ALF Reviews: “Pennsylvania 6-5000” (Season 1, Episode 4)

Quick recap. Episode 1: An alien crashes to Earth and a family decides to harbor him illegally. Episode 2: ALF orders a pizza. Episode 3: The cat runs away. Following on from that pattern of wasted potential I half expected episode 4 to be about Willie getting a haircut. Or maybe Lynn breaking a nail.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me, but if I were creating a show about an alien, I’d probably make use of the fact that he’s an alien. I guess that’s why I’m not writing any sitcoms, and I’m just a lowly technical writer with a fantastic body and a hot tub full of super models. :(

It’s just so strange to me that every episode of ALF so far plays like a minor rewrite to another hypothetical show about a family who adopts a hobo. ALF is a little uncouth, and not totally respectful of other people’s privacy, but that just makes him a dick. It doesn’t make him an alien. If you were to tell me that this was originally supposed to be a show about somebody’s asshole uncle who moved into the house, I’m not sure I’d be able to find much evidence to the contrary in the show itself.

Case in point, this episode is about the family needing a second phone line because ALF is always calling political talk shows. For Christ’s sake, why can’t they write an episode about some space germs ALF introduces into the house? Maybe that’s the series finale.

So, yes, the episode begins with ALF and Brian watching a live panel debate about nuclear arms, and it does a great job of reminding us that Brian’s just your average, run of the mill 6-year-old kid. He hops out of bed on a Saturday morning to watch Meet the Press in his jim-jams, just like all toddlers who grew up in the 80s.

Seriously, I can buy that ALF would watch this, but why doesn’t Brian want to watch Pee-Wee’s Playhouse or something instead? What kind of kid is invested in foreign affairs?

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

Lynn comes in complaining that ALF is always hogging the phone, and then Willie comes home complaining that ALF is always hogging the phone. Nobody seems to have any problem with the fact that he’s hogging the phone in order to broadcast his alien voice and viewpoints live on a national news broadcast.

In fairness, Kate does handwave this somewhat: she says she doesn’t mind him calling the show because it keeps him out of the kitchen. Of course, I prefer to think that this is just an excuse, and Kate’s really hoping that ALF will accidentally out himself as an alien on live television and the Alien Task Force will come to the house and shoot him to death. Kate, if this is what you’re hoping for, leave Willie. You and I would be so happy together.

This conflict of the monopolized phone line is just riveting. I’ll probably say this in every review, but it boggles my mind that the writing staff doesn’t think it’s worth having ALF do anything alien. Why do they believe that it’s funnier if he’s just a bad roommate? I honestly don’t get it.

ALF tells the unseen political panel that he has a solution to the problem of nuclear weapons: “Get rid of them.”

It’s not hilarious or anything, but I actually kind of like that. It’s nice that he’s naive about this. As the panel tells him, he’s oversimplifying the problem. And he is. But he’s an alien, so that’s good. It’s good that his alien mind sees complicated and dangerous concepts as simple things that we should just “get rid of.” It’s insightful (accidentally so, I’m sure, but still) and it goes a short way back toward turning ALF into a creature that doesn’t quite “get” Earth.

Then I remember that he knows how call-in political talk shows work and I realize it’s meaningless to try to give this shit any credit.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

We get our normal credits sequence, including the little scene of Lynn talking on the phone in her closet. I draw attention to this because the very last thing before the credits is Lynn telling Willie that she needs her own phone. So she doesn’t have one? How long is this cord that she can take the living room phone upstairs and into her closet?

Whatever. Willie offers Lynn the possibility of call waiting instead. Wow, call waiting! Remember that? That was such a big thing when I was growing up. There were ads on television about it and it seemed so incredible that somebody could call you while you were on the phone. Then everyone got the internet and realized that call waiting would fuck up your connection and you’d have to start downloading the naked woman all over again. Man…wild times.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

ALF is in the shed doing something that is emphatically not related to getting his fucking space ship off the roof. Willie walks in with some Chinese food for him* and sees him dicking around with the ham radio. He doesn’t say that this is what he sees, but since he’s a human being with two eyes and I’m a human being with two eyes I can pretty safely deduce that he sees this happening. Bear that in mind as we move forward, because the show certainly doesn’t.

In giving ALF his twice cooked pork, Willie reveals that he took elocution lessons from Borat by calling it “twaayce cooked poo-ohrk.” Max Wright’s line readings are something I will never get used to. Christopher Walken can take oddly emphasized speech and elevate it to a form of art. Max Wright just sounds like he’s constantly trying to clear mashed potatoes out of his throat.

I hated it as a kid, and it doesn’t play any better now than it did then. I remember when Friends premiered and he played a barista or something. Even though I had been a young’un who loved this stupid show, when I recognized him I didn’t think, “Oh, hey! It’s the dad from ALF!” I thought, “Come on. This fuckin’ guy again?”

Anyway, Willie babbles to ALF for a while about family and ALF keeps asking him to pass tools his way. Something magical happens here, because that leads to a legitimately funny moment. Willie, in the middle of his speech, says, “You see, a family is like…”

Then ALF says, “Pliers.”

And Willie says, “Yes. Or a crescent wrench.”

It’s not hilarious or anything, and it’s nothing we haven’t seen a thousand times before, but this is competent comedy. By ALF standards, that’s impressive. Instead of just throwing a handful of shit into the air and letting it fall onto some blank pages, the writers actually made an effort here to have two different things going on in the same room, and then intertwined them in service of a punchline.

That may sound like faint praise, but I am actually kind of impressed by this. Then again, the rest of the episode does seem to have been generated by writers who threw a handful of shit into the air and let it fall onto some blank pages so I guess I shouldn’t be so quick to enjoy this show.

ALF tells Willie to hold onto some exposed wiring while ALF switches the machine on, and Willie does it.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"


Fucking what.

What the fucking what.


Why would Willie have done this? What purpose would it have served for him to do this? I buy that ALF would do this shitty ass thing to the people who love him, because he’s always doing shitty ass things to the people who love him, but why in crap’s name would Willie grab a fistful of naked wires and watch ALF turn the machine on?

It doesn’t make any sense. It’s like that League of Gentlemen “Put your hand in!” sketch, in which the owner of a joke shop coerces someone into sticking his hand into an ominous tube, and then electrocutes him with a car battery. However that sketch had a thousand times more characterization than this entire show. The shop owner was quite clearly deranged, the customer was terrified, and the owner locked the door and refused to let the man leave until he did as he was told. It was dark, as it should have been, and it was at least somewhat terrifying as well.

ALF shocking Willie is the same thing, but “one guy shocks another guy” isn’t a joke on its own. You have to do something with it. The League of Gentlement used a predictable outcome to spin a nightmare in miniature. ALF just says “Yo Willie Imma shock you” and Willie says “cool ALF ok thx.”

That isn’t a joke, any more than it would be a joke for me to give you a hammer and tell you to smack yourself in the nuts.

And what the hell does Willie have in his front pocket during this scene? It looks like he’s carrying his letters of transit so he can leave Casablanca. Why would you stuff a character’s shirt pocket with thick, obtrusive documents unless he’s going to read them or refer to them at some point? This is so weird. Maybe it was just Max Wright’s suicide note for when the scene was finished, and he chickened out.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

Willie notices that ALF was screwing around with his ham radio, and gets upset. This is a bit strange since he watched ALF screw around with the ham radio, then handed him tools so that he could more effectively screw around with the ham radio, then reached his own hand into the ham radio that ALF screwed with so that ALF could continue to screw with the ham radio and shock him with his own ham radio. Needless to say, Willie is surprised to learn at this point that ALF was SCREWING AROUND WITH HIS FUCKING HAM RADIO.

