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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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The Arts in Entertainment Kickstarter is live! Right now!

Take a look: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/464236232/arts-in-entertainment-a-series-about-art-impacting

You can read all about this great new approach to art criticism there, as well as check out the awesome backers’ perks. Pledge as early as you can in order to help this happen. The longer backers wait the less likely we’ll reach our humble goal, so if you are interested, please contribute and bring this project to life!

By backing with $10 or more, you’ll earn yourself a copy of a book about Synecdoche, New York, I’m Still Here, This is Hardcore, Titus Andronicus, Mystery Science Theater 3000, or Hatsune Miku (the latter providing we hit our stretch goal).

No cards will be charged until after the Kickstarter closes (30 days from about one hour ago!), and no cards will be charged if the funding goal is not met. In other words, you’ve got nothing to lose!

Many of the tiers allow you to choose one or two titles as a reward; you’ll have a chance to specify them after the campaign closes, so don’t worry that you’re not asked for your answer up front.

In the coming weeks we’ll have Author Spotlights and other features to share with you, as well as more concept cover art and other goodies.

But please help to make this great series a reality. Some very talented and passionate authors are standing by to change the way you think about art.

Thank you, sincerely, in advance.

The Kickstarter for our Arts in Entertainment book project will be launching Wednesday, October 14. That’s the big news. Please help me to share and circulate it that day…and pitch in to get one or more of the great books we’re producing.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you some more information on the specific titles we’re publishing…and the pitch video I put together.

No animals were harmed in the making of this video, but penmanship was pretty badly beaten.

I think it came out pretty great and you should donate several thousand dollars based on that fact alone, but I understand you’ll each have to make up your own minds.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy. Credit for the music goes to Benjamin Briggs; it’s the song “Love the Game,” used with permission from Twitch Jams.

All of the art was done by me. You can tell because it’s awful and nobody looks anything like they should. Except maybe me. I’m pretty easy to draw.

As far as the six titles we’re launching…I’d tell you about them, but I’d prefer to let the authors do that themselves. In the coming weeks, they’ll tell you even more, so stick around. This is a very exciting project, and I look forward to making this a huge success. I hope you’ll help me with that; it’ll be worth it!

For now, brief overviews of what to expect in each book, from the authors themselves. This will give you a great idea of the angles we are taking to our topics…and why every one of these is going to be worth reading. Enjoy.

1) Nathan Rabin: I’m Still Here

It is now apparent that I’m Still Here is a whole lot more than just a movie. I watched it during the meat of a two-week trip I spent following Phish via Greyhound buses across the East Coast and Gothic Midwest. When I watched it in one of a series of interchangeable hotel and motel rooms that had become a weirdly ubiquitous staple of my life, I was in the process of losing my goddamned mind. My brain was a curious and malfunctioning beast wired weird with way too much Molly, pot and LSD and way too little sleep, relaxation or stability.

I recognized all of my debilitating flaws in myself—toxic narcissism, self-obsession, a dependence on alcohol and marijuana that made me feel both vulnerable and powerless, arrogance and an inability to forge genuine, substantive connections with other people due to an almost pathological inability to get out of my own head and my own crippling self-consciousness—in hugely exaggerated, distorted and parodic form.

For all the words that were spilled about I’m Still Here, mostly before it came out, there is so much more left to be said about it. It’s one of the most important and essential artworks of our time, a film that has provocative and insightful things to say about hip hop, cultural appropriation, ego, narcissism, celebrity, reality, the blurry lines between reality and fiction, documentary, method acting, drug addiction and mental illness.

My deep-seated self-hatred and my equally deep-seated self-aggrandizement both processed the movie the same way: they softly but persistently whispered, “This is a movie about you.”

2) Catie Osborn: Titus Andronicus

See, the thing is, everyone shits all over Titus Andronicus. Most “real” theatre people and directors and scholars talk about Titus like it’s this cute little failure of a play, sort of a violent novelty that you have to do every 12 years when you’re working your way through the canon, or, conversely, sort of a Shakespearean answer to the Quentin Tarantino generation, a grand-guignol style freakshow that will sell tickets to the young and alternative.

