Crappy Halloween!!

WHA HAPPENRegular visitors of this site (I like to call them Chatterholes) will no doubt have noticed that THIS SITE CEASED TO EXIST.

What happened?

Well, something very good: October saw the most traffic this site has ever had! Unfortunately that traffic exceeded the agreement I had with my webhost, so Noiseless Chatter (I like to call it Chatterhole Central) was taken offline with a cryptic error message that told nobody anything.

This happened while I was in a hotel room in Chicago, unable to deal with it and without any of my billing information. So it was down for a few days…right before I was supposed to launch The Lost Worlds of Power.

I’m back up, now. To save time and heartache, I upgraded my hosting package. That’s more money, which means I may revisit the idea of advertising. Or maybe I’ll just put a PayPal button somewhere and those who feel inclined can donate. But as of right now, I haven’t given it much thought. We’ll see. I’m open to ideas. As much as I love this site — and all y’all — it also consumes time and money that I don’t always have to spare.

That’s not an ultimatum, though. As long as it’s humanly possible, this site will be here. It’s not going anywhere…I’m just thinking out loud, and trying to decide how to avoid something like this happening again in the future.

So, service as usual will pick up again from this point on. Hopefully the downtime will have discouraged some spam bots, so if you need a silver lining, there you go.

Where does that leave The Lost Worlds of Power?

Technically, since it was supposed to launch tomorrow, I can still hit that deadline. But…I’d rather not. It feels disrespectful to the project as a whole — not to mention the authors involved — to just drop the thing and run after an extended period of THE SITE NOT EXISTING.

So, though I hate to do this, I’m going to bump it back. Most likely a Thanksgiving release at this point…but I’ll give that more thought as well before I promise anything. Basically I want to give it a fair and exciting runup.

Anyway, whatever. That’s that. I’m all laggy from traveling so forgive me if it sounds like I’m unfocused and I have to pee.


ALF Reviews: “I’m Your Puppet” (season 2, episode 22)

When I started doing these reviews, each one took me about…two hours or so to write. (Not counting the viewing time of the episode, of course, but that’s negligible.) Now they take several days’ worth of on-and-off work. Which, frankly, is insane.

I think, however, that’s because I’ve allowed my writing process to evolve into something very inefficient. Even though my reviews are better now than they were then (feel free to disagree…), I think that the change in writing process is coincidental, and is not responsible for any bump in quality. The improvement is far more likely to be down to my expanded mindset, and increased willingness to engage with the material.

So, what I’m doing with this review is going back to my old writing process. If you think this installment represents a major step backward in quality, let me know. Hopefully you won’t even notice. Or wouldn’t have if I didn’t draw your attention directly to it OOPS

Anyway, this one opens with ALF building some shitty car in the living room. (Don’t worry. It gets better.)

As you can see, the construction of the vehicle is pretty well underway, so I have no idea how nobody in the family knew he was doing this. Why not set this scene in the garage where it would make more sense? I’d be willing to believe he was building some jalopy out there that nobody knew about. The Tanners only have periodic reasons to go into the garage, and that’s sort of ALF’s de facto playground anyway, so why not? Why the fucking living room when we find out in a moment that Lynn and Kate are right in the kitchen? How did they not hear this, or see this, happening?

It’s a pretty stupid setup for a sequence of jokes that would have lost nothing (and would not have had to be rewritten in any way) if they just came into the garage instead of the living room to tell ALF breakfast is ready. As it stands, Kate and Lynn walk out of the kitchen at the sound of the shitty car’s horn, which is annoying but not particularly loud. How did they hear that but not the actual construction of the fucking vehicle?


You’ll also see that they’re really making sure to get their money’s worth out of those fuzzy dice they dyed green way back in “Help Me, Rhonda.”

The jokes are actually not that bad. For starters, the alien refers to his car as an ALF Romeo. It’s one of those puns that’s exactly stupid enough that it just barely circles back around to being funny. In fact, I’d be willing to give this entire scene a begrudging pass based on that joke alone, but it’s not the only good one.

ALF explains that he’s building a car because it will impress chicks. Then he asks if they like it, and Kate says no. ALF replies, “I was asking the chick. Not the mother hen.”

It’s dickish, but what makes it funny is Andrea Elson’s reaction. As commenter J. Paul pointed out recently, Elson is a bit of a gigglepuss. You can catch her laughing — or trying very hard not to — pretty often. Here, as in “Going Out of My Head Over You” during the brilliant dinner scene, it fits even if it’s not deliberate. It’s a shot at Kate that doubles as a compliment for Lynn, so I buy that the shock of it would make her laugh before she realizes she shouldn’t be doing that.

It’s a nice moment. I think it’s deliberate, but even if it’s not, so what? Most of the stuff this show does deliberately sucks a big cock, so you might as well let it run off the rails now and then.

Lynn asks how he built this piece of shit, and he explains that he used some worthless junk from around the house…such as Kate’s wedding dress for the car seat. Kate rightly gets upset, but ALF replies, “What? Were you planning on wearing it again?”

This…I actually like. ALF did something massively upsetting to Kate, but with one line of dialogue we’re reminded that he didn’t realize it.

Earthlings have this custom of keeping one specific article of clothing that, no, they will never wear again. ALF, an alien, doesn’t know that. He probably sees all kinds of clothing (especially with two growing children in the house) being given away or otherwise disposed of because they won’t be worn again. Why would — or should — he think this old dress is any different? It’s a good way to make ALF an accidental asshole without making him an intolerable psychopath.

Kate tells him to get that monstrosity out of her living room, and he starts it up for some reason without being inside of it, so of course it crashes into some furniture and makes a bigger mess. We linger on a shot of the crashed vehicle long enough that I was sad this whole thing built to a shitty visual “gag,” but then we finally cut back to ALF who says, “Great. Now I have to build a tow-truck.”

And FUCK YOU that’s the funniest punchline these opening scenes have had in a while.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

This one has a writing credit for Al Jean and Michael Reiss, which may explain in itself why the dumbass setpiece in the opening scene actually had some good lines in it. It certainly explains why the inane plotline to follow actually leads to a pretty great episode.

“I’m Your Puppet” gets off to a great start in that regard, actually; Willie answers the door, sees a delivery man, and says, “Hi, Pete.”

Those two words say everything, and what follows is a cute little exchange that lets us know the details without spelling anything out too obtrusively: ALF orders so much shit that Willie and the delivery guy come to know each other by name. Of course, the package is COD. Do companies even do that anymore? At the time this aired I’m sure they did (I remember that being mentioned in commercials for mail-order horse shit)…but I can’t imagine Amazon or somebody sending something to your house with the expectation that you’ll pay the postman.

Willie even gets a great line when the delivery guy leaves. He calls out, “Oh, ALF! I have a package and a lecture for you!” When Max Wright gets a laugh out of me so early in an episode, damn me if I can’t help feeling optimistic.

ALF excitedly rips open the box, saying, “It came!” Lynn asks what it is, and ALF says, “Beats me.”

It implies that ALF orders so much shit he doesn’t even know what’s coming, and I thought it was a funny way of doing so, but there’s no laughter so maybe it wasn’t a joke? I have no clue. The artificial audience reactions should make it easier for me to understand this lousy show’s intentions, but all it does is confuse me further.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

Then there’s a really odd moment when Willie tells ALF he’s getting “Styrofoam” all over the floor. ALF then eats some and spits it out because “it’s stale.”

Is it just me, or does it seem like Max Wright botched his line and they never bothered to fix it? The joke would have made more sense if Willie called them “Styrofoam peanuts” or “packing peanuts” instead. I really get the sense he just said the wrong thing and they rolled on anyway, disregarding the fact that the gag no longer worked.

Inside the box is a ventriloquist’s dummy, which ALF shakes around a bit and then gives up on, because it’s mute. That makes for a decent line, but a pretty crappy end to the scene, so it’s odd that they didn’t bother to write a stronger joke to close out on.

Just kidding. That’s not odd at all. Even the good episodes of this show are kind of shit.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

Later on ALF is still yelling at the dummy to talk. By this point why hasn’t the family beaten him to death with a rake? Or at least explained to him what a dummy is, I guess. This is later in the day, and the Tanners are just wasting their lives in the living room, listening to a puppet yell at a dummy.

Nobody puts a stop to this? Jesus Christ. Shut that fucker up!

ALF threatens the puppet by saying, “Don’t make me get the rubber hose.” The fake audience laughs because if there’s one thing everybody loves about ALF, its his proclivity toward sexual violence.

Willie wanders over and ALF tells him the dummy is broken, which would be a perfect time for Willie to explain what a ventriloquist’s dummy actually is…but instead Jean and Reiss have him do something far, far better.

Willie, eyes half-closed, says: “ALF, I’m not going to raise my voice. I’m not going to threaten you. I’m just going to say, for the 928th time, please don’t ever do this again.”

He then walks away, ignoring ALF’s question entirely.

I’m not even going to type that in phonetic Willispeak, because Max Wright enunciates this both clearly and wearily. It’s actually a really great moment, and it’s kind of sad. Wright plays this very well, with a beaten, hopeless tone to his voice that no doubt plays right out of the actual beaten hopelessness that he feels for being on this show at all.

In fact, the whole “puppet with a puppet” thing may serve as a decent metaphor for ALF as a whole. Just as Max Wright had to deal with one puppet’s nonsense in reality, Willie has to deal with another in his reality. “I’m Your Puppet” might therefore be the recursive nightmare of Max Wright translated directly to film.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

ALF then says he’s going to send Willie some flowers, and we cut to Lynn and see that the Styrofoam peanuts are indeed everywhere. Like, all over the living room floor. And, I’m sorry, but that’s a gorgeous little touch.

I really love this. They’re not just in a little pile somewhere…they’re scattered everywhere, and that’s hilarious. It’s just the result of the production crew having some fun. The previous scene mentioned peanuts everywhere, so, hell, let’s give them peanuts everywhere. It’s cute, and ties silently into the frustration on Willie’s part that we just saw.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

Lynn then explains to ALF how the dummy works, and demonstrates it pretty effectively. Yeah, you can still see her lips move, but only barely. I don’t know if Andrea Elson had any kind of real-life interest in ventriloquism, but she certainly does it a lot better here than I just did when I embarrassed myself by imitating what I saw on an episode of ALF.

It’s a funny scene, starting with ALF’s astonishment that the dummy sounds just like Lynn.

Then he tries voicing the dummy himself, and his mouth moves very obviously. This I really like, because it’s such a subtle joke. Since the alien himself is being voiced by somebody beneath the floorboards, making ALF an excellent ventriloquist would be easy: Fusco just doesn’t need to work ALF’s mouth. Or maybe he could make its lips quiver slightly. Instead, he operates ALF just as he always does, with big, exaggerated gestures, and I like that. We get to stay true to ALF’s characterization rather than simply rocket the plot along.

Then Lynn tells him he needs to keep his mouth shut while he voices the dummy, and ALF does so…rendering the dummy’s lines muffled and incomprehensible.

