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ALF Reviews: “It’s My Party” (season 4, episode 13)

January 14th, 2016 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

ALF, "It's My Party"

ALF has tried many times to tug at our heart strings, to affect us, to make us feel as well as laugh. Most notably we had “ALF’s Special Christmas,” which legendarily overreached in every direction imaginable, leaving us with a sappy pile of ostensibly touching horse shit, but we’ve also had smaller, more successful attempts, as demonstrated by “Night Train” and “Alone Again, Naturally.” Perhaps best of all we had “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow,” a fantastic late-game showcase for Jake, and one of the few times we’ve been allowed to give a rat’s ass about a character that wasn’t made by turning a jacket inside out.

None of these compare, however to the emotional gut-punch of “It’s My Party.” This is the episode that will choke me up the most, without question, even though it might not seem that way on the surface. As much as ALF has tried to make me feel sadness, pity, wonder, or anything else, “It’s My Party” actually lands a devastating blow. It takes a while to get there, but once we do…

…I can’t even talk about it. Not yet.

We’ll get there soon enough.

Too soon…

For now, we open with Willie getting excited over new pictures of Neptune taken by Voyager II. One thing the writers have done a fairly decent job of keeping consistent is Willie’s interest in the sciences, and I genuinely do like seeing him nerd out about things like this — Max Wright sells that well enough — but, again, it makes me wonder why they didn’t give him a career in the sciences. Willie has no interest in or aptitude toward social work, which I think is part of the reason it’s only driven one story in the entire history of the show. (I’m speaking of “Border Song,” in which he kidnapped a Mexican kid. Any other plot that has had to do with his employment could work, without change, no matter what his job was, making “Border Song” the only time it was actually meaningful.)

It’s strange that they established Willie to be a nerdy guy with nerdy interests who loves to nerdingly nerdy-nerd all the nerd-long day…and then gave him an irrelevant job that has nothing to do with what he’s good at, what he likes, or what his character seems to be. It’s so strange.

ALF is excited about the pictures, too, so Willie shows him. Then ALF makes some crack about buying land on Jupiter sight unseen, which causes Willie to ask, “Can’t you find something else to do?”

Which is…weird, because it’s Willie who was gushing loudly about the pictures. ALF asked to see them, but only after Willie ejaculated at length about how great they were. This isn’t the usual situation in which Willie is doing something and then ALF comes in and clamps jumper cables on his nipples. This is Willie saying, “Check out this cool thing,” ALF saying, “Cool,” and Willie getting pissed off.

Willie is really weird.

Then Kate brings over an invitation from the Andersons, inviting the Tanners to a dinner party. She and Willie complain for a while about how they’re “always” being invited to things, without ever being able to return the favor and host a party of their own.

Two lumps of bullshit, there:

1) The Tanners don’t have any friends. Sorry. We’re midway through the fourth season and none of them have any lasting relationships with anyone. Alright, Lynn has Joanie, I guess, and Kate has those college chums she met up with exactly once, but I think that’s it. Willie hates everybody and Brian might as well be an aborted fetus in a jar.

2) The Tanners have hosted parties of their own. This is just from memory: a cosmetics party in “Keepin’ the Faith,” a Halloween party in “Some Enchanted Evening,” Kate Sr.’s wedding in “Something’s Wrong With Me,” a cheer-up-ALF party in “We Are Family,” Kate Jr.’s baby shower in “Baby Love,” and ALF’s crashiversary celebration in “Break Up to Make Up.” I’m not counting any of the smaller-scale events in which they entertained just one person (like Dr. Dykstra, or Jimbo from “Hide Away”) or any of the parties that were immediate-family-only (like the various birthdays or the Tannerversary in “Isn’t it Romantic?”), so if you do count those, it’s even more.

Granted, that’s not a huge amount of parties, but over the course of the three years ALF has been on Earth, it’s quite a lot. I sure as shit don’t throw a party every six months, and I don’t even need to worry about hiding a space alien. (It’s bad enough just being forced to do my laundry.)

So fuck the lying-ass Tanners in their ass faces.

ALF, "It's My Party"

After the credits we see that the family has hired a professional party planner.

What — and I mean this in the most respectful way — the fuck is this shit?

It’s just some get-together for the neighbors. Put out some cheese and olives and call it a fucking night. I absolutely love the fact that they told Lynn to her face that they couldn’t afford to send her to college, but they can afford to hire a party planner for this dumbass minor gathering nobody’s even expecting or cares about.

