ALF Reviews: “Gimme That Old Time Religion” (season 4, episode 17)

Welcome to the second “ALF becomes a _______” episode in as many weeks! I hope it’s as good as the last one, in which nobody seemed to care that Lynn is going to be in debt for the rest of her life in order to attend a school at which she has to sleep with her teachers in exchange for good grades.

Seriously, what the fuck is Willie’s problem? Why isn’t this episode 30 minutes of him curb stomping the guy he learned last week is using his position of authority to sexually manipulate his daughter? And what the fuck is this show’s problem that the moral in that one wasn’t “If a teacher says this to you, rip his nuts off”? Why was it about ALF learning — and then apparently disregarding — the true meaning of being an artist?


Anyway, this week ALF becomes an ordained minister — presumably because he’s fingered Brian often enough that he might as well make it official — and I see no way this can be problematic at all.

The episode opens with Willie wondering what to get his wife for their 22nd anniversary, because he hasn’t bothered to get to know her in that time, I guess. I think this is why “anniversary plots” tend to be about one character forgetting that it was coming up; when the plot turns out to be “I don’t know what to get him/her,” it makes you wonder why they’re married at all. Every human being forgets things; very few of us know somebody — let alone are wed to somebody — for 22 years without having some concept of what they do and don’t enjoy.

Lynn, bless her heart, suggests taking ALF to the desert and leaving him to die. Which, yeah, let’s please do that. It also leads to a funny enough line from Willie when he says that that’s what he plans on doing for their 25th anniversary.

ALF enters the room to remind them that whatever shit they’re talking about, that’s not the plot of the episode. He says that he overlooked something until just now, and it’s causing him great distress: when Melmacians turn 233, they have six months to become a minister. If they don’t, they become outcasts. It sounds at first like he means “outcast” in a social sense, but shortly he refers to being one for eternity, so maybe there’s a spiritual consequence to not becoming a minister.

This…is not a bad concept for an episode, really. Not “ALF will one day go to Hell,” because if you’re going to tease me with that I’d better damned well see it, but “ALF explains what religion was like on Melmac.”

I’ve wondered many times about Willie’s religious faith, as the show keeps alluding to it but never explores how it would have to evolve — if not be outright shattered — by the fact that he lives with evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence. Now, though, I see I’ve overlooked another interesting angle: how does ALF’s religious faith get shaken by his new life here? He’s encountering evidence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life as well.

It’s not often that the writers of this show beat me to considering interesting territory, but they did it here, which means that this could either be a good episode, or watching this shit has melted my brain.

There’s even a valid reason ALF is only discussing this now, as opposed to…well, any time sooner than this: He turned 233 at some point within the past few months, and needs to take action fast. (Speaking of “forgetting the date” plots…) I can’t remember if placing his age at 233 contradicts anything we’ve been told previously — especially with this show’s insane disregard for any kind of definitive timeline — so if you have any knowledge of that, let me know in the comments.

Me? I’m not nit-picking just yet. I’m genuinely interested to see how this plays out. Melmac has never been portrayed as an especially spiritual place before, so whatever they do with its religious climate in this episode will definitely be the result of graceless shoe-horning…but it still has every possibility of being interesting and clever in its own right, so…yeah. Show me what you’ve got, ALF.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

Ugh. Nevermind.

ALF mumbles a bunch of vaguely scriptural bullshit and makes the Tanners sit through it. At one point he begins singing “The Name Game” about Barry, which is what Melmacians called their god. By the way…did you know that that’s an actual song? I learned that a few years ago, and was kind of blown away by that fact. (It’s also pretty impressively funky!) I always figured it was just some kind of schoolyard nonsense, but I guess it’s more standardized than that. It’s always interesting to me to find “patient zero” for stuff like this.

Anyway, the Tanners must read him four questions from the Holy Scroll. (Which I guess he had on his space ship? Yet another thing he went back to get instead of saving any of his friends or family.) It’s a good thing there are only four questions, because if they were five they’d have to age Eric up right quick.

ALF explains that if he can answer three of the four questions correctly, he’ll become a minister. Which…okay. But I have to confess that I really couldn’t care less whether this masturbating puppet does or does not become a minister in a made-up religion that didn’t exist last week and will never be mentioned again. Call me a stick in the mud, but I am somehow not invested in his spiritual journey just yet.

