shut you up. Of course, in the edit they won’t paste any actual laughter after it, which will just make you look like even more of a lame idiot to the viewers at home.
It’s a way to get the actors to clam up on set without anyone at home having to believe there’s somebody else on the show as funny as ALF. I sure wonder why everybody hated working with Paul Fusco.
It’s even expanded upon as Willie tries to get ALF to laugh at his joke, and ALF just shrugs him off and says, “Yeah yeah.” You’re not the star, Willie. You’re lucky we even pay you. Now be quiet and let the people enjoy the puppet.
ALF explains that he’s writing a press release. He’s decided to reveal himself to the world so that he no longer has to be in hiding.
Willie, understandably, craps himself.
He’s upset because ALF seems to have forgotten that the government will scoop him up the moment he dangles his face-phallus in public. It’s hard to blame ALF, though, since the show itself also seems to forget this very often. At this point, I honestly think that the number of characters on this show who have seen ALF is larger than the number of characters who haven’t.
But Willie’s impassioned explanation of ALF’s possible fate at the hands of the Alien Task Force (or, as he calls them, “The Government,” because none of the writers can remember what they called the organization) leads to a clip from the forthcoming Project: ALF.
Man I am not looking forward to Project: ALF.
Anyway, it’s an odd fantasy sequence that goes on a lot longer than I would have expected. I guess the writers had some jokes about ALF being in government custody, but didn’t want to actually write an episode in which that was the case. Which, hey, fine. But I’d much prefer a full-length fantasy episode with ALF awakening from this nightmare at the end.
I know, that’s corny, but at least “title character is captured by show’s villain” would be a fantasy episode that had something to do with ALF‘s premise. So far the ones we’ve gotten have been about Kate running for president and a visit to Gilligan’s Island.
This seems like it should play a bit like a Family Guy cutaway. Get there, tell your joke, get out. Instead, we get a protracted sequence of ALF shocking himself by pushing buttons, making jokes about how he hates celery, and then the introduction of a guest character. Which, again, since this is an irrelevant fantasy inserted into the show because Jake’s graduation party is far from adequate material for a full-length plot, is fucking crazy.
Who cares about the fake scientist who doesn’t even exist in the show’s reality? I have hard enough time caring about most of the characters who do. Why am I spending time with this deformed guy?
Like, he actually is deformed. He’s some guy who’s been in a crapload of horror movies, but in this case, why is ALF fantasizing that he’s going to be captured by a guy who can’t grow hair or teeth? Why that specific detail? What’s even the point of this? Nothing horrific is happening…ALF is just fantasizing some shitty dialogue for him and this imaginary scientist to shoot back and forth.
What the hell is going on?
If I’d gone for a bathroom break and came back to find that the Jake’s Graduation episode had somehow become the ALF’s Vivisection episode, I’d have been a confused little boy.
Actually, I’m no less confused as a big boy. What the fuck is this episode? We’re nearing the halfway point, and I couldn’t tell you. ALF racked up a huge phone bill, so it’s time for Jake to graduate, therefore ALF considers writing a press release about himself, and he daydreams about being held captive in a government testing facility.
This…I don’t know, guys. I feel like I’m having a stroke. Nothing here has any connection to anything else.
At least we’re back in the Tanner kitchen. That will give me a chance to reorient myself. ALF’s at his typewriter, Willie’s in his fishing vest, and…
Now ALF is hosting a talk show.
What the actual what fucking what.
What is this episode? He’s on the old David Letterman set, which makes sense, as at this point in time Letterman was still hosting Late Night on NBC. In case you forgot, that’s ALF‘s network. The fact that Letterman himself doesn’t appear goes a long way toward demonstrating his excellent taste in entertainment.
ALF makes some dumbass jokes about eating cats because he’s ALF and ALF eats cats. Then we…
Willie is dressed like Paul Shaffer, hamming it up while some actual musician in the background wishes he didn’t need the extra income so badly.
The weird thing is that Max Wright does an actual impression of Shaffer, which itself gave me gallstones, yes, but the reason it’s weird is that he thanks ALF for hiring him after firing Shaffer.
If Willie isn’t ALF’s fantasy version of Shaffer — and in fact just replaced a version of Shaffer that already existed in this fantasy — shouldn’t Willie still be Willie?
Why is he talking and dressing and acting like Shaffer?
Why is this on television?