PARENTING!

Come to think of it, they didn’t even hire one for Kate Sr.’s wedding. If you could organize a wedding on your own, certainly you don’t need to hire someone to go to Shop Rite and pick up a deli platter.

The party planner says that they need to decide on a theme for their party, which I guess is the kind of thing you take into consideration when you live in a sitcom. But I assure you that if your party has a theme I’m 100% less likely to come. Fuck that.

ALF calls Willie from the phone in the kitchen and asks if they can have a luau. He calls again shortly to make sure they order two pigs. Then Willie does this thing where I think he’s stuffing the cordless phone under the couch cushion, but his positioning makes it look like he’s forcing it into Kate’s anus.

ALF, "It's My Party"

So, they’re having a luau with two pigs. Who cares. It’s kind of ridiculous that the point of the episode was that the Tanners haven’t been able to have a party since ALF arrived, and now they’re following his instructions on what kind of party to have.

I kind of thought this was…you know. Their thing. If they’re just going to do ALF-approved bullshit as usual, why bother? That’s every day of their lives, and it won’t separate this event from any of the other events they’ve thrown over the past three years that had to accommodate ALF.

I imagine a writer pitched this by saying, “Hey, you know how the Tanners host parties every so often? Let’s do an episode like that, only this time it’s exactly the same as those.”

ALF, "It's My Party"

The party planner leaves with Brian’s college fund and ALF emerges from the kitchen. Kate pays some lip service to my concerns by telling ALF that he’s not allowed to come to the party, and fretting that he’ll ruin it. Which, hey, fine. But then why were you guys agreeing to his requests for the party theme and food?

I’m kind of on ALF’s side here. Their acceptance of his requests implies that he’ll be allowed to attend. If they didn’t want him there, they shouldn’t have been organizing the party to his precise specifications. They should have said, “Listen, you braying merkin. You want a luau, but you’re not invited so we don’t care.”

Instead they just keep saying, “Whatever you want, ALF!” which means it’s not his fault if he assumes he is invited. Imagine telling a friend that she should have her birthday party at some particular restaurant you like, and she replies, “Yes, that sounds great! Let’s do that!” and then she doesn’t invite you. It’d be weird, especially since you don’t know any women.

ALF tells them that he’ll stay out of their way. “My cooperation can be bought,” he says, “if you agree to the following harsh and unreasonable demands.”

It’s a pretty good line, but I can’t give the writers credit for it since this is precisely what Paul Fusco said to every actor during contract negotiations.

ALF, "It's My Party"

Then, for maybe the fifth time ever, we see Willie at work.

Not that he’s doing any work, of course, and he’s certainly not surrounded by anybody we’ve seen before or will ever see again, but it’s something.

Unfortunately it’s a pretty dumb scene. The party planner calls and his coworkers all bitch him out for having a party without them. Guys, when Max Wright throws a party, you don’t want to go. You just want to pick up next month’s National Enquirer.

They guilt him into inviting them, because apparently they’ve done all kinds of nice things for him — like driving him home and chipping in to throw him birthday parties — and he’s never, under any circumstances, done jack shit for any of them in return.

Sounds about right. I’m glad somebody else in this show shares my opinion that Willie’s a selfish fuck…even if it’s a bunch of somebodys who have no names and who will vanish from existence once “It’s My Party” rolls credits.

ALF, "It's My Party"

Later that night, or six months later, or back in 1851 (it’s never clear in this show), the Tanners have a luau. Kate and Lynn are dressed in Mr. Ochmonek’s hand-me-downs, and I have to say that if I ever met a woman with his fashion sense I would propose to her on the spot.

There’s a funny enough line here when Kate says that pretty soon people will actually be able to say they’ve been to the Tanners’ house, and Lynn replies, “It doesn’t take much to get us excited anymore, does it?”

Andrea Elson’s been doing this thing recently that I haven’t mentioned, so I’ll mention it now. Whenever she gets a punchline, she delivers it, lets it hang a moment, and then smiles. And it’s fucking adorable.

She’s gotten so much better since the first season that I’m actually impressed. The pause / smile is a natural little flourish for her, I’m sure, but it makes Lynn feel real. She’s not just delivering a joke that was in the script; she’s somebody’s daughter, or sister, or friend, and after she makes a joke she smiles at the person as a kind of reassurance.