Brian asks the first question: What’s the kindest thing you can do for someone else? ALF replies, “Burp downwind,” and Willie confirms this in what I guess is the Melmacian bible.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

More props to the…uh…props guys for making the book look alien, but I’m not sure books with deep, wavy cutouts at the edges are especially suited to any species with fingers. I appreciate the effort, though, and I’m amused by the fact that somebody on the ALF staff took a band saw to a Bible this week. And you assholes thought I was disrespectful…

Lynne reads the second question: What one gesture will prove your undying love for another? ALF replies, “A Mazda Miata,” which Lynn understandably calls bullshit on.

Oddly, she calls bullshit on it not because Mazda doesn’t export cars to Melmac, but because the Miata was only introduced the previous year. (And she’s correct; this aired in 1990, and the Miata was introduced in 1989, for the 1990 model year.) ALF explains that, technically, the answer is “any red convertible,” which isn’t hilarious, but it at least addresses the kind of continuity flaw we’ve had to deal with on this show a lot (ALF was conceived in a DeSoto, remember) and tries to spin an additional joke out of it.

It’s a good impulse.

Question three is read by…oh. It’s Brian again.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

There’s nothing wrong with that; I’m just not used to the kid getting two lines.

He asks, “When does track lighting go with Berber carpet?” Nobody calls him on the “Berber carpet on Melmac” shit, of course, but, whatever, they tried. ALF replies, “When you stick with stripes and solids, and stay away from patterns.”

Willie takes great delight in saying, “That’s wrong. You’re wrong, ALF.” Or, more likely, Max Wright does. According to the book, the answer is: “Stick with patterns. Stay away from solids; they’re cold and they don’t create a welcome environment.”

ALF sighs and says, “Religion is so subjective.”

And that…okay. I didn’t laugh, but that was pretty funny.

Lynn reads the final question: “You’ve been dancing all night, and you’ve noticed your partner’s dress shields have given out. You like her, but others are starting to point. Do you tell her?”

It wasn’t clear earlier if female Melmacians could be ministers as well (or, I guess, were passively obligated to be when they turned 233), but this question seems to make clear that they can’t. It may also indicate that homosexual Melmacian males couldn’t be ministers. SO THERE’S THAT QUESTION ANSWERED.

ALF replies that the answer is no; you dance with her and then “reach in and change them without her knowing.” So, basically, only straight male sexual predators could be ministers.

He’s right, so they all congratulate him on this fake imaginary horse shit nobody cares about, but he forces them to start the ceremony all over from the beginning, because he told them to stand without him saying “Barry says” first.

So, basically, only straight male sexual predator dickheads could be ministers.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

That whole mess does at least pay off in a really nice — and clearly deliberate — Peanuts homage, with ALF’s confessional taking visual inspiration from Lucy VanPelt’s psychiatry booth.

Brian and Lynn come in, and ALF says, “Come, my flock. It’s time for me to hear your sins and earn a couple of bucks on the side.” Which…again. I didn’t laugh, but I liked that well enough. It’s an effective one-liner, and a decent jab at a very specific kind of religious manipulation.

Lynn declines, as she has to memorize the periodic table. It’s…an odd education she’s getting, isn’t it? Periodic tables, painting, and acting in St. Joan.

Maybe the writers should have picked a major for her after all, because right now it’s just whatever garbage they feel like making a shitty joke about. It’s probably for the best that she’s occupied, though. I definitely didn’t need to see five minutes of ALF masturbating to Lynn describing her “sins.”

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

ALF hornswaggles Brian into coming over, using some shitty Irish accent, which is a shame because the rest of this exchange is…


It’s…kind of good.

Brian tells him that he doesn’t have two dollars; he only has a quarter. “You’re in luck,” ALF says, taking the quarter. “It’s happy hour.”

Then Brian expresses some dismay at the fact that if he confesses his sins, ALF will know what he did…so ALF offers to close the shutters to maintain anonymity.

And that’s a really cute joke both about the Catholic church and the design of the set. The plot window is a perfect place for ALF to ply his trade, but it also happens to allow for an observation like that, which is shockingly efficient for this show. I know some folks in the comments are going to accuse me of exaggerating, but this episode really is better than contracting genital warts.

When Brian complains about how shoddy ALF’s operation is, ALF says, “Take your quarter. Go to your room.” And it’s pretty adorably dismissive.

