ALF Reviews: “Try to Remember” (Season 1, Episode 16)

I…yeah. Episode sixteen is a clip show.

Take a moment to let that sink in. We’re barely halfway through the first season, and already there’s a clip show.

I do understand the value of clips shows. I don’t particularly like them, but I understand why they exist. It’s a relatively fast and inexpensive way to add another episode to the running order, and in the days before complete season DVDs, they were often the only way to re-live favorite moments from years ago.

Personally, I was always disappointed when I made a point of watching a show I enjoyed only to find out that the “all-new episode” was a clip show. Stitching together moments leads to a disjointed viewing experience that dulls the effect of even the best gags, as all of the context is removed. Clip shows try to follow the lead of “Greatest Hits” albums by including all of the things you remember in one convenient package, but in practice they turn out more like bizarre re-edits that grab one verse from this song, the guitar solo from that song over here, the chorus from this other one, and slap them together without any regard for how it actually flows.

The only time that I think clip shows have actually reached their potential is in the case of sketch comedy. There they can manage to pull off the Greatest Hits approach, because each of the skits has its own context that’s largely free from the original episode. Granted, shows like Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Mr. Show took great pains to keep one skit flowing into the next, and that level of artistry and flow undoubtedly suffers when chopped up and resequenced, but it can at least work. Sitcom clip shows don’t, and probably can’t, because things don’t happen in isolation. You’re not watching a stream of jokes…you’re watching a humorous story unfold. Try to separate one from the other and you’re left with nothing at all.

All of that is academic, though, because even though most sitcoms would wait until they have enough material for a clip show before actually making one, ALF dives into that particular well when there are only fifteen episodes from which to draw. Why they didn’t at least wait for the end of the season — especially since the plot of the episode is absolutely appropriate for a season finale — is beyond me.

Or, actually, maybe it’s not. So far ALF has been nothing but laziness incarnate. Lazy plotting, lazy characterization, and now the textbook example of a lazy episode; a shambling Frankenstein’s monster of other things stitched together. We’re approaching the lazy singularity.

Oh, and it’s an hour long. ALF is really spoiling us.

ALF, "Try to Remember"

The central conceit is that ALF loses his memory, and the Tanners have to remind him of who he is. That in itself isn’t a very unique concept for a clip show, but the execution is surprisingly competent. In fact, the original material in “Try to Remember” is probably the best stuff in the entire show since the Jodie episode.

I’ll get to that in a moment, but first I want to go over a few confusing things about “Try to Remember.”

For starters, this clip show actually contains footage otherwise unavailable from previous episodes, since in a handful of cases they chose to include something that was cut from the syndication edits. It’s nothing major — another line here or there, or a scene of Willie and Kate referencing prison movies during his incarceration in “Pennsylvania 6-5000” — but it’s still interesting.

Another strange thing is that this is one of the few episodes (perhaps the only episode) that is available in full-length form. I don’t know if this is because it was never edited for syndication to begin with or what, but there you go. This is the first as-broadcast episode that I’m reviewing.

Right? Well, not quite. While it sounds nice that “Try to Remember” isn’t a syndication edit, it’s also not the original edit. In a version that only aired once, ALF lost his memory because he brought an electric mixer into the bathtub in order to soak in a “whirlpool.” There was a big flash from off camera, the sound of electrocution, and then smoke pouring out of the bathroom.

Subsequent airings, however, have ALF taking a hand-mixer into the tub instead, slipping and hitting his head instead of getting shocked. The most obvious re-shoot is the beginning, obviously, when this all goes down, but there are also a few other lines cut that refer to the incident later on, including the punchline of the entire episode.

While it does make more sense that ALF would lose his memory due to a head injury than electrocution, the re-edit is pretty silly. It was done so that kids wouldn’t be encouraged to take their own electronics into the bath, despite the fact that the episode actually did a pretty good job of outlining exactly why to not do that.

After all, ALF suffered serious injury as a result of doing this, and a few lines that ended up being cut included Willie, Kate and Lynn scolding ALF for being so stupid, as well as questioning why he’d do it to begin with. And if that wasn’t clear enough, ALF himself appears at the end of the episode to speak to the children at home and tell them not to do what he just did. (Needless to say, this was cut from the re-edit as well.)

In the previous episodes we’ve seen ALF wreck the house, diddle the kids, torment the cat, set the kitchen on fire, issue cryptic threats to the president, buy things without permission on somebody else’s credit card, crash a car into the house, grab the wheel while somebody else was driving, and God knows what else that I’ve mercifully forgotten.

In none (literally none) of the above situations was ALF chastised in any serious way for his behavior. He does these nasty, dangerous things without consequence.

“Try to Remember” was the first time ALF actually had to deal with the fallout from his dumbdickassery, as well as the first time the show made a point of telling kids at home not to emulate his bullshit, and that’s what gets cut. I’m…dumbfounded.

