Reading too deeply into these things since 1981
Header

ALF Reviews: The ALFies! (Season 4)

May 12th, 2016 | Posted by Philip J Reed in alf

The ALFies

Well, folks, this is it. The final ALFies. Our last chance to celebrate all of the things ALF did hilariously wrong. And sometimes right! But, come on. You’re here for the hilariously wrong.

I’ll miss this just as much as you will. I didn’t want to end it, but Brandon Tartikoff politely asked me to put the ALFies on a skateboard next year, so I told him to go fuck himself. It was clearly the only way to maintain my dignity.

So — one last time — sit back and enjoy the ALFies, brought to you by Giggles, The National Inquisitor, and by Sendrax. Sendrax: CFCs 4U & Me.

The ALFie for…

BEST ACTOR

ALF, "Hungry Like the Wolf"
ANNE SCHEDEEN


Let’s be frank: I would have given this to her anyway, as some kind of legacy award, but this season she absolutely earned it. She slacked a bit in season three, to the point that I was terrified we’d be going into season four with no redeeming qualities to look forward to…but, for whatever reason, she sprung right back. This may have been the worst season yet — by a significant margin, which is saying something — but Anne Schedeen has been the very definition of a trooper. She was still funny, even when her lines weren’t. She was still acting, even when the scenes didn’t deserve her effort. And right up through the very last episode she was trying, and her hug with ALF was the closest thing to a great moment the finale had. There wasn’t much to enjoy of ALF this late in the game, but nearly all of it came from Anne Schedeen’s performance. She established herself in the pilot as the series’ most reliable actor, and even at her worst she was in no danger of losing that title. (Except when the midget popped in. That guy was awesome.) Anne Schedeen may have never won an Emmy for her work on ALF, but that’s okay. She really deserved a Purple Heart.

The ALFie for…

WORST ACTOR

ALF, "Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades"
FUTUREBRIAN


Look at this fucker. He’s awful. I honestly can’t decide if the folks who worked on the show — who were well aware of Benji Gregory’s limitations — cast this guy as sort of a sidelong rip into the kid’s acting abilities or what. All I know is that he’s fucking terrible. His line readings are every bit as stilted and unnatural as the kid’s, which I really would love to take as a kind of clever meta-joke, but since this is “Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” in which literally nothing was clever, I can’t imagine this was the exception. He’s made to look even worse by the fact that he shares the scene with Fran Drescher, who knows her way around sitcom dialogue and can bring life to even the shoddiest writing. I don’t know if this guy is a bad actor or a great actor acting like a bad actor, but one thing’s for sure: fuck him.

The ALFie for…

LEAST COMPREHENSIBLE JOKE

ALF, "Make 'Em Laugh"
THE ARTHRISTOCATS


ALF rarely had good jokes, but I can at least usually understand them. In “Make ‘Em Laugh,” though — an episode, I hasten to add, in which ALF becomes famous for being hilarious — I don’t even understand his main gag. Like, at all. He tells a brief story about ordering an extra-crispy cat on Melmac, and getting a cat with arthritis instead. And…what the living hell does that even mean? I…don’t get it. I have genuinely no clue what it’s referring to, or what the connection is. Longtime reader RaikoLives proposed “crippy” as the word tying the two together…and if that’s true ALF can really go fuck itself. Honestly, though, I haven’t the vaguest idea what the joke is, and the show really rubs that in with ALF’s constant retelling of it. Seriously, I counted. In “Make ‘Em Laugh,” ALF tells the joke about the arthritic cat a total of seventy-three thousand times. You really need to wonder about the intelligence of any writer who tells the same joke over and over and over again, whatever his ostensible “purpose.” Anyway, Willie smokes crack.