I enjoyed a Brian scene. And I’m pretty sure that’s in the book of Revelation.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

Then Kate comes in and ALF starts ranting like a faith-healer, which is pretty annoying. I don’t know why this episode is leaning so hard on funny accents. When it’s actually telling jokes about its premise, it’s doing pretty well. But then I guess the writers remembered that Paul Fusco is the Man of 1.5 Voices, and they’d better let him work the crowd.

Oddly, to me, Kate is wearing a sweater vest. I’ve…never seen a woman wear a sweater vest. Have I? It seems odd to me, at least. I always thought it was a masculine thing. Then again, I only see women through bathroom windows…and they ain’t wearin’ much iffin’ you know what I mean!!!

Kate tells him to fuck off.

“I’d rather confess my sins to Jimmy Swaggart,” she says. And since she just left it there I was a little disappointed…the “recognizable name as punchline” thing is pretty lazy. But ALF replies, “You’d have to go to a cheap hotel for that,” and…

Am I liking this one?

It’s not great, I know that…but I think I’m actually liking this one.

The Swaggart joke, by the way, could use a little context, because it was pretty cutting for its time. The initial Swaggart scandal broke in 1988, but wasn’t a one-time thing. Evidently Swaggart made a big show of exposing some fellow preacher who’d had affairs. Which is bad, yes. In fact, Christianity pretty explicitly forbids that kind of thing. So Swaggart made an example of this guy, and, in retaliation, the guy exposed Swaggart’s hobby of hiring prostitutes to fuck him in scummy motels. Which is…y’know. Kind of worse.

Photos were taken, witnesses came forth, and Swaggart was pretty well finished. The guy Swaggart exposed in the first place probably isn’t held in very high regard by those who know him today, but he’s largely forgotten while Swaggart himself became a global pariah and posterboy for religious hypocrisy…especially at the (frankly disgusting) the pay-to-pray level.

Swaggart, needless to say, apologized for his behavior and swore it would never happen again. So in 1991 he fucked some more hookers and became a laughingstock once more.

ALF had no way of knowing Swaggart would become a punchline again (for the same reason!) the year after this episode aired, of course, but that coincidence made this a very well-timed joke, and I’ll give the show credit for that. It was funny then, it got funnier a year later, and it’s still funny now.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

Later, Willie and Kate passionately read-some-books each other’s brains out.

ALF knocks on the door and asks, hopefully, “Are you being fruitful and multiplying?” So it’s great that his obsession with watching people fuck survived the transition into this new life of spiritual fulfillment.

He comes in and tells them that he’s afraid he might lose his ministry. He then hands the Melmacian Bible or whatever to Kate, and tells her to read it. She does so: “Can you find Barry in this picture?”

And I laughed!

I laughed at that!

ALF performed a legitimate miracle!

Granted, Anne Schedeen sold the line, but it was a funny enough idea to begin with. (And I’m very willing to believe that the easily distracted Melmacians would include activity pages in their holy texts.)

ALF directs her to another passage: “If the newly ordained minister does not perform a good deed by officiating at a hallowed ceremony within ten working days, thereby proving his worth as a man of the cloth, the penance shall be dire and catastrophic to all those concerned.”

…rrrrright about now I start realizing how ridiculous it is that Kate can read Melmacian script. It’s one thing for ALF to be able to immediately speak and understand English as soon as he arrives on Earth — it’s absurd but not impossible that he studied the language at some point — but Kate shouldn’t be able to read this horse shit. Unless Melmacian holy texts really are written in English, and I can’t decide which explanation is more ridiculous.

But then the episode does something smart: it makes me laugh again, and I stop worrying about that. Kate finishes reading the passage…she lets “dire and catastrophic consequences” hang in the air…and then Willie says, “There he is. There’s Barry. Right there, right by the big clock.”

Guys, I hate Max Wright, but that was great.

…less great is ALF explaining that the consequences involve him yodeling for the rest of his life.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

Willie and Kate fuckin’ hate it as much as I do.

It’s pretty lame, to be honest, but I like where the conversation briefly leads: Willie asks if Barry would even know what he does or doesn’t do. After all, Barry was a Melmacian god…and there’s no more Melmac. ALF is all the way on Earth now.

