ALF Reviews: ALF, Sega Master System (1989)

Oh, my aching ass hole.

It’s been two years since I finished reviewing ALF, but the fucker still haunts my dreams. People still send me ALF shit in the mail. (Not literal shit excreted by ALF, though I think I’d actually prefer that to the figurines and paper plates and coloring books.) People still tag me in every YOU’RE SO OLD IF YOU REMEMBER THIS meme that features a picture of ALF. Every time the National Enquirer catches Max Wright shambling out of his apartment to plead with God to take him, I’m the first to know.

All of which is to say, I have yet to exorcise the demon. My work must not be done. I attempted to do this a year ago with that review of ALF Loves a Mystery that I promised to a reader who doesn’t come here anymore, but the Earth has completed one more orbit around the sun and society has sunk another dozen or so notches toward hell and I still have work to do.

ALF, released for the Sega Master System on December 31, 1989, is something I actually did want to cover during my reviews of the show. Casey over at Perfect Strangers Reviled feels compelled to drag out his misery by covering every fucking thing that happened to every fucking actor during every fucking minute of their day. Me? I did the bare minimum and fucked the hell off, secure in the knowledge that I’d only have to dip back into the show every year for the rest of eternity.

I think we can easily see who won that round.

ALF: The Video Game, which is what I’ll call it to avoid confusion with the show (though ALF: The Digital Fuck-You is almost certain to be more accurate) was not the only ALF-related software released during the show’s run.

It is probably, however, the only title worth reviewing. Most of it was printing software and educational games with an ALF license. There was a computer game called ALF: The First Adventure, which I haven’t played but seems to be a pretty simple and inoffensive little maze game. It was also released in 1987, which was actually when anybody with half a brain might have given a shit about the show.

I don’t know what month it came out, but 1987 covers the stretch between the second half of season one and the first half of season two. That’s perfect tie-in timing. ALF: The Video Game, by contrast, came out at what must certainly have been the worst possible time: just as the show was about to end forever with the Alien Task Force disemboweling ALF in a field. A December 31, 1989 release means only 11 episodes were left. Four of those episodes actually came close to being good, but one of them featured Jim J. Bullock so fuck it.

I’ve never played ALF: The Video Game before. That’s partially because I wasn’t one of the 30 people who owned a Master System. For those of you who don’t know, the Master System was the hunk of crap Sega made before the Genesis. The Genesis is the one you remember, trust me. (Unless you’re in the UK, in which case the Genesis was called the Mega Drive. The Master System was probably called the Goody Box or some such nonsense.)

My uncle had a Master System, for some reason. I remember playing it way back then and not feeling even slightly disappointed that I owned an NES. I definitely remember playing Rocky, which only made me wish I were playing Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, and some Duck Hunt-style game that really fucking made me wish I were playing Duck Hunt. The Master System version did have little armadillos that curled up into balls when you shot them, though, and that was kinda cool.

I don’t think my uncle had ALF: The Video Game, which is good because I was a fucking idiot as a kid and probably would have played it. My mental state is fragile enough as it is, so I can’t imagine cramming this traumatic experience into my past as well. I’d be a gibbering wreck.

More of a gibbering wreck. Maybe I wouldn’t even be able to gibber!

Anyway, the one thing I do know for sure about ALF: The Video Game is that it has puzzle elements, and it’s not just about jumping over obstacles and eating…um…man, it’s been so long since I reviewed ALF. What was it he was famous for wanting to eat?

Oh, right: underage tits.

That’s mildly worrying, because it leaves open the possibility that I’ll get permanently stuck on some inscrutable puzzle at some point, but I did find a walkthrough. I won’t refer to it unless I absolutely need to, but I’m glad to know it’s there.

The funny thing is that the walkthrough was written in 2012! Twenty-three years after nobody cared about this game in the first place, some dodo dug it up and personally wrote a step-by-step guide to playing it.

Holy shit. Can we all just take a moment to reflect on what a sad fucking life that guy must lead?

Anyway, please enjoy my exhaustive review of ALF: The Video Game.

No nevermind FUCK IT SHUT THIS OFF FUCK IT NO

I…

This is a real release.

This was on store shelves.

This was a product people coded and manufactured and distributed.

Why does it look like this?

To put it in perspective, here are just a few of the other games 1989 had to offer: Super Mario Land, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Phantasy Star II, Golden Axe, Mother, Dragon Warrior, Castlevania III, Duck Tales, Prince of Persia, Mega Man Fuckin’ 2.

This was a good year for gaming, and I’m only listing the games whose legends have endured. Add in the forgotten and overlooked gems (not to mention the brilliant games that would have been released a year earlier or later) and you’d have yourself one hell of a fantastic retro library.

So why do we have a title screen with hideous pixel art of ALF realizing he just sat on his sack?

Why couldn’t they capitalize the P in Productions? Why can’t they get three fucking letters the same size? Who on Earth would want to play this?

And I’m just showing you the static image. I’m not making you listen to the music. The tinny, maddening, looping music. It’s fucking terrible. I know writing about music is like dancing about architecture (my observation so please credit me if you use it elsewhere) and I’m even worse at architecture than I am at dancing, music, and writing, so I know I can’t possibly describe it for you.

But maybe think about an ice cream truck playing a peppy little jingle. Only that jingle is composed of digitized shrieks and screams. And the volume is so high that it overwhelms the truck’s shitty speakers and comes out sounding distorted. And that ice cream truck is currently getting the electric chair. And your little brother is puncturing your eardrums with heroin needles.

What I’ve just described would be “Hey Jude” compared to this horse shit.

The music loops a few times and then the game plays with itself.

Nothing really happens except that ALF walks to the left. Like, he’s in a house walking to the left, and then he’s on a street walking to the left and then he’s in a cave walking to the left.

Different games have taken different approaches to this, but these demo sequences are holdovers from the arcade days of “attract modes.” The idea, obviously, was that every quarter had to be peeled out of somebody’s hand, so in addition to cabinet artwork and flashing lights, a game going unplayed would sort of audition itself briefly to passing kids. It would show off action-packed sequences to prove it could be fun. It would show off impressive cinematics to prove it was cutting edge. It would show off interesting late-game levels to prove it was worth playing for as long as it took to get there.

It would, in a word, convince. It was its own commercial.

In the attract mode for ALF: The Video Game, ALF walks brainlessly into a pit and his angel ascends to Heaven.* Great.

There are a few sequences in the demo, and since we don’t see any puzzles or platforming or combat, I guess ALF: The Video Game is just intending to show us all of the incredible, varied locations ALF can walk left through. If you’d like to know how many there are, I’ll help you figure it out.

Look to the left. Now look to the right. Now look below you. You’ve just looked at more locations than you’ll find in ALF: The Video Game.

The very end of the attract mode is ALF swimming. Some nameless human enemy fires a harpoon at him and the sequence ends literally one frame before the harpoon pierces ALF’s throat. It’s a far better cliffhanger than “Consider Me Gone” had, that’s for sure.

I will point out that I’m playing this on an emulator, because no human being deserves to profit off of ALF, least of all the guy on eBay who wants $480 for a copy, plus $20 shipping.

Yes, there are cheaper copies, but when something sells for $500 and you buy the same item for $35 or something you can be reasonably sure you’re going to receive a box full of ants.

I bring this up, though, to assure you that while I will be emulating what is clearly going to be the gaming experience of walking in on your parents making a snuff film, I won’t be using save states or anything. And if you don’t know what that means, it’s enough to know that I won’t be cheating my way through it, and I won’t be manipulating the game in any way to make it easier on myself.

If you don’t believe me, just reflect on the fact that I reviewed all 99 episodes of ALF, and the movie, when I could have easily cheated and just said I died.

Ah alright fine whatever I’ve stalled enough let’s play this garbage.

Well, that will sure teach me not to make fun of the art on the title screen.

This is…like, this is actually Microsoft Paint, right? Like, without any joke, that’s what we’re looking at here? This is exactly the quality of art I was able to produce with it at around 12 years of age, and about what I’m still able to produce with it today. But there’s an important difference, I think: I AM NOT AND HAVE NEVER BEEN A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST FOR VIDEO GAMES.

Those games I listed above as coming from 1989? Those were all varying degrees of good games. But, what’s more, they were all varying degrees of beautiful games. Look at the art style of Phantasy Star II, Duck Tales, Castlevania III. Look at what people were able to achieve with pixel art. Look at the way each of those games evokes different feelings, emotions, universes with nothing but simple sprites and backgrounds. And those games were far from alone; even terrible games back then tended to (though they certainly didn’t always) have actual artistic direction. They had care invested in their presentations.

It’s not enough to say, “Eh, it’s an early console game,” because that does a disservice to anyone who ever worked their ass off to successfully produce a game that looked, sounded, or played fantastically. And, let’s be frank here, a number of companies such as Nintendo, Capcom, and Konami were already doing all three reliably.

What this first screen of actual gameplay tells me — this first impression of what the game is — is that the developers don’t care. They don’t care that it looks like crap and they don’t care that it sounds like crap, so I’ll be shocked to holy hell if they care that it plays like crap.

Anyway I’ve spent enough time bitching that ALF has entered his impatient animation. He knocks on the screen, so angry that he forgets how punctuation works.

But guess what, pixel dick?! I ain’t done yet!

This is clearly meant to be the Tanner house, and we start outside. ALF’s spaceship is on the garage, which would seem to imply that he just crashed here. And that would be fine! But we remember from the show both a) he crashed at night and b) the Tanners waited something like 71 episodes before they bothered removing the fucking UFO from the roof.

On top of the house itself, there’s some kind of green scooter thing. ALF can scale the ivy to the top of the house, which we remember was always one story.

Once there, ALF automatically stands on the scooter, but he can’t do anything. So far as I can tell, only one action button in this game does anything. The Master System had two action buttons, labelled 1 and 2, but 1 both jumps and interacts with things.

ALF hints that we need to find some fuel for this thing, and that seems to be all we can interact with here. I head off to the right in the hopes that the next screen will have, at the very least, a different shrill, ear-scraping melody.

It doesn’t. Or maybe it sort of does? It’s hard to tell. It’s like saying I hear a different melody when I put my own head through a glass window than I hear when I put your head through one.

Despite the fact that most of the garage is out of view and the fact that the garage was an important location in so many episodes of the show and the fact that THE COCKING SPACESHIP is on the roof of the garage, you can’t go in there, and heading right leads you to the middle of some street.

I didn’t cut anything out between those two screens. Walk right from the scooter and there you are, in the middle of traffic. No wonder a social worker can afford a home like this in Los Angeles; the fucking highway runs right into the side of it.

I thought at the very least we’d be able to explore the rest of the Tanners’ yard, or maybe the Ochmoneks’ house (where ALF could snag a rad Hawaiian shirt). Any of that would have required some degree of creativity though so fuuuuuuuck dat.

We do see two of the game’s many (three) enemies on the screen, though. There’s a kid on a motorbike who zips by again and again. Only the wheels are animated, which would normally be fine, but the fact that he seems to be the only person using the road makes it very clear that the developers were being as lazy as possible.

In the upper right you see…I dunno, The Hamburglar? He shuffles along the sidewalk like he shit his pants, and he just keeps opening and closing his hands as he walks, like he’s honking a set of imaginary tits.

My assumption is that this guy is supposed to be from the Alien Task Force, despite the fact that the show always had them dress as officers in the military and this guy is cosplaying Carmen Sandiego. I figured I’d look up the game’s manual online to be sure and, yep, Alien Task Force.

Of course that means I had to read the fucking manual to ALF: The Video Game so I’m not letting you off the hook, either.

And…that’s pretty interesting, in more ways than you might at first realize.

I will say that I have no idea if the age of 229 is show-accurate. Maybe one of you remembers. The odds are good that you’ve read my ALF reviews more recently than I have, and frankly I’m just thrilled that I managed to erase some ALF information from my mind without physically carving it out with runcible spoon. But beyond that…

Even at the very end of the show’s run, official products can’t decide whether to call him ALF or Alf. Here’s my humble take on it: It’s clearly ALF you fucking morons.

Then there’s some interesting information complementing what we heard in the show. In no particular order, this confirms that Melmac indeed exploded when everyone plugged in their hair dryers at the same time. If I remember correctly, this was stated in the show, but as that kind of offhand comment ALF so often made that we could never definitively prove wasn’t a joke. (Three cheers for the metatextual irony of never knowing whether or not something in a sitcom is meant to be funny.)

We also learn that ALF left Melmac to find a “space-age candy store.” This could contradict what we learned in the show — he fled when he heard the emergency sirens, without helping anyone else — but I’m actually cool with it. Everything we learned about him points to the fact that while his family, friends, girlfriend, pets, Orbit Guard colleagues, and his entire history and culture perish in a nuclear holocaust, his first thought would indeed be where to get some junk food.

What’s more, the colony of New Melmac or whatever it is that Skip and Rhonda founded was evidently on Mars. Fine, whatever.

But the most interesting thing? Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t, but…ALF joining Skip and Rhonda on their new homeworld was an idea not yet introduced by the show proper. This confirms that there was some communication between the developers of this game and the writers of the show; the developers were privy to a plot development that viewers wouldn’t see until the final episode.

As a recap, “Consider Me Gone” saw ALF attempting to meet up with Skip and Rhonda as the Alien Task Force closes in on him and Willie thinks “THANK CHRIST” so loudly you can hear it in your bones.

The manual also mentions that Lucky is in the game, even though he died in “Live and Let Die.” Not a big deal, but I figured I’d point it out since Lucky is the only character other than ALF mentioned in the entire fucking manual.