The radio is destroyed (temporarily, because this is a sitcom) and Willie complains that it took him ten years to build it.


No. It did not take you ten years to build a ham radio, Willie. That’s inconceivable.

I remember seeing those kits at Radio Shack. I’m sure they weren’t easy to build, but it’s nothing that required a decade’s worth of work. Even if you didn’t have much time to work on it, I can’t imagine any reasonably intelligent human being wouldn’t have it done in a couple of months, at the most. If it took you much longer than that, you’d probably just give up and concede that you don’t know how to build a ham radio. You don’t keep working on it for longer than your fucking son has been alive.

The only way building this radio would have taken ten years is if Willie first had to teach himself fluent English so he could read the manual.

It’s just so ridiculous. If he’d said it took him one year, I wouldn’t complain. That’s still a long time, but it’s understandable. And it’s still a large enough investment of time that Willie could rightfully be upset. But for crying out loud the thing is the size of a toaster oven. He’s not restoring a classic car; he’s plugging things into other things.

Ugh this fuckin’ radio.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

Anyway, Willie forgets about being mad that ALF destroyed something important to him, which is sort of this guy’s only character trait I guess, and ALF explains that he was doing something to the radio so that he could call Air Force One and talk to the president.

Again…mother effing what? Why wouldn’t he call the White House? It’s still a bad idea, but at least that’s where the president is. I don’t understand this.

He confides to Willie, though, that the reason he’s calling is that he wants to talk about nuclear weapons. He’s concerned about them, because that’s how Melmac was destroyed.

Now this is interesting. And it’s effectively dark. That’s…kind of sad. The planet didn’t just blow up on its own…there was some kind of accident or war, a weapon of mass destruction detonated, and an entire intelligent civilization was destroyed. This was an unexpected reveal, and I like it.

Of course it sort of undercuts what I perceived as ALF’s naivete earlier in the episode, when he called the show. ALF no longer has a well-meaning but uneducated alien’s perspective…he’s a dude who comes from a planet that had the same problem we have, and he still has the oversimplified “get rid of them” attitude. I don’t know…this doesn’t bother me or anything — outside of the fact that, once again, ALF understands everything on Earth — but it seems strange to me that ALF is so passionate about this obviously impossible advice.

Willie informs ALF that it’s illegal to descramble the president’s secret radio frequency. Uh, okay Willie. I’ll take your word for that.

ALF counters that it’s also illegal to steal HBO, which the Tanner family does. Willie understands that these two things are absolutely equal and leaves ALF to hack into the government. I know the episode needs ALF to place the call, but what kind of rationalization was this for letting ALF do it? It would have been better writing to just have Willie spontaneously combust.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

In the next scene ALF successfully calls Air Force One, and we get a look at the set. I’m not sure if it’s a joke on the part of ALF‘s writers that it looks like an office right out of a Monty Python skit, or if they actually believe that Air Force One is just a flying White House. The set is also perfectly still and we don’t see any stars or lights through the windows, so maybe these assholes are just sitting in some dark hangar somewhere playing house. Who fuckin’ knows.

The guy who played Les Nessman answers the phone, and he thanks the caller for dialing Air Force One and asks how he can help. So, wait. Again. WAIT AGAIN. I thought this was some super secret scrambled presidential frequency? Why is this guy answering the phone like strangers call it all the time? Why would the frequency be scrambled unless only massively important people should be getting through? If that secret phone rings you’d better answer it “Yes, Mr. Vice President” or something. Not “Thank you for calling the totally impenetrable Air Force One help line, how may I direct your call?”

Les asks the other airborne clerical assistant if he should patch the caller through to the president. Sure! Why the fuck not!?

What kind of question is this? Who are these idiots? What is their role in the government even meant to be?

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

The other guy looks kind of like an off-brand Chevy Chase, and he worries that it might be a call from a communist. Uh, okay. He takes the call and tells ALF that he can’t put Mr. Reagan on the line because the president is taking a shit. I’m not joking. But I guess this explains that ALF called Air Force One because the president wasn’t at home. How the hell did he know that?

Chevy Lite asks him what he’s calling about, and ALF says that he’s calling about “the bombs.” Ominous music plays, and I’m not sure why. These guys can’t hear it…only we can, in the audience, and we know ALF isn’t a terrorist. What kind of tension was the show trying to create?

The guy ends his call with ALF and pulls a red telephone out of his desk drawer. It’s a corded phone so I don’t know how or why it would be stashed in a desk drawer, but then again I’ve never been on Air Force One and I’m positive the ALF team did their research.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

Willie presents a telephone usage chart that he made to his family. Man, this episode is really bringing me back. Remember the days before PowerPoint? That was when all presentations were done in the media of glitter paint and elbow macaroni.

Lynn is wearing a bolo.

I don’t have anything to say about that. I just really wanted to make sure you noticed that Lynn was wearing a bolo.

Kate points out a problem with the chart: Brian’s telephone time is at 11 o’clock, which is past his bed time. I’m not sure who a six-year-old boy needs to be calling at any time of day, but Kate’s pretty adamant that he gets to do it.

Willie proposes that he switch that time with Lynn’s, so that she can call her boyfriend at 11 o’clock instead. Lynn replies that that’s past her boyfriend’s bedtime as well, and the audience laughs, so I guess the joke is that Lynn is fucking a six-year-old kid.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

The FBI shows up, but it’s not because Lynn just confessed to the ongoing sexual violation of a child. They’re here to arrest Willie, as they traced ALF’s call and they conclude that the guy with a different name and a different voice is their man.

I actually looked up one of the FBI guys because I could have sworn he played Waldo Faldo or someone else I recognized from another show. It turns out he was a regular character on Designing Women, and I’m kind of amazed I’d remember anyone from that show. Did I really watch that much Designing Women as a kid? Man, I had some embarrassing taste in television shows.

Anyway, yes, this sucks, but Willie really has no room to complain since he walked out of the shed and let ALF call the president. This one’s kind of on him.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

The next act opens with Willie in jail, while Kate just kind of hangs around, leaning on the bars. Federal prison sure was lax in the late 80s! Kate loudly wonders why the alien who secretly lives in their house would call the president, but it’s totally okay because the guard is almost a whole sixteen inches away from her so there’s no way he heard that.

Willie, to his credit, tells Kate to hush. To his much greater discredit, however, he then starts talking even more loudly and more directly about the alien that secretly lives in their house. Why did the writers bother having this guard here? This scene would make so much more sense if they weren’t paying some extra $15 to dress like a policeman and stand there, somehow not hearing this obviously crucial information.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

Officer Designingwomen shows up and wants to talk to Willie about the chart he made. He asks whose names are written on it, which makes it pretty clear that the FBI hasn’t even done cursory research on Willie, since those are the members of his immediate family, one of whom was literally standing right there when he arrived, and all of whom were in the same room when he got arrested.

This guy is a suspected terrorist, but they don’t bother to research him at all? They just politely ask him questions? Why does every arm of the government operate on the honor system in this show?

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

ALF and Brian watch footage of Willie’s arrest. Where did this footage come from? There weren’t any cameras. AGH I DON’T CARE.

Lynn walks in and gets upset that they’re jacking off to video of the only Tanner who works getting arrested, so, hey, good on her.

ALF tells her not to worry, though, because he has a plan: he’ll just call the president again and tell him to pardon Willie. Everyone agrees this is a solid plan because Willie fed them paint chips instead of letting them breast feed.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

ALF calls Les Nessman again and it’s daylight through the windows. Why is Air Force One still in the sky? I don’t get it. Do ALF‘s writers believe its purpose is just to orbit the Earth continuously?

