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ALF Reviews: “Lies” (season 4, episode 2)

October 15th, 2015 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

ALF, "Lies"

So this week marks two full years that I’ve spent writing about ALF. I’d reflect on that fact but then I’d have to commit suicide so fuck it. What I will say though is thanks for wasting two years of your life right along with me!

Also, in case you haven’t noticed, the Arts in Entertainment Kickstarter went live yesterday. Click that link to check it out, and please pledge if you’re interested in seeing any of these books come to life. If you feel inclined to do so, you can show your appreciation for this series and this site by kicking a few dollars into the campaign. It’s nowhere near obligatory, but I’d appreciate it greatly, and you’d be showing your support in an extremely productive way. So thank you in advance!

Anyway, ALF. And I’ll be damned. I didn’t expect to enjoy an episode so soon into season four. What’s more, I didn’t expect to enjoy an episode without qualification so soon into season four.

“Lies” is a hell of a lot of fun, and while it might not have been a highlight of better shows — God knows there were better shows — it’s one of those ALF episodes that suggests so frustratingly an alternate universe in which the writers gave a shit. When they put forth the effort, we end up with something good. Sometimes we even end up with something great.

This episode…isn’t great. But that’s okay. It doesn’t try to dazzle or impress; it takes a simple story, tells it well, and explores it for comedy along the way. Is that too much to ask? Is that really such a difficult thing to do on a regular basis?

For this show, yeah, it definitely is. But look on the bright side: that comparatively shitty hit-rate makes “Lies” and episodes like it stand out all the more.

We open pretty damned strongly, and the quality keeps up right through to the end credits. I am definitely not complaining this week.

It begins with Willie calling for Brian. He says that the game is starting soon, and I thought the idea was that they were going to watch some sporting event on television. But no! He’s taking Brian to Little League.

So, there’s a surprise already. That little detail that was sketched in last week? Surprising millions, it actually carried forward. We’re getting dangerously close to giving Brian a characteristic, ALF. Be careful!

Maybe ALF is interested in introducing a little continuity after all. (Another detail — which we’ll get to shortly — suggests this even more strongly.) Why they waited four seasons to do it is beyond me, but it’s a great impulse. I’m particularly happy that this particular hobby went to Brian, because he is by far the character who most needs some kind of development.

Might the writers have recognized that and taken conscious steps to address it? It’s possible. If they didn’t know at this point that the Tanners would be gone in the hypothetical fifth season, fixing holes in their characters would make sense. And if they did know, humanizing Brian this late in the game was still a good move. After all, shouldn’t he and ALF parting ways register with us in some way? It’ll never be E.T. leaving Elliott, but with a little work it’ll mean more than a ball of yard rolling away from a sheet of cardboard.

Also, last week I wasn’t sure if Brian’s sport was Little League or Tee Ball, but the mention of a pitcher here means it’s the former. We hear about the pitcher because Kate wonders aloud why they call him The Head Hunter. She asks Willie, after a context-appropriate stammer, says, “It means Brian will probably get on base tonight.”

The delivery is incredible, considering Max Wright’s usual baseline of careless mumbling. Like…it’s actually good. It can’t play as well in print as it does on screen, so you’ll have to take my word for the fact that his demeanor, for once, is spot on. His impulse to spin this into some kind of defeated optimism is both funny and human; he’s behaving like a father who is worried, but doesn’t want to worry his family.

And you know what? It’s not the only great Max Wright delivery tonight. Oh, no. We are in for a treat.

Brian comes in saying he feels lucky, and Willie beams with momentary pride before shifting into, “Don’t forget to wear your batting helmet.”

ALF comes in, upset that a funny scene was happening without him. He bitches about some misinformation he discovered in The National Inquisitor. And, yes, I looked it up to be sure: that’s the same tabloid magazine from “Alone Again, Naturally.” See? More continuity! I’m…gobsmacked. Like, really. It’s almost like somebody who writes this show also finally started watching it.

Kate reveals that she tries to throw that magazine out before ALF gets it…which is an understandable response to the wild goose chase it triggered in its previous appearance. Of course, that episode also claimed that Kate bought it at the supermarket for him — the family didn’t subscribe — but, as ever, tiny details like that don’t bother me when I’m enjoying the episode.

ALF gives it back to her, but he says he can’t give her back the melon rinds he dug out of the garbage with it. “That ship has sailed.” And, for the first time ever, I enjoyed a joke about ALF shitting everywhere.

“Lies,” I’m yours to lose.

ALF, "Lies"

After the credits Lynn comes in with the mail. Brian asks if there’s anything for him, and she laughs. Which is a bit bitchier than we usually get from Lynn, but by now the show must be aware that Brian’s a total non-entity. Like, there’s no way they aren’t aware of that.

I’m willing (and eager!) to see this as a shot at his worthlessness as a character. Of course you didn’t get any mail, kid. You were miscarried and nobody’s had the heart to tell you.

I do have to say that there’s an odd, crumbly, buzzing noise in this episode. Like the low visual quality last week, something seems to be wrong with the audio here. And, like last week, I can’t blame the episode, but it’s kind of a shame. It’s a really annoying sound, and it never lets up. More annoying is the fact that “Lies” is actually pretty good, and I really wish I could enjoy it without a hornet farting in my ear.

Anyway, ALF gets something from The National Inquisitor. Evidently he wrote them an angry letter about the inaccuracies in their article about Amazon women on Alpha Centauri. He says that that’s bullshit; they live on Xerxes IV. He pronounces it “Zirk-sis, which I’m pretty sure is wrong, but he pronounces it differently later on so maybe Paul Fusco just tripped over the line.

