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ALF Reviews: The ALFies! (Season 2)

January 8th, 2015 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

The ALFies

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the season two edition of The ALFies! Or it was like 12 weeks ago but I sucked dick at keeping to a schedule for this batch of episodes. SUPER SOZ

Anyway, I’m back to hand out awards to specific people and moments and things that played a part in making season two what it was, just to further cement my status as the only one who’s ever spent more than 22 minutes thinking about ALF.

So sit back and enjoy The ALFies, brought to you by Tool-Free Telescope Repair, Puppets By Post, and the Anne Ramsey Memorial Dog Shelter & Fuck Shack.

As always, winners receive the pictured statuette and all associated nightmares.

Without further ado…

The ALFie for…

BEST ACTOR

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"
THE MIDGET

Sweeping the category two years in a row, it’s The Midget! For a long time I was afraid I wouldn’t catch so much as a glimpse of our costume-hobbled friend, but lo and behold, he came back to shuffle across a hallway in “ALF’s Special Christmas.” And what a shuffle! It was pointed out to me a while back that “The Midget” is actually Michu Meszaros, who appeared in Big Top Pee-Wee, H.R. Pufnstuf, Look Who’s Talking and more. In fact, the guy is still working today, with at least one film in post-production. That makes him more prolific, respectable, and enduring an actor than perhaps any other member of the cast. That’s some truly delicious irony.

The ALFie for…

WORST ACTOR

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"
ALF

Unfortunately, the singular glance of the show’s best actor was counterbalanced in the same episode by this shit. “ALF’s Special Christmas” was an hour long exercise in tedious “ALF as alien savior” malarkey. But even though he’s delivering babies, talking Santas out of suicide, and rubbing poison oak all over Max Wright’s chest, one moment stands out as probably the worst thing this show has ever given us: ALF crying. He might be a puppet, but I think this is perfectly fair game for “worst actor” status. After all, I spend a lot of time complimenting Paul Fusco on his puppetry, and that’s for good reason: it’s usually, without exaggeration, pretty awesome. However, when the puppet isn’t just used to tug on heart strings but to drip salty discharge upon them, I have to draw the line. It also doesn’t help that the effect looks less like a tear than it does a transparent bead that ALF fell asleep on. “ALF’s Special Christmas” did nothing right. Asking us to weep with the naked alien having secret playtime with an eight-year-old girl still manages to stand out as a phenomenal misfire.

The ALFie for…

WORST FAKE TV SHOW

ALF, "Take a Look at Me Now"
THE LENNY SCOTT SHOW


It says a lot that “Prime Time” was an entire episode built around the concept of a monumentally shitty TV show, and yet it didn’t even come close to the one ALF wanted us to take seriously. The Lenny Scott Show was a humorless, annoying riff on The Morton Downey, Jr., Show, a riff that seemed to recognize that people yelled and screamed on that show, but failed to recognize that having people yell and scream on this one too does not in itself count as parody. I’m not even upset that they went after Downey’s program; I’m not a fan of it, and it paved the way for some of the worst television we’ve seen in the subsequent decades. What ruffles my feathers is the fact that they found a deserving and easy target, but offered up a limp imitation rather than any kind of joke. It doesn’t help that the guy playing Lenny Scott is absolutely terrible (and has nothing of the brash charisma that made Downey such a compelling figure in the first place), and would have won Worst Actor easily if not for his perfectly acceptable turn as Officer Griswold later on. Polka Jamboree might have sucked a fat one, but it also wasn’t trying to send up a ripe cultural juggernaut. It was simply some low budget show on which people celebrated the music they enjoyed. I’d rather watch that than almost any episode of ALF, and I’d certainly watch it over Lenny Scott and his stuffed bird making vegetable puns while his audience of hooting retards blows out my speakers.

The ALFie for…

MOST OVERT ANGLING FOR ANOTHER GIG

ALF, "We Are Family"
LATE NIGHT WITH GORDON SHUMWAY


A lot of things happen for no reason in “We Are Family,” but the thing that happened for the most no reasons is this: ALF, hosting Late Night, interviews Sandy Duncan about the show airing after ALF. It seems like a tremendously odd thing to happen in any episode, let alone to happen in the same episode that just featured ALF being tortured by his government captor, but it makes sense when you view it in another context: Paul Fusco was angling for that gig. I don’t mean that he intended to take over from David Letterman permanently, but the fact that he has a fairly straight-forward interview with a real-world celebrity and plays the Late Night conventions straight with no attempt at subversion makes this seem more like a pitch reel than a scene from ALF. Maybe Fusco was hoping for ALF to be tapped as guest host when Letterman went on vacation. Or maybe he was hoping some other network would see that he had the necessary chops and give the puppet an interview show of its own. The facts that “Tonight, Tonight” comes so soon after this episode (we’ll get there soon enough…) and that ALF’s Hit Talk Show was eventually a thing that existed lends this theory more than a little credence. Paul Fusco was interviewing for another show right in the middle of this one. What a treat.