The manual also offers some extremely helpful insight for players, such as “You can’t beat this game without items.” Gee, thanks.

Introducing a list of those items, it says, “Not all items are actually pictured in the game, so we’re showing you pictures of them here so you can see what they look like.” Which is more or less the creative team saying, “We’re so lazy we didn’t even bother to draw most of the shit that’s supposed to be in this game.”

Oh and this:

I hope to fuck this is one of the items not actually pictured in the game.

Anyway, I go left to the garage again and then left one more screen, and I’m instantly in the Tanner kitchen.

That’s Lucky on the counter, and Tits McSqueezins coming in from the left. Not pictured is me on the ground, twitching and nauseous over the pattern on the floor.

Also, suddenly, I have a status bar, which disappears when I go outside to the right again. I have to assume it’s a programming error, because there’s no reason for my score, money, and lives to be displayed on this screen and not the other two I’ve already visited.

I’m assuming those are lives in the upper right, anyway. They’re ALF heads, I think. Or maybe they’re little icons of his arm making a muscle? Maybe they’re Melmacian genitals. Who gives a shit.

The next time I come in, that fucking guy enters from the right instead.

This means I can proceed to the left, but I have to wonder if that’s the actual solution. Is that what I was supposed to do? Flee the room and return, somehow warping spacetime and plopping my adversary somewhere else entirely? At least the game follows the narrative conventions established by the show: something happens, then something else happens, then something different happens, then it stops.

At least, I hope it stops.

I walk past Lucky, who disappears. I was hoping for a sound effect like when Pac-Man swallows a piece of fruit whole but no such luck(y). The cat appears in my inventory instead. Please don’t ask where ALF crammed him.

I try to interact with the refrigerator, but suddenly the 1 button doesn’t let me, and the 2 button does. THANKS. Was every screen made my a different person? Jesus.

In the refrigerator ALF finds a salami stick. He says “Just the ticket for those nasty bats,” and I have no fucking clue what he’s talking about. What bats? I’m assuming we’ll find them later, but isn’t it a bit strange to say that now, when it’s impossible that any player would have seen them yet? And why would seeing a stick of salami immediately make you say, “Aw yeah, now I’m gonna fuck up some bats”? I don’t understand this even slightly.

ALF wedges the salami snugly beside Lucky and we move further left. Now we’re in the Tanners’ central corridor, which we all certainly remember from every episode of the show. On the wall are two portraits that you can’t definitively prove aren’t Willie and Kate so there that’s your cameo shut the fuck up.

At least we get three doors to choose from, and the fact that I’m genuinely excited about that, in spite of the fact that they couldn’t possibly lead to anything interesting, shows how much of an adventure game fan I am.

I grew up playing graphical adventure games of all stripes. My favorites were the ones made by Sierra, mainly the Space Quest series, but Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist is still the best one I’ve ever played. I also loved Leisure Suit Larry 6, which took place in a hotel that is still one of the best and most memorable locations I’ve ever explored in a video game.

Elsewhere there was The Secret of Monkey Island, which my friend Ray owned and which I was deeply jealous of until I got a computer that could run it many years later. And another game that ALF is perhaps oddly reminding me of, Hugo’s House of Horrors, which saw you exploring a haunted house.

The most classic of these games, though, was Maniac Mansion, which I originally played on the NES. I remember poring over an issue of Nintendo Power that featured a complete map of the Edison Mansion, and instantly falling in love. As much as games could transport me to outer space, to the old west, to fantasy lands beyond number, this game with its promise of a trek through a creepy old house absolutely grabbed me from the moment I laid eyes on it. I got the game that Christmas, or perhaps for my birthday, because I had pestered my parents endlessly for it. I knew for a fact I would love the game…and I did. I loved it even more than I expected to.

It was clever, it was funny, it was scary. It was tense. It was impressively versatile, with a number of different characters to choose from and what felt like an infinite number of ways to progress leading to an infinite number of endings. I was familiar with games you could win or lose; Maniac Mansion was the first game to give me a story that you could win and lose in so many unexpected, interesting, hilarious ways.

Games like this saw you plodding back and forth over a location or a series of locations, accumulating items, paying attention to dialogue and descriptions for clues, and solving oblique puzzles as you moved forward. In most of these games you could die, typically for failing to solve a puzzle correctly and frequently in a way funny enough that you wouldn’t get frustrated, but none of them had a life system like we see here.

Lives make sense when you accidentally run Mario off a cliff, because games like that are built around reflexes and quick thinking. You need, if the game is going to be fair, at least a few chances to get things right. In a game like this, though, I’m a little baffled by the life system. An adventure game shouldn’t be about reflexes or quick thinking; the solution comes to your mind, not to the tips of your fingers.

We’ll see how it works out, but my immediate thought is that whoever made this game knew that video games usually gave you a set number of lives and didn’t take the time to wonder if that was even a good fit for the kind of game they were making here.

Anyway, all of this is to say that in graphical adventure games, being confronted with three doors is like a promise that the game is about to open up in fantastic ways. There’s something unknown behind each one, another little world to explore, even if it’s the size of a single screen. Puzzles to solve, things to find, backstory to uncover.

oh who I am I kidding they each just lead to the street again don’t they

The leftmost door leads to what I assume is Willie and Kate’s bedroom. I have to assume this, because the game is going to go out of its away to avoid ever using the words “Willie” and “Kate.” Perhaps this was due to the fact that in the fifth season, the characters were going to be written out anyway, as a result of Max Wright threatening to strap dynamite to his chest and blow himself up in Brandon Tartikoff’s office if they didn’t let him out of his contract.

Whatever the reason, we sure as shit aren’t running into any Tanners in the Tanner house. It is nice that the game passively continues their established habit of never, under any circumstances, fucking. In the universe of this game, they’ve staved off physical desire by working to break the world’s record for largest number of decorative pillows.

There’s not much in the room, but there are two more doors. The one on the left is locked. ALF says he’ll find a key. Lucky, already cramped, cringes at the thought.

I see I earned 700 points somehow, I guess. That’s great. I hope you are jealous of my score I wish I were never born.

Anyway, I guess we’ll have to come back to this door later, so I’ll try the one on the right…

Hm.

Remember that thing I said about the game promising to open up fantastically?

Anyway, in this room and the hallway, I seem to be free from Alien Task Force harassment. It would be one thing if avoiding them were any kind of puzzle…or if, say, the game had a 60 minute time limit before the Alien Task Force closed in on the house, and you had to fix your spaceship before then…but instead they’re just sort of there, because whoever made this game heard that video games have enemies and and didn’t take the time to wonder if they were even a good fit for the kind of game they were making here.

Rad.

Going to the left takes us back to the hallway, but if we go right, we end up in a new area:

I’m assuming this is Brian and Lynn’s room? In the show they had separate bedrooms, but having them bunk together certainly makes things more convenient for ALF.

For the record, the rightmost door in the main hallway also leads to this room. We’ll get to the center door momentarily, but for now just remember that the far left and far right doors lead to the same long room, and somehow there’s a door that leads to a different room between them.

Fuck this show…’s tie-in game?

You know, this game is inadvertently proving how empty a universe ALF created. I talked about that a bit in my review of the godawful Gilligan’s Island episode, but now we’re seeing evidence of the fact that setting an interactive game in the Tanner house — the main location for every single episode across all four seasons — reveals that the show introduced nothing worth interacting with.

Think about the many Simpsons games that allow you to explore 742 Evergreen Terrace and/or Springfield in general. Starting, I think, with Virtual Springfield in 1997, which wasn’t much of a game but which thrilled me when it came out just because it was dotted with so many things and characters and locations from the show. Much more recently there are the South Park games like The Stick of Truth and The Fractured But Whole which allow you to dig through characters’ homes and closets, uncovering and collecting relevant items from the show’s history. It’s fun. It’s a treat for fans. It makes the games feel that much more interesting and worth playing.

I know I’m trying to force modern sensibilities onto an old game, and that isn’t be fair. But let’s say ALF: The Video Game were made today. Somebody says to the development team, “Pack it full of references that the fans will appreciate.”

What references could there even be? What would you find in Brian’s closet? Who would you interact with outside of the Tanners? What would it be like exploring Willie’s workplace?

These things are complete blanks. I guess there are a few things you could stick in there. Maybe you could find the perfume that killed the giant cockroach, or you could find Uncle Albert’s corpse in a kiddie pool outside. But, really, after 99 episodes and a movie, ALF was so embarrassingly empty. It’s possible we didn’t get these little in-universe nods to past adventures because that’s simply not what tie-in games did in 1989, but making it in 2018 wouldn’t change a thing.

Anyway, let’s see what’s behind this door.

Oh fuck you.

This game must have been really easy to write dialogue for.

And speaking of dialogue:

Whoever wrote the manual melded two of ALF’s catchphrases together. It’s “Ha, I kill me,” and “No problem,” you dingdongs. I fucking hate the show and even I know that. “Ha! No Problem!” is meaningless. Unlike ALF’s actual catchphrases which are DEEPLY MEANINGFUL. I guess I should be grateful they didn’t stick a burp in there.

Anyway, back into the hallway, so we can check out that middle door.

It brings us to some stairs leading into a dark basement. Which is also somehow in the middle of the extra-long bedroom we were just in. There looks to be a grey cat or something running around at the foot of the stairs, but I’m guessing it’s actually a mouse or a rat.

With only two action buttons it doesn’t take long to experiment, and by that I mean accidentally solve the puzzle without trying.

Either 1 or 2 releases Lucky, I guess, and the mouse runs off. That’s it. Also, ALF isn’t animated when he climbs or descends the stairs…he just winks from one step to the other. I really am starting to think each room was coded by a different person.

I’m guessing the mouse would have killed me, or something? No idea. Now I will never know. And if knowing is half the battle, never knowing must logically be the other half, so I guess I’m doing pretty well.

Anyway, have you noticed something? This is evidently the first screen on which I need to use an inventory item…AND IT IS ONE OF THE SCREENS THAT DOES NOT DISPLAY THE INVENTORY.

Great fucking game, ass bags.

ALF warps by increments to the bottom of the stairs, where there’s nothing to do. Jumping turns on the lights, just as we remember things working in the show.

The Tanners did have a basement in ALF, but if I remember correctly we only ever heard that it was full of shit from Willie and Kate’s honeymoon. They even have their original box of condoms, still factory sealed. But we never got to see it, unless Satan is keeping up his end of the deal and actually wiping my memories of the show.

Now we not only see it but we learn that it houses the secret entrance to a cave.

Jesus fuck, Willie, fix your damn house. Are you just hoping that some C.H.U.D.s will find their way in and eat Brian?

I’m honestly assuming I need to find some more items to progress in this direction, but what the hell. ALF isn’t especially fazed by discovering the secret entrance to a cave, so I guess I shouldn’t be either.

I die literally the moment I enter the cave.

The mouse from before appears behind me before I can even move and murders me, as mice are wont to do. You remember that mouse, right? The mouse that the game made sure we scared off before getting anywhere near the cave? Well also it’s right behind you and if you don’t shag ass you’re fucked.

How god damned weak is ALF that a mouse bumping into his ankle kills him instantly?

Anyway, we see the bats we were warned about when we found the salami, and ALF automatically brandishes it over his head like a flyswatter, so I guess we have to swat mammals out of the sky with a beeflog here in this shitty game for idiots.

Pressing 2 swings the salami, which sounds like a dirty joke, and now I’m mad because I can’t actually make that dirty joke. I died less than one second after taking this screengrab because I tried to jump onto the platform and for some reason just jumped straight up, giving the mouse plenty of time to bump into my ankle again and, obviously, murder me on the spot.

When I die here I restart at the entrance of the cave, and I have to remember to immediately move left because if I don’t, I’ll be killed by the fucking mouse in a matter of about one second. I still don’t know why ALF wouldn’t jump onto the platform, so this trial-and-error isn’t really working in my favor. I can’t even see how many Malmacian genitals I have left, because in the first area that can actually kill you they decide not to show you your lives.

This time I try to jump onto the ledge again and jump directly into a bat, because ALF controls like a fucking cinder block.

Then I realize I can walk under the platform and skip the jumping altogether so I do that and…

…really?

It’s a trap. I can’t do anything. Maybe I can jump over the mouse and go back the other way, but I die when I try it and Jesus Christ, guys, I used to like video games. I really did.

Well, then. I guess that’s that. It’s only fair I answer their question honestly…

Oh, alright.

It starts me off back at the cave entrance, which is nice. It means I don’t have to do both of the things I did already.

This time I jump into the bat three times while trying to get on to the ledge. The fourth time I manage to bat a few…bats out of the way, but they move so erratically and ALF moves so stiffly that there’s really no way to time anything. You just have to keep pressing 2 again and again, hoping your swings connect.

If you’d like to experience ALF: The Video Game but can’t afford it and don’t know how to emulate, there’s a home version you can play with your family. Ready? Pick up a controller and press a button over and over again, as fast or as slowly as you like.

There. You lose.

Wasn’t that fun?

This time I don’t get the option to continue. THANKS. I guess you can only do that once, so back to the start of the game for me…

I restart. I do all the shit I already did, but with less typing angry notes to myself for this article.

I get killed by the bats four more times and have to continue again.

Don’t get me wrong, ALF was fucking terrible. But who the fuck watched it and decided the video game should be about ALF slapping bats across the face with a meatstick? Is this really something that would please even die-hard fans of the show? Who is this for? People who hate bats and sausage?

I die four more times to the bats and have to start the game over.

