For this week’s “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something in the topic of “TELEVISION” and go with Alf. This was a show that was pretty cool back in the day. Granted, this was before CGI and you could actually not think about some person being in the outfit. It was just fun and you were always rooting for the cat to get free! ha/ha
For those of you, who are either too young, or just don’t remember it, here’s a video of one of the Alf shows:
So, did you ever see the show when you were younger? or have you seen it on TV or the internet later in life? Let me know what you thought of it, and if you have any memories of it in your life!
More Info on the Show:
The title character is Gordon Shumway, a friendly extraterrestrial nicknamed ALF (an acronym for Alien Life Form), 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 children, Lynn and Brian Tanner. ALF was performed by puppeteer/creator Paul Fusco.
Produced by Alien Productions, ALF originally ran for four seasons and produced 99 episodes, including three one-hour episodes which were divided into two parts for syndication totaling 102 episodes.
ALF is an alien from the planet Melmac who follows an amateur radio signal to Earth and crash-lands into the garage of the Tanners. The Tanners are a suburban middle-class family in the San Fernando Valley area of California. The family consists of social worker Willie (Max Wright), his wife Kate (Anne Schedeen), their teenage daughter Lynn (Andrea Elson), younger son Brian (Benji Gregory), and their cat Lucky.
Unsure what to do, the Tanners take ALF into their home and hide him from the Alien Task Force (a part of the U.S. military that specializes in aliens) and their nosy neighbors Trevor and Raquel Ochmonek (John LaMotta and Liz Sheridan), until he can repair his spacecraft. He generally hides in the kitchen. It is eventually revealed that ALF’s home planet Melmac exploded because of a catastrophe involving a nuclear war. In the Season One episode “Pennsylvania 6-5000”, ALF tries to convince the President of the United States to stop the nuclear program, as ALF fears that Earth might suffer a fate similar to Melmac’s, though miscalculating his words causes the President and National Security to call the FBI to arrest Willie. ALF was off the planet when it was destroyed because he was part of the Melmac Orbit Guard. ALF (a.k.a. Gordon Shumway) is homeless, but he is not the last survivor of his species. He becomes a permanent member of the family, although his culture shock, survivor guilt, general boredom, despair, and loneliness frequently cause difficulty for the Tanners. Despite the problems and inconveniences his presence brings into their lives, they grow to love him, though some episodes make it clear they are also afraid of how their lives would be turned upside down if word that he has been living with them gets out.
While most of the science fiction of ALF was played for comedic value, there were a few references to actual topics in space exploration; for example, ALF uses a radio signal as a beacon in the pilot episode. In the episode “Weird Science”, ALF told Brian, who was building a model of the solar system for his science project, that there were two planets beyond Pluto called “Dave” and “Alvin” (as in David Seville and Alvin from the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise), which gets Brian in trouble at school. However, after ALF makes a call to an astronomical organization and states that “Dave” is known by the organization, Willie comes to believe that “Dave” could have been the planetoid Chiron, or “Object Kowal”, after its discoverer. ALF then shows Willie exactly where “Dave” is on an intergalactic map of the universe.
Each episode dealt with ALF learning about Earth and making new friends both within and outside of the Tanner family, including Willie’s brother Neal (Jim J. Bullock), Kate’s widowed mother Dorothy (Anne Meara) with whom ALF has a love-hate relationship, her boyfriend (and later husband) Whizzer (Paul Dooley), the Ochmoneks’ nephew Jake (Josh Blake), a psychologist named Larry (Bill Daily), and a blind woman named Jody (Andrea Covell) who never figures out that ALF is not human (although she is aware through touch that he is short and hairy).
