Every time I think of ALF, the furry little bastard who took the world by storm back in the last 80’s, I think of the Ben Stiller movie Permanent Midnight, about television writer Jerry Stahl, who was on drugs while working on the show. Weird movie.
Anyway, this week for Good Old Days, at the suggestion of fellow Funnybooks host Wayne, I decided to give ALF another try. After all, the character was a phenomenon almost the entire time he was on TV. Surely, this was quality television…right? Right?
When I told fellow Funnybooks host Aron that I was going to watch ALF because I remember liking it when it first aired, he said, sternly, “I refuse to talk about ALF with you.” I was kind of surprised – why such the disdain for our favorite furry alien? Surely the character held a place in my heart – was Aron’s just cold and dying?
Or was he warning me?
I re-watched the first three episode of ALF this week and, I have to admit…I didn’t hate them. I know that I guess I should have, because, really, ALF is full of everything that’s wrong in sitcom television, but I just couldn’t bring myself to hate it. I really do love ALF as a character, but I found myself realizing that, despite as much as I remember liking the show…it really wasn’t all that funny.
Maybe it’s just because every joke feels forced. The family that ALF lives with (the Tanners) are annoying as all hell. The little kid, Brian, is there to essentially just repeat everyone’s lines in a whinier way. The older daughter is…well, just a regular teenager. The mom is kind of a bitch with a heart of gold. Then you’ve got the dad, who looks WAY too old to be the dad of this family. Seriously…he either was WAY old, or lived a rough life.
So, ultimately, the show rides on the success of its main character. Reading up about the show, I found that the actors pretty much HATED working on this show. The set was always tense and full of anger, and the daughter on the show had a bought with bulimia. Seems like all those 80’s sitcoms were kind of a mess, but this one seemed to be focused on the fact that working with the ALF puppet was a pain in the butt.
Still, even though it’s pretty obvious that the characters mouth never moves when there’s an actor in the costume, you can’t help but think of ALF as an actual character. He’s not a puppet, he’s like Yoda, ya know? And you end up liking him from the very first moment he’s on screen.
It’s easy to see why ALF was so popular upon airing, even if, upon retrospect, the show wasn’t that hot. With better writers and material, I’d actually welcome the return of the character – he’s endearing, and his design and puppetry is top notch. You can’t help but love ALF…good thing he never made it back home to Melmac, huh?