The National Inquisitor offers ALF $250 to turn his corrections into a full article, and that is the right way to do what happened in “A Little Bit of Soap.”

See, way back in that episode, ALF just suddenly began writing for a national soap opera. Like, out of literally nowhere, with no justification for any of it. He just said, “I write soaps now,” and because this is his show and the laws of the universe revolve around him, it was so. You’re lucky he doesn’t decide to sleep with your wife, because there will be no stopping it.

Here, the situation operates with something we can recognize as sense. The Inquisitor is not a respected publication; it prints made-up crap, and makes no secret of it. So some guy writes to them with more made-up crap, and I fully believe they’d offer to buy it. They probably thought it was amusing, but at the very least they looked at ALF’s truthful letter and thought they were seeing the scribblings of a kook that will help them sell magazines. Buying his article makes complete sense, especially since he pretty much mailed them a pitch.

It’s also nice that they’re not hiring him on as Editor in Chief or something, what with One World to Hope For seemingly bringing him on immediately as a never-seen showrunner that only communicated with them through the US Mail.

This is much, much better, folks.

ALF, "Lies"

In the next scene Lynn is on the phone talking to Joanie, whoever she is. (This fame thing…I don’t get it.) She’s doing that thing all teenage girl characters do when they’re on the phone: lying in bed with her feet up behind her and twiddling her toes.

I don’t know how this became the standard, but, yeah, just about any imagery in any medium of a teenage girl on the phone will look like this. Actually, maybe things have changed now with cell phones; characters no longer have to be in one specific spot (a couch, a bed) to make a phone call, so maybe this isn’t as common anymore. I can’t say for sure, though. I’ve yet to watch anything produced after 1991.

There’s a funny enough line here. Evidently Joanie broke up with her boyfriend, and Lynn advises, “You’ll feel better once the bitterness sets in.” I like that! (And bitterness!)

ALF knocks on the door and wants her to read his article again. Evidently he’s been showing her revised versions all night. And…man. This whole bit is exaggerated, but it hits home.

As a writer who was once a younger, even worse writer, I understand this impulse fully, deeply, and painfully.

ALF has been sitting at a table writing and rewriting endlessly. He’s worrying word choices to death. He’s driving himself nuts over 500 words for some disreputable magazine nobody cares about anyway. And then keeps bringing every change to Lynn (which I love and is completely true to everything I’d like to believe about their relationship) to read it over.

What must have started as her humoring him has by now become a chore, because she exhales loudly and tries to shoo him away. He’s worn out his welcome…but he wants his writing to be just perfect so he has no choice but to keep bothering her. I like it. I recognize entirely where both characters are coming from. It’s…well done, actually.

She tries to get out of it by telling him that she needs to do her homework and she doesn’t have time. “Then I’ll stare at you until you do,” he says. They both call each other’s bluff, and a nice little scene gets even better.

Lynn does her homework and ALF stares, each of them making good on their threat but also not getting anything out of it. It’s funny, and it’s an all-too-rare kind of moment in which Paul Fusco isn’t sidelining the characters while he performs some interminable Jay Leno monologue. Instead he’s just letting the situation be funny.

What a welcome change.

Finally Lynn gives in. She looks over it briefly and says something’s good, which throws ALF into a panic, because in the last four drafts she called that thing great.

She tells him that “it’s only eight paragraphs in a sleazy magazine.” And, yeah.

Yeah.

Just…god. Yeah.

I know exactly how you labor over the tiniest damn things, even when you know nobody will read it anyway. I don’t even know why; it’s just the way your mind works when you care about something you’re doing. It doesn’t matter that it’s only The National Inquisitor; you’re going to stay up all night for as many nights as it takes to get it just right…and you’ll never, ever, in your entire life get it to the point that you feel it’s just perfect.

It’s an endless spiral of second guesses and revisions, and eventually you just run out of time and have to send it in anyway. For a specific example, my last Fiction into Film had 96 drafts.

Nintey-fucking-six.

And if I’d had another week or two to work on it, it would have had more. Why? Because I’m a writer. And writers are fucking insane.

She finally just tells him it’s perfect. “I’d send it in just like it is!” she exclaims.

ALF, defeated, replies, “You hate it, don’t you?”

Someone on this writing staff must have been a serious author. It sure doesn’t show in most episodes, but nobody else would know how to write a scene like this. Nobody.

ALF, "Lies"

Then we get one hell of an unexpected, but welcome, scene. Willie and Kate are sitting with Brian on the couch, gently chastising the kid for getting a D on his history test.

So…Brian has a presence in this episode. Even moreso than he had in episodes that were ostensibly about him. Have the writers been reading these reviews, or something?

Also nice and unexpected: both Willie and Kate are acting like parents.

They’re clearly disappointed, but they’re being gentle about it. There’s the right note of soft discipline struck here. Even better, an earlier joke pays off here again: when going through the mail, Brian was studying. He asked ALF who started World War II, and ALF replied that it must have been Colonel Klink. I didn’t mention it there, because there were better things to talk about than a normal ALF joke in which he mentions a thing we recognize and that’s apparently enough.

But now we see that it wasn’t just a normal ALF joke; it was a quick laugh that built toward something that would happen later. Brian put Colonel Klink on his test, and here we are. By this show’s standards, getting both a setup and payoff is impressive.