Not only is Air Force One still flying around the world, but Reagan is still taking a crap. Or maybe it’s a totally separate crap. I don’t know. I’m just mad that the show is even making me wonder about things like this.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

They patch ALF through to Reagan’s shitterphone — seriously, what kind of show is this? — and then we cut back to the shed where ALF has a conversation with someone doing a bad impression of our 40th president.

While this happens, Brian sits behind him glancing intermittently into the camera and scratching his armpit.

I actually feel a little bad for this kid. If he had been cast on almost any other show, he just would have been some cute little tyke that got to say silly things that made the audience go “Awwwww.” Instead he’s on ALF, and his job is to shut up and sit next to a puppet.

ALF launches into his disarmament spiel — which is why ALF is remembered to this day for its brilliant social commentary — and then Reagan agrees to send some folks around to ALF’s place to talk about it. ALF celebrates by hugging Brian at crotch level and stroking his hips.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

Jesus Christ this show.

Anyway, the FBI guys show up again, but Brian pretends he was the one who made the calls. The FBI wonders for about 20 seconds whether or not they should take any kind of action, and I have to admit…it’s a tough call. On the one hand, some little kid keeps hacking into the United States government’s private telecommunications network, making prank calls about nuclear war, and wasting the time of federal agents that could instead be investigating actual threats to national security. But on the other hand, the episode’s almost over.

Willie gets to go free for the same reason, and everyone gathers around to look at the plaque President Reagan sent to Brian.

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

It’s some kind of official commendation, I guess for repeatedly causing undue panic with vague threats of domestic terrorism.

Willie is proud, though it’s unclear why, especially since he’s been waterboarded for the past 24 hours and his entire family will be on the no-fly list for the rest of their natural lives.

The episode ends with ALF calling the same talk show again, but nobody cares about that, because Willie agrees to get a second phone line.

And so ends the most obviously pre-9/11 episode of anything I’ve ever seen.

MELMAC FACTS: Melmac was destroyed in some kind of nuclear mishap. I know we meet some other refugees from the planet later on, so I wonder if this is ever elaborated upon. I hope so…which pretty conclusively means it won’t be.

* I doubt this is an “eating cats” joke. But…if you want it to be, there ya go.

ALF Reviews: “Looking for Lucky” (Season 1, Episode 3)

After “Strangers in the Night” I was really, really worried that every episode of ALF would be that bad or worse. “Looking for Lucky” represents a Pyrrhic victory then, I guess, because it’s unquestionably better than that one while still being fucking terrible.

The episode’s title refers to Lucky the cat, which means we’re three episodes in and while we still don’t know anything about the family, we’re going to spend a half hour developing the character of their pet. Great. And Mrs. Ochmonek, with whom we spent a half hour last week, doesn’t even appear. It’s like the writers are doing everything in their power to procrastinate the moment that they will have to make a decision about who the people in this family are.

Anyway the episode opens with ALF attempting to hypnotize Lucky. He tells the cat he’s getting sleepy, and then he tells him he’s a bagel. We learn soon that this is because ALF wants to eat Lucky, but I don’t understand why he needs to precede this with hypnosis. Either eat the cat or don’t…there’s no reason to try to give it hypnotic suggestions. When you eat an actual bagel you don’t need the bagel to be aware that it’s a bagel. I don’t even know what ALF is trying to accomplish here. Seriously, does anybody know? What’s the point of this?

And, once again, why does ALF understand all of these Earth concepts? I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t get over the fact that the writers think it’s a good idea for ALF to have complete working knowledge of human culture. Wouldn’t it be funnier if we saw him discover hypnosis for the first time? Misunderstand its practice and purpose? Make some jokes? Because ALF swinging a pocket watch back and forth in front of a cat isn’t a joke, and “You are a bagel” isn’t a punchline.

Maybe it’s the writers who are aliens. They certainly don’t seem to grasp the concept of comedy.

Willie comes in and tells ALF not to play with priceless family heirlooms, referring to the pocket watch. He takes the watch back, notices it’s broken, and that’s that. Willie goes to work and doesn’t seem to care about the destruction of the thing that he was seconds ago so worried about. There’s another in the long line of ALF situations that are set up and resolved in the course of two lines.

Oh, and Willie: ALF breaks shit. Like, all the time. Stop leaving this asshole unsupervised.

"ALF," Looking For Lucky

Same credits sequence again, but it’s really starting to reveal to me how limited our understanding of these characters are. They’re ostensibly main characters, especially since every episode introduces them, but they barely appeared in the last episode and only Willie and Kate had any kind of real part in the events of the pilot. Every time I see Brian and Lynn, the Tanner children, I’m reminded that I have genuinely no clue what they’re like.

I couldn’t tell you anything about them. Lynn is on the phone in the credits sequence and Brian hugs ALF, but in the actual episodes so far they’ve probably had five lines between them. Do they go to school? Is Lynn seeing anybody? Does Brian have any friends? Do they give a shit that an alien lives in their house now? Can the writers really think of nothing for them to do? Why are they even there, then?

And what about Willie and Kate? I know Willie works…does Kate? Where does Willie work? What was their life like before ALF arrived? I have no clue, because all anyone in the family ever seems to do is stand around quietly while ALF does prop comedy.

It feels like the writing staff created these characters, but then didn’t want to do anything with them. They’d rather focus on the cat and Mrs. Ochmonek, which says a lot about how little they care about the family that was supposed to be at the center of this show.

"ALF," Looking For Lucky

ALF does the Risky Business thing by lip synching into a cucumber and wobbling vaguely along to an absolutely awful cover of “Old Time Rock and Roll,” which wasn’t that great a song to begin with. While he does this the audience (“audience”) laughs, which makes me feel worse than the homeless people I pass on the way home from work.

While he bops around from the chest up we see that the house is completely wrecked. Furniture is flipped over, trash is all over the place, stuff is smashed. Oh, and he also ate every bit of food in the house. ALF is dancing and doing silent karaoke while I take a moment to wonder, yet again, why in the world the Tanners let him live here.

Just kick him out. I know the first episode ended with ALF cracking wise and three quarters of the family yuking it up, but what benefit do they get out of keeping him around? They certainly haven’t been laughing lately. All he does is break stuff and put the family in danger of being caught. Shouldn’t he be contributing in some way instead of just going ape-shit when they leave and busting up their stuff?

"ALF," Looking For Lucky

The family comes home and stand around quietly while ALF does prop comedy. They’re obviously pissed that he wrecked up the place, but they’re content to let him finish his routine before they make too much of a fuss about it.

I’m going to spoil something for you here. Are you ready? If you really plan on watching “Looking for Lucky” yourself and being surprised, then stop reading now.

The spoiler: There is no consequence for ALF’s actions.

Put yourself in Willie’s shoes. You come home from work and all of your food is gone and everything in your house, everything you own, has been smashed to pieces.

It doesn’t matter if an alien did it. Whether it was a roommate, a pet, a kid, a criminal…whoever the heck destroyed the home in which you live, you’d flip out. If you could get your hands on the person responsible, you’d make sure there was some consequence.

Yet Willie doesn’t care. Not after this scene anyway. He shrugs it off, presumably writes a check for $12,000 to American Furniture Warehouse to replace everything overnight, and sends his wife off to buy groceries. ALF is not punished. ALF isn’t even lectured. When this situation is referred to again later in the episode, it’s referred to fondly. Everyone involved with ALF behaves like an alien except for fuckin’ ALF.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

Brian announces his continued existence by observing that Lucky is missing. Everyone assumes that ALF ate him, which is a conclusion they reach based unfairly upon the fact that ALF is constantly saying he will eat him.

Willie asks ALF where the cat is, and ALF burps.

