ALF Reviews: ALF Reviewed

I have difficulty finishing projects. Not always, and not even to the point that I consider it a problem, but when I sat down in October, 2013 to review every episode of ALF, I thought there was a pretty good chance I’d never make it to a farewell post in July, 2016.

One of the unfortunate truths of having a creative mind is that you can’t switch the creativity on and off as you might like to. And that’s why so many of my projects never make it to a proper conclusion; either the creativity stops coming, or it starts to head in another direction, and I’m sort of obligated to follow it. (I’d be foolish not to.)

But I stuck with ALF, and I’m glad I did, because I’m pretty sure that I was the exact right person to write about it.

That’s something I’ve been reflecting on a bit lately. The inspiration for this project came from Billy Superstar’s Full House Reviewed. There was a “me too” element to it, and I’ll openly admit that. But it wasn’t that I wanted anything that Billy had, or that I felt a need to muscle in on his territory. It was just that reviewing every episode of a show in a snide manner seemed…fun. And I liked fun. I still like fun! So I opened it to a vote. You guys chose, by a wide margin, that I should cover ALF.

And so I did.

In retrospect, it’s massively strange to me that I’d considered anything other than ALF. It’s been such a perfect fit for me that I can’t imagine covering anything else. It suited my humor. It suited my personality. It suited my memories and my insight and my personal experience and allowed me to bring so much to reviewing the show that nobody else could have brought.

At least, not the same way.

Not this way.

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about as the project ends. Billy Superstar picked Full House, but he originally wanted to cover Family Matters. Can you imagine him having written about that show instead? I honestly can’t, and it’s possible that we wouldn’t have had the ALF project or any of the projects by others who took a page from his book if he’d done so.

Full House was perfect for Billy. He might not have realized it going in, but now it’s hard to ignore. I’d have struggled to say much about Joey, Jesse, Danny, and those idiot kids, but he spun a truly great project out of it.

With ALF, I can imagine others struggling to spill so much ink over this barely remembered, only-intermittently-worth-watching puppet show…and yet I was almost never at a loss for something to say. Thousands of words every week for almost three years. It’s crazy, but it happened. And I couldn’t have done it about any other show. I didn’t know that going in, but now it’s hard to ignore.

And I see friends of mine doing similar things. And always with the exact right source material for them.

Casey is reviewing Perfect Strangers. Samurai Karasu is reviewing Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Sarah Portland is reviewing various Star Trek shows and films.

The list goes on. And while none of those shows would be right for me, they’re the perfect choice for each of them. For their voice. For their personality. For who they are.

I’ve had people ask me if I’ll cover the ALF cartoons or anything else next, and…I can’t.

I’m sure I’d have things to say. I’m sure there would be frustrating parts to rant about and surprisingly good jokes to acknowledge. I’m sure it’d be something…

…but it wouldn’t be this.

ALF was everything I could have wanted in a review project, which is why I couldn’t possibly do another show after this. There’s no way it would live up to ALF‘s standard.

It had a puppet. A midget. A sci-fi plot it never did anything with. It had notable guest appearances, nearly all of which were totally wasted. It had dangerous behavior that it didn’t realize was dangerous.

It had an egomaniac destroying his own show from within. It had a kid who never got anything to do. It had a neighbor whose brief appearances were always notable. It had a woman who tried to rise above the dreck she was given. It had a teenager who slowly did rise above the dreck she was given. It had a guy who smoked crack and blew homeless people, for fuck’s sake.

And that’s the tip of the iceberg. ALF was a spoil of riches. I always had something to say, and I always felt like I was the right person to say it.

To touch the ALF cartoons or talk shows or god knows what else would be to dilute the gift we’ve been given: the gift of a perfectly awful sitcom reviewed in its entirety by somebody who was just foolish enough to stick with it to the bitterest of ends.

So don’t worry. It’s a good thing I won’t cover another show this way. Those deserve to be handled by the perfect reviewer as well.

Not long ago I was talking about this project with the girl I’m seeing, and we realized something. As much as I poke at ALF and make fun of the idea that anybody would actually watch it, or care about it, or be invested in it…

I watched it.

I cared about it.

I was invested in it.

And I mean that twice over. As an adult now, and as a kid way back when.

ALF meant something to me when I was young. I was on its side. I thought ALF was funny. I enjoyed the show on its terms. It was something I’d rush home to watch, and while I can joke now about how poor my taste in television used to be, I certainly can’t ignore the fact that that was me.

And now I did it again as an adult. I still thought ALF was funny, just not in the ways it wanted to be funny. I enjoyed the show on my terms. And I still rushed home to watch it, because I had to crank out a longform analysis every week.

All of which is to say, I like ALF. I liked it then because it was a silly puppet show that gave me something to watch, and I like it now because it was a silly puppet show that gave me something to talk about.