Willie tells Brian that from now on he has to study alone — a punishment and a constructive response to the problem — and walks over to ALF to lecture him about the difference between television shows and reality. Another constructive response, even if we know this is fucking ALF and not understanding the difference between anything and anything else is kind of his thing.

ALF, "Lies"

Lynn comes in with a stack of National Inquisitors, and Willie and Kate don’t understand her excitement. Lynn says, “You mean you still haven’t told them, ALF?”

Willie takes a breath and says, “Oh, I hate hearing those words.”

Lynn rushes to assure him that it’s nothing to worry about. She explains that the magazine asked ALF to write an article about Amazon women in space.

Willie replies, “The blood is draining from my head.”

This is easily the best episode Max Wright has had in ages. What happened? Maybe he was just excited that his tenure on this show was almost over. Maybe it’s because he gets a lot of scenes without ALF later on — and a lot of jokes as well — and figured he’d put in some effort in the hopes that he’d get more scenes like that moving forward. Maybe they shot this during Lent the year he gave up crack.

I have no idea, but whatever the reason, he’s funny. The weary frustration absolutely comes through, and human hank of dried up Silly Putty that he is, I give him credit for exercising restraint, doing all of his acting in the eyes and face.

ALF, "Lies"

Kate then does something so few people on this show ever do: she remembers the premise of ALF.

She reminds our naked alien chum that they are trying very hard to protect him from the outside world, and writing articles for magazines kind of jeopardizes that. For those keeping score, that’s 2 out of 2 episodes this season that remind us of the danger ALF is in should he ever leave the house…and we know the season ends with him leaving the house and facing that danger.

Coincidence or actual foreshadowing?

I’m still betting the former, but the latter is getting admittedly more likely. I’ll be curious to see how the rest of the season pans out. Or I would be, if I didn’t already know it involves Jim J. Bullock.

Anyway, ALF reads the article and gets upset; the Inquisitor changed his story and added a bunch of sensationalist nonsense of their own. Funny how a major soap opera never thought to rewrite his shit and just slapped it on the air, word for word, even though it had nothing to do with the roster of characters or plotlines they’d built up over the past however many seasons, but FUCK I HATE THAT EPISODE CAN YOU TELL

ALF fumes for a bit and considers taking some kind of revenge on them, but Willie tells him to eat shit. He got his dumbass article about Amazon space women in a magazine, and he’s not allowed to tempt fate like this anymore.

“Okay,” ALF says, “but you’d better hope those big-boned babes don’t come after you. They’d snap you in half at the pelvis!”

…um, did ALF just inspire a Futurama plot?

ALF, "Lies"

Later that day ALF calls the Inquisitor and speaks to the editor about the problems with his article. And…yeah, this is another scene that I can definitely identify with. Granted, I’ve never had any substantial editorial changes to anything I’ve published — at least not without them being discussed first — but I can easily imagine why this bothers ALF so much.

In fact, my first published story was in a Canadian fiction magazine. Great. They added a U to my spelling of color and flavor and that was about it…

…except that my line spacing was changed. My precious line spacing!

See, in my mind, I used it to break up the story into smaller sections. Like chapters, basically. But the editor got rid of them! The whole thing was ruined! Readers would see this and think I was some kind of idiot!

Then I actually read it that way, and it read just fine. Sure, I preferred the section breaks — obviously I did; I put them there — but the story didn’t lose anything without them.

But the mere fact that I reacted that way — my writing career was over!! — gives me an idea of how I’d respond to a situation like this, in which I submitted a piece of writing that I worked so carefully to construct…only to see that some bozo in the office reworked a bunch of crap and printed their own version.

I don’t know who got the the idea to turn ALF into a shlubby little naked author all of a sudden, but I’m pretty angry that they’re stealing my life story this way.

He nearly lets slip to the editor that he’s an alien, but stops just short of saying so. The editor can tell that something’s off, though, and she offers him $500 for an interview. He reluctantly accepts, and she says that someone will be right over to conduct it. Then she hangs up, and ALF realizes he’s fucked.

I know I give this show guff for its shitty act breaks, but that’s a good one. For the first time in a long time, I’m actually interested in seeing what happens next.

ALF, "Lies"

After the commercials, ALF ambles over to Willie, defeated, knowing he’s in deep shit. He says that he called The National Inquisitor, and they’re on their way over. Then the doorbell rings and he says, “They’ll fill you in on the rest.”

Max’s acting isn’t quite as good in this scene — maybe because he’s working only with his Most Hated Puppet and not the other actos — but it’s still funny, and I like that the episode is coming to a head this way. Okay, it does seem to imply that the Inquisitor has an office that’s a couple of blocks away from the Tanners at the most, but, again, details. The rest of the episode relies on Willie being caught off guard by someone demanding answers, and it works well, so I’m all for it. Especially since this whole thing was set into motion by ALF writing about space Amazons; if I can accept that those exist in this reality, I can accept that the Inquisitor people drive fuckin’ fast.

The whole “Willie caught off guard by someone demanding answers” bit should sound familiar, too. That’s what happened in “Weird Science,” when Consumer Ed and Marcia Wallace turned up…only they forgot to make it feel natural. Or funny. Or logical in any way at all. (Again, why was Consumer Ed filming Willie talk to his son’s principal about a science fair?)

Way back then, longtime commenter Jeff said, “the zany intersection of Consumer Ed’s visit and Marcia Wallace’s visit has the potential to be a very good fount of comedy. Of course, it would have to be intelligently set up and executed, and here it sure wasn’t…but still, someone had the idea.”

Fortunately, someone had almost the same idea again…and made it funny this time around.