Ready? I’m going to spoil something else for you here: ALF didn’t eat the cat.

Okay. Fine. I’m alright with this.

But then why is ALF behaving this way? They ask where the cat is, and he burps. He then jokes about chasing Lucky around with a fork. When he’s asked point-blank if he ate the cat, he says he needs to speak to his attorney before he can answer.

None of this makes any sense. If ALF didn’t actually eat Lucky, then why can’t he just stop dicking around and state clearly that he did not? He’s not helping his case here, he’s not helping his family, he’s not being constructive about the problem, and he’s not even lightening the mood. All he’s doing is infuriating people who are already concerned about the safety of their other pet…you know, the one that doesn’t tear up the carpets and break all the furniture while they’re away.

ALF’s behavior only makes sense if he did eat Lucky and was trying to cover for it. If someone killed your cat and you thought it was me, the last thing I would do is make jokes about chasing the thing around with knives and wanting to eat it. And if you asked me if I had anything to do with it and I said I wanted a lawyer, you’d think I was definitely hiding something. Why in the world would I say that otherwise?

I honestly have no idea what ALF or the writers were trying to accomplish here. No. Fucking. Clue.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

ALF coughs up a hairball and puts it in Willie’s hand while the man is trying to comfort his weeping son. It’s like dicks were invented just so ALF could be called one.

Willie then gives the camera his best Flintstones-style “It’s a living!!!!” stare, and I think I’ve managed to screengrab the precise moment that Max Wright turned to crack.

We’re eight minutes into a 21-minute show and all we’ve seen is ALF dancing and refusing to admit that he didn’t eat a cat. So what’s the next logical scene?

You guessed it! A heartbreaking sequence in which ALF writes a note of farewell to the Tanners and sets off to find Lucky. :(

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

Poor ALF! All he did was thoroughly vandalize the home in which he was allowed to live for free, and now people are mad at him because he behaved like a raving cock-biscuit while their kids were crying.

He writes a note to the family and we hear what he’s writing…somehow. It’s worth refuting the points he makes, because nowhere does the episode attempt to do the same. It would be fine if the point of “Looking for Lucky” was that ALF thought and acted one way, but then realized that he was out of line and came to understand the Tanners’ perspective. That would make some kind of narrative sense and it would remind us that the writers are aware of ALF’s personality flaws. Instead, though, the Tanners actually come around to ALF’s perspective, which reminds us that the writers got paid a lot of money to not give a shit about their own show.

ALF writes, “I’ve been accused of a crime I did not commit.” That’s fine. I believe you, ALF. But why didn’t you say so when you were asked? Why did you burp and joke and put your disgusting hairballs into peoples’ hands? Yes, it sucks to be accused of a crime you didn’t commit. But when you’re given a completely fair and open forum in which to express the fact that you didn’t commit it, and you decide not to say anything in your own defense, then that’s kind of on you.

ALF writes then that he’s been “accused by people I thought were my friends.” If you thought they were your friends, why did you joke around and belittle them when they were obviously hurt and concerned by the disappearance of their pet? Again, I’d like to remind you that by the end of the episode it’s the family that feels bad for the way they treated ALF, not vice versa. So what, with all due respect, the fuck?

Anyway ALF then makes some references to The Fugitive and sets off to find Lucky and clear his name. Well, okay, finding Lucky would indeed prove that you didn’t eat him, but what about the huge mess you made? All of the groceries that you ate and didn’t replace? The fact that you left the window open so that Lucky could escape in the first place?

Locating Lucky can’t “clear his name” because he actually is guilty of a whole load of things that the family should still be upset about. Yes, okay, he might not have eaten the cat, but that’s just one item on a long list of things that ALF should desperately need to atone for.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

The next morning Kate and the kids joke around in the kitchen about how they’re all starving because ALF ate everything and didn’t leave a scrap of food for anyone else. Again, why are they letting him live here? What benefit, exactly, are they getting from it? They sure seem chipper for people who didn’t have dinner and had to wait for a trip to the grocery store before they could have any breakfast.

Lynn gets a few lines here and had a couple in the Risky Business aftermath, and I almost feel bad about pointing this out but her delivery is really strange. It’s like the actress is making a conscious effort to pronounce each word correctly and clearly, which makes all of her sentences sound like they’ve been strung together by a robot. This in conjunction with the fact that many of Brian’s lines are clumsy overdubs probably goes a long way toward revealing why we haven’t heard much from them.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

As if he knew that we were talking about terrible line readings, Willie comes into the kitchen with a microscope, forgets his line halfway through, and then just starts over because he knows nobody working on this show is paying enough attention to ask for a second take.

It turns out that he analyzed the furball ALF coughed up, and it’s not Lucky’s hair; it’s ALF’s own!!!!

He therefore concludes that ALF is innocent.




ALF is not innocent. ALF destroyed your home. ALF is the reason you haven’t eaten since lunch yesterday. ALF is still responsible for the fact that your cat is missing.

This proves nothing, but Willie is convinced that he’s solved the crime and owes ALF an apology. Even with this in mind, that’s still not the strangest thing about Willie’s revelation: When a furry animal coughs up a furball, isn’t it usually composed of its own fur? I don’t understand why this is such a shocking development. The Tanners live with a cat. Do they think that every time Lucky’s coughed up a furball it’s because he hunted, killed and consumed another cat? Of course not. It’s because he’s covered in fur and that’s going to happen. Ditto ALF.

This doesn’t make sense, and in no way does it suggest that ALF is innocent of anything. I guess I still don’t know what Willie does for a living, but I think I can safely conclude that he’s not a lawyer.

Also, this is what Willie does all night? Sit in the shed with a microscope, staring at ALF’s magnified pubes? Who put all the furniture back together? Kate? They also made her do the shopping. No wonder she’s so miserable.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

They find ALF’s note and decide to go after him. We get a montage of ALF showing Lucky’s picture to other cats, and then we see the family asking strangers if they’ve seen ALF, complete with descriptions of and gestures meant to indicate his alien features.

…um, WHAT?

Again, in the first episode the family was concerned about ALF so much as going near the windows, lest a neighbor see him and call the government. Now, two episodes later, the family is wandering around town openly asking people if they’ve seen the space alien that they illegally harbor in their home.

What kind of sense does this make? What kind of sense could this ever possibly make? Every episode of ALF I’ve watched so far has seemed like an ingenious, scathing parody of the stupidity of the concept. And yet…it’s not. This is just the way the show works. And it reaches its pinnacle, perhaps, at the end of the montage:

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

ALF is spotted! By another human being! Not just that, but he’s lassoed around the neck, and if the animal control guy just pulled the noose a little tighter I’d never have to write another one of these reviews again.

This is it, guys! ALF has been captured!

These are the end times! This is precisely the sort of thing everyone was afraid of from day one! So I’m sure that was follows will be tense and exciting and…

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

…oh. The animal control guy just thought ALF was a dog.

For the fiftieth time this episode: fucking WHAT?

ALF looks nothing like a dog. And it’s this guy’s job to catch dogs. I have no clue what’s going on here. Maybe if the animal catcher was blind or something. Or if ALF was in a dog costume. But no, the animal catcher just thinks ALF is a dog, what with his walking on hind legs, speaking English, and having full, articulate use of his hands and fingers.

This is so disappointing. You know those news stories you see every so often? The ones where somebody caught a really creepy looking fish? Or when some bizarre animal corpse was found on the side of the road? The media goes nuts playing with the idea that it could be some mythical creature instead of a half-decomposed and bloated coyote. People love making a spectacle of that stuff. And this guy just caught one that’s still alive!