So help me fuck this god damned ventriloquism episode is good and I swear to fucking pole-dancing christ I’m going to throw myself out a window.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

If you thought I was reaching earlier in terms of the whole puppet with a puppet thing serving as potential meta commentary for ALF itself, you’re not alone. I thought I was, too. But then ALF wonders what to call his dummy.

Lynn says that they usually have goofy names, citing actual examples like Mortimer Snerd and Knucklehead Smiff. This helps ALF decide on a ridiculous name for his own puppet: Paul.

Now, if you’ve been following these reviews from the start, you’ll already know what I’m about to say…but humor me, for the sake of anyone tuning in late.

Paul Fusco is the creator of ALF. He’s also the puppeteer and voice actor behind ALF. On most shows, something like this would be a cute little wink, and little more.

Here, however, things are a bit different. Paul Fusco’s attitude was, by all accounts, why working on ALF was a miserable experience. I’ve joked about his reputation before, but I’ll be completely serious right now and say that that doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person, or even a foolish one. If he had a vision for what ALF should be, it’s respectable, at least in theory, that he committed himself so strongly to it.

In practice, however, there are many more people involved with the production, nearly all of whom seem to have suffered in some way for the sake of what, ultimately, was a pretty shitty sitcom. The filming of each episode took something like ten times as long as that of a standard half-hour comedy, and every one of the actors had to take care as they delivered their lines not to slip into the network of puppet trenches dug through the set.

The experience of filming under these conditions was wearying and unpleasant, leading Jack LaMotta (who played Mr. Ochmonek) to describe it bitterly as one of the worst things ever to air on television, and Anne Schedeen (my beloved, who played Kate) to essentially retire from an acting career that had once been fruitful the moment she was out of ALF‘s contract.

And that’s the good news. Andrea Elson (Lynn) developed a serious eating disorder that I find it impossible not to associate with how often this show treated her like a chunk of meat. Max Wright (Willie), whose conflicts with Fusco were the stuff of miserable legend, became addicted to crack and ended up at the heart of scandal when pictures surfaced of him having sex with hobos in exchange for the drug. After the final day of shooting, before anyone knew ALF had been cancelled, Wright finished his lines, hopped in his car, and drove away without saying goodbye to anybody.

We also know that Jerry Stahl (perennial candidate for the One Good Writer) was battling a crippling heroin addiction that nearly killed him, with suggestions having been floated that squandering his talents on a show like ALF is what kept him in a state of hopeless despondency.

Outtakes from ALF reveal the titular character shouting “NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER” while in the throes of a just-as-insulting impression of people with Tourette syndrome, as well as groping the female actors and making off-color jokes to the visible discomfort of his costars.

All of this is the legacy of Paul Fusco. Again, I don’t think he did any of this to purposefully be remembered as a sack of shit. But, no matter how you slice it, the experience of being involved, in any way, with ALF was one of abject and permanent misery. Paul Fusco, with ALF, put his costars through hell. ALF, with Paul, put his costars through hell.

The naming of the dummy can’t be a complete coincidence. ALF gets a “puppet” of his own…and names it Paul…and uses it to annoy the shit out of everyone around him…with Willie ignoring ALF’s questions, expressing his feelings of dissatisfaction and walking off…with the entire conflict of the episode hinging upon the obnoxious personality of the dummy coming to dominate everything in these people’s lives…it’s pretty damned hard not to see this as an exercise in meta commentary.

And, again, it’s Jean and Reiss behind the typewriter, who would go on to prove through their work on The Simpsons that meta commentary was well within their area of expertise.

Did this turn out to be the best episode of ALF ever? No, but who cares? It’s certainly got the most intriguing, and intelligent, premise yet. And (spoiler!) it handles it well.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

The turmoil begins in this very scene, when ALF starts to annoy Lynn so much that she gets up and leaves to do her homework elsewhere. Then Brian comes in asking ALF to play a “computer game” with him. I have no idea what that black plastic thing is supposed to be, but it doesn’t matter, because he’s Brian. ALF tells him the same thing everyone tells him: fuck your dumbass thing. Put that away and do my thing instead.

Brian is willing to help him learn ventriloquism, but then ALF just wants to make the kid do his chores so he walks away.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

That night ALF is putting on a puppet show through the plot window. The family is annoyed at first, but then ALF cracks some silly, harmless jokes with the dummy and they laugh. I don’t think they really find it funny so much as they find it cute…the way they would if ALF were some little kid trying his hand at a structured comedy routine.

Of course, the Tanners have a little kid, but I mean a little kid with personality and interests.

It makes sense that this performance would be cute to the Tanners. It’s still a novelty. ALF’s new hobby, for once, is something less than destructive, and they get to see him be happy for a little while. It’s kind of adorable, actually, and if you’ve ever had a little kid try to put on a magic show or something for you, you’ll know exactly how easy it is to be responsive and to play along, even if their skills are a performer are really quite poor and you’re obligated to let them know that.

I’m always so happy with how “real” Anne Schedeen allows Kate to be. When ALF’s performance is over, he calls for applause, and everybody claps. Kate, who is still getting dinner ready, stops what she doing, claps a few times, and gets right back to it. What a lovely little moment. It’s not a joke and it doesn’t advance the plot. It’s just Kate being real.

The fact that the family is only minorly entertained (and majorly humoring him) is revealed when he declares an encore, and they tell him no, it’s time for dinner. He then starts performing “Ebony and Ivory” with Paul, which is quite funny when it calls to mind GOB and Franklin doing something similar on Arrested Development, and not very funny at all when it calls to mind that footage of ALF shouting “NIGGER NIGGER NIGGER.”

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

Later that night, ALF and Paul show up to watch Willie and Kate fuck. They tell him to leave, ALF and his puppet do some more shitty jokes instead. One of them involves Paul “impersonating” ALF, which means it’s actually ALF’s own voice imitating itself..

This is interesting, for sure. The fact that an initially cute puppet routine quickly wears out its welcome is meta enough, but now it’s actually the voice of ALF that’s annoying the fuck out of everyone.

The dummy, impersonating ALF, even jokes about how he ate the cat. Willie rolls over and groans out an unimpressed “ha ha,” acknowledging one of ALF‘s actual running jokes as being…kind of stupid, actually.

In just a few scenes, we basically have the entire history of ALF filtered through the episode: someone gets a puppet, that someone figures out a personality for the puppet, his routine is novel if not particularly good, and he ends up drilling the puppet and its catchphrases into the rest of the cast long after they wish they could move on to something else.

Anyway, Willie gets up in the middle of the night and hears ALF’s puppet crackin’ wise, but when he looks into the laundry room ALF is asleep, having vivid sex dreams about Willie’s daughter.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

The puppet keeps talking, which makes the audience vocally express their worry for the sanity of the puppet who is operating another puppet. I’d have to double check, but I think this is the first episode of ALF directed by Rod Serling.

It’s kind of a dumb moment, and a hell of a dumb act break, but if we continue to view this as meta commentary about puppet-based shenanigans getting out of hand, then it works brilliantly.

There’s also the suggestion that rather than just serving as an outlet for ALF’s obnoxious idea of comedy, the puppet is allowing ALF to give a voice to his subconscious thoughts…but we’ll get to that shortly.

And this is the first time I’ve noticed that THE MOON postcard on the wall. I don’t know how long it’s been there so I don’t want to give this episode specific credit for it…but fuck if that isn’t a damned cute touch.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

The next day we see ALF and Paul packing. ALF asks Paul why they have to run away, and Paul replies that “This place is a suburban Sing Sing.” Being as we know that ALF does feel trapped in his situation (and, in all fairness, he really is), and constantly spends Willie’s money for the sake of diversion (which, in further fairness, set up the action of this episode), this lends credence to the idea that ALF’s performance of Paul is giving his subconscious thoughts a voice.

This is…good, actually. On one level we have the ALF metatextual stuff, which works for me. But, on another level, we have an in-universe explanation for it: ALF’s inner turmoil coming to the surface.

It’s an episode about what ALF the show is, doubling as an episode about who ALF the character is.

Jesus God is this bullshit puppet episode actually good? Fucketty fuck this is actually good.

Brian runs off to get his parents when he hears that ALF is leaving, and then Paul actually smacks ALF around a bit, which is decently funny if only for how unexpected and silly it is. When Willie and Kate come in and see ALF getting up this nonsense, they decide they’ve had quite enough of this puppet garbage and try to take Paul away.

ALF tellingly replies, “No! Don’t take Paul away from me! He’ll die!”

It’s a believable moment of panic. Reverse the names Paul and ALF in that sentence, and it’s exactly as believable.

We know it’s silly. We know that the dummy will “die” only in the sense that the ventriloquist won’t be there to provide a voice for him. But it’s also reflective of Paul Fusco’s attitude toward — and possessiveness of — ALF.

When Tina Fey was organizing the 75th Anniversary Celebration or whatever for NBC fairly recently, she complained that “ALF’s people” were difficult to deal with. Immersed in this show as I now unfortunately am, I know that she must have been talking about Fusco specifically, as the concern “ALF’s people” had was that somebody might see that he’s just a puppet. For that reason, ALF’s brief scene in the special ended and the puppet was whisked off the premises, lest it stick around long enough for a rogue camera angle to destroy the illusion that ALF was real.

On The Simpsons they had ALF turn up in “The Springfield Files.” He only said one word (“Yo.”), but Fusco contacted the show after that episode aired and told them that they should have called him; he’d have done the voice, and if they ever use ALF again, to let him know and he’ll come by to record the lines.

TV Tropes — my nemesis in website form — even has a little section discussing the fact that Paul Fusco believed ALF was real and would refuse to admit it was a puppet. As with everything TV Tropes says, however, it’s a heaping pile of bullshit hiding a kernel of truth. In this case, it’s that Fusco doesn’t present ALF, ever, as a puppet. In interviews and such he refers to the character as though he’s real…but I don’t think Fusco ever actually believed that. The guy might have been a jerk, but he wasn’t mentally ill. It’s more the way people will talk about Santa Claus as though he’s real, even if they know he’s not. It’s done for the sake of preserving illusion.

But with Fusco, as we see with the other examples, there’s an element of possessiveness on top of that illusion. It’s the same possessiveness that makes “ALF’s people” such a nightmare to work with. It’s also probably why ALF has never seen a rebirth. As much as Fusco must feel he’s maintaining the character’s integrity, what he’s really doing is making any kind of resurgence for the character impossible.

If it’s such a dramatic event to feature the character for a few seconds as part of an anniversary special, or in a split-second cartoon lineup, there’s no reason to believe that mounting an ALF reboot would go any more smoothly than the original show did.

Willie even says, “Talk about a puppet dictator” later in the episode. It’s impossible to hear that as anything other than the venting of the writing staff.