And that could raise further interesting questions. What does a god do when the world He presides over is destroyed? How long and far is His reach? If there are only a handful of survivors, and they’re cast out into the cosmos, does He still care if they adhere to the letter of His law? Or is He more concerned with their ability to survive? Or is He not concerned with them at all anymore as He pretty clearly has other major concerns?

Forget Willie’s crisis of faith or ALF’s crisis of faith…what about Barry’s crisis of faith? A god without anyone or anything underneath Him. What does that mean for Him? For His time? For His sanity? What does He do now? God can sit back all he likes and lord (ahem) over Earth, and that’s fine, if you believe that’s what He does. But what happens when the inevitable meteor strikes and Earth is gone? What happens when we elect Trump and the Earth commits seppuku? What happens if the population of China stands on buckets and jumps at exactly the same time, knocking us out of orbit and dooming us to a frozen, fatal drift through space?

Without a planet, what’s a god? Without mortals, what’s an immortal?

Was Melmac’s destruction part of Barry’s plan? If so, shouldn’t ALF be pretty upset at him? If not, what the fuck was Barry doing? And what is Barry doing now? Is He beating himself up? Rationalizing after the fact? Whipping up a new race of hairy rapists to pork their way through the universe? Is He the laughing stock of other gods? Did He blow up Melmac because he was as sick of their shitty antics as we are? And if He’s all powerful and this was just a nuclear accident, why doesn’t He use any of his limitless power to turn back the clock and prevent so much needless death, devastation, and horror?

All great questions. All ripe for intriguing discussion.

Instead, ALF yodels.

This is the halfway point. We’ve had some pretty good stuff and the possibility of obnoxious horse shit to come…so, really, this one could go either way.

Place your bets now.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

After the commercial, Max Wright silently worries that somebody videotaped that party last night.

Brian gets his best line ever, bar none: “I like yodeling as much as the next guy, but I have my limits.”

Yeah, ALF is yodeling. Why? Who knows. He still has time before his ministry is dissolved, so I’m pretty sure he’s yodeling off camera just to prove how much he hates this family and their happiness.

The solution to the problem — at least the one ALF proposes — is that he should preside over the renewal of Willie and Kate’s wedding vows. Which, of course. ALF has been a major component of just about every milestone in their lives — childbirth and their honeymoon, for instance — so he might as well get his grubby, shit-caked claws sunk into their wedding as well.

What I like is that Willie and Kate don’t just blindly allow this week’s setpiece to descend upon them; in fact, they disagree pretty strongly about it.

“It’s just that I think this may be another trick of ALF’s just to get us to do what he wants us to do,” Kate argues.

Perfectly valid, and — importantly — something a mother should take into account. Parents must always find the balance between giving in to everything your child demands, and ignoring everything at the risk of serious problems going unaddressed. Those are the two extremes, and finding the middleground is both urgent and difficult. It can’t be easy to know if your child is faking illness because he or she wants to stay home from school and play video games, but you need to make sure you aren’t letting them stay home every time or assuming they’re faking every time. There needs to be a balance. Kate is considering that balance right now.

“I say, who cares,” Willie replies. “Let’s just do it.”

And while that’s shitty from a parenting perspective, it’s…pretty valid from a human perspective. Yes, you run the risk of rewarding bad behavior, but you also stop the naked sex criminal from yodeling…so, swings and roundabouts.

“Do it because it’ll shut him up” is a pretty bad mentality to rely on long-term, but I can’t fault him for considering it in the moment.

I can fault him for being a dick to his wife, though. (Seriously, when’s the last time you heard someone say “Who cares?” when his wife raised a concern? If you did hear it, did you not immediately follow it in your mind with “what a dick”?)

But I guess that’s nothing new. Assholes gonna asshole.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

ALF comes to the plot window, hoarse with yodels. He says, “Only 400 more years of this. Then I get to die.” And, sure enough, that aligns with what we were told way back in “We’re So Sorry, Uncle Albert.” There we learned that Melmacians live to the age of 650…and, yes, 400 years from now ALF will only be 633, but it’s close enough that I suspect the writers did their homework.

Also, oddly, that episode suggested — knowingly or not — that Melmacians couldn’t die until that age; there was no shock of death. So does that mean that the explosion of Melmac just sent this civilization of butt-fucking assbags spiraling off, individually, for four centuries into the dead and lonely abyss of space? Are their conscious but destroyed bodies doomed to float through cosmic emptiness with no hope of rescue or reprieve for six fucking centuries?