But he sticks it in a cage next to some dogs and that’s that. The lack of imagination in this show is almost admirable. God knows I couldn’t write shit this dumb for this long and still be able to face myself in the mirror.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

Lucky is placed into the cage across the room from ALF, because of course he is, and a few seconds later a little girl enters the room with the gigolo she pimps out to lonely old ladies.

I was all set to make fun of this girl’s acting, but then she immediately becomes my favorite character when she sees ALF in the cage and instructs the animal catcher to “Gas it. Nobody’s going to want it.”

Woman who played this little girl however many years ago: if you’re reading this, get in touch. I owe you a high five.

To nobody’s surprise, the girl chooses to take Lucky home. This continues the ALF tradition of set-up and payoff occurring so closely to each other that there’s actually no distinction.

ALF — concerned that Lucky is going home to a new family that’s smart enough not to leave it home alone with a creature that constantly tries to kill it — picks up his water bowl in both hands and runs it noisily back and forth against the front of his cage, which is so totally what a dog would do.

The animal catcher then opens the cage, as the best way to deal with an openly aggressive animal is to release it into a room full of people.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

Unfortunately ALF doesn’t get to save Lucky, because just as he’s released a midget in an ALF suit swoops in and makes off with the cat instead.

The creature that everyone still seems to believe is a dog then waddles out of the room on two feet with a cat slung over its shoulder, and we cut back to the Tanner house because nobody sees anything strange about this.

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

ALF reveals to the family that he brought Lucky home, but the family is just glad ALF is safe. Of course they are; if he weren’t around, who would starve them, break their heirlooms, and touch their son’s sleeping butthole? Willie then returns home with Lucky, because the cat ALF saved was just some look-alike.

I don’t even know why this development occurs since it doesn’t lead to a joke and the episode just ends. Well, ALF does joke about eating the cat he rescued, but this time nobody gets upset because they all finally realized how wonderful it is to live with a creature that fucks up your life at every turn. The Tanners are glad to return to their state of normalcy, in which none of them can ever leave the house again if they’d like to have a house to come back to.

I really don’t understand this show. I’m not a proponent of every episode having a moral or anything, but I am a proponent of television that at least understands what it’s doing. For a straight-faced show like ALF to have its titular character engaging in all manner of destructive shenanigans, it’s very odd that the big conclusion is that the family loves him for who he is…rather than that he needs to start trying to reign in his sociopathic behavior.

“Be yourself” is a fine takeaway for kids, but “Continue to be yourself even while you’re hurting the people who care about you” probably isn’t.

It’s just strange to me…as though ALF was the fore-runner of these “unlikeable hero” comedies we see all over the place now, only it didn’t realize that he was unlikeable. That almost qualifies as a compliment, and it would scare me that I’m ending an episode review on a high note…but then they re-play the Risky Business bullshit under the end credits and all is right with the world again.

MELMAC FACTS: Lynn says that on Melmac they eat cats the way we on Earth eat cows. Only, y’know, they hypnotize them into believing they’re bagels first.

ALF Reviews: “Strangers in the Night” (Season 1, Episode 2)

So I saw the thumbnail for this episode, featuring ALF in a dress, and I figured that this episode might fulfill the promise at the end of the pilot: Lynn was going to have a sleepover, and ALF was going to dress as a woman in order to remain undetected. Of course I don’t know why he couldn’t dress as a man, or even better just stay the shit away from the sleepover completely, but what do I know.

Anyway that’s not what this episode is about. Which is kind of strange, since ALF at a slumber party is about ten thousand times better as a plot contrivance than what we actually get here. More on that later, though.

The episode’s title is the name of a song, and looking through a list of ALF episodes shows me that nearly all of them are…or are named after a famous line in a song. It makes me feel conflicted, because somebody on the ALF writing staff cared enough about episode titles that, at the time, the audience wouldn’t even see that he or she adhered to this ongoing musical homage…which is kind of cool. But then it’s attached to ALF, which absolutely isn’t.

Anyway Kate asks if anyone’s seen her yellow ribbon, and ALF asks her what color it is. This results in the first instance of ALF’s “Ha! I kill me!” catchphrase, and I admire their restraint for waiting all the way until the first minute of episode two to assault us with that particular chestnut.

It turns out that ALF flossed with the ribbon, ruining it, because he’s ALF, and I guess he knows what flossing is but not what floss is. (Don’t think about that too hard. You will get hurt.)

ALF then demands that somebody go out and buy him popcorn, which reminds me of American Dad! In fact, it’s interesting to me how little American Dad! needed to twist the ALF formula to create Roger. He’s still an alien living secretly with a family, he’s still an annoying, selfish wretch, and he’s still prone to dressing up in silly outfits. The difference is that American Dad! is actually funny, which says a lot about the inherent promise of an ALF-like setup, and just how thoroughly this show bungles it. American Dad! didn’t need to parody ALF, it just needs to do it better.

Willie is going to work and Kate and Lynn are going to a bridal shower, so ALF volunteers to babysit Brian, as long as they leave him the key to the liquor cabinet. I’m convinced that this show didn’t intend to be so rapey, but Jesus Lord is this show rapey.

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

It’s the same credits sequence as before, but it’s slightly more appropriate than it was in the pilot, because this time it doesn’t play while we’re supposed to believe ALF is dead.

I do want to take this opportunity though to talk about how much I hate it when they swap out the puppet for a midget in an ALF costume.

It’s just…weird. It feels strange to say it, because there’s an actual human being stuffed in there whereas it’s usually just a set of hands, but the full-body ALF suit just seems so lifeless. Look at the above screen shot. ALF’s face just kind of…hangs there.

I think it’s because Paul Fusco, the puppeteer, knows how to act like ALF. It’s his creation, so he can inhabit the character instead of simply moving his arms around and opening and closing a mouth. The midget, on the other hand, is some person getting $20 a day because he or she fits into the outfit. There’s no acting going on…they’re literally just taking up space.

It’s distracting because ALF’s puppetry is actually pretty good. He has these little movements and gestures that go along with his delivery, and it makes him feel like a character. A midget in a suit is just a midget in a suit. Nobody bothered to tell this person who ALF is, what he likes, how he behaves, or even how he walks. When the puppet walks (behind a countertop or something, natch) Fusco makes him bob up and down like a Muppet. But then we cut to footage of the midget, and ALF is suddenly just awkwardly shuffling across the floor with his head down.

It’s more than just a continuity issue…it’s the difference between ALF being a character, and ALF being a thing. I’m disappointed by this, for reasons I’d continue to discuss if it weren’t for the fact that this just showed up on the screen:

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

There is literally zero chance of that being somebody’s real name.



Peter Bonerz.

Order a pizza right now and say that’s your name. See if anyone actually shows up to deliver it.

Peter fuckin’ Bonerz.

Anyway, The Peter Bonerz Alien Jubilee continues with the family calling Mrs. Ochmonek over to watch Brian while they’re away. This is because Mrs. Ochmonek is the only other character that exists at this point, but that does nothing to excuse the inanity of the premise. In the last episode they were worried about ALF even going near the windows because Mrs. Ochmonek might see him and call the Honor-System Alien Patrol; now they’re actively inviting her into the house where ALF will be dicking around unsupervised.

Doesn’t anyone in the family — literally anyone — have a friend they could call instead? Why would they ask their hated neighbor? In no universe does this make sense. If you’re writing the Batman TV show and you want to introduce the Joker to serve as a nemesis for him, that’s fine. That makes some kind of logical sense to the audience, even if it’s technically far-fetched. But if the next episode of the Batman show sees the dark knight inviting The Joker into his secret batcave to babysit Robin, you’re just not playing by the rules anymore. That’s insulting to anyone who tuned in.

