So little happens on this show, which I’m sure you know. What you may not know is that this sometimes works in its favor. After all, when ALF might as well be 23 minutes of static, every minor disruption to what we’re expecting is interesting by default.
That’s why background details like a singed curtain or a new shirt on Mr. Ochmonek register. That’s why acting from a competent guest star stands out. That’s why silly jokes — like Jim J. Bullock raising his hand last week — feel like they’re better than they really are.
ALF has cemented such a baseline level of laziness that literally anything that has thought invested in it shines. That’s why the moment I started this episode, and saw the scene above, I started paying attention.
Who are these guys on the couch? They’re in nice suits. Are they the FBI? They seem to be watching something on television. Is it surreptitious footage of ALF raping something in the back yard? Are the Tanners well and truly caught?
…probably not, because we still have 13 episodes to go, and sitcoms around this time weren’t very serialized. But the answer doesn’t matter as much as the fact that the question — a question — is being asked by the very first frame.
Whoever these guys turn out to be, and whatever it turns out they’re doing, is almost insignificant in the face of the fact that they’re somebody and they’re doing something. It could turn out that they’re crack-induced manifestations of Willie’s personal angel and devil for all I care. My point is that I’m watching ALF and for once, something is happening…even if I don’t know what it is. (Do you, Mr. Jones?)
It turns out they’re representatives from a timeshare company. ALF called them for some reason and Willie and Kate are just patiently sitting through their promotional video. When it ends one of the salesmen pulls a pen out of his pocket and Kate says, in one of the show’s long line of perfect Anne Schedeen readings, “Harry. Put the pen away.”
Then Willie goes into the kitchen to hatefuck ALF and that’s about it for the opening scene. But, you know what? Something happened. I started watching an episode of ALF, found myself unsure of what was happening, and I ended up paying attention. We got a nice little anti-punchline from Kate and…well, that’s about all that’s worth mentioning, but I was interested.
It didn’t take much. Just some kind of unexpected setup, and a little bit of thought given to an answer.
Any writer worth his or her salt does this without thinking. For the staff of ALF you can almost feel the strain. But you know what?
Good on them. Yes, they probably broke their backs to do what talented writers do naturally, but they got my attention. And, what’s more, they didn’t entirely waste it. (They only wasted most of it.)
Credit where it’s due: good on them.
This week, the part of Willie Tanner will be played by Popeye the Sailor Man.
We find out that ALF has been inviting all manner of salesmen into the house, with the implication being that he thinks he’ll win some kind of prize. It’s…hard to explain, but I do seem to remember a lot of sales techniques exploiting that gimmick in the past, and I’m pretty sure it still happens at car dealerships at least.
As best as I can tell, you need to commit to sitting through some kind of sales pitch, after which you’re entered into a drawing for some prize or other. (ALF alludes to a new car and a vacation package.) Willie makes the point that nobody actually wins those drawings, and while I’m sure he’s right I don’t know how they actually get away with that.
Presumably there’s some kind of loophole exploited, as you can’t legally promise that someone will be entered into a drawing that doesn’t exist. (Well, scratch that…you probably could, but a business could not.) Maybe the companies just choose someone who conveniently forgot to fill out their contact information, so the prize can’t actually be given away.
I have no idea, but ALF has been on this planet for three years and one week, and has worked as a salseman himself, so he should be slightly savvier when it comes to this shit. Instead he’s still misunderstanding the things he was misunderstanding on day one.
To the family’s credit, they’re pretty pissed off at him. They don’t say that he should know better by now, but at least their reaction is understandable.
…until it suddenly isn’t.
Willie sends ALF to the attic, but ALF says, defiantly, “No.”
And he makes a big speech about how unfair it is to live in this house, and he’s leaving. At which point everyone shifts into quietly mocking his decision.
So…a few points. The quickest is just this reminder: this is the umpteenth time this season we’ve been teased with the idea of ALF starting a new life without the Tanners. And, just in case you don’t know by now, this season indeed ends with ALF attempting just that. Should the show have progressed to its expected season five, the Tanners would have been written out, with the setting shifting to the Alien Task Force Base, where ALF is held captive. Presumably he’d be forced to watch cheesy movies and riff on them with some sleepy guy and another puppet…but we’ll never know, because ALF was cancelled between the end of season four and the production of season five.