No matter how you slice it, this is a fucking morbid-ass show.

Anyway, Kate says “Fuck it, nobody listens to me anyway, I’ll ruin the memories of the only happy day I’ve ever had in my life.” ALF throws up on the carpet.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

Then ALF takes his place in front of the Muslim Prayer Curtain.

There’s a lot of Brian stuff in this scene. In this whole episode, actually, what with him having things to say and do throughout, but in this scene he actually gets a lot of focus. And it’s…weird.

He asks Lynn if she thinks he can get his parents to buy him a new Nintendo game if he yodels for a bit. (I guess he finally upgraded from the Atari.) She replies that he’s more likely to get some new teeth, so he does this weird thing where I think he’s trying to get her to hit him, and he says, “Come on. First one’s free.”

At least, I assume he’s gesturing at his mouth so she’ll hit him. It’s possible he’s offering oral sex.

Then she asks him if he has the rings, and he says, sarcastically, that he sold them for magic beans.

Jesus…who did mother Gregory let finger her?

ALF tells Willie that if the couple isn’t genuinely moved by the occasion, it doesn’t count and…I dunno. He’ll have to do it again, I guess? Thank Christ that wasn’t a requirement for the viewers of “ALF’s Special Christmas.”

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

Mrs. Ochmonek comes over and makes the same face I made when I realized Kate would marry Willie a second time.

This is Mrs. Ochmonek’s final appearance on the show, as she at last follows her husband into that good night. This isn’t completely surprising; it’s often the case that when one spouse passes, the other follows fairly soon. Living without the person who’s helped you make it through so much of your life isn’t easy. The same, I’m sure, can be said for the time you spend acting on ALF.

I’m glad that this is her last appearance, because it’s a good, final reminder of how much nicer the Ochmoneks were than the Tanners, no matter how often the show tried to tell us otherwise. She comes over because she saw so many flowers getting delivered, and was worried someone had fallen seriously ill. True to the end, those Ochmoneks. God knows the Tanners haven’t stopped by to make sure everything was okay when they stopped seeing their nephew, or when her husband disappeared without a trace.

Liz Sheridan did what she could do with the character. I wouldn’t say she excelled with her material the way John LaMotta did with his, but in her other roles — Seinfeld most notably — she made it very clear that she has the ability to be quite good and quite funny. The fact that she didn’t hit a grand slam on ALF is meaningless; she was up against a truly incompetent pitcher.

Mrs. Ochmonek never became the “episode highlight” the way Mr. Ochmonek did, but she’s had some good lines, and seeing her and LaMotta bounce off each other — and lovingly, convincingly fawn over each other — was great. It was also nice to have a recurring character who wasn’t a walking cockhole with teeth, but now she’s gone, and…yeah, I don’t think there are many characters I look forward to seeing left on the show. Hooray. We’re trudging onward to the end with only the worst of the worst.

Anyway, the family spins some bullshit excuse about Brian’s turtle Gabby passing away. Mrs. Ochmonek sees through it, after the family gets way too long a sequence in which they try to convince her of this turtle crap.

She finally says, “If you want me to leave, why didn’t you just say so? In fact, don’t even say so. I’ll leave on my own.”

Then Willie says, “I think that would be best.”

What. A fucking. Asshole. I’m glad Mrs. Ochmonek’s final scene on this show is calling the Tanners on their bullshit and walking away from them for good. It’s pretty cathartic. The only way it could be better is if she kneed Willie in the balls.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

She leaves, and ALF starts the ceremony. He mentions that Willie and Kate met 22 years ago…but thanks to Willie’s exposition at the beginning of the episode, we know that that’s also as long as they’ve been married.

Nobody corrects ALF, so maybe those two really did get married immediately. That would certainly explain why she married him at all. Had she taken even a week to get to know this guy, she would have gone running back to Joe Namath.

Willie gives some half-assed speech about how much he loves her, and Max Wright clearly is not invested in this. He’s saying all this crap to her quietly, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’s romantically. The words are there, but none of the emotion. At some point he even mentions that she’s given him “three beautiful children,” and none of these clowns seem to realize that the third beautiful child wasn’t even invited to the wedding.

