Reading too deeply into these things since 1981
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ALF, "Mind Games"

I’ve more or less resigned myself to the fact that we’ll never see Jodie again. On any other show, this would register as mild disappointment at best. After all, while a great character may be retired on those shows, there will be other reasons to tune in from week to week. That’s why they’re great; our enjoyment doesn’t hinge upon one or two small things that we hope will make an appearance. On ALF, however, her loss is significant.

As you probably remember, “For Your Eyes Only” was the first episode of ALF that I genuinely enjoyed, and it’s still something of a high water mark for the series. ALF befriending a blind woman wasn’t just a great idea; it had solid followthrough. It was a funny episode that also managed to make me feel sad for the insane alien rapist who lived in the laundry basket. There was a sweet and welcome honesty to his relationship with Jodie, and while I’ve enjoyed other episodes since, that’s still the first one that comes to mind when I reflect on my favorites.

She returned in “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” which was nowhere near as good, but was still enjoyable. Jodie’s actress brought a unique, fragile charm to the show, and though I’m sure she was created for ALF to spit blind jokes at, she still managed to be human. She wasn’t simply a target; she was a friend. She was some cross-dimensional emissary from a parallel universe version of ALF that let characters be characters, and I loved having her around…however briefly.

But she’s not in this season, as far as I can tell, and she wasn’t around in season three, either.

Jodie’s gone, and ALF has apparently decided it didn’t need one of its most effective characters, and one of its few genuine achievements, after all. Coupled with the fact that Jake didn’t survive to season four, this does not bode well for characterization in ALF‘s final stretch.

Jodie did make one final appearance in “We Are Family,” which sucked on toast. But that’s hardly her fault, and her appearance was arguably the best thing about the episode. Only arguably, though, because that episode also saw a visit from Dr. Dykstra…the other character I always mention when listing ALF‘s few genuine achievements.

Dr. Dykstra first appeared in the best episode of season one, “Going Out of My Head Over You.” He was a psychologist friend of Willie’s, and he’s obviously someone the family trusts deeply. After all, they deliberately revealed ALF’s existence to him. And yes, okay, since then ALF has met everyone in LA, most everyone who has ever visited America, and 194 of 266 Popes…but at the time, ALF meeting another human was something that actually mattered. (See also, and not coincidentally, Jodie.)

Then he appeared in the great season two episode “I’m Your Puppet.” That’s when the show (surprisingly, incredibly) turned the camera back on itself, and gave us a full half-hour of meta commentary and vented frustrations. As with “Going Out of My Head Over You,” Dr. Dykstra’s appearance seemed to indicate that we were watching something smarter than the average episode. The writers used him where — and only where — he’d do the absolute most good. He was deployed, it seemed, only when an episode deserved him.

And, like Jodie, he had two major appearances, followed by a minor one in “We Are Family.” And that was it.

Until now. Jodie may be gone. Jake’s body may be cooling in the ground. But Dr. Dykstra is going to grace us with his presence one final time.

This episode and one other (“Fever”) represent the last of my high hopes for season four. Let’s see if this one at least lives up to its pedigree.

Oh, right, the opening scene. ALF tries to get the family to play the home version of Jeopardy! with him. They each in turn tell him to suck a dick.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Later on ALF watches Willie solder some shit.

I do actually like this. In the opening scene Brian was on his way to his Scout meeting, which was a nice bit of unexpected continuity. Furthering that, Willie was on his way to outside to work on his ham radio…which is his longest-standing hobby, being as we first saw him messing around with it in the pilot. (I guess it’s also possible that his ham radio fucked with ALF’s navigation system, causing the alien to crash into the garage in the first place, which is as good an argument against building a ham radio as I can possibly imagine. But I don’t think there was any definitive connection there.)

On top of that, ALF referred to Lynn as a college student, and Kate…well, Kate drove Brian to the Scout meeting, because she’s a woman, and it’s her job to take care of the kids while Willie dicks around in the shed. (Eric is not mentioned, but since everyone is doing something else, we can rest assured that he’s weakly gurgling for help from the family that will never hear him.)

All of this continuity is interesting to me, and the credited writer for the episode is Jerry Stahl…your vote for the identity of the One Good Writer. On top of that, we know Dr. Dykstra shows up. These are great signs; all of the ingredients are in place for a pretty good episode of ALF.

Willie then explains to ALF why he’s fascinated by the ham radio. Sure, he could pick up the phone and call anyone he wants, but he says that ham radios are about the challenge. It’s about teaching yourself how to make machines behave the way you want them to behave. It’s about using your own two hands to create, to connect, to converse. To conjure up strange voices from all over the world. And, man, this is awesome. It’s not brilliant writing or anything, but for one of Willie’s hobbies to have an actual justification…I feel spoiled. It means that somebody didn’t just say, “Willie likes ham radios.” They asked, “Why does Willie like ham radios?” and then they answered it.