The ALFie for…

BEST NEW CHARACTER

ALF, "Baby, Come Back"
INSANE FUCKING BABYSITTER


Okay, we actually had a little competition here, so let me apologize to both Joanie and that woman with the raised eyebrow at ALF’s intervention. You two were great with the nothing-at-all you were given to do. But you know who was better with her nothing? Melissa Francis, who at this very moment is probably flicking herself off to the Ben Carson poster above her bed, and in “Baby, Come Back” played a babysitter who will kill you in your sleep. (That is will, not would.) She’s…actually funny. I have no idea if she was supposed to be funny in the way I enjoyed her, but her subtly unhinged demeanor implied an actual character in only two or three lines of dialogue. That’s impressive. Unfortunately she only made one appearance, despite the fact that a babysitter for Eric would have made more sense to add as a new character than Willie’s baby brother who landed in the back yard in a giant egg…but, hey, I’ll take what I can get.

The ALFie for…

MOST IMPRESSIVE PERMANENT DEFERRAL OF CHARACTERIZATION

alfep407c
NEAL


It really is impressive how little they did with Neal. Like, honestly impressive. They must have worked very hard to have him do so little while using him so much. As soon as he was introduced, I wondered who the hell he was. By the time he vanished from existence, I had no additional insight into the question. Commenters here pondered whether he was meant to be Cool Willie, Mega Willie, or Second Willie, which makes sense as siblings in television shows (especially superficial, terribly written television shows) tend to be characterized by their relationships to each other. Here…I have no clue. Neal somehow got a two-episode introduction that didn’t tell us who the fuck he was, and a resolution to his plot arc before we had any indication as to why we should care about it. That’s more than bad writing; that’s impressively bad writing, with some serious creative acrobatics to keep the character from ever saying or doing anything that might give us an indication of who he even is. The real salt in the wound: Neal, by design or not, ended up replacing Jake, previously one of this show’s MVPs. In fact, Jake serves as an excellent point of comparison: he, too, was summoned into existence for reasons we’ll never know, and he, too, suffered from Unnecessary Additional Character Syndrome. At least, he did at first. The show — and, to be fair, the writers — gave Jake a chance to grow, a chance to become someone worth spending time with. In short, Jake proved that this very writing staff could pull this off, when they cared. Neal is evidence that they no longer cared. Such is the nature of season four.

The ALFie for…

MOST DISAPPOINTING RETURN

ALF, "Mind Games"
DR. DYKSTRA


Evidently “Mind Games” was a holdover from season three. I’m glad it was held over, because this episode sure as hell fits in better with the garbage pile that is season four. But the really disappointing thing is that it’s a Dr. Dykstra episode…the third that’s actually about him. The first two (“Going Out of My Head Over You” and “I’m Your Puppet”) represent some of the best things ALF ever did, and they’re both some of the very few episodes I’d recommend to non-fans. (ie: People who don’t hate themselves very much.) But “Mind Games”…man. What a worthless episode. I guess it’s supposed to be about ALF becoming a psychoanalyst, but we no sooner find that out than the episode ends. There’s a nice conceit buried in here about treating ALF like an adult rather than like a pet or a child, and that could have led to some fun places, but “Mind Games” feels less like a script than it does a small collection of limp ideas sitting next to each other. It wasn’t especially funny, it certainly wasn’t interesting, and it ended with the family verbally abusing the show’s best character for reasons I still don’t understand. (Was Dr. Dykstra meant to be annoying? I honestly never got that impression.) Season three skipped this one. You should, too.

The ALFie for…

WORST FAKE TV SHOW

ALF, "Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades"
ERIC’S STUPID CHILDREN’S SHOW OR WHATEVER THIS IS WHO CARES