The ALFie for…

EPISODE THAT COULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME WITH A MINOR REWRITE

ALF, "Varsity Drag"
“VARSITY DRAG”


Damn, “Varsity Drag.” You could have been so good. Despite a strong start in which Lynn has her hopes of attending Amhert dashed, this one really seemed to think it would be remembered for the extended sequence of Willie and Kate delivering newspapers from their car. We can test the accurateness of that mindset right now: hands up all those who remember Willie and Kate delivering newspapers from their car. Yeah…that’s what I figured. The abandoned character angle is annoying, not only because it’s far more interesting than two idiots delivering papers for half an episode, but also because it would have put a great button on the sweet relationship that developed between ALF and Lynn in season two. She comes to his defense whenever she feels he’s being treated unfairly, and he in return allows himself to be vulnerable with her. Season one seemed intent on getting them fucking in the shower, but season two took a much smarter approach to developing a dynamic between them, and it’s one that resembled friendship more than any other pairing we’ve seen on this show. What a perfect complication, then, “Varsity Drag” could have been. Closing out the season with an episode in which Lynn faces the fact that defending ALF and keeping him around has literally cost her her future. The family member to whom she grew closest turns out to be the one that held her back, intentionally or not. It would have been a great way to explore those sort of conflicted feelings that can only come when you’ve been hurt by somebody you care a great deal for. ALF working his way back into Lynn’s good graces could also allow for any number of silly, comic set pieces. Instead, we say fuck that and turn the episode into a live action game of Paper Boy. Lucky us.

The ALFie for…

WORST SUPPORTING HOBO

ALF, "Night Train"
GRAVEL GUS


Everything was fine. Really, it was. I was enjoying “Night Train,” a Willie episode for crying out loud, and genuinely looking forward to where things would take us by the episode’s end. It was a nice — and surprisingly effective — two-hander, allowing ALF and Willie to bond, reveal their insecurities, and help each other through a few problems that they’d never before managed to articulate. So imagine my delight when all of this was trampled upon by a cartoon hobo! Gravel Gus played no role in “Night Train” whatsoever, making his appearance pointless as well as insulting. Perhaps the writers didn’t trust Paul Fusco and Max Wright to pull off the necessary emotion. I can’t say I’d have blamed them if that was the case. But they did pull it off, and therefore the appearance of Gravel Gus isn’t comic relief, but a broad tonal shock to an otherwise enjoyable melody. Oh well. At least ALF immediately murders him.

The ALFie for…

WORST ELECTRICAL REPAIR EMERGENCY SQUAD

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"
SANTA AND HIS MAGIC GYNECOLOGIST


You wouldn’t think anything could go wrong when you wheel a pregnant lady into an elevator and walk away, but CHRISTMAS IS A TIME OF MIRACLES. In what must be the most understaffed (least overstaffed?) hospital in California, a gynecologist and his buddy Black Santa have to team up to fix the electrical whatsit box before this poor lady gives birth! …only they don’t. They fuck around long enough for an alien to teach himself how to deliver the baby from scratch, and then I think the woman dies of a staph infection because nobody seems to remember that ALF slipped into trench of human feces earlier in the episode. To make matters somehow less comprehensible, this stunning display of total incompetence earns Santa a job as the hospital’s handyman, ensuring that no patient will ever escape a simple elevator ride on his watch.

The ALFie for…

EPISODE MOST OBVIOUSLY TWISTED TOGETHER FROM SEVERAL DIFFERENT CURLS OF POOPOO

ALF, "We Are Family"
“WE ARE FAMILY”


Yeah, I admit I played up the confusion for the sake of laughs, but “We Are Family” made that the easiest way to talk about the episode. Unrelated clips (ALF hosting Late Night, ALF in government captivity, and…erm…some public domain nature documentary) kill time while we avoid going to Jake’s graduation party, which happens while ALF calls a press conference consisting of exactly one journalist, then ALF takes a big liquidy shit in the tub, and a bunch of people come over and scream at him to end this fucking episode already. At least “Hail to the Chief” had an identifiable central theme. Here we just know the scenes all relate to ALF being lonely because we’re relentlessly told that’s the case. The episode’s biggest crime is that it brings back two characters from the show’s best episodes (Jodie and Dr. Dykstra) to completely waste them here. These are characters that work because they reconfigure ALF and force it to think through different aspects of itself. In “We Are Family,” however, they are rolled into the tasteless dough of every other interchangeable non-entity, and we’re much poorer for it.