It’s like what happened in “Night Train” on a smaller scale. That episode explored Willie’s model train hobby, and fleshed out his backstory in doing so. This episode, at least in part, is taking a recurring detail that began in the pilot and giving us a reason behind it. And even if this episode turns out to be shit, SPOILER it does SPOILER, I appreciate that.

Anyway, Willie’s trying to install some whatever the fuck thing so he can talk to Australia, and he says he’s been at it for three months. ALF twists a screwdriver and that does whatever it’s supposed to do and some guy with a shitty sitcom Australian accent immediately comes over the radio to greet them. Hilarious. At least it shut Willie up and we don’t have to worry about him getting a chance to become an actual character before the show ends.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Later on ALF is bothering Brian. He’s irritating the family because he’s bored; there’s nothing on TV, he says, and he’s read all the books in the house.

I call significant bullshit on the latter since we’ve only ever seen ALF read tabloids and Cyrano de Bergerac, and we know that Willie has a pretty meaty library in the garage. Even a voracious reader would need substantial time to get through all of that. What’s more, ALF at no point acts like a well-read individual. Shit…he can’t sit still, so when exactly is he plowing through Willie’s Modern Library collection? You think this jackass who can’t go two seconds without dancing a jig on the coffee table sat quietly for several weeks and read Ivanhoe? I sure as hell don’t.

Brian is working on earning his Bachelor Living merit badge. I’d make fun of that, but this is great preparation for Benji Gregory’s life without a steady paycheck.

ALF tells him that the dinner he’s making sucks balls, then he does a conga with broccoli and throws vegetables around the room. You know, like everyone well-versed in world literature is wont to do.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Next it’s his turn to piss off Lynn. He does so by sleeping instead of exercising with her, or something. Dr. Dykstra, take me away.

I find it interesting that in each case ALF is meant to be bothering the family member, but he actually helped Willie. It would have been better if he got hair inside the ham radio or something, so that even if he installed the Aussie-to-English translator he’d still leave Willie with a reason to be upset. As it stands ALF just helped him do something he was already having trouble doing himself, so why does that make Willie angry? Think of all the extra time this leaves him with to not help his wife raise any of his kids.

I do have to admit I like the little vignettes of ALF interacting one on one with each of the family members in turn. I mean, they’re shitty vignettes, yeah, but it’s an interesting impulse and it helps a show that’s four years old find a little bit of freshness in its approach.

Then ALF goes…

ALF, "Mind Games"

…back to the shed? That’s odd. We already had the Willie scene out here.

I mean, okay, this set does make sense for both scenes. Willie’s ham radio is in there, and Kate is refinishing a bureau which is a valid thing to do in the shed. Fine.

But it’s odd that we’re here with just Willie, leave for a bit, and then come back to see just Kate. Why not have her do this in the driveway or something instead, for the sake of giving us a fourth location? That would help the “isolated adventures with each member of the family” thing land a bit more strongly.

And speaking of which, since Kate is in the shed, why isn’t Willie helping her do this? He’s just had his entire afternoon freed up thanks to ALF re-kafoobling the energy-mo-tron, or whatever. Can’t he help his wife do anything? Ever? Did he leave her to lug the fucking bureau out here by herself, even though he was going out to the shed anyway?

This fuckin’ guy, people.

ALF tells her that the thing she’s doing is really fucking boring, even compared to all the fucking boring fucking things her fucking boring family fucking does.

She tells him not to touch the bureau, so he does and then she has to rip his hand off of it. She apologizes to him even though he just fucked up her entire project by doing what he was specifically asked not to do. He complains that he doesn’t have a middle finger.

DR. DYKSTRA WHERE R U

ALF, "Mind Games"

Oh. There…you are. I guess?

It’s a really odd moment. There’s no transition at all. ALF leaves the shed, then the family is making dinner in the kitchen and Dr. Dykstra walks in. Willie asks, “What’s your professional opinion?” And that’s it.

No introduction. No scene of Willie deciding to call his old friend the psychologist. Just Dr. Dykstra strolling into the room as though he lives in the broom closet and struts into and out of the Tanners’ lives as necessary.

At least he’s immediately funny, though. He tells Willie, “He’s bored.”

Willie asks if there isn’t some deeper, underlying psychological reason.

Dr. Dykstra, straight-faced, replies, “Maybe boredom.”

A moment like that goes a long way toward showing what a real comic talent can do with mediocre material. The “boredom” bit isn’t inherently funnier than most ALF dialogue, but it works because of the performance. Dailey knows how to deliver a line in a way that Max Wright — who could easily have had the exact same exchange with Kate in a Dykstra-free episode — doesn’t. In other words, Dailey knows how to make material work, even when the material doesn’t necessarily deserve it. He’s willing to do the heavy lifting as an actor, rather than settle for reading the lines he’s paid to read and then go home.

This is why I love having him around. Even if his previous episodes had been crap, he’d still be able to make his lines work, at least. And that would unquestionably have been worth watching.

Dr. Dykstra then explains to the Tanners that ALF is an adult, something that the family (and viewers) would be forgiven for forgetting. Plying ALF with video tapes and games and toys will only keep him occupied for so long, as he needs to be engaged with as an adult and not as a child or a pet.