“Don’t take ALF away from me,” it’s easy to hear Paul Fusco say. “He’ll die.” And that’s really sad, because, just as it plays out in this episode, that possessiveness is exactly what ensures that the illusion cannot survive. It’s mothering turned to smothering.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

Paul tells ALF to come along and he’ll teach him how to smoke. When he’s gone, Willie comforts Kate by saying, “Don’t worry. I’m getting psychiatric help.”

Kate replies, “Well, good for you, honey. But what about ALF?”

Dumb joke, but actually really funny with Schedeen’s delivery, which manages to sound both supportive and flustered. Or maybe I just like it because it leads to…


ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

Man, “I’m Your Puppet” is just dying to get into my pants, isn’t it?

My two favorite episodes from season one were “For Your Eyes Only” and “Going Out of My Head Over You.” You probably already know that, given the fact that I can’t shut the fuck up about them.

In each of those cases we met a strong guest character, which helped us view the show through a different — and rewarding — filter. In the former case, it was Jodie, who reappeared in this season’s “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” That episode wasn’t quite as good as her first, but it was good enough to warrant her return.

The latter case featured Dr. Dykstra, played by Bill Dailey, a psychiatrist friend of Willie’s who dropped by to analyze ALF and provide us with what still might be the funniest scene in the show’s history. In that scene, Willie and ALF impersonated each other as a way of coming to terms with their frustrations. At the time, it played very much like Wright and Fusco coming to terms with their frustrations, and the show was richer for it.

Is it any wonder that I’m over the moon to see this guy show up here? And now? Talk about a perfect reason to bring this character back.

Anyway, before I forget, in the comments to my review of “Going Out of My Head Over You,” Dan the Shpydar had this to say:

I’m surprised you didn’t get into the fact that Daily was also on I Dream of Jeannie, which of course had that same “we have to keep this mysterious being a secret!” theme as ALF. Ironically, I Dream of Jeannie featured far less facial scenes than ALF, despite the fact that they would likely have been much more appreciated to appear in the former.

I didn’t say it because I didn’t know it. But now I do, and so do you. That is indeed a pretty cool bit of resonant casting…deliberate or not.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

After a bit of gentle engagement with ALF and Paul, Dr. Dykstra gets bonked on the knee by the dummy. He then goes back into the kitchen, where Willie and Kate ask him if he figured out what’s wrong with ALF. Dr. Dykstra replies, “Yeah. His dummy’s a jerk.”

It’s a great little moment with a perfect delivery, coming off of a way-too-short scene of Dr. Dykstra trying to help the alien and his wooden friend.

He plays along. Laughs at the insulting jokes. He compliments Paul on his sense of humor…and it works. It gets ALF, through Paul, to open up about his frustrations…specifically the rules he has to adhere to when living under the Tanner roof. Dr. Dykstra then turns to ALF and asks if he shares Paul’s frustrations, and ALF says he does.

Whacking Dr. Dykstra in the knee with the dummy is definitely dickish, but I understand it. The therapy was effective, and that made ALF feel threatened. The lashing out is meant to be funny, but it’s also understandable in the context of the situation.

In the kitchen, the good doctor explains to Willie and Kate that since ALF’s arrived, he’s had to be on his best behavior. Both Tanner adults start spouting disbelief about that, which is funny, and culminates in a nice point: that was his best behavior. His worst behavior is what they’re seeing now, through Paul.

The puppet is bringing out the worst in its creator.


ahem ahem ahem.

Willie asks what they can do, and Dr. Dykstra jokingly suggests getting the dummy a dummy. “But then you’d be stuck with a really little guy with a really bad temper.”

It’s amazing to me how the presence of a great guest character can kick this show to a whole new level of competence. Why oh why can’t we have more of Dr. Dykstra and Jodie? They have these characters. Why won’t they use them?

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

Dr. Dykstra decides that ALF needs to have a few minutes of breaking the rules that he feels so oppressed by. He specifically suggests letting ALF eat the cat, but they ultimately decide instead to let ALF break a bunch of shit and throw food everywhere.

Kate, whom I love more by the second, says, “Can’t we just solve this with a buzz saw?” Baby, I been askin’ that question from episode one.

The adults smash up some dishes and encourage ALF to do the same. He’s reluctant, but eventually trusts them enough to do it, and so ALF reverts back to his “normal” bad behavior of breaking things and making a mess.

It’s a bit broad and silly, but it has its moments. Before throwing a plate, ALF asks, “How many points for hitting that picture of Kate’s mother?” Willie, overexcited, replies, “A hundred!!” before his wife scolds him for joining in.

And even though this is nowhere near as satisfying a climax as the first Dr. Dykstra episode had…it’s still decent. “Going Out of My Head Over You” built to a grand statement about its characters. “I’m Your Puppet,” by contrast, opens with such a statement. The fact that it ends on silliness rather than opens with it makes this episode feel like the more hollow one, but really I think it’s just a matter of the journey being inverted.

And, to be fair, though this episode does end up in a fest of destruction, it’s ALF’s enthusiasm for this that allows him to decide to break Paul, so it does lead to its resolution in a relatively natural way. Ultimately, no, it’s not quite as good as the first Dr. Dykstra episode…but it does go deeper in exploring its subject matter, and it gives us more to work with along the way.

It’s also full of wonderful little touches, such as the fact that, in the latter half of this episode, Paul gets his own one-shots when he talks, as though he’s an entirely separate character. It’s a hell of an effective decision, and one I really love. The “smash everything” climax is a bit too clean a solution, but, again, if we view this episode through a metatextual lens, we can’t do anything but close off the episode as quickly as possible. There’s certainly no way we can end with the psychiatrist successfully convincing the other characters that talking through a puppet is insane, because…well, you know. Unless ALF is going to become a show about ALF, we need to put a button on this, however hastily.

It’s twenty-odd minutes of digging into what makes ALF work — and not work — and while I’d love for a longer and deeper examination, I’m impressed that we even got this much out of it. It’s also a bit disappointing that we didn’t get to see the smashed Paul dummy. It’s referred to, and reacted to, but we don’t get to look at it. Maybe it was an expensive prop that they didn’t want to destroy. Or maybe, as the ALF analogue, the image of a “dead” puppet would hit Fusco too close to home.

ALF, "I'm Your Puppet"

In the short scene before the credits, Lynn finds Paul’s body stuffed in the freezer.

Who cares. The episode was good. And I was getting very, very nervous that season two got all of its good episodes out of the way up front. The quality of “I’m Your Puppet” feels well overdue at this point, but it was worth waiting for, and that’s all that matters.

It’s also worth addressing a question you probably have at this point: what was so bad about ALF’s behavior through Paul? Why did the review gloss over it?

Well…I didn’t gloss over it. ALF’s normal behavior, to me, is either far worse or exactly as bad as the guff he spouts through Paul. Which, admittedly, makes this episode something of a cheat.

In “Wild Thing,” it was a legitimate problem that we were being told ALF was at his worst without seeing any actual evidence of it. Here…well, maybe it is as much of a problem, but only when you look at it superficially. Taking the metaphor-for-the-sitcom-itself angle, it’s just a means to an end. We can ignore surface-level quirks because when we look a little deeper, we see what’s really happening here.

“Wild Thing” had nothing but its surface. ALF’s confoundingly gentle rampage was a problem because it was the only thing the episode was about. Had it really been about, say, Willie and Brian bonding as they scoured LA for their escaped alien, the lameness of ALF’s shenanigans would have been far less important.

It’s rare that ALF realizes it can do anything beneath the surface. Nearly every time it does, we end up with an episode like this. Or “Going Out of My Head Over You.” Or “Night Train.” In short, it nearly always works…which it what makes it so damned disappointing that the next week has to come, with the writers forgetting everything they’ve learned all over again.

Sitcoms, by design, need to push the reset button at the end of each adventure. But it’s a reset that should apply only to the show itself; it should not apply to the writer’s room.

Anyway, just another quick thought. When I saw the synopsis for this episode (“ALF gets a ventriloquist’s dummy that takes control of him”) I pasted it to a friend of mine. My friend replied, “Oh, right. That’s the top left square in sitcom plot bingo.” I laughed. Because, yeah, that’s a pretty trite and stupid idea.

But there’s a reason I got excited when season two began and I saw Al Jean and Michael Reiss listed as executive producers, and this episode, which they are credited as writing, makes that reason very clear: it doesn’t matter how stupid the plot is if the writing is solid.

That’s something The Simpsons taught us time and time again. While they unquestionably had original plots on the show, it’s just as obvious that they would deliberately draw from the well of cliche for ideas. Ask anyone to describe their favorite Simpsons episode, however, and the odds are good you won’t hear much about the plot. You’ll hear the jokes that stuck with them. You’ll hear about a great moment or two. The plot is only important — or should only be important — in the way that it facilitates those jokes and moments.

So as much as the dumbass dummy plot seemed…uh…dumb to me, I’m glad we had it, if only because the right men were at the typewriter. It’s a good reminder of the fact that concept means nothing, and execution means everything.

Tune in next week when ALF is raped by a panda.

MELMAC FACTS: On Melmac, spending other people’s money was how you said “I care.” Melmac’s president would say whatever you wanted if you pulled his string. On Melmac, calling somebody “Paul” was an insult. Even worse was calling them a “son of a Paul.”

20 Questions: Magnus Pålsson (SoulEye)

Magnus Palsson interview

A while back I reached out to Magnus Pålsson, better known as SoulEye, and best known for composing the stellar soundtrack of VVVVVV. He had just released a metal remix of that game’s soundtrack, MMMMMM and he quickly consented to an interview to help promote it.

Great! …except that when my computer crashed soon afterward, I thought I lost the draft. Only recently did I find it, and it might have been a stroke of good timing, since Pålsson had some technical difficulties with his web-host that prevented anyone from purchasing the album until now. So, while the delay wasn’t deliberate, I’m happy to be able to finally post the interview at a time when you can actually buy the album!

(Also, on a personal note, I can highly recommend Adventure. It’s absolutely incredible, and has been on permanent rotation for me.)

1) How did you originally get involved with Terry Cavanagh? How did your contribution to VVVVVV come about?

VVVVVVFirst of all, thank you for having me on here on this excellent site for an interview! It’s my pleasure to answer your questions.

I had put up some of my music for free download online, and one of Terry’s friends named Charlie asked me if he could use one of my songs for his game. I said sure, as long as I can have a copy of the game when it’s done.

He came back a month later and gave me a copy. The game turned out to be a shoot-em-up where you play a severed dog’s head, raining hot death on evil attacking space-penises that attack you with semen. That game is spunky. It’s called Space Phallus if you want to play it.

Anyway, Terry naturally played Charlie’s game, and liked the song I had provided. (The song is “Retro Tune” and can be found as track number four on my album “S” here.) He emailed me and asked if I wanted to make music for his (then-supposed-to-be) free game called VVVVVV.

I thought it was a great idea, since I’ve loved games all my life, so I was happy to make a songs for the game.

2) How much guidance were you given in terms of your work on the soundtrack? Any specific atmosphere or tempo to reach for?