“Weird Science” and “A Little Bit of Soap” both have their biggest problems reprised and corrected here. “Lies,” you are really spoiling us.

ALF, "Lies"

At the door the editor tries to get Willie to share his story with the paper — thinking he’s ALF — but he tells her he’s not interested. Undeterred she probes (no pun intended…) and her photographer snaps Willie’s picture over and over again until he threatens to call the police.

They leave, which is fine, but the episode’s not over so ALF comes out and tells Willie he needs to call the reporters back. See, ALF was peeping through the plot window, and is worried the guy might have taken his picture without realizing it.

And this is a good way to keep the plot rolling. ALF always peeps through the plot window, and nobody catches him. Like, ever. Even when he’s throwing biscuits at people or making noise or whatever the fuck. For once there might be some outside chance of someone in this universe of braindead cretins catching a glimpse…and that’s interesting. Sure, the photographer has no idea of what he captured on film — if he did capture anything — but now, rarity of rarities, something is actually at stake in this show, and something needs to be taken care of immediately.

It’s a development (okay, pun intended…) that can play out any number of ways, but no matter how it plays out it forces our heroes to take action. This is still good! The fact that our interlopers have no idea of any of this is even better.

ALF, "Lies"

Willie runs out and flags them down as they’re leaving. The interviewer comes in, excited to interview Willie about his experience with aliens.

She turns on the tape recorder and asks, “How did the so-called aliens first make contact with you?”

Willie replies, “Whoa. I didn’t see that one coming. You are good.”

And that’s actually a great little exchange. I like this!

Willie didn’t have time to come up with a story — and indeed doesn’t even fully comprehend what was happening. He had to run immediately after the crew, but now that they’re here…he has no idea what to say. And it works.

I wonder if Max Wright just ups his game when he realizes he has material that deserves it. Yeah, I realize I give this guy a lot of shit, but by now it should be clear that the biggest problems with this show come from the writing. I think Wright does, by and large, a fucking terrible job on this show, but it’s not as though the material deserves much more. Again, I can’t really blame the guy for half-assing what’s already been half-assed.

As “Night Train” and “Funeral for a Friend” demonstrated, he’s willing to rise to the quality of the script. When it’s worth his time, he puts in the effort. I wish he thought it was worth his time more often, but, really, how invested can you get in shit like “Movin’ Out” or “Some Enchanted Evening”?

The photographer comes back in, but he’s reloading his camera; the other roll is full, he says…which means that the photographic evidence of ALF is still in the van. In the kitchen ALF, Lynn, and Brian decide to find and expose it, while Willie continues to stall for time in the living room. So that’s pretty much what will carry us through the rest of the episode, and both of the things that are happening have the potential to be both interesting and funny. I’m impressed.

Fencing Willie into coming up with lies works pretty well. In fact, it was one of the few ways he got to be funny way back in season one. I remember a scene in “Come Fly With Me” in which Brian and ALF were hiding in the bathroom. Mr. Ochmonek heard the razor going, and Willie grabbed for an explanation: “I won’t allow him to have a mustache.”

Max Wright was probably a pretty awkward guy in real life, so when he’s asked to be awkward on camera, he pulls it off just fine. It’s funny and it comes naturally to him, but the show, oddly, almost never tapped into it. It’s nice to see that happening again, because like Lynn’s friendship in season two it’s some character development that was just handed to them…and they shrugged and let it drop. I’m glad they decided to pick it up again, even if it’s just for one episode.

Also the photographer is named Phil, and I admit I’m more than a little relieved that when I finally share my name with an ALF character, he’s in an episode I don’t absolutely hate. I have enough self-loathing as it is.

ALF, "Lies"

Brian and ALF head out to the van while Lynn fills Willie in on what’s happening. Willie expresses concern about Brian (three times in one episode!) but Lynn convinces him they have no other choice. And I like that. Willie’s worried…but it’s also their only way out of the situation, short of binding ALF’s hands and feet and handing him to the magazine to do with as they please. Don’t get me wrong, I wish they’d do that, but we still have most of the season left to go so we’re stuck with him for the time being.

Normally Kate would be able to either search the van or distract the reporters, but she’s…somewhere else. It’s a bit of a cheat (where is she?) but, once again, the episode is funny, so it’s not worth picking nits.

Willie reveals to Lynn that he’s just plying the reporters with what little details he can remember from episodes of Star Trek. I doubt any (or many) of them are actually from Star Trek, but I definitely believe Willie spend his college days watching Star Trek alone on the floor of his dorm more than I believe he’s ever watched a football game in his life.

We cut to the van where ALF is snooping around. He finds a naked picture of Roseanne Barr and makes the face in the screencap above because she’s not conventionally attractive. Get ‘er, ALF!!

This is the second joke in as many episode about Roseanne’s appearance. I wonder why. Does ALF feel threatened that her show’s legacy will eclipse his? Ha! What are the odds of that?

ALF, "Lies"

Back in the living room Willie is making up some bullshit about finding himself floating in a fog…which was unlike any fog he’d ever floated in before.

The photographer says, “Wow.” Willie says, “Darn right wow.” Then he looks toward the camera with something like smug pride, and it’s beautiful.

This whole episode is turning out to be a lot of fun. I’m reminded of “Can I Get a Witness?” back in season two. I liked a lot of that one, but ended up being fairly dismissive of it. At the time, commenter Mark Moore asked me why, since it seemed like a decent, fun episode.