Changes occur within the Tanner household over the course of the series, including the birth of a new child, Eric (the reason for adding a baby in the series being that Anne Schedeen was pregnant at the time); ALF’s move from his initial quarters in the laundry room to the attic, which he and Willie converted into an “apartment”, and the death of Lucky the cat in Season Four’s “Live and Let Die”; in this instance, ALF finds that despite his occasional attempts to catch Lucky with the intention of making the cat a meal, as cats are the equivalent of cattle on Melmac, he has come to love and respect the family pet too much to do anything untoward with Lucky’s remains. When ALF acquires a new cat with the intent of eating it, he actually grows fond of it and allows it to be adopted by the family, although he admits to the Tanners he has become the worst kind of Melmackian, a “cat lover”.
Gordon Shumway is a Melmacian nicknamed ALF (an acronym for Alien Life Form) by Willie Tanner in the pilot episode. ALF was born on October 28, 1756 on the Lower East Side of the planet Melmac. Melmac was located six parsecs past the Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster, and had a green sky, blue grass and a purple sun. The commonly-used currency is a “Wernick” (named after producer Sandy Wernick) which is equal to 10 American dollars. Lint, gravel and foam are as precious on Melmac as gold is on Earth, whereas gold and platinum are so common that they are used in place of porcelain to make toilets and sinks, as seen in the Season One episode “Baby, You Can Drive My Car”, where ALF sells the gold and platinum plumbing in his ship to buy a Ferrari for Lynn.
ALF’s body is covered with fur and he has a rippled snout, facial moles and eight stomachs. His heart (if he only has one) is apparently located in his right ear. He likes to burp and eat cats, and can whistle without opening his mouth. He had a best friend on his home planet named Malhar Naik. He has friends named Skip, Rick, Stella, and a girlfriend named Rhonda, all of whom also escaped the explosion. He attended high school for 122 years and was captain of a Bouillabaisseball team, a game played on ice using seafood as a ball.
ALF has an enormous appetite; he is also troublesome, sarcastic, slovenly and cynical, and sometimes puts himself at the risk of being discovered while perpetrating some of his often-unintentional pranks. However, if things have gone too far, he does as much as possible to make up for his mistakes, generally with positive results. In the episode “It’s Not Easy Bein’… Green”, he tries to help Brian, too afraid to perform, to gain confidence during a school show by giving him a “lucky tooth” which ALF claims helped him be a star of the stage on Melmac. On another occasion, in the episode “I’ve Got a New Attitude”, he helps Dorothy deal with Sparky’s death and move on to accept Whizzer’s friendship. In the episode “Take a Look at Me Now” after neighbor Raquel Ochmonek claims to see ALF and is ridiculed on a call-in television show, ALF calls into the show to defend her.
ALF comes from a large family and has at least 30 known relatives: cousins “Pretty Boy” Shumway and Blinky; two uncles, Tinkle and Goome; Grandma Shumway; a brother, Curtis; parents Bob and Flo Shumway; and aunts Bubba, Wagner and Eugene. In a commercial for the NFL that ran during Super Bowl XLV on February 6, 2011, it was confirmed that ALF is a Carolina Panthers fan.
Some of the Stars:
Max Wright (Willie Tanner) was born on August 2, 1943 in Detroit, Michigan, USA as George Wright. He is an actor, known for ALF (1986), Norm (1999) and All That Jazz (1979). He has been married to Linda Wright since 1965. They have two children, a son Ben and a daughter Daisy. He bears an uncanny resemblance to Colonel Oliver North’s lawyer during the Iran-Contra hearings. So much so, he and the ALF puppet did a short made-for-TV spoof of the Senate Commitee hearings, in which ALF was being questioned on whether or not he was an alien, and he would lean over to hear the whispered advice from Willie (played by Wright), just like Oliver North was doing during his own questioning. In September of 2003, he lost his driving privileges in New York state for 6 months, following a guilty plea to a drunken-driving charge after running into some mailboxes and a traffic sign. On January 10, 2000, he was arrested and booked for drunk driving following a non-injury accident in Hollywood, California. Was nominated for Broadway’s 1998 Tony Award as Best Actor (Featured Role – Play) for “Ivanov.” Was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 1995 and has been in remission ever since. Lives in Hermosa Beach, California. He’s currently playing a shepherd in “The Winter’s Tale”, a “Shakespeare in the Park” production in New York City’s Central Park. [July 2010]
Anne Schedeen (Kate Tanner) was born Luanne Ruth Schedeen on January 7, 1949, in Portland, Oregon. She is known professionally as Anne Schedeen, is an American actress, best known as Kate Tanner on ALF, which ran from 1986 to 1990. One of her earliest starring roles was as attorney Sara Frank on the short-lived prime-time soap, Paper Dolls. Other credits include guest roles on such hit television series as Cheers, Three’s Company, The Incredible Hulk, Baretta, Family, Emergency!, McCloud, Marcus Welby, M.D., Magnum, P.I., Murder, She Wrote, Judging Amy, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, E/R, and Simon & Simon. Her film credits include Embryo and Second Thoughts. She has been married to Christopher Barrett since 1984. They have one child, a daughter, Taylor, born in 1989. For many years, Anne Schedeen would not disclose her age. Lives in LA and is an antiquer and decorator; also coaches comedy actors part-time (June 2000).