ALF, "Try to Remember"

Another very strange thing about this episode is that the opening sequence is different. The theme tune sounds sped up (artificially…not due to a re-record with a faster tempo) and there’s a new shot of ALF reaching into the refrigerator and Kate slapping his hand. There’s also an extended bit at the end with the family getting ready to have their picture taken. You’d think that a faster tempo would suggest that things were removed from the opening sequence rather than added, but I didn’t notice any trims. Maybe a second here and a second there were snipped in order to make room for the new stuff. Either way…it’s odd. I wonder if this will be the intro going forward. I kind of hope not, because the sped up theme tune sounds awful.

What story there is, as I said, is actually handled quite well. ALF losing his memory is nothing to write home about, but what happens after that is not half bad…mainly because he behaves believably. When he hits his head (or zaps himself) in the tub, he’s reading a letter from an insurance company, which causes him to believe that he’s an insurance agent. (Good thing he wasn’t reading The Shining, I guess.)

After that, ALF behaves more or less the way somebody would if they did believe they were somebody totally different from who they’re being told they are. He complains, he fights back, he worries that he’s being kidnapped, and he eventually calls the police to save him from this crazy family that won’t let him leave.

It’s not bad, and honestly it deserved an episode of its own more than just about any story we’ve seen so far, so it’s a bit of a shame that it’s relegated to a clip show.

Anyway, since the rest of the episode is just clips of stuff I’ve already reviewed, I’m going to forgo re-reviewing them and I’ll present instead my own personal highlights of the series so far.

ALF, "A.L.F."

ALF embarks on a quest to bed each of the remaining Tanners while Willie is away on business. (From the episode “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”)

ALF, "Don't It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue?"

Willie moves ALF (and the audience) to tears with an episode-length version of “Candle in the Wind” that he wrote about the destruction of Melmac. (From the episode “Your Song.”)

ALF, "Looking For Lucky"

ALF writes a novel. In real time. (From the special four-hundred-hour-long episode “Paperback Writer.”)

ALF, "Strangers in the Night"

Mr. Ochmonek swaggers triumphantly into the bedroom after blocking up the Tanners’ toilet with an enormous shit. (From the episode “Black Water.”)

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

Willie reaches repeatedly into exposed wiring for 22 minutes, which was Paul Fusco’s ironic punishment to Max Wright for requesting more screen time. (From the episode “E-lec-tricity.”)

ALF, "A.L.F."

ALF witnesses a rape. (From the episode “Doctor My Eyes.”)

ALF, "Keepin' the Faith"

The prostitutes arrive and inform Willie that they all had lots of sex but their clients refused to pay them so now he needs to go beat them up. (From the episode “Willie the Pimp.”)

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

Brian sits around doing nothing because they were paying this kid for a full day and might as well stick him somewhere. (From the episode “Radio Free Europe.”)

ALF, "Oh, Tannerbaum"

It’s the day before Easter. ALF has hidden all the Christmas trees. (From the episode “Tannermelon in Easter Hay.”)

ALF, "Pennsylvania 6-5000"

Max Wright is arrested for possession of crack cocaine. (From the episode “The Making of ALF.”)

ALF, "Don't It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue?"

After accidentally killing Bruce Springsteen with a pitchfork, ALF must go on tour with the E-Street Band disguised as The Boss to keep the authorities from getting suspicious. (From the episode “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.”)

ALF, "On the Road Again"

ALF sets himself on fire. Coming to their senses at last, nobody helps him. (From the episode “Burning Down the House.”)

ALF, "Jump"

Willie accidentally joins Al-Qaeda. (From the episode “Sky Pilot.”)

ALF, "Oh, Tannerbaum"

Mr. Ochmonek swaggers triumphantly into the living room after blocking up the Tanners’ septic tank with an enormous shit. (From the episode “Black Water, Part 2.”)

ALF, "Oh, Tannerbaum"

ALF and Willie about to consummate their relationship during a drive-in screening of 9 1/2 Weeks. (From the episode “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”)

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

While attempting to channel the spirit of Bob Crane, ALF accidentally summons the ghost of a serial killer, and then goes apeshit and kills everyone. (From the episode “Careful With That Axe, Eugene.”)

So, that’s it. ALF gets his memory back at the end (whoops, spoiler) and the back half of the first season can continue to bring us so much joy.

I’ll leave you with this image from a scene cut from the syndicated edit of some episode I can’t place:
ALF, "Try to Remember"

The caption contest for that one is officially open. Make me proud, children.

ADDITIONAL: There’s a video which has been making the rounds recently, and for good reason. It’s very well done for what it is. (Thanks to Sarah Holmes and James Bull for sending it my way.)

But I would like to dispel one unflattering rumor. I do not appear in this video with ALF!
ALF Delta Commercial

I understand the confusion. This woman has served as my stunt double many times. We go way back. But I was not involved in this video. If it were me, I would have tweaked ALF’s nipple or something. If you see ALF with somebody who isn’t tweaking his nipple, you can conclude safely that it isn’t me. Thank you for understanding.

The Lost Worlds of Power Submissions Due Friday! (-ish)

Worlds of Power:  Metal Gear

We’re down to a matter of days, now! So far we’ve had some great submissions, and we expect even more as the deadline approaches.

Since the deadline is Friday the 31st, I’ve decided to keep submissions open until midnight on Sunday, February 2. Closing the submission window right before a nice, meaty weekend of revision time just didn’t feel right, so congratulations…you’ve got yourself another 48 hours to craft one hell of a terrible video game novelization.

Read the rules here, and get to work! If the submissions so far are any indication, you’ll be in great company. And stay tuned here…because we should have lots of news relatively soon, including the grand reveal of our final cover.

As well as info on physical copies. PHYSICAL COPIES? YES I SAID THAT

If you still haven’t started your submission, don’t fret. The Worlds of Power series practically cries out for a half-assed rushjob. Just think about which NES game you’d like to novelize, and then mishandle it as thoroughly as possible.

Updates to come. If you have submitted something to me and have not heard back…then I didn’t get it! I’ve replied to every submission so far to confirm receipt. If you didn’t hear back from me, get in touch! Email, comment below, anything. But let me know, because that means it never made it to me!

Good luck, everyone!

Reflections on Russell Johnson’s Passing

Russell Johnson, RIP

Last week, Russell Johnson died. It was a name that I recognized, but it’s not the name I thought of when I saw his picture. I didn’t even think of the name of his character. I thought of his descriptor. This man was The Professor.

I’m not going to make the case that Gilligan’s Island was brilliant television. I will, however, stand pretty firmly in my opinion that it was good for what it was, and had probably the most perfect sitcom casting this side of Arrested Development.

His death doesn’t get me reflecting as deeply on my childhood as the death of Jerry Nelson did. But it certainly does cause me to look backward, to exhume long-ignored memories, to remember simpler times in the world of entertainment.

I wasn’t alive during the original run of Gilligan’s Island, but I’d be surprised if there was a single episode I haven’t seen. It was in near-constant syndication when I was growing up, and it was a highlight of those rare days when I managed to trick my parents into thinking I was too sick to go to school. I’d lay on the couch and watch Gilligan’s Island, Press Your Luck and assorted soap operas I couldn’t tell you the first thing about. There was a kind of escape in shows like this…Gilligan’s Island in particular. It stuck with me…and I loved it.

I don’t know what it was about that show…but I can certainly make some confident guesses. For starters, that island was beautiful. Looking back I’m sure that most of it was filmed on a set, and any location shots were certainly not filmed anywhere near the tropical paradise that I had envisioned.

Gilligan’s Island didn’t just take the teeth out of the idea of being shipwrecked…it made it seem desirable. I remember feeling bad for Gilligan when he was berated at the end of many episodes. Sure, his bumbling often kept them stranded…but why on Earth did they want to leave?

They had food and water. They had shelter. They had constantly sunny weather. They had each other. They didn’t have taxes. They didn’t have dead-end jobs. They didn’t have sour relationships and difficult relatives. They didn’t have worries. Sure, every so often some external danger would be introduced to the group dynamic, but it was always vanquished in the end. Gilligan’s Island was far from the only sitcom to reach for the reset button at the end of each episode, but it was the only one that reset things to a status quo that looked like Heaven to me.

The lapping waves. The rustling palm fronds. Gathering around a big fire to eat and listen to a radio broadcast. Sleeping in a hammock. Watching the sunset with your toes in the sand every day of your life. If I were Gilligan, my subconscious would probably squash any plans for rescue as well.

But there’s something comforting about Gilligan’s Island beyond its setting: its characterization. And that’s where Russell Johnson shined…and he arguably shined brightest.

When I say that the casting on this show was great I’m not just offering up a vague platitude. I genuinely feel it couldn’t have been better. Look at any screen grab or promotional shot from the show, and you won’t just recognize their faces; you’ll hear their voices. You’ll remember their mannerisms. You know exactly how they’ll interact with each other under any given circumstance.

The characters were rigid. At no point did they grow or evolve. Far from being a drawback, however, this was a strength; they started out so perfectly formed that there was really nowhere else to take them. Everything from their personal wardrobes to their personal weaknesses were drawn from the start. Gilligan’s Island may never have achieved greatness, but it absolutely achieved the next best thing: consistency.

I found myself relating to The Professor more than any of the other castaways as a kid. Nowadays there’s probably a bit of The Skipper in there, too, but back then it was Russell Johnson who kept me fixated on the show. As the others would — with the periodic exception of Mary Ann — succumb to some form of temptation or another, The Professor moved forward with a level head. He was on hand to explain the obstacle of the week, to outline the things the others needed to do or refrain from doing, and while it wasn’t always his hand that saved the day, it was certainly his calm, collected intellect that held them together.

He was a type, as were they all, but there’s nothing wrong with that. While nowadays the tendency is to wink and lampshade, Gilligan’s Island is a relic of a time that wasn’t afraid of looking ridiculous. I am positive that nobody who worked on the show — in any capacity — felt that it was realistic or profound in any way. And yet…there it still was. The actors and actresses were still making the enthusiastic most of their material. The opening and closing themes were still immortal. The writers were still coming up with genuinely clever material; sure, the weekly plotlines might not have been anything special (how many times was the entire episode based around a new visitor that washed up ashore?) but those plots only served as the framework upon which to hang some great lines and physical comedy. And those wardrobe people? Those wardrobe people had as much to do with defining the characters as anyone else did.

I think what I really liked about Gilligan’s Island was the fact that everybody was an equal part of this community. That held a lot of appeal to me. While in some cases their usefulness to the rest of the group was clear, in other cases it might have been a bit harder to recognize. But, ultimately, they were in this together. Tensions might run high, but they were a group. Everyone had a purpose. Everyone had a reason. And given enough time, and enough teamwork, we could get everything back to normalcy.

Neither Gilligan’s island nor Gilligan’s Island would have been the same without every one of these characters. There was a kind of comforting, rewarding stasis at work…a reassurance that though you might feel out of place in the world, there was somewhere that you would fit.

I loved The Professor. Some kids grew up idolizing Captain Kirk, or Luke Skywalker, and that’s fine.

Me? I looked up to a guy in a button-down shirt, isolated from civilization and doomed never to return, but who kept his cool, stayed productive, and retained his sanity…there on Gilligan’s island.

Rest in peace, Professor. And thank you.

ALF Reviews: “I’ve Got a New Attitude” (Season 1, Episode 15)

Well, lucky us. Kate Sr. is still around…making this her third episode. She’s actually the only side character apart from Mr. Ochmonek to reach the three episode mark, and she did them all in a row. Huh. So this must be that Kate Sr. Trilogy I’ve heard so much of nothing about.

The other side characters just get introduced, wave to the camera, and then ride off into the sunset. Technically I should be happy that Kate Sr. is still around for that reason alone; this is a kind of progress. But she still isn’t much of a character, and since the previous two episodes were practically identical in terms of their themes and conflict, I’m not especially glad to see them tapping the same well a third time.

Anyway, Willie and Kate carry boxes around while ALF lays naked on the couch watching them. If you had to distill the entire narrative essence of ALF down to three seconds of footage that would loop forever, this would have to be it.

Kate Sr. is moving out, and Willie wonders aloud if her new apartment can fit all of these boxes because it’s so small. I was going to complain about the clunkiness of Willie’s exposition, but the real problem is that Kate Sr. arrived with a briefcase, yet is somehow leaving with more than a whole apartment can potentially fit.

Also, later on we see the apartment and it’s fucking massive. It’s like a penthouse. This isn’t the only time that the episode will tell something that we can contradict as simply as by opening our eyes, and that’s puzzling to me. I can understand using a word like “small” in the script, and then seeing the set was built differently…but wouldn’t you drop the word “small” in that case? Why not make a tiny alteration to the script in service of not coming across like you aren’t paying attention to your own show?

And the more I think about it, the shittier Kate Sr. seems to me for turning up like that and just moving in. I know Estelle kicked her out (that Estelle!) but how long did she expect to keep up the lie? Did Kate Sr. intend to say every week that Estelle broke another bone? She might have been in a tight spot, but a lie like the one she told should only buy her a few days…what the hell was her long-term plan?

ALF asks Willie to lick a stamp for him, and Willie angrily replies, “Can’t you lick that yourself?” I’m only pointing this out because I’m genuinely shocked this line hasn’t made it into a Mr. Meatloaf video. What are you waiting for, internet?

It turns out that ALF ate the chocolates Willie was going to give to Kate for Valentine’s Day. So, here. This is the ALF Valentine’s Day special, I guess.

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

Kate Sr. enters the room and announces that the painters aren’t finished in her new apartment, so she will have to stay with the Tanners longer than expected. Oh, excellent. All three episodes of the Kate Sr. trilogy have the same premise. Exactly what I was hoping for.

ALF is tired of having Kate Sr. around, and, buddy, I am on your side. Not that the show was better without her, per se, but it was at least bad in different ways. With three episodes in a row based around the same “Kate Sr. is staying longer than expected” setup, it’s getting claustrophobic. Sure, ALF wrecking the car or Willie skydiving or the family getting stuck in an RV didn’t lead to episodes any better than these…but at least they were bad in unique and interesting directions.

I wouldn’t harp so much on the fact that three episodes in a row have the same premise, except for the additional fact that this isn’t the first time this has happened: earlier this season we had three episodes in a row about ALF falling in love. That’s two long stretches of identical plotlines, and this is only episode fifteen! It’s not bad enough that they pad out every installment of the show…they also have to pad out the season as well?

Anyway, ALF is mailing a canned ham to Sally Field. Willie comes over and tells ALF that he is not to send any meat to celebrities, and if you listen closely you can actually hear Max Wright mentally composing his suicide note.

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

Some guy comes in — Kate Sr.’s new neighbor, as we learn — and I could have sworn to God the family called him Wizard Beaver. Even by ALF standards though that’s absurd, so I looked him up and sure enough his name is actually Whizzer Deaver. Which…isn’t any better? Ah well; I tried.

Anyway he comes in so everyone has to pretend ALF is a chicken because WHO CARES THIS WAS A VERY POPULAR SHOW DO YOU HEAR ME

Whizzer Deaver looks kind of like the guy who played Doug on Flight of the Conchords and Gale in Breaking Bad, but I’m sure I recognize the actual actor from something I can’t put my finger on. His name is Paul Dooley and if you look him up you’ll see he’s been in about ten million things. This is unquestionably the worst.

Whizzer “Wizard Beaver” Deaver is helping Kate Sr. move her boxes into her new apartment, which will certainly make the painters very happy. He’s only in the living room for about a minute but he manages to say an incredible amount of things in that short time that make it overtly clear that he wants to plow Kate Sr. It’s actually really creepy how direct and persistent he is, but everyone acts like it’s charming and sweet.

I think the writers were going for something like William Powell playfully toying with Myrna Loy in The Thin Man, but because this is ALF and cleverness and subtlety have no place here, Whizzer Deaver seems like he’s barely able to keep himself from hopping on the couch, wetting his pants, and screaming, “I WANT TO PENETRATE YOUR DEAD WOMB.”

Whizzer and Willie go out and come back later on, laughing it up. I can’t imagine a pair of human beings with whom I’d less like to spend a night on the town. The Whiz brings Kate Sr. some flowers, but then he offers them to Kate Jr., and then he takes them back and offers them to Kate Sr. again, and I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to see him as some hilarious, smooth, middle-aged casanova. Really he’s just coming across like a horny idiot.

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

There’s a really strange moment when Whizzer asks if there’s anything that still needs to be moved. Kate Sr. says that all that’s left is her suitcase, and some things “over there,” indicating stage left. Yet as she does this there’s a pile of boxes visible right behind her…the same boxes Willie and Kate were moving earlier that belonged to Kate Sr. This is why the syndication edits don’t bother me. Yes, I’m sure sometimes a line is cut that makes a little more sense of things. But here we have a woman standing in shot with some boxes that we’re supposed to pretend aren’t there. If the show couldn’t couldn’t be arsed to move some boxes out of the way so that their scene made sense, I don’t have faith that another two minutes of alien hijinx would make things much better.

One of the things Kate Sr. pointed at is a clarinet in a case, which Whizzer picks up and Kate Sr. tells him to back off and takes it away from him. She then wipes his finger prints off of it, and says it belonged to her dead husband. Well, hey, that’s fine, but if she didn’t want him touching it why did she specifically point to it when he asked what needed to be moved?

Willie miraculously remembers that Whizzer Deaver is the name of a man he used to see at a club playing the clarinet. Must have been a hopping club, there, Willie. Whizzer says yes, that was him, and offers to bring his own clarinet over so the family can have a “jam session.” In my experience jam sessions don’t involve a room full of strangers staring blankly at one man huffing through a woodwind, but I’m no Whizzer Deaver.

Kate Sr. slaps down the whole idea though, making it perfectly clear that she would never, under any circumstances, go to bed with a man Willie looks up to. Her philosophy on romance is very similar to my own.

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

Later on everyone’s in the kitchen. ALF is eating jellybeans or something and Willie is fixing the toaster ALF ruined by cramming a pickle in it. THIS WAS A VERY POPULAR SHOW DO YOU HEAR ME

Everbody tries to pressure Kate Sr. into having sex with the guy who helped her move, and as someone who helps old ladies move all the time, I can tell you that this is a perfectly common arrangement. She refuses, and ALF interjects that she is “saving herself for a corpse.”

He’s referring to her dead husband, who she still misses like a big fucking idiot!!! Anyway, we find out that her husband’s name was Sparky…and though I didn’t mention it and can’t remember which episode it was now, there was a joke in a previous story where Willie brought a hamster named Sparky home to ALF, and returned it immediately because ALF wanted to eat it. Needless to say, it was hilarious. But now I have to wonder why Willie named a hamster after his wife’s dead dad.

ALF reveals that he has the ability to speak with the dead, and he’s been in contact with Sparky. (The dead man, that is…not the forgotten hamster.) Hey, why not. It’s not even in the top 200 most ridiculous things I’ve heard in this show, so fine. ALF is a medium. Who cares anymore.

He proves his otherworldly communication abilities by telling everyone Sparky’s favorite food. After this air-tight evidence that ALF can communicate with the world of the dead, everyone asks ALF to channel Sparky later that night so that they can talk to him, too. I’ll give the Kate Sr. Trilogy this much credit: when her character first showed up at the house, I had no idea they were building toward a climax in which a puppet summons the ghost of her dead husband.

The next thing we see is this:

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

Of course. What else could it have been?

Willie asks ALF if that’s their goldfish bowl on the table, and ALF says it is, but the goldfish is fine as long as nobody flushes the toilet. I’m sure glad the writers invented a Tanner family goldfish for that joke.

Someone asks where Brian is, and there’s another zinger as we hear the toilet flush, because he took a shit onto the goldfish and killed it.

Brilliant stuff, ALF. Just pure class.

This whole scene is a perfect encapsulation of everything wrong with this show. What’s the logic here? Why are they letting ALF hold a seance in their living room? Why do they believe he’d have the ability to speak with the dead? He’s never been magical before…but all of a sudden they are willing to go along with this schtick as if it’s in any way reasonable?

I guess I’d be willing to believe that they’d tentatively let him get away with saying that everyone from Melmac can communicate with spirits, but they don’t get suspicious when the ceremony looks exactly like it does in some late-night 1950s B-movie? Isn’t that a pretty clear giveaway that this fuckdicker is just doing what he does all the time? Screwing with everyone and wrecking up their lives because they keep giving him the express opportunity to do so?

Why is nobody in this show a human being?

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

ALF tells everyone to join hands and close their eyes, and then he moans and groans for a while as he slips into a trance. I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed almost nothing about revisiting this show, but this scene is ranking right up there with his music video for making me wonder why I’m doing this. I’m once again overcome with embarrassment for even having this on my computer screen. I feel like I deserve to have the principal of my old school, my boss, and every one of my ex-girlfriends walk in on me right now and see this. See that this is what’s become of me.

ANYWAY THE SEANCE IS GREAT and we find out that Kate Sr.’s last name is Halligan, which is therefore, at least presumably, Kate’s maiden name as well. I like that this awful show needs to drag us through these absurd, unbelievable situations of spirits and mysticism and occult mumbo-jumbo before it gives enough of a shit to reveal even the most basic things to us about the characters involved. We can have an episode with ALF and Willie trapped together in a car and learn literally nothing about them from anything that they say, but strap Willie to a rocket and fire him at the moon and have ALF travel through time to save him and that’ll be the scene in which we learn that Brian’s middle name is Frank.

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

Anyway, ALF contacts Sparky, and everyone hears his disembodied voice speaking from above. I don’t actually believe that it’s possible to communicate with spirits, or even that there are spirits, but I do know that this is emphatically not how a seance works. If we could just look up at the sky and speak verbally back and forth with dead people, not only would we not need a medium at all, but there’d be no question whatsoever about an afterlife.

Think about that. If you could walk into a room with a bunch of friends, look up at the ceiling and talk to your dead grandfather, would there be any room for questioning life after death? What’s more, it would be easy to document. Set up a camera, ship a copy to James Randi, and collect your million dollar prize. The entirety of human civilization would change, knowing that we go somewhere after we die, and that all we have to do to learn about that place and prepare for it is verbally ask a dead guy.

And yet…nobody in the Tanner family seems to react. What would you do if a ghost started talking to you? …okay, I admit, I don’t know what I’d do either. But I’d sure as hell do something. I wouldn’t sit quietly at a table and wait for him to stop so that I could get on with the rest of my night. This would be a life-defining moment, and very likely the most significant thing I’d ever witness. For the Tanners, though, this is treated like just another night in.

The lack of imagination in this show is absolutely dumbfounding.

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

Anyway, it’s not a real seance (which is odd since it was so very convincing), and it unravels when the voice of Sparky Halligan starts speeding up and slowing down. Willie looks under the table and finds his tape recorder, at which point he angrily shouts, “You’re a fraud!”

See? This is the problem. I know the seance was fake and therefore much of what I said above shouldn’t mean anything…but the Tanners believed it was real. They believed they were talking to a ghost and they still didn’t react. If Willie stood up and said, “I knew it…what a waste of time…” that would be one thing. Instead he reveals that he fell for it, as did everyone else, and yet they still didn’t see this as anything worth getting excited over.

I understand none of what I’m watching.

Everyone yells at ALF…but, really, shame on them for being such idiots. ALF explains that he learned all of his facts about Sparky from digging through Kate Sr.’s things, but that doesn’t explain whose voice was on the tape, nor how he knew what Sparky sounded like. Kate Sr. confirmed that it was her dead husband’s voice…so how in the world did ALF record him saying things like “I’m dead now, go sleep with that guy who played Doug on Flight of the Conchords“?

This makes no sense whatsoever. Yes, ALF can fake a seance. No, ALF cannot fake a seance using a cassette tape that can’t possibly exist and goes completely unexplained. At that point he might as well be able to actually speak to the dead. God this show is awful.

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

We then cut to an exterior shot of Kate Sr.’s apartment building, with a dubbed line announcing that she has a delivery.

Then we immediately cut to this shot, where the box is already inside her apartment and the door is closed:


This is really weird. They hired a guy to say the line about the delivery, so why didn’t they open the scene with her signing for the box or something? Why have the line spoken off-camera, and then immediately cut to the box already being inside the apartment? It’s really weird to me. There was no sound of a door opening or closing…just the unseen delivery man, and then, bam, Kate Sr. with the door closed, not even very close to the box that was just ostensibly handed to her.

But that’s not all…

Guess what’s in the box, assholes!

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

It’s ALF! He felt so bad about lying to manipulate her into sleeping with the neighbor she barely knows that he mailed himself to her apartment so he could continue manipulating her into sleeping with the neighbor she barely knows.

ALF gives a speech to her about moving on, and he uses the destruction of Melmac as his own personal example. While that’s meant to give Kate Sr. the strength to face life without her husband, all it really does is make ALF seem like a pretty massive dick for getting over the annihilation of his entire civilization in a couple of episodes.

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

There’s somebody at the door, and since there’s only one character unaccounted for it has to be Whizzer Deaver.

I know I said that name might not be any better than Wizard Beaver, but I’m starting to think it’s actually worse. If it was really Wizard Beaver then I could just assume the writers were trying to be funny, and failing as ever. It wouldn’t even stand out in the grand scheme of things. But with Whizzer Deaver were they just trying to give him a normal name? This is what they came up with? Is it that hard to call this guy Jim or something and move on? God knows we’ll never see him again.

The Deav brings her a Valentine’s Day gift, which reminds me, oh shit, this is a Valentine’s Day special. Don’t ask me how I forgot, what with all the Valentine’s Day staples we just saw, like summoning the dead, clarinet jam sessions, and shitting on goldfish. I must be thick as a brick.

Whizzer flirts some more and Kate Sr. agrees to go out to dinner with him, which seems like a great idea to me, since it’s so easy to get into restaurants at dinner time with no reservations on Valentine’s Day.

ALF, "I've Got a New Attitude"

ALF for some reason sits quietly in the box while they’re gone, wondering what he’s supposed to do since there’s still a few minutes left in the episode and nobody wrote any more lines for him.

In the scene just before the credits ALF is delivered back to the Tanner house, and the same delivery man shows up to drop the box off. This time we see him, and they even made a JACKRABBIT COURIER jacket for him to wear, which means I’m even more confused about why they didn’t show him before. They had a costume for him but still just had him do some clumsy, shittily-edited overdub? I honestly feel sometimes that ALF goes out of its way to do the stupiding fucking thing possible.

Anyway great episode. 10 out of 10. Fuck you.

MELMAC FACTS: On Melmac there was a sport called Klaneball, which was like hockey but without skating or a puck. There were also four classes of postage: 1st Class, 2nd Class, Fish, and Ham. Oh, and everyone on Melmac could talk to the dead…or at least convince a family of morons that they could talk to the dead by sticking a flashlight in a fishbowl.

The Importance of Saying Something Stupid

Noiseless Chatter meetup, 2014

I’ll admit this right up front: it’s not pleasant to realize that you’ve said something stupid. Especially since you’re not an idiot.

Really. You’re not. You, reading this, whomever you are: you’re not an idiot. You may do idiotic things. Your name may be attached to idiotic statements. But you’re not an idiot. This is why it stings when you do accidentally dip into idiocy. When you say something that you immediately wish you could take back. When you do something that you know immediately afterward someone as smart as you shouldn’t have done.

But, if I may be so bold…that’s a good thing. Yes. It is.

It’s a good thing to say things that you regret. Regret is a useful feeling. Yet the internet — depending upon the site, anyway — allows us to erase that regret. It’s a nice thought, but it’s unintentionally destructive. It’s healthy to want to take things back…but it’s less healthy to actually take things back.

I’m speaking of a few different things, here, but they all orbit around the same thought: when we say something that we later regret saying, it’s important to stand behind what we said. Not in the sense that we need to embrace the poor judgment that caused us to say it…but in the sense that we leave it there. With our name attached. As a reminder. To ourselves.