Well, the more I think about it, the more I realize I was pretty harsh. There’s nothing wrong with an episode that’s good. It might not be great…but so what? I was probably harder on “Can I Get a Witness?” than I should have been; that’s more clear to me now that I’ve sat through so many truly fucking terrible episodes. Sometimes it’s okay to just have a filler episode that has some fun along the way. At least it’s not fucking “Baby, Come Back.”

Speaking of “Baby, Come Back,” where the fuck is Eric? No, I’m not going to complain about the baby being suddenly absent from the family. If anything it’s a reason to like “Lies” more. I just wonder why he doesn’t seem to exist this week.

ALF, "Lies"

Actually, that does get addressed right now when Kate comes home. Willie rises immediately to hug her. I love that this guy only touches his wife when he’s putting on a show for strange visitors. He stops short of an actual hug, though, which I’m convinced is down to the actors’ complete and total aversion to anything resembling chemistry.

He explains that they’re from the Inquisitor, here to talk about ALF’s story. This causes her to panic briefly, but he says, “It’s okay, honey. They know.”

She replies, “They know about…?”

And he finishes, “About my travels to other solar systems, yes!”

Not revelatory stuff, and Kate assuming that Willie told some strangers about ALF is pretty dumb, but the timing on the exchange is good, and it’s funny.

The whole sequence has been pretty good, I admit, but my favorite part comes when Kate excuses herself to go check on the baby. It’s true that you should check on your newborn at least once a day, so no complaints there. But is this actually how they deal with having a baby in the cast, now? Every so often someone just alludes to it being in another room? Come on.

Anyway, as she’s leaving to check on her imaginary baby, the reporter asks Willie what it was like to be the main course at an Amazon love feast.

“Or I could sit in,” Kate says, staying right where she is. That got an actual laugh out of me, and, besides, Eric’s been dead for hours. What’s another minute or two to listen to your stammering, impotent husband spin cosmic erotic yarns?

Willie begins, “It was very hot…” in a disinterested, monotone flounder.

I kind of love it.

ALF, "Lies"

In the van ALF is eating all of the film for some reason.

It’s weird because they said the plan was to expose all of the film, so I’m not sure why he’s chowing down on it instead. Yeah, you could say it’s quicker, and that would be true if he were swallowing film canisters whole, but he’s exposing the film first and then eating it, so who the fuck knows.

He burps because of course he does.

Back in the house Lynn gives Willie the signal that the film is destroyed. Immediately Willie stands up, and lectures the magazine on printing dumbass nonsense like this, and rewarding people with money for making it up.

It’s…actually not half bad. Of all the real-world lectures we’ve gotten in this show (“Weird Science,” “Take a Look at Me Now,” “Fight Back”) this is definitely the best. It’s a fair point, concisely made, but the best thing about it is that it builds to a punchline; after Willie kicks them out of the house, the family panics that ALF is still in the van.

…so he has to chase them down again after telling them off. It’s really not bad at all!

Then ALF waddles over, wondering what the fuck Willie is doing running down the street.

Brilliant? No. A fair ending to a good episode? Absolutely.

Well done, ALF. You stuck the landing. And I can’t even say that about many of the episodes that I like.

ALF, "Lies"

In the short scene before the credits, ALF re-enacts the “calling Orson” sequences from Mork & Mindy.

In that show, Mork would report back about whatever lesson he learned this week on Earth. Here, ALF reports on freedom of the press…but don’t worry, it’s brief, and the big joke is that the Orson analog (whom ALF calls “The Fat Man”) asks if ALF is wearing a new outfit. “Yeah,” ALF says. “I had to change it for legal reasons.”

I like it…and it’s one of those strangely rare instances of the show having fun with familiar “alien” touchpoints. Usually it’s just ALF masturbating on the couch to Little House on the Prairie. Having him actually do something that’s recognizably alien — riffing on a formula familiar to viewers — is not only welcome, but it makes you realize how rarely the show does it at all. I remember the pilot making a few references to E.T. for instance, but since then he might as well have been a gremlin, or a teddy bear that’s come to life. So little of this show about an alien — which indirectly has “alien” in the title — has anything to do with fucking aliens that every time it does do something alien I fall out of my chair.

The vignette really just exists as a sight gag with a bit of dialogue thrown in, but it works fine. It resolves itself with ALF waking up in bed, promising himself he’d never eat film before falling asleep again.

I’d love to see that as a reference to the final episode of Newhart, in which the entire series is revealed to be the dream of Bob’s character from The Bob Newhart Show…who was then chastised by his wife for eating Japanese food before bed. It’s one of television’s most famous endings, and with ALF‘s frequent references to the works of Bob Newhart, I thought for sure this was a loving little nod.

But, nope. Despite the seeming similarity of the line (and, to some extent, the context), “Lies” aired about a year before Newhart‘s famous fakeout. So it’s just coincidental, but considering the many, deliberate Newhart connections, it’s an interesting one.

So, yeah. A nice, solid, baseline episode. Nothing I’ll look back on and say I loved, but it had a nice idea and it took the time to tell it entertainingly. Good acting all around, some insightful jabs about the writing process, and a storyline that didn’t revolve around cheats and idiocy.

That’s a good episode of ALF. Here’s hoping it wasn’t the last one.

Countdown to Jim J. Bullock existing: 5 episodes
Countdown to ALF being eviscerated in front of the Tanners: 22 episodes

MELMAC FACTS: Melmac and Xerxes IV were both in “the tri-planet area.”

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28 Responses

  • Alfred says:

    Good episode indeed!