Andrea Elson (Lynn Tanner) was born on March 6, 1969 in New York City, NY. She first realized her love for acting at age eleven when she played the lead in a sixth grade production of “Alice in Wonderland”. This green-eyed actress grew up traveling because of her father’s job in advertising. Before she was ten years old, she had lived in New York, Chicago, San Diego and Los Angeles. While in San Diego, Andrea got an agent and won the first part she auditioned for. It was for a commercial, and, from then on, one acting job followed another. She landed guest-starring parts on Simon & Simon (1981), Silver Spoons (1982) and a co-starring role in the series Whiz Kids (1983). Andrea auditioned and won the part of Lynn Tanner on the hit series ALF (1986). She is married to Scott Hopper who was a producer.
Benji Gregory (Brian Tanner) was born on May 26, 1978 in Panorama City, CA. Blue-eyed Benji Gregory was born in Encino, California, USA on May 26, 1978. His parents are Manny and Patti, and he has an older sister, Becky, and a younger brother, Matthew. His father, uncle and sister were all actors; his grandmother is his agent. As a veteran of dozens of commercials, Benji literally grew up before the camera. At the age of five, he began auditioning for television and won numerous parts. His first acting job was in an episode of Fantasy Island (1977) and he followed that with guest-starring parts on The A-Team (1983), T.J. Hooker (1982), Amazing Stories (1985) and The Twilight Zone (1985). He also appeared in a TV pilot, “Fenster Hall,” a Disney movie, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color: Mr. Boogedy (1986), a TV movie, Thompson’s Last Run (1986) and the feature film, Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986).
Did You Know?
In the years since the show’s demise, both Max Wright and Anne Schedeen have stated that tensions were very high among the cast and crew. The technical demands of the series made for very long shooting schedules, and none of the actors enjoyed playing supporting roles to a puppet who always had the best lines.
The final episode (“Consider Me Gone”) was, indeed, intended as a cliffhanger. At the time it was filmed, NBC was still up in the air over whether the show would be cancelled. The cliffhanger format was intended to help persuade NBC to give the show one more chance, if only to resolve the “To Be Continued” ending. Six years later, the TV movie Project: ALF (1996) finally brought closure – although the lack of the original human cast, and poor writing, cause many fans to reject Project: ALF as part of the show’s canon.
Series creator Paul Fusco told the cast and crew not to give away the secrets to ALF. Fusco operated the puppet most of the time, and provided the voice. However, when full body shots were needed, actor Mihaly ‘Michu’ Meszaros, who stood only two feet and nine inches tall, wore an ALF costume.
When the show first aired in Germany it became an instant success. But it was unfortunate for the German city of “Alf”, located at the Moselle river. The city-limits-signs, featuring the city’s name, were stolen so many times, that the city council decided to buy a huge number of signs for sale.
The Alf puppet was operated from various “trap doors” hidden within the set. This made filming the show somewhat more hazardous than a normal sitcom as the cast had to remember where each of doors were so that they could avoid them.
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