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ALF Reviews: “Like an Old Time Movie” (season 3, episode 24)

August 27th, 2015 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

I think I first made this observation back in season one, and when I did I was just being a smartass. Here we are, though, ending season three, and it’s still held true: there can never be two good episodes of ALF in a row. We are coming off of a well-acted, well-scripted, well-observed story about toxic parents…watching ALF jack off to fantasies of being in a silent movie.

It’s really awful. And while its placement after “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow” makes it seem worse than it really is, I assure you, it’s still fucking terrible.

On the bright side, nothing happens in this dick-heap, so it should be really easy to write about.

It opens with the family getting ready to go to a wedding. Hey, cool! Whose wedding?

We never find out. How can the writers still avoid developing these people after three full years on the air?

Well, maybe we can do some deductive reasoning to figure it out. We know it’s not Kate Sr.’s wedding because she’s already married, and we know it’s not Jake’s because he turns up later. And they are the only two people who exist outside of this house, so I think it’s safe to conclude that this “wedding” is just an excuse to leave home before dropping a hot tip to the Alien Task Force.

Since they’re leaving and since he’s an asshole, ALF threatens to burn the place down with Brian’s chemistry set and Willie’s matchbox collection. Willie’s matchbox collection, folks. Another fucking hobby. It has to be deliberate at this point.

…right?

Please?

Anyway, ALF’s threat to destroy everything they own is met with a disinterested shrug. They’re probably used to being openly threatened by the naked rapist that they let live with them rent free, and this doesn’t even register. Willie gives him some movies to watch instead.

One of them is The Sheik, a silent film from 1921, and the other isn’t specified (though we can see from the box that it’s City Lights). According to Willie the latter stars “Chhahhhrl-ee Chhahhhplinn.” Slurring a name like Charlie Chaplin should be impossible, so hats off to you, Max. I underestimated your commitment to unintelligibility.

So Willie pops in one of the films and does his best Joker face, in the sad hope that Tim Burton is watching.

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

ALF rightfully asks what the living fuck they’re doing giving him crusty old silent films. For once I’m on ALF’s side. He likes garbage TV; you don’t need to stock him up with this crap he doesn’t want to watch. Just leave him with a TV Guide and fresh batteries for the remote control; he’ll finger his prostate to My Mother the Car and you don’t have to go through this song and dance where you act all superior for appreciating silent-era Hollywood on a deeper level than a fucking space alien who’s never heard of this shit.

Whatever. Kate tells ALF to get fucked and they leave for the wedding.

Who is this episode for, anyway? ALF‘s target demographic of 8-year-old kids who don’t know better than to play Uncle Touchy? Something tells me they’re not huge fans of pre-talkie cinema. Jesus Christ, most adults around this time couldn’t have cared less about it. Why in the name of cock are we going to spend half an hour gently ribbing it through a hand puppet?

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

After the credits ALF has a pointlessly short phone call with Willie. I honestly don’t even know why it happens. I guess Max Wright just demanded a scene, at some point, in which he wouldn’t have to share the room with the insane puppeteer.

Then ALF calls Jake. Since that kid just gave a bravura performance in a standout episode last week, ALFusco wants to make damned sure he knows his place, so he’s forced this week to help Moe’s talking bar-rag write a shitty silent film.

Yeah. Remember “A Little Bit of Soap”? For your sake, I hope not…but we’re doing that shit again.

In a way, “Like an Old Time Movie” makes more sense, because nobody’s actually producing ALF’s crap or paying him to write it. In another, more accurate, way, “Like an Old Time Movie” is a lot worse, because nothing he writes has any impact on the episode at all.

And it has no impact because…you guessed it, motherfuckers!

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

It’s a fantasy episode!

Hooray!! Everybody’s favorite excuse to write a fuckton of bullshit that doesn’t even matter to the episode itself!

…Jesus Christ I’m sick of these fantasy episodes. If you want to do one a season, fine. Tell a few decent jokes and I won’t complain. But these are just…fuck. They’re awful. They somehow manage to take a show I can’t stand watching and make it worse.

And it doesn’t help that this one centers around ALF’s pitch session for a silent movie. Who fucking cares? With the Gilligan’s Island one, there was some fun in seeing the old actors back in character. With “Hail to the Chief” there was at least an opportunity to tell the kinds of jokes ALF didn’t usually get to tell. (It didn’t tell any of them; it just had ALF rap for a while…but still.) Here, I have no idea who this is even for.

Why wasn’t this squashed instantly in the writer’s room? “Wouldn’t it be funny if we parodied silent films by having ALF try to write one?” is the kind of thing that should have had people shouting “No!” ten times before the end of the sentence.