    • Philip J Reed says:

      I was wondering what the consensus was on this one. I think I’ve only ever heard bad things about season four, but this one was pretty good. I was afraid the comments would be everyone telling me I’m insane and this is a lump of shit, which would certainly be one heck of a change.

  • What an amazing analysis! I’ve never seen anyone write so much about ALF, let alone a half hour show, in my life. It was great the way you broke down each scene and gave us an honest report. I always love your ALF reviews, I had to finally comment.

  • Sarah Portland says:

    ” For a specific example, my last Fiction into Film had 96 drafts.”
    Well, that makes me feel like a hack and a fraud.

  • Furienna says:

    As usual when you actually like an episode of “Alf”, I’m so happy. :D

  • Stephen says:

    Regarding Roseanne, this is the 3rd consecutive episode where ALF mentions her. In Having My Baby, ALF says Roseanne made a career out of being overweight and grouchy. Lol. Can’t wait for the next episode where ALF thinks Willie is a wanted man who gets paid to sleep with all these women in Florida. Haha

  • Mark Moore says:

    A better explanation would have been Kate was visiting her mom and took Eric along.

  • RaikoLives says:

    “God knows there were better shows…” – Now THERE’S a box quote for the DVD collection!

    Andrea Elson’s obvious compassion. Max Wright’s obvious awkwardness. Anne Schedeen’s obvious stern motherlyness. Benji Gregory’s obvious need of attention. That’s a fucking television family. Right there! THERE! IN FRONT OF YOU FUSCO! LOOK YOU FUCKING MORON! I mean JESUS FUCKING CHRIST! AND THEY MET A FREAKING ALIEN!? IT WRITES ITSELF!!!

    Ahem. Sorry. I can take shows with boring/shitty/derivative/repetitive premises being boring/shitty/derivative/repetitive, but seeing something which, admittedly ripped off a popular 80’s family movie and served as little more than a platform for one man’s crap stand up, but had such a neat premise, and watching it suck? That really upsets me.

    • Furienna says:

      So it sucks, does it? Well, that is your subjective opinion, not some kind of objective truth. “Alf” was a huge hit back in the day, and many people still like it today.

      • RaikoLives says:

        Do they? Or do they have a nostalgic love for something they enjoyed as a child and haven’t revisited? How come it has had virtually zero impact on popular culture? The only time Alf is mentioned is to bring up how dated and crap he is/was. How come Fusco never got Alf’s various follow-up projects off the ground? How come I’ve never seen Alf reruns on television? Because the show is best left as a memory. I can’t believe you’ve been ‘reading’ these reviews for as long as you have and haven’t worked out that the show objectively, empirically, by-all-known-standards-of-measure, sucks. It may not suck in the graphic, ‘furry rapist’ way Phil says, but that’s because he’s being funny (dare I say hilarious?). You can enjoy it. That’s fine. But understand when something is terrible. I like plenty of stuff that’s objectively bad. Trust me. I’ve read comics my whole life and about 1% of comics are good. Seriously. But I like a good 75% of em. Do I only read the good stuff? Hell no. Do I acknowledge that something is bad, but still find entertainment value? Yes. And not just ironic “I’m reading something that’s bad, look how funny it’s badness is”. TV show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” comes to mind. It’s pretty bad. Wooden acting, bland characters, cheap sets, filler episodes all over the place. But I like the characters. I enjoy each episode. Partly cos it’s part of Marvel’s ongoing universe, and I like comics, which the show is – loosely – based on. I would defend it as not being the worst thing on television, but it’s not going next to Breaking Bad and The Sopranos. Alf is terrible. You like it. That’s fine. They’re not mutually exclusive properties.

        • Furienna says:

          I was a grown woman in my early 20s when I last followed “Alf”, and I genuinely liked it. So yes, I can promise you that I revisited and still have only mostly good things to say about it. And it was popular enough to get a cartoon spin-off and a comic magazine, and it was shown in many countries all over the world. And even if the hype died out more than twenty years ago, how many sitcoms from the ’80s are still part of popular culture? Some of them were hits back then though, and they will still have a fanbase. “Alf” has been re-run at least three times here in Sweden, and I know that it’s been re-run in the US as well. Phil might have a point once in a while, but there is no way that his mostly negative reviews will change my far more positive view on “Alf”. You are the one, who has to understand that people have different opinions. And there is no such thing as an objectively bad TV show, or an objectively good TV show. So I don’t care how much you or anybody else hates on “Alf”, because I will still choose it over “Breaking Bad” or “The Sopranos”, which I guess you mentioned as examples of what you consider to be “objectively good” shows.

          • RaikoLives says:

            You’re simply saying you enjoyed it. That’s FINE. I enjoy eating cheap, instant, supermarket brand noodles. Doesn’t make them good
            There are plenty of sitcoms from the 80’s that are still well known today. Take Cheers for example. Replayed – here in Australia – somewhat irregularly, but paid tribute to in almost every conceivable media. It had two spin off series (Wings and Frasier) and has remained well known throughout most of the English speaking world. There is still a replica of the Bar in Boston you can go and visit.