The hit detection is abysmal. Sometimes the salami kills the bat, and sometimes the bat kills ALF as though it collided with his actual salami. This game is fucking terrible, and I’m not sure why a mediocre puzzle adventure feels compelled to pivot on a dime to become the world’s worst platforming bat-brawler.

I die four more times to the bats and have to continue again. I learn that after you kill a bat, it flutters slowly toward the bottom of the screen. If a single molecule in ALF’s toenail connects with the dead bat, you of course die instantly.

I die four more to the bats times and have to start the game over. There is no rhythm you can get into and no way to hit the bats more effectively. You’re in a cramped space with little room to maneuver and a character that anyway controls like an old shopping cart.

Sometimes you hit a bat and it doesn’t matter. Sometimes the bat attacks from an angle that you can’t possibly hit, because ALF seems to believe weapons are to be held two feet above your head at all times. In theory you could see that a bat is coming in at an unfavorable angle and move away, but since sometimes direct salami connections don’t count and sometimes a clear swing and a miss will kill a bat, there’s no way of knowing. You may think you’re moving away from getting hit but you could just as easily be moving away from a swing that would have killed the bat. It’s a crap shoot each time.

This is a fucking nightmare.

I die four more times and continue. I die four more times after that and have to start the game over. I make it further than ever before, but it doesn’t matter because this fucking cave never ends.

I die four more times and continue. I keep dying because the screen doesn’t scroll unless ALF is nearly at the edge, which means bats can pop out of nowhere and leave me with no reaction time. ALF can’t walk while swinging his salami (for me it just sort of happens naturally) so repeatedly attacking the whole way isn’t possible. You have to stop moving to attack, and stop attacking to move. Whenever you move, there’s a 50% chance you’ll walk face-first into a bat. Whenever you attack, there’s a 50% chance it won’t matter.

I’m not bad at playing video games, guys. Aside from crying it’s the one thing I do well. I beat every fucking Robot Master stage in the entire Mega Man series without taking damage, but I can’t make it to the end of ALF’s fucking salami cave?

I die two more times.

But then…

Holy shit! The cave has an end! ALF finds…a shed, I guess? And a gold nugget. He makes a shitty joke of a type that’s entirely in keeping with his behavior in the show: he mentions something you might recognize. Maybe the actual writers did make this game.

I die literally as soon as I close that text box because I guess there was a bat hiding behind it. This might be a slight blessing, as it looks like the “correct” way out is to walk all the fucking way back to the beginning of the salami tunnel. Dying, though, puts me right back at the entrance, so I leave, and, sure enough, I seem to still have the gold nugget. I retreat back to a screen that shows my inventory, because that’s certainly the way games should work, and I see I now have $50.

Woo! Spending spree!

Except that I now have only one life and no continues.

This is sure to go well.

I finally walk left of that main hallway and end up in the Tanner living room, with their famous inward facing couches. Nothing here is interactive and the Alien Task Force guy keeps grabbing at my last remaining genital so off we go!

Leaving the house puts us right back on the road. Fine. I’m just glad it isn’t another fucking bat cave.

Nearly all of the stores have CLOSED signs on them and I can’t even work up anger over the fact that this game features ALF walking around the neighborhood and visiting shops in broad daylight.

Finally, after what seems like forever, I find a store that’s open. In a fuck you for playing this far, the game’s “art style” degrades yet again so that the store is just a menu rendered in ASCII characters.

I can buy a key, a ladder, a fish, or a costume. I can only afford two of those things and I have no clue what a fish would be used for, whereas the key, I assume, will open doors in the Tanner house. I’ll go with that.

I walk out the door and get immediately killed by a biker who was on a completely different horizontal plane from me. He doesn’t even have the courtesy to stick around and watch me ascend into Heaven.

No continues. I have to start all over again.

I get back to the caves and die four more times. I continue. I die for more times and start over.

If there were actually any chance of getting better at this segment, I might possibly not hate it so much. Instead it’s just like flipping a coin 50 times in a row, and calling yourself a winner if it lands on heads every time. It will eventually happen, but it sure as shit won’t feel satisfying.

I die four more times and continue. I die four more times and start over.

This would be easier if I used save states for sure, but I want to have the actual, intended experience of the game. Watching ALF would have been easier if I fast forwarded the whole fucking mess but then I wouldn’t have had the right to bitch that a show about a farting puppet wasn’t very good, so I think we can all agree I’m making the right choice.

I die four more times and continue. I die four more times and start over. I die four more times and continue. I die four more times and start over.

Through some kind of miracle I make it back to the shed and find the fucking gold nugget on my first life. This is good. This is very good. I have all of my lives and a continue. If I don’t beat this fucking game now, I never will.

Hey, look. The bat hiding behind the text box this time didn’t kill me, so I was able to proceed left and confirm that…the universe ends?

Either this is an invisible wall and I won’t be able to proceed that way, or it’s a pit that kills me. Knowing this game, it’s the latter, so I’ll try walking back to the entrance.

A mouse that can levitate kills me seconds later.

Fine.

I spend way too fucking long trying to figure out how to get ALF to climb up some stairs, because this game is just that well made. I eventually manage it but I couldn’t tell you how. I just pressed everything forever and screamed profanities into the void. It seemed to work okay.

On my way out to rebuy the key, I realize there was a door in the living room I didn’t try because Fingers Magoo was blocking it. Shockingly it isn’t locked, and it takes me to the Tanners’ back yard. Or side yard, since I was in the back yard already? Who knows.

Continuity props for including the gate between the Tanners’ and Ochmoneks’ property. I don’t personally remember there being a moat around the house, but I’m sure that’s correct, too.

Yes, I can read the sign, but I try getting in the water anyway, and I learn that ALF actually has to put on more clothes to go swimming. Strangely enough, he just stands on top of the water rather than splashing around in panic or something, as though the water’s surface may only be broken by swimsuits.

I learn that if I keep the Alien Task Force guy on the screen, another won’t spawn ahead of me, meaning I won’t have to step into the road and be killed by another biker. (As we all remember from the show, the Alien Task Force is biologically unable to walk on tarmacadam.)

Thus begins my extremely fun progress through this area, which consists of me taking a few steps and waiting for this guy to shuffle a little closer, honking air tits at me all the way. Then I take another few steps and JESUS CHRIST HURRY UP DO YOU WANT TO CATCH THIS ALIEN OR NOT

I learn that, for no reason whatsoever, the jump button is disabled on street scenes. Despite the fact that, y’know, there’s a fast-moving enemy in the road you might want to jump over. THANKS. Also, the inventory screen isn’t displayed, despite the fact that you might want to know how much money you have before you go shopping. THANKS TOO.

I go left to see what else there is on this street, and you seriously can’t imagine just how tedious it is to walk slowly past endless buildings with CLOSED written on the door. I take a few steps and have to wait for the background music to cycle completely before this handsy fucker even gets close to me. He’s slow as all shit but my alternative is to scroll him off the screen and have his double spawn in front of me, forcing me into the road where I CANNOT JUMP OVER THINGS THAT KILL ME FROM COMPLETELY DIFFERENT HORIZONTAL PLANES.

Fuck.

Finally I make it to a bright yellow building that also sells things.

This place carries whatever an ALF book is and a lantern, and, just like in all five-and-dimes, everything costs exactly $100.

I can’t afford this shit so off I go.

Oh please Jesus no not more shuffling no please no

Actually this time it doesn’t take very long. I reach the end of the road and learn that it wraps around; I’m back in the yard.

I take a celebratory shit on the lawn.

Anyway, off I go, into the house to unlock some doors, baby! Now THIS is action!

Brian and Lynne’s bedroom is closest, so I go there first.

The key indeed opens the door but…I can’t seem to do anything else. I can’t interact with it or go through it or anything. Fun. Can’t wait to find out I was supposed to buy the fish instead.

I go to Willie and Kate’s room and open the door on the right side of the screen. Some kind of insect was in there and it kills me without warning. It happened so fast I couldn’t take a screengrab.

I went back and it was still there. LOVELY STUFF.

It followed me into Brian and Lynn’s room and killed me again. Feels so good to be burning through these lives. I swear to fuck if I have to do that bat cave again I will shit.

I enter the room again and the bug immediately kills me because it spawns on the same side of the screen that I do.

I have to continue. This is it. FUCK.

The bug, of course, is still there, but I make it to the last door. It opens and I get the swimsuit.

So, just to be clear, there are three doors you can open. There are no clues about what is behind any of them. One does nothing, one kills you, and one gives you what you need to progress. It’s like that old story, “The Lady and the Tiger and the Door With Nothing Behind It.”

I’m joking but I’m absolutely fucking terrified I’ll die and have to do the bat cave again thanks to this “surprise, motherfucker” bullshit.

I head back out to the water and…

Oh fuck no.

Another action sequence. This one isn’t nearly as bad as the bat cave, because the enemies move and behave reliably. The cat fish GET IT swim back and forth, and the harpoon guys fire when you get near their vertical axes. Easy, right?

Well, yeah…but you can only learn how they behave though trial and error. Which is how I blow through all four of my remaining lives.

I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be doing in that fucking water. At one point I found a treasure chest, but the text box didn’t stay on screen long enough for me to read a single word of it. There are air pockets to suck on as you go down, so I guess whatever I’m looking for is all the way at the bottom.

I don’t know. And I may never know. Because to even get another shot at this, I NEED TO REDO THE BAT CAVE FUCK

Hold please.

I’m going to do some soul searching.

Okay. I’ve slept on it. I’ve even consulted the manual again to discover that three of the four “helpful hints” are specifically about the fucking bat cave, meaning the developers absolutely knew it was needlessly challenging bullshit, but rather than, y’know, fix it they decided to add a hints page.

The other bullet isn’t a hint of any kind; it just tells you that if you sit still and cry long enough ALF will knock on the screen and bitch at you. For a good laugh, scroll up and see the screengrab.

In all honesty, I’d be (more or less) okay with the game giving away its more esoteric secrets in the manual. It’s not ideal game design, but it’s not a huge problem. Here, though, the game is admitting that it’s a piece of shit.

“Can’t beat the bats? Well, they’re tough, so just keep trying.”

“Died after getting the gold nugget? Well, so did our playtesters so let’s just ignore it and move on.”

And, for the record, “Where does your mom keep the lunch meat?” is the world’s greatest insult.

So I don’t know, guys. On the one hand, I really want to play this game properly. On the other hand, the game essentially comes with a note from the developers saying “Sorry we made a heap of shit.”

I’ve decided to allow myself one save state. Just one.

I’ll replay the game until I can get to the gold nugget again on my first life. I did it once before, so I don’t feel too bad. I’ll lay down a save state there, and that’s it. That’s the only way I’ll ever finish ALF: The Video Game, so if you’d rather read my writeup of that than ALF Gets Eaten By Bats Six Thousand Times on the Same Screen, that’s what we’re going to do.

I need a different emulator to use save states, so forgive the change in image quality. I KNOW THEY WERE SO BEAUTIFUL TO LOOK AT

It actually only takes me one further death (and reload) to get the gold nugget. Praise the Lord.

I figure I’ll test out that end-of-the-universe thing I saw before.

ALF dies.

RELOAD SAVE STATE I GUESS

I try to leave the cave properly and get killed by a bat. This warps me back to the cave entrance and, yes, the manual tells you that you don’t need to get the gold nugget again, but since the inventory isn’t displayed, there’s no way for a player to actually confirm that they’ve collected it. Rock on!

There’s an Alien Task Force guy in the living room who kills me. This warps me back to the yard for some reason.

Then it’s back to

OH CHRIST NO

I can’t take it. I can’t take listening to this fucking music loop endlessly while a man with no knees hobbles toward me.

Fuck safety. I sprint down the road and somehow don’t die. I find the general store, buy the key, and open the correct closet door, solving the clever puzzle that the game provided hints about in the form of killing me a bunch of times.

Then it’s back to the fucking sea dive I guess.

I make it to that treasure chest easily enough. This section isn’t fun by any stretch of the imagination, but at least it’s an actual game. It has enemies with recognizable patterns of behavior and ways to reliably make it through.

This time when I grab the treasure chest I get to read the message.

ALF: The Video Game, I’ve been to Vegas. I know Vegas. Vegas gave me my favorite STDs. ALF: The Video Game, you’re no Vegas.

Wondering how much money this pirate treasure is worth? Too bad; the inventory doesn’t display on this screen, either. Eat my balls.

I’m assuming there’s more at the bottom, so down we go.

I get killed by a harpoon guy immediately. The next time, though, I do make it to the bottom, where I again die immediately.

“What oyster?” you may ask. Well, it’s behind the text box, and I didn’t see it either because you have to be all the way at the bottom of the screen for it to scroll, so I guess I bumped into it before it even existed and now I am dead.

On my way back down I get killed by another harpoon guy and I’m at the continue screen.

Fucking hell this game sucks.

Anyway, back to the oyster.

This time I descend on the far left side of the screen and, sure enough, I can see the oyster chomping away. Since the manual told me the pearl is a collectible item, I assume I have to time it so that I grab it while the thing’s mouth is open. Fair enough.

Actually, wait. If I didn’t get the pearl, does that mean its mouth was closed?

Then how did the fucking thing bite me?

I HATE THIS

I am now telling the computer exactly what ALF can do with the pearl.

Of course I need to swim all the way back up. But being as this is an actual game and not a mindless bat gantlet, I might actually survive the return trip.

Seriously, WAS EVERY SCREEN CODED BY A DIFFERENT PERSON?

A harpoon guy kills me.

I only now realize how odd it is that the little swimming cats are enemies and not bonus items or something. In Soviet video game, cats eat ALF.