The ALFie for…

BEST PICTURE OF WILLIE THAT MAKES IT LOOK LIKE THE CRACK HOBO SUCKING HIM OFF JUST BIT DOWN

ALF, "Something's Wrong With Me"
THIS ONE

This is not only a picture of Willie that makes it look like the crack hobo sucking him off just bit down; this is the best picture of Willie that makes it look like the crack hobo sucking him off just bit down.

The ALFie for…

WORST FLASHBACK OR FANTASY SEQUENCE

ALF, "Hail to the Chief"
ALF IS THE PRESIDENT MOTHERFUCKERS


I actually had to re-read my review to confirm that I wasn’t hallucinating this shit. “Hail to the Chief” is a complete mess of an episode, with some loose framing device about how much better life would be if politicians were like ALF, and a series of fantasy sequences about Kate running for president. But there’s no internal logic to link them together at all. First Kate is running against ALF, then ALF is the moderator in a debate between her and Senator Nobody, then ALF is her image consultant, then forget all that shit because ALF was running against her after all and now he’s on Mount Rushmore. With no respect for seeing a single joke or idea through — let alone for the audience’s time — “Hail to the Chief” is one long, masturbatory excuse to give us an extended look at some shitty ALF fan-art. Ugh.

The ALFie for…

CREEPIEST SEXUAL MOMENT

ALF, "Isn't it Romantic?"
ALF NOSEFUCKS WILLIE’S WIFE


When I started pointing out these bizarre sexual moments in the show, I knew I was at least slightly reaching. Until, of course, ALF inserted his schnozz into Kate’s reproductive chute and jammed it around in there for several minutes in the hallway. Willie, of course, did nothing to stop this. And I’ll never forgive him for it.

The ALFie for…

WORST MUSICAL MOMENT

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 1"
“THE LETTER”


Don’t get me wrong, Kate Sr. warbling “The Band Played On” sounded worse…but I can at least see what they were going for there, with everyone gathered around the piano and reveling in each other’s company. Here? I have no fucking clue. We cut to Willie in the middle of “Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 1” for a musical break, like we’re watching the god-damned Muppet Show. That’s odd enough, but he’s performing “The Letter” by The Box Tops, which has no kind of thematic resonance that I can think of. This episode is about burglaries and ALF screwing the Neighborhood Watch, so I don’t know what Max Wright singing about flying around the world to pork his slutty girlfriend has to do with anything. It’s such an odd moment that I still don’t know what to make of it. Was the episode just short? (If so, maybe it shouldn’t have been a two-parter.) If they absolutely had to give Willie a musical spotlight, couldn’t they have had him sing “I Fought the Law”? “Take the Money and Run”? (Thanks, Sarah Portland!) “Been Caught Stealing”? “911 is a Joke”? Is it too much to ask that something that happens in an episode has something to do with that episode? (Spoiler: yes.)

The ALFie for…

MOST DISTURBING ENDING

ALF, "Someone to Watch Over Me: Part 2"
“SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME: PART 2”


Part 1 of “Someone to Watch Over Me” was about a burglar working his way through whatever part of LA you can buy a 12 bedroom palace in with a social worker’s salary. As the episode progressed, the LA-bians organized a Neighborhood Watch to ensure that they’d be victimized no more. So, needless to say Part 2 was about ALF helping the thief get away with it and escape the police. I mean, the show doesn’t realize that. The writing staff doesn’t realize that. And nobody involved realizes that. But that’s exactly what happens as ALF convinces the entire LAPD that he is the criminal they’re looking for, distracts them all night while the unnamed burglar makes his getaway, and then with no consequence gets carted away by Willie so the city can be burgled anew come morning. This is a great show, you know.

The ALFie for…

LEAST CONVINCING WILLIE HOBBY

ALF, "Can I Get a Witness?"
FOOTBALL MY ASS


Willie loves outer space and trains and robots and ham radios and rain gauges and…well, anything nerdy and / or scientific. His specific hobbies might rotate from week to week, but they all hew pretty closely to what we’d expect of a gangly, pasty, sitcom dad with glasses. That’s why it’s downright ridiculous that they’d suddenly expect us to believe he gives a shit about football. But aside from Willie’s complete lack of manliness (and excitability), there’s another important reason we know he’s not a football fan: football — American football, at least — is a social activity. While it’s not inconceivable that somebody might watch a game alone, that’s certainly not the norm. Friends get together. People go to bars. Large parties with huge television sets and impressive spreads of food are thrown. Willie has no friends. Even at home he’s watching the game alone. Max Wright simply doesn’t convince me that Willie would be able to sustain interest in the sport over a lifetime of lonely howling at the TV. He does a much better job of convincing me that he jacks off over vintage chemistry sets, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