It’s so human, and it makes it feel like part of a conversation between two actual people. In real life we don’t get a punchline and cut away to the next scene; we keep talking. And Elson’s little smile is her way of keeping the conversation going. Strictly speaking, it’s not something someone should be doing in a multi-camera sitcom about a masturbating puppet, but I like it all the same. Go figure.

Then we cut to Brian and ALF in post-coital serenity.

ALF, "It's My Party"

the fuck this show

ALF is spying on the party so that Paul Fusco can still be present for 51% of the episode. (Any less and the show can’t legally be referred to as ALF.) We get a bunch of jokes about the party planner being gay, so if you ever thought it was hilarious that homosexuals can be in relationships, too, this is probably the episode for you.

Then the Ochmoneks come over, and Mrs. O says that they thought the Tanners were playing a joke on them when they got the invitation.

Now I’m happy. It’s one thing for Willie’s anonymous coworkers to be savvy to the fact that he never invites them to do anything, but the Ochmoneks are aware of it, too? I’m in heaven.

Seriously, these two have gone out of their way for the Tanners — and Willie specifically — more times than I can count. They’ve invited them to graduation parties and free vacations and spontaneous daytrips on a near-weekly basis, but the Tanners haven’t invited them to a damned thing in return, including things like the Halloween party and Kate Sr.’s wedding, to which they did seemingly invite the rest of the neighborhood.

So, sure, Mrs. Ochmonek’s comment is kind of bitchy, but bitch away, bitch. If anyone’s earned it, it’s you.

ALF, "It's My Party"

Anyway, I have been told that this episode marks the final appearance of Mr. Ochmonek. (His wife appears in a few others.) This, as you must know, is a sad occasion for me, and it’s why the episode hits so hard.

John LaMotta, it has to be said, was a god damned trooper. The show treated his character like garbage, hiring him so that they’d have someone they could call fat, old, stinky, bald, stupid, poor, and ugly. And he certainly didn’t enjoy his time on ALF any more than the rest of the cast did. In 2010 he was asked about the now-infamous outtakes of ALF shouting racist comments, but he was not interested in discussing them. He was happy enough to offer some general comments on the show, though:

“I thought the show ALF was a piece of shit. Worst work I ever did.”

That’s the whole of his interview, by the way, at least as far as I can tell. It’s very easy to imagine that his phone rang, he heard a question about ALF, then he said that and immediately hung up. The above two sentences represent his entire feelings on a show that consumed four years of his life. “ALF was a piece of shit” covers everything.

And while I can’t really blame the guy for disliking the show, I think it’s impressive that the “worst work” he ever did was actually pretty good.

LaMotta took a punching bag and turned him into a character. When we first met him, way back in the pilot, he was an ancillary character to an ancillary character; Mrs. Ochmonek was positioned as the neighborhood busybody, and the one that would most often find herself entangled in the Tanners’ lives. He was just her doltish husband.

All of which is fine, but LaMotta successfully evolved the character from there. By season two, he was a more familiar face than his wife was, owing, surely, to his ability to actually deliver his material in a comedically successful way. I don’t mean to suggest that Liz Sheridan didn’t do her best with her material, but he’s probably the only example of any character on this show ending up with a bigger role than was originally intended. That’s a testament to LaMotta’s strengths, and the delight of seeing him perform against such a backdrop of misery.

The evolution is best represented by his wardrobe. In his first few appearances, he wore a sleeveless undershirt…a plain white garment that’s often associated with lower-class individuals, but which was about as far removed in terms of style from his later wardrobe of flashy, gaudy, gloriously awful Hawaiian shirts as it’s possible to get. I have no idea if LaMotta had any input regarding his character’s change of fashion sense, but if I found out that he did I wouldn’t be especially surprised; he always did seem to have a better handle on his character than anybody else.

Mr. Ochmonek was a nice guy. Crude, but pleasant. Unflinchingly happy in the face of people who treated him poorly, and deeply in love with the woman he fell for back in high school, more than willing to spend whatever little money he had on other people who never thanked him for it. Very little suggests that we’re supposed to be envious of his station in life, but since he’s about the only one who doesn’t seem to hate himself and everyone around him, and is the only one in any kind of healthy, loving relationship, it’s tough not to side with the guy.