I know season four makes me say “I don’t know what the fuck this is” an awful lot, but, man, I don’t know what the fuck this is. At some point during the irrelevant daydreaming of “Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades,” ALF irrelevantly daydreams about Eric hosting a children’s show. You know…Eric. The baby. Who we saw a handful of times, at most. And whose most significant roles in the show involved a) being born and b) possibly being buried in the yard by ALF. Now he hosts a children’s show. Why? FUCK YOU THAT’S WHY. Of course, building a fantasy around a character who isn’t a character — even compared to the other non-characters on this show — leads to a pretty massive logistical hurdle: what the actual hell is he supposed to do? ALF definitely doesn’t know, and it refuses to figure it out, so we get a few minutes of local access kids’ show pastiche instead. Only they define “pastiche” as ALF shitting in a box. Mark Blankfield plays Adult Eric, and I still, this many weeks later, have no idea what he was going for with this. My best guess is that since ALF only ever knew Eric as a baby, Fantasy Adult Eric still has the mannerisms and excitability of a baby. Which is a funny idea, but the execution is horrendous, and I’m pretty sure I’m giving the show way too much credit anyway. More likely the answer to what Mark Blankfield is doing is this: whatever, because nobody thought this crap through to begin with.

The ALFie for…

BEST PICTURE OF WILLIE THAT MAKES IT LOOK LIKE THE CRACK HOBO SUCKING HIM OFF JUST BIT DOWN

ALF, "We're in the Money"
THIS ONE

This is not only a picture of Willie that makes it look like the crack hobo sucking him off just bit down; this is the best picture of Willie that makes it look like the crack hobo sucking him off just bit down.

The ALFie for…

MOST SHOCKING EXAMPLE OF CONTINUITY

ALF, "Live and Let Die"
THE CATFREE DIET


Ask anyone what they remember about ALF, and unless they answer “Who the fuck is ALF?” they will tell you that he eats cats. Yet, shockingly, in episode nine of season four, he stops eating cats. More shockingly: the decision sticks. Right through the end of the series, he’s done. He doesn’t eat them, doesn’t express a desire to eat them, doesn’t sit in the hamper masturbating to thoughts of eating them…nothing. That’s a pretty massive change…and nobody remembers it, which says a lot about how few people were still watching this garbage as it shambled its way toward a conclusion. This was either a brave move — eliminating the series’ most recognizable running gag — or a network mandated one. I genuinely have no idea which is the truth. (It seems like you folks out there don’t, either, but if anyone does have any insight, please share it.) And…I actually liked this impulse. After “Live and Let Die” I was all ears, waiting for ALF to contradict his change of heart, but he never did. Something we were told in one episode actually remained true for the ones that followed. I’m…kind of in awe of that, and I’m proud of the show for respecting its own decision. Does Project: ALF renege on the change in favor of the same old cheap joke we’ve heard a thousand times before? You’ll have to wait and see! (No you won’t; of course it fucking does.)

The ALFie for…

WORST FLASHBACK OR FANTASY SEQUENCE

ALF, "Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades"
KATE AND WILLIE ARE OLD AND THAT’S IT


This show has never invested much effort in its fantasy sequences. Usually it’s as little as hoping the audience laughs at some funny outfits. (Spoiler: they do, because their laughter has been recorded and they have no control over it.) But in “Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” we got a string of lazy fantasy sequences, culminating in the absolute laziest yet. How lazy is it? Well, it just kind of…stops. There’s no punchline. No return to the framing story. It’s just ALF thinking about Willie and Kate being old and then a commercial break. The joke of this sequence, I guess, is that old people are stupid and gross. Which, obviously, is a fucking riot. But all we do is listen to that joke get repeated again and again until it’s time for a word from Irish Spring. Even at its worst, ALF usually tried to give its shittiest stories some semblance of structure. By the time of “Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” they no longer cared about even that. And even fans of the show must admit, it’s pretty dickish to end a segment in the middle of

The ALFie for…

CREEPIEST SEXUAL MOMENT

ALF, "Love on the Rocks"
ALF AND NEAL SPANK EACH OTHER OFF UNDER MARGARET’S JACKET


“Love on the Rocks” was pretty gross, if only because you had to imagine Jim J. Bullock having sex. (And you did have to. Viewers who did not were rounded up by federal agents and sent to work camps.) But later on, his character Neal delays his second marriage to his ex-wife Margaret…and his excuse is that he was hanging out in the bathroom, jerking off. That’s an even more gross thing to imagine…but we’re not done. Oh no. Neal makes sure to go out with a horrific bang (…erm…) by taking ALF to see Nudes on Ice, where they give each other handjobs under his ex-wife’s parka. Granted, that’s only what I imagine happened based on the details provided. And you have to imagine it, too. If you don’t, expect the vans within the hour.

