ALF

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"Hello, is this the Lucky Lantern? I would like to order some sweet and sour cat."

"Haaa! I kill me."

The brainchild of puppeteer/producer Paul Fusco, Alf is the story of Gordon Shumway, a hapless Alien Life Form [1] who crash lands in the backyard of the Tanner family after his home planet, Melmac, explodes. The original series lasted from September, 1986 to March, 1990 for a total of 102 episodes in four seasons.

As is typical of the Alien Among Us plot, Alf has to deal with the particular protocols of living on earth. In a subversion, however, he is not depicted as particularly advanced or powerful. He's a little freaky teddy-bear monster, who is lazy, gluttonous, and tries to eat the family cat (cats were his home world's equivalent to chickens). He hides out in the attic, and makes no attempts to ever leave the house, perfectly content to freeload off the family patriarch, Willie, and tease the Nosy Neighbor Raquel Ochmonek.

The show unexpectedly ended on a season cliff hanger, with Alf being taken off to an undisclosed location by government agents. A later Made for TV Movie would reveal the result and provide closure for the series. Despite being relatively formulaic, the show was original in many regards, and had a loyal following.

While viewers saw a delightful, lighthearted sitcom, the show is noted for having been very grueling for the cast, and a hotbed of tension and discomfort when the cameras were off. The technical demands of the ALF puppet required a myriad of trapdoors on set, which had to be reset many times during even a single scene. This led to the show being shot in a very halting, piecemeal fashion, with a single 30-minute episode sometimes taking 20-25 hours of studio time to complete. The effects on the cast were devastating; for example, Andrea Elson (Lynn) suffered from depression and bulimia during the series, while Max Wright (Willie), both physically exhausted and resentful of playing straight man to a puppet, reportedly left the studio immediately after the final shot of the series finale, without even saying goodbye to fellow cast members.

An Animated Adaptation was broadcast from September, 1987 to January, 1989. It depicted Gordon's life on Melmac before he came to earth. It introduced Gordon's family members and friends , such as little sister Augie and girlfriend Rhonda (both voiced by Paulina Gillis). A villain threatening Melmac was also introduced to add some tension. He was called Larson Petty (a pun on petty larceny). The show had its own Spin-Off, ALF Tales, which had the characters as Animated Actors performing modernized versions of classic stories.

There was also a comic book adaptation which tended to play down the sitcom aspects in favor of giving him strange technological toys; it seemed more inspired by the Animated Adaptation than the original sitcom and would in fact often include stories set on Melmac, usually with the framing story of Alf telling the Tanners of life on his home planet. (Willie and Kate, for some unexplained reason, found these flashbacks incredibly tedious. Lynn was fairly indifferent to them, and Brian loved them.)

Alf was voiced and performed by Fusco. Recently, the character has been resurrected in various capacities; in 2004, a late-night talk show format (called ALF's Hit Talk Show; it only lasted seven episodes) and in commercials during the late-1990s, most notably one for the long-distance service "10-10-220".


Tropes used in ALF include:
  1. Sometimes he was billed as an Alien Laugh Form