Move over, Ted. You may be bringing in the big bucks at the box office, but you aren’t the first smart-alecky talking animal on the block. Long before you were tossing back the brewskies on the silver screen, ALF was terrorizing the Tanner family on TV.
The Invasion: You betta lock up yo’ kids, yo’ wife and yo’ husband
Remember that freeloading roommate you had who never got the hint to go? Imagine he was an alien… a cocky, meddling, smarta** alien who’d like to turn your pet cat into kitty tartare. On the hit series ALF, which ran for four seasons spanning 1986–1990, the Tanners — a prototypical American family — were forced to contend with the antics of exactly that upon discovering a furry extraterrestrial named Gordon Shumway crashing in their garage. Hailing from the planet Melmac, the creature (which they dubbed ALF) cozies up to the humans, his new digs and especially the tasty morsel known as the family feline. Bet your moocher doesn’t seem so bad now, eh?
The Mechanics: Puppet love
ALF, which stands for “alien life form,” came to life through the voice of the show’s producer, Paul Fusco. Literally. Paul voiced the crude character he was responsible for creating. As for the alien’s hairy orange form, portraying that was twice the task. For the most part, a remote-controlled puppet played ALF since he was mainly shown from the stomach up. For scenes stretching beyond the torso, the understudy — another puppet with a real human inside — entered the picture. You can easily spot the difference between the two if you pay attention… their faces are more like fraternal twins than identical twins.
The Language: Aliens say the darndest things
- On Melmac, we have first class, second class, and ham.
- If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it’s run over by a car, you don’t want it.
- Putting humans in charge of the Earth is the cosmic equivalence of letting Eddie Murphy direct.
- I wasn’t known on Melmac as the wiz kid for my scholastic ability.
- A minute and a half, Luckmeister, then I’ll be down on you like a buzzard on a gut wagon.
The Legacy: We’ll never let you go, ALF
For a relatively short-lived show, ALF‘s impact proved to be out of this world. When it first aired in the German city sharing the same name, so many city limit signs emblazoned with “Alf” were stolen that city council members were forced to begin buying in bulk. My own brother carried around an ALF doll — er, action figure — like it was a badge of honor (sorry, Jonathan). The series spawned ALF: The Animated Series in 1987, Project: ALF the movie in 1996, and ALF’s Hit Talk Show in 2004 — the same year TV Guide proclaimed the foul-mouthed fuzzball one of the 25 greatest sci-fi legends of all time. One thing is for sure… ALF remains in the hearts of fans and on the pen-tips of screenwriters. Referenced in everything from Saved by the Bell to 30 Rock, everyone’s favorite alien has seen more play than Betty White. (As ALF would say, “Haaa! I kill me.”)
If you’re craving a little extraterrestrial entertainment courtesy of the uncouth critter, catch up on episodes of ALF on Hulu!