I got a beta copy of the game. It was using an old c64 placeholder song, but I was largely given free reign. Instructions were limited to just a few adjectives. He would give me the beta, I would play it, and then think, “What does the ideal platformer song sound like in my head?” And then I produced “Pushing Onwards.”

Terry put “Pushing Onwards” into the updated beta, and got inspired by the song so much that he created a new level. And then he needed more music! So I made “Positive Force.”

And then he had that one on loop for days on end, and made another level. And so it went on. We inspired each other, like a symbiotic relationship designed to evolve the game.

At a certain point, I felt there was enough good stuff in there, but I wanted a masterpiece in there, that would stand out for a long time. And thus, “Potential for Anything” was dreamed up.

I cut out entire sections after writing these songs until I got everything “just right.” It took almost a month to complete because of all the structures, details and harmonic intricacies that went into it.

3) I’m not sure I’ve ever read a review of VVVVVV that doesn’t specifically praise the music. Why do you feel it’s stood out to players in a way that few soundtracks have?

I am entirely self-taught when it comes to music, for good and bad. Many people come to me and ask what programs I use, how I get inspired, how to be creative. Sometimes, those who have the hardest time being creative are those who have been taught in various educations that there is a right way and a wrong way to create music. That you should follow a certain structure, follow the rules, and if you don’t do it right, you shouldn’t be in the business of making music.

Of course, this isn’t always the case, and most educations are great. This is not about saying education is bad. And I have a point to make. It’s that if you believe someone when they say that kind of stuff to you, you might unconsciously put a lid on the very thing that made you want to go into music in the first place: your own soul’s unique voice.

For me, music is an expression of my inner life. It’s a way of sharing myself to the world, how I feel. The music I write is therefore “true,” in the felt sense of the word. There have been few places where I’ve forced myself to make music in a certain way. This intuitive way of writing music has also made me make music only when I feel like it. Typically, I like to write music when I’m feeling really good, happy and enthusiastic. If I’m not, the music reflects that.

Given the above, consider that the songs in VVVVVV were written from my heart. They were made without any thoughts on profits, career in music, fans, recognition, future travels, and so on. They were made for the sheer joy of it all. No agenda. All the things that happened later were really unexpected.

4) What was the first album you ever owned?

It was Hey Stoopid (released in 1991) by Alice Cooper. I remember buying it because I liked the music and a part of me thought I became cooler just by owning it.

I would listen to it a few times, but not obsessively. At that point I had no plans for making music. I was just enjoying it. I remember being fascinated how one track was produced so that it naturally flowed into the next at one point. I would hear the click sound when the CD player changed tracks, and keep the same synths playing.

It’s a good album even today, but Alice himself was never my biggest influence. The most enjoyable thing on there was, as I think back to it, was Slash and his masterful play on the guitars.

5) What was the first video game whose soundtrack really grabbed you?

Wizball on Commodore 64. The first minute of Martin Galway’s title track is a stroke of genius.

It made me feel like I was tapping into something magical. Like…welcome to the world of wonders, where anything is possible. I had my C64 hooked up to my parents’ old TV, and its crappy mono-speaker (by today’s standards) was, for once, producing something clear, beautiful, new, and real.

I felt exhilarated by it, and wanted the world to know this feeling, this music, and have the same experience I was having. And my teenage self didn’t give an F. I opened the door to the garden, turned up the music, and hoped the neighborhood would rejoice in this wonderful new discovery of mine, that surely would make all those grumpy grownups a reason to put a smile on their faces. But the only result was my mom telling me to shut it off.

I’m happy to report that by now, my now 67-year old mom likes chiptune music. Well, mine at least. There are a few tracks she plays over and over at her house.

6) What was the first film whose soundtrack really grabbed you? How did it make you feel?

The truth is that I was never aware of being really grabbed by a film soundtrack. The only thing that comes up when I think of early movies with good music is Star Wars (1977). I was still in daycare when I saw that movie, and I didn’t completely get what was going on. The appreciation for that music came later on.

I saw an orchestra playing Star Wars music in my home town of Helsingborg a while back. That was an amazing experience. They played it so true to the originals, but the fidelity and quality of the raw vibrations of the different instruments resonating in my body is something I won’t forget easily.

7) MMMMMM is a complete reimagining of the VVVVVV soundtrack with live instruments in a very different style. What sparked this project? How did you come to collaborate with FamilyJules7x?

FamilyJules7x has a long history of covering game music soundtracks. I remember seeing him do a Super Meat Boy medley, and thought, “that’s cool, I wonder what my music would sound like there,” and a seed was firmly planted in me. Given half a chance, I would make it happen.

But I went on my merry way, and didn’t think of it until way later, when, one day, this subconscious dream was realized, and he made a medley of the VVVVVV music, presumably after a number of requests from his listeners. Or, as he put it: “VVVVVV‘s soundtrack is a work of genius and it’s a crime that I haven’t had a go at these songs earlier.”

Anyway, after popping all my gaskets while listening to that, I wanted to make a full remix album a reality, if nothing else, then for my very own listening pleasure. So I just emailed him and we worked it out. It was one of those “this is right; this needs to be done,” kinds of moments, where my guts had a stronger say than my brains.

I love those moments.

8) Explain “Plenary.” This was a track composed for the game, but which wasn’t ultimately featured, to my knowledge. Where was it meant to have gone?

Allow me to enlighten you. The name “Plenary” means “an adjective related to the noun plenum carrying a general connotation of fullness.”

The track which sounds like this in its original form ) is actually in the game but perhaps not heard very often, since it only plays once, when you complete VVVVVV. Am I to take it you haven’t completed the game?

It was a blast creating this jingle. It has a whole slew of intermingling leads, creating a pompous (in the good sense) fanfare that is fitting of a game complete stinger.

[ed: Believe me, I completed the game! I actually meant “Phear,” not “Plenary.” Magnus was kind enough to explain that track, too, once I’d had my mistake pointed out to me.]

“Phear” was a “song” (it’s more of a sound effect) which appeared on PPPPPP, the game’s soundtrack album, but wasn’t used in VVVVVV. It was supposed to be an Easter egg where if you stood still in a certain room for a long time, the screen would darken, and the creepy sound would start playing over and over at ever-increasing volume. Sadly, it had to be scrapped due to lack of time on Terry’s part for implementation.

9) Name the six biggest influences on your music.

Chris Huelsbeck, Martin Galway, Rob Hubbard, Jeroen Tel, Ben Daglish, and Tim Follin.

You may notice they’re all previous C64 musicians. There are so many others though, and much of what inspires me is unconscious. It’s easy to name these people, as their creations were the music playing during a lot of my formative years. Some of these have gone on to become famous on other platforms as well. Curious fact: one day a few years ago I saw that Jeroen Tel started following me on Twitter. That was a fun moment for me.

10) Name the six biggest influences on your life.

VVVVVVI like how that question was worded. I get to choose any type of influence! I’m going to give them to you chronologically, with the oldest influence first.

1. Games.
I would never be where I am if it wasn’t for computer games. I would play for hours on end, and still do some days, and escape from reality, like so many others. I love it. And at the same time, I’m aware that playing games too much can be detrimental to social interactions, which is where real life is lived.

2. Music.
Obviously. An offshoot from playing games, and hanging around tech-savvy people who liked computers. Music was often a joint interest, and some knowledge on how to work a computer was required to get games working back in those days when it all started. And then it became easy to get music programs working. Suddenly, I found myself at home in making music on a computer, and then I was creating music for others. And now I’m making a living off of it. It’s like I just fell into it.

3. Eben Pagan.
He is a well-known self-development teacher and business coach. He got me started on the road to self-knowledge, which is, like, the best thing ever.

4. Terry Cavanagh.
Again, obviously. And also inadvertently. I never knew what was in store, and how my life would change, after making the songs for VVVVVV. He didn’t either. Terry is one of the most straight-up good guys I know.

5. Decker Cunov.
Decker is transformational coach. If Terry’s influence made external things possible for me, Decker’s influence reshaped my insides in a profound way. With him (and his peers) as a powerful catalyst, I had my mind reset completely after a workshop in personal development back in 2012. I now have a completely different view and approach on life, and those who know me before and after can vouch for me changing.

Because of the great things I experienced in this workshop, I am happy to be part of a worldwide network called “Authentic World.” It consists of people who like authenticity and telling the truth, along with developing ourselves and welcoming different sensations. I educated myself in the subtle arts of the practices that Decker uses in his 6-month course held in your home state of Colorado, and now me and my friends do workshops in Europe in the same fashion, to my great excitement and benefit for participants.

If this tickles your curious bone, more info can be found here. We recently did a workshop in Amsterdam, and if you want to be part of the next workshop in Europe, I strongly recommend signing up for the newsletter.

6. Stefan Molyneux.
Stefan is a philosopher and runs the largest philosophy show in the world. He’s got some 60 million downloads of his stuff, and has almost daily videos put up on his youtube channel. His site is If Decker Cunov changed my way of connecting with my feelings, Stefan has changed my way of thinking. He’s radically different than most people, and some of what he says is causing some upsets, but the show contains, in my opinion, healthy and important discussions for any decent human being.

11) The success of VVVVVV must have opened a lot of doors for you, but you haven’t composed for many games since. Are you just being choosy about your next major scoring job?

I have enough material to release a new album tomorrow on my hard drive if I could. There are many reasons for not releasing some stuff. I’ve made music for some games that were shelved at the last moment and now need a new game to make sense, and some games have yet to be released.

To be honest I’ve been dividing my time with other things as well. I’ve been traveling the world and exploring different life stuff. (See my answer to question #5!) I also have a few ideas about making my own game, and am doing research.

The game that is brewing in my mind is a social game about telling the truth or lying, and catching other players doing the same thing. I am still looking for a team on this one (coding and graphics to begin with), and it’s preferable if anyone interested has a solid sense of, and can differentiate between, both objective and subjective truths.

That being said, I’m open for music business! If you’ve got that killer game needing some Souleye TLC, don’t hesitate sending me an email. I would love to make some chiptunes for another fun game. Perhaps they will be chiptunes with some metal infused next time…

12) They’re making a live action VVVVVV movie. Who plays Captain Viridian?

VVVVVVKeanu Reeves. Haha! He took the red pill and became green. Maybe Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt would work as well…let me talk to their agents.

Already confirmed supporting actors are: Christopher Lloyd as Chief Verdigris, Kirsten Dunst as Doctor Violet, Scarlett Johansson as Doctor Victoria, Jim Carrey as Officer Vermilion, and Jim Parsons as Professor Vitellary.

13) Which Mega Man boss has the stage music?

My experiences aren’t THAT in-depth with the series. I’ve played through Mega Man 2 from start to finish, but that was a long time ago.

14) What has your experience been like with fans of your music? I have to assume it’s been positive, as you’ve collected many of their remixes and given them official release on the PPPPPPowerup album.

