Saturday, August 10, 2013

Classic TV: ALF (1986)

In the 60's, My Favorite Martian postulated the prospect of a Martian adopting a human identity and adjusting to domestic life on Earth. Long after the series ended, CBS tried reviving the show as a cartoon, and it bombed.

In the 70's, future Academy Award winner Robin Williams cemented his status as a pop culture icon in Mork & Mindy. Williams acted like he was a wind-up toy. Wind him up, roll the cameras, and turn him loose. ABC, not learning anything from CBS' mistakes nearly a decade earlier, gave Mork a 5th season, albeit as a Saturday morning cartoon that purported to be a prequel, since it sent Mork to high school, when Mindy (Pam Dawber) was a teenager. Yep, that, too, bombed.

In 1986, puppeteer Paul Fusco introduced America to another alien life form, or, ALF, for short. Like Mork & Mindy, the series lasted four years in primetime, but unlike the other shows, ALF's Saturday morning spinoff came when the show was still on the air. Not only that, but there were two of them, which we'll discuss over in Saturday Morning Archives in due course.

ALF centers on Gordon Shumway (voiced by Fusco), a citizen of the planet Melmac who winds up on Earth when his spaceship crashes in the garage of one Willie Tanner (Max Wright, ex-Misfits of Science) and his family. As the Tanners would quickly discover, one of the popular delicacies on Melmac happens to be cats, so a lot of the humor, at least in season 1, anyway, came from Gordon's fruitless quest to make the family cat a dinner meal for himself. For those who wonder, circus performer Mishu wore a costume when Gordon needed to be seen walking.

Currently, ALF is being discovered by a new generation of viewers, thanks to The Hub acquiring cable rights to the series (check listings).

Here's the open:

Rating: A.


magicdog said...

I remember watching the show and it had it's moments. Who ever thought an alien would have a name like "Gordon Shumway?"

hobbyfan said...

I think that was the whole point. Apparently, the writers were fans of Steve Allen or something. Louis Nye, I think, had a character named Gordon, and.......