Then Kate does the same thing, and you realize pretty quickly that the failing of Willie’s speech can’t entirely be laid on Max Wright’s shoulders; Anne Schedeen’s is unintentionally funny, too, and she’s a far better actor. The failings of the scene are especially apparent when she refers to Willie as “my rock, and my strength.” You know. All the stuff that literally any clip from literally any episode of ALF would disprove instantly, but we’re supposed to buy it. And we’re supposed to buy that she buys it.

We don’t, and she doesn’t, and he doesn’t. Give me a scene of the Ochmoneks renewing their vows, and they’d not only be funnier (they have actual character traits and personal quirks to play off of), but I’d be much more likely to believe them. After all, the Ochmoneks have actually acted like they’re married. And they’ve touched each other. And they’ve enjoyed each other’s company, as crrrrazy as that sounds!

What have Willie and Kate done together? Aside from ignore each other and stare at opposite walls of the living room? This scene is clearly supposed to be moving and emotional, but it isn’t because these aren’t characters, and speeches like this can’t retroactively grant characterization. (Not that it even really tries to do that — there are no “cute” memories or observations sprinkled throughout, as there would be for actual humans in actual love — but it still goes to show how doomed this scene was from the start.)

It’s a lot like Neal and Margaret’s little moment at the end of “Love on the Rocks.” We weren’t invested in their relationship, so the emotional beats floundered. This is Willie and Kate, whom we’ve known for almost 100 episodes now…and the emotional beats flounder just as much. In the former case, we could shrug and say, “We’ve just met these people.” In this case, we can’t do that, and we’re faced instead with irrefutable proof that we’ve spent four years of our lives with a totally incompetent writing staff.

I’m a sucker for love stories, but this is less love than it is two sexless action figures carelessly tossed into the same toybox.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

Then the ceremony ends and Anne Schedeen remembers she’s stuck on this show for another seven weeks.

I love Anne Schedeen (srsly Anne call me) but those are the fakest fucking crocodile tears I’ve ever seen. It’s even less realistic than ALF’s tear in the Christmas special, and that was just a peeled grape stapled to his face.

There’s some bullshit about how ALF didn’t get to say all the romantic stuff about Willie and Kate that he wanted to say…after all, who cares that those two characters just shared a moment? If ALF doesn’t share a moment, too, it literally doesn’t count.

So, yeah, ALF talks about how incredible Willie and Kate’s marriage is, and then Kate cries. And — fucking hell — did this episode crash and burn. Remember when it was about religion and was both interesting and funny? Now it’s about Willie and Kate renewing their vows, which could have been great except that it’s got nothing to do with either of their characters. It’s just some standard, vague nonsense about being in love, and we’re treating it like it’s revelatory.

The fact is that ALF could have waddled over to the bus shelter and married any two people there and the same speech would have been exactly as specific to their characters.

The show hurtles onward to its conclusion, and we still don’t know who the two main human characters are. Neither do the writers. They’re married, and that’s about all anybody involved with production knows, so we get some all-purpose palaver about marriage.

What a waste of an episode that was so close to doing something fun.

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"

In the short scene before the credits, ALF asks if they fucked a lot last night.

Fuck this show.

Countdown to ALF being sacrificed to Barry in front of the Tanners: 7 episodes

MELMAC FACTS: Willie and Kate have been married for 22 years,* and the sex was just as good the third time as it was the first! When a Melmacian turns 233, he has six months to become a minister. Otherwise he will become “an outcast.” Melmacians pray to a god named Barry, and they kiss the first two fingers on their right hand whenever they invoke his name. ALF’s religion is considered “Reformed.” The Melmacian Bible states, “He who burps downwind can party with Me any time.” Melmacian ministers must officiate at a hallowed ceremony within 10 working days of being ordained, or else they must yodel for the rest of their lives. Earth is located on the side of Barry’s good ear. ALF’s religion is for ages three and up. Melmacian ministers only have to serve one weekend per month, two weeks in the summer, and whenever there’s a national emergency. And while I’m down on this episode as a whole, that last joke is pretty fucking good.

* This puts their wedding in 1968, if we assume the episode takes place in 1990, the same year it aired. (If it doesn’t take place in 1990, then we have even more timeline madness to sort out, so let’s just assume it does.) At first I figured the big continuity flag would be Woodstock, which they both attended…and that was in 1969, so that checks out. However I happened to read back over my review of “Isn’t it Romantic?” and that episode gave the date of their honeymoon as July 11, 1967. So, yeah. The writers did their homework about the life expectancy of Melmacians, but didn’t bother to research their main human characters. That…sounds about right, actually.

