I have to admit that I wasn’t that into ALF. Not because the show wassn’t good…I was in college and was more concerned where the next beer was coming from and not whether or not the Melmac native would find his way home.
ALF was definitely a “one-of-a-kind” show. Very rarely does a puppet get its own primetime show…unless you are the cousin of Jim Henson. This show had many scratching their heads wondering …WHY? or HOW? But whatever the reason, ALF was extremely popular. IT orginally aired for 4 seasons from 1986 to 1990. NBC had the guts to give it a go. Of course when you have the Cosby Show on your network you’ve got room to let an odd idea see the light of day.
ALF was the brainchild of Paul Fusco. Fusco produced the series, operated the puppet AND supplied ALF’s voice. He was truly the man behind the alien.
AS you would imagine, shooting a sitcom with a puppet provided MANY technological challenges. Keep in mind that it took 3 people to operate the puppet. Paul would do one hand and the mouth while Lisa Buckley would operate the other hand. Throw in Bob Frappiano who, using a remote control, would operate the eyes and facial expressions and you have one tough act to pull off. In later interviews the cast would say that it was a difficult and trying show to work on.
Max Wright who played the Tanner family patriarch said once that it was difficult to work on a show where its so technically challenging and where an inantimate object got all the good lines. Some cast interviews revealed that a 30 minute episode would usually take 20-25 hours to shoot putting everyone on edge and causing tempers to flair. One account said that after the final episode was taped Max Wright walked off the set and to his car without ever saying goodbye to anyone.
Despite the strained tensions on the set ALF was a winner in the ratings and the lovable explorer from Melmac took the 80’s by storm.
TRIVIA ALERT!! The final episode wasn’t the way it was supposed to end. In that show ALF was taken by the US military and the public was left to wonder what happened to him. But in reality it was scheduled to be a two parter in which the second part wouldv’e shown him being rescued by other survivors of his home planet. It seems that the producers had a verbal agreement with NBC to air the final episode. NBC never made good on a deal and ALF was cancelled. It was, however, wrapped up in a made-for-television-movie later called Project ALF.
And of course we can’t leave you without one more trivia tidbit… every episode was named after a popular song title that would describe that show’s plot.
OK, there is more than one should ever know about the show ALF. Long live ALF or Gordon Shumway…his real name. Damn, another trivia tidbit. I can’t stop! Someone help me. (ALF stands for Alien Life Form) OK that’s the last one…I swear!!
CLICK HERE for an early clip of ALF.