That’s a valid observation, but I’m waiting to hear what he has to say about the fact that it’s been four weeks since the Tanners last acknowledged their third child.

I was a bit worried this would be Dr. Dykstra’s only scene, setting up the second half of the episode in which the family tries to treat ALF like an adult With Hilarious Consequences, but, fortunately, he’s hanging around for dinner at least.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Man, nobody can rock a hot pink sweater like Bill Dailey. All you fuckers better respect.

Kate serves everyone and Dr. Dykstra says, “Thank you, Kate.” I fall out of my chair at hearing these words for the first time in 81 episodes. All it takes is one guy acting like a human being to make you remember what a bunch of self-absorbed, shitty assholes the Tanners are.

Dr. Dykstra initiates conversation with Willie, asking about work. Willie falters desperately because this is an area of his character’s life that’s never been developed at all, but eventually he decides to spin some bullshit story about a colleague who is “competitive.”

By this Willie means that the guys wants raises and promotions ahead of Willie, which sounds fine to me. Working hard while Willie Cuntin’ Tanner gets raise after raise and promotion after promotion for doing nothing sounds like a living nightmare; no wonder this guy has it out for him.

In fact, I’m sure the writers aren’t aware of how significantly Willie undercuts his own argument, but he actually says that this guy is taking on a bigger case-load than he is. So he really does do more work than Willie, and is therefore bettering the lives of more clients. You know…the kind of thing social workers are supposed to do instead of bitching endlessly about competitive coworkers.

THIS FUCKIN’ GUY

Anyway, after Willie’s done pissing and moaning, he turns and asks ALF for his opinion.

ALF, in a great visual moment, is stunned by being asked to contribute to the conversation. It’s really well acted, actually, with some very effective puppeteering from Paul Fusco. I like it.

Willie explains that he values ALF’s judgment, to which ALF replies, “You what my what?” It plays better in speech than it does in text, but, trust me, it’s pretty funny.

ALF shares his opinion. He says that if Willie feels like he needs to compete, he should compete with himself. Which, yeah, makes sense to me. Willie’s a carping little oily dickbag; if he feels threatened by someone at work, he should focus on doing a better job himself. Dr. Dykstra agrees with ALF, too, confirming that I’m not yet totally insane.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Dr. Dykstra then draws Kate into the conversation. She says that she feels bad while she’s at work, because she’s neglecting Eric. Somehow she says this without anyone picking up on the irony that Eric has been neglected throughout this entire episode, this very scene included, even though she’s been home the whole time.

She’s worried about returning to work, and again ALF is asked for his opinion. He says that she went back to work after having Lynn, and Lynn turned out fine, so there’s nothing to worry about. (For good reason, her lack of similar success with Brian goes unspoken.) Dr. Dykstra agrees with him again, and ALF creams everywhere. To be fair, I would cream, too, if Bill Dailey acknowledged something I said.

Brian has a problem, too: he doesn’t like math. ALF dismisses this because he’s not even a real boy. Lynn’s problem is that she’s been dating Danny Duckworth for over a year (more continuity! Poor Randy!), but she still gets jealous when he fingers other girls, and cums in their mouths. ALF gives advice to her that is somehow not “Dump his sorry ass,” and then he says that he’s found his calling: he’s going to become a psychologist.

Bill Dailey silently prays that this doesn’t become a two-parter.

ALF, "Mind Games"

The next day ALF reads a psychology book and spews a bunch of disconnected mumbo-jumbo at the family and that eats up a bunch of time.

It kind of sucks, actually.

The whole “treat ALF like an adult” plot was a good idea, and it seemed to be on an interesting course — what with the family actually talking to each other and all — but right before the commercial break ALF declares he’s totally a psychologist now, and then that’s what we do for the rest of the episode.

It’s a big disappointment, and a complete derailment of the show’s momentum. It’s like two halves of different episodes were stapled together with no regard paid to whether or not they actually fit, and that’s a particular shame right now because the episode was just getting good.

We took some mediocre ALF-is-annoying crap, and eventually found an interesting way of dealing with it. As soon as that gets going, though, we flip the table and start a whole new, less satisfying story. What a gyp.

ALF, "Mind Games"

I think the writers were aware of it, too.

If the DVD chapters are anything to go by, ALF episodes are structured like this: a brief opening scene / the intro credits, act one, act two, brief closing scene / closing credits. The commercial breaks fall at my commas. Act one and act two in most episodes are of about equal length, which you’d probably expect for broadcast purposes. But in this episode act one is about 12 minutes long, and act two — with all the ALF-is-a-psychologist-now nonsense — is about 5. They knew, I’m sure, that act two was much less interesting, and so they wrote a few pages of psychological bullshit for ALF to say and called it a day.

Which is fine; I agree with them that act two sucks a fat one. But then why not write a different act two? Why not end My Dinner With Dykstra some other way? Or keep Dr. Dykstra around for the rest of the episode to gradually lose his cool and bludgeon ALF to death with a lobster mallet?

Instead the whole second act is forced and condensed. Even Willie flips out on ALF too quickly; he does it because the episode needs to end soon, and not because ALF has said or done anything especially annoying to push him over the edge. He just tells ALF to go fuck himself because it’s time to tell ALF to go fuck himself. By normal ALF standards this is expected — if still disappointing — but by the standards set by the previous Dr. Dykstra episodes, this lack of care is downright insulting. It would be like getting a third Jodie episode in which she and ALF have a 30-minute long flatulence competition.

Or I guess 15-minutes long, with Jodie disappearing and the episode turning into one about ALF eating Willie’s prized collection of celebrity pubes.

ALF, "Mind Games"

Oh, wait. Dr. Dykstra is back.

Okay. I guess he popped out of the broom closet one more time for a snack and got roped back into this shit.

Willie tells him ALF has gotten carried away, to which Dr. Dykstra rightly responds, “You know ALF gets carried away with everything he does. What motivated you to let it go this far?” Willie, extraordinary social worker than he is, tells Dr. Dykstra to eat his ass with this psychology bullshit and just go fix whatever the fuck needs to be fixed so ALF will shut up.

This. Fucking. Guy.

Dr. Dykstra, to the discredit of mental health professionals everywhere, does not jam a fork in Willie’s eye and go home.

ALF, "Mind Games"

At dinner ALF pulls his psychological horseshit out and turns to Dr. Dykstra for support. Dr. Dykstra tells him his psychology game is pretty wack. They bicker for a bit before Dr. Dykstra says, “I think this is just another temporary obsession to draw attention to yourself,” which is the verbal equivalent of neutering ALF with a lemon zester.

ALF realizes that he’s probably been making the family feel bad, just as Dr. Dykstra just made him feel bad, so he’ll stop forever since the episode is over.

Okay, I guess.

But Dr. Dykstra was present for ALF’s announcement that he was becoming a psychologist. So…what did he say to that? “Okay”? “Good luck”? “Sounds rad”?

Sure, I understand why he told Willie that he needs to control his fucking space alien, and that’s a valuable lesson that the family ignores because of course they do, but what kind of response did he have at the moment ALF declared his intentions? Within the universe of the show? We saw a commercial, but did Dr. Dykstra just vanish from existence until the script needed him again? He must have said something. And it must have been something that at least passively allowed ALF to continue in his delusion.

Now, though, we find out (understandably) that he doesn’t support ALF’s decision. So…what the fuck actually happened?

It’s also, structurally speaking, pretty odd that they need to call the guy in to fix something that broke while he was already there, but whatever. Who cares. This shit is over, and I need to get over it, too.

ALF, "Mind Games"

In the short scene before the credits, Willie and Kate make dinner for the fifth fucking time this episode. They hear ALF on a radio call-in show talking about family law, and then run off to punch him in the scrotum.

Kind of a disappointing send-off for Dr. Dykstra, but he was still the best thing about the episode so it doesn’t exactly reflect poorly on him. I think when even the reliable Dr. Dykstra ends up stranded in a shitty episode, we can pretty clearly see how little the writers were trying by season four. In his previous appearances, it was an excuse to up their game. Here, it’s an excuse to coast.

And while Bill Dailey did perfectly fine work, it’s a shame that the writing behind him was nowhere near as good.

It’s also a shame that there’s a bit toward the end when the family all agree that Dr. Dykstra is really annoying, which is such an unnecessary (and massively untrue) fuck-you to one of the only good characters the show’s ever had, but my feelings on that can only be expressed by a jet of blood spat directly at my computer screen so I’ll just call these guys assholes and feel good on Bill Dailey’s behalf that he’s completely done with this dumbass show…even if the door did hit him on the way out.

Countdown to Jim J. Bullock existing: 2 episodes
Countdown to ALF being violently lobotomized in front of the Tanners: 19 episodes

MELMAC FACTS: To earn a Bachelor Living badge on Melmac, you had one week to build a singles bar in the woods using only twigs and bark. Bakeries on Melmac were called Health Clubs, and ALF’s once voted him Bod of the Month. ALF used to practice yoga on Melmac and his mantra was so long and ridiculous I’m not typing it.

Fallout 4

In spite of a great start, lots of helpful suggestions, and tons of encouraging words and feedback, it’s safe to call the Kickstarter. As I write this, there are 34 hours to go, and we are nowhere near our goal. Barring a miracle — and we all know Jesus won’t intervene, due to Starbucks pissing him off with their DISRESPECTFUL COFFEE CUPS — the campaign is as good as over.

We will not hit our goal.

The series will not happen.

And yet, I’m proud. I’m happy. And I’m enormously grateful.

We set our sights on something, we worked toward it, and we did our best to make it happen. If it didn’t happen…well, that’s disappointing, sure. But we — myself in particular — learned a lot from the experience. And while we didn’t raise the funds we needed, every dollar that was pledged means the world to me.