But most importantly, to me, it is the story of a father and his daughter. My dad died, unexpectedly and really shittily, when I was 20. Titus, somehow, came along at the moment I needed to let go. And I got to. I got to say goodbye to my father for 6 months, in rehearsals and live, 15 times on stage.

And it was hard. But it became, somehow, part of me. Titus, this stupid, shitty show written, most likely, on a pun about pie crusts, is that single constant in my life. I have often lied (most recently on my application letter to grad school), that “Shakespeare” is the constant. But it’s not true. Shakespeare is the author. Titus is the constant.

And I would really, really like to tell that story.

3) David Black: This is Hardcore, Pulp

Twelve songs about loss, disappointment, sex, revolution, lack of sex, pornography and washing up. Released in 1998, it ought to be a seminal work, but instead it is one that often goes overlooked, due mostly to the popularity of its predecessor, the decade defining Different Class. The Britpop phenomenon of the mid-nineties was dominated by the “Blur versus Oasis” debate. The jury is still out, but Pulp were arguably the eventual winner. In the three years between albums, the Britpop phenomenon came to an end with a whimper and a Spice Girl miming whilst wearing a Union Jack. At a time when we needed them most, Pulp were notable by their absence.

This is Hardcore arrived to a very different welcome. It was darker, it was anthem-less and it was not what people expected. It was what they needed. They didn’t know it. They probably still don’t.

I listened to it again and again, waiting for the rest of you to see sense. You didn’t. I began to despair. I despaired that a work of such quality was being largely ignored. I despaired that even the positive reviews were tinged with a sense of doubt. I despaired at the graffiti sprayed across posters featuring the cover art. I despaired of the entire cover art debate that seemed to me to be almost entirely literally judging a book by its cover. I despaired of the media — why weren’t the band on TV more? I despaired of the band themselves — why were they making the wrong choices of which tracks should be released as singles? I despaired of you — why didn’t you like it? Eventually I despaired of myself — was I wrong?

4) Zachary Kaplan: Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche, New York is a film about life, time, memory, and our struggle to find meaning in our stories and stories in our lives. These ideas always resonated with my worldview, but after my mother took her own life, they began to take on a much greater significance to me.

They began to help me understand her suicide, my grief and my purpose. As I explore the film, I will use it as a compass to guide me through the grieving process as I plumb the emotional depths of the movie and of myself; to do anything less is to not heal fully. My mother is the fourth member of our family to take her own life, after her father, her mother and her brother.

I will intimately discuss ideas in this film as well as my family’s sad past, one story illuminating the other. In doing so, I will put myself through an emotional hell — and, hopefully, come out stronger in the end.

Writing this book is my dealing with it, my therapy. Writing this book is my grief process. Writing this book is my moving on. Writing this book is my ending the cycle.

5) Philip J Reed: Mystery Science Theater 3000

I’ve returned to Mystery Science Theater 3000 many times over the years. It’s seen me through some of the darkest stretches of my life, and it’s bolstered me through some of my most creative. It’s a deceptively rich, ahead-of-its-time experience that, if you really think about it, never should have existed.

But it’s more than just the funniest show I’ve ever seen; it’s shaped me as a human being, and helped me to understand, on some level that no other person ever could, that it’s okay to be what I am: an introvert.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a show that comes with a built-in sense of camaraderie. Nobody watching is ever alone. There was always a sense of community, even if it was (and is) a community of isolates. And, hey, so what? Isolates got me. Isolates get you.

The show won’t, and can’t, last forever. It was an all-too-brief spark that flitted between networks and timeslots, ensuring that an enormous amount of potential fans never saw it. But for those that did, it was a defining experience.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 took the dreck of world entertainment and created around it a safe and welcoming environment. Sure, the main character had to invent his own friends…but that was okay. Sometimes you find your place in the world, and other times you build it yourself.