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

…but here we are. Fuck dammit.

ALF dreamed he was in a silent movie. And that he was the star of the movie. This really blew his mind, the fact that he (some overfed, hairy-assed, child-raping space hobo) should be the star of a silent movie, but there he was!

He imagines that he’s some Arabian whatever, and that his harem is hanging around, waiting for him to come home and fuck them.

Lovely stuff. It’s always the highlight of any family sitcom to see the main character’s dreams of strange women dying to slide down his cock.

And just in case you didn’t think it was offputting enough to have your kids watching a show in which narrated sex-play is presented as a constructive use of one’s imagination, Jake interrupts his fantasy to tell him that his movie sucks dick. ALF explains to him about Sheiks and how they all have harems that they like to fuck constantly. So, there you go. ALF invites a teenage boy to his empty house, and enthuses to him about the wonders of polygamy.

How fucking gross is this show? Seriously, guys. I feel sick just watching this.

Anyway, even though this is a silent film, ALF speaks. His lips don’t move, but we hear his dialogue. At first I thought this was some kind of mistake (even though he just finished shotgunning silent films and loves silent films and is now writing a silent film, he doesn’t seem to know what the fuck a silent film is), but maybe that’s just the way The Sheik worked. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t say, and the more standard intertitles are used later, when ALF’s film is instead influenced by Charlie Chaplin.

So it’s more of an observation than a complaint. If that part of the fantasy is true to The Sheik and the later part of the fantasy is true to the works of Chaplin, then I’ll give ALF credit for attention to detail. (Even if it’s attention to detail nobody in the audience will recognize or appreciate or bother watching longer than the first commercial break.) But if it’s not, then I don’t know what the fuck the show was doing.

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

So, yeah, ALF decides to do a Charlie Chaplin style comedy instead of All-Night Arabian Fuckapalooza, presumably because the show ran out of black and white stock footage of deserts.

Now he’s “The Little Scamp,” standing around begging for food. Willie comes along dressed as a cop and shakes a long black dildo around so it looks like he’s beating off on ALF’s shoulder.

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

I’m not exaggerating even slightly. Look at that fucking screengrab.

LOOK AT IT

PRINT IT AND KISS IT YOU FUCKS

Could he possibly hold it more like a cock? What the fuck is this show?

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

ALF tells Jake to take over on the typewriter, because writing sucks. It’s much more rewarding to take the scripts that other people have written and give yourself all the funny lines.

Jake asks if he’ll get to be in the movie, too, and ALF is unable to stop laughing long enough to tell the kid he won’t even get to be in season four.

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

ALF continues spitballing his shitty movie with a scene for Lynn, who plays a blind girl that falls for him.

And I have to admit, that’s a good idea! Think of all the great stories that could come from a blind girl who develops feelings for ALF, not realizing that he’s an alien. Why, they’d both be social isolates in their own way, and they could forge a kind of relationship in which…

…wait. Didn’t we already do that?

Yes fuckdammit we already did that. What happened to Jodie anyway? We haven’t seen her all season. Has ALF really forgotten about her? It’s one thing if we imagine that they hang out and fingerfuck every so often and we just don’t see it, but this sequence seems to disprove that. How is it possible that ALF is having this fantasy of a blind girl being in love with him without realizing that that’s actually something that he’s already living through?

He’s forgotten completely about Jodie. He’s here dicking around writing silent vanity films and, somewhere, she’s ignored, devastated, and alone. That’s what you get for not being as fuckable as the teenage girl I secretly live with, you hideous blind bitch.

Guys, this episode is terrible. It’s nice that ALF recognizes the similarities between this fantasy and City Lights, but it’s fucking disorienting that ALF doesn’t recognize the similarities to itself.

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

Anne Schedeen gets to still be pretty good, in spite of the fact that we don’t hear her line readings. Her look of confused disgust when ALF walks into her apartment with her blind daughter and crippled son is pretty perfect. In fact, it almost makes up for the ickiness of ALF using his dumbass movie to fulfill a fantasy of Kate being a miserable, penniless, broken old crone.

Oh, yeah. I guess I forgot to mention that Brian is in this. He plays the shoe-shine boy, and I have to admit that I’m impressed how well his shitty acting comes through even when we don’t hear a word he says.

ALF walks into the home of this poverty-ridden family of suffering invalids and demands dinner.

Have I mentioned how much I love this show IT IS SO GOOD

The fake audience of dead people goes wild, because ALF did something, and then Silent Kate serves the family a boiled shoe. This leads to the big punchline of the entire scene, in which he shouts at a blind girl and her crippled brother:

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

Back in the Tanner house, ALF laughs until he shits again at how funny he is.

Jake tells him that it’s not even his joke; it was in a Charlie Chaplin movie. Was it really? I honestly don’t know.

Well, let me qualify that. Chaplin eats a shoe in The Gold Rush, but ALF was specifically praising his “You’re eating footwear” line…which I guess qualifies as a joke in the same way that “I am wearing a white shirt” qualifies as a joke. (Nota bene: I am wearing a white shirt.)

As far as I’m aware, the joke itself is not Chaplin’s, but it does, admittedly, lead to the only funny line in the episode: “Imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism.”

Also, if you’re ever overcome with self-loathing and decide to watch this episode, compare the shoe-eating scene to the one in The Gold Rush. It’s a great way to compare two vastly different comic approaches to the same gag. On one side, you have Chaplin’s masterfully understated performance of inventive physical comedy. On the other side, ALF screams at poor people.

AND ALSO ALSO if this is indeed meant to be stolen from The Gold Rush, how does ALF even know about it? He watched City Lights. AND ALSO ALSO ALSO why in the name of shit is Jake deeply familiar with the works of The Little Tramp? Did he accidentally buy the collection thinking it was pornography?

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

There’s a knock at the door, and Silent Kate tells ALF to hide under the table. His observation (“Some things never change.”) is actually decent. It’s one of those rare moments of subtle comedy that is improved by someone pointing it out, so, okay. That’s like, 1.5 laughs so far. About 20 times the amount of laughter I expected to get out of this episode.

Kate opens the door to find that John LaMotta and Liz Sheridan got roped into doing this catshit, too.

Mr. Ochmonek actually looks pretty dapper. Which at first I thought was pretty cool…until I thought more about it and realized it was disappointing. See, in response to my review of “My Back Pages,” Perfect Strangers enthusiast Casey said it was nice that in Willie’s dream sequence, they gave Mr. Ochmonek the kind of shirt he’d have been wearing back in the 60s.

And you know what? Yeah. That was actually a cool touch.

Mr. Ochmonek has the most clearly defined sense of fashion of any character on this show, and it’s one of ALF‘s most consistent character details. I’ve mentioned before that I could probably walk through a department store and pick out exactly the kind of outfits he’d like. For any other character, I’d have no clue at all.

Mr. O’s wardrobe was one of the first things I liked about him; it gave me the sense, consciously or not, that he was human…that on this show packed full of unbelievable assholes he could behave in some identifiable, understandable way. Even if the depths of his character didn’t go any further than the kinds of shirts he’d reach for when he came across a discount rack, it was (and is) something.

So what would he wear in the universe of a 1931 Chaplin film? Like the question of what he’d wear in the 1960s, there should be a pretty fun answer. Instead, the show gives us a prom tux, whatever. Fuck it, let’s just shoot this thing and go home.

And that just makes me sad. When ALF robs me of the joys of another Mr. Ochmonek outfit, you know it’s intent on pissing me off.

Anyway, they’re here so ALF can daydream about the evil Ochmoneks taking Kate’s life savings so that she can’t afford operations for her kids. Which, I admit, is perfectly in keeping with their real-life characters. Like all of the times they bought the Tanners gifts, loaned them cars, checked in to see if they needed a ride to work, invited them on all-expenses-paid vacations, dropped by to wish them luck at their new jobs, invited them to holiday dinners when the Tanners had nothing to eat, babysat their kids with no notice in the middle of the night, organized a neighborhood watch to protect everyone from a burglar, threw Kate a baby shower, and all that other really awful, selfish crap they keep trying to pull.

Those dastardly shits.

Anyway some library piano music plays while the actors wave their arms around silently, which pretty much sums up 90% of this fucking episode.

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

Guys, I cannot express how much this episode sucks.

After the commercial Jake bitches about not being in the movie. Which accounts for almost all of his dialogue this week. He really wants to be in this imaginary silent film that will never be mentioned again.

He gives ALF an idea about having the blind girl sell the same flower over and over again by attaching a string to it, and this whole thing is really very riveting and I wish my mom aborted me.

Then Silent Mrs. Ochmonek comes back over and finds one of ALF’s hairs, so she calls in Officer Willie, who sees ALF under the table and makes a face. But he reports to Mrs. Ochmonek that there’s no “non-human” on the premises, so I guess this whole thing is the silent movie equivalent of the Alien Task Force. I have no idea. The fucking Alien Task Force barely registers as a threat in the “real” world of the show, so why I should give even half a shit about it in this jackass nonsense silent film is a question nobody could possibly answer.