15 thoughts on “ALF Reviews: “Gimme That Old Time Religion” (season 4, episode 17)”

  1. Way back in “Help me Rhonda” (S1, E7), ALFs 229th birthday was happening soon. So, at the beginning of S4 he should have been 231, plus one year of age by now, as his birthday should be somewhere during the middle of the season. Which would make him 232 by now, instead of 233. I think you already suggested a few times that a season of this show covers more than a year, and that the writers would be off by exactly one year seems a bit strange, so I guess we can take the more-than-one-year long seasons as canon?
    Also interesting might be the dream sequence from Help me Rhonda. In there, ALFs friend Skip says that ALF has spend 2/3 of his life on Melmac. (Yes, I watched that episode probably a hundred times)

    Anyway, now that the Ochmoneks are gone, I felt like writing a bit about them. Mainly because my perception of them is completely changed through your writeups. That I had watched ALF from an early age and never really having stopped, I always saw them the way the show wanted me to see them. I never realized how nice they actually are, and how much better they work as a couple than Willie and Kate. You gave me a new appreciation for both of them. I would be interested in a version of ALF where he crashes in their house – maybe he would learn to treat others kindly from seeing other people actually caring for each other. But than, he had Lynn and it didn’t help.
    I’m curious if the last scene with Mrs. Ochmonek was supposed to read as final as it did. She finally realizes how she is treated by her neighbours and decides to go. Not for now, but forever.

  2. I’ve got a few issues of the old ALF comic book, and there’s one issue that actually does a what-if story where ALF crashes into the Ochmoneks’ house instead of the Tanner’s. He basically just ends up treating them like crap like he does with everyone, then later they watch Not Cosmos and Not Carl Sagan mentions that anyone living with an alien could make a fortune with TV deals. So then he erases their memories with some kind of drink in his spaceship (the comic actually used random stuff in his ship as a plot device; go figure) and crashes into the Tanner’s house instead.

  3. With the long production cycle this show had, and the somewhat erratic writing/filming order, maybe this episode was written by a writer assuming it was 1989? Being precisely a year off like that suggests either someone “didn’t carry the one” or that it was actually right once, but then became wrong due to outside circumstances? I guess I’m trying to be nice to the poor bastards who had to work on this show, and place all blame for the absolute mess onto Fuscoe, rather than accept that (especially by this point in the show’s lifetime) the writers had thrown up their hands and said “fuck it!”.

    It also makes me think about the same kind of thing that happened back in the “Return of Kate Sr” episode, when the actors retell something that happened IN THE SHOW and get the details wrong. All the signs point to almost all the people working on this show not giving anything even remotely close to a single fuck. Or would it be that hard to actually keep track of details like that. Isn’t it someone’s job, specifically, to do that? I’m not really well versed in television production to know how it goes.

    And maybe this script had more Benji/Brian in it because Fuscoe didn’t destroy the Monday Script, since he was too busy saving his voice for all the yodeling? “All those ad libbed rape jokes are on hold this week, lads. I’ve got serious yodeling to do.”

  4. “So, basically, only straight male sexual predator dickheads could be ministers.”
    Yay, just like on Earth!
    “Without a planet, what’s a god? Without mortals, what’s an immortal?”
    This is a really interesting concept. I once come up with a story to answer it in part. But there’s a fantasy series called “The Belgariad” that deals with a people-less god. Each land of the world had a god, and each god had their people. One particular people practiced cannibalism, which didn’t sit well with their neighbors. So, one day the neighbors rose up and wiped out the cannibals. The god of the cannibal people was so distraught that he spent the rest of eternity sitting in the ruins and using his powers to recreate ghost-like versions of his people, and replying their demise over and over again until he went mad.

  5. “Seriously, what the fuck is Willie’s problem? Why isn’t this episode 30 minutes of him curb stomping the guy he learned last week is using his position of authority to sexually manipulate his daughter?”
    Because Lynn is an adult who can solve her own problems. She saw what was coming, and instead of swooning and falling into his arms, she called him on his bullshit and walked the fuck away. Frankly, we’ve seen her make good choices previously as far as relationships go, so there’s no need to believe that she would need a parent to step in and fight her battles for her.