It looked like the stupidest damned show on television, but was secretly the most insightful.

6) Matt Sainsbury: Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku is a vocaloid; a digital instrument that you plug into music creation software to make noises. What is different about Hatsune Miku is that instead of being a digital piano, violin, drum set or guitar, “she” is a voice that sings lyrics for you.

She has become popular. Very popular. Over 100,000 songs with Miku’s voice being produced to date, at least one million images drawn by fans, and dozens of music videos have only furthered her celebrity. Crypton has even developed screen technology that allows Miku to perform live on stage; she has opened concerts for Lady Gaga, performed with some of Japan’s most popular music artists, and even performed on Letterman.

And that’s just the start. There’s much to say about the artistic and economic impact, but even more to say about the cultural implications of Hatsune Miku. In fact, because she blurs the boundaries between the unreal and real so much, Miku may well be part of the cultural trend that explains why Japanese men and women aren’t having relationships with one another and producing children.

With this book you will get a first-hand account of why Miku is so popular and why her fans personalise her by referring to her in human terms, rather than as an object (i.e, to fans, Miku is a “she” and not the far more accurate “it”). The implications of this choice of pronoun run deeper than you can possibly imagine.

Our spokesmodel

More to come. Very, very soon…

Subterreanean Homesick Bookshelf
Content has been a little slow around here lately. I feel like I apologize for this every week, but doing some research proves that I only apologize every week and a half.

But I come bearing tidings of great joy. Unless you don’t like my writing. In that case, it’s terrible news, and I really hope you discover that other webpages exist on the internet.

This is going to be a very, very busy month in terms of posting. So much so that I had to make a content plan…something I haven’t had to do since 2012(!) when I did the 12 Days of Christmas feature.

This month is special for a few ways. Firstly, and maybe most obviously, there’s the launch of Arts in Entertainment. That Kickstarter will go live next week, barring tragedy, and it’s going to be a lot of work on my end. You’ll see features about that of course, but most of the work will be a bit below the surface.

Regardless, I’d appreciate (sincerely) your help and support in getting the word out, and pre-ordering the books if you have interest. It would mean a lot to me, but mainly what you’re doing is ensuring that the series happens for all those great people out there who would enjoy the books and don’t know that it’s even happening. You guys have been nothing but supportive in the past, and I appreciate it more than I can say. I hope you’ll help me make this a huge success.

Then there’s that show I’m reviewing every week. I forget which. China Beach or something. Regardless, that will continue. As will Fiction into Film (which I swear I’m going to keep on a predictable schedule!) and a few other surprises I think you will like.

Additionally, there’s a new feature I’d like to introduce this month, as Halloween is coming. Part of me would love to delay it until next year since there’s already so much stuff going on, but it’ll be pretty exciting to have an active blog again, and I think it’s worth the effort to make it happen now.

On top of all of this, I have a trip planned for the end of October into early November. I’ll have my content locked and loaded beforehand, but that carves a few more days out of an already busy month.

November will be pretty busy, too. You can expect new posts every couple of days through then, and sometimes every day. And with the Kickstarter closing then — bringing great news with it, we hope! — that will continue to be a focus of mine.

Which is kind of what I’m getting at: lots of stuff to come in the next 30 days or so. You might be in the habit of checking this blog every couple of days. Maybe it’s every couple of weeks or every month. I couldn’t blame you, really.

But you should probably get in the habit of checking more regularly, starting this coming week. Because it’s going to be like old times. Lots of great stuff coming in fast.

It feels good to be writing so much again. Thanks for being beautiful, and I hope you enjoy what’s in store.

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

We are back! And badder than ever! Seriously, I’m not just saying that! My reviews are going to be utter shit!

Season four. You know, when I started this series way back in 1966 or whenever it was, I never thought I’d make it this far. It just seemed so…distant. I remember adding all of the episode titles to the ALF archive page and feeling daunted. I mean, how in the world would I ever finish reviewing all this crap?

Well, the answer is you guys. You readers. You’re the reason I’m still doing this, and the reason that it’s getting more likely by the week that I might actually finish it. So before we dive into the final stretch of episodes, let me just say thank you. You guys are great. I wouldn’t change anything about you, except that you’d have bigger boobs and you’d let me honk them.

Anyway, “Baby, Come Back.” It’s the first post-birth episode, and it’s about Baby Eric. Am I correct in assuming it’s also the last episode about Baby Eric? Glancing at the episode titles to come, none of them have “baby” in the title, and I doubt ALF suddenly grows a sense of subtlety for its final season, so I’m pretty confident that’s the case. Unless “Hungry Like the Wolf” is about ALF devouring the kid during a full moon. I guess that’s something I can hope for.

The season opens with Willie failing to be a dad. Big shock. His baby is screaming bloody murder while he stares at it and asks it politely to stop. I’m pretty sure he’s about four seconds away from putting on headphones and sitting in the other room with this month’s copy of Manholes.

There’s something weird about this episode, though; the video quality is really awful and washed out. I don’t know if you can tell from the screenshots, but it’s very noticeable when it’s in motion. It’s like back when I had to watch these things on Hulu, and my connection would be crappy so it would load a lower quality version of the show.

But it’s a DVD. This looks like they sourced it from a VHS, and maybe that’s what happened. Sometimes masters simply don’t survive. It’s an odd thing to think about nowadays, but it happens. It’s why episodes of Doctor Who don’t exist anymore; prior to digital storage, shelf space was a serious consideration. And while you lose a lot of cultural, artistic, and historical value every time you wipe a master — any master — the fact was that there was only so much room to go around.

So maybe “Baby, Come Back” simply doesn’t exist in a better version. So be it. It’s a shame, but there’s nothing we can do at this point but watch Willie try to stop his son from crying and…

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

fuck it I take back what I said wipe every ALF master I don’t give a shit

ALF comes in and tells Willie to control his fucking kid.

Willie tells ALF to fuck off, and he makes some stammering excuse about babies needing to exercise their lungs. So, yeah, Willie is the kind of guy who has to be right even when a kid is crying and wailing holy terror. Every good social worker knows that crying people just want attention and should be ignored.

Sick to shit of this new baby already, ALF shouts “Quiet!” and, terrified, it shuts up.

Season four is go!

After the credits Kate is interviewing a potential babysitter. She’s just some teenage girl, but I have to give her props for having the most psychotic smile I’ve seen SINCE MY LAST BLIND DATE LOL

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

No, honestly, it’s pretty funny. She does this right after Eric starts crying in the background, and she says with perfect sincerity to Kate, “I can’t stand it when they cry. Can you make it stop?”

There’s something about her awkwardness that I wasn’t sure was intentional, but I like it anyway. Compare this to Max Wright’s “trying too hard to be silly” face and it looks downright Shakespearean.

Sure enough I looked her up and this is…Missy Francis?!

Jesus. Nowadays she’s known for hosting Money with Melissa Francis on right-wing circle jerk Fox News. I looked up a clip to be sure and that was definitely her, same face, ranting about why she’s proud to work for Fox News and not any of those other shitty networks that waste everyone’s time checking their facts, so fucking hell. Can’t wait for the episode in which Bill O’Reilly plays a lifeguard who doesn’t understand tides.

It turns out she was also on Mork & Mindy in a small role and Little House on the Prairie in a much larger one. I guess she had a decent enough start as an actor, but either didn’t stick with it or realized you make a lot more money vomiting unsourced nonsense behind a desk all day.

Even so, it’s a shame we’ll never see her again, because I’d much rather season four introduce a psychotic babysitter to the Tanner house than Jim J. Bullock.

In fact, insane Fox News commentator-in-training or not, she has a great moment shortly. Evidently her babysitting resume is filled with acting credentials (which Kate makes fun of, but, damn, if she’s got more than one credit that’s a more impressive resume than the cast of ALF). When she leaves Kate says, “I hope you get that part on Munters Today!” The babysitter stops in the doorway, turns around, and makes a big, excited show out of crossing her fingers.

It’s…incredibly human, and actually very funny. No wonder you didn’t stick around, Missy Francis. You did something funny and your last name wasn’t Fusco. Rookie mistake.

Looking up The Munsters Today I see that it ran for three seasons. That’s…way more than I expected. I vaguely remember it existing, and I kind of thought it was some miserable failure that was canceled during season one. I guess not. In fact, it ran almost as long as ALF did. In Hell I believe they’re both still running.

ALF comes in and says WHAT’S FOR DINNER which is his entire character in three words.

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

Kate and Willie talk for a while about how Kate can’t go back to work until they find a babysitter, which is reassuring and frustrating in equal measure. Reassuring because we know Kate is still a Realtor. That’s nice; I had half expected them to forget that between seasons, like old what’s-his-name who used to live with the Ochmoneks and cum into Lynn’s socks when nobody was looking. Captain Pesto or something.

But it’s also frustrating because…come on. An alien lives in your fucking house. A babysitter will be on your payroll for approximately 12 minutes before one of the following occurs:

a) ALF accidentally kills her
b) ALF violently rapes her
c) ALF violently rapes and then kills her
d) ALF kills and then violently rapes her
e) she discovers ALF and rats the family out to the government

Admittedly, e) is the least likely outcome, but the point is Baby Eric either needs to go live with a relative, or you need to keep a family member home with him. Strange babysitters won’t do. It’s emphatically not an option.

Willie asks Kate if she’s tried advertising in the college newspapers, and that reminds me…why not ask one of Lynn’s friends?

HAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHHA I KILL ME

They do have a pretty interesting sub-conversation here about the possibility of ALF one day being able to start a life without them, which is an important thing to discuss so obviously they drop the subject immediately. But I wonder if this is meant to be a kind of foreshadowing. According to commenter Justin who provided this awesome piece a while back, “The whole thing got so heated that it was agreed between the producers that should the series get a fifth season order the Tanners would be completely written out of the show. ALF would be taken to the Alien Task Force headquarters and the show was to become a McHale’s Navy– or Hogan’s Heroes-type comedy, set on a military base.”

Depending on when that decision actually happened, it’s possible that the cast and crew knew here that ALF would indeed have a Tanner-less life in season five, and they laid some groundwork for that.

It’s unlikely, since this is never a show that’s cared anything about inter-episode continuity and, again, probably wouldn’t start caring about it in season four, but it’s interesting that the first episode of the season floats that idea and the final episode tries to fulfill it.

But we’ll get to that hot mess soon enough.

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

Later on, Kate is trying to burp Eric. No wonder we don’t get any Eric episodes in the future…they explored every possibility with this one! Also, the baby has wispy brown hair in this episode whereas he had thick black hair in the last, so I’m pretty sure the Tanners already traded their kid for one they liked better.

ALF says he’ll show her a trick, and Kate has a decent moment when she says that the last time he showed her a trick, it took two weeks for her eyebrows to grow back. That’s…yeah, decent. I’ll stick with decent.

But then ALF promises that Eric won’t leave his hands. Kate replies, “Spot him, Lynn.”

And fucked if that isn’t my favorite line in ages.

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

Then we immediately get my least favorite line in ages. Kate asks ALF to heat Eric’s formula, and ALF says, “What do you need formula for, Kate? Tapped out?”

…fucking gross, ALF.

Like…gah.

I’m not one of those people that’s disgusted by breast feeding or anything. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s a normal bodily function. But ALF joking about Eric sucking Kate’s tits dry is disgusting, even by this show’s revolting standards.

Kate’s boss calls and says she has to sell a house right now, and he doesn’t give a fuck if she just had a baby and is on maternity leave. So rather than let this massive lawsuit fall into her lap, Kate panics about who can watch the baby that just sucked her boobs to shriveled, flappy husks.

She suggests Mrs. Ochmonek, but ALF says that’s the wrong answer without elaborating. I have no idea why; the Ochmoneks are the only other human beings on the planet, so I thought she was a pretty good guess.

Seriously, why not Mrs. Ochmonek? What’s the in-universe explanation? Because ALF doesn’t like her? Who fucking cares? Someone needs to watch the kid, and they’re still putting the space monster’s unpredictable feelings ahead of the family’s needs. This is one weird-ass show. They didn’t write a reason Mrs. Ochmonek wouldn’t be the choice, so why bring it up? Just to make it absolutely clear to the folks watching at home that none of your characters act like human beings?

Then Kate makes up some names of neighbors we’ve never met. Nice try, writers, but we know full well nobody else lives in this version of LA.

One of the names is Mrs. Applebaum, who ALF says is occupied because she’s out becoming Mr. Applebaum. Kind of an uncomfortable joke in these more enlightened times, but it gets a lot worse.

Kate says that she forgot to send flowers, which is followed by audience laughter that’s massively misjudged. Why are people laughing about her sending flowers to a friend in a hospital? Clearly it’s because we’re supposed to find that operation ridiculous. Fuck you for embracing who you really are, “Mr.” Applebaum!

Anyway, ALF shits another layer onto the offensive sundae by telling Kate it’s too late for flowers. “Send aftershave instead.”

I wonder why ALF never caught on with the trans community.

What a bizarrely hateful show.

Anyway, now that ALF has spewed some toxic abuse at disenfranchised people who’ve never done any harm to him, Kate believes he is finally qualified to babysit her kid.

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

15 minutes later (that’s not my joke…that’s a caption indicating how quickly ALF abandoned the baby) our naked alien hero is watching Charles in Charge.

He makes a decently funny quip: “That Scott Baio is the next Tony Danza!” I don’t care if you hate it. Aside from Missy Francis’ crazy eyes it’s my favorite thing in the episode.

ALF hears Eric crying from across the house and bitches because he has to go take care of the kid, which is weird since he was angling to babysit it in the first place. Ugh, who fucking cares. Just accidentally kill the baby and be done with it, ALF.

Anyway, ALF goes to check on him and we find out that Eric shat everywhere. See? All possible baby plots are covered! No need to ever mention this kid again.

Then we cut to ALF’s gross alien hands pawing at the baby’s legs and thighs.

This is fucking horrible. And the baby is screaming the entire time. How can this not qualify as child abuse? The kid doesn’t know he’s in a TV show with a comedy puppet. He just knows he’s scared and crying for help because some giant monster won’t stop grabbing at his diaper, and none of the adults are coming to his aid.

What a horribly traumatic thing. This is the kind of thing babies probably have nightmares about, only this kid isn’t sleeping. He’s living through it, take after take, under the hot studio lights and nobody’s helping him. Jesus Christ.

Then ALF spreads the baby’s legs.

Yup.

That sure happens.

We see the baby’s bare ass while ALF dusts it with talcum powder. No, I’m not screenshotting that, but you know how embarrassed you are when your mom digs out those old baby pictures of you sitting naked in the sink? Now imagine that those baby pictures were actually videos. And that those videos were available worldwide on DVD. And that that DVD was ALF: The Complete Fourth Season.

It’s impossible to get much more embarrassing than that.

Then ALF also talcs up his own junk and I’m not screenshotting that, either.

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

So ALF pulls the diaper off the kid and puts on a new one. I guess we should be relieved that ALF’s graduated from trying to cram diapers up a doll’s anus to putting one on properly, but part of me is still kind of sickened by the fact that ALF is covered in fur and probably has all manner of germs all over him. It’s just…weird.

Like, if you lived with a bear, and you trained it to change your kid’s diaper, that would be impressive in several ways. But even if it could do it…would you want it to?

It’s an animal. Even if you could be 1,000% sure it would never hurt the kid (accidentally or deliberately), would you actually let the thing do it? It just seems like there’s far too much of a chance for the kid to get sick from that, or have a reaction to it. I don’t know. I have no kids and very rarely train animals to change them, so what do I know.

And don’t ask me why I’m starting hypotheticals with “If you lived with a bear…” Let’s just blame John Irving and move along.

Then ALF walks all around the house with Eric’s full diaper. Put it in the fucking diaper pail, ALF! This is gross.

Even worse is we can see that there is actual, visible shit on it. Look at the screenshot!

Fucking hell, props department. I know I often give you credit when you’re attentive to detail, but this is emphatically not the time to go above and beyond.

This is genuinely disgusting. No human being needs to see that in a sitcom. We can suspend disbelief when we see a TV character reacting with revulsion to a diaper that looks relatively clean. We can imagine what he’s actually seeing easy enough. We don’t need to see feces all over it.

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

Then Lynn and Brian come in and…Brian is dressed for Little League, or Tee Ball or something.

Well, looks like the kid got a life at some point. It was off camera, of course, but good for him. That explains (accidentally or deliberately) the mitt Kate yelled at him about in the last episode. I’m glad they gave the kid a hobby…and I kind of like the fact that he’s not good at it.

That’s not my interpretation…it’s a fact the show highlights. He complains that they never put him in the game, and when Lynn tosses him his mitt he fails to catch it. This isn’t great stuff, guys, but I appreciate the impulse. After three full seasons, this is the first time they’ve shown us that Brian either is or is not good at something. Usually he’s just there, looking miserable. It’s nice to know, at last, where he stands in relation to something other than scratching his armpit.

Then Lynn goes into the nursery to grab Eric, because Kate told her to. Brian gets pissed off and stomps on his mitt for a while. Uh, okay.

She tells Brian to tell ALF that Kate told her to take Eric. Man, talk about a clunky plot point. You can’t leave a note or tell ALF yourself?

Anyway, Benji Gregory only gets paid for one line a week, so he obviously can’t fulfill his part of the deal. They leave while ALF is away, presumably wrestling with a visibly shitty diaper.

When he goes back into the nursery he finds the baby missing and says, “So much for keeping my powder dry,” because he peed all over himself.

Now that’s an act break!

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

After the commercial Willie comes home, and ALF almost immediately rats himself out that Eric is missing. I kind of like this, because I thought the rest of the episode would just be ALF, running around in a panic thinking Eric is gone. Instead dumbass Willie gets roped into this crap, too, and that’s at least a smarter idea, if not necessarily funnier.

But this doesn’t mean they do much that they couldn’t have done with ALF alone. In fact, it all seems to be an excuse to get ALF to stand in the chimney, because the episode sure spends a lot of time showing us that.

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

There’s some not-bad acting from Max Wright (how many more times do you expect I’ll say that before the series ends?) as he realizes ALF didn’t misunderstand something; Eric really is gone. His panic is believable. It even manages to be (a certain degree of) subtle. It’s good, and, again, believable.

It gets less believable, though, when he starts running through the halls calling, “Eric! Eric! It’s dad!” It’s a fucking infant, Willie; it doesn’t know what you’re saying. You might as well be calling out to your missing car keys.

So, okay, I like some of this, but I don’t know why Willie isn’t stabbing ALF to death with a broken bottle at this point. Kill this fucking space beast! He’s spent three years ruining your life, your finances, your family, your future, your happiness, your dreams, your ambitions, and everything you’ve ever held dear. Now he lost your fucking baby and has no idea where it is. Kill this fucking space beast.

But, no. Can’t yell at ALF, for fuck’s sake, so instead Willie asks him to retrace his steps. Evidently ALF buried the shitty diaper in the back yard, so he and Willie conclude that maybe he buried Eric as well.

Yep, there you go, folks. One episode with the baby and already ALF is accidentally burying it alive.

They search the yard and can’t find it, though, which means either Eric was not buried alive, or they’re digging in the wrong place and later in the season somebody will trip over a very small skeleton.

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

Later Willie calls an operator and asks for 911, and there’s some joyless back and forth about the fact that he could have called 911 directly. It’d be hilarious if he weren’t calling about his dead baby.

It’s extraordinarily odd humor. Yes, we in the audience know Eric’s not dead or in danger. Fine. But Willie is convinced his son is dead or in danger, so why is he engaging in a sub-par “Who’s on First” with Lily Tomlin? What the hell is going on in his mind that he copes with the loss of a family member through half-assed comedy routines with disembodied voices?

Then ALF comes in, afraid that he’ll get in trouble, and Willie reaches down and comforts him, which brings the absurdity of this scene to toxic levels. In fact, it’s the single most bizarre fucking thing that’s ever happened on this show. This is where SPEWEY needs to be beaten to death with a rake, but Willie gives it a fucking shoulder rub.

You know how angry I get when ALF does something shitty and the family apologizes to him for it? Well, that’s what happening here. Except the shitty thing he did is murder their infant son.

Then Kate comes home and ALF does a spot-on impression of me watching this episode:

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

Willie tells Kate that he has something serious he needs to tell her. It’s not great acting but since Max Wright is dealing with the problem and not re-enacting the dead parrot sketch with a passing milkman it’s a big step up from a moment ago.

Hearing this — and knowing Eric is okay — Kate worries that something’s happened to her mother. ALF says, “We should be so lucky!” because if there’s one thing you should do after murdering someone’s youngest relative, it’s wish tragedy upon their oldest.

ALF is a fucking asshole, guys.

Speaking of Kate Sr., I noticed in an earlier shot that there was a photo of her on the mantel. (Doesn’t it piss you off when I talk about things and don’t provide photographic reference?) I don’t know how long that’s been there; it could well be new for this season. Granted, I don’t know why it would be new for this season, but it’s nice that somebody, at some point, realized that human beings sometimes display photos of fellow humans in their homes.

Also, Kate Sr. was MIA throughout last season, so I admit it’s kind of nice to see that she still exists within the universe of the show.

Whatever. The episode’s out of time so Lynn comes in with Eric. Willie runs to greet him and, man, can’t you just see the fatherly love in his eyes?

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

Kate eats up the last few precious minutes of the episode by repeating for us everything we already knew: Kate called Lynn and told her to pick up Eric and bring him to Brian’s game and Brian was supposed to tell ALF but he didn’t so ALF and Willie dug dead babies out of the yard instead. I guess it’s nice if you just managed to catch the end of the episode. That way you’re told on no uncertain terms that you didn’t miss anything worth watching.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well, which ALF proves by telling Kate that he mopped up the piss that he sprayed all over the baby’s room.

Kate apologizes to him and even asks for another chance, because fucking fuck this fuckass dipshit fuckshow fuck.

Watching this makes me feel like I’m drunk. What is actually going through any of these people’s minds? Why are they constantly apologizing to ALF?

Yeah, Lynn took the baby, but ALF was supposed to be watching it and instead left it alone while he engaged in diaper-burying shenanigans. Eric’s not dead, but ALF proved — proved! — that he left the kid long enough for something to happen to him. Why is Kate the one learning a lesson from this? And why is that lesson “I should be nicer to ALF”?

Jesus fuckbag.

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"

In the short scene before the credits Eric is trapped in a confined space with the shit-covered monster who touched him inappropriately, made him cry, and pissed all over his bedding.

Countdown to Jim J. Bullock existing: 6 episodes
Countdown to ALF being flayed alive in front of the Tanners: 23 episodes

MELMAC FACTS: ALF claims that all Melmacians have an instinctive rapport with kids, and are able to suck milk through their noses. ALF had two younger siblings, a brother and a sister. Anyone know offhand if that’s consistent with the animated series? I’m proud to say that I don’t know, and I never will.

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