I started this series at a really rough time in my life. I end it, now, in a much better place. I don’t believe ALF did me much good on its own, but this project sure did.

You sure did.

And while I’ll never, ever do this again, I’m glad that I did it in the first place.

I was going to end with a big, long list thanking the commenters and collaborators who’ve helped to make this project something much more than just another episode review series. But then I knew I’d leave at least someone out due to forgetfulness, and that wouldn’t be fair. It also wouldn’t be fair to the folks who read but didn’t comment, and they’re just as important to me. And then there’s all the folks who will find this series in the future, long after it came to an end…and I’ll be fucked if I don’t appreciate them as well.

So, if you’re reading this: thank you. I’ve written literally hundreds of thousands of words about ALF. Somehow you — you, specifically you, reading this now — made that a worthwhile endeavor. You’ve tuned in every week to find out what I had to say about a rapping baboon, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Thank you.

Now let’s never speak of this again.

Project: ALF

37 thoughts on “ALF Reviews: ALF Reviewed”

  1. I think you’re absolutely right about us picking the shows that best suited to us, the truth of which has only become more obvious to me as I make my way through all 63 seasons of Perfect Strangers. Conversely, I think the shows pick us in a way, and I think that Family Matters simply has not ordained someone to review it in full yet.

  2. It’s been one hell of a ride. Thanks for doing it, Phil. I, too, can’t imagine anyone else reviewing Alf. Hopefully season-to-season reviews will still come along for shows still current, like say… picking a show totally at random… Venture Bros.?

    I’ve considered doing my own attempt at “reviewing-a-show-week-to-week-all-the-way-through-from-start-to-finish” but I have nowhere near the required amount of self-discipline to get it done. And of course, the show I’d want to write about has 11 fucking seasons because I never take the easy way (and, precisely for that reason, I never get things done). But this post isn’t about me.

    1. Ha, yes! I will definitely still do season-to-season reviews for The Venture Bros., and I still need to review the back half of Better Call Saul. (And…watch it.)

      I’m curious what show you’re thinking of. I’m assuming M*A*S*H. Which is great, because you’d get to talk about the flash-forward episode in which Charles is a homeless vet who meets an alien on Thanksgiving.

      1. Yup, M*A*S*H, although Wings would be a close second (it has a paltry EIGHT seasons). Though, I don’t know if “Charles Winchester becomes homeless” is more or less far-fetched than “Major Roger Healey becomes a Psychiatrist and treats an alien and his ventriloquist dummy”

        1. Didn’t someone once suggest doing a series like this for I Dream of Jeannie? Was that you? I demand you review all three shows, starting Monday.

  3. As pathetic as this sounds, these reviews have been the highlight of my Thursdays for the past couple of years. They’ve given me a lot of laughs. So I also wanted to say thank you. :D

    1. As the guy who wrote this crap, I’m in no position to say that reading it sounds pathetic. I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I appreciate you popping up at the end to say thanks. It’s amazing to me how many people tuned in every week, and I’m glad I could make 1/7 of their days a little brighter. :)

  4. Thank you, Phil, for bringing to me one of the highlights of my week (what, you didn’t think this was the sole highlight, did you?). It’s been a long but highly entertaining ride. Job well done. Now go and smoke crack until you hallucinate Willie buttfucking ALF.

    1. And Mark! The right person to be reviewing Hey Dude.

      See? I knew I couldn’t count on myself to make a complete list of anything.

  5. man, i never thought this day would come, i never thought you would of made to the end of this, i thought you of throw in the towel half way through. but you did it and that takes commitment even some ALF fans would admire. i started reading your reviews mainly because, like you, i some fond memories of watching ALF as a kid too. i remember ALF being funny and just being on of those shows that stuck with me all these years. i went into these reviews thinking a meet another fellow ALF fan that liked the show just as much as I did. boy, was a surely mistaken. lol. but despite some of your really harsh crude reviews, you did put out a lot of insight into episodes i ever thought about before, so I stuck around just for that. so in a way these reviews of yours were the highlight of my week and now I’m kind of sad to see it end but alas all good things must come an end eventually. so many thanks man, it was one of hell of ride with these reviews.

    1. Kim! It’s been a pleasure having you around. Your own insight and opinions have been very interesting to me ever since you started reading, and I’m glad you hung around through the end. Thanks for being there to call me names when I deserved to be called names!

  6. I’ve read every review and enjoyed them a lot. I’m going to miss them. I’ve always like that you found insights when discussing pretty much every episode, despite the material not helping.

    You are a great writer.

    1. That means a lot! You’ve always been a supportive reader, and I thank you for that. I’m glad you enjoyed!

  7. I can’t believe we’ve been reading about ALF for so long, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Thanks for all of the good times. I can’t wait to read what comes next.

