See that screengrab? That’s the face Anne Schedeen makes after ALF delivers his first line.
ALF’s line is nothing phenomenal, or surprising. It’s barely even interesting. Willie asks ALF how he’s doing, and ALF replies, “I’ll be better after I have some coffee and we talk about death.”
And that screengrab is Anne Schedeen’s silent reaction.
She holds that face for a moment. Then she shifts her eyes. Finally, she turns and walks away.
It’s a perfect bit of facial acting. Whatever line she could potentially have delivered in response to ALF would have been a disappointment compared to what we actually got…this lovely moment of implied, quiet frustration. Her look asks the question she’s asking herself internally: “What horse shit am I in for this week?”
Anne Schedeen has been a highlight from the very start of this show. I still remember that dumbass scene at the end of the first episode, with everyone cracking up at ALF’s “great” “jokes” while Kate sat there scowling. We were supposed to see her as some kind of cold, bitchy killjoy. I immediately saw her as my soulmate.
And now, as the show winds down, I appreciate moments like this even more. They’re limited in number. Every one of them subtracts from what we have to look forward to. Each time she silently fantasizes about disemboweling ALF with a ravioli stamp, it brings us nearer the last time she will ever do this. Together, dear reader, we approach the zero. Take a moment with me to appreciate what we have. Enjoy every sandwich.
Anyway, ALF’s big thing today is his realization that he’ll outlive the Tanners by a significant margin, which is better than him getting another job. (By this point I think we’ve exhausted all of them short of “snuff film director.”) He asks what he’s going to do after Willie and Kate pass away, and Kate — in what must be a joke though, sadly, Anne Schedeen doesn’t sell it the way I know she can — suggests that he move in with Lynn.
Which causes Andrea Elson to make this face:
And you know what, Andrea? You’re alright, too. Great facial acting here as well. It’s a perfect way of showing us that her answer is “fuck no” while she’s too polite to actually say so. (She does has a few lines to this effect, so it’s not entirely facial acting, but that doesn’t make it any less good.)
For a show that’s so bad with female characters, I have to admit the Tanners with vaginas are way better than the Tanners without. If I found out that next week’s episode was about Lynn getting hit by a car, I’d feel at least a little sad. If I found out it was about Willie getting hit by a car I’d call out of work and spend the whole day masturbating.
After the credits, ALF bitches that the Tanners are going to die while Willie bitches that ALF bitches too much that the Tanners are going to die. It sucks.
Then the family leaves to go to a bar mitzvah, which is believable because if sitcoms have taught me anything it’s that Jewish people are too polite to ever, under any circumstance, tell others that they don’t actually like them.
Then he picks up a picture from the table and says, “Ohhh, Lynn…” and some music comes on, and I was entirely convinced ALF was going to jack off to her photograph right then and there.
Fortunately, he doesn’t. Whew. I guess I don’t have anything to worry about this w–
no oh no
no fuck no no no FUCK no
Not another cocksplitting dream sequence. What the fuck did I do in a past life to deserve this?
At least tell me this is the last dream sequence in the show. At least give me that small comfort.
Right? This fucking show is almost over. Surely we can’t have an episode in which ALF dreams he’s a detective in search of the Maltese Tabby or some shit.
Anyway, he daydreams about living with Lynn when she’s really old and…
Uh-uh. I’m done.
I didn’t sign up for this shit. I signed up to review ALF, yes, but not this.
No human being deserves this.
The review series ends here. You’ve been great. It’s been a fine run. But I…I can’t go on.
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Orbit Guard ships on fire off the shoulder of Xerxes IV. I’ve watched Mr. Ochmonek’s shirts glitter in the dark near the Tanners’ gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears…in…rain.
Time to die.
SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT LOOK AT IT GOD DAMN
Fuck. She looks like Dan Aykroyd in Nothing But Trouble. This is gross. Did they actually need to turn Lynn into some hideous old hag you find in the bathtub at the Overlook Hotel?