My death warps me to the top of the water sequence, and then I leave and go back to the yard, where the status bar doesn’t display so I still can’t see what any of the shit I picked up is worth. Nice.

The grabby guy in the living room kills me because I touch the brim of his hat while trying to jump over him, but at least I can see that my deep-sea dive netted me a cool $300. That’s still not enough to buy all the shit I’ve seen for sale so I guess I’ll be hunting for more treasure somewhere else soon. Fantastic.

I go to the five and dime, because it’s closer to where the game restarts me. Selling the pearl gets me another $100, which means I can buy both items here and still have $200 left over for the general store.

Cool! I purchase the lantern and the ALF book.

As soon as I leave the shop, the ALF book opens up, I guess?

I press B1.

I press B1.

I press B1.

what

what

what no

WHAT

What the fuck is this shit?

The book didn’t even just kill me; it took ALL my lives away and reset the entire game. Was it the fucking Necronomicon?

Is this seriously the whole point of the ALF book? Just to kick little kids in the fucking balls? I honestly thought this was a cute little bonus while I was reading the text. You know…a kind of optional item that lets you read about ALF’s backstory, which would have been pretty nice in the pre-DVD days, when a lot of fans hadn’t seen the relevant (mainly early) episodes.

But then…

It really does take me back to the title screen, where ALF is making the same face I am right now.

Can you imagine if I hadn’t set that save state? If I read the fucking ALF book and had to do the fucking bats all over again just because I bought a seemingly innocuous item from the store?

Jesus Lord above. This isn’t just a bad game…this is a game actively designed to fuck you.

I know graphical adventure games, especially those made by Sierra, had a habit of killing you for doing silly things. However, they were nearly always things there were major hints you shouldn’t do. Yes, you can drink from the pool of acid, but you should be pretty well aware that’s a bad idea before the game punishes you for it. What’s more, though, those games allowed you to save your progress at any point.

Death in those games was sometimes a kind of reward, and the save-anywhere system allowed you to experiment both to figure out puzzle solutions and to do clearly stupid things just so you could see the unique death animations and read the mocking messages. It was part of the experience, and the experience was built around it. A silly death wouldn’t be funny if it happened four hours into the game with no warning and no way to restore your progress.

ALF: The Video Game isn’t being cute. This is outright malicious.

I load the save state and a bat kills me. Fine.

I buy the key and the dirt bike kid kills me. Fine.

I get the bathing suit and the pirate treasure, then I’m killed by a water snake, a cat fish, and a harpoon guy. Fine. I continue.

I’m killed by two harpoon guys. I get the pearl and I’m killed by one harpoon guy. On the way to the five and dime I’m killed by the dirt bike kid.

Fuck this game.

You know what, though? I’ve decided. The game betrayed my trust as a player. The ALF book has proven that this game doesn’t care if I only fail through fault of my own, so I’m leveling the playing field. I’m going to set down another save state before that water sequence, and after if it goes well.

I’m killed by a bat leaving the cave, and I’m convinced it’s impossible to escape alive. Then I’m killed by the dirt bike kid.

I get back to the treasure and the pearl, but due to having to time the oyster’s biting, I end up reaching for it as soon as an impossible-to-see harpoon guy fires down from off-screen.

It kills me. Whatever. At least I’m out of the water part.

I go to the general store first this time and sell the pearl. I also try to sell the swimsuit and the game reveals that it’s as sick of me as I am of it.

I buy the ladder, because it’s the only thing here that seems useful. Presumably it will somehow behead me the moment I walk out of the store, or format my computer.

I go back to the five and dime for the lantern. I have exactly $100 left over. Hey, that’s exactly the price of the ALF book! So anyone who just buys it because they have that precise amount of money left over and might as well pick up another item will get a real kick in the throat.

ALF: The Video Game, fuck you on behalf of all of those kids.

I make it back to the house without incident. Surely I need to be nearing the end of this fucking thing.

I thought for sure the ladder would help me get to the spaceship, but I can’t figure out any way to use it. I resorted to checking that walkthrough and discovered I actually have to go through the fucking bat cave again.

Only, this time, further.

MOTHERF

Save state.

I’m killed by bats twice. Reload state both times. I make it back to that little shed thing, only there’s what I assume is that ladder I bought stretched over a gap. Not sure why, since I didn’t need it to reach the shed the first time, but whatever. Save state…

Killed by a mouse and then a bat. Reload both times.

Now, instead of that black void that killed me before — remember when ALF fell in the hole? — the screen just keeps going.

THERE WAS NO HOLE YOU FUCKS

Jesus Christ does this bat cave ever end? I have slapped more bats out of the sky with a salami stick than any human being should ever have to.

I turn down the music. I can’t stand it anymore. It’s genuinely giving me a headache. It’s so fucking shrill. To hell with experiencing this game as intended. I’ll end up in a fucking institution.

I make it to the end, finally, and…

I find the same fucking shed with a different message.

Fuck you, game.

And what the shit is Melmacian scooter fuel doing in a second shed at the end of a long-ass secret bat cave underneath the Tanner house? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE.

Surely the game wants me to walk all the way back out of this cave. Surely this game can pork itself sideways.

A bat kills me and I’m out of the cave. The phrase “the sweet release of death” has never made so much sense to me.

Anyway, to the scooter I fuckin’ guess. I save state there, because there’s no way in shit I’m trusting that the game won’t pull some kind of massive bullshit.

I rose into the air and died for no reason that I could comprehend before I could even get a screenshot.

The game pulled some kind of massive bullshit.

Loading state…

I try again and what fresh hell is this

Little Fisher-Price airplanes fly by. At least I assume that’s what they are, because otherwise ALF is the fucking length of a jetliner.

It’s not difficult at all to avoid them. On my first try I make it to my goal, a space station, which is represented in proud ALF: The Video Game tradition by a menu composed of ASCII characters.

I guess I’ll buy the space suit.

When I leave I get a little scene with ALF flying away from the space station, so enjoy it. It was on screen for all of eight frames.

Then I guess I’m flying again, only now there are green comets and some kind of little Sputnik thing to avoid. Sputnik kills me, twice. This is much harder than the airplane sequence was.

I continue.

Sputnik kills me four more times. Game over.

This part pretty much sucks. You can move left and right easily enough, but pressing 1 causes you to ascend slowly and releasing it causes equally slow descent, making it difficult to avoid the fast-moving Sputnik.

There’s no way of knowing where it will appear, and it moves horizontally, your slow vertical movement making it sometimes impossible to get out of its way fast enough. If you move left or right while ascending or descending you can buy yourself a bit of extra time to get out of the way, but that can easily get you hit by the otherwise trivial comets, which move vertically.

Each time you die, you start back at the space station. The music is different here but even more shrill.

I reload the state. I’m killed by a comet and then by Sputnik. I continue.

I’m killed by Sputnik. I nearly make it to the moon, presumably my goal, but I’m killed by Sputnik.

I’m killed by Sputnik twice more and load the state.

I’m killed twice more by Sputnik. I fail to continue because the cursor defaults to NO, perhaps as an act of mercy. Load the state.

Sputnik kills me and a comet kills me. Continue. Sputnik kills me three times, a comet kills me once. Load state. Comet kills me. Sputnik kills me.

Continue. I have never seen the moon again.

Sputnik kills me four times. Load state. Sputnik kills me twice. Continue.

I finally make it back to the moon. The screen stops scrolling and I have no idea where to go. Sputnik starts moving diagonally. I fucking scream.

Finally I manage to do whatever the fuck I had to do. I guess I needed to position the scooter just beneath, but not in, the moon’s open mouth. Because inside the mouth, I assume, is a spaceship repair kit.

The moon has a fucking tongue, people.

ALF flies away and the game ends.

Well, at the very least, I can say that this game has definitely earned the right to bear the name ALF.

Just like in “Consider Me Gone,” Skip and Rhonda drive the plot and are neither seen nor heard. In the show, the fact that we didn’t see them at least was understandable; the puppets might not have existed anymore, or they could have gotten damaged since the first and only time we’d seen them in season one.

But here? Where we could mock up a quick pixel doodle of them and a text window that says CONGLATURATION. YOU’VE HAVE LONCHED THE SPACES SHIP! WELCOME HOME AL!!! it’s simply inexcusable.

And that’s it. That’s literally the whole ending. You’ve missed nothing. I’ll never get my life back.

Just to make sure nobody ever asks me to play this again, I started the game over and bought the two items I didn’t before, to see what they do. It’s much less frustrating this time because the game gradually taught me the correct way to play it which means I was able to improve at a reliable rate whoops actually it’s because I just keep using save states after every fucking bat.

I redo all the shit I wish I never had to do in the first place until I buy the key and return to Willie’s closet. This time I know which door houses the swimsuit, so I don’t have to guess, except when I open that door, the insect comes out and kills me.

This time, the swimsuit is in Brian and Lynne’s closet. So…Jesus Christ? It’s bad enough there are no in-game clues as to which door will kill you and which will help you advance, but every time you play the game it’s different, so there’s no way to just remember the solution and avoid this Melmacian Roulette bullshit.

When I dove, though, I found a cool glitch where three enemies embedded themselves in each other and couldn’t move.

That’s the most fun I’ve had with this game.

So okay, after the dive I have all the money I need to buy the items I haven’t tried yet.

The fish seems to do nothing. I bought it, left with it, went swimming with it, and nothing happened. Here’s a screengrab proving it’s in my inventory; that little icon is all you get for your money, so far as I can tell.

The instruction manual has this to say about the fish: “What’s the mystery surrounding this scaly object? None, really…but it does make the game interesting!” Yes, I am so interested in the game siphoning $20 out of my coffers for a dummy item.**

I also purchased the costume, which you’ll remember is supposed to make the Alien Task Force agents overlook you.

And, surprisingly, it works! It also creeps the shit out of me to look at but it works!

Of course, this being ALF: The Video Game, there are a few catches.

1) It stops the Alien Task Force agents from spawning at all, so it’s kind of disappointing that we don’t get to see them grabbing at a clown’s anus.

2) It replaces the Alien Task Force agents with dogs, as you’ll see in the screengrab. They run far more quickly than the shamblin’ squeezers, which actually makes you far more likely to get hit. If they catch you, the costume disappears and you’re right back where you were, with the agents reappearing and you in grave danger. It’s useless.

3) The costume disappears when you’re in the house, despite the fact that the place is swarming with Alien Task Force agents and the item would be very useful here, as the rooms are cramped and you can’t move vertically to evade them like you can on the road.

This means the costume functions on a whopping one screen in the game, and it makes that screen harder.

SO GLAD I WENT BACK FOR THAT

So, is ALF: The Video Game any good?

Fuck off no.

Nothing about it is good. The controls are stiff, the animations are either hilariously simple or non-existent, the puzzles are often guessing games, the action sequences are unplayable half the time and too easy the rest, it looks like crap, it sounds like crap, it kills you for curiosity, despite the fact that random guessing is the only way to solve anything in this fucking game, and my favorite thing about it is that it took another several years off my miserable life.

I’ll admit, though, I like the premise. A lot could have been done with this. In another time and place, I can absolutely imagine a game like this working. You’re a beloved little alien wandering around, collecting the items necessary to leave Earth in your spaceship, avoiding government agents who are trying to take you away. That’s a can’t-miss premise, isn’t it?

Isn’t it?

Oh

Tune in next year when I review the fuckin’ paper plates.

DEATH TOLL:
Bat – 68
Sputnik – 24
Harpoon Guy – 9
Mouse – 5
Comet – 4
Dirt Bike Kid – 4
Insect in Willie’s Closet – 3
Alien Task Force – 2
Water Snake – 1
The Bottom of a Screen – 1
Cat Fish – 1
Oyster – 1
A Deep Hole – 1

* This is unintentionally, I’m sure, open to interpretation. ALF has no halo, for instance, and his wings look far more like those of a demon’s than of an angel’s. But he does, in fact, ascend Heavenward as opposed to descend Hellward. And wait, is ALF going to Earth Heaven, with God? Not Memlacian Heaven, with Barry? God didn’t make this piece of shit; what does He want with him?

** If anyone out there has found a use for the fish, please contact me. I’d like to fly to your house and punch you in the balls.

ALF Reviews: “ALF Loves a Mystery”

Here I go, here I go, here I go again. Girls, what’s my weakness?

ALF!

Okay then.

One year ago, almost to the day, I finished reviewing ALF, and I solemnly swore upon the life of my mother that I’d never return to it, for any reason.

But, well…sometime during the series, someone asked me to review “ALF Loves a Mystery,” a one-off special that aired between seasons one and two of the sitcom. I agreed…and then never actually did it. I don’t remember who it was, but hopefully they’ll see this and realize that I’m not a giant dick who breaks his promises. I’m a slightly smaller dick who ignores his promises for several years and then fulfills them when you no longer care.

So, yeah, I’m back to take care of some unfinished business. (Sorry, ma!)

“ALF Loves a Mystery” is one of those Saturday morning preview shows. You probably remember them. That’s when Carl and Urkel would sit on the couch and show clips of the new season of Muppet Babies. (Casey recently reviewed one of these starring the most perfect strangers imaginable.) I remember enjoying these very much, and while I wouldn’t have much interest in watching it if the concept were brought back today — with Jimmy and Chuck McGill getting unnaturally enthusiastic about the new Teen Titans spinoff or something — back then it was great.

These things served as a really great sampler of that year’s new batch of Saturday morning cartoons, and, man, I sure as hell loved Saturday morning cartoons. I have vivid memories of waking up as early as I could and plopping myself in front of the TV to watch whatever happened to be on. In a way, I almost didn’t care what the shows were; I just loved cartoons. They were a fun and colorful escape, as I’ve discussed before, which is probably why I gravitated toward ones that were very fun and colorful, as opposed to ones that felt more…serious, like Transformers or G.I. Joe.