In the more severe example on my mind, a journalist recently shared her story about being threatened with rape on Twitter. Yes, it’s the internet, and while these things are by no means excusable it’s also a fact that the vast majority of internet threats are empty. But it went deeper than that. This person shared details about the journalist, making it clear that whether or not he’d ever follow through on this very open threat, he knew where she lived…where she went in her spare time…the names of her friends and loved ones. He’d done his homework, and that’s terrifying.

Worse, however, is that a well-intentioned friend of the journalist reported these frightening messages to Twitter, which then deleted his tweets and his account. Fair enough, except that this threw a fatal wrench into the journalist’s ability to pursue legal action; the evidence was gone. There was no investigation, because there was nothing left to investigate. Whoever this man was, and wherever he was, he’s still out there.

In the far less severe example, I posted a joke on Facebook a short while back. Somebody took offense at the joke, but made it clear through his comments — a steady stream of comments, one after the other, sometimes seconds apart — that he’d missed the intent of the joke. Other folks piped up to let him know he was taking things too seriously. I stayed out of it, but eventually betrayed my better judgment (literally dozens of his irate comments later) to let him know that he was reacting to something I didn’t say. He took the joke, twisted it into something that upset him, and reacted to that instead of what was actually said.

That’s fine. People have every right to get upset. And I’d have gladly apologized if I had actually said something that made someone else upset. The problem here was that I hadn’t actually said, or suggested, what it was that he claimed to be upset about. Eventually he must have realized this himself, because a few minutes later he went back and deleted every last one of his comments. Since there were many people engaged in the conversation at that point — and since they were both addressing the things he said and responding to the questions posed by him — anybody finding the discussion now would only see half of the conversation. The other half isn’t invisible…it isn’t silent…it simply doesn’t exist anymore.

Somewhere in the middle there are hundreds of online discussions I’ve seen where comments go missing, or are edited to say “nevermind” or something instead of what was actually there in the first place.

If these people, and the gentleman who was upset at one of my jokes, came to realize (independently or otherwise) that they don’t actually agree with what they’ve said, that’s a good thing. But deleting their contributions to the conversation is not a good thing for anybody.

As I said before, it doesn’t help somebody who comes to the conversation late; if that person is interested, they should be able to read what actually took place there…rather than only being able to read what’s left after somebody gathered up their toys and went home.

It doesn’t help the people whose comments still stand in the conversation, because it’s no longer a conversation. It’s a string of statements in response to something that doesn’t exist anymore. With one person deleting their contribution, they remove the context from everything else. That shouldn’t be their right to do; if somebody took the time to respond respectfully to something you said, it’s only fair to let your comments stand so that they make sense.

But, most of all, my main point is that it doesn’t help the person who deleted or edited their comments, either. Why not? Because saying something stupid and then realizing that what you’ve said is stupid is an important thing to do, and it teaches us a valuable lesson: to think before we speak.

If we can remove from the internet everything foolish that we say, there’s no reason to stop saying foolish things. It’s important that they stay there, with our names attached. It’s important that we regret saying something before we thought it through. That’s what’s going to help us the next time we think of typing something out in anger. It can give us pause. It can prevent us from leaving that threat. It can prevent us from fighting a perceived insult that didn’t exist. It can prevent us from kicking up a heated conversation that ends with us frantically scrubbing our contributions out before anyone gets a chance to see what it was we wish we didn’t say.

Making mistakes is a part of life. There are a lot of things online that I wish I didn’t say, or that I wish I’d said differently. In most of those cases, I have editing permissions and could theoretically delete them.

But why would I? The more I catch myself regretting what I’ve said, the more careful I’m going to be the next time. That’s valuable. That builds character. That builds a sense of responsibility for the words we say, and the digital legacy we leave behind.

It’s important to take responsibility for what you said. If you’ve said it and somebody’s read it, it needs to stay where it is. You did that. You might be able to erase your comment and your accountability, but you can’t erase the feelings that others had when they read what you said to them. Your responses need to stand, even if — especially if — you regret them.

Because if you delete them, or you have a moderator delete them, or a site decides of its own accord to delete them, everybody’s being done a disservice.

The fact that we can live Cher’s dream by turning back time and taking back hurtful words — our own or somebody else’s — doesn’t mean we should. It gives rise to problems of its own.

You’re accountable for what you say. Wherever you are, whomever you say it to, you are responsible for those words. If you don’t like that, then take a moment to think about what you’re saying before you post it. The correct way out of that noose is simply not to step into it in the first place.

Accountability is underrated. It has been for a long time. We need to start taking it seriously again.

So by all means, be stupid. It will happen. Say idiotic things. And when you do — which you will, which we all will — leave them just where you’ve put them. Feel free to amend an apology, but leave your original words untouched. Let yourself know that the next time you say something stupid, that’s going to stay where it is, too.

You’ll find before long that you won’t be so quick to say stupid things anymore. And that, I promise you, is an awakening worth having.