And I say this as someone who originally couldn’t stand him. In my review for “Oh, Tannerbaum” I made fun of the fact that anyone watching would be excited to see him. I don’t exactly know when my opinion shifted, but as you know by now, I became the guy who gets excited to see him. When he shows up I know, unquestionably, that we’re going to see somebody who studied his lines, somebody who figured out — on his own — the best way to deliver them. Somebody who cares about his character and manages to make this cartoonish oaf feel like the most human character in the show.

This is his final appearance. After “It’s My Party,” he’s gone for good. He doesn’t get any kind of spotlight here; he just pops up, says his unintentional farewells, and goes gently into that good night. He may have hated his time on this show — and, I’m sure, for good reason — but I’m genuinely happy he was there. He established himself as a reliable bright spot in a cast that desperately needed one, and his appearances nearly always represented the highlight of the episodes he was in.

He’s gone, but he won’t be forgotten. And while he may not get much to do in this final episode, he does dust off one of my favorite shirts of his…the JOSEPHINE one that we saw in “Take a Look at Me Now.”

I’d like to think of that as his nod to me. His quiet goodbye. His reminder that while I’ll never see him again, we had some good times and great shirts along the way.

God bless you, Mr. Ochmonek. May your wounds from this show heal more quickly than the ones you got from the Korean War.

ALF, "It's My Party"

Some guy who works with Willie, whom we’ll never see again, introduces Lynn to his son, whom we’ll never see again, while she makes eyes at some hot guy in the background, whom we’ll never see again. The nerdy kid shuffles Lynn away, and there’s some respectable (if not successful) attempts at dark humor when he tries to regale her with stories of his career as a mortician.

The impulse is better than the outcome, because we don’t get much more than a basic suggestion that a lot of people died in a grisly bus accident today, but it’s something. Also, this guy’s performance is pretty cartoony, which interferes with the success of the darkness, but points for effort. I’ve seen worse, and the ignorantly creepy guy is a stock character that even good productions have trouble pulling off. See Paranoia in Red Dwarf, or, even more tellingly, Gilbert in The Thin Man. A great show and a great film, both of which fumbled their attempts at a similar character.

ALF, "It's My Party"

Then it starts to rain, making this the second outdoor dining event ruined by storms in as many weeks. Also, if “Fever” taught me anything it’s that being hit with a single raindrop means you’re laid up for a week, so I expect the next screengrab will be Willie and all of his coworkers sharing a bed.

The truly strange thing here is that Willie tries to comfort Kate by saying that they’ve been looking forward to throwing a party for four years. Since the premise of the episode is that they used to throw parties regularly (my hairy butthole) and that this came to a grinding halt when ALF arrived, this implies that he’s been on Earth for four years.

…which is insane because in “Break Up to Make Up” we were told that exactly three years had passed since his arrival. So another full year elapsed in the two episodes between that one and this one? What the fuck is with this show and timelines?

ALF, "It's My Party"

After the commercial break, the party moves inside. That’s about it, but it apparently requires a couple of minutes of people telling us this fact over and over again, proving it’s far more efficient to read about these episodes than to watch them. It’s stuff you really don’t need to say at all in a visual medium like television, where the interiors look totally different than the exteriors and viewers don’t rely on dialogue to tell them whether the characters are standing in one or the other. Maybe ALF was originally written as a radio play.

The party planner tells his 2hottie assistant to entertain the guests, so the kid lights up some poi in the living room.

Willie tells him that’s a pretty jackass thing to do, which it really is. At least ALF tries to fall back on the “I wasn’t born on this planet” excuse when he starts fires indoors. Granted, by now he should know that the Tanners don’t enjoy having their house burned down, but at least it’s something. This guy, by contrast, is just a dangerous idiot.

Everyone gets mad and grumbles at Willie for not allowing them to die in the blaze.

ALF, "It's My Party"

Then there is a pretty well-shot moment when Willie goes into the kitchen. Through the window we see a rope made of bedsheets drop down, and as Willie investigates he sees ALF’s naked ass falling gracelessly to the ground. It’s nothing great, but it works visually and the timing is good.

ALF, "It's My Party"

Inside the house Benji Gregory asks the mortician guy if he believes in zombies, which is a simple question, but for some reason Gregory shrugs three full times while asking it. It’s like some kind of bizarre tic, as though they were mildly electrocuting this kid to make his lips move, Mr. Ed style.