I didn’t care about that stuff. I liked talking animals and silly adventures. Sue me.

I specifically remember watching one of these preview specials and catching my first-ever glimpse of Darkwing Duck. That was the first time I was actually sold on a specific show. Seeing the extra-long clips of Darkwing Duck — which ABC was clearly, correctly banking on to be a hit — made me actively want to watch it. It looked like a really fantastic evolution of the Duck Tales formula, and, as I recall, it was an experiment that worked extremely well. It became one of my favorite shows, and while I haven’t seen it at all as an adult and can’t exactly vouch that it holds up, I still look back on it with fondness.

While I might have stumbled upon the show at some point on my own, I credit the ABC Saturday morning preview special with introducing it to me, giving me an early taste of something I’d unquestionably love, and exciting me enough that I’d jump in with the very first episode.

So, without further ado, let’s begin my reviews of Darkwing Duck.

Oh, wait. This shit.

You guys sure you don’t want to talk about Darkwing Duck instead? It was pretty funny. It was sort of a Batman parody, and…

Okay, okay, fine.

“ALF Loves a Mystery” was NBC’s 1987 Saturday morning preview special. You can follow along with this YouTube video if you enjoy the works of Paul Fusco and/or VHS artifacting.

Just kidding. Nobody enjoys the works of Paul Fusco.

See, normally — if memory serves — these preview specials would have characters from popular live-action shows sitting around, watching clips of upcoming cartoons, and delivering basic scheduling information about them. It was framing material, basically, and while there might be a vague sketch of a plot or a running joke, it was a pretty low-effort affair.

They were fun to watch, don’t get me wrong. But if you loved Full House you wouldn’t see its Saturday morning preview special as an extra episode or anything. It would just be Joey and one of the kids dicking briefly around on a sofa between clips of Denver, The Last Dinosaur.

This special is a bit different. It’s a mystery, after all. And…I love a mystery! Sure, I hate the living fuck out of ALF, but this seems to have some narrative effort invested in it, by preview special standards.

Maybe I’ll actually like this!

…oh for the love of fuck. Let me be optimistic for FIVE SECONDS PLEASE?

Yeah, see…

Typically in these specials, you don’t get the full cast of whatever show is providing the framing material. You’ll get two characters, possibly three, in an effort to produce these things quickly and inexpensively.

That’s fair. There’s no need to bring the whole extended family along if what you’re filming amounts to around five minutes’ worth of bumpers.

So, no, I didn’t expect to see the entire cast of ALF. What’s more, I never, ever want to see the entire cast of ALF again for any reason.

But if ALF was to be paired with just one family member from that show…why in the name of shit did it have to be Brian?

I mean, holy Christ. Whose kid did I dismember in a previous life that I need to sit through a fucking ALF-and-Brian special? I’d rather ALF was paired with a dishmop.

Y’know, now that I think about it — and now that I’ve tapped into my vast reserves of immense hatred — I don’t think “ALF Loves a Mystery” is attempting unique narrative* for the sake of being interesting or artistic or anything else. I think it’s because that’s one more way for Paul Fusco to kick his fucking colleagues out of the picture.

When ALF got a cartoon show, it was a prequel so he wouldn’t have to share the spotlight with the Tanners. When ALF got a clipshow, they pretended he was hosting The Tonight Show so he wouldn’t have to share the spotlight with the Tanners. When ALF got a movie to wrap up the series, they introduced new characters so he wouldn’t have to share the spotlight with the Tanners. When ALF hosted a cartoon preview show…wait, sorry, I lost my train of thought. I was going somewhere with this, though, I promise.

The special just dumps you right into things. There’s no setup or introductory scene, which is a bit odd, as you’d think they’d want to set the stage a little. Folks familiar with ALF might like to know that this isn’t going to be anything like a standard episode, but fuck that. We just get a title card, and then a list of who we’ll see over this course of this half hour.

And…it’s a lot of people, actually. The choice not to feature the other regulars can’t have been a financial one, as they sure splurged on a lot of other folks to show up and hawk cartoons.

The actors are all introduced with a credit. For instance, the narrator says, “From Our House, Shannen Doherty.” Which is weird because I’m sure even people who watched Our House didn’t give a flying shit about Our House. But I point this out because only one actor is introduced without a credit: Mary Wickes.

So I looked her up and sure enough, she was in loads of stuff. Not all of it was good, of course, but the lady worked steadily from 1934 until she passed away in 1995 (when she was voicing the grandmother on Life With Louie). She has an impressive resume that includes appearances on M*A*S*H, Dennis the Menace, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents among other big titles. But for some reason they don’t name one single thing she’s been on. Gotta make sure we mention fuckin’ Our House, though.

It’s weird. It’s like they make a big stink about all these nobodies, but then when they get to someone with an actual pedigree, they just say, “Here’s some old lady.”

Fuckin’ “ALF Loves a Mystery.”

Anyway, here’s the full cast to pad out my wordcount. It doubles as a who’s-who of bullshit no human being has thought about since.

– ALF
– Shannen Doherty (Our House)
– Stephen Furst (St. Elsewhere)
– Benji Gregory (technically ALF)
– Jackée (227)
– Danny Ponce (Valerie’s Family)
– Douglas Seale (Rags to Riches)
– Betty White (The Golden Girls…okay, this one checks out)
– Mary Wickes (nothing; some old hag)
– Heidi Ziegler (Rags to Riches)

But God forbid we toss any other ALF actors a paycheck.

Finally this shit starts. It’s ALF sitting behind a desk, talking on the phone to his agent Sid. Just what kids were hoping to see when they tuned in to watch a puppet talk about cartoons: an extended contract negotiation.

ALF pitches Sid his idea for a new cartoon show. Which, obviously, is about him, because neither ALF nor Fusco can conceive of any project that isn’t about him. Our alien hero says kids will love seeing what ALF’s life was like back on Melmac, “before it went kablooey!”

…killing every single one of the new characters we’ll meet in this hilarious new treat for the kiddies.

It’s always been really weird to me that ALF: The Animated Series was populated almost entirely by characters who were killed in the massive nuclear destruction of their planet, but I just kind of figured the show was hoping we’d be too dumb to notice. You know…the fact that at the time we’re watching it, everyone’s already dead…that’s the sort of thing only some asshole who writes thousands of words every time ALF rips a fart would even notice.

But here, now, literally as the cartoon is being introduced to the world, ALF verbally confirms to the children of America that nobody they’ll meet in this new show is breathing anymore.

Fucking hell, ALF.

What’s more, he’s actually pitching Sid his memoirs. I know I said it was a cartoon, but right after he promises his memoirs will “sell a million,” he says, “Yeah, my new Saturday morning series!” It’s confusing that “memoirs” and “cartoon” are meant to mean the same thing.

I think all they’re trying to do is reinforce the idea that whatever shit happens in ALF: The Animated Series is canon. Fine. But these words mean different things. It would be like listening to a friend of yours describe the dinner he ate last night, but every few sentences or so he refers to it as a movie. These things are incompatible. Maybe the mystery is what the fuck ALF is talking about.

ALF hangs up on Sid, who we hear as some annoying, incomprehensible chipmunk gibberish. ALF sighs and says, “Agents!” I guess he’s mad because Sid had the audacity to ask how the book ALF is writing is somehow also the weekly cartoon that’s debuting in a few weeks.

Muddying the issue further, ALF starts tapping away on a computer keyboard, saying, “Great memoirs always start with the family life.” The implication is that he’s writing chapter one, page one, but then the computer screen displays a scene from his cartoon. So…is he writing or animating?

Fuck this show.

…wait. I guess I can’t say that anymore. :(

My favorite part is that we can see the computer monitor clearly as ALF is typing, and not one fucking word appears on the screen. Plug in your keyboard, dicksack!

ALF introduces us one by one to his family: his mother Flo (dead), his father Bob (dead), his sister Augie (dead), his brother Curtis (dead), and his pet Neep (dead).

There’s also a scene in which he’s riding in a biplane with Rhonda, as part of some Orbit Guard maneuvers, and he accidentally ejects her. What a shame ALF continuity didn’t allow her to die as well.

So…Rhonda was in the Orbit Guard? The sitcom never alluded to that. In fact, the implication was pretty clearly that she wasn’t. Oh, who fucking knows.

Benji Gregory comes in, and the lack of a studio audience is by no means the reason he doesn’t get a round of applause.

He finds ALF as he always finds him: masturbating to footage of himself. The kid sees him writing and literally pleads with ALF to put him in a story, because he knows full well it’ll never happen on the show proper.

It’s kind of weird. We only saw about twenty seconds of ALF: The Animated Series, and it wasn’t even a clip. It was just quick flashes of footage with ALF — our non-animated ALF — narrating what we were looking at. I’m assuming full clips weren’t ready yet, but the whole reason anyone is watching this shit is to see the upcoming cartoons, so cutting away from one so quickly just so we can spend time with television’s least charismatic child actor is puzzling.

And, yeah, it’s Benji Gregory, not Brian Tanner. You can tell because the two have very different character traits: one is named Benji Gregory, and the other is named Brian Tanner.

Oddly, though, Benji emotes in this special like he never, ever did on ALF. He puts emphasis and feeling into his lines, and actually sounds excitable. I mean, he’s still a terrible actor. If anything, he’s worse by virtue of the fact that he’s clearly trying to act, while on ALF I think he was just trying to hold his breath until the show ended. But it’s a bit odd that the “real Benji” we’ll never see again gets so much effort put into his portrayal. The kid’s playing himself! Shouldn’t that take less effort?

Also, sorry, but fucking hell, the “real” set ALF is in looks like it was stolen from a middle school production of Flowers in the Attic. It looks worse than the sitcom that’s implied to be a work of fiction.

Honestly, the levels of reality here are a bit strange. ALF at his keyboard is real and the mystery he writes in a bit is fake. Fine. That’s typically how the relationship between writers and their works functions. But the sitcom is a fictional production starring actors, while the cartoon he’s animating is real?

Does this rewrite ALF’s actual history? Instead of crashing on Earth and hiding out with a family in the suburbs, he landed and got contracted to write a bunch of shitty shows starring himself? Man, anything to erase Max Wright from ALF’s history, I guess.

Benji loses interest in anything that’s happening and starts looking around, wondering if there’s a reason he was born. ALF loves a misery.

Anyway, yeah, Benji begs to be part of a cool new ALF production, because God knows the old one wasn’t cutting it. ALF says, “What about a mystery? I love a mystery!” Which gives us our title, of course, and I find that interesting for two reasons.

First, Benji asked to be put in a story, so of course ALF just pulls out of his ass the kind of story he’d like to see, and not the kind of story Benji would like to be in. Does Benji love a mystery? If not, go buy your own computer, kid.

The second reason is that the title “ALF Loves a Mystery” is weirdly passive. Why doesn’t ALF solve a mystery? I mean, he might as well. You have the fucking puppet and a slew of guest stars.

I know…I’m aware that I always complained about ALF being made the most important part of every story on the dumbass TV show, but at the same time, ALF himself is the draw here. There’s a reason he’s providing the framing material, and that’s that kids love him. Dangling ALF in front of their faces is a way to get them to watch these cartoon clips…and then later watch the cartoons. It’s a solid impulse.

So why isn’t ALF participating? It’s the difference between a special called “ALF Wins the Indy 500” and one called “ALF Enjoys Reading the Results of the Indy 500 a Couple of Weeks Later.”

Anyway ALF types “there’s saxophone music or some shit I don’t know I just love a mystery I don’t write them” and a saxophone stars playing somewhere.

ALF complains to the child that he’s secretly alone with in the attic that the music isn’t “sexy” enough, and, you know, after 99 episodes and a movie, I’m not even surprised enough to bitch about that. ALF types something on the keyboard (presumably “get sexy for the boy”) and the saxophone music changes.

There’s a decent — if nonsensical — effect when a skyline scrolls into view through the windows. Is ALF on an airship? Whooooooo the fuuuuuuuck caaaaaaaares. We see two huge neon signs reading SMURFS and ALF. Which strip club would you pick?

Also, at this point, Benji appears to have decided that the answer to his question is “no.”

Benji asks what the fuck is going on, since the one thing he asked was to be in a story and ALF ignored him entirely to write instead a description of a neon SMURFS sign that was so vivid, the object materialized before them.

ALF begrudgingly agrees to let the kid be in his own story after all. Man, I’d love to read this as some kind of very obscure meta joke about how the episodes of ALF that seemed to be about Brian hardly contained his talentless ass. “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”…I think the only one of his own stories he actually got to be in was “It Isn’t Easy…Bein’ Green,” which eerily foreshadowed his role on the show overall by having him play a vegetable.

ALF says Benji can be a detective named “Kid Cameron.” And a few decades later he can squander any fondness he earned from the role by becoming an obnoxious creationist. Benji complains that he doesn’t know anything about being a private eye, and ALF tells him to shut his ass. “Remember, I’m writing the story.” Which is the biggest fuck-you a puppet can deliver to a child actor in a special about cartoons.

Speaking of the story you’re writing, ALF, weren’t you working on your memoirs/animated series a few minutes ago, which is the whole thing we tuned in to see? Nah, that must just be my memory playing tricks on me.

ALF explains that in his mystery, he’ll embed clips of Saturday morning shows, and each time you see one, “expect a clue to follow.” Which is an oddly prescient sentiment; I remember reading a mystery by Sue Grafton a few years back, and being really impressed by the twenty-page recreation of scenes from The Snorks.