Honestly. Every single dollar. If you pledged, thank you. Deeply and truly, thank you.

If you didn’t?

Thank you, too. Because I know you at least considered it, however briefly. You clicked the Kickstarter link, read a bit about it, maybe watched the video…and determined it wasn’t for you. You weren’t interested. You, as Mr. Burns once observed so wisely, would be happier with the dollar.

And I’m no less grateful for that. I’m thankful to those who thought about it and decided to pledge, and I’m thankful to those who thought about it and decided not to.

From the kind words we received — and one offer I was sadly unable to accept — I know that there is an audience for a series like this. I’ve failed to find that audience, but that’s okay. We come out of this wiser, more prepared for next time, with a better idea of what people want, how to get it to them, and who those people are.

This has been a big learning experience for me. I’ve noticed that a lot of folks who had been eagerly following the campaign and talking to me regularly about it have quieted down in the past few days, as the realization sets in that the goal won’t be met. I assume this is because they expect me to be sad or upset in some way. And…sure, I am. But sadness isn’t what I’m feeling primarily.

I’m feeling gratitude to everyone who pledged, chose not to pledge, shared the link, offered their feedback, shared their thoughts, wished us luck, expressed their excitement, or even just listened politely while I bleated on and on about this project that didn’t interest them.

I love you guys. And I’m proud of the little community we’ve built up here. The world — the internet in particular — is full of negativity. For the support that I’ve gotten from you guys — now, in the past, presumably in the future — I cannot express my gratitude enough.

You’re good people. You’re great readers. You’re a community I wouldn’t trade for anything. And I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather fail in front of.

I’ll write more, I’m sure, but for now…I think that’s all I’ve got in me. I’ll leave you with the message I sent to each of the other authors involved with the project. “It’s not failure,” I wanted them to know…

…even if it’s not exactly a success. At this point I think it’s safe to call the Kickstarter. And I accept for full responsibility for not managing it as effectively as I was convinced I could. I tried many things…a few of which panned out, but none of which hit the way I needed them to hit.

It’s been a learning experience, for sure. If that were all it was, I’d feel fine about it. But I do want to take a moment to thank all of you for your help, your patience, your drive, and your enthusiasm for a project that didn’t quite get off the ground. Of course I wish I had more to show for my efforts, but, mainly, I wish there were more to show for yours.

I don’t see this is a failure in itself. With better management I think something like this could work extraordinarily well. Those who did pledge obviously saw something in the project, and in your titles specifically. People out there wanted to read what you had to say. People out there looked at your summaries and thought, “That sounds great. I want to own that book. I want to help to make this happen.”

It’s not that there aren’t enough people out there to make this happen, or that not enough people wanted to read what you had to say. It’s that I (not we) failed to reach enough of those people.

In my estimation, there’s no stronger team of writers than the ones who are getting this email. I wish I had better news for them, but as great a start as we got off to (and it was legitimately great), I was unable to maintain that momentum. And I apologize.

I’ll be in touch with all of you, for sure. I’m not going anywhere, and I’d still love to work with each of you in some capacity. This project, for all the love and excitement behind it, just wasn’t the one that would work out. Maybe in the future we can give it another go, or come together to produce something even better.

But whatever it is, whatever it turns out to be, and whenever it happens, I’ll be sure that I can make use of your time more effectively.

It’s not a failure; it’s just something that didn’t happen. And things don’t happen all the time.

Here’s to the stuff that eventually does.

ALF, "We're in the Money"

Every so often ALF gives us an episode so hollow, so pointless, so extraordinarily empty that I struggle to write about it. As a guy that never shuts the fuck up, that’s noteworthy. “Baby Love” last season was one of those episodes. It was there. I watched it. I eventually wrote about it. But ask me about it today and I won’t be able to tell you a thing.

“We’re in the Money” is like that. It’s a whole lot of nothin’. Which sucks, sure, but I also see no evidence in the episode that anyone was trying to make it worth watching, so I can’t exactly say they failed. I think the writers and actors all realized this was some bland piece of forgettable filler and didn’t even bother to half-ass it. I sure can’t blame them.

We open the episode with Willie solemnly masturbating to ASCII pornography. I can’t speak for you guys, but when I tune into a show and the first thing I see is an old man pecking slowly at a keyboard I know I’m in for one hell of a ride.

ALF comes in and asks Willie if he can use the computer, but Willie says he’s busy; he joined the new computer shopping service and is ordering something for Kate’s birthday. Firstly, I think this means that Lynn is the only Tanner we haven’t celebrated a birthday for on-screen. If we did, I don’t remember it, so maybe it was in “Baby Love.”

Secondly, though, what an interesting time capsule this conversation is. Nowadays we’d just call it the internet, but I guess back when this episode aired you really did need to connect to some dedicated service and have a fairly deep understanding of navigation protocol from there. I remember — barely — the early days of the internet, with newsgroups and text-only chat rooms, and it’s fascinating to see it again. Willie gushes about how exciting online shopping is, but look at the screen. It’s a far cry from visiting Amazon or eBay today, but it was exciting at the time…and I definitely buy Willie as an early adopter.