Then the party planner does some shitty impression of Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

ALF, "It's My Party"

This guy is getting a hell of a spotlight for a guest star, so I looked him up to see if he was some bigshot in the late-80s. As far as I can tell, he was not, so fuck him.

His little assistant though was played by a guy called Dean Cameron, who seems to have had a lot of roles here and there, and is still working. I don’t know that I’ve seen him in anything, though, and it looks like his most notable part was as Spicoli in the shitty TV adaptation of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, so…fuck both of these guys.

Then they start a conga line, something else that I’m pretty sure exists only in sitcoms, and there’s a great little moment you’ll probably miss if you’re not looking for it: Mrs. Ochmonek joins the line, then Willie’s coworker steps in behind her…and Mr. Ochmonek bumps him out of the way to get behind his wife.

That was all John LaMotta. The camera doesn’t linger on it, and it’s not blocked to make it the focus of the scene. It was just a stage instruction (“everyone congas,” or something similarly vague I’m sure), but when LaMotta didn’t get to grab his TV wife’s hips, he bumped the guy who did out of the way. Because that is what Mr. Ochmonek would do. LaMotta was acting, and he knew what he character would do in that situation, even though the writers didn’t.

When I talk about why I believe the Ochmoneks are in love, it’s due to things like this. It’s the way the two actors relate to each other. It’s the little glances and touches that clearly aren’t in the script. (Because they’re sure as shit not there for any other couple.) It’s the fact that John LaMotta and Liz Sheridan understand what their relationship is like, even if it’s never spelled out in the show, and they know how to bring it to life for the viewers. They become their characters, which is something that so few people who have ever been on this show know how to do.

Working on ALF, especially in a supporting role, must have been the very definition of a thankless job. But these two took it seriously — LaMotta in particular — and I’d tip my hat to their implied relationship as one of the show’s few genuine triumphs. It’s entirely down to the actors and not the writing or direction, and I’m pretty sure ALF never realized what a resource they had in these two. Strand Willie and Kate in an elevator for half an hour, and the odds are good it’d be genuinely unwatchable. Strand the Ochmoneks in the same situation, and I’d bet my life that LaMotta and Sheridan would find a way to make it worthwhile.

So, yeah, Mr. Ochmonek is the kind of guy who will bump a stranger out of the way to be close to his wife, whom he sees 24 hours a day anyway. Willie, it bears repeating, sits on the couch while his heavily pregnant wife carries groceries and makes dinner.

I’ll always believe that one of these couples is in love. I’ll never believe the other.

ALF, "It's My Party"

Of course, what is a conga line without ALF? (ALF is grand!) He materializes, gets a dirty look from Willie, and then slides back into the kitchen.

It’s…okay. Visually it’s smooth emough, but it’s not especially funny or interesting or important.

As punishment Willie ties ALF to a stake in the back yard and burns him alive.

ALF, "It's My Party"

Also there’s a running joke in this episode I didn’t want to mention, but it keeps happening, so I guess I finally will: whenever ALF burps, he feels pain, so he keeps burping and saying “Ow!” It’s a hilarious subversion of our expectations of ALF burping repeatedly with no payoff.

Lynn comes outside just as Willie is going back in. They have a cute little exchange where we see her smiling after her punchlines again, and I adore it.

Then there’s a legitimately funny moment when Willie informs her that ALF is tied to a stake, and she says, nonchalantly, “Okay.”

It was good. Probably one of the best delivered lines this show’s ever had, and a nice simple way of acknowledging the absurdity of the Tanners’ lives right now.

ALF, "It's My Party"

Then Robert, the party planning assistant, comes out and flirts with Lynn for a bit. He asks about her boyfriend, and she says she’s “in between boyfriends.” ALF quips to himself (because of course he does) “Oh yeah, like I’m between jobs.”

And…I don’t get the joke.

Is the joke that Lynn is always between boyfriends? I’d assume so, because ALF is always between jobs (by nature, y’know, of the fact that he can’t have one).

But that’s pretty clearly not true. Lynn’s been through several serious relationships and plenty of trivial ones over the course of the show. Most recently I think we were supposed to believe she was still dating Donny Duckworth, but I guess that died at some point off camera. Maybe the actor got a piece of fanmail and Paul Fusco put a stop to that shit real fast.