The ALFie for…

MOST DISTURBING ENDING

ALF, "Hungry Like the Wolf"
“HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF”


Somehow this award does not go to “Consider Me Gone.” (Though, trust me, that episode sure worked hard for it.) “Hungry Like the Wolf” comes out on top by sheer virtue of the irrelevance of its cruelty. Okay, “Consider Me Gone” ended with the suggestion that ALF would be strapped screaming to an operating table in some underground government facility, but at least that episode was about the government coming after him. Its ending was awful, and poorly executed, but it made a kind of narrative sense. “Hungry Like the Wolf,” though, is about ALF dieting, and it ends with two people coming to collect their poodle. ALF was going to eat that poodle at some point, so there’s your connective tissue, but nothing can possibly justify what happens next: Kate closes the door on them, we hear a car horn and some screaming, and Willie tells Kate not to get involved. What happened? I don’t know. Maybe the mother was hit by a car. Maybe it was the dog, or the kid. Maybe nobody got hit by the car, but since people are screaming something bad must have happened. Willie tells his wife to keep the door closed, and so we never find out who or what is bleeding to death in the road just outside of the Tanner house. It’s a development that follows in no way from anything we’ve seen, and while I’m still not sure what the fuck even happened, I’m sure of one thing: it’s disturbing as hell.

The ALFie for…

WORST MUSICAL MOMENT

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"
NO


ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

please no

ALF, "Hooked on a Feeling"

SHITTING JESUS NO

The ALFie for…

EPISODE THAT COULD HAVE BEEN AWESOME WITH A MINOR REWRITE

ALF, "Gimme That Old Time Religion"
“GIMME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION”


I’d imagine some folks out there might feel at least a little bit surprised that I didn’t give this one to “Mr. Sandman.” After all, I spent that whole review talking about how it could have been the next “Night Train,” and it unquestionably was in a position to mine (tee-hee) the same vein to similar returns. But here’s the thing: as much as I’d have liked “Mr. Sandman” to be another “Night Train,” I don’t think that’s what it was shooting for. I think the episode we got was the episode the writers wanted to produce, so another rewrite may not have helped. “Gimme That Old Time Religion,” though, started off pretty damned well, as a poke at religion in general with particular stabs at Catholicism and televangelism. It also raised some pretty interesting theological questions about ALF and Melmac…even if it failed to answer any of them. The episode went off the rails in its second half, when it was suddenly about Willie and Kate renewing their vows, which is what makes me think a rewrite would have helped substantially. That’s when the writers could have realized that the “second wedding” thing was pants (even if it was the whole reason they wrote the episode in the first place) and reworked the idea into a full-scale religious satire. This one had the potential to be not only funny, but insightful. And it so nearly was. To me, “Gimme That Old Time Religion” was season four’s biggest missed opportunity.

The ALFie for…

WORST POSSIBLE IDEA FOR AN EPISODE HANDLED IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY

ALF, "I Gotta Be Me"
“I GOTTA BE ME”


Man, who would have thought I’d like an episode about Lynn fucking a mime? Okay, I’ll be honest: I didn’t like it. But I also didn’t hate it! And that’s downright miraculous! This one definitely won’t make my list of ultimate favorites, but I was shocked at how many aspects of it I enjoyed. Mainly it was the Lynn and Kate dynamic, which was explored, on the whole, respectfully and intelligently. Kate wants to protect her daughter…but her daughter’s an adult now. She can’t protect her…at least not in the way she’s used to protecting her. She needs to let Lynn make her own decisions and, yes, mistakes. It’s a tricky thing to pull off in a sitcom that normally doesn’t know its ass from its elbow, but “I Gotta Be Me” actually nails (…) that part. Again, it’s not a great one, and fuck knows I’ll never think about it again, but it sure was surprising in its competence, and it might represent the single best exploration of the mother-daughter relationship in the entire show. It’s only fitting that it took mimesex to get us there.