Therefore all of this “Screw you guys; I’m going home” stuff is likely deliberate foreshadowing. I’ve lost track of how many times this season ALF’s new Tannerless life has been alluded to, but I’m sure it’s at least five. That’s about once every other episode, so I’m fairly convinced it’s deliberate.
Now, my other point:
Fuck this fuckass fuck.
He keeps inviting salesmen over. Even if he somehow didn’t learn not to do this within the past three years, he should certainly have learned it just in the episode so far, since we’re told he keeps doing it against Willie’s wishes. Willie sends him to his room — a very minor punishment — and ALF rebels, turns on the “poor, poor pitiful me” routine, and heads out to lay his head on the railroad tracks and wait for the Double E.
And…fine. Okay. ALF is ALF. I get it by this point.
But moments like this make me wish there was a human being somewhere in this cast, because this dude really needs a spanking. Instead of smirking and saying, “Oh, you…” they should be grabbing him by the shoulders and saying, “What the fuck is your problem?”
ALF’s got a sweet setup here. He’s spoiled, if anything. He knowingly defies Willie’s requests to stop inviting salesmen over, and then flips out when he receives the mildest punishment available to the human race.
Somebody needs to smack him across the face, because he doesn’t seem to realize what the situation actually is, that he has no right to be offended by it, and that this is the best things will ever be. (That holds true for both ALF and for ALF; yes, Paul Fusco could probably do with a good smack as well.)
Instead they all immediately react to ALF’s pity party and seem to forget that he was being punished at all.
But hey, of course they did. That was on the previous page of the script; we’re on this page now, so forget all that other shit.
ALF leaves, and the Tanners demonstrate just how little that bothers them at this point. Remember when he left in “Looking For Lucky,” and they combed all of LA on foot, asking everyone they met if they saw the super secret space alien that escaped from their house? Well, now they look out the kitchen window for a bit and call it a night.
I’m not even exaggerating; that’s all they do. In fact, Kate’s biggest concern here seems to be that the automatic sprinklers are going to turn on soon, and when ALF gets wet he smells like shit.
The episode doesn’t call attention to it, so I doubt much of it was deliberate, but…damn, their diminished lack of concern for ALF could have made for a great episode.
The show is winding down (which, okay, the writers don’t know…but they do know the Tanners are being wished to the cornfield), and ALF has learned nothing and continues to infuriate everybody. Why not make that the episode? We’re already pretty much there; ALF has misbehaved, refuses his fair punishment, and runs away instead. The Tanners realize that maybe they’re okay with him leaving, if that’s the way he’s going to be.
Have them — all of them — have to face that fact. That’s the conflict of your episode.
Whatever they hoped to get out of this alien concealment scheme of theirs, it’s not worth it. Willie’s going insane. Kate’s at the end of her wit’s end. There’s a new baby in the house. Lynn is starting her adult life. Brian has finally stopped drinking paint. The family should be at a kind of crossroads here, and ALF pulling this bullshit again, for the third year running, should force their hand to issue an ultimatum. He can either shape up — for real this time — or go fuck himself. For real this time. And if he chooses the latter, they’re realizing that they’d actually be okay with that.
That should have been the conflict for this episode. Instead…well…you’ll see what the actual conflict for this episode is.
I promise…it’s a doozy.
We see ALF hanging out by some trash cans, talking to himself. He’s basically moping because he knows that if he goes back, the Tanners won’t take him seriously the next time he threatens to walk out over petty nonsense and let them rebuild their lives.
Huh…when I write it out like that, it somehow sounds ridiculous.
I don’t know where this is supposed to take place. In a moment ALF leaves and then Willie pokes his head over the fence, so it’s not the Tanners’ yard.
I guess ALF is in the Ochmoneks’ yard? It’s tempting to assume that this is in front of the Tanner house, because that’s where people’s trash cans are often left out, but we’ve seen plenty of establishing shots of this house and there’s never been a fence out front. So…I have no idea.
Anyway, Willie just misses ALF. But then the sprinklers turn on and Willie gets wet, in an unexpected payoff to the setup 10 seconds ago when Kate said that that’s exactly what was going to happen.