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

Mrs. Ochmonek leaves and Willie thinks about fucking Kate, so he lifts one leg and thrusts his boner at nothing. ALF wants to end the movie here, because, really, how can you top that image, but Jake tells him that it can’t be over; nothing’s been resolved. Not that I disagree with you, Jake, but if a lack of resolution ends this shit sooner I’m definitely casting my vote for lack of resolution.

So ALF writes a scene in which Silent Mr. Ochmonek comes over and thinks about fucking Kate, too. Silent ALF takes his picture and blah blah whatever. The idea is that he shakes Mr. O down for the operation money, which Mr. O pays because he doesn’t want to have his picture in the paper for getting it up over someone who’s not his wife.

It’d be a decently logical conclusion if it weren’t for the fact that Mr. O could in return reveal the existence of alien life, which one might argue would constitute bigger news.

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

Officer Willie comes in and proposes to Kate and ALF wants to end the movie again, but Jake tells him there’s still a few minutes left in this dumbass episode, so we get a scene at the hospital instead.

In it, Lynn and Brian get operations so that they can see and walk respectively. Also, ALF gets some kind of operation that lets him talk in a silent movie. That latter part is actually decently funny, but fuck you if you think I’m going to bother explaining it. I’ve had more than enough of this shit; I don’t feel like dallying even for the relatively good stuff.

Then the family all hugs and grinds their junk on each other until it’s fucking finally time for the credits.

For all the talk of loose ends, it’s odd that Jake kept complaining throughout the episode that he wanted to be in ALF’s shitty movie, then the episode ends and he’s still not in it. It felt like some big setup for a scene in which he’s revealed to be a scummy hobo or something, but instead it’s like a running joke that never gets to the joke part.

There is one scene in which ALF tells Jake he can direct the film, so I guess that’s meant to be the tradeoff for Jake not appearing in it. But even so, this qualifies as a pretty half-assed episode, even by ALF standards. And that’s one hell of an achievement.

ALF, "Like an Old Time Movie"

In the short scene before the credits, ALF sits on the floor waiting for the Tanner women to come home and fuck him.

I’m done.

Countdown to Jake ceasing to exist: 1 episode
Countdown to Jim J. Bullock existing: 9 episodes (single digits, bitches!!)

MELMAC FACTS: At Melmacian weddings they threw “the bridal squid.” Was Melmac a really wet planet or something? An awful lot of their customs had to do with fish.

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18 Responses

  • TKDye says:

    Heh. I thought last week, oh crap, next week is the silent film one. He’s gonna HATE that.

    You did not disappoint!

    Heck, I’m a silent film buff and I didn’t like it. It’s as if the writer saw two silent films in his life and had no time to come up with anything clever or even insightful about cinema history, and did a half-assed parody of what he remembered, with intertitles every five seconds. Bleah.

  • Anonymous says:

    The premise being that silent movies are inherently laughable – you know, cardboard caricatures instead of human characters, absurd acting, trivial plotlines – , why would we need jokes?

  • Furienna says:

    So I guess that we’re now back to full hate mode, huh Phil? Of course, I don’t remember much about this episode. So I can give you the benefit ot doubt that you maybe made some good points, even though I believe that you exaggerate the sexual innuendos. And you admit that you liked a couple of jokes, which is nice. But yet again, it is just sad to read how someone hates one of my three favorite sitcoms from the ’80s (except for the handful of times per season, when you have liked an episode). If nothing else, I want to just appalud “Alf” for doing an episode about silent movies. Like you hinted at yourself in your review, it is hardly what you expected any sitcom to do. For indeed, who would be the target audience for such an episode? Already back in the 80s, that era was long gone. So I say kudos to “Alf” for doing something really different!

  • Casey says:

    At least LaMotta looks like he’s enjoying himself! Also, I see the part where ALF gets an operation to let him speak in a silent movie as an unintentional commentary on how he gets the lion’s share of good lines already.

    also: *blushes*

  • Mark Moore says:

    I now have a sick desire to do a fan edit of this episode where I remove the framing material, leave just the silent footage, and re-write the subtitles to be full of blatantly graphic, sexual dialogue.