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

Willie sets ALF up in his bedroom. He gives him some comic books and a jigsaw puzzle to keep him occupied. ALF doesn’t understand the concept of jigsaw puzzles; he takes one look at the pieces and says it’s broken. Willie explains that he has to put it together, and ALF says, “Why? I didn’t break it.”

And you know what? That’s actually kind of funny. ALF misunderstanding basic concepts and things we take for granted is a fruitful vein for the show to mine. It’s a lot better than putting him in a dress and throwing toilet paper everywhere. I wish the writers took the time to come up with more things like this…to step back and look at some familiar object or concept from a new angle, and figure out a funny way for an alien to misinterpret it.

It’s funny when that happens. And it’s puzzling that it doesn’t happen more often. I’m not exactly sure why ALF‘s writing staff thinks it’s funnier that ALF knows all this stuff about Earth already. He’s not baffled by anything — anything but puzzles, anyway — and he’s not confused. He’s just an asshole. They might as well have made ALF some crazy hobo.

Willie makes ALF promise not to leave the room or let Mrs. Ochmonek see him. If that’s his concern, though, why didn’t he send Brian to her house instead? None of this makes any sense at all. They’re so worried about one specific thing happening, and then they go out of their way to make it extremely likely that that exact thing will happen. This is first-draft material, at best, and yet here it is on the screen. The writers didn’t give this crap any more thought than the Tanners did.

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

Seinfeld’s mom arrives to watch over Brian, and Willie tells her to stay out of his bedroom, as though anybody would willingly enter the room in which Willie has sex.

Mrs. Ochmonek is excited because Psycho is on television tonight. ALF also told Willie he wanted to watch Psycho earlier as well. I didn’t mention it then because there wasn’t really anything to say about it…and, honestly, there never will be. It comes up again — very soon, actually — but it doesn’t go anywhere. And this is the episode in which ALF dresses like a woman! They seriously couldn’t tie that into the Psycho thing? How could you not tie that into the Psycho thing?

Something else I didn’t mention is that ALF narrates this entire episode in the past tense. It’s strange, because there’s no reason for this. Who is he telling the story to? And for what purpose? There are a few lame jokes sprinkled throughout the narration, but ultimately it’s just ALF, who is on screen, describing in a disembodied voice what we’re watching him do.

I get the feeling they edited the episode together, realized it was garbage, and then called Fusco in to record the narration as some kind of Hail-Mary gesture toward salvaging this mess. It doesn’t work, mainly because the writers don’t know any more than I do why the fuck ALF is narrating himself sitting on a bed.

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

ALF hears Mrs. Ochmonek watching Psycho, which turns the plot momentum up from zero to…I dunno. Zero point zero two. He sneaks out of the room and we see him bracing himself against the wall as he walks down the corridor because the midget can’t see through the eye-holes.

Seriously, this show is terrible.

We also learn that Peter Bonerz thinks that the “reet-reet-reet” music from the shower scene plays all throughout Psycho, even over the long stretches of gentle dialogue. It’s bizarre. We keep hearing bits of it from the television, and there’s always that same music.

I mean, granted, it’s the most recognizable audio cue from the movie, but couldn’t you just play it once? We get the idea. We don’t even need to hear it, actually, since you told us what movie it was. It doesn’t matter if we recognize the music or not.

ALF goes back to his room, which means that entire scene was pointless and I guess the five seconds of Psycho he saw over Mrs. Ochmonek’s shoulder was enough for him and he’ll never mention it again. He orders a pizza over the phone because he ate the jigsaw puzzle and now he’s hungry again. So, yeah…remember that joke where he cleverly misunderstood the concept? We’re back in ALF territory now. I’m surprised he didn’t shit the pieces all over the carpet.

We do find out that the Tanners live at 167 Hemdale. So that should hopefully make up for a lack of Melmac Facts this week. We don’t hear anything about Melmac because the writing staff is already bored with the fact that ALF is an alien.

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

ALF dicks around with the window and performs some unnecessary slapstick that culminates in him falling into the yard. Mrs. Seinfeld hears him fall, and she calls her husband and asks him to come over immediately, because she thinks someone is in the house. Quite why she’d arrive at the conclusion that someone was inside the house after hearing a sound from outside is beyond the reach of my feeble mind, but it makes as much sense as anything else has in this episode.

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

Mr. Ochmonek shows up and they investigate Willie’s room. He goes into the bathroom and gets all giddy because the Tanners have a cushioned toilet seat. He delivers this line from the bathroom door, as you see above. Then he teleports to his wife’s side to deliver his next line. It’s not just lousy editing…it’s emblematic of just how carelessly this entire show is put together.

Anyway, he locks the window so that his wife shuts up and then he goes home.

The pizza shows up and something occurs to me: why are we spending so much time with this secondary character? She gets basically a whole episode to herself. It’s the second installment of ALF ever and we’ve already shoved the family aside to hang out with their annoying neighbor. Why in the world would they do that? I understand that shows like this — bottle episodes, two-handers, increased focus on a minor character — are pretty common, but how often do they roll them out for episode two?

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

ALF climbs in through the cat-flap, and he steals the pizza that Mrs. Ochmonek leaves in the little window that looks into the kitchen. Nothing is happening.

Literally nothing is happening.

This entire episode is just ALF doing this minor shit while Mrs. Ochmonek walks slowly from one part of the room to another, reacting to missing pizzas and sounds outside. It’s like the “Invaders” episode of The Twilight Zone, as re-written by complete idiots.

And then, finally, ALF’s in a dress.

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

There’s no reason for this to happen. How disappointing. It’s not tied into the Psycho motif, and it’s not so that Mrs. Ochmonek won’t recognize him or something. American Dad! puts Roger in disguises for a good reason. ALF does it just because lol transvestite.

I don’t understand this episode. ALF is in the bedroom, so he leaves to watch Psycho, but then he goes back into the bedroom without having seen it. He leaves the bedroom to get the pizza, but then he puts the pizza back without eating it and returns to the bedroom to put on a dress. Who writes this shit? Was it just a bunch of clips they edited together?

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

Willie calls up and ALF dicks around on the phone. This entire episode is genuinely nothing but padding.

But then…

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

…hey look! Something happens!

A prowler comes into the room, and that’s harrowing enough on its own — compared to the rest of the episode this is like watching the collapse of the World Trade Center — but on top of that I actually recognize this guy! He too was in Seinfeld, and Breaking Bad! Hooray! I get to mention Breaking Bad again!

He was the junk yard guy in that show, and he’s immediately the best thing about this episode. Of course, before his appearance the wallpaper was the best thing about this episode, so that’s not saying much.

ALF lays on the bed and watches him steal everything valuable in the room, which is pretty much the final word on ALF’s chronic worthlessness. The prowler sees him, though, and gets spooked and falls out the window. Why not.

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

Willie and the rest of the family come home, and for some reason Willie gives Jerry’s mom a shoulder rub. What is it with the creepy touching that this show treats as totally normal?

She talks about how strange the night was, and in retrospect despite the fact that there was an alien in the house, it wasn’t really that strange. She misplaced a pizza for a while but is that really such a big deal? The way she’s reacting you’d think she spent the night fending off a horde of rapists.

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

A policeman comes to the door with the prowler in tow. He says the guy turned himself in, and was ranting about there being a hideous creature in a blue dress in the house.

Everyone assumes it was Mrs. Ochmonek, so there ya go. All of the episode’s deftly spun threads finally come together.

Why does this even matter? If the crook turned himself in for robbing a house, that’s that. The cop isn’t going to take him back to the victim’s house because he said there’s some hairy guy living there. I don’t care if the crook said there’s a space alien in their bed. The cop is going to take him to jail…not help him confront the family about it. JESUS CHRIST this show.