ALF alludes to the fact that Kate is dead now, and he tells her aged daughter who just cooked him dinner while he sat pantsless and useless doing nothing that he hopes she’s burning in hell as they speak.
I hate this show.
Then this guy Robert comes home. It’s Lynn’s husband, who’s a mime or who actually gives a fuck. Furienna? Are you out there? Do you even give a fuck? How could anyone? Who would even remember this asshole?
Yeah, he’s been on the show before. It took me a really long time to figure out that this is the same kid we met in “It’s My Party.” So, I guess they grew up and got married in ALF’s fantasy at least. And, at long last, ALF gets to hide under Lynn’s bed and listen to her fuck.
Whatever. I don’t care. ALF can jack off to thoughts of Lynn getting pounded by whatever guy he chooses. But Robert is an odd choice for the show itself to make, isn’t it?
We’ve met Robert only once, five weeks ago. He hasn’t been mentioned since. He was barely in that episode, and it’s not like the story revolved around Lynn’s new love interest; that just sort of barely happened at the end. Lynn hasn’t referred to having a boyfriend in the meantime, but I guess they’ve been dating ever since. That’s a lot for an audience to remember and assume, especially in pre-DVD days.
On top of that, when we do see him again he’s aged up and caked in mime makeup, so it’s not as though anybody on the planet would recognize him even if they were unreasonably invested in some tossed-off romantic development from five episodes ago.
It’s really strange. At least when she was dating Lizard we heard about him a few times here and there. And Danny Duckworth popped up a few times to remind us that she was still seeing him. Now we flash forward to a married Lynn and she’s with this bozo nobody on Earth could possibly remember, in a completely unrecognizable costume anyway.
Why not use a new character? And why did we sub Danny Duckworth out for this idiot anyway? Not that I liked the guy, but I at least would have recognized him.
What’s more, I would have known that becoming a mime would represent a pretty significant personality shift for Danny. For Robert? I have no idea. Is the joke that he’s already on his way to miming for spare change? Or is the joke that somewhere along the way his plans got derailed and he’s stuck doing this?
I have no idea because I don’t know who this dope ever was to begin with.
Oh, who am I kidding. The “joke” is that someone’s wearing silly makeup. Good thing we have an elaborate fantasy episode to get to a great payoff like that.
Look at these fucking screenshots. I feel like I’m suddenly watching a show about a serial killer.
Anyway Robert does some shitty mime stuff for fucking ever. I guess the writing staff had it easy this week. All they had to do was write “SOME ASSHOLE IS A MIME” across four pages and, boom, scene done.
Then the phone rings and it’s the circus and Robert gets a job with them and OH MY GOD WHO CARES. We’re almost 10 minutes into the fucking episode and all that’s happened is that ALF daydreamed about Lynn having saggy tits.
Oh, look. Now they have a knife throwing act. And, believe me, if Robert pierced ALF’s jugular here and now I’d declare “Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” to be a masterpiece. But somehow I know that won’t happen.
This episode is instead the result of someone saying, “Wouldn’t it be funny if ALF lived with a mime?” and nobody having the heart to club that guy to death with a pillowcase full of broken glass.
Yeah, for once the show makes good on a promise of putting ALF in mortal danger. For that, I salute it.
But it’s a little disappointing that it’s not…y’know. Funny. It’s just ALF screaming while fake knives appear around him. It’s the kind of thing I can easily imagine coming up in a brainstorming session; it’s another “Wouldn’t it be funny if…?” This time, though, the answer could have been “yes.” It really could have been. But nobody wrote any jokes worth telling. Oops.
The big punchline happens with the inevitable knife-near-the-crotch, which causes ALF to quip, “Couldn’t I have at least worn a cup?”
And this — precisely this — is where you see the difference between a genuine comic mind and somebody cashing a paycheck. ALF’s situation here doesn’t precisely mirror a very famous event on The Tonight Show early in Johnny Carson’s tenure, but it’s close enough to be instructive.
You can watch the legendary moment right here. And you should. Because Carson had almost the exact same setup…but wasn’t prepared for it. It was unplanned. No writing staff. No rehearsal. No guarantee anyone would find his joke amusing.
So Carson worked the moment. He let the inherent, awkward comedy of the situation stand for itself. When Ed Ames goes to retrieve the blade, Carson grabs him and pulls him back, which is funny in itself and allows the humor of the accident to simmer.
By the time Carson opens his mouth and delivers his line — any line — the audience is dying for it.
I won’t spoil the joke — you really should watch the video — but it says a lot that Carson and ALF had the same setup. Carson hit a grand slam with no preparation and only his own wit to work with, and no possibility of a second chance. ALF had an entire writing staff sat in a room to come up with a punchline…and they produced “Couldn’t I have at least worn a cup?”
I’m not going to tell you that ALF’s joke is shitty — though I will tell you right now that ALF’s joke is shitty — but there’s a clear gulf in comic value between the two moments. Carson had no time to prepare and could have whiffed, but he gave American television one of its most famous moments instead. ALF had all the time in the world to prepare, and nobody remembers this shit even happened.
That’s the difference between telling a joke and being a comedian.
Anyway, even ALF realizes that this shitty fantasy sequence isn’t going anywhere, so he boots up another one. Now he envisions his “worst case scenario”: living with Brian. And, man, if you ever wanted to punch a child actor in the balls, introduce his big scene exactly that way.
I might as well mention now — at the very least for the sake of postponing my own worst cast scenario: writing about Brian — that I think this is a solid premise for an episode.
No, not “cut to the actors in pancake makeup doing shitty old people voices.” But “explore what such massively different life expectencies mean for these characters” is great. And, nicely, it flows naturally from the show’s own premise; ALF isn’t from Earth, and we’ve long known that his species lives much longer than we do. On the outside possibility that a Tanner lives to be 100, this barely makes a dent in ALF’s own 650-year lifespan.
There’s a lot you can do with that. In fact, the ratio isn’t all that far off from what humans expect of their canine companions. You adopt a dog and, on rough (rough-rough) average, it will live for ten years. In that time it becomes part of your family. It becomes your friend. It keeps you safe, provides you with company, and wants for very little. It doesn’t judge you or argue with you or ridicule you when you do something foolish. It cares about you. It admires you. It depends on you. It introduces to your life a very specific kind of companionship…
…and then it passes away. The dog’s life is over. Your friend and confidant and a member of your family is gone, all at once and forever.
Many people take that very hard. I’m one of them who does. It’s such a scary and uncomfortable thought that it holds me back from getting another one. Can I really experience that kind of loss again?
I knew a guy who was always in total control of his emotions. At least, as far as anyone else could tell. He was even-keeled and very rational. He gave great advice. He kept his life in order. It was easy to be jealous of the life and family that he’d built around himself. And when his dog died, he fell apart.
He didn’t lose his job. Nothing tragic happened to his wife or his children. He wasn’t evicted from his home.
No…his dog died. Naturally. Predictably. And I saw him sit on the ground and weep like a child, months later, still hurting.
We forge bonds in ways we don’t expect. They happen naturally, and often irrationally. Did you ever have a friend that drove you crazy? Of course you did. Do you miss him or her right now? You may well. Every relationship we experience has some kind of shelf-life. One day, it will be gone. And with very few exceptions, we’ll feel their loss. We’ll miss them. We probably won’t forget the negative aspects, but we’ll sure as hell wish we could have the positive ones back.
ALF and the Tanners have to face that fact, one way or the other. He will outlive them. There’s no way around that, and no concession that can be made. As such, he is in a worse position than they are, emotionally. Just as we have to see the dogs we love pass before we do, ALF has to see his surrogate family age and die at a rate to which he is not accustomed.
That’s a rich vein to explore from a storytelling and characterization standpoint. Even better is the fact that it perfectly feeds a secondary plot: ALF’s mortal fretting can remind Willie and Kate that they will die, too. Which one will go first? (Willie, obviously, because he’s 85 years older than his wife, but, you know, for the sake of argument.) What will the other do at that point? And then can’t Lynn and Brian start to wonder what life will be like without their parents? These are questions human beings already ask themselves at various points throughout their lives. It happens naturally, and it’s relateable for an audience. Having ALF raise the issue — for his own very good reason — would force these characters to consider it themselves, and, suddenly, you have a strong theme for every one of your characters to explore this week.
It’s a series of scenes and conversations that can be both hilarious and heart-breaking.
None of that happens, of course, and instead we get ALF in a collared relationship with a grown man.
It’s Brian, all grown up, and I admire the show for tracking down an adult actor as stilted and incompetent as Benji Gregory. That can’t have been easy. His IMDB profile is pretty meaty, so most likely somebody out there is going to read this and say, “He’s not bad! He was great in xxxxxxx!” And, fine. Maybe he was. I’ll take your word for it. But he’s fucking terrible here.
The joke at first, I guess, is that ALF is treated like a dog instead of a family member. Then the joke becomes that Brian’s wife Roxanne hates ALF and tries to kill him. Then it becomes that Brian thinks she’s an olive oil heiress when she’s actually some powerful Mafia figure or something.
I don’t know. It sucks but at least she’s not a mime.
Roxanne is played by Fran Drescher, and you probably expect me to rip into her, but she’s not too bad here. This was from that bygone period of her career, before she got confusingly famous for being an annoying and grating Jewish stereotype. Right now she’s….just an actress in a sitcom, really. She hams it up a bit, but it’s nothing obnoxious. She does decent work with the little this thankless show gives her, and she’s probably the highlight of the episode, actually. (Faintest. Praise. Ever. But you get what I mean.)
I don’t dislike Drescher. She understands comedy and she gives her audience what it wants. I remember her best from The Nanny, and that was no masterpiece, but it’d be difficult to watch it and conclude that Drescher didn’t know what she was doing, or that she didn’t do it well.
By all means if you thought The Nanny was shit, have at me in the comments. But for what it was — a light, mindless slice of weekly entertainment — it was well enough made, acted, and written that it never bothered me. I probably even laughed at some of the jokes.
Come at me, Fusco.
Their son, Brian Jr., is played by Benji Gregory. And, okay. That’s kind of cute. But what I really like about it is the fact that Brian Jr. doesn’t have any fondness for his father’s naked alien sex pest. When ALF tries to talk to him, Brian Jr. says to his mother, “It’s bothering me again.”
It doesn’t really go anywhere, though. The idea of ALF living with a child who is well and truly disinterested in his antics is great, but it’s only ever that: an idea.
We do hear a bit about Brian Jr.’s cat, Fifi, and ALF doesn’t even crack wise about wanting to eat it, so I guess the change of heart in “Live and Let Die” really was permanent. I’m still keeping an eye out for that change in character to be reverted, but, for now, I like that they’ve stuck with it.
Anyway, Fran Drescher orders a hit on ALF, and some goons come in to shoot him to death.
I have no complaints about where that scene ended.
Then the fantasy ends and, man, I never thought I’d say this, but I really wish ALF were spending the episode masturbating instead.
We do get a funny line in which he laments that adult Brian was a kept man, but “at least he found something he’s good at.” That was…okay.
ALF looks through photos again and arrives, presumably, at one of Eric. (We don’t see any of the photos, because god forbid we get some sense of what memories the Tanners have of their lives or of each other.)
And, yeah, neither Lynn nor Brian got a flash-forward that had anything to do with who they are as people (it sure is odd that the whole episode is about ALF missing them, while his fantasies seem to indicate that he knows nothing about them to begin with), but Eric? Eric’s a baby. The show can do anything with this. There’s no continuity to uphold or expectations on the part of the audience. ALF has carte blanche to do as it pleases, which could actually be…
Oh for fuck’s sake.