Oh, the people have been great. Just great. The fans are really nice to me. It’s one of the great things about being in this line of work; you get paid not only in money, but also in little internet hearts! I love my fans. <3 One of the most touching letters came from a guy who had been suffering from depression for months and months, and then he started listening to PPPPPP, and, I don’t know, subconsciously caught on to the subliminal messages that I would never admit to putting in there, because they’re not in there, and anyone who says they are in there haven’t played some of the songs backwards yet because that’s how you really get to…

Wait…I’ve said too much about those subliminal messages. They aren’t there…

Okay, enough with the joking. He claimed that my music helped him out of his depression in a very real way, and was very nice and thankful. His message moved me to tears. When I get feedback like that I sometimes feel like the effect the music had on him alone would have made it worth making the music.

Music is powerful.

15) Name one song that makes you want to turn the radio off every time you hear it.

Oh… I know where this is going. If I bring a song up like that to a friend, they’ll instantly start singing it back to me…

Haha! Well okay, it doesn’t matter. I’ll look forward to getting Rick-rolled with the song in the future.

That which you resists, persists, so… I’m going with a Swedish song called “Hej Monika.”

16) Go back in time and give one piece of life advice to Magnus Pålsson, age 10.

Trust yourself. Find out what your values are, what feels good. Learn how people make meaning out of words. And if the world seems to be doing it wrong, and you don’t quite understand it even if you really try, most likely they’re all doing their best with what they know and the only thing you can do is learn the ways they were taught to do it so that you one day can untangle those webs from yourself and others.

17) Go forward in time and give one piece of life advice to Magnus Pålsson, age 100.

Hey dude, I didn’t think you’d make it this long! But it’s time to face the fact: it’s near the end.

After you’ve said your goodbyes to your, well, to be honest, rather obscenely large family, I want you to have a good time and not fear death. I hear that hard drugs are effective in achieving that.

They’re also addictive and ruin your life in the long run, but there’s no long run anymore, so it’s time to find out what you’ve been missing! Full speed ahead! Geronimo!

On a more serious note though, what I believe is one of the best ways to go is to be in deep connection with your loved ones. Ask them to spend a lot of time with you during those last moments. Knowing that you’ve already imparted what you’ve learned about life with them, and that they’ll be all right. All what we got left is to be with each other, and stay connected for as long as possible.

But then again, that’s true for every moment in life, so why save that piece of advice for later?

18) If you were physically transported into VVVVVV, taking Viridian’s place, how far would you make it before dying?

VVVVVVI would die to the first thing that could kill me, because I’d be in total disbelief and want to see how it feels to die and respawn. If I respawned, I’d be yelling at the fourth wall a lot about wanting to be let out of this Groundhog Day-like spiked-hell existence, or maybe hit on Victoria to create some mini-Vs.

19) Who was or is the handsomest world leader?

Bill Clinton. I’m not that big into checking out political leaders but Bill is definitely charismatic. I even listened to his biography audiobook, read by himself.

20) Your star has risen to the point that every major gaming company on Earth is offering you full creative control over the soundtrack to the next installment of any franchise you like. Which series of games do you give the SoulEye stamp to?

Good question. I went through a bunch of games in my mind before singling out a series, and the honor would go to…


The Street Fighter series. I think I could really do it justice, legacy-wise, and bring something new and fresh to the series. A bit ironically perhaps, as some of PPPPPP (and therefore MMMMMM) has influences from Street Fighter II. But there you go!

BONUS: Say anything to our readers that you haven’t gotten to say above!

I’m going to go out on a limb and give you a poem on life I wrote two years ago.

As I lay my heart to bare
plain for all to see
the pain I carried deep within
is shared, to more than me

The walls containing my fragile heart
came tumbling down, they broke apart
the life I thought was not for me
revealed itself, and it was free

Connected, I would sense the pain
of life, love, death, my sadness
and for the first time in my life
I made sense of all the madness

The cross I now have to bear
is holding pain, for all who’s dear
I want to ease your heavy burden
shoulder all your fear
staying present, to my purpose
I am with you here.

With strength and courage to be weak
I will shelter all the meek
Let me shield you from your pain
I don’t mind, it’s my gain

I must die, it is my path
from this earth I’m torn
And in knowing but this simple fact
my true love is reborn

ALF Reviews: “Movin’ Out” (season 2, episode 21)

Here we go…including “Movin’ Out,” only five more episodes remain in season two. When those are done, we’ll be at the actual midpoint of this project. And…wow. I couldn’t be happier about that.

At the same time, though, this week marks one full year that I’ve been writing ALF reviews. Season one was reviewed every week, without fail. Season two…had a few delays, but has been reviewed almost as reliably. So, I guess one year from now, we’ll be nearing the end of this whole endeavor. After that, I don’t know. I’d love to do another show, but we’ll see. For now, I shouldn’t be thinking too far ahead, because I’m about as far from shore as it’s possible to be.

“Movin’ Out” is a long overdue episode about Willie’s job as a social worker. We haven’t had one of those since “Border Song,” in which he kidnapped a Mexican day-laborer for ALF’s backyard plantation.

Because Willie’s occupation was kept an odd secret throughout the beginning of season one, and then had almost no impact on any of the episodes to follow, I’ve had a lot of fun pointing out all the times that his ostensible job looks to be incompatible with his daily behavior. But part of the reason I can do that is that ALF is written by goldfish. If it isn’t in this week’s script, they don’t remember it.

That’s why one episode can remind us that Willie is a social worker, but another will see him turning his neighbors away in their hour of need (“Someone to Watch Over Me”), sitting idly by while his daughter is sexually assaulted (“The Boy Next Door”), making fun of a guy for having a shitty job (“Hit Me With Your Best Shot”), refusing a spare bed to a homeless blind friend of the family (“We Gotta Get Out of This Place”), repeatedly insulting a disabled war veteran (“Come Fly With Me”), making fun of his wife for being an unfuckable hag (“Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue?”), and allowing the alien that lives in his laundry basket to buttfuck his children (passim).

Willie doesn’t ever act like a social worker, but, every so often, we’re reminded that he is one, either so that he can abduct a child he wouldn’t otherwise interact with, or cripple his boss in a forcible limbo competition. The rest of the time, the show doesn’t want us to remember Willie’s occupation, because, if we did, we’d have certain expectations of who he is, what he’s good at, what he cares about, and how he should be reacting to things.

Here, however, we have one hell of an odd episode: one that relies on the fact that Willie is a social worker, and also at the same time makes it clear that he can’t be one. At least, not a good one. And certainly not one that’s getting yet another promotion this season.

Which is how this episode begins: Willie announces that he’s got a shit-awesome new job as some kind of supervisor or something in San Diego. This makes everyone piss and moan about having to move, but really you’d think they’d be thrilled. This guy’s more sociopath than social worker; they should be excited to pocket that extra pay while they can, before Willie’s incompetence and nauseating disinterest in his fellow man are revealed to whomever signs his checks.

Lynn’s reason for not wanting to move is that next year is her last year of high school. We’ve already established that she’s 18, but now we also know she’s a junior. I’ve asked before, but is this possible without her having been left back a year? I’m not complaining or anything, especially since her character doesn’t seem to be much of a scholar, exactly, but I’m curious.

Also, does this mean she’ll be attending college in season four?

ALF worries that they won’t let him come along, simply because he burns down their house and kills their relatives. Kate says that she’ll consider letting him come along if he stops eating Willie’s dinner. ALF looks at the food on his fork and pauses. Kate asks for his answer, and he plagiarizes Jack Benny: “I’m thinking, I’m thinking!!”

One of the most famous jokes of all time is therefore the punchline to this entire opening sequence. With Benny, as I’m sure you know, the question was “Your money or your life.” Here, ALF rephrases Kate’s question to better suit the joke theft: “Instant gratification, or long term security.” There’s no twist or anything; it’s simply a puppet reciting somebody else’s much better material. When, exactly, did Paul Fusco become Krusty the Clown?

ALF, "Movin' Out"

This episode is a bit odd even in a superficial sense, because the opening credits are in German. As you probably recall (since you bought me the fuckin’ thing) I’m watching these episodes on the uncut DVDs that seem to have been released only in Germany…but this is the first time I’ve noticed German credits. I’m 99% sure they’ve all been in English before this, and I’m 100% sure that the closing credits of this very episode are in English.

I don’t know. It’s weird. Maybe they used some off-air recorded footage for the intro for some reason? Say, the masters being damaged? But then I’d assume the dialogue would all be in German, too…ahhhh who cares. I just found it interesting. Leave me alone. Go start your own damn ALF blog.

The first proper scene is Willie’s first day of work. Google Maps puts his commute from Los Angeles to San Diego at about two hours, without traffic, but with traffic that’s clearly another story, and it wouldn’t exactly be a relaxing ride. At the very least Willie should look into train schedules.

Hey, remember when Willie liked trains? If so, you know more about him than the writers do; even though this bleeding dick of a commute becomes a major plot point, Mr. Meatloaf never even considers it.

Whatever. Brian sleepily announces he doesn’t give a shit, and I’m on his side. Willie’s never taken an interest in him, but now the kid has to get up at ungodly hours to see him off? Fuck dat.

Lynn makes some crappy joke about jazzercise, ALF tries to eat the last cinnamon roll before Willie gets it, and the whole thing makes me wonder why the hell we’re watching it.

Seriously. It’s the second scene in the episode and already “Movin’ Out” is so padded I can barely keep focus.

Yes, it’s nice that we get a “slice of life” scene. What are the Tanners like at breakfast when there’s nothing (immediately) pressing going on, anyway? Finding out could be fun. It would definitely be a chance to build character, explore dynamics, and give the actors some decent dialogue that doesn’t have to drag an ungainly plot behind it.

But, like when we got to see what ALF did all night after the family went to sleep and found out he just danced around in the shed or some shit, the writers don’t know what this family is like when they’re not lugging a plot from point A to point B. So they just kill time in what feels like the the dullest improv imaginable.

This, again, is why Gilligan’s Island served as a feasible fantasy setting for an episode earlier this season and ALF will never be able to. It’s easy to imagine what downtime is like on the uncharted desert isle. We know those characters, how they interact, the challenges they face, what motivates them, what frustrates them, and how they go about solving their individual problems. We can plug different elements into that situation and get a sense of how it would play out. (Arguably, that was the entire premise of the show.) Here, in Tannerland, we don’t have characters that interact. We have actors who recite the lines they memorized. Forget about plugging a different element into this context; the elements that are already there don’t even have a purpose.

ALF, "Movin' Out"

Brian says they got Willie a present, and I really hope I’m not the only one laughing myself hoarse over the fact that it looks like he’s handing his father a bag of dogshit. They should have lit it on fire and had Willie make a wish.

Anyway, it’s some books on tape, with a Twisted Sister cassette mixed in so that they can make a joke about those kids today with their hair metal and the whatnot. The books are Crime and Punishment and Madame Bovary. Since they come on one cassette apiece I have to assume they’re read by that guy from the Micro Machines commercials.