So, it’s weird. If anything the joke should be that she’s always with some guy or other, since “Lynn dates a lot” is pretty much her only definitive character trait, but ALF’s line makes it seem like the exact opposite is true, and no guys ever bother with her.

It’s…strange.

ALF, "It's My Party"

Back inside the party is winding down, and Willie and Kate wait in silent terror for LA’s only person of color to leave their house.

Robert tells Lynn he’ll call, and Lynn says, “I’ll answer!” (This is why you’re never between boyfriends, Lynn.) Then ALF asks if he can have the leftovers. There are none, so he tells the Tanners to go fuck themselves.

ALF, "It's My Party"

In the short scene before the credits the Tanners remember they have a baby and feed it a month’s worth of food at once. (Lucky II, it’s safe to say, is dead behind the refrigerator.)

So…this episode was actually okay. By ALF standards, of course. Lots of idiocy, yes, but there were some decent flourishes from a few actors, and nothing offensively bad…aside from the flaming caricature that was the party planner. At this point, though, a parade of unnecessary gay jokes actually counts as progress for this show.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ll never watch “It’s My Party” again as long as I live. But, to its credit, it was one of the less moronic installments of season four, and even though the context made it convenient for him to appear, we didn’t have to deal with Jim J. Bullock. I’ll call that a win for everyone.

So, yeah, tell your favorite Hawaiian shirt you love it, because we’ve seen the last of Mr. Ochmonek. With him, Jake, Jodie, and Dr. Dykstra all gone forever, there’s a lot less to look forward to in this final stretch. But we’ll plow through, as we must, if only to ensure that the Alien Task Force guts this stupid show for good.

Countdown to ALF being gutted for good: 11 episodes

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24 Responses

  • Stephen says:

    Phillip, what did you think of Max Wright’s less than stellar Porky pig impression at the end?
    Willie: The pig is gone. Abadeaabdeaabdeaabdea, that’s all, FOLKS!
    Also, ever notice Robert in the background looking at Lynn when Dudley is talking to her?
    The party planner is Jonathan Schmock who was the snooty waiter in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and he also co wrote an episode of the Golden Girls spinoff Golden Palace and did a few minor parts on Golden Girls in its later seasons. I know I’ve seen him in other things. More recently, he sold Sheldon a silver tiara on an episode of The Big Bang theory in S5.

  • Casey says:

    I’ll admit I’ve come to (grudgingly) like Dean Cameron thanks to a friend of mine who loves him to death. He’s just a different taste, and I doubt this episode really let him do much. I’d recommend Summer School or Ski School if you want to see his “better” work.
    .
    Also, please tell me that there was at least one cat joke while Brian was reading Heathcliff’s Funhouse.

  • Mark Moore says:

    Hmmm, maybe Lynn will inherit Mr. O’s fashion sense henceforth. We can only hope.

  • kristin says:

    dean cameron reappears a few times, if you didn’t know

  • Furienna says:

    Another one that I don’t remember at all. Weird…

    • Sarah Portland says:

      Maybe they don’t rerun season four as often?

      • Furienna says:

        Maybe, but I also remember thinking that season 4 wasn’t as good the previous seasons.

        • Sarah Portland says:

          I’m suddenly kind of fascinated by this. You, kim, and Phil have all either said that you don’t recall a bunch pf season four episodes, or that you’ve seen them and remember them, but that they were not as good. Now I’m wondering how they pick and choose which episodes to rerun. If they just did it in chronological order, then presumably you’d have seen more of the season four episodes or would remember them better. But reruns of television shows are typically shown out of order, and the same ones seem to come up over and over again, while other episodes are rarely shown, if ever. It makes me wonder if episodes were chosen for reruns based on original Nielsen ratings. Like, if season four was not as good, and the ratings were lower, then they wouldn’t be shown as often, or at all.

  • Sarah Portland says:

    Dear ALF writers,
    That piece of paper that you lost sometime during pilot season? It’s called a “plot diagram.” You use it to write interesting stories. For instance, this episode is missing the spiky part in the middle called “Conflict, climax, and conflict resolution.” Right now, you just have “The Tanners have a party.” This itself is not a problem. Many stories have this premise. For instance, “Clue” and “Rocky Horror Picture Show” both have “so-and-so has a party” premise. But a problem must arise in your story for your characters to contend with, either in the planning stages, during the party, or because of events that have transpired because of it. Simply having a party is not a story. Please revise and provide a conflict in your second draft.
    Good luck!