Speaking of Amazon, even my first purchase from them — long after dedicated computer shopping servers, or whatever — feels like a relic of a forgotten time. See, I heard about Amazon through word of mouth. Someone told me you could get any book from them, and, sure enough, I found what I wanted: a hardcover copy of Catch-22. I’d read it a few times, but I only had the paperback, so this was exciting to me. More exciting was how I ordered it: I dialed their 800 number, gave them the ISBN that I’d copied down (I had to log out of the internet to place the call, of course), and then read my banking information from a voided check.

And that was 1999 or so! It’s very easy to lose track of just how much the internet has changed and improved over such a short period of time. Back then the web was a very different place; you couldn’t even find reviews of puppet shows that some really pathetic man wrote in his underwear between sobbing fits.

Anyway, ALF makes fun of Willie for shopping online instead of going outside, meaning that “internet nerd” jokes have existed exactly as long as the internet has. But, hey, come to think of it, isn’t it kind of hypocritical? ALF was just begging to use the computer himself.

GUYS I THINK I FOUND AN INCONSISTENCY IN ALF

Kate comes in and takes Willie away to deal with some other bullshit, so ALF hops on the computer and ends up at an investor’s network, because that’s the kind of thing that happened on the early internet when you just brainlessly mashed keys with your alien paws.

And we’re off. I sure hope that the entire episode consists of ALF reporting to us the things he sees on a computer screen. (I’m not even kidding. It’d make my top 10 by default.)

ALF, "We're in the Money"

After the credits, Willie shows Brian and Lynn the shoes he bought for Kate through the digital computer shopping service cyber commerce gateway, version 2.1. We’re also reminded (visually) that Eric is not yet dead.

It’s fine that Eric is here, but it’s odd that nobody mentions him or says anything to him. He just sits on Lynn’s lap, and nobody acknowledges he’s there, even in a token way. I’m guessing they wrote this scene without him, and decided to cram him in at the last minute without changing any of the dialogue.

It makes it odd, like everyone’s playing some kind of cruel game in which they ignore the baby. In a moment Kate comes home and she goes and looks at Eric in his playpen…but that’s it. She just looks at him for a few seconds, then turns away. What kind of mother comes home and stares silently at her newborn, then ignores it for the rest of the night? She doesn’t pick it up or coo at it or say, “Mommy’s home!” or anything. It’s…really odd.

Kate comes in and nobody helps her with the groceries, which they try to play off as a joke but, let’s face it, that’s every night in this fucking house. If they wouldn’t help her while she was eight months pregnant they’re not going to help her now.

Instead of assisting his wife in any way — even after she asks for his help — Willie asks her about a letter that came in the mail, confirming his recent stock purchases. I’m glad I don’t get letters in the mail confirming the shit I do online. My mailman would never make eye contact again.

Neither of them know who bought the stocks, so I guess ALF is in trouble. But, come on now. When the episode opened, ALF asked if he could use the computer. Willie said no, because he himself was using the computer. Then Willie got up and left, leaving the computer on, and ALF used the computer. So why exactly is ALF in trouble?

Yeah, he bought stocks, but you knew he was going to use the fucking thing. If you didn’t want him to get up to his weekly shenanigans why not turn the computer off? Or make him leave the shed with you? Or log out of your account? Or stab him 37 times with a corkscrew until you no longer hear his cries?

I’m blaming fuckass Willie for this one.

ALF, "We're in the Money"

Willie goes out to the shed to shake his scrotum angrily at ALF, who explains that he thought he was playing a game and had no idea he was investing real money.

And, you know what?

Good on you, ALF. This is definitely Willie’s problem. I’m holding you blameless, because you’re a massive fucking idiot and nobody in this family seems to have realized this yet. You’ve lived here for four God-damned years and royally fucked up everything you’ve touched, but they still leave you unsupervised and act surprised when you get up to the same antics you always get up to. At some point the responsibility is on them to cut off your fingers and chain you to a wall. And until they do that, they get no sympathy from me.

ALF explains to Willie that he may not have known what he was doing, but they’re $5,000 ahead, and that’s good news. Willie replies, “But you could have lost everything, ALF!”

Again though…as much as I fucking hate fucking ALF, this isn’t his fault. He told you he was going to use the computer. Because he’s in a sitcom he logged into Willie’s stock portfolio when he was trying to boot up Donkey Kong. And he played what he thought was a game. Now he knows it wasn’t a game, but Willie didn’t lose anything. In fact he’s got $5,000 he didn’t have before the mistake.

And Willie kicks the good news right back in ALF’s snout. What an asshole. Willie needs to give himself a lecture here, not the space alien.

ALF then tries to convince Willie to let him keep playing the stocks, and Willie tells him to a suck a dick and takes the keyboard away with him.

And that is fine.

I can understand Willie getting mad at ALF’s request to keep fucking around with Willie’s stocks…that makes sense. So why didn’t the scene open with that? With ALF suggesting right off that he continue investing on Willie’s behalf? That would have made a lot more sense than Willie flipping out over something ALF didn’t even know he was doing.

ALF, "We're in the Money"

The next morning Brian asks for French toast and sausage, but Kate already made oatmeal, so he pisses and moans about it.

I’ve got news for you, kid: this is the only acting gig you’re ever going to have. Enjoy the free food while you can.

Then ALF comes in and apologizes for being such a grump since Willie made him stop investing. “Oh, but, Willie, also, suck my hairy Melmacian dick.”

See, ALF has still been investing money…in theory. He’s been doing it on paper, and the investments he would have made would have netted the Tanners a profit of $11,000 so far. He gives Willie a piece of adding machine tape to prove, I guess, that he was able to add numbers that totaled $11,000.

ALF, "We're in the Money"

This gets everyone very wet, so Willie asks ALF about his investing strategy. He replies that he selects companies whose initials spell out the names of Melmacian holidays. You might think this builds to some kind of joke about Melmacian holidays, but it doesn’t, because we’re only in episode four and already the writers can’t wait for the show to be cancelled.

ALF’s investing strategy reminds me of an episode of some show in which somebody kept choosing the winning sports team based on which animal would win in a fight. Was it Perfect Strangers? I honestly can’t remember, but it’s the kind of logic that only works in sitcoms.

Later that night, Willie and Kate are in bed, having passionate, incredible sex.

Just kidding! They’re lying quietly next to each other and wishing a jet engine would fall through the ceiling and kill them.

Willie tries to talk to her about what happened at breakfast, and she immediately says, “You want ALF to invest our money, don’t you? Because that is about the stupidest thing that I can think of at the moment.”

And son of a motherfuck do I love having Anne Schedeen back. The real Anne Schedeen, who acts and stuff. This show would be so much more enjoyable to me if each episode was 22 minutes of her telling ALF and Willie to pull their heads out of their asses.

While I’m entirely on her side in this argument, I do have to tip my hat to Willie for suggesting that ALF might be an “alien savant.” That’s pretty funny, actually.

Kate tells Willie to do whatever the hell he wants, because her soul withered and died way back on their honeymoon. Willie, for the first time since college, achieves erection. He runs off to give ALF the good news, but ALF was listening outside the door, hoping to hear them fuck.

I’ve had people comment here and on Facebook that I’m being pretty hard on a show that was obviously aimed at kids. And I have to apologize. I have no idea how I missed the fact that a show about a violent pedophile voyeuristic rapist was designed for children.

ALF, "We're in the Money"

In the shed Willie and ALF invest money. It’s riveting.

At one point ALF announces that they’re $20,000 up, and Willie does that thing where you pump your arms and thrust your crotch forward. Fortunately for you he did it quickly enough that I couldn’t get a clear screengrab. (Even by this blog’s low, low standards.)

You owe Max Wright for that.

They argue for a while about what to invest in. That eats several full minutes, and nothing happens except that Willie lets ALF invest in a latrine chemical company. Hooray.

Man, who could have predicted that an episode about two characters staring blankly at a computer screen would be dull?

ALF, "We're in the Money"

At Kate’s birthday dinner ALF bitches about having to be away from the computer. What a nerd! Can you imagine being such a pathetic creature that you fill all of your free time tapping away at a keyboard?

:(

Anyway, Willie returned the shitty shoes he bought Kate in favor of a “hand-etched” crystal vase from France.

He says, “It’s really heavy,” but he says it after she’s already holding it. So either he delivered his line late and it was supposed to be a warning, or he’s passive aggressively bitching about shipping charges. I can’t tell.

Anne Schedeen beams believably, and I have to admit she has an incredible smile. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before on this show, and I think she’s only managing it now because she’s within spitting distance of never having to appear in this horse shit show again.

They kiss and ALF says, “There’s an alien present!” Kate replies, “You’ve seen us kiss before,” which is an understatement if I’ve ever heard one. But he holds up a gift and says that there’s “an alien present.

Which is…yeah, okay. It’s decent enough wordplay.

…but then he explains, “That means open the present from the alien.” ALF knows full well that anyone still watching this show in season four has severe brain damage and can’t be expected to…you know. Get jokes.

ALF got her a diamond bracelet or something, and to prove the diamonds are real he scratches the shit out of Willie’s crystal vase. Everyone just accepts this.

ALF, "We're in the Money"

What Willie doesn’t accept is ALF spending so much money on a gift. He flips out during his wife’s birthday celebration, intent on making sure she never has a moment of lasting joy in her life.

He’s pissed at ALF for digging into the $20,000, and ALF reveals that it’s only $10,000 now.

Willie shits his pants and tells ALF to sell all the stocks immediately, and I look forward to the second half of the episode in which we watch ALF slowly do that in real time.

He does let ALF keep $2,500 to invest as he sees fit, which is nice of him, and I’m glad he cares about not hurting the alien’s feelings while his wife sits there crying on her birthday.

