Alf: Season One
All too often when I watch the DVD release of an old television show I find myself a bit disappointed. For some reason what I found funny almost twenty years ago is lame now. I had this trepidation as I put the first disc of ALF season one into my DVD player. Almost immediately I was laughing. Strange thing is I was only on the discís menu. Yes the show is silly and at times puerile but it remains funny. Now you have to remember that the mid eighties were not the easiest of times. The economy was in the dumpster, unemployment was up and it seemed the news was all bad. Sounds familiar? During times like this there is a place for the juvenile humor of Alf. As most out there already know this television series was about an alien life form (Alf) who crashes into the garage of the Tanner family. Alf (Paul Fusco) is a three foot tall, hairy ball of obnoxious. While around the same time the world grew to love little ET this alien was the proverbial guess that came to dinner. The Tanner family is your typical American sitcom bunch. There is the dad Willie (Max Wright), a bit on the bumbling side but a man that means well. Mom Kate (Anne Schedeen) is protective of her family, resistant to the new family member but after the military describes what they would do to an alien relents and lets Alf stay. Then there are the kids, teenage daughter Lynn (Andrea Elson) and six year old Brian (Benji Gregory). To them Alf becomes a cross between a pet and a realization of the ultimate imaginary playmate.
While most aspects of the show are right out of the sitcom playbook, the nosey neighbors right from Bewitched, the running jokes, there are some imaginative little twists. Alf, whose real name is Gordon, loves to eat cats, no, he never satisfies his culinary preferences, this was a family show after all. Still, there is his constant lusting over the family cat, Lucky. Unlike the situation between the witch and neighbor on Bewitch, constantly hiding, Alf took great delight in appearing to the intrusive neighbor and then disappearing so her husband would think she was a bit crazy. In one episode there is a delightful spoof of the classic Hitchcock film Rear Window. Alf is convinced he witnessed a murder and tries to convince the Tanners. It was little touches like this that broadened the appeal of this series to work on one level for the kids, another for the adults.
The casting of this show is a cut above the normal sitcom. Max Wright is a character actor with talent and the ability to connect with his audience. He has a command of comic timing that helps pull off the humor here. Instead of just using a puppet for the role of Alf the producers decided to hire someone in a furry costume to scamper around the set. It is admittedly cheesy but for me it just added to the camp appeal of the show. Ironically, the cast member with the most notable career today is Alf. He has commercials and now has been given a talk show take off.
One thing I always liked about this show is the alien is not technologically superior to us earthlings. Sure he has a space ship but as Alf puts it "I donít know how it works, I put in the key and it goes". Alf is a as much a bumbling individual as the rest of us. Like Superman he comes from a planet that exploded. Unlike the caped hero Alf is far better at creating mischief than saving people. There is real heart to this show. The characters fumble around but it shows a loving family that opens their home to this creature. At the time this show was released television was moving more towards alternative families in their sitcoms. Here there is an old fashion nuclear family, supportive of each other.
For a cult television show I have to give credit to Lionís Gate for the presentation. The full screen video was remastered to crystal clarity. It is almost completely free of any discernable defect. The audio was redone to Dolby surround. While there is little in the way of ambience the result is a new bar to reach for shows like this on DVD. While I usually skip past animated menus this one drew me in. As the disc starts we see Alf on the phone complaining that his show was never put out on DVD. After the bit it goes automatically to the episode selection. There each episode has a little video panel with a number to one side and a question mark on the other. As the voice of Alf explains the number goes to the episode while the question mark brings up a little video of Alf explain the episode. The extras include the complete, never aired pilot of the show, a blooper reel and some Alf trivia. The only thing I didnít like about this set is the four disc set is packaged so that discs overlap. To get to discs two or four you have to remove one or three respectfully. It was a mild annoyance but considering how well the show is presented notable.
In all this is a great presentation of a fun show. Lionís Gate is rapidly becoming one of the best studios around, committed to give the audience the best whether it is a little sitcom or an Oscar caliber film. Forget the news for awhile, leave the cares of the day behind and watch a few episodes of Alf. No, this is not the best show ever, it is not a critically acclaimed series but it is enjoyable.