The ALFie for…

MOST OBVIOUS DRY RUN FOR CARTOON ALL-STARS TO THE RESCUE

ALF, "Tequila"
“TEQUILA”


For a show about a naked alien that lives in the laundry basket, ALF sure likes to get preachy. And as sick to death as I am of the guy getting the floor to burble some vaguely inspiring bullshit (hello, “Weird Science” and “Take a Look at Me Now”!), it’s far worse when he tries to address real-world problems. Alcoholism, for instance, has been a problem for as long as there’s been alcohol. As fun as drinking can be (and I’ll be the first to admit it’s pretty fuckin’ fun) there’s no question that it’s ruined countless lives, both directly and indirectly. It’s a touchy subject, and it’s rare for a comedy to speak about the subject intelligently, opting instead for the easy laughs. ALF, surprising no-one, skirts both the comedy and the intelligence. Kate’s friend whoeverthefuck is drinking her life into shambles, until she’s saved by a tiny brown alien that only she can see. We all learn a valuable lesson about ALF being rad, which is sort of the same thing as facing your demons or getting therapy, and we never hear from Kate’s only friend again. Goodnight, everyone!!

The ALFie for…

BEST EPISODE

ALF, "Night Train"
“NIGHT TRAIN”


I’m as shocked as you are that a Willie episode was the best this season had to offer. I’m even more shocked that I don’t mean that as a backhanded compliment. Season two wasn’t great, but it was a marked improvement over season one…which itself did have a handful of very good episodes. In fact, the best episode of season one (“Going Out of My Head Over You”) got a very effective reprise in season two, with the Dykstra-heavy “I’m Your Puppet.” That episode is a very close second, as it had a real set of balls and some great insight into the process of making this show. But “Night Train” took the most problematic of the main characters and gave him, for half an hour at least, meaning. Willie Tanner, for the first time, was human. Not coincidentally, for the first time I enjoyed spending time with him. The premise of “Night Train” is so simple, I’m surprised it took this long for the show to attempt it: stick ALF and Willie in a confined space, and listen to what they say to each other. It was a bit of a gamble as neither characterization nor dialogue are ALF‘s strong suits, but “Night Train” was a lovely exception to both rules. It was a sweet little experiment that almost tricked me into thinking I might eventually come to care about Willie Tanner. That, unfortunately, was too tall an order…but I sure enjoyed the ride.

The ALFie for…

WORST EPISODE

ALF, "ALF's Special Christmas"
“ALF’S SPECIAL CHRISTMAS”

Man…what did “ALF’s Special Christmas” not do wrong? It repeated the same themes from last year, took twice as long to do it, and was cloyingly, sickeningly devoted to the idea that ALF made the world better by sheer virtue of being in it. (I can promise you first hand, my friends, that this is not true.) Additionally it treated us to familial reconciliation, a kind-hearted cancer moppet, an elevator birth, and a suicidal black Santa Claus, meaning there could have been an entire episode of ALF graphically buttfucking Mrs. Ochmonek and it wouldn’t have come close to unseating “ALF’s Special Christmas.” It’s even more absurd when you realize that a few weeks after ALF is moved to tears (or hot glue globs, anyway) by the sadness he feels in the face of death, he strips and embalms Willie’s elderly uncle after murdering him in the yard. Oh, then he throws a party. “ALF’s Special Christmas” isn’t just the worst episode of season two…it’s the worst episode so far, and I’ll be genuinely shocked if anything in the next two seasons steals that title. I know they’re bad…but I am convinced this has to be worse. (Prove me wrong, final 50 episodes!!)

The ALFies

And that’s that! Next week we slip further into madness with season three, and edge ever closer to the ultimate nutslap that is Project: ALF. Join me, won’t you?

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3 Responses

  • Ridley says:

    For me there’s a disconnect between puppet and suited up little person. ALF’s the puppet.

  • Sarah Portland says:

    God, I forgot about that terrifying ALFie statuette. I think that statue ties for first place with Gamork from Neverending Story for the award for “Things Meant For Children That Give Adults Nightmares.”

  • kim says:

    man, you really can’t let that Christmas special go can you? really think back on it, the network is really to blame for giving us that pile of crap then the show itself because just every freaking show was doing a christmas special at the time and they were all really bad. so i guess it just merely peer pressure to do what everyone else was doing at the time for the sake to make the show more popular.
    why are you so hung up on that midget guy? sure, he is a pretty well know actor now for the other movies and tv shows he has been it, but really his role in this series to so small that it is hardly worthy of best actor award. besides the midget suit vs the puppet is still not that convincing between the two.
    and really, ALF for worst actor because of him crying? sure, i agree with you that scene could of been executed a hell of a lot better, but still i think making a character cry makes him feel a lot more real or makes you feel sorry for the character on a lot more emotional level.
    otherwise, i agree with everything else you said.



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