  6. yeah, i thought it was a pretty interesting concept that the show brings up the idea of what religion was like on melmac and could of opened the door to some serious world building of melmac’s culture, but as usual the show does not dive into it that much and rather just kind pulls things out their asses by making up nonsense. you did make an interesting question though, what does a god do once their planet as been destroy? does a god still exist when there is no one to worship him? in my mind, our god only exists because a large number of people believes that he does, but what if everyone just stopped believing in him, would he still exist? so for all we know this malmacian god barry could no longer exist, but ALF still believes he does. as for why their god didn’t stop melmac from being destroyed, I believe their god is very much likes ours, it has been said he created our world, but it pretty indifferent to any tragedy the happens in this world. like if our god is all powerful and can do anything, why didn’t he stop the meteor the killed all the dinosaurs from crashing into earth? or stop horrible events like WWII and 9/11 from happening? so I’m thinking is that god does not stop tragedy from happening, but rather lets us endure it and give us hope that we can recover from it. that what i think melmac’s god is like, besides barry is not a completely people less god, he still has ALF, skip and rhonda and whatever else melmacian that was in a spaceship a the time.

  7. It’s always interesting to me when the show attempts to implement continuity, and how often it’s *almost* correct but not quite. Honeymoon being in 1967, and as FelixSH says, his birthday being a year off (and some others I’m forgetting); it’s like the writers gave continuity a consideration, but decided to go with an educated guess when they realised they’d have to, y’know, get up, to check over the old scripts. Or perhaps they never try and just coincidentally land on a number close, and then we all pay attention because any hint of continuity is so rare on the show.

      1. And the juxtaposition of those two images highlights so many things that are wrong with Kate & Willie–I mean, if you chose to give them books with titles, *could* you say what they should be?

        1. Shitty Parenting for the Disinterested Nobody, and 1001 Rainy Day Murder-Suicide Projects.

          So, to answer your very good question, no. And no amount of brainstorming could bring you any ideas that don’t draw attention to their lack of characterization.

          Funnily enough, I recently rewatched the “What Color is Your Cleansuit?” episode of The Venture Bros., and Dean has a fantasy sequence in which he’s in bed with Talia, reading to her from…some kind of cathode ray technical manual.

          Says so much about who he is and about his idea of romance. A lovely, silent, easily overlooked touch that works for both comedy and character. In ALF, by contrast, the books are stripped of their dustjackets lest someone get accidentally characterized by their choice of reading material.

          1. Ha, I never noticed the lack of dust jackets before. Maybe it’s to avoid copyright problems with displaying the covers?

            Speaking of accidental characterization via reading material, I just reviewed an episode of “Hey Dude” where Brad reads a certain novel that she describes as “fine literature”. It was an erotic romance novel that includes rape and (possibly) a scene of beastiality between an underage girl and an aroused dog. Something that I’d expect ALF to read, actually.

      2. I’m not 100% sure I get WHY Basil is reading Jaws and Sybil is reading Sexy Laughs, but even with only my guesswork, there’s character there. God… Why is ALF so fucking BAD!?

        The guess is Basil is reading about a horrible killing machine because that’s how he sees Sybil. Perhaps he relates to the characters for having to deal with such a prehistoric monster. (If it was because he wants a life of adventure out on the open seas I’d imagine a pirate book would have been better, but maybe not so instantly recognisable?) For Sybil, that’s the kind of life she wants – one full of “Sexy Laughs” – which is her idea of excitement and fun, all of these things are things she is NOT getting from Basil. Which could lead back to Basil not being excited by his life with Sybil hence seeking out adventure in Jaws.

        Damn that show has details packed into details. I recall John Cleese talking about how each script of an episode for Fawlty Towers was twice as long as a regular script due to how much activity and lines were being delivered. It’s obviously a bit harsh to compare ALF to a masterpiece like Fawlty Towers, but it doesn’t even come close.

  8. So was this show implying that Melmac really had another supreme Being as powerful as the god of the Bible we know? I never knew this show to have any supernatural elements other than encountering aliens, and we may not be alone in the universe. Have you seen Fire in the Sky? It also had the boy who played Elliott as a young adult. Anyway ALF had no magical powers like E.T, he just came from an impeccably strange planet. His planet having its own omnipotent being would seem non canon.

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