    I’m still finding eggs.

    1. The day before Christmas comes but once a year. :(

      Thanks for sticking around! I look forward to your performance of the Gummibar song at this year’s Xmas Bash.

  8. “Casey is reviewing Perfect Strangers. Samurai Karasu is reviewing Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Sarah Portland is reviewing various Star Trek shows and films.”
    No, Sarah Portland is reviewing all of it. ALL of it. *sobs quietly into a pile of Spock t-shirts*

    Siriusly though, the fact that we each managed to pick just the right show to review is almost creepy. In essence, they’ve become more than just “summary and review” posts. They’ve ended up being these gateways into deeper conversations, sometimes initiated by the reviews themselves, and sometimes only brought up in discussion in the comment section. My favorites: why dogs are featured more heavily as television family pets than cats; the psychological issues between ALF and Willie; and the ethical implications of Willie tossing a homeless man out of his garage.
    While comment sections are often viewed as dens of iniquity for basement trolls (throws side-eye at YouTube), I’ve found that the right comment section often adds to the conversation presented by the author of the post, and I’m very pleased to have part of this one.

    1. I have to admit, I’ve always been impressed with the comments section here. I’d like to think it’s because I’m providing content intelligent enough to attract intelligent people, but I know it’s at least a little bit because I write a lot and dumb people hate to read.

  9. I’m crying right now. What the hell else am I going to read for fun on the internet? Why didn’t ALF run for longer?! I hate endings.

  10. Many thanks for your reviews, Philip!
    I will miss them much, I’ve been reading them for years

  11. Damn dude, I’ve been reading these since you started and at that point I wasn’t in a great mental state either. Things are a lot better now but it was the most self-destructive period of my life, and it scares me to remember how bad things got back then. But throughout all the time it took to get where I am now, these reviews have been something I’ve had to looked forward to every week. Often, especially early on, being the only thing I could look forward to. I didn’t often comment because I didn’t think I had much to say, but I always read and always appreciated every single one. It’s given me so much enjoyment, and plenty of in jokes between me and my dad (who’s also followed this series since the beginning). Thanks for being such a force for good in the world, Phil, and of course for deservedly tearing ALF a new asshole.

    1. I appreciate you, Matt! Thanks for turning up to the streams as well!

      Apologize to your father for me.

  12. I know I’m late by a few days, but I still wanted to thank you for making these reviews,

    ALF was one of the few sitcoms that I watched when I was young, since most of the live-action stuff we have here is telenovelas and 90s Indian soap operas, and ALF was pretty much the only sitcom that they aired that I remember, as well as being one of the few things I remember watching the most, along with The Simpsons… Even though in 2013 I didn’t remember anything about ALF other than the fact that I would always watch it after school, that it had an alien and there was a chapter with a cockroach and another with asparagus,

    So in that sense, I’m really thankful to you, you gave me a ton of insight and newfound interest on a series I loved but didn’t really remember at all, like how awful the show treated the main cast, or how it never actually had anything to do with the freaking alien’s origins, or that ALF actually sounded like a dude originally and not the cigar-smoking cookie monster that I remembered from watching the Latin American-dubbed episodes (on that note I also didn’t know that Max Wright was such a horrible actor, even though, funnily enough, I always remembered Willy in the show as “that poor, sad dude who always got fucked over”).

    So, yeah, thanks to you, nowadays I can remember ALF as both that show that I used to love back in the day and that amazing train-wreck whose riffing from both you and commenters from the site like Sarah Portland or RaikoLives made me laugh more times that I can count.

    This ALF review series was something I always looked forward to reading, and it’s probably my favorite thing from the page, if only because, like you said, the series had that quality that made you able to enter a state of pure snark and critiscism, which made for some great quality reading. That being said, I’ve also become a pretty big fan of your other stuff, from your youtube channel videos that actually were the reason I found out about you and this blog, to all the different articles you post be it here or on other pages like Nintendo Life, I always get a kick out of seeing your writing style and commentary on any sort of media, in case of you covering something like that.

    So yeah, thanks for all that, I’ll be sticking around, even if I don’t comment too much, and I’ll probably be on the streams whenever you do one, and if you ever want to review the animated version of ALF…. Just don’t, like, really, I’ve had enough ALF to last me a lifetime, I think we’ve all have.

    Oh yeah, also, Benjo.

    1. Thank you so much for this comment. And I always (ALWAYS) enjoy seeing love for one commenter from another. You guys have been great, and I’ve enjoyed reading your comments along the way.

      Thanks also for coming out to the streams. This year’s Xmas Bash!!!! is going to be great. I’m pretty sure I have all of the episodes ready to go, and I just need to do the editing. It’s going to be the best variety yet, and I can’t wait to share some of the ridiculous crap I’ve dug up over the past few months.