The ALFie for…

BEST EPISODE

ALF, "Lies"
“LIES”


Man, there was really no competition for this one. “Lies” was only the second episode of the season, but it set a high water mark that literally none of the episodes to follow even attempted to reach. I actually like this one quite a lot. It’s funny, it’s cute, it uses ALF’s extra-terrestrial origins as the cornerstone of its plot (putting it in oddly exclusive company, there), and…Max Wright is actually good. A huge reason for that has to be the fact that he got a lot to do on screen without ALF, meaning the friction between Fusco and Wright and the logistical frustrations of having to spend hours resetting puppet trenches because somebody sneezed simply weren’t problems anymore. Wright loosened up, gave a fun performance, and got a few laughs, while the episode itself made good on the ALF‘s own commonly botched premise. I’m happy with “Lies.” It was a great example of how watchable ALF could be. It’s the show’s own fault that it so frequently wasn’t.

The ALFie for…

WORST EPISODE

ALF, "Consider Me Gone"
“CONSIDER ME GONE”


On the other side of the fence, there was one hell of a lot of competition for this one. In fact, I’m going back and forth on whether this or “Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” was worse. Really they’re just about tied, but two things tipped the scale in favor (“favor”) of “Consider Me Gone.” Firstly, it was the last episode ever, which makes its monumental shit-ness feel like that much more of a punch to the anus. And secondly, “Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” already swept a load of other ALFies. More than any other single episode, I think, so it doesn’t need another one; it’s already legendary garbage. But, yeah, “Consider Me Gone” went out of its way to give whatever dwindling viewers remained a good, solid reason to hate the show for the rest of their lives. The cliffhanger at the end is just the most memorable dollop of horseshit; it’s peppered throughout with awful acting, worse writing, and scenes in serious need of a reshoot. For a show that expected to carry on, with this cliffhanger being revealed as a major turning point for the series, nobody involved could even fake caring about it. When the show was canned, few tears were shed. You can thank “Consider Me Gone” for that. So thanks!

The ALFies

And that’s it! Forever! I could die tomorrow night, and you’d never even know it! I could be dead while you are reading this! BYE

Actually, wait: tune in next week for Project: ALF, followed by the final wrap-up materials.

And then I could be dead. NOW BYE

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 You can leave a response, or trackback.

8 Responses

  • Mark Moore says:

    That music routine is still total whatthefuckness.

  • Ridley says:

    What a Phil Reed
    Stream’s believin’
    I can have it ALF
    Now I’m dancing through your life.
    .
    And you get the idea with that.

  • kim says:

    yeah, i can pretty much again on everything you said here, expect for the worst episode award. i mean sure, i don’t like the last episode “consider me gone” either, but i don’t hate for it lackluster acting and writing because it still has a few good parts in it, i hate it for that god damn cliffhanger ending. mostly because even for the few people that still cared about this show and the story with the character, it was such a slap in the face. but the worst episode overall? nah, i would still give that to “Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” because i remember it being the one that gave you the most nightmares and scream in terror. (which was ironically ended up being your funniest reviews to read yet.)

  • I’ve decided that adult Eric’s “work uniform” looks like Doctor Who was eaten by the sarlacc and then regurgitated.

  • Willie the Pooh says:

    “At the time, Jim J. Bullock wasn’t a huge star, but ”
    – it is hard to imagine considering the huge star he became.
    – On to the Future’s so bright episode review, I’ll have to where my shades to read it.

  • RaikoLives says:

    Damn! I felt sure eyebrow lady would clean up the new character category. Also, I’m really going to miss these but man, am I really NOT going to miss that statue!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *