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ALF

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Category: Sitcom

Created By: Tom Patchett and Paul Fusco

Stars: Paul Fusco, Max Wright, Anne Schedeen, Andrea Elson, Benji Gregory, Lucky the cat {himself}, Michu Meszaros

Country of Origin: United States

Number of Seasons: 4

Number of Episodes: 102

Executive Producers: Tom Patchett and Paul Fusco

Original Channel: NBC

Original Run: September 22, 1986 to March 24, 1990

ALF is a 30-minute television sitcom that originally ran on NBC from 1986 to 1990. The plot involves the title character Gordon Shumway, an alien nicknamed ALF (for Alien Life Form) portrayed by Paul Fusco and Michu Meszaros, who crash lands in the garage of the suburban middle class Tanner family. The series stars Max Wright as father Willie Tanner, Anne Schedeen as mother Kate Tanner, and Andrea Elson and Benji Gregory as their two children, Lynn and Brian Tanner.

Premise

ALF crashes on Earth when he follows an amateur radio signal.  He crashes into the Tanners' garage.  Willie Tanner, the husband and father, is a social worker.  His wife, Kate, takes care of the children Lynn and Brian while also caring for the home.  The Tanners hide ALF from the authorities because they don't know what else to do.  ALF is generally harmless and is friendly.  He looks like a very hairy dog.  He is often mistaken for a dog because of that.  This saves him from trouble.  The Tanners have nosy neighbors, the Ochmoneks, who have come close to knowing the truth.  ALF needs to fix his spaceship so he can escape Earth.  We find out somewhere in the first few episodes that ALF's home planet exploded because of a nuclear accident.  Shumway (ALF) is homeless but not the last survivor of his species.  He became a permanent member of the Tanner family.  The clash between human life and the life he lost when his planet exploded causes all kinds of trouble. 

ALF, the show, was 102 episodes long.  Each episode was given a name of a song that described the episodes’s plot.  Over the episodes ALF learns about Earth culture.  Other characters that ALF meets are Willi's brother, Neal, Kate's mother, Dorothy, Dorothy's husband Whizzer, the Ochmoneks' newphew Jake, a psychiatrist named Larry, and a blind woman named Jody, who never figures out that ALF isn't human.  Later in the series the Tanners have a child, Eric.  Other events memorable events are: ALF's move from the laundry room to the attic, and the death of Lucky the cat.  ALF always wanted to catch and eat Lucky but over time he comes to love and respect the cat.  When Lucky dies ALF doesn't feel the need to eat him.  In series finale it looks like ALF is going to be rescued but he gets captured by the American military instead.  The original airing ended on a "To Be Continued" note.  Whether the show had a fifth season was not decided at that time.   There was a rumor that one more episode was agreed upon to give closure but it didn't happen.  No more episodes were created. 

Cast

Max Wright - Willie Tanner

Anne Schedeen - Kate Tanner

Andrea Elson - Lynn Tanner

Benji Gregory - Brian Tanner

John LaMotta - Trevor Ochmonek

Liz Sheridan - Raquel Ochmonek

Josh Blake - Jake Ochmonek (seasons 2-4)

Jim J. Bullock - Neal Tanner (season 4)

Lucky the Cat - himself

Lisa Buckley - Alf assistant/puppeteer

Bob Fappiano - Alf assistant/puppeteer

Michu Meszaros was the actor within the Alf costume. Paul Fusco operated the Alf puppet, supplied Alf's voice, and co-produced the series with Tom Patchett. Patchett also co-created, wrote, and directed the series.

Notable Guest Starring Cast

Bill Daily - Dr. Larry Dykstra

Anne Meara - Dorothy Halligan Deaver

Paul Dooley - Whizzer Deaver

ALF character

ALF (Gordon Shumway--not his real name) is an alien from the planet Melmac.  

ALF is covered in red fur.  He has a rippled snout and, facial moles, and eight stomachs.  He likes to eat cats. 

ALF gets in trouble because his lack of knowledge about how things work on Earth.  He often just barely misses getting caught by the authorities.  Sometimes he gets in trouble when he tries to help people and isn't careful.  For example he tried to help Brian get over his stage fright.  He also helped Dorothy to deal with Sparky's death (cat).

Cover to Marvel Comics' ALF Annual #1.

An ALF comic book was published by Star Comics (and eventually Marvel Comics) beginning in 1987 and ran for four years, 50 issues, and nearly a dozen specials.

The comic was loosely based on the show.  It presents different versions of certain episodes.  It also does parodies of Marvel Comic characters and other parodies when a "Melmac Flashback" happens.  

TV Movie

Project ALF, a television movie, was made.  The movie started six years after the ending of the television show.  In the movie the focus is on a scientist and military police officer who break ALF out of government custody.  The Tanner family is not featured and this angered many fans.

Other Media

Merchandise

The show had trading cards that showed stills from various episodes but some cards parodied baseball cards.  There was an ALF calendar in 1988 which included Melmac's planetary holidays such as Shout at a Shrub Day.

There was a Sega video game based on ALF.  In the game ALF looks for pieces  to repair his spaceship.  Other games were made for the Commodore 64 and other computers too.

Appearances / References in other Media

Jerry Stahl, writer for episodes of ALF, was portrayed by Ben Stiller in the autobiographical movie Permanent Midnight, details Stahl's rise to fame and his addiction to heroin. In the movie ALF is portrayed as "Mr. Chompers"

The animated version of Alf made an appearance in the drug prevention video Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. ALF also appeared in the long-distance plan 10-10-220 commercials on American television.

ALF has made many appearances on Hollywood Squares.

ALF appeared as a guest on The Love Boat: The Next Wave.

ALF has appeared in 2 episodes of Family Guy one as a recovering drug addict in a flashback special. Peter also thought Brian's costume was Alf. Also he appeared in the episode "I Never Met the Dead Man"; Peter has a dream where he is in a house that is spinning in a tornado (referencing The Wizard of Oz), where ALF passes and waves at Peter in a rocking chair.

ALF appeared briefly on Chappelle's Show as a ghost figure.

ALF has appeared on several The Simpsons episodes. In one cartoon, Alf has a cameo in a police lineup of Illegal Aliens. He also appears "in pog form" as Milhouse van Houten trades Bart Simpson's soul for $5 in the episode Bart Sells His Soul. He was also a special guest at Springfield's "Bi-Mon Sci-Fi-Con". Alf also appears on many episodes on the cover of Homer's TV Guide (prominently on flashbacks that happened in the '80s, and on old issues of the TV Guide stored in the Simpson's basement).

ALF has been referenced many times on the Adult Swim series Stroker and Hoop.

ALF is referenced in an episode of Stargate SG-1 entitled "SIGHT UNSEEN". As the final scene comes to a close, the joke applied is a reference to the fact that Anderson's previous show, MacGyver, aired opposite of ALF during most if its run.

ALF is referenced in the 10/16/1989 episode of Mama's Family entitled "Tri-State's Most Wanted". Upon seeing a sketch of a criminal suspect drawn by daughter-in-law Naomi Harper, Mama criticzes it by saying "Oh, I didn't know ALF was on the run."

Notable Guest Stars

Listed alphabetically

·                    Dan Castellaneta — Steve Michaels

·                    Bill Daily — Dr. Larry Dykstra

·                    Paul Dooley — Whizzer Deaver

·                    Fran Drescher — Roxanne

·                    David Alan Grier — FBI Agent

·                    David Leisure — Brandon Tartikoff/Nick "The Fish" Mintz

·                    Cleavon Little — George Foley

·                    Anne Meara — Dorothy Halligan Deaver

·                    Joe Namath as Himself

·                    David Spade — Larry Slotkin

·                    David Ogden Stiers — "Flakey" Pete Finnegan

·                    Brandon Tartikoff as Himself

·                    Marcia Wallace — Mrs. Lyman

Production

ALF was a difficult show to make.  The cast have admitted to the high level of tension on the set.

Max Wright was jealous of the preferential treatment given to the ALF character.  He didn't like that ALF got all the good lines.  He was "hugely eager to have ALF over with."  Max had even walked off the set and disappeared on the last night of taping.  There were no goodbyes.  Shedeen said "there was no joy on the set...it was a technical nightmare -- extremely slow, hot and tedious....A 30-minute show took 20, 25 hours to shoot."  Elson (Lynn Tanner) suffered from bulimia during the second season of shooting.  She stated that the cast wouldn’t have been able to tolerate another year of ALF.  Wright did later admit that the fact that the joy ALF brought to people was more important than

Fusco (one of the two creators and one of the two people who played the ALF part) wanted to keep information about the ALF character secret. 

In the years after the show ended information about how show was produced came out.  To make room for the puppeteers, the entire set was built on a raised platform with dozens of trapdoors in the floor. The trapdoors had to be reset multiple times, sometimes during a single scene.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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