Benji realizes this story is becoming even less about him by the second and attempts to wish ALF into the cornfield.

ALF complains that Benji isn’t wearing the right costume for a story like this, which, y’know, is probably his own fault as the guy with the magical fucking typewriter.

He types some description into the computer he is emphatically not using to show clips of upcoming Saturday morning cartoons, and Benji gets a trenchcoat and fedora. The kid asks, “What’s happening to me?” because he’s not used to ALF trying to put clothes on him.

Benji then fades away into nothingness, fulfilling the dreams of any writer who worked during the four full seasons of ALF.

Then ALF shows a clip of ANYTHING BUT A SATURDAY MORNING CARTOON I GUESS.

It’s a bunch of stock footage of city streets that I’m certain looked fucking terrible in 1987, even before being copied to VHS, compressed as a digital file, and then shit onto YouTube. And I call bullshit, by the way. Where the fuck is my giant neon SMURFS sign? Why did ALF bother writing about it if it’s not even there when the story starts? IT IS ALMOST LIKE ALF AND CONSISTENT WRITING DO NOT GO TOGETHER.

I do like the detail of including a sign for REED’S HATEFUL SCREEDS in the lower left. That was a great meta joke that wouldn’t pay off for twenty years.

Does anyone recognize these streets, by the way? I mean, I doubt it, but since you can make out a few of the signs, maybe someone does.

We then cut from actual footage of an actual city street in actual motion to what is clearly a shitty still image of a painting.

…why the jarring shift in presentation? Could they not find stock footage of an old house? I can name two dozen horror films that would have already been in the public domain by that point. Why not use some of that shit? Or why not skip the city streets and open here instead?

Ugh, whatever. At least “painting” is incrementally closer to “Saturday morning cartoon” and I’ll take what I can get at this point.

Actually, you know what? Fuck this. I really don’t get it.

Can you imagine being a kid who tuned in to see cartoons and what you get is ALF’s catatonic sidekick starring in a one-off detective story? That’s a pretty monumental bait and switch. It would be like tuning into that theoretical Full House version because you want to be the first kid on your block to catch a glimpse of Camp Candy, but the overwhelming bulk of the special is Bob Saget, as himself, explaining how to make egg jubilee.

Benji beams into the scene and stands around doing nothing. He shouts, “What do I do now?” because ALF still hasn’t written one damned fucking thing about the central character of this mystery, preferring instead to describe irrelevant city streets. Anything to avoid having to write about this kid, huh, ALF? Trust me, I wish I had that luxury.

Also, the fact that Benji shouts this upward makes it look like he’s yelling at God about his lot in life, so “ALF Loves a Mystery” has given me one thing I can enjoy.

Benji rings the doorbell, and it sounds like that trash barge sound you’d hear in the Beetlejuice cartoon when he took off his socks or something. I guess this qualifies as a joke. ALF loves an irrelevant sound effect.

Some old butler shows up and yells at Benji for no reason, then lets him in. The parlor is full of other characters we don’t and won’t ever care about. For instance, our hero meets Frank and Joe Hardy…only — ho ho ho! — it’s actually Frank and Jo Harty! So it’s not the Hardy Boys at all! It’s a Harty Boy and his Harty Sister!

Man, this is so much better than watching cartoons!

Then the sexy saxophone music plays as Encyclopedia Benjo catches a glimpse of Jackée from 227. He pops the same boner he popped when he read the script for this special and saw he had lines.

I’ll give this credit for being a taboo pairing on multiple levels. Black/white, adult/underage, functional/mentally disabled. But does anyone find it odd that ALF is actively writing this? Like, this isn’t just some collection of actors who were free this afternoon. ALF, at a computer keyboard, is writing fan-fiction about a little boy he knows getting busy with a sexy black lady. ALF loves an interracial canoodle.

We also meet the other folks in the room, who are detectives as well. None of them are worth mentioning, but Stephen Furst starts talking in a high-pitched squeak before he remembers he’s supposed to be gruff and imposing. Then he cracks his knuckles and hurts himself. It’s a mildly amusing flourish, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Furst came up with that himself. He was Flounder in Animal House, so he definitely has comedy cred. Also, looking him up I see he died just last month at age 63. I had no idea. Congratulations on being memorialized on this blog with your appearance in “ALF Loves a Mystery.”

Jackée from 227 makes some speech about how she’s collected a bunch of great sleuths together in this room because there’s a fortune hidden somewhere in the house, and she can’t find it. Whichever sleuth finds it gets to split it with her fifty-fifty. She makes some crack with the butler about how they’ll all be dead later so she won’t actually have to share it, and the two of them laugh while all the sleuths just fucking sit there like idiots.

Yeah, great sleuths. Someone just openly announced your murder and you quietly walk right into their trap. For a guy who loves a mystery, ALF sure doesn’t know anything about detectives.

Then we…

Oh fucking come on. We made it all the way to the first commercial break with no actual clips of cartoons?

That brief scatter of bits from ALF: The Animated Series doesn’t count, as nothing happened and it wasn’t even cohesive. It was just some stitched-together shit that the puppet talked over. It didn’t give any indication of what the show was…it was just fleeting evidence that it exists and that Paul Fusco didn’t take the network’s money and flee the country.

The YouTube version has the original commercials intact, and I’d encourage you to go watch those if it didn’t mean you might accidentally see some of “ALF Loves a Mystery.”

It’s cool to see them and I’d wax nostalgic about them but I’m already 4,000 words deep and we haven’t even gotten to the cartoons yet so you’ll forgive me for not sharing my witty observations about the Cherry 7-Up song.

After the break, Jo Harty can’t believe Benji’s been on television for a full year and still can’t deliver a line to save his life.

It’s a weird scene. These three walk into a room and find an old organ playing by itself…but it doesn’t really register, because the organ music just sounds like part of the soundtrack, and we don’t get a closeup of the keys moving of their own accord or anything. If a character didn’t overtly point out that the music was diagetic, I never would have realized anything was amiss. ALF loves a botched setup.

Also, hey, IMDB has Frank and Jo’s last name as Hardy, despite the fact that Jo spells it (and the joke) out in the previous scene. Someone should go update that.

Benji walks over to the organ to investigate, and finds a book of sheet music with Alvin and The Chipmunks on the cover. Which…I mean…like…the organ could have been playing the Alvin and The Chipmunks theme, then. That would have been cute. But instead it’s just this boring, bland noodling that feels like establishing music. ALF loves a missed opportunity.

I was never a big fan of Alvin and The Chipmunks, but I know I’ve seen a huge amount of episodes. If I remember correctly, it aired at some point before The Disney Afternoon, or Garfield and Friends, or something else I actively enjoyed watching. I couldn’t tell you about a single damned episode of Alvin and The Chipmunks, but I was stuck watching it to get to whatever it is I actually wanted to see.

Speaking of which, can I just say that Garfield and Friends was awesome? Because it was. I know it’s cool to hate on the Garfield comics, and that’s fine…I won’t stop you…but Garfield and Friends was legitimately good for what it was, and it had an absolutely perfect voice cast. Don’t tar the cartoon with the same brush.

Anyway, back to something that’s actually shit: Benji Gregory. Sherlock Homeschooled opens the book of sheet music, and we see actual clips of an actual cartoon thank Christ.

It’s like twenty seconds long again. Yay.

At least it’s a self-contained, cohesive clip this time. Not that it’s interesting in any way…it’s just some performance footage of The Chipmunks playing “High Tech World.” A quick Google search shows that this is from an episode called “Back to Dave’s Future” from season five. Pretty cool that Alvin and The Chipmunks is playing second fiddle to ALF, when they’ve already outlasted the entire length of his show.

“High Tech World” is an original, if you’re interested. Often The Chipmunks would perform covers of real songs — probably because it’s easier to speed up existing audio than to write a new song on a weekly basis — but this one was exclusive to the episode. The audio is available here, and you’ll see it doesn’t have a proper ending, which was probably pretty common for this show.

The song isn’t terrible, but it’s just a snatch of it and that’s all we get. No plot, no sense of what the story will be, and since Alvin and The Chipmunks play music in every fucking episode, no indication of why we should tune in for the fifth season at all.

Then we cut back to Benji and The Hartys laughing at the clip, even though it contained exactly zero jokes, sight gags, or lines of dialogue. ALF loves an incongruity.

ALSO WHY WASN’T THE ORGAN PLAYING “HIGH TECH WORLD” IF THAT’S THE SONG THE KIDS ACTUALLY HEARD WHEN THEY OPENED THE SHEET MUSIC MY GOD

Anyway, we’re almost ten minutes into this fucking shit and all the kids tuning in have been treated to a whopping forty seconds of cartoon previews. Half of that went to a show that they’ve already been watching for four years. What a fantastic preview special!

The disembodied (or, technically, off-camera) voice of Alvin tells the kids to look under a blue dog for their first clue. But ALF said that whenever Benji sees a cartoon, a clue will follow…so why isn’t Alvin giving a clue? He’s giving a clue where to find the clue (which, in turn, means that ALF provided a clue where to find a clue where to find a clue), but fuck that. Give me something of substance, Alvin you fuck.

Frank Harty does all the work of figuring out where to go, because if they gave these lines to Benji Gregory they’d be stuck on set all night as he stumbled through them.

Then again, Frank doesn’t do much better. He identifies the dog as something that sounds like “Beauford the Blue Dog,” and I couldn’t find jack shit about that. It took me a lot of Googling (and luck, as I only found him through a stuffed animal that looked vaguely like what I see here) to discover that this is Foofur.

Who the fuck is Foofur? Some dog from a shitty Hanna-Barbera show that lasted all of two seasons. I like to think that it was doomed by virtue of appearing here, just so I can hold ALF responsible for killing a dog.

This clip is even shorter than the other ones, and it’s more like what we saw from ALF: The Animated Series than what we saw from Alvin and The Chipmunks. Foofur — voiced by the great Frank Welker — just mentions the names of the other characters, I guess, and shows them in silly costumes, then tells kids to tune in.

How exciting. I can’t wait to watch this show I never heard of now that I’ve seen these characters I still don’t know in outfits they don’t normally wear anyway.

While the kids watch this clip, Detective Flounder sneaks up on them, and the implication is clearly that he’s being an asshole, because instead of doing any detective work himself, he’s just following some kids around.

But isn’t that what Benji’s doing, too? He ain’t done squat. He’s just shuffling around behind the Hartys, wishing Jackée from 227 would hurry up and kill him already.

The kids once again laugh at a clip of a cartoon without any jokes in it, but they still have no idea where the treasure is. Benji miraculously remembers that Alvin told them to look beneath the blue dog, rather than at the blue dog, which causes complete shutdown of the central nervous system.

Hey, out of curiosity, has anybody created a detective dog character named Sam Spayed? If not, forget my IMDB request and get on that instead.

The kids find a key attached to a poem about Fraggle Rock so bad even I won’t subject you to it. Then they leave and the painting of Foofur falls on Detective Flounder.

This is actually a pretty major loss since I guarantee you that was the only painting of Foofur that’s ever existed.

Speaking of which, is Jackée from 227 really such a big fan of fucking Foofur that she has a painting of him hanging in her hallway? How bizarre. Alvin and The Chipmunks sheet music is at least mildly believable, but I absolutely refuse to accept that anyone, anywhere, at any point in history, hung a painting of Foofur in their house.

And then…

Oh, yeah! ALF is in this. I forgot.

Honestly, I have to admit I’m surprised Fusco allowed ALF to be absent for so much of this special. Every so often he narrates a line, but it’s not as frequent as you’d expect. Maybe that’s why Benji Gregory was tapped for this; since ALF couldn’t be in every scene, Fusco wanted to make sure he chose the one actor on Earth that couldn’t upstage him.

It’s really a shame. I’d much prefer a half hour of Max Wright stammering his way through a hospital drama. Maybe he could cut open his patients and find the cartoon clips in there. Or maybe he’d just suck on a crack pipe and hallucinate an upcoming episode of My Pet Monster.

A running joke here is that Jackée from 227 is the only character who can hear ALF’s narration, so there’s a bit where they talk back and forth directly. And by “a bit” I mean they talk back and forth directly. There aren’t any jokes. As much as you can do with the concept of a fictional character speaking to her creator, this just boils down to the creator introducing himself and the character saying, “ok cool.”

Then we’re back to the mystery ALF loves so much more than cartoons. I’m deeply amused by the fact that, once again, Benji’s been reduced to standing quietly in the background of stories that are ostensibly about him.

I’m not complaining. The Hartys — Danny Ponce and Heidi Ziegler — suck fat dick, but they’re far better performers. Ziegler in particular manages to stay on the right side of the grating child actress line, though she admittedly tiptoes damned close to it many times. For example, when she sees a sign that says FRAGGLE ROCK: ONE MILE DOWN and proudly reads it out loud as though she cracked the riddle of the Sphinx.

The kids gather ’round a hole in the wall and listen to what I guess is the distant sound of babbling Fraggles, but it’s just chipmunk sounds for the third fucking time in the special. ALF loves a recycled sound effect.

Benji looks into the hole and Frank Harty asks what he sees, and we get the funniest line by a landslide when the kid replies, “Nothing. Wait, I do see something! It’s a tunnel!”

So, in other words, you see nothing.

For the first time, this special genuinely had my interest, as I was wondering if we’d get clips of Fraggle Rock. And we…don’t. We instead get clips of Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series, which I didn’t even know existed.

That’s because it sure didn’t exist long. It was on the air for a whole three months before it was canned.