    1. A new feature starts up tomorrow! It was going to start up today, but then I forgot to write it! See? Nothing’s changed at all!

  13. Hi Phil,

    Sorry for the late (very, very late) reply, but better late than never, right? I of course want to thank you for this series. Who knew that so much great writing and media criticism could come from “ALF”? Thank you for all of the time, blood, sweat and tears that you put into writing these reviews. It was all worth it, I assure you.

    I also wanted to send this your way. I’m not sure if you’ve seen this, but it’s a 70-minute interview conducted with the man himself, Paul Fusco, at the University of Connecticut back in 2007. This is arguably the most at-length Fusco has ever spoken about the show (at least, I can’t find very many other in-depth interviews with him [not that I’ve looked all that hard, mind you]). Interesting to hear him tell the behind-the-scenes stories from his point of view, and he even directly addresses some of the things that were criticized in this review series. If you’re interested, have the time, and not still sick to death of all things “ALF”-related, give it a watch:

  14. I’d just like to add to the kudos. It must be a rewarding feeling to look back on all your work and see how far you’ve come. ALF was a foggy memory for me as a child and I couldn’t rightly remember much about the show;y our blog series has unequivocally pointed out why. ^_^

    1. For the record, based on the comments and your recommendations, I’ll next be diving into the Perfect Strangers and Star Trek blogs by Casey and Sarah. I have very fond and fresh memories of TNG; for Perfect Strangers, my clearest memory is the “Rollin’ Out the Dough” song and what happens when you don’t sing it…

  15. It’s odd that you slate the show so much, yet you reviewed all the episodes. You have but one life, isn’t that a waste of time? Then in your Max Wright respective you come clean and say you loved every minute of reviewing the show. You seem very confused. ALF isn’t a forgotten show as you claim, it is VERY popular in Europe and is often in the top 100 Amazon charts. It is also well remembered in the UK and the USA. ALF was recently on Mr Robot and Young Sheldon.

    ALF is a little dated now. It was made in 1986 – 1990 and it’s not really fair to hold it to current social standards. Things weren’t as PC back then (see the joke about the overweight lady in Hooked on a Feeling.) ALF appealed to children because ALF constantly breaks the rules and does and says whatever he likes. He’s essentially a child himself. It was a prime-time, Emmy award winning show, with ratings that most shows would kill for these days! People adored ALF and kids wanted to meet him (including sick children.) While I don’t love the show as much as I used to (I adored it as a child) and there are flaws, it is fondly remembered.

  16. Wow! Well, that was definitely an experience.
    Been reading these reviews for a few months now. At some point during those few months I went through a pretty harrowing period, and coming back here to read “one more review” late into the night was a highlight that helped make things a little easier.
    Like you, and many people here, I grew up with ALF. Like you, and many people here, I could barely remember much of anything about the series as an adult. A friend who also grew up watching ALF told me she found the show on Amazon Prime, and I finally got around to watching it again. And in a lot of ways it was like watching it for the first time. Not just because I had forgotten most of the episodes, but because I was watching it as an adult. And as an adult I noticed the jokes that fell flat, the retreaded storylines, the eventual exhaustion of the actors, but most of all, just how selfish and shitty ALF could be to everyone around him, and how that was a projection of Fusco himself.
    It didn’t take long for me to realize that the few bits of the show that I could remember were not showing up in the episodes I was watching. A little Googling made me realize I was watching the syndication episodes. Specifically, I remembered there was a scene in “Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue?” where Willie was belting out “Saturday, Saturday!” in an Elton John costume. (As a kid, I thought this was hilarious because I didn’t know who the hell Elton John was and thought Willie was just being a goof.) Trying to find the clip on Google led me to the link to these reviews, and it floored me that the entire show had been covered already. And not just boring plot summaries but in-depth, thought-out dissections of the puppet show I had loved as a kid and tolerated as an adult. I realized, Holy shit, this was going to take more than a weekend to cover, and I was thrilled.
    And now I’m at the end. I wish I had known of this blog five years ago, back when these reviews were going up “live” and the comments section was active and new. As it stands now, this is kind of like walking into a reception hall years after the party is over, blowing the dust off the guest book and signing it, and then talking to myself in an empty ballroom.
    But now I’m here. Now I know your name, Phil. And now I’ve got like eight fucking years worth of material to catch up on. Holy shit, I don’t even know where to begin next.
    All of this is to say that you’re a phenomenal writer, the kind of writer that inspires me to start writing again myself. Good job, dude. Seriously. Hope you get around to hate-reviewing (or even love-reviewing) something else on a weekly basis.
    In the meantime, I’ve got some catching up to do so I’ll be hanging out here for awhile.

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