Then there’s a scene that really gives away how badly the actors want to be done with this show. Kate says she’s worried about ALF, but Anne Schedeen can’t bring herself to show the proper concern. The “Put the pen away” delivery earlier on is important, because it shows she can still deliver a line when she cares about it. Here, though she should care about it, and claims to care about it, she clearly doesn’t care about it.
Willie then says he’s worried because ALF can’t keep out of trouble, and concludes, “He’s dead.”
But he says that with the smile we see above; the biggest, most convincing smile Max Wright’s ever smiled in his life.
We’re in an episode in which these two characters are supposed to be worried they’ll never see ALF again, while the actors themselves clearly never want to see ALF again. It’s a very interesting and odd viewing experience. And it concludes with Max Wright doing this:
Which is the international sign for “You literally could not pay me to give a fuck.”
ALF finds a new place to live with…
Mother of fuck! It’s Jim J. Bullock!
How did ALF get there? Nobody knows, nobody says, nobody asks. That’s just the state of the show right now.
Remember “For Your Eyes Only”? For ALF to visit Jodie, he had to secretly arrange it with Lynn, wear a disguise, and be immensely careful about every step he took. Remember “I’ve Got a New Attitude”? For ALF to visit Kate Sr., he had to box himself up and hire a courier to deliver him to her apartment.
Granted, one of those episodes was total garbage, but they both demonstrate a willingness on the part of the writing staff to answer a basic logistical question: if the alien can never be seen, but we need him somewhere else, how do we get him there?
“Happy Together” faces that some question, but just says fuck it. Granted, season three had ALF strut around town a few times, but in “Standing in the Shadows of Love” he was with Jake, who presumably helped him to stay unseen, and in “Suspicious Minds” the whole thing turned out to be a dream.
Here ALF, alone, wanders the neighborhood, finds Neal’s new apartment — where he’s never been before, mind you — and somehow makes it all the way inside, up to and through Neal’s door, which we see in the establishing shot is on the highest floor, without being spotted.
Is that possible? Sure.
But how did he do it?
The episode doesn’t care, and, for some reason, neither does Neal. He just shows his grandmother’s antique snowglobe to ALF so ALF can break it and the fake audience of dead people can yuk it up.
Jim J. Bullock shows more concern than anyone else in the episode when he’s sad about his heirloom being destroyed. And even then he’s only sad for two and a half seconds. Immediately after that he’s merrily making tea.
I can’t even blame Bullock for this. He’s told at the end of one page of his script to be devastated that his only memento of his grandmother is smashed on the floor, then at the top of the next page he’s making casual conversation with a naked mole rat. Yes, Bullock’s shift in performance is jarring…but how could it not be? They could have hired Jack Nicholson for this scene and it wouldn’t have been any better. There’s only so far this shitty writing can go. (For those wondering, it never gets cleaned up, either; the snowglobe remains smashed on the floor for the rest of sitcom eternity.)
Maybe I’m just especially frustrated because Neal and ALF reprise their conversation from the end of “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face.” There and here, Neal tries desperately to get ALF to spit out some Melmac Facts. Which is, obviously, something most human beings would do when encountering a space alien that speaks English.
There I was frustrated that the writers didn’t bother to have ALF answer any of his questions, but it was just about excusable due to the fact that it was the final scene in the episode. A half hour block of television only lets you cover so much ground, and if the writers chose to focus their attention elsewhere — for better or for worse — so be it.
Now, though, we’re not even halfway through the episode. There’s plenty of time for these two assholes to have a discussion, and Neal tries to get one going. But ALF tells him nothing, because the writers didn’t want to think of anything.
Neal asks how far away Melmac was. ALF says he doesn’t know.
Neal asks which solar system it was in, and ALF says he doesn’t know that, either.
Which…fuck you, show. Yeah, it builds to a joke about how ALF majored in P.E., but come on. He was in the fucking Orbit Guard. He flew around in his own personal space ship. He was tasked with defending the planet (which…yeah, that explains a lot). But he doesn’t know what solar system he’s from? That’s like being a long haul trucker and not knowing what state you live in. I don’t care how dumb you are; whether it’s maps or star charts, if your job involves travel you know how to get the fuck home.
And regarding the distance from Earth, ALF traveled that distance himself. Personally. He can’t estimate it? Granted, I don’t know offhand how far Las Vegas is from my house, but because I made the journey I can say it was about an hour and a half by plane. I can provide some idea of the scale of the journey, and I can do that because it’s a trip I took. Just like you could give me some idea of how long it took you to get wherever you went last. ALF can’t provide any information at all.
Yeah, he’s a dumbass. But he’s not incapable of answering these questions. The writers just didn’t want to spend their time figuring stuff like this out, so they don’t.
I can’t imagine we missed much by being robbed of a season five. In it I assume all of the characters would have stood around shrugging at each other.
Willie comes over to get ALF, but ALF pretends that he doesn’t want to go home because Willie beats him. Ha! Wrongfully accusing family members of violent abuse. Classic, wholesome comedy for all.
Neal volunteers to keep ALF, because they’ve been having a “great time.” Even though we’ve seen all of the time they’ve spent together so far, and it’s involved ALF showing up unannounced, breaking an irreplaceable valuable, and refusing to answer basic questions about what the fuck he is. GREAT TIME SHITHEADS
There’s a decently nice moment when Willie agrees to let Neal keep him, and really harps on the fact that he should have a working fire extinguisher, but it’s nothing great. Maybe it would be funnier if Neal had little kids in the house, so Willie could warn him about ALF’s much more horrible hobbies.
After the commercial we see ALF talking to a phone sex operator. Classic, wholesome comedy for all.
He describes himself as tall with great abs, and she does that moany, giggly routine you saw in 976 commercials that aired after midnight.
This is at least the second overt reference to ALF furiously masturbating to phone sex lines, for those keen on reminding me that this is a children’s show.
Neal comes home and sees that the place is a wreck. ALF threw a bunch of shit around and smashed a window, covering the hole with a “Mino’s Pizza” box. Obviously they didn’t want to pay to use the Domino’s Pizza name, but then I wonder why they didn’t just use a generic pizza box instead. Or, ideally, one from Pizza Barge, which was already this show’s royalty-free pizza delivery place.
Part of me is hoping there’s a whole backstory about a passionate pizza chef named Dom Mino who is sick of his restaurant being constantly mistaken for that shitty chain. All of me would rather watch that show.
Neal politely asks ALF why he didn’t clean up the way he promised to, or call the electrician like he promised to, or clean the cum out of the toothpaste like he promised to, and ALF tells him to eat a dick.
Then the doorbell rings, and Neal tells ALF, “Quick, go to the bathroom.”
That’s funny, because Neal doesn’t have a kitchen the way the Tanners do, so the hiding room in this apartment makes for some decent wordplay.
But then ALF says, “Okay!” and makes a face and shudders to suggest that he’s voiding his bowels on the carpet.
…fucking really, ALF?
It’s Neal’s boss at the door, some black lady we will clearly never see again. She chews him out for being a shitty handyman, and I get the sense that we’re supposed to see ALF as the cause of this crap. Yes, the call to the electrician was for another tenant, but she says there have been complaints all throughout the building about sinks and toilets not working as well…and I don’t think we can really blame ALF for that. He’s been masturbating to phone sex lines! It’s the universal alibi!
So…is the idea that ALF was supposed to be calling repair people for all of these problems, and he didn’t do it?
If so, yeah, he’s a dickfart. But Neal is no less of a dickfart. He’s the handyman, so why is he acting like a call center? And what is he out doing all day that’s preventing him from calling these people himself? He’s not going to work; this is his work. He just vanishes until night time because that’s what the script says he does.
Is “Happy Together” actively attempting to set a record for smallest amount of narrative effort?
Then the lady leaves and ALF comes out of the bathroom and does his racist impression of her West Indian accent.
CLASSIC WHOLESOME COMEDY FOR ALL
Later that night we get what might be a deliberate callback to “Looking For Lucky.” In that episode ALF danced around a wrecked living room to a shitty cover of “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Now he’s dancing around a wrecked living room to to a shitty cover of “Tutti Fruitti.” So, just in case you thought ALF might have learned something in three years on Earth, it’s made unmistakably clear here that he has not.
One thing I do like: there’s another pizza box on the window, meaning ALF broke it again sometime between the last scene and this one. See what I mean about small details standing out when the show’s baseline is so low?
Anyway, that’s all I like. Neal and ALF yell at each other for a bit, and while it’s not a bad idea to have a new character for ALF to annoy, it’s a shame that ALF really is pulling the literal first things he pulled on Earth anyway. It’s not him annoying someone new in a way unique to that person; it’s him repeating himself because that’s easier.
Life on Earth is a rich experience. I’ve been through things and seen things and done things that you never will. And I’m a fucking nobody. And you guys…no matter how dull or pointless you think your life is, your experience is something I’ll never know.
We have overlap, sure, but right now, as you read this, your mind is working differently than mine is while writing it. And all of us here, right now, combined, don’t have the personal experience that anybody else has. Some guy at a desk in Moscow lives a life we’ll never understand. Somebody who lives down the street also lives a life we’ll never understand.
As small as the world feels and as limited as our day to day activities are, there’s enough in the way of variation that no two lives will ever be the same.
ALF, by disarming contrast, can’t go three years without repeating himself note for note. So unimaginative is this writing staff that they keep treading over the same plots and jokes endlessly. The premise of this show is that an alien experiences life on Earth for the first time, but somehow the human beings writing this show heard “life on Earth” and could only think of about 10 or 15 things that that entailed.
And that’s infuriating. Human beings should know how rich their own planet is with potential, and this is someone experiencing all of it for the first time.
This guy can do anything. Why are they dead set on having him do nothing?
Then cops come to the door and Jim J. Bullock shits himself.
Surprisingly, we get a moment of pretty good physical comedy. Great, even, by this show’s standards.
Willie and Kate hear something in the night, and pad into the living room. Kate asks, “What if it’s a burglar?”
Willie says, “Don’t worry, honey. I’ve got the lamp.” He picks up the lamp and Kate absently flips the light switch…which causes the lamp to turn on and scare the shit out of Willie, who drops it.
It’s basic stuff, and it’s nothing you haven’t seen other sitcoms do better, but it largely works, and it’s nice to see somebody who isn’t made of old carpet samples getting laughs.
It’s Neal, of course, but he was sleeping so I don’t know what they heard that panicked them so much. Maybe he farts a lot.
Lynn comes out too to see what’s wrong, making this another in a long line of scenes in which everyone forgets there are more members of this family. (I seriously can’t remember if Brian’s had a line yet. I had to look back over my screengrabs just to reassure myself that he was in the episode at all.)
Jim J. Bullock overacts for a few minutes, bitching about ALF.
Which, okay, fine. ALF sucks dick. But really it’s just a repetitive way to pad out the episode. We know ALF is annoying. The Tanners know ALF is annoying. Neal knows ALF is annoying. To have the characters sit around and repeat “ALF is annoying” to each other is just evidence that they had no idea what to do with this plot.
…which makes me wonder, again, why the fuck it’s not about the Tanners and ALF coming to terms with their strained relationship.
Once again, we have an episode that stumbled over a solid premise worth exploring. Once again, the writers decide it’s too much work to explore it, so they have characters sit around and talk about Poochie.
Anne Schedeen does her best to sell a recurring joke in which Kate tries to convince Neal to keep ALF, but it never really goes anywhere, and Willie eventually yells at her to shut up, just to remind readers here what a great guy he is.
Eventually Paul Fusco gets antsy with all these “other” “people” delivering lines and stuff, so we cut to ALF and see that he shat fucking everywhere.
Aaand that’s pretty much the punchline of the whole episode. We knew ALF made a mess of Neal’s apartment, and the grand reveal is that when we cut back to him the mess is slightly larger.
Willie and Neal come over to inform ALF that he’s going to have to live with the Tanners again, so he burps a bunch of times. Then Neal hugs him and he burps again.
It would be more respectful to the audience if these assholes just gave the camera the finger for three minutes.
In the short scene before the credits, ALF dicks around at the table. He asks Lynn to get him a beer and calls her “Legs,” and, man, this show has been so repulsive over the years that I expect the next episode will see him bending her over the table and buttfucking her while the rest of the family reads the paper.
Willie sends ALF to the attic, because that was his earlier punishment, from way back when the episode might have been good. Neal presumably spends the next 18 months cleaning alien shit out of the carpet.
Countdown to ALF getting a Colombian necktie in front of the Tanners: 13 episodes
MELMAC FACTS: ALF majored in Physical Education.