I’m really hoping this is one of the worst episodes I’ll have to sit through. The pilot wasn’t that bad. Again it wasn’t very good either, but it was okay. It didn’t live up to its promise, but it had promise.

ALF ordering a pizza while an old woman watches Psycho doesn’t have promise. And yet “Strangers in the Night” still failed to live up to it.

For a show about an alien life form being hidden from the rest of the world, ALF sure is boring.

I blame Peter Bonerz.

ALF Reviews: “A.L.F.” (Season 1, Episode 1)

And so it begins. Welcome to my episode-by-episode revisiting of the entire series of puppet-based hijinx known as ALF. This episode actually surprised me in a lot of ways, not least because they bothered to show us ALF’s arrival and first night with the Tanner* family.

It’s not that I’m surprised because I don’t think it’s a story worth telling…I’m just surprised because the “origin story” in the first episode is a relatively recent phenomenon. There are exceptions — and this is obviously one — but going back in TV history just a decade or so will surround you with shows that don’t really have much of an ongoing story. Sitcoms in particular are designed to be hopped into and out of as you please, with zero to little knowledge of the characters required.

ALF is by no means being innovative by opening with a “here’s how they came together” episode, but it is at least in the minority for its time. I kind of like that.

Anyway, the episode opens with Willie Tanner and his wife Kate in the shed, playing with some dials that apparently do something that may or may not be the cause of a space ship crashing into the roof.

I don’t really know what Willie was meant to be doing in the first place, and I have even less of a guess as to what Kate was doing there with him. Is this some kind of advanced ham radio thing? I have no idea, but the space ship falls slowly enough — take that, gravity! — that the Tanner children come rushing into the shed in a panic to ask what’s very slowly tumbling from the sky.

There’s a crash and we get a shot of ALF unconscious against the hatch of his ship.

ALF, "A.L.F."

I found it funny, but the studio audience didn’t. I guess we were supposed to care about this, and worry about his health, but since the show is named after him and it’s followed by a credits sequence that shows him alive and well I can’t really say that it generates suspense.

Actually, here’s a question: was there a studio audience? All the puppetry and midgets in full-body suits suggests not, I guess, but who knows. Maybe they staged as much as they could for an audience. Either way, ALF’s dead and nobody cares.

ALF, "A.L.F."

We then get a credits sequence with a theme tune (no lyrics, sadly) that I remember surprisingly well. The credits involve ALF running around the house with a camera, so that he can record footage of naked Kate for later batin’.

I realize now how little I remember about these characters, even though I’ve probably seen every episode of the show. I guess they just weren’t that well-developed. I remember ALF, of course. And I remember Willie’s strained line deliveries that made it sound like every word was going to be his last before he died of a heart attack, but I don’t know anything about the daughter talking on the phone in the closet, the son who hugs ALF, or the wife with the glorious wet tatas.

Anyway the credits end with a genuinely nice effect of ALF fogging up the camera lens with his breath. I like this, because it’s an actual piece of puppetry magic. It’s not as great as Kermit riding a bike or anything, but I do like it when you see something like this as a grown up and think, “Huh. That must have taken some thought.”

I probably won’t be saying that much throughout these reviews.

ALF, "A.L.F."

The credits of a healthy ALF scrapping around the Tanner home end, and we see a cold-cocked ALF being laid out on the coffee table like a corpse. I’ve never experienced such tonal whiplash in the space of a single credits sequence before.

Everybody wonders what this creature is, even though it obviously crashed a space ship into their shed while they all watched it happen, which should pretty much establish beyond the shadow of a doubt that it’s an alien. Willie finally says “It’s an ALF,” and Kate asks him what that means.

Willie then does something that I absolutely can’t stand, though it happens all the time on television: he replies to her question by simply repeating, “An ALF.” Then he has to dance around it verbally for a bit before he reveals that it stands for Alien Life Form.

The reason I hate this isn’t because it’s not realistic…it’s because it is realistic. I hate it when people use some phrase or terminology you don’t know, and when you ask them to explain they just repeat it. I know they do it on purpose. They do it on purpose because they want to make you feel stupider while they explain something to you that you never could have known in the first place. Willie you piece of shit.

Seriously, though, I really hate that. If you’re ever in a situation in which somebody asks you to explain what you mean, actually take a second and explain it. Don’t be a dick and just repeat the same fucking thing again. Especially if there’s a concussed alien in your living room and you really should focus on that instead of making yourself erect with how superior your vocabulary is to your wife’s and kids’.

ALF, "A.L.F."

There’s a really weird moment then when ALF wakes up and we see the Tanner family through a fish-eye lens. Does that imply that this is how ALF sees everything? And if he’s opening his eyes, shouldn’t they see that? They keep discussing him like he’s dead, but he’s obviously looking at them at this point.

The fish-eye lens suggests at least a small attempt at visual artistry. Similarly, there was a nice diagonal angle on the family from above when ALF crashed earlier. It’s the sort of thing I expect we won’t see much of as the series goes in, since they would have had to crank out an episode for each week after this point, and would probably have had to rely on the standard sitcom blocking of the time. For now though, it’s a nice peek into what the ALF crew would have done had they had more time for each episode.

And what they would have done is make everyone’s face hilarious with a fish-eye lens.


ALF wakes up and there’s actually a pretty funny exchange. He chastises Willie because his driveway needs more light and Willie apologizes and says he knows but he hasn’t had enough time to take care of that. I’m sure you’re laughing just reading about it. (I really did like it though. Why won’t you believe me?)

It’s here that I’m a little thrown by ALF’s voice. I guess Paul Fusco — the puppeteer and creator of the character — needed a little more time to settle into the voice as we remember it. This sounds a lot deeper than I remember it being, more like a kid trying to sound like a grownup than any actual character in its own right.

Anyway the Tanner adults don’t want ALF in the house and ALF — whose ability to speak English doesn’t seem to be of all that much interest to anyone — says he’ll leave if they can fix his space ship. Then he asks if he can eat their cat, and they say no. He disappears into the kitchen, the cat runs away, and ALF says, “He’s a fast one, I’ll give him that.” The audience applauds. Of course they do.

ALF, "A.L.F."

ALF awakens the next morning spent from a long night of fucking Willie’s wife.

No, actually she sees ALF and screams, and then he screams, and then they’re screaming together, which you have to see to believe because seriously, that like never happens!

Willie comes in from the bathroom to ask his wife what sex feels like, and ALF follows Willie back in to watch him shave.

Where was Willie all night that ALF could just sleep in his bed without anyone knowing? Where did they want ALF to sleep? And wouldn’t they want to keep an eye on him? He already wants to eat their cat. What if he killed their kids?

Who am I kidding. Nobody cares.

Willie tells ALF to keep his distance while he’s in the house, and to try to act considerate. ALF immediately picks up some shaving cream and shoots it everywhere.

I’m not even sure if that was meant to look accidental. I have a feeling this exact situation is going to play out a lot as we go on. ALF is told not to do something, ALF immediately does that thing, the audience applauds.

ALF, "A.L.F."

Willie strips naked in front of the alien, because that’s a wise thing to do with a creature you’ve never seen before and in the first episode of a family sitcom.

ALF pretends not to admire Willie’s willie. Seriously, ALF sure likes looking at naked people. He and I might have some common ground after all.

Willie tells ALF not to go near the window, because their neighbor Mrs. Ochmonek is very nosy. ALF immediately runs to the window and starts making silly faces while Willie washes his legs and genitals.

ALF, "A.L.F."