ALF, "Movin' Out"

Mr. Ochmonek comes over to wish Willie a good first day at work.

Yes. Really.

In return, Lynn makes fun of him for being fat and ugly, and Willie asks him what the fuck he’s doing up so early.

Remind me again who the bad neighbors are.

This guy paid a visit just to pass some well wishes onto some asshat who couldn’t care less whether Mr. Ochmonek lives or dies. Willie’s never taken the slightest interest in the guy. Shit, when’s the last time Willie took the slightest interest in anyone who wasn’t him? When’s the last time Willie even said “thank you”?

This is why I don’t believe Willie is a social worker. To succeed in that field, you’d either need to have a great deal of empathy, or be able to fake it very well. Instead, this is what we see: a guy who never seems to care about anybody, ever, for any reason. Usually we’re allowed to forget that Willie’s a social worker, but here it’s driving the entire plot. Would it be too much to show us a Willie who even tries to be nice so that, if only for one twenty minute chunk, we can believe he’s good at the job we keep being told he’s good at?

I don’t know. Based on what I see here, though, I can promise you that if I needed a social worker, I’d hire Mr. Ochmonek long before I went anywhere near Willie.

Anyway, Mr. Ochmonek tells Willie he’d better get his dumb ass on the road because it’s an insane commute. Then ALF pops up to eat Mr. Ochmonek’s danish and the latter doesn’t bother to investigate, because even Jack LaMotta is over this shit.

ALF, "Movin' Out"

I know season two is generally held in higher regard than the other three, but ask any ALF fan when the show jumped the shark, and they’ll tell you it’s this scene, in which ALF and Kate finally give in to the long-simmer sexual tension between them. It’s not a problem with the scene itself, really (as it’s shot quite beautifully, and the expression on ALF’s face as he cums conveys genuine pathos); it’s the mere fact that it happened, and now it’s over. There’s nowhere for the show to go but down.

Willie appears in the doorway to explain that he got home late because of his long commute, in case you missed all forty-seven lines of dialogue preceding this, in which it was repeatedly explained that Willie had a long commute.

Kate, vacuuming alien gooze out of herself, suggests that Willie rent a place in San Diego during the week, which inspires ALF to explain the plot of Three’s Company for some reason.

You know, Three’s Company was one of those shows I watched as a kid without understanding a damned thing about it. I definitely got the sense that Jack was living with two hotties, but the fact that he was pretending to be gay didn’t even register with me. I think I had some vague idea of the concept of homosexuality, but I guess I didn’t see it in the humorous light the show did.

I wonder if you could even do a plot like that today. I think the gay jokes would play differently, of course, but I also think there wouldn’t be a point. Jack and his honies went through two landlords that would only allow him to stay if he was gay, and I can’t imagine that setup working at all today. If you rent an apartment, nobody cares who you’re having sex with in it. In fact, it’d be illegal to discriminate against tenants on the basis of sexual preference anyway.

That’s interesting, actually. Three’s Company was a high-concept sitcom (in the same vein as ALF). Its setup allowed the show to make very specific kinds of jokes that other shows, lacking that setup, could not make. And I was around for it, which means I once lived in a world in which a man had to pretend be gay in order to live with women lest the world collapse into a premarital orgiastic black hole of sin.

Whatever. Don Knotts was in it.

Willie says that they’re going to have to move sooner than planned, because it’s been one day and he already sees that working too hard will give him a heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack. He comes to this conclusion without consulting the rest of his family or listening to his wife’s thoughts on the matter.


ALF, "Movin' Out"

We then see some people walking around the outside of the house, with a FOR SALE sign in plain view.

This was legitimately shocking to me, because I just assumed they shot a bunch of exteriors up front and have been using those same few establishing shots ever since.

I mean, that’s still probably true, but seeing one this late in the game that’s episode-specific…that demonstrates some very rare effort invested in the production.

That’s pretty much it, though. Kate and Lynn complain that they don’t want anyone else living here, and ALF complains that he wants food. Then the act ends.

What a strange place to break it. It wasn’t funny or compelling. It just kind of ended. I guess they used up all their effort for the week by filming that new footage of the lawn.

ALF, "Movin' Out"

Then we see Willie at his new job, talking on the phone to a woman who hasn’t gotten her welfare check. He is trying to keep her calm, and he says, “Yes, I know you have five children. I can hear them from here!”


This scene is a great opportunity to show us that Willie, in spite of everything we’ve seen to the contrary in his personal life, is actually an awesome social worker. It wouldn’t even be much of a cheat to do so, since the few times we’ve seen him at work in the past, he wasn’t actually doing any work. We’re almost halfway through the entire run of the show, but Willie’s professional life is still a blank canvas. He just got this big promotion, so why not show us why he deserves it?

Instead, he insults a needy woman for having kids that are noisier than he would like them to be. Who the fuck does this guy think he is? And why are we supposed to be laughing with him when he makes fun of the woman who now can’t afford to buy groceries for her hungry kids?

I’ll spoil something for you: Willie doesn’t like his new job. That’s fine. He doesn’t have to. But since the central conflict of the episode is whether or not the Tanners move, this sort of undercuts all tension. Maybe instead of Willie hating the living fuck out of his new position, he could like it. And be really good at it. That way there’d be an actual difficult decision at the heart of the episode: nobody else wants to move, but Willie does. Instead, what we get is a situation in which nobody else wants to move, and Willie also does not want to move.

Well then. I’m on the edge of my seat.

ALF, "Movin' Out"

Willie goes into the other room to talk to one of his employees about why the check wasn’t mailed. This guy’s supposed to be an idiot, which we know because he has his feet up on the desk, has a phone conversation not related to work, and has a face that looks like it’s growing out of somebody else’s back.

Then some woman comes over and tells Willie he still hasn’t processed payroll, she doesn’t have a parking space yet, and a whole bunch of other shit he hasn’t taken care of because he’s too busy making fun of some lady’s kids on the phone.

After she lays out all the crap Willie needs to do, he says, “No problem, Denise. I’ve got twelve hands!!”


What a dickbag. Seriously. This guy isn’t just a bad social worker; he’s a fuckawful human being.

If I worked somewhere, and they brought in a new supervisor from outside instead of promoting from within, and he immediately started bitching about having to do all the stuff he was explicitly hired to do, I’d go right over his head and tell whoever hired him that this guy needs to get the fuck out and let someone willing to do the work take his place.

Seriously. What the hell is Willie’s problem? He’s pissy to the idiot who doesn’t do his own work, but then he’s also pissy to the woman who tells Willie to do his own work. What the hell does he want?

Willie finds the check for that lady and fires the guy for losing it. The fake audience of dead people applauds, so that’s our cue that Willie just did something awesome. I’m glad I had the cue, because otherwise I’d have no idea.

I get that a moment like this could demonstrate that even if Willie is terrible at everything else, he at least knows how to lay down the law when his staff fails him, or whatever. Except…yeah. This isn’t really that impressive.

The guy deserved to be fired if he was gabbing on the phone all day and not doing his job, yes, but that’s not something to applaud Willie for. A firing had to happen. It’s not a brave and admirable decision; it’s right to fire a social worker who isn’t actually helping the people he’s being paid to help.

Additionally, we just heard about fifteen other things Willie’s supposed to be doing, and he hasn’t done jack shit with any of those. So, yeah, he fired someone. Great. Unless he accomplishes at least one more thing on his daily goal list, though, I’m not going to join my deceased brethren in a standing O.

Also, before this happened, Willie himself was gabbing on the phone to ALF about personal business, so why is it okay for Willie to dick around and not do his job, but this guy gets fired for it?

ALF, "Movin' Out"

On the way home from work, Willie stops to have his neck surgically removed. Then he bitches to ALF about his new job, where they want him to do stuff and help people. That must be pure kryptonite to this putz.

ALF tries to cheer him up with some words of wisdom from his old Skleenball coach.



So, in the first episode of this season, ALF taught Brian to play Skleenball. That’s fine. It was basically baseball played with fish. Okay.

Then, in “Oh, Pretty Woman,” ALF was trading Bouillabaseball cards with Brian. Bouillabaseball was baseball played with fish.

I was confused about why we had two names for what sounded like the exact same sport. Commenter of the week Sarah Portland had this to say in response back then:

I’m just going to guess that someone on the staff said “We should talk about that fish-baseball thing again – what was it called?” and no one wanted to bother looking up what they had called it before. However, it’s possible that they pulled a JK Rowling, and found a better name for something further down the line, simply substituting it without explanation. On the whole Bouillabaseball is infinitely funnier, and fits better.

And, you know what? That sounded entirely reasonable. Bouillabaseball is the better name, and the fact that ALF trading cards (in the real world) came with a Bouillabaseball card in every pack suggests that they decided to rechristen Skleenball.

But now, at the end of season two, we find out there is still a Skleenball, so I don’t fuckin’ know anymore.

That’s what you get, Sarah Portland, when you give ALF any credit whatsoever. Welcome to the club. :(

ALF, "Movin' Out"

ALF decides to be ALF and fucks up the house so that nobody will want to buy it. Of course, before he can start springing his traps, the Tanners piss and moan to prospective buyers about what shitty neighbors the Ochmoneks are. I wonder why they didn’t provide any examples, though. Like the time they formed a neighborhood watch to protect local families. Or the time they took the Tanners on a free vacation for the hell of it. Or that morning a few days ago when Mr. O got up at the crack of dawn just to wish Willie luck at his new job. THOSE SHITS

Whatever. ALF broke everything, so stuff falls down. Over and over and over. And even though the sale of the house and Willie’s new job are related to one another, it feels like two plots at the same time: Willie adjusting to a new working environment, and ALF desperate to not move. At this point, the episode seems to switch tracks from one to the other, with the big setpiece of ALF’s destruction playing like the big finale…while also not feeling at all related to anything Willie’s ostensibly been going through this week.

It’s odd. Both plots could have led to episodes of their own, so having them crowd each other out for primacy during the waning minutes of “Movin’ Out” just makes a ramshackle episode even worse.

Once the Ineffectual Physical Comedy Follies are over, Willie confronts ALF in the master bedroom about sabotaging the sale of the house.

ALF, "Movin' Out"

It would be a great way to tie the climaxes of both plots together, but it’s easier to just end the episode so we’ll do that. Willie says he doesn’t want to move anyway and it’s over.

The reason he doesn’t want to move…well, that’s a little more annoying, so forgive me for breaking it down.

See, Willie already hates his job and doesn’t want to move. We know that. But as in “Weird Science” and some other episode I’m grateful to have forgotten, ALF needs to give an inspiring speech to everyone in the audience dumb enough to have not found something else to watch by now.

He reminds Willie that social workers should be doing work “for the social good.” That’s fine, if a little obvious, but then ALF explains that Willie is no longer doing that. Instead he’s assigning parking spaces and firing people.