Looking into it, this doesn’t seem like much of a loss. It disappointingly didn’t have any of the original voice cast…and, yes, I know Muppet Babies didn’t, either, but in that case it made some kind of sense, as voices change between childhood and adulthood.

Also, Muppet Babies had some legitimately good voice actors, like Dave Coulier, Howie Mandel, Frank Welker, Russi Taylor, and Barbara Billingsley. Everyone did a good job of capturing the voice and spirit of their characters without directly aping Henson and company, and the show was better for it.

Here, the Fraggles are just the Fraggles, voiced by imposters. I guess that might work for kids who had never actually seen Fraggle Rock, but for those who already liked the original show…what was the point of this? Wouldn’t they just rather watch the actual episodes with the puppets and the talent?

This clip is probably the worst yet, as it’s just the show’s opening titles. Not even the full opening titles. How lazy. At least the previous clips attempted to spotlight some aspect of the show in question. Here it’s just a snippet of the intro. Boy, I can’t wait to tune in and hear the rest of the theme song!

Then we’re back with the kids and Not-Gobo tells them to look for a woman with a glass eye or something. Literally none of these things have been “clues” at all. Just clues where to find the clues where to find the clues where to find the clues where to find the clues.

Shannen Doherty materializes from behind a boiler to reveal that she’s evil; she’s been following the Hartys all along! Not like Kid Cameron who…

…erm…

ALF loves a discontinuity.

Anyway, we get another commercial break. For those keeping score, we’re almost fourteen minutes into the special — about the halfway point — and we’ve seen four clips of cartoons. I haven’t done the math, but I’ll just assume that’s been around twelve seconds of screentime. The rest of it has been taken up by Benji Gregory struggling valiantly not to pick his nose while the cameras are on him.

The commercials this time include a Snickers ad with a woman who pronounces “peanuts” a fuck of a lot like “penis.”

That’s not a joke in the commercial, and I’m not joking by observing this. Go watch, if you don’t believe me. The narrator pronounces “peanuts” just fucking fine, but this woman can’t for the life of her. “The caramel and the chocolate are great, but the penis…!” “The penis…I’m so hungry!”

I’m assuming ALF wrote the commercials as well.

Then we’re back, and Benji miserably helps Betty White get unstuck from her Pyramid Head cosplay.

She talks about how the pyramid thing was supposed to increase her cosmic powers, and Benji’s face makes it very clear that he doesn’t give a shit about what she’s saying.

Betty White is funny, talented, thoroughly charming, and a genuine treasure. So of course “ALF Loves a Mystery” doesn’t give her any jokes or anything to do.

It’s really weird. She was the biggest name in this bloated cast, and probably commanded the largest salary. So of course they just have her stand in a room for a while, then sit in a chair.

She has a crystal ball, which is the glass eye the kids were looking for, and they ask if she can make it work. She can do better than that, kids! She can make you regret asking!

She sees ALF, which means six more weeks of diddled children.

ALF then writes her out of the story, because she called him a “hairy little guy.” What…part of that description did he take issue with, exactly?

Like, if someone called me a spiteful piece of shit, I’d be offended. They’d be right, but, still, I like being offended. However if someone called me a guy with glasses and a Hawaiian shirt…I’d probably just wonder why they were describing me to myself.

Whatever. ALF is pissed, Betty White is wiped from existence without having said or done anything worthy of her presence, and ALF introduces a clip of Gummi Bears himself.

The clip is weird. It contains dialogue (IMAGINE THAT), but no sound effects. If you’ve ever seen Gummi Bears, you remember quite well the sound effect used when they bounce. I mean…that was kind of their whole gimmick, and how they solved every problem. It happened a lot, and it had a pretty memorable sound.

So they bounce here in total silence. They unstop and drink their Juice That Makes You Bounce in total silence. And they crash around and fight evil trolls in total silence.

I mean, it’s possible that these were unfinished clips and the new season wasn’t ready to air yet, but Gummi Bears had been on the air for two full years by this point. Couldn’t they have used a clip from one of those episodes, so it didn’t look so half-assed? Granted, the point of specials like this is to show a preview of programming to come, but nothing distinct happens in this clip anyway. The Gummi Bears drink their shit and bounce at the bad guys. That happened in every episode ever. You might as well show an instance that has its fucking sound effects applied.

After the clip, Grammi Gummi — yes, that is her name — tells the kids to dig through a trunk and find a fucking Smurf or something what does she care. The Hartys figure out the mystery (they are to dig through a trunk and find a fucking Smurf or something) while Benji does nothing.

…which, in turn, means that ALF can’t think of anything for Benji to do, and he probably wonders if there’s a way to rewrite the story so that Benji’s mother was unable to have children.

ALF loves a hysterectomy.

The Smurfs has the decency to give us what seems to be a finished clip, with sound effects and everything. Nothing much happens in it — Wild Smurf pours some kind of potion on Gargamel, which shrinks him — but, whatever. It’s The Smurfs. It’s there, it’s inoffensive, and then it’s over. And it also brings the total amount of screentime cartoons have gotten to something like half a minute. Great!

Also, I don’t know how common this was for Saturday morning previews, but a huge number of these cartoons are returning from previous seasons. I mean…I guess that’s understandable, but doesn’t that make this showcase less exciting? It isn’t “look at all the cool new stuff you’ll get to watch.” It’s “look at how little has changed since you last watched.” ALF loves a complacency.

I don’t have much to say about The Smurfs. I think it’s one of those shows that everyone saw growing up, but nobody really liked. Not that anyone disliked it, but, really, what was the actual appeal of the show? Did anyone care about it? Did anyone have a favorite episode?

I will say that when I was in Germany last year, I got to visit the Haribo factory, and they had gummy Smurfs that were fucking incredibly good. Also, Smurfs were called Schlümpfe which automatically makes them way better. You can get Haribo Smurfs here in America, but they’re a different recipe and texture and are therefore SHIT. Import some German ones, though. They’ll blow your cock off.

Papa Smurf tells the kids to go look in the attic, and that’s fine, but then Betty White and Benji Gregory flirt hardcore about how much they want each other’s bodies, and that’s not fine.

In the next scene, Shannen Doherty wants to fuck Benji so bad she can’t stop touching him, and I’d just like to remind you all that somewhere off screen ALF is writing an explicit story about his nine-year-old friend getting heavily pet and pawed at by adult women.

As if to emphasize how furiously ALF is masturbating behind the keyboard, Jackée from 227 finds a big feather and talks about how she could use it in her striptease act.

In the attic Shannen Doherty stops talking about how much she likes prepubescent dick long enough to talk about how much she likes the Archie characters. We’ve all had Tinder dates like that, huh fellas?! Actually, I’m noticing that Shannen Doherty is getting to interact with the kids directly, which gives her far more presence than Detective Flounder had, and a much meatier role as well. ALF loves a Doherty.

Then Frank Harty finds a magazine or a comic called THE NEW ARCHIE (ALF loves a newarchie), which he reads as THE NEW ARCHIES and nobody does a second take because this is technically still an ALF production.

Also, you have to love Benji being an obscured background detail in his own story.

The clip includes Archie sweeping Jughead into the closet for seven minutes in Heaven.

This preview is a bit weird, because there’s no consistency on what they call the show. The magazine cover said The New Archie, Frank Harty said The New Archies, and the narration in the clip says The New Adventures of the Archie Gang.

A bit of Googling reveals that the show eventually(?) settled on the name of The New Archies after all, so please give my apologies to Danny Ponce. What a stupid title, though; the characters aren’t The Archies. The band they formed was called The Archies. The show title makes it sound like it’s about a new incarnation of the band, but it’s not. It’s the same characters, and as far as I can tell it has nothing to do with the band at all. Either of the other floated titles here would have been miles better.

This is another of the brand-new shows “ALF Loves a Mystery” is promoting. Since you’ve never heard of it and it can’t even decide what it’s called, it will come as no surprise to find out that it was cancelled after a single season.

Man, look at these screengrabs. Maybe it’s just the fact that I necessarily have to contrast them with the bright cartoons, but who the hell picked this color palette? It’s like the special’s wardrobe and set designer sat down and agreed that everything should look like an expired condiment.

Archie tells them to go somewhere else and I already forgot where. These aren’t clues as to where the fortune is hidden! This is a fucking scavenger hunt! ALF YOU FAT FUCK YOU DON’T LOVE A MYSTERY AT ALL

There’s a decent bit of visual competency with the way the next shot is framed. They open the door to whatever room it is they were looking for, and a swinging lamp lights them just barely before it swings away again. It’s not half bad, even if you have to consider the fact that there’s no reason for the lamp to be swinging at all.

Inside the room is that no-name nobody old woman from the credits who’s never done anything as good as Our House. She’s the maid or something, and she tells everyone not rat her out for hiding in here watching a new show.

The kids hear the words “new show” and stampede toward the TV faster than you turned your science book to page 130 when someone told you there’s a picture of boobs on it.

The new show moistening up the old lady is I’m Telling!, which I guess is like The Newlywed Game for children. Siblings have to answer questions about each other, and it looks like it’s fucking terrible. Once again, it’s an actual new show “ALF Loves a Mystery” is spotlighting, and once again it was cancelled after one season. The solution to the mystery of who murdered these shows is ALF.

After the clip, Benji Gregory picks some shit out from under his fingernails

As he goes about his noble work, the actors with lines try to interpret the clue that the I’m Telling! announcer gives them. It involves an owl and a fireplace, so everyone stands around like idiots wondering what it means. I’ll tell you what it means: go to the fucking fireplace and look for an owl.

But I guess it’s all worth it to hear Benji Gregory deliver the line “To the parlor!” with all the enthusiasm of a coworker asking if you have a tissue.

The kids rush in “To the parlor!” and Frank Harty reveals he has a learning disability by rushing immediately to an end table and looking at a telephone. Frank, you moron, there were two words in the clue and you’re investigating neither of them.

Thankfully his sister was born in a hospital rather than in the back of a tomato truck and actually looks at the fireplace, where she sees an owl. Who would have thought? Frank climbs up to retrieve it. Benji Gregory is replaced by a coatrack.

Then Frank starts to fall or something and smacks the owl, which opens a secret passage behind the fireplace. Shannen Doherty says, “Kid, you’re incredible!” to Benji, despite the fact that the only thing he’s done for the entire special is twist a doorknob.

Seriously, if I were Frank Harty I’d be fucking pissed. FAWN OVER ME SHANNEN

The fireplace reveals the shittiest looking treasure imaginable. For fuck’s sake, couldn’t you shine this crap up for the camera?

Then Jackée from 227 comes in and orders Shannen Doherty, the Hartys, and a trenchcoat stuffed with hay into the middle of the room so she can kill them. There’s a decently amusing bit of business when Detective Flounder rushes in and joins the victims, saying, “Did I miss anything?” It’s a cute enough joke.

Jackée from 227 outlines her plans to have the sleuths retrieve the treasure from the vault, after which she’ll seal them into it. Which — and maybe it’s just me — she probably should have done without saying it out loud. Like, I’m sure these dopes would be willing to crawl in and get the gold, but probably not after she makes it clear that she’ll murder them immediately afterward. I guess she’s just spilling all this shit because ALF loves a soliloquy.

Then the lights go out and everyone runs around a bit to kill time.

When the lights turn back on — ALF loves an electricity — the old lady is there, and she reveals herself to be a cop that’s been undercover on this case for two months.

Fine. Whatever. I hate being alive. But — and I really hate to nitpick, because the internal continuity in this special has been rock solid so far — this raises two questions. First, why was she upstairs flicking herself off to I’m Telling! when she knew there were murderers in the house?

And second, two months? For what purpose? What crime was being committed? Yes, yes, I know it’s illegal to lure children into your house to kill them (thanks, Obama), but until this very moment, nothing illegal happened. Jackée from 227 was about to kill people, but why did you need to be scrubbing her toilets and cooking her dinner for sixty fucking days before that happened? What did that help? Just stake out the house and pounce when all the sleuths show up.

And you know what? Fuck it. A third question: why is an undercover cop 98 fucking years old?

Grammi Gumshoe launches into this whole monologue about how Jackée from 227 isn’t who she claims to be (she’s actually Jackée from 229) and relays a story about how the treasure rightfully belongs to Shannen Doherty because it was stolen from her family and hidden here and blah blah my god who cares. ALF, I guess. ALF loves a history.

Benji Gregory throws up his hands and says “All in a day’s work!” which goes about as well as expected. Shannen Doherty leans in to kiss him, so ALF beams him out of the story, because the last thing ALF wants his name on is something with any kind of closure. “ALF Loves a Mystery” should have ended with Benji being hauled off screaming by the government.

Back in reality, Benji looks at the money he collected:

It’s a dumb sight gag, but at least it’s a gag. The camera lingers on it far too long, which leads me to believe the special came in under time. The best kind of padding is a still shot on a static image, I always say.

Of course, this does provide the best ever excuse for Benji Gregory to deploy his trademark bitchface.

Benji complains that he didn’t get any money out of this shit and he also didn’t get to kiss Shannen Doherty. ALF tells him to go fuck himself.

Then we get the final batch of commercials, in which a cartoon cat provides his review of Benji Gregory’s first and last starring role.

In the short scene before the credits, Shannen Doherty shows up for a date with ALF, and the sexy saxophone music plays again. Then ALF rubs Benji’s nose in the fact that ALF’s going to rub his nose in Shannen Doherty. ALF loves a cuckoldry.

If you’re wondering if the actual setup of the special — ALF pitching / writing his memoirs — ever comes back around as any kind of payoff, the answer is: you’re watching an ALF thing. Of course it fuckin’ doesn’t. Neither did any of that shit about Jackée from 227 being able to hear the narrator.