ALF, "We're in the Money"

Later that night, ALF breaks into a cold sweat when accesses the Deep Web and immediately hears distant sirens.

Brian comes in and ALF begs him for money. When Brian doesn’t give him any, ALF throttles him repeatedly.

Kate walks in on a violent space monster physically assaulting her son and quietly ushers the kid out of the room. Work long enough for Paul Fusco and you just get used to it, I guess.

ALF, "We're in the Money"

Then ALF gropes the coffee maker.

This episode sucks.

Willie lectures him about how thirst for money can make people lose sight of their ethics and do terrible things. ALF replies, “That explains Ghostbusters II!” which might be a decent line on a show that was actually better than Ghostbusters II.

Ghostbusters II wasn’t that bad. I mean, yeah, it was nowhere near as good as the original, but it had some funny moments, and on its own merits it’s a decent watch. God knows I’d put that on any day over ALF.

It’s an especially unfair shot at that franchise considering that ALF was no stranger to low-quality cash grabbing itself, from spinoffs to comic books to Burger King kids’ meals. Paul Fusco would squeeze every ounce of life out of this character if it meant one more penny in his paycheck…but let’s make fun of Ghostbusters II. Clearly those talentless hacks Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd, and Ivan Reitman deserve it.

Then the episode is over.

Huh.

Well, at least that felt quick. It was no shorter than usual, but I guess when nothing happens it just glides on by.

ALF, "We're in the Money"

In the short scene before the credits, Willie makes a list of all the money ALF lost him over the years, and while reading it ALF gets hysterical over his own antics.

It’s…a pretty funny idea actually; I just wish it came at the end of a better episode. And it might have been nice if we got more than just a few of the line items read out to us, because any attempt at continuity is welcome.

For the record, we hear the following items on Willie’s list: crashing the space ship into the garage (“A.L.F.”), the first kitchen fire (“On the Road Again”), and bail money (“Pennsylvania 6-500”). We also hear about the scratched vase from this episode, and a broken camera which I don’t think is from any particular episode.

Some more nods to previous episodes would have been nice, but that also would have forced me to watch the episode for a few more seconds, so…swings and roundabouts.

Anyway, that’s all, folks. “We’re in the Money” sure was forgettable.

I expect a lot of crappy episodes in this final stretch…here’s hoping it’s not too much to ask that they at least be interesting.

Countdown to Jim J. Bullock existing: 3 episodes
Countdown to ALF being garroted in front of the Tanners: 20 episodes

MELMAC FACTS: Blec was “an important holiday” on Melmac. How did they celebrate? What did the holiday represent? What is the closest corollary we have on Earth? None of these questions are answered because the writers wanted to be done with this shit even more than I do.

David Black
Over the next few days, we’ll be turning the spotlight over to the authors featured in the Arts in Entertainment series. This is your chance to meet them and get a sense of exactly why you’ll want to read their books. As of right now we are just over 25% funding, but we still have a ways to go! Every dollar helps make a great series a reality, so please support the Kickstarter today to help it come to life. Here’s David Black to tell you about his book on Pulp’s album This is Hardcore, and to give you a taste of just how great a series this will be.

What made you decide to pitch to this project?

I like Phil. I like the cut of his jibe. He has good jib, but he has better jibe. When Phil has an idea that isn’t ALF-related, you really want to be a part of it. I was attracted to the project in part initially by what he didn’t want. He wasn’t looking for people to write for a perceived market. Neither was he concerned with something being particularly popular or zeitgeisty. As someone who has never been fashionable, this struck me as a very refreshing attitude. He just wanted people to write about what they love. “Write about what you know” has become a very well-worn cliché, but how often do you get to write about what you love?

How quickly did you decide on your subject?

Really, really quickly. Then, I second guessed myself and came up with three more potential ideas and pitched two of them, all the while hoping against hope that Phil would choose This is Hardcore over the others. Ultimately, Phil asked me which one I wanted to write and there was no contest.

What was it about your subject that stood out to you?

I’m not sure if This is Hardcore is my favourite Pulp album, because such things change daily, but in many ways it is their most significant album to me. It’s the first Pulp album I bought on release and crucially it came out when I was sixteen. My associations with the album are tied up with that part of my life. This book is as much about being sixteen as it is about 69 minutes and 49 seconds of the best post-Britpop art rock ever heard.

Pulp have a long and tortured history with many different line-ups and record labels, so despite the fact that this is their sixth studio album, there is an argument for saying this is their Difficult Second Album.

Every time I listen to the album, I’m reminded of what could have been. A parallel reality in which the album was lauded, applauded and rewarded. Its singles all went top ten, its cultural significance was assured and the Spice Girls all bled to death in a debtor’s prison.

What do you hope a reader will take away from your book?

That something which struggles to find its audience in the broader sense can still be hugely important to the individual. I’m hoping that people who liked This is Hardcore will join my rallying cry calling for its reappraisal. I’m hoping that those who didn’t enjoy it upon release are willing to give it another chance. I want those that have never heard it to give it try.

Your book in seven words:

Come share this golden age with me.

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