Eric is some kind of children’s show host, one half of The Eric and Sparky Show. And man this guy sucks ass. I can’t tell if he’s acting in this clownish, idiotic way because that’s his stage persona, because that’s who ALF thinks Eric will actually grow up to be, or because this actor was told to play a grown-up with the mannerisms and excitability of a baby.
In short, the entire joke of these sequences is “here’s what’s happening,” and I couldn’t begin to tell you what in shit’s name is happening.
Adult Eric is played by Mark Blankfield, who’s been in a lot of things, including Fridays, some Mel Brooks movies, and one episode of Arrested Development, so I can’t imagine he looks back on this crap with much fondness.
In Arrested Development he was the doctor who treated Michael after the wreck in “My Mother, the Car” and I did sort of wonder why they never brought that character back. He would have been a nice counterpoint to the literal doctor, in the same way that Wayne Jarvis was a nice counterpoint to Barry Zuckerkorn.
Oh well. That’s still his most recent role, so maybe the guy retired after that. I only wish he retired before this.
Anyway, they do some kind of mailbag thing and I guess some kid writes in saying that he wants to see ALF get set on fire, so Eric is going to do it until some scary-ass talking clock tells him the show is over.
I hate you guys.
The show ends, and ALF complains that he’s been shitting his box and nobody’s cleaning it out for him.
I hate you guys.
Eric introduces ALF’s replacement.
I really do fucking hate you guys.
The stagehands come over and lock ALF in the box with his own feces. Which, frankly, seems like a preferable fate to watching the rest of this episode.
So he dreams about living with elderly Willie instead and–
OKAY NO THAT IS QUITE ENOUGH THANK YOU NO
NO THANK YOU NO
WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK THIS EPISODE FUCK
Look at that face. He’s planting permanent erectile dysfunction with his mind. WE ARE ALL EFFECTIVELY STERILE
He asks ALF to open the curtain for him, the joke being that he’s too far gone to realize it’s already open, but ALF tells him to eat a dick.
I can’t stop taking screengrabs of this. I want you to understand that I hate you every bit as much as you hate me.
Look at this shit. He looks like a Dick Tracy villain.
By the time we get to the hideous old Kate crone it doesn’t even register. Who fucking cares.
Yeah, she’s old and knits a lot. We get it, show. You have no idea who any of these people are, so you’re stuck doing a half hour of old people sitting around, being old.
Like, really. The episode just ends. We don’t even return back to ALF at the table in present day or anything. I’m not exaggerating; the episode literally just gives up in the middle of a fantasy sequence and stops.
In the short scene before the credits, the family tells ALF that his fantasies were way off and they’d never behave that way. So I guess they had to sit and endure the same half-hour of shitty sub-stories that we did. For the first time ever, I sympathize with the Tanners.
No crisis resolved. No questions answered. No fun had. No comedy enjoyed. Not even the central question is addressed. (Q: What will ALF do when the Tanners are no longer around to protect him? A: Lynn marries a mime.) It’s just ALF fantasizing about some idiotic nonsense until the scary-ass talking clock says the show’s over.
Which is a shame, because this was a topic bursting with narrative possibility. Even the flash-forward idea could have worked if we were flashing forward to anything worth watching.
You’re in luck, though. Here’s a three and a half minute meditation on mortality in the form of an incredible, perfect little pop song. It’s fun, sad, sweet, insightful, worrying, and reassuring in equal measure. It does in no time more than this episode does in far too much time.
It’s a great point of instructive comparison, just like the Carson example earlier. Same territory being explored, in one case by artists in full command of their craft, and in the other by ineffectual, disinterested workmen who toss out some crap and hope for the best.
The significant gulf in life expectancy between ALF and the Tanners is a point of emotional, psychological, and physiological conflict woven tightly into the very fabric of the show. “Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” finally realizes it can do something with that…
…and then immediately makes us wish it didn’t.
But, hey, at least it gave use the show’s greatest metaphor in the form of a shriveled up old Willie.
Countdown to ALF saying all of his goodbyes: 6 episodes