But I guess those sorts of blindspots around the margins are meaningless in the face of the fact that “ALF Loves a Mystery” fails to even provide its titular fuckin’ mystery.

Okay. I’m going to be very basic here, because if I start really discussing the conventions and structure of mystery stories, we’ll be here for another 10,000 words. Suffice it to say, “mystery” — like “romantic comedy,” “adventure,” “coming-of-age tale” and so many other genre descriptors — brings with it a series of expectations.

You don’t have to meet them, but you have to be aware of them. That is to say, you can knowingly subvert them or strategically withhold them, but you need to at least know what they are. Your audience expects something, and you need to know specifically what it is that they expect. From there you have the right, as an artist, to do whatever you damned well please.

For a mystery, we expect a detective figure, a question to be answered, and a series of clues that we in the audience could theoretically make sense of before the story ends.

“ALF Loves a Mystery” has the first thing, but neither of the others. In fact, it has multiple detective figures, which isn’t uncommon at all. Ideally we’d have a central one — Benji here — but often there are others attempting to solve the case for their own reasons. These could be potential victims, who’d like to figure out how to avoid their own murders, or a formalized police force working through the situation more slowly and less competently than our detective. I can’t think of an example in which multiple actual detectives work against each other, but I’m sure they exist and that actually sounds like a pretty nice setup to me. One point to “ALF Loves a Mystery.”

Then we have the question to be answered. There is a question of where the treasure is hidden, but that’s not a mystery. That’s a quest, at best. The mystery could be the significance of the treasure (see The Maltese Falcon), but that’s not it here. It’s just a goal for one detective to reach, so that he or she can get half the money. It might as well be a foot race.

The distinction there carries into the next point: a “mystery” is something that needs to be puzzled out. It’s not entirely a game of speed; a detective may be trying to figure out an answer before something terrible happens, so, sure, he may well be up against the clock, but it’s a mental race as opposed to a physical one. You can involve physical struggles in your mystery (the abundance of shootouts, fist fights, and car chases in detective fiction makes that clear), but a mystery is, by its nature, ultimately cerebral.

The most unnecessary comment about this special is this: “ALF Loves a Mystery” is not cerebral.

That’s due to the fact that the clues aren’t actual clues. The cartoon characters / game show announcers just repeatedly tell The Benji Boys to go to a specific room. Sometimes there’s an object to find (which is always spelled out) and other times there’s not. Which means instead of clues, we just have signposts. By this logic, we’re all Sherlock Holmes every time we follow the instructions on our GPS.

Neither Benji nor the Hartys nor anyone else have to solve anything at any point. They just need to watch short clips and do as they’re told. Nothing is ever puzzled out, and that’s disappointing, because it would have been easy to make this a mystery. Just have the clues be actual clues. Short riddles with answers that guide the detectives toward a solution without outright telling them. Maybe one riddle has the solution “fire.” Another “parlor.” Another “owl.” And so on. The special is structured that way anyway, so it’s a shame that nobody wrote a second draft that actually included a mystery.

Sorry if that was too educational or anything, so I’ll leave you with a more classical ALF Reviews observation:

At the time this aired, Shannen Doherty was sixteen years old. Nice to see ALF’s desire to fuck underage girls carries through his entire extended universe. ALF loves a consistency!

Well, that’s once again enough ALF for a lifetime. But there is one other piece of ALF media I’d like to review at some point. Maybe I’ll do that next year. Or maybe I’ll step blindly into traffic. I’m still not sure which is the better idea.

Thanks, as always, for reading. You guys are great, and I love you all.

MELMAC FACTS: A wild woman with a large glass eye would have won a beauty contest on Melmac. Rhonda was in the Orbit Guard, a-fucking-pparently. ALF’s mother was named Flo, his father was named Bob, his sister was named Augie, his brother was named Curtis, and his pet was named Neep. ALF did not love any of them enough to save them from nuclear holocaust.

—–
* To be honest, it’s possible this was the practice for NBC’s preview specials. Looking back at lists of programming now, I see I gravitated mainly toward ABC and CBS, so I wouldn’t have seen many — if any — of these NBC showcases. I’d be curious to hear from someone who does remember them whether or not actual storylines were the rule.

Check out this ALF syndication trifold!

Yeah, I know, my post title sucks, but I don’t really have a running feature on the blog I can tie this to. It’s just a piece of pretty cool television history that I can’t find anywhere on the internet. For all I know, I have the last surviving copy and am therefore morally obligated to drop it into a volcano.

But, what the hell, I’ll archive it for future generations instead.

I saw this at a convention, and Casey Roberson was nice/vindictive enough to buy it for me. The vendor described it as a piece of promotional material sent to networks to see if they wanted to air ALF. He wasn’t wrong, but I assumed he meant for its initial run. Instead this was distributed in 1989, toward the end of the show’s run, promoting the availability (starting fall of 1990) of ALF for strip syndication.

Strip syndication refers to a show’s reruns airing at a fixed time across the entire week, thereby showing up as a long “strip” when laid out on a TV schedule.

Of course that also means the trifold gets to play into the naughty definition of “strip” and present ALF as a Playmate centerfold. This means I own the only official piece of ALF pornography ever produced.

Now you see why I’m bothering to archive it!

Anyway, I’m including pictures, but since I just have an iPhone I’ll also transcribe the text. I intend to be as accurate as possible, right down to any typos or punctuation issues. Feel free to point out any you see in my transcription, though, just in case they’re my own.

I have seen some of the details here in other places (such as ALF’s favorite Melmacian TV shows) but since I can’t find a copy of this anywhere, I assume there was just some overlap with copy found in other materials.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the Tanners aren’t mentioned here at all. This is trying to sell a show without even paying lipservice to four of the five main characters.

That’s our ALF!

Anyway:

Front: The Centerfold


The centerfold features ALF lying naked on a beach. You’re welcome.

The only text is “CELEBRITY OF THE MILLENNIUM” and “MR. TELEVISION.”

There’s also a “Love, ALF” signature. Thanks to this and the next page, we have the best look at his handwriting we could ever want. Analyze away, graphologists!

The copyright notice in the lower right reads:
ALF is a Registered Trademark of Alien Productions ®
© 1987 Alien Productions. All Rights Reserved.

Yes, I know the copyright notice says 1987 and I said it was circulated in 1989, but you’ll see where I got that date later. This must just be the copyright date for the image, as the text is clearly selling the show for syndication in 1990, which is not something they would have been doing in 1987. The text, therefore, may not be copyrighted at all, so feel free to use it to advertise your own show about a farting puppet.

Inside Left: Celebrity Data Sheet


This page features three promotional photos of ALF and one from “Don’t it Make Your Brown Eyes Blue?” where he’s dressed as legendary womanizer Elton John. We also get some definitive MELMAC FACTS regarding his birthday, but I don’t get whatever joke they’re trying to tell by giving him two of them. Then there’s the insight nobody expected that he wants to fuck the cat from the 9Lives cans. (And, I guess, Mr. Ochmonek.)

Anyway, the text:

CELEBRITY DATA SHEET

NICKNAME: ALF REAL NAME: Gordon Shumway
HEAD SIZE: 33″ WAIST: 33″ HIPS: 33″
HEIGHT: 3’2″1”’ WEIGHT: ‘Till the Sun Shines, Nellie
BIRTH DATE: August 12 and October 2, 1757 PLANET: Melmac (Lower East Side)
FAVORITE EXPRESSION: “Curiosity Killed the Cat” (Usually followed by the expression “Pass the Plum Sauce”)
TURN-ONS: Morris the Cat, High Nielsens, Hawaiian Shirts
TURN-OFFS: Empty Fridge, Short Jokes, Alien Task Force
FAVORITE MOVIES: “It Came From Outer Space”, “Mars Needs Women Now” and “Hair”
A GOOD WOMAN IS: Friendly, Funny and Furry
SECRET FANTASY: To be a regional sales manager for Meow Mix

Inside Center


THE HOTTEST THING IN PRIME TIME IS AVAILABLE FOR STRIPPING.

Inside Right: Interview


He’s hip, he’s hot, he’s ALF, the biggest thing to hit television since the remote control. On the occasion of his highly successful NBC-TV prime time smash being made available for strip syndication (starting fall ’90), we interviewed the old ALFer.

We caught up with ALF at the refrigerator on the set for a candid, far-reaching conversation.

Q: Thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to do this interview.
ALF: No problem. Mind if I eat a pot roast while we chat?
Q: Not at all. Were you ever on television before you got your own series?
ALF: Yes. I was a contestant on Melmac’s most successful game show, “Wheel of Cheese.” I won a sofa, a set of mock luggage and a styrofoam goat.
Q: Pretty impressive. Were you the biggest winner?
ALF: No, actually Tyrone Split was the biggest winner. He was seven foot three and weighed three-hundred and forty-seven pounds. Ha! I kill me!
Q: And us as well. Are you the only Shumway to enter show business?
ALF: Oh, no! My Uncle Goomer Shumway was a famous actor. He starred in great Melmacian movies like “Cat on a Hot Tin Griddle,” “Gone With the Fish,” and “Luncheon Counters of the Worse Kind.”
Q: Let’s talk about your amazing success on television. Your popularity on NBC has been growing stronger each week, your demographics show that you have a perfect audience composition, and now you are destined to become a hit in syndication. Why do you think that you made such a huge impression on our whole planet?
ALF: I hit it pretty hard when I crash landed. Hey, if I wasn’t wearing my seat belt, I’d look like Sean Penn.
Q: What do you think of earth television?
ALF: Hey, by watching television I learned that the world was black and white before 1953! But television on Melmac was funnier. Shows like “I Dream of Homer,” “Bowling for Rice,” and “As The World Explodes.” Even though the last one hits a little close to home now.
Q: Sounds interesting.
ALF: It does? Is this going to take a lot longer? I have a drumstick here that’s growing bacteria!
Q: Just a few more questions. You’re entering the syndication marketplace next to shows like “Cosby” and “M*A*S*H.”
ALF: I can see the line-up now. Huxtable, Hawkeye and Hairball! Ha! I kill me!
Q: You’ll be making lots of money.
ALF: Yes, but it’s only paper. On Melmac we paid with fur. If you over-spent, you went bald. And we don’t want station managers going bald. I realize in some instances we may be a bit late.
Q: Well, ALF, I’ll wrap this up. You’re an alien who has it all. A hit network show, the admiration of millions…
ALF: This drumstick that’s hardening before my eyes…
Q: But what’s next for ALF? What are your dreams?
ALF: I do have one recurring dream about showing up for work and realizing that I’m not wearing any pants. But then I remeber that I don’t work and I never wear any pants.
Q: Thanks for your time, ALF. Many thanks for this revealing interview.
ALF: My pleasure. Sure you don’t want some pot roast?
Q: No, thanks. There’s no silverware.
ALF: So?

ALF
alien productions

LORIMAR™
SYNDICATION
A LORIMAR TELEPICTURES COMPANY

So, yeah, there you go! It’s actually pretty cool. It was wrapped in plastic when we bought it, so I didn’t get a good look at it until later. The Playboy similarities are pretty tame, and it’s nothing a child would recognize, so I can imagine this was a really nice take-home for station managers whose kids loved the show. It’s a cool bit of very rare memorabilia, and if I had gotten my hands on it as a kid I would have thought it was great.

Does anyone else know more about this? I wonder what other bits of ALF ephemera are lost to the ages.

It’s laminated like a restaurant menu, which means it’s stayed in pretty good shape through the years, and I’m both happy to have it and thrilled that I get to be the one to preserve it online. Mainly, though, I hope you are as upset as I am that this is the third different “here’s what Melmacians used for currency” joke. Whoever wrote this should be FIRED FROM ALF.

Listen: IT IS ME

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

I know I said I wasn’t going to write about ALF anymore, but I wrote this one with my mouth so I think that’s okay!

There’s a group of folks reviewing ALF, as far as I can tell coincidentally, in an episode-by-episode podcast. It’s called ALF is Back…in Pod Form, which is such a good title I plagiarized it three years ago!!!!

No, it’s a coincidence, obviously, and it points to just how infrequent references to ALF are in popular culture. When you need one…man, it’s slim pickings.

Anyway, they’re dissecting the show on their own, and I was asked to participate. I said no, of course. But I accidentally typed “yes,” and here we are.

They’re about halfway through season one, which means they have no idea what they’re in for, the poor, innocent children. I was invited to join their discussion about “I’ve Got a New Attitude,” which, if I remember correctly, was fucking garbage.

You can check out this episode of the podcast here, and if you’re (for some odd reason) looking for continuing ALF coverage to fill the emptiness in your soul, you should like it, subscribe to it, radiogram up it, or however the fuck podcast stuff works.

I’ll be honest…I’m not a huge podcast fan. I don’t understand them. The format is strange to me. And you need to like…talk. And reveal your idiocy. You can’t hide behind text you’ve worried to death.

So I’m probably not the most dynamic guy on Earth, and I apologize in advance for putting you to sleep if you listen to podcasts while operating your forklift.

But, on the bright side, it’s not the Philip J Reed show, and I tried not to step too much on their conversation. (For god’s sake, if you want to know what I think about the episode, I wrote six fucking novels about it.) I did end up talking an awful lot about serial killers, though…so there’s that.

Some of us were made for speaking. I was definitely made for writing. But it was still a lot of fun to participate, and maybe I’ll drop in again. You know…if they don’t all find better things to do with their time.

ALF Reviews: ALF Reviewed

ALF, "A.L.F."

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

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