    • Furienna says:

      To be fair though, I don’t feel that every episode has to be that plot heavy. This was clearly what you can call a “breather episode”, when all the people involded could relax a bit.

  • Justin says:

    Couple things to add to this:

    Jonathan Schmock, as someone mentioned above, was a pretty well known character actor in the 80s. One of those guys they’d use in snooty bitchy roles. He had a memorable turn in Golden Girls where he played a gay wedding planner. He created Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Brotherly Love (with the Lawrence brothers). He’s currently the head writer on Real Time with Bill Maher.

    —–

    Dean Cameron was indeed pretty well known at the time and a bit of a “teen idol.” His experience with ALF was the same as everyone else. He gave an interview a few years ago talking about it:

    On the scripts:
    “By the time they tape Alf has all the funny lines. During the course of rehearsals they’ll go, ‘Hey, that’s a funny line lets give it to Alf.’ You’re a straight man for a puppet. After three weeks I was losing my mind. These people had been doing the show for [4] years. It was just bonkers.”

    On Max Wright:
    “The beauty of that is he’s now back in New York doing shows and I think he [was nominated for] a Tony for something a couple of years ago… I knew he was a friend of the bottle as they say. I think he’s come out of that. If I had been doing Alf for 7 years I’d be getting fucked up & having gay sex. He was this New York theater actor and I’m sure when he read for it he thought, ‘I’m going to do this pilot in LA and make a bunch of money. It’s never going to go because it’s a stupid show about an alien doll. I’ll be back in the fall.’ Seven years later he’s the dad on Alf.” (Max Wright was nominated a few years back for his performance in Ivanov)

    On the show’s production:
    “There were three or four different Alfs. The whole sound stage had trenches in it. There were three operators of Alf. One did a right arm & the head. Another one did the left arm. There was another person off with the radio controller doing all the servos for the eyebrows. The producer was the voice of Alf. That’s why all the good stuff went to Alf because the producer was Alf.”

    • Matthew Wong says:

      I’m not surprised by any of those things he said, but it’s always good to hear another perspective about the production of ALF

    • Furienna says:

      I’m sorry, but I don’t see how it’s fair to complain about Alf getting all the good lines. He was the protagonist, so of course the focus would be on him! Jeeesh…

      • Justin says:

        Because it’s a sitcom and sitcoms work when you have balance of humor between the characters. It’s certainly possible to have one character be the funniest or the punchline generator, but if all of the other characters just have to be a straight man or give expositional dialogue, it doesn’t work nearly as well. Look at The Golden Girls, for example. The character of Sophia is the punchline generator on that show. Her dialogue, more often than not, was quips to insult the other characters. Similar to ALF in a way. However, each of the others had their own sense of humor that fit with the characters (Rose was dumb, Dorothy was sarcastic, Blanche was a slut, etc). If you took those traits away from them and any funny lines they might have had, only to hand them over to one character the whole thing is lopsided and doesn’t play nearly as funny.

        • Furienna says:

          Okay, good points. But the protagonist will still be the most important character and get most of the lines, and I don’t feel that bitching about it years afterwards is fair. “The Golden Girls was also more of a ensemble show than what “Alf” was, so I don’t think that the comparison works.

          • Travis says:

            I took a shit this morning and that was more of an ensemble show than ALF was

          • RaikoLives says:

            So what WOULD be a good comparison show? I started trying to think of one, and after a bit I thought of two. Not that I only thought of two shows, but I managed to remember two shows that have one character’s name as the name of the show and so, for you, might not be classified as an ensemble. Two and a Half Men, for example, has three main characters but I’m guessing you’d disqualify that. So… Out of the two I can think let’s use the weaker show first.

            Reba. This is a show where the main character’s name is the name of the show and therefore the show revolves around her. Now, you may or may not have seen Reba – it was played at all the worst timeslots possible here in Australia but luckily I was unemployed at the time. It focuses on Reba (played by Reba Mcentire (MACK-en-tyre) recently divorced mother of three as she deal with her kids in a southern state of the USA. It’s not groundbreaking and was alright, but not stellar. Now, this show consisted mostly of Reba being “the smart one” among her extended family, with the other characters ranging from only a little less smart to “dumb as a bag of hammers”. So while Reba got lots of laughs, proving people wrong or quipping about how dumb they were, lots of the laughter came from the actual dumb things the other characters did. Example – when they thought they’d been broken into, the young couple (Reba’s oldest daughter and her dumb husband – both living with Reba) come down the stairs slowly, looking for the intruder. The daughter had a flashlight (if I recall) but the guy pulled out his toy lightsaber. It was shot quite well, and he lights it up halfway down the stairs. *insert laughtrack*

            If it was Alf the guy would have come down with a baseball bat and Alf would have cracked about he thought the guy was gonna get his toy lightsaber.