            • RaikoLives says:

              My damn keyboard is broken and I didn’t mean to post that. lol

              Point is this. I can enjoy something that isn’t good. You can too. Anyone can. It doesn’t make the show well made. You can have fun watching it. But Alf is poorly acted, poorly written, cheaply made, and entirely forgettable save only for the premise (which it murders and leaves by the side of the road). I love – and I mean LOVE – a show made here in Australia called Welcher and Welcher (here’s a playlist of all 8 episodes on YouTube if you want to see it – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGJK8Xxw14j1iECLeupRgS22VAwWs0X6D ) and I’ve been told, repeatedly, that’s it’s terrible. It kind’ve is, but for whatever reason, the jokes land with me.The characters are sketches and I fill the rest in myself and they work. And a part of it is nostalgia, for sure. I liked it as a kid and so I like it now, too. But while the main guy – Shaun Micallef – has gone on to do MANY other things, it’s taken almost two decades before he’s returned to the world of the sitcom. Because he wasn’t as good at it as he was his sketch comedy. It’s a fact. And it shouldn’t be ignored just so I can feel better about liking a show that’s kinda shit. The people making it all did their best, it’s no one’s ‘fault’, as such. It just didn’t click. And that’s fine. I’m sure most of them would attest to the same thing. But I’ll happily watch it, and enjoy it, in spite of that.

              Shows that were made in the 80’s that are still remembered today? Cheers, as I mentioned. The Cosby Show (although that’s a sore point now, with Big Bad Bill’s Big Bad Behaviour). Family Ties. The GOLDEN GIRLS. Roseanne! Married… With Children! The Wonder Years! Taxi! M*A*S*H!!! Murphy Brown! That’s a list of shows a bunch of people will remember fondly and will actually remember details from. And I’d hesitate to call even half of them “good”. Alf was a terrible puppet show which, as Phill attests to, leaves no impact. Those who watched may remember watching, but very little of the show actual remains in the memory. But while I looked up the names of the shows I just mentioned, I can tell you many specific details of the ones I watched. Phil had fond memories of Alf and yet very little was retained.

              These days, ask people their most vivid memory of Alf and they’ll mention the quote from The Simpsons. How he’s back, ‘in POG form’.

              The fact that Alf’s spin offs lasted such short periods of time is even more evidence that they’re terrible. 50 odd issues of a comic in the early 90’s isn’t a major feat. Fusco was a talented puppeteer and made a chunk of money, I assume, so an animated adaptation of the show is an obvious place to take the franchise. But that’s the point. One Phl has so often pointed out. Fusco wanted a franchise. A brand. Brand Alf. He didn’t want to make comedy, he just wanted to be a famous comedian. And it shows. He made terrible show after terrible show and all of them failed. They’d start out ok, and Alf spoke to a lot of people in the 80’s when it was new, but the buzz wore off and people just got sick of the same joke.

              Alf is objectively terrible. I haven’t watched Breaking Bad but it’s been unanimously acclaimed as some of the best tv in the modern era. The Sopranos I did watch and while it got a bit lost later on, it was almost perfect for a good chunk of time. Six Feet Under is another show I’ll put up there with it. The Wire, again, I did not watch but, again, it has been acclaimed the world over. Sitcoms? Frasier. Scrubs. Arrested Development. Seinfeld. Roseanne. The Simpsons. Some have aged better than others but all are objectively good for a period of their run. There are others, I am sure, since ‘good’ is a pretty wide scope. But Alf is not within that scope. At least The Love Boat tried, ya know?

              • Furienna says:

                I would say that “Alf” is just as well-remembered as many other ’80s shows. It has an average score of 7.4 at IMDB, which is not bad at all. (It is for example just below “The Cosby Show” at 7.5 and a good bit above “Family Ties” at 7.2). And a few individual episodes have even higher scores, with the second part of the Christmas special (that Phil seemed to hate with a passion) even peeking at an 8.6 average. So there you see. No matter how much you happen to hate “Alf”, other people still like it very much. And you still don’t seem to get that when it comes to art and entertainment, there is no such thing as “objectively bad” or “objectively good”. It is true that some things will be more popular with the audience and/or the critics than others. But what is bad and what is good will still be a matter of taste, and not a matter of fact.

                • Justin says:

                  The issue with what you’re saying is that most people don’t go out of their way on IMDb to rate something unless they’re really fond of it or really hate it. So it’s an invalid scale to say that a mediocre sitcom from the 80s is better remembered because it has a similar score. Simply not true. ALF has fewer votes than The Cosby Show or Family Ties, so by that metric alone you’re already wrong.

                  The show was a gimmick to place a funny character into the lives of unfunny people and let him do insult comedy. It was sold on this fact to NBC. ALF was a Don Rickles puppet, who was playing the archetypal house guest who would never leave. The fact he was an alien was secondary to explain why he looked like he did. The writers didn’t care to craft a good show and the producer just wanted to give his character all the funny lines. This culminated in a very uneven series that had some funny moments and great puppetry, but is generally regarded as a pretty weak show or as a punchline today.

                  Think about it… In an era where there is a love for everything nostalgia related, when was the last time you ever heard ALF mentioned on BuzzFeed, social media, etc? I’ve barely ever seen it mentioned, except this blog. Yet countless other shows from the era are represented.

                  Find ten people on the street who watched the show when it was airing (not in a secondary market where it’s aired more recently) and ask them about it. I promise you’ll they’ll remember very little of the show, other than he was an alien who ate cats. Nothing about the supporting players or episode plots. That doesn’t add up to a good show, unfortunately. Truly good sitcoms have an ensemble who can play off of each other with memorable plot lines.

                  You might have enjoyed the show. That’s great. Many did. It’s just objectively not a QUALITY series by any means. It had its moments of wittiness and some great puppetry, but it doesn’t hold a candle to many similar shows of the era (Golden Girls, Cheers, Married with Children, Seinfeld, etc) which continue to thrive in syndication and prove to be “evergreen,” as the market terms it.