It’s a stupid scene that involves Mrs. and Mr. Ochmonek being lamely rude to each other, but it at least held my attention because I couldn’t place where I’d seen Mrs. Ochmonek before. After a while I realized it’s the woman who played Jerry’s mom on Seinfeld. And then I realized I wouldn’t have anything to say about that observation, but I’d make it anyway.

ALF, "A.L.F."

Willie comes out of the shower and asks ALF for something he can dry himself off with, so ALF runs over to the toilet paper holder and unspools the entire roll. This isn’t because he’s still learning Earth customs; he’s just a dick.

In the next scene, Willie is on a ladder attempting to fix ALF’s space ship. So, wait. They left the space ship on the roof all night? They’re so worried about ALF going near the windows because their neighbor might peep, but the space ship just sits out in the open for even passing drivers to see?

ALF isn’t helping Willie, despite the fact that he’s the only entity in the house that has any experience with the machine and none of them think that might be valuable during the repair process, so he goes inside to watch Sesame Street with the boy Brian.

This I actually kind of like, too. By acknowledging the Muppets, ALF is tipping its hat toward some real-world inspiration. Elsewhere in the episode the characters reference Harry and the Hendersons, E.T., and Mork and Mindy, all of which were obvious inspirations as well. I think that’s actually pretty cool.

What’s not cool is the way ALF touches Brian:

ALF, "A.L.F."

Jesus that’s off-putting.

ALF’s bad-touching is preceded by him plying the boy with alcohol.

Not kidding. He gives Brian a beer, and Kate walks over to tell ALF that’s wrong. She doesn’t have anything to say about the overt molestation though.

Isn’t this the worst possible thing to normalize in a family sitcom? It’s terrible.

ALF pets and squeezes the boy while he begs her to let him stay, and I know it doesn’t look that bad in the screen shot, but in moition I swear to Christ it’s the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been watching television outside of The Top 50 Funniest Rapes on TruTV. ALF’s a sicko.

Anyway there’s a knock at the door, and everyone runs around panicking. It’s some guy in a military uniform who patiently stands outside while they look out the windows at him and worry loudly about what to do for around ten minutes. He doesn’t even knock again. He’s just standing there waiting to deliver his lines. How long do you think you’d stand unmoving at a door after knocking? If it’s anything less than a day and a half you’ve got this guy beat.

ALF, "A.L.F."

They finally open the door after hiding ALF by asking him to step four inches to his left. Fortunately the military guy never thinks to turn his head, and their ruse is successful.

He introduces himself as being from the Alien Task Force, so now you finally know what the ATF does all day. He says he’s received reports that the Tanners are housing an alien, and then he describes ALF’s appearance.

Isn’t it a little odd that a government agent just went to a civilian’s house and blurted out the fact that alien life existed? Earlier in the episode Willie wasn’t sure that aliens were real, but now this guy not only knows they exist but he knows what they look like.

I just find that really strange. It would sort of be like a government agent knocking on your door right now. You open it and he says there’s an escaped leprechaun in town and gives you a description, and wants to know if you’re hiding it. Wouldn’t that be the single most bizarre thing you’ve ever been through? You’d think he was mentally ill.

He asks Kate if they are harboring an alien and she says no, so he leaves. Good to know that the Alien Task Force operates on the honor system. Seriously, he never comes back. Problem raised and solved in the course of one line. Again, so much for tension.

And wait a minute…doesn’t the Alien Task Force guy see the space ship on the roof either? Why am I the only person in the world WHO CAN LOOK UP?

Anyway, the episode’s over. It might as well be. Willie took a shower and Kate answered the door; where else could this story possibly have gone?

ALF, "A.L.F."

ALF wanders into the shed and uses Willie’s ham radio to place a distress call. He tries to reach some of his old Melmac-mates, but they don’t respond. That’s fine. In fact, I like that. But then some sad music comes on and he talks about how much he misses them and how much he likes his new family and how much he totally came inside the wife last night.

It’s a little weird that ALF is bearing his soul over the radio when he already knows nobody can hear him. It would be like you placing a call to somebody, and you profess your undying love for them over the recorded message that says you dialed wrong and to hang up and try again. ALF’s speech is a lot less moving when you realize he’s just an idiot.

The Tanners stand silently behind him and listen in on his literally one-sided conversation. They’re moved by his sincerity, even though all he did so far was wreck their shed, climb into bed with Kate, throw toilet paper everywhere and grope Brian, but then he mentions wanting to eat the cat again and they make angry faces.

The end.

ALF, "A.L.F."

Well, kinda. There’s still a short scene underneath the end credits that shows ALF telling jokes at the dinner table. Everyone in the family goes ga-ga over them, except for Kate who scowls humorlessly. I get the feeling I’m supposed to see Kate as some kind of fun-hating shrew, but honestly I’m on her side. Fuck this guy.

Everyone has apparently adjusted to the fact that they live with an alien now and always will, because they start discussing the logistics of Lynn’s pajama party next week. Did I mention Lynn yet? She’s the teenage daughter. And she’s having teenaged friends over.

ALF volunteers to dress up like a woman and everybody agrees that’s fine because now he’ll be forcing himself sexually on some other people’s kids for a change, and that’s something they’d like to encourage.

So, overall, this actually wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t great, and I probably wouldn’t even call it any good, but part of me wants to acknowledge that the setup is sound: an alien moves in. That’s not ground-breaking stuff, but it’s a solid premise for comedy.

The problem is that the episode doesn’t deliver on that promise or any of its inherent possibilities. It’s only been 21 minutes or so and the writers can’t think of anything for ALF to do but make a mess, so that’s discouraging considering we still have another 98 episodes to go. The potential conflict with the government would also be great, if the ATF didn’t just take your word for it that you’re not harboring sentient creatures from outer space.

I don’t remember the government thing coming into play much, but I was a kid the last time I saw this so who knows. Maybe it becomes positively riveting.

Or maybe ALF just chases the cat around and peeps on people in the shower.

I’m not a betting man, but if I were I know where my money would lie.

MELMAC FACTS: In this episode we learn that ALF comes from Melmac, that it had a purple sun, and that it exploded. It was also made of a substance called melmac. No idea if we’ll get many more Melmac facts in the future, but just in case, here’s where I’ll put them. You know. In case you ever want to write a paper about it.

* Yes, the Tanner family. At first I thought that Full House preceded this show, and ALF, knowingly or not, burgled the name. But no…this particular Tanner family predates Danny and his horde of imbeciles by a year. I knew this series of reviews would be educational.

Remember ALF? He’s back! In blog form.

Milhouse's Legendary ALF Pogs

Well, your votes are in, and the clear winner was ALF. Which, truth be told, makes me very happy because that means I get to give this blog post the BEST TITLE EVER.

Seriously, what was I going to call it if Gilligan’s Island won? “It’s Actually a Peninsula?” No. This is much better for all of us.

It also makes me happy because the more I reflect on ALF the more excited I am to revisit it. I’d say more now, but I might as well wait since I’ll be reviewing every episode of this stupid show between now and the day I die / get tired of this blog.

So, starting…soon(?) I’ll be reviewing one episode of ALF per week.

However, there was also a lot of interest in my “It’s Complicated…” approach, which would see me reviewing a show that I have a love-hate relationship with. And I admit, I kind of enjoy writing things like that too.

For this reason, I’m also going to plan on reviewing Red Dwarf in its entirety. I’m not quite sure how the scheduling will work out. Maybe I’ll do a season of ALF, then switch over to Red Dwarf for a series (they run from 3 – 8 episodes, so they’re not very long), and then back. But we’ll see.

So, yes. Thank you all for making your voices heard here and on Facebook. I’m hoping this can start next week, but no promises quite yet.

Get your alien puppets and dishes of cat meat ready. ALF‘s back, baby!!

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