And, you know what? I can see a good point being made about how “work for the social good” gets undermined by bureaucracy and red tape, having meetings to schedule other meetings and so on, with good intentions manifesting themselves in such a way that they detract from quality of service.

Here, however, that’s not the case. Willie indeed, as ALF said, was assigning parking spaces and firing people. But they guy he fired needed to be fired, because he wasn’t effectively helping those who relied on him. Isn’t removing an ineffectual social worker so that somebody more helpful can take his place a gesture in service of the social good?

The parking space, too, is a necessary logistical problem. If Willie’s employees have nowhere to park, they can’t do their work. She wasn’t asking for a better parking space, or to trade with somebody else for some cockamamie reason. This lady just wanted a fucking place to park while she worked her ass off and reminded Willie of all the crap he wasn’t doing. If she quits because Willie can’t handle basic administrative duties and she has nowhere to leave her car, how would that serve the social good?

Another thing that ALF doesn’t mention — but which we heard — is that Willie was in charge of payroll. Sure, he fucked it up, but isn’t seeing to it that your social workers are paid a pretty important way to encourage them to keep doing social work? You know…the social workers that ALF just ranted about needing to serve the social good. Stop paying them and they’ll abandon the field. Rightly so, I might add.

So ALF has it backward, and the show doesn’t realize that at all. Sure, maybe Willie preferred the hands-on approach he used to have, and that’s fine. But by no means is the social good better served by one guy with a preference for hands-on work than it would be by an effective leader who can guide and support an entire staff with a gift for hands-on work.

Willie can work with one client at a time. His staff can work with dozens, and potentially hundreds. Willie whining about having to fill out paperwork and pay his fucking employees is what prevented him from serving the social good, not the fact that he was responsible for doing those things in the first place. His new role as administrator didn’t prevent it; if anything it magnified its potential.

If there’s a moral here, it’s that Willie finds it chillingly easy to convince himself that doing almost nothing is preferable to doing an awful lot, because the latter is really hard and the former is so much easier.

The moral is emphatically not what we’re told it is. This isn’t about Willie getting back down to the salt of the earth and helping people. He just had the chance to do that and decided instead to make fun of welfare mothers and be snippy toward better social workers who were actually trying to do their jobs.

So, yeah. Not that this episode was so hot before, but this is a truly botched ending. Also, is this the first episode I’ve had literally nothing nice to say about? Jesus.

Whatever. The point is, Willie decides he’d much rather be here, with the alien who just caved in the roof, than apply himself to sorting out the problems of the less fortunate.


ALF, "Movin' Out"

Willie announces the good news to his family, and, in doing so, stops Kate from scolding ALF. Yeah, how dare that lippy bitch get angry at the creature that demolished her house and created unsafe living conditions for her children.

It’s a damned good thing that Willie — so intent on serving the social good — was there to put his uppity wife in her place.

This episode is fucking horrible.

ALF, "Movin' Out"

In the short scene before the credits, some guy comes in to see the house. The couch collapses into the floor, revealing that it’s not a house at all, but the set of some shitty sitcom, and the guy leaves because he doesn’t want to live in a place full of dead people laughing all the time.

It’s a stupid gag, but I kind of like that they bothered to work the deadly puppet trenches into the show somehow. They already spent all that time and money creating them so that Paul Fusco wouldn’t have to timeshare his character with a midget, so you might as well write a joke that takes advantage of them.

On the other hand, this visual joke is really fucking dumb. So, there’s that.

ALF Reviews: “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (season 2, episode 20)

Ever since Jake arrived earlier this season, I’ve been joking that Brian no longer exists. Or half-joking, anyway, because as we saw last week, the kid no longer has anything to do with his own plots. The writers have officially given up on him, which renders him stuck here, like a nail through a thumb that would do more harm to remove than to just leave where it is.

This week, we see exactly how empty the character is. While it takes them a little longer to elbow him out of yet another storyline that should feature him front and center, they know they’ve never bothered to develop him in any way so the episode has to happen around him. He’s just kind of there…and then he’s not…and then they bring him in for the final scene to pretend that he’s learned some grand lesson.

“Hit Me With Your Best Shot” plays like one of those movies in which a lead actor dies during filming, so they try to hide that by padding it out with scenes of other people talking about that guy, and reacting to things he’s done, leaving the audience — hopefully — to just assume he’s on the toilet somewhere, I guess, but is still totally like super important.

And while it’s not the worst episode of ALF (being as it does have a few very good lines), it does sink to depths that even the wonderful Anne Schedeen can’t redeem.

You’d be forgiven for not believing me, though, since we open on a great Kate scene. She walks in on ALF who has apparently been sitting under a sunlamp for five hours. He wonders openly why he isn’t getting a tan…which is a visual joke that works on its own. But then Kate touches him, and he screams. Even funnier.

What I like most about it, though? Look at Kate’s face above. (But…don’t look at her shirt.) Anne Schedeen is acting. Unlike the rest of the cast, she doesn’t just pause and react when it’s her turn to talk. She’s filtering the actions and words of others through her own character, and it often makes her the only thing on screen worth paying attention to.

If she had been in a better show, I think she’d be pretty fondly remembered. Instead she’s in ALF, where she gets nose-fucked by a puppet in her hallway and everyone’s pretty eager to forget any of this ever happened. She really was so much better than this show deserved, and that’s tragic.

She tells ALF that he’s got sunburn, and asks if he wants cold cream. He says, “Yeah, but only one scoop. I’m on a diet.”

I’m not even bothered by the “ALF I AM TALKING ABOUT COLD CREAM NOT ICE CREAM” line that explains the joke, because it feels like Kate is explaining something to the alien, rather than to the audience. There’s a big difference there, and it’s a difference that is only felt when the actor makes you feel it. The rest of these clowns deliver lines for the audience to react to. Anne Schedeen delivers lines for the characters to react to.

So, yeah. Enjoy this while you can, because before long this episode will sink far below her ability to keep it alive.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

We get the credits, and then Brian comes in covered in dirt. At first I assumed this was the Halloween episode, in which the corpse of Benji Gregory rises from its shallow grave in the studio parking lot and seeks revenge on the cast…but, no, it’s just Brian. He’s been in a fight.

I love that the late-80s way of showing that a character has been in a fight is to muss up his hair and rub soil into his clothes. Did kids actually fight back then? Nobody ever seems to throw an actual punch. I guess they just rolled around with each other in the garden, like that thing I wasn’t supposed to do with my cousin. :(

Brian explains that he got in a fight with Bobby Duncan. Kate asks who the hell that is, and rightly so, since last we heard Brian’s tormentor was that kid Spencer. Remember? Willie’s illegitimate child and keeper of Dr. Potato Famine. Oh well. I guess when you have a kid like Brian, you just take it as read that every day brings another bully.

Kate washes the implied physical violence off of him with a rag, and ALF offers to eat the kid’s cat as revenge. There’s another nice moment when Kate tells him that he shouldn’t fight, and Brian says that he did it because Bobby called Kate “old, ugly, and dumb.”

Schedeen pauses, but then repeats her advice not to fight…before mumbling, “That little brat.”

It’s good. She’s being a mother, but still being a person. Her feeling are hurt, and she’s upset, but she needs to set the example for Brian…while clearly believing the kid needs a slap. And this is why I love Schedeen; she’s capable of expressing multiple things at the same time. She doesn’t flip back and forth between settings; she’s a human being with complex emotions. What a rarity here.

Speaking of rarity, we then get a good ALF line when he says, “He’s entitled to his opinion.” And that, in itself, gets punctuated by a perfect Kate glower.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Maybe I’m just clinging to stuff like this because the rest of the episode is a pretty massive pile of dickshit, but is there anyone out there who doesn’t appreciate Anne Schedeen? Anyone watching this show or following this blog that thinks she’s not worthy of the praise I give her? Maybe I’ve just been driven insane by the show. If that’s the case, please tell me. You’re my last hope for a healthy perspective on things.

Eh, who cares if I’m crazy. I fucking love her, and she’s about the only thing I can count on from week to week, so sue me.

The next day, or whenever the hell Brian changes his shirt, ALF gives him fighting lessons in the garage. He reveals that he was known as “Sugar Ray” Shumway on Melmac, because he loved shitty 90s pop.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

ALF tells Brian that he can’t drop out of school to avoid bullies, because otherwise he’ll end up hanging around the house all day, eating and watching TV. CAN YOU GUESS THE PUNCHLINE AT HOME?

Of course you can. But that doesn’t stop Brian from explaining it by saying, “But I want to be like you!”

It doesn’t land, as you might expect, and it serves as a perfect illustration of my earlier point: Schedeen delivered an unnecessary explanation, but because she was acting it made sense: she was explaining something to ALF, not to us. Benji Gregory only knows how to recite half-memorized lines from a piece of paper, so he ends up delivering this particular unnecessary explanation to us.

Big difference, and one that comes down entirely to acting chops. You can speak the words somebody else wrote for you, or your character can do the talking.

I’m not trying to be too hard on Gregory; I just find him to be a good case study. Acting is difficult. Really. It is. And this is a kid without any real experience doing it, being handed shitty dialogue and being made to perform it under shittier conditions. I’ll joke about him, sure, but I don’t dislike him.

It’s not that he’s bad at what he does…it’s that he’s incompetent. I know that sounds insulting, but what I’m getting at is that he never learned what it meant to be competent. Nobody here taught him. “Good enough” was ALF‘s motto, which is why the good actors brought their talent in from the start (Anne Schedeen and Jack LaMotta), and the lousy ones never got any better (Max Wright and Benji Gregory).

Of course, we do have an exception in Andrea Elson, but I’m sure that’s because she worked of her own initiative to get better, likely learning what she could from Schedeen and the other good actors that dropped in for guest appearances. It’s not because the setting was conducive to her learning these things, and it’s definitely not because the director or anyone else bothered to coach her…if she learned anything, she learned it on her own.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

ALF tries to steal Brian’s candy bar, which Benji Gregory was kind enough to hold perfectly, rigidly in frame throughout the conversation, like the script-reciting automaton that he is. He then gives ALF the candy bar, and ALF eats it so fast! lol!

Brian even gets to deliver a zinger! “You eat fast, Sugar Ray!” It’d be an embarrassing line for even the best of actors, so if you can make it through Benji Gregory slurring it out without flinching, you’re a better man than I.

In fact, he seems to channel the mushmouthed inflection of Max Wright. “Yhou EEatf-fast shuggeray.” Coupled with the extremely delayed physical reaction to ALF trying to grab the candy, it almost seems like while Andrea Elson was learning quietly from Anne Schedeen, Benji Gregory was stuck at the Max Wright Actor College.

Anyway, ALF chops a board, then he tries to chop another board, but he fails to chop the other board, so he makes a face and vibrates.

Good shit.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Willie comes in to tell Brian that he just heard what a massive wiener he is. Then he sees that ALF has injured the hand that loves him the way his wife used to, so he attempts to massage it back to functionality.