            Point is, the show managed to make ALL the characters funny. Endearing. Hell, it made them all characters. Even the little kid. Sure it was shrill at times and really, I doubt the show is gonna make anyone’s top 25 sitcoms of all time list, but it still spread the lines around.

            Now, my second example is one I cite over and over around here. Roseanne. This show is named after one woman. Roseanne. And she is the centre of the family unit. Supportive pillar to her husband. Protective mother to her three kids. Best friend to her sister and (somewhat) caring daughter to her strange… STRANGE mother. All of these roles give her HUGE amounts of jokes. But everyone around her gets jokes too. Sometimes at Roseanne’s expense. Because the show manages to make everyone funny, and gives everyone actual personalities, you can have stories ABOUT other characters, and sometimes you barely need Roseanne to turn up at all to still have a thoughtful, hilarious episode.

            Granted, Alf doesn’t have comedic geniuses like Roseanne Barr and John Goodman heading it up. It has a used toilet seat cover from a highway diner. But they sucked all the lines away from everyone but Alf despite having people who actually COULD act. Kate could well have been an absolute revelation, but instead all we see are small flashes of Anne Scheeden poking through.

            I really would like to see a show you’d compare to Alf in a “only the main character gets to say jokes” sense. Because to me, a show where one person gets to shoot one liners at boring people is called a chat show, and we’ve already established that THAT was The Fusco’s real goal here.

          • Philip J Reed says:

            Frasier had all of the best lines in Frasier.
            Roseanne had all of the best lines in Roseanne.
            Homer has all of the best lines in The Simpsons.
            Walt had all of the best lines in Breaking Bad.
            Sam had all of the best lines in Cheers.
            Hawkeye had all of the best lines in MASH.
            Jerry had all of the best lines in Seinfeld.
            Ralph had all of the best lines in The Honeymooners.
            Liz had all the best lines in 30 Rock.
            David had all of the best lines in The Office.
            Tony had all of the best lines in The Sopranos.
            Michael had all of the best lines in Arrested Development.
            ALF had all of the best lines in ALF.

            The fact that only one of those statements is true should tell you a lot about why it’s a problem.

            • RaikoLives says:

              One could argue that in cases like Jerry and Roseanne, who were both characters played by people heavily involved in the creative process, they got LESS funny lines than some of the other cast. They got funny lines, usually made funnier cos Roseanne and Jerry (for example) can deliver a damn joke like nobody’s business, but the number of them, I would wager, was less.

              Frasier probably not so much.

              But it would be an actual crime to suggest Michael Bluth had “all the funny lines” in Arrested Development. Like, we’re talking a federal case. Jail time. Even both of you if you’re married.

  • kim says:

    yeah, I have to admit I’m kind of going to miss Mr. Ochmonek too, he was one of the more memorable characters on the show and he put a lot of effort into his role as a supporting character even though he didn’t have too, but he wanted too anyway or that he knew how to make the best out of a not-so-great situation.
    like you said, this episode was just meh okay, but the plot is a bit flat that the tanners just have a party and try to keep ALF from being seen which is kind of redundant by this point. also, one thing that bothered me about this episode you forgot to mention, in the beginning of the episode ALF makes a deal with the tanners that if he stays out of the party, he can have the leftovers of the pig, and by the the end of the episode willie says there is no more leftovers when ALF asks for it, but in one scene with ALF in the kitchen earlier we clearly see that there is plenty of the pig carcass left and ALF helps himself to it. so why does ALF ask for more? and why does willie say there is no more leftovers when there clearly was? or it could be willie just saying that so ALF doesn’t get the leftovers, which in all fairness is right because ALF did not up hold his end of the deal. so why didn’t willie just say that instead? like “you didn’t hold up your end of the deal, so no leftovers for you.” ugh, just sometimes this show.



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