Why is any of this happening?
Happy graduation, Jake! I hope you enjoy this series of disconnected bullshit!
Then ALF introduces Sandy Duncan, who comes out and my fucking Christ this is awful.
So, recap: ALF made too many calls. Jake is graduating from eighth grade. ALF is considering writing a press release. ALF is flayed alive by the government. ALF is hosting Late Night. Got that?
Now Sandy Duncan turns up to promote Valerie’s Family.
Like…actually promote it. They talk about the actual show, including the recent plot development of a major character dying, and it seemed pretty fucking incongruous until I looked it up and saw that, at the time, Valerie’s Family was airing right after ALF.
I remember a lot of old shows used to have an actor, in character, say something like, “And now stay tuned for…!” over the end credits, which was a pretty corny way of implying endorsement, but I can understand it.
I don’t often remember the star of a show popping up in the previous one to plead with someone, anyone, to stick around and watch it.
Valerie’s Family now is barely remembered. When it is, it’s mainly due to the fact that it featured a young Jason Bateman. During its fairly short lifespan it actually went through three title changes. Valerie, Valerie’s Family, and The Hogan Family. I barely remember the show existing, so I guess cramming one of its stars into the second throwaway fantasy sequence of an instantly forgettable episode of ALF somehow failed to launch it into the public consciousness.
Then we get a commercial, and I have to admit, it’s perfectly placed. I certainly can’t guess what happens next.
When we come back, ALF is dressed as who cares. He called a press conference, and the family just sits around bitching about how boned they are.
Instead of, you know, calling the reporters or whatever and saying it was a hoax and they’re very sorry.
Or stabbing ALF to death with a corkscrew.
Willie then comes in with a documentary about a Ugandan orangutan, and puts it in the VCR. I was seriously afraid we’d get another fantasy sequence with the Tanners playing the roles of zoo animals. See what you’ve done to me, “We Are Family”?
Also…WHY THE FUCK IS THIS CALLED “WE ARE FAMILY.” WHY IS THIS NOT CALLED “A MISHMASH OF MEANDERING HORSE SHIT.”
Oh good. We actually get to watch it.
This episode is such a stitched together mess, I can’t even believe it. Way back in the second episode, “Strangers in the Night,” I had similar concerns. But, well…it was the second episode. At this point? There’s no excuse.
The narrator of the documentary we’re watching for no fucking reason explains that the orangutan was captured and felt so sad that it died of loneliness.
We actually just watch and hear a clip from a nature documentary. Why is this happening?
When it’s over, the Tanners repeat for us everything we’ve just heard, but at greater length to make sure we understand that ALF is totally like that orangutan, you guys.
What the shit happened to Jake’s graduation party? WHAT THE SHIT HAPPENED TO ANYTHING
Also the Tanners keep pronouncing “orangutan” as “a-rang-a-tang” and I’m starting to understand why Elvis shot his television.
Some reporter shows up, Kate tells him to piss off, and he leaves. Wow. They’re really committed to making sure nothing at all happens in this episode, aren’t they?
ALF then pops up through the plot window and says, sadly, “If Robin Leach calls back, just say ‘ALF who.'” Then the sad music plays and there’s no laughter, so I guess the audience is being asked to weep at a reference to Robin Leach. I can safely say ALF is the only show in history to attempt that.
Willie goes into his bathroom to take a shit, but his shy colon refuses to cooperate while ALF’s eating in the tub. ALF asks Willie how the graduation party was and Willie says fine.
That’s it? It’s over? I thought that was the whole point of this episode. It happened off camera? Why did we even have to hear about it? What function did it play at all? Sure, it told us that Jake is graduating from eighth grade. But, if that’s the case, doesn’t that mean Brian and Lynn are graduating from their respective grades, too?
Why are the Ochmoneks throwing a party for their nephew, but the Tanners don’t give enough of a shit to throw one for either of their own children? WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS EPISODE.
The scene ends, but not before we get the great joke that ALF ate Willie’s soap and as a result filled the tub up with a stream of unstoppable feces.
Kate tells ALF to stop wallowing in his own soapy excrement because she wants to take a bath, and when he comes into the living room everyone yells surprise.
Please. Fucking. God.
It’s a surprise party for ALF.
Jodie is there. And Dr. Dykstra.
Please don’t do this to them. Please. Please don’t put them in this episode. They don’t deserve this. Take me instead.