  • kim says:

    for once I can agree on everything you said in this review, even for a die hard fan like me this episode was the hardest to sit through. the reason I consider this episode the worse because I remember when they were doing ALF reruns on TV and I tuned to watch it and at that moment it was on a black and white scene from this episode and i literally asked myself “am I watching ALF?” then when ALF appeared I remembered “oh yeah, it’s THIS episode.” and decided to switch to something else.
    while I do admire this show for trying something different, but still like you said, who in the world had the sightliest bright idea that this would be a good episode? especially in the 80s when most people prefer to watch cheesy colorful action packed TV and movies. who was the target audience for this? grandparents who still remember how movies where back then? but the main reason why this was a big turn off for me personally because I hate silent movies with a passion, no disrespect to that time period but silent movies tend to born me to death, with no color or sound besides music my ADD goes into overdrive and I can’t pay attention to the movie at all. which bares the question, if i can pay attention to these kind of movies, how the hell a hyperactive alien like ALF pay attention long enough to a silent movie without banging his head against a wall? let alone want to write his own silent movie script from it. so yeah, I agree this episode was bad because it had no point to it expect to see what it be like if ALF was in a silent movie. also i feel bad for jake that his one last big episode of him as the end with this.

    • Furienna says:

      Believe me, I’m not a fan of silent movies either. It was my grandparents, who grew up during that era, not me. But I can’t feel anything but admiration for this creative and unique episode. I mean, can you name one more sitcom, which ever did a spoof on/ tribute to silent movies? No, didn’t think so. So I don’t understand the hate.

      • FelixSH says:

        I can name one: Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, season 3, episode 24 – “Silent Movie”. That one surprised me, because I didn’t dislike it.
        This ALF episode on the other hand is one of the few that I remember from the late S3/S4, because it was so bad. I dunno, kudos for trying I guess, but it’s not much use if the result is just awful.
        —-
        Also, a warning for Phil: I remember there being a few more phantasy/dream-episodes in S4. No idea if they sucked (my memory says yes, but it has been a long time), but I already wish you good luck with them.

        • Furienna says:

          Okay, you got me there. But I don’t remember the “Sabrina” episode at all, so maybe I never saw it. May I ask you though what is so terrible about the “Alf” episode?

          • FelixSH says:

            I can’t say anything specific, because I haven’t seen it in a long time. But I like the show to this day, and I still remember this episode (plus another one) as awful. I can only assume that it means something when there are only two episodes in four seasons that I remember to this day as bad, especially if even kim agrees with the critic.
            When I think about it, a big problem for me was that the episode doesn’t really feature the cast – it is essentially a completely different show. It has nothing to do with ALF. If I watch the show, I want to see ALFs interaction with the Tanners. They aren’t here, so there was no reason for me to be interested at all.

            • Furienna says:

              Fair enough, I guess. This kind of antasy episodes have a tendency to annoy people, even if they usually like the show. I still don’t get the hatred for this one though.

            • Casey says:

              This kind of episode makes me think of the ones towards the tail end of the Prisoner where, for instance, all of a sudden they’re in the Old West instead of the Village. Though I’m guessing there were very different reasons behind why those, and this, got made, I can see similar thinking behind putting these at the end of a season when ratings might not matter so much (might also explain why Kate’s not visibly pregnant here).

      • Philip J Reed says:

        Futurama did an episode about a silent film star, which I’d say was a pretty loving and good tribute to the period. (But I understand most folks hate that episode, so I could be in the minority for preferring that.) And I think that in a later episode they did a segment in the style of a silent, animated cartoon…but my memory of that is pretty hazy because I only caught it once.

        Having said that, though, I think the problem with “Like an Old Time Movie” is that there doesn’t seem to be a fondness for those films. Like TKDye says above, it seems more like the writers saw a couple of them, slapped out a script (which itself was about slapping out a script) and moved on with their lives. If there was any fondness for the source material, I missed it. I almost missed anything insightful or funny.

        I’d give them credit for presenting this episode in a unique way, but it’s hard to do that when it wasn’t any good. It would be like giving credit to Small Wonder because it was the only show in which a robot girl misinterpreted instructions on a weekly basis. That’s a true statement, but hardly cause for celebration.

        • Furienna says:

          Fine. If you didn’t think that it was any good, that is how you feel. But I remember it as a cute spoof / tribute, that must have been very uniqe at the time (“Sabrina” and “Futurama” came on later), and I had no problems with the episode. Is it possible that the writers just threw a script together and moved on with their lives? Yeah, maybe. But I still like what they came up with.

  • Sarah Portland says:

    Was this episode shown out of sequence? Kate/ Anne is not pregnant.

    • Furienna says:

      Or maybe it wasn’t as obvious when she wore 1920s clothes and was shot in black and white?

    • Philip J Reed says:

      I think she was visibly pregnant in the framing story, so as best as I can tell, they shot the silent film stuff a good long while before that. Maybe even at the very start of the season. Jake’s presence in the framing story (since he was evidently unavailable for the most of the season) also suggests that that was shot later.

      I almost brought that up in the review but if I stayed mired in this episode any longer than usual I was afraid I’d never get out.



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