We get a pretty good line stranded amongst all the bullshit when Willie tells ALF, “If you really wanted to help, you’d teach him not to fight.” ALF replies, “He already knows how to do that.”

Good shit.

No…really this time.

Then we get some more Willie backstory. Unlike anything we learned in “Night Train,” though, this is something we probably could have guessed for ourselves: Willie used to get his nuts handed to him. His bully was named Clarence, which I think implies that even Willie’s guardian angel couldn’t resist giving him wedgies.

He tells Brian that once he decided not to fight back anymore, Clarence moved on, because it stopped being fun for him.

I’m pretty sure I’ve heard every sitcom dad in history give this same advice…but has this ever worked in real life? I can tell you for sure that the kid in my school who got picked on the most literally never raised a hand to his tormentors. Ever. And they definitely didn’t stop. Why would they? If anything they’d leave the kid who intermittently stands up for himself alone in favor of a reliable target.

I don’t know. I was never a bully. And — thanks to this other kid serving as a hell of a convenient distraction — I was never bullied, either. But from what I’ve seen, fighting back is the only hope you have. Not fighting back just cements you as a punching bag until you hang yourself in the closet.

Willie mentions that this advice came from his dad, and Brian asks if that’s the same grandfather that used to talk to corn chips. That’s an interesting bit of color. Willie’s dad must have gone through (or is going through) a period of dementia that Brian was around to see. I still don’t know if the guy’s alive or dead, but at least we know that during that ailing, helpless time of his life, the Tanners sat around making fun of him.

Whatever. Willie gets sick of talking to his son and initiates sex with the alien.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

The next day, or whenever the hell everybody changes their shirts, Kate is pissed because ALF stuck all of his karate boards in the fireplace. She chews him out for wasting perfectly good lumber.

…and, sorry. But, yeah. Not even Anne Schedeen can sell that bullshit.

Of all the things Kate could have gotten mad at ALF for (leaving splinters everywhere comes to mind, or actually burning the wood but not opening the flue), she’s mad that he wasted perfectly good lumber.

Kate Tanner.

Says, out loud.

That she’s mad at him.

For “wasting perfectly good lumber.”

She tries, dear reader. She really does. But although Kate is large, and contains multitudes, she does not give a flying fuck about the Tanner supply of good lumber. And she certainly isn’t so emotionally invested in it that she’ll fly into a rage if good lumber isn’t put to appropriate use.

Good fucking lumber.

Good lumber my ass. God damn this awful show.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Brian comes home and reveals that even though he didn’t fight back, Bobby Duncan still rubbed a bunch of potting soil into his jacket.

ALF pops up through the plot window and suggests solving violence with violence, like they used to do on Melmac.

And then — you know what? — I just about forget about good lumber. Because there’s one hell of a tantalizing moment.

Willie hears this suggestion, and he pointedly asks him if he remembers what happened to Melmac.

ALF replies, “It blew up in a nuclear holocaust. Why?”

And…wow. That’s both a good joke and some nice, potential shading of ALF’s history. Willie, of course, tries to overexplain the connection to the audience, but I’m not disappointed by that. I want to know more. The fact that we don’t get a clear answer here isn’t a bad thing…if anything, it just shows what a good job the show did (accidentally, no doubt) of getting my ears to perk up.

Is the “violence with violence” approach the reason Melmac is gone? Maybe so and maybe not. The fact that ALF can’t see the connection between what he just said and the “nuclear holocaust” he remembers can mean one of two things:

1) He’s a fucking imbecile, because Melmac actually was destroyed in needless conflict and he’s learned nothing, or…

2) Willie’s wrong, and the nuclear accident that destroyed Melmac was coincidental, not caused at all by any sort of hostile act.

They both give up on the conversation, so that’s where we’re left. Maybe the show wants us to believe that it’s one of those things, specifically, and not the other, but, as far as I can tell, they’re both equally valid in the face of what little we’ve heard.

I wonder if we will get any kind of definitive answer about Melmac. I’m assuming not, but I have to admit that these little snatches of dialogue are interesting.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

There’s another good line when Kate asks Brian if the bully insulted her again. Brian says, “No. Dad.” Surprised, Willie asks what Bobby said about him. Brian replies, “He said you must have been desperate to marry someone like mom.”

It’s a legitimately clever moment, and it’s not the last one in the episode. (It is the second to last one.)

That laugh dies pretty quickly, though, because ALF pops up through the plot window again to announce that he called Bobby’s father, impersonated Willie, threatened him, and invited the guy to come over and kick Willie’s teeth out.

Man, what an effortless way to advance the storyline. You’d hardly even notice how this episode was slapped together out of disparate script pages if I hadn’t pointed it out.

Damn that’s good lumber.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Bobby’s dad comes over and Willie stammers out a bunch of padded bullshit until the credits roll.

Well, not really. But that’s certainly how it feels. This Max Wright stutterlogue goes on so long that Paul Fusco starts to feel insecure, and we cut to ALF in the kitchen for no reason except to assure us that he hasn’t ceased to exist.

Anyway, Mr. Duncan starts hitting on Kate and calling Willie four-eyes, which is the single most hurtful insult in the world after all the rest of them. This makes Willie snap, and he calls Mr. Duncan “Shorty.”

The whole thing reeks of false escalation, but it leads to the best moment in the entire half hour. It gets no laugh from the audience, but I love it: Lynn steps into the tension of the living room and says, “Mom? Dad? Is it time for church yet?”

That was the best Lynn moment ever. I know she’s not the most reliable actor on the show, but when she wants to, Andrea Elson gives good lumber.

Willie physically throws the guy out of the house, and we hear the crashing of garbage cans. Though this is pretty fucking stupid even for ALF, there’s a valid sense of Willie having crossed a line.

Or maybe I’m just going easy on it because it leads to the second best Lynn moment ever when she makes this face:

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

The next day, or whenever the hell everybody changes into a robe, ALF is blabbing about how he called a bunch of people and threatened them on Willie’s behalf.

Remind me again why they don’t just sever ALF’s spine while he sleeps? Why the hell is he not even being threatened with eviction? He’s entering Willie in fucking Bloodsport.

Oh well. The important thing is that we’ve hijacked another Brian plot. There I was, stupidly thinking the episode about Brian getting beaten up would be about Brian getting beaten up. Little did I know it was actually about ALF siccing the city of Los Angeles on Willie’s pasty ass.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

A serious sight for sore eyes, Mr. Ochmonek comes over with his wife. Funny how when the show started, it seemed like Mrs. Ochmonek was going to be the “main” neighbor, and her husband might or might not tag along. Liz Sheridan is by no means a bad actress (see Seinfeld, which made much better use of her talents), but Jack LaMotta leaves her in the dust, and I’d like to think that the writers at least appreciated what they had, and started using Mr. Ochmonek more, making his wife the optional add-on.

He congratulates Willie on knocking some sense into Mr. Duncan, because that guy’s kind of a dick. Kate asks how he knows about that, and Mrs. Ochmonek says she told everyone in town.

Tee hee, sure, but I’m only reporting that because it leads to a fucking gorgeous moment.

Mr. Ochmonek says, “Yeah. There’s three ways news can travel. Telephone, telegraph, and tell Raquel.”

On its own that’s nothing, but look at the screengrab again. Mrs. Ochmonek hears this joke — which she knows is coming, and which she must have heard a thousand times before — and turns to Kate with a huge smile as he tells it. “Isn’t he the best?” she’s asking silently.

This joke isn’t just lame, it’s extremely out of date. When was the last time anyone used the telegraph to spread news? Mr. Ochmonek is telling a joke he may well have told back when he was wooing Raquel* in high school.

And she still loves it.

She thinks her husband is hilarious. This isn’t a joke she’s sick of hearing…this is a reminder of why she fell in love with him in the first place. I can’t stress enough how lovely this moment is, and it bears repeating that I believe the Ochmoneks love each other. I do not believe that of the Tanners. These are the people I’d rather spend time with, because they’re at least recognizably human.

Then Mr. Ochmonek jokes about leaving before Willie throws him out “like yesterday’s garbage.” He even makes a little production out of carrying himself to the door by his shirt color.

Give them just a few lines and a little bit of physical business, and the Ochmoneks will show us what a difference it makes when we’re watching actual characters instead of people on a soundstage.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Mr. Duncan comes over again and Willie decides to show Brian that you don’t need to fight in order to resolve your problems. Then Mr. Duncan actually sees Brian and asks if that’s really the kid that gave Bobby a black eye, which is a twist marginally less believable than finding out Willie was formed in a lab accident.

Whatever. The guy’s being pretty nice overall, but he mentions he works as a scrap metal dealer, which for some reason causes the Tanners to make fun of him over and over again. Even Kate, with Anne Schedeen proving again that there’s only so much anyone can do with dreck like this.

The joke isn’t even that the Tanners are awful people. As far as I can tell, the joke is that this idiot works as a scrap metal dealer. What an idiot! Everyone, look at the idiot! This idiot probably wouldn’t know good lumber if it bashed his skull open, the idiot.

It actually makes me feel pretty bad for Mr. Duncan. He might be an asshole, but with no amount of self-awareness whatsoever, the writers are having the Tanners bully him, and hoping we’ll laugh along. When we last saw him, yes, he called Willie “four-eyes.” But, y’know, Willie retaliated by throwing him into a row of trash cans, so I don’t think it’s Mr. Duncan who needs a comeuppance.

He gets it anyway, though, when Kate, for some bullshit reason I don’t care about, grabs him and throws him into the garbage again because fuck you for having a crappy job the Tanners don’t approve of.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

Willie then gets down on one knee and asks Brian to marry him. He also delivers this week’s moral to the audience: in spite of what we’ve just asked the folks watching at home to celebrate, violence is totally a bad thing, so don’t throw your neighbors into trash cans…but if you do, do it twice, I guess. I dunno. The episode’s over. If you don’t like it you can suck ALF’s balls.

ALF, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"

In the short scene before the credits ALF fights one of those inflatable wobbler things that he calls “Mummy-hammad Ali.”

That’s all you need to know about that.

It ends with Lynn coming into the living room to announce that Brian and Bobby have stopped fighting. Why she’s delivering the news and not Brian himself is a question that can only be answered by the fact that Lynn is not played by Benji Gregory.

Ugh. This one was fucking lousy. And yet, there have certainly been worse. Oh well. This was the first episode on the final disc of season two. The end is in sight.

I can do this.

MELMAC FACTS: On Melmac somebody called ALF a snitch, just because ALF turned him in to the Secret Police. ALF says they used to call him Sugar Ray Shumway, but he never got far as a fighter owing to his “glass nose.” Raccy the Raccoon was a hero on Melmac who taught everyone to wash their food before they ate it. On Melmac they had no respect for good lumber.

* Yes, her name is Raquel. I know I’ve only ever referred to them as Mr. and Mrs. Ochmonek, but that was because I thought it was funny to do so. Now that they’re both becoming characters, though, I may show them some proper respect by using their first names when appropriate. So, here you go. They are Raquel and Trevor.