                • Furienna says:

                  Justin: But you still can’t deny that out of the people, who did vote for “Alf”on IMDB, most of them seemed to have enjoyed it. If it has fewer votes than other shows, that is another issue altogether. And 7,4 is a very respectable average score for a silly sitcom from the ’80s, especially if you still claim that no one remembers it. And you seem to make the same mistake as Raiko, that you believe that just because you don’t like a show, it has to be objectively bad. But yet again, there is no such thing as objective quality, when it comes to art and entertainment. And there obviously are people out there, who still enjoy “Alf”, even if you don’t.

              • kim says:

                I just want to clime in my 2 cents here, as a long term ALF fan myself here i sense what you saying is a bit harsh. it is true ALF my not as big of an impact as some the other 80s sitcoms, but it still had an impact! ALF not being relevant in pop culture? i beg to differ, thought out TV history ALF as made brief appearances in other popular shows such as the simpsons and family guy. especially now that we are kind of going though this nostalgic for the 80s phase, ALF as popped up more then ever, he has been in TV commercials and made more appearances in other sitcoms of today, even in the hit sitcom show The goldbergs. it’s like you can’t even mention the 80s without ALF being in there. and just so you know, ALF as been rerun on TV a lot, i remember it being rerun sometime in the mid 90s, being rerun on TV land in the early 2000s and again in 2011 on the hub channel when it still existed. so the show still does have some rerun value in it.now I’m not going to denie this show did have some poor episodes, but stating the whole show was bad is a bit of insult. every sitcom has it’s share of bad episodes, but does that mean the whole show is bad? i don’t think so, too me all the bad episodes are evened out with the good to make this show entertaining enough to watch. i do give credit to the show for at least trying to be a good show despite all it’s problems. if you did mention ALF to anyone today more then likely they would remember who he was even though they might not remember any specific moments from the sitcom because frankly even i really don’t remember more then half the stuff I watched as a kid from almost 30 years ago. so come on, be a little less harsh on the show because some people still hold close to their hearts because it meant something to them back then.

        • Joe Sugar Ray Willie Namath the Pooh says:

          Get a load of this guy.

  • Kayfabe says:

    I remember liking this episode especially more than the others in its final season also. The acting is better e,nough that it is noticeable by comparison. I do not hate Alf,and my reasons are of course nostalgic,but I also give them credit for sticking with it four years,at a job most of them absolutely hated. I am often amazed to find out certain actors disliked one another because on screen they are so good at acting otherwise/ Francis Bavier and Andy Griffith, etc. But you can kind of tell it’s tense between these guys,as Phil pointed out often of course,but it works here. There’s tension between characters also, Alf frustrates and angers Willy and Kate, and their dislike for Fusco really helps the reaction.

  • kim says:

    sorry for being late on reading this, i have been real busy the past few day and haven’t gotten a chance to read this. i don’t remember much from this episode, while i don’t remember it being that funny, it certainly had a better written out plot then most episodes and i do remember willie’s acting being pretty good to the situation at hand. it is a nice refreshing episode to remind us what the show is about, ALF actually tries to prevent being seen by people and the tanners actually try to keep him secret as well. also the fact ALF is an alien and probably knows a lot more about space then a shitty magazine does.
    also, i can relate to the writers thing a bit too, while to I’m not a writer professionally,when i do write something to be posted on the internet be it a short story or review i want to make it perfect as it can be. i know the pain all to well of writing, proof reading, rewriting and more proof reading and when i find the tiny mistake i missed once you post it online, i want to beat my head against my desk a 100 times.

  • Kayfabe says:

    What happened? Did he quit? I’ve been looking for the last week and this one, didn’t he post every Thursday? Or has he changed schedule? I hope he hasn’t quit Alf. I look forward to these funny reviews

  • Joe Sugar Ray Willie Namath the Pooh says:

    Also the photographer is named Phil, and I admit I’m more than a little relieved that when I finally share my name with an ALF character, he’s in an episode I don’t absolutely hate. I have enough self-loathing as it is.
    – I don’t feel so lucky.

    For a specific example, my last Fiction into Film had 96 drafts.
    – Seems like a blessing and a curse. Some professions you get one chance with no preparation in a life or death situation, a split second to react, and even if you do everything adequately there are lawsuits, vilification, and riots. I am of course referring to actuaries.

    she offers him $500 for an interview. He reluctantly accepts, and she says that someone will be right over to conduct it.
    – My first thought with them coming over so quickly was that it was really a set-up by the ATF who were already onto ALF or the magazine in general was an agent of the government dedicated to finding Alfs.

    Lies” aired about a year before Newhart‘s famous fakeout. So it’s just coincidental, but considering the many, deliberate Newhart connections, it’s an interesting one.
    – Newhart was continually ripping off ALF..

    Countdown to Jim J. Bullock existing: 5 episodes
    – this isn’t the show that he is raped is it? I’m having weird flashbacks.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      Your name is really Willie? I apologize on ALF’s behalf.

      Anyway, I may not have had the time to respond to comments the way I used to, but I do read them and enjoy them, so thank you! I’m always so happy to see a newcomer pop up and experience the series for the first time.

      I did notice you’re jumping around, though. If you prefer to read them that way, that’s of course fine. But if you’re only reading them that way because you couldn’t find a way to do them in sequence, there is this: http://noiselesschatter.com/alf/

      Either way, I hope you keep enjoying! And tune in for the live Project: ALF stream/chat on the 20th!

  • Philip J Reed says:

    “That’s a good episode of ALF. Here’s hoping it wasn’t the last one.”

    Spoiler: It was the last one.



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