Kate Sr. and Jake are here too. Everyone’s trying to cheer ALF up by showing him that his world isn’t as limited as he thinks he is, which definitely feels like a resolution to an episode, but not one that saw ALF interviewing Sandy Duncan on Late Night.
This does, however, accomplish something that I like. It shows that ALF has a circle of friends. That’s something I didn’t realize, and which I don’t think the show realized, until this moment.
Usually he encounters these people one by one. Which, of course, is fine. But it contributes to a feeling of isolation that isn’t actually the case. These people can come over and keep him company any time.
It’s also telling that the Tanners didn’t invite the Mexican kid from “Border Song” or the forgotten little girl ALF promised never to forget from the Christmas special. Probably the two people who would most like to see ALF again, and who would actually benefit from having a friend themselves.
But, eh, fuck em. As long as ALF is happy, right?
You may notice something strange about these four guests. Kate Sr., Jake, Dr. Dykstra, and Jodie. One of these things, as they say, is not like the others.
Jodie is the only one who doesn’t know ALF is an alien. So what, exactly, does she think is going on here? As far as she knows, he’s just some short old guy. Isn’t she a little curious as to why they’re all there?
The others know that he’s the last of his species and can’t leave the house. Jodie doesn’t know any of that. Potentially, this could turn into a horrific situation in which a blind woman flees the house into oncoming traffic. But the Tanners didn’t bother to think about that. So fuck her, too.
Surprisingly, the show did think about it, and it leads to the best part of the episode. Jodie makes a joke about ALF’s ratty sweater, and everyone laughs. Then Dr. Dykstra does something very human: he makes awkward conversation with the person he’s stuck sitting next to at the party. Without anything else to say to Kate, he says, “She thinks ALF’s fur is a sweater.”
The look of panic in Kate’s eyes is perfect, and also very human. She pulls him aside and explains that Jodie doesn’t know ALF’s an alien, which you’d think would be a pretty fucking great reason not to invite her to this FEEL BETTER ALIEN party.
Sadly, it doesn’t go any further than this. Dr. Dykstra apologizes for having told Jodie earlier about the time ALF ate a tennis racket because he misunderstood the concept of catgut, and that’s that.
It’s a shame, because there are at least a few great episode ideas in here. The party of ALF’s friends could have fleshed out a nice 30 minutes itself, especially if we got to see some old familiar faces while we’re there. Jodie finding out ALF is an alien should also be a fun — and, let’s face it, inevitable — storyline. Or maybe even when that reporter showed up and Kate shooed him away, he caught a glimpse of ALF through the window, snapped a picture, and now there’s a media circus the Tanners have to deal with.
Any of that is better than watching a nature documentary with fucking Willie.
The Ochmoneks come over looking for Jake, dressed up because they always go dancing on Saturday nights. That’s sweet. When, exactly, is the last time Willie did anything nice for Kate? Or, to be honest, vice versa?
This is why I am willing to believe the Ochmoneks are in love. They have a history. They make each other laugh. They spend time together. Willie and Kate are barely roommates.
ALF hides in the kitchen when the neighbors come over, as usual. Jodie asks why, which is a great question, so Willie knocks her unconscious with a wrench.
The Ochmoneks are hurt because the Tanners had a party without inviting them, but that’s okay, because the episode’s almost over and it’s not like their feelings matter anyway. It turns into a joke about how this is a Tupperware party and the Ochmoneks are cheap. It’s as fitting an ending as anything could possible be for this barely coherent mess of an episode.
I know what you’re thinking. “Did this episode really end before we got to listen to Willie and Kate Sr. perform a duet?”
Don’t worry, brother. The pre-credits tag has you covered. Willie tickles the ivories while Kate Sr. bleats out an abbreviated cover of “The Band Played On.” It’s a well-deserved slap in the nuts for anyone who wasn’t smart enough to change the channel well before we got to this point.
I still have no idea what the fuck I just watched. If any of you can tell me, I’ll be forever in your debt.
One more episode. Then we move on to season three. Which, by all accounts, is worse than season two.
Personally, I don’t know how they could top this.
MELMAC FACTS: On Melmac ALF was considered above-average, though they did grade on a curve. Whatever any of that is supposed to mean. When Melmacians are depressed they eat more (with their “spare stomachs” opening up to accommodate the extra food), and gravitate toward cheap imitation porcelain.