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ALF aired from September 1986 until June 1990 on NBC.

For more on ALF go to the mini-page right here at Sitcoms Online.

A Review from The New York Times


Published: September 22, 1986

IN a television world where, for the moment, ''The Cosby Show'' solidly tops the ratings, the rush to churn out reasonable facsimiles is almost delightfully shameless. It's the season of family sitcoms, featuring hordes of adorable little ones. One of the better, simply because it's kind of cute and a bit offbeat, is ''ALF,'' making its debut on NBC at 8 this evening. One of the more exasperating, because it is such an obvious carbon copy of the Cosby formula, is ''Together We Stand,'' which is having a premiere on CBS tonight at 8:30 before eventually settling into its regular period of Wednesdays at 8.

Created by Tom Patchett and Paul Fusco, ''ALF'' has a typical suburban family being visited by a space creature who looks like the offspring of Miss Piggy and Gabby Hayes. Before the arrival of ALF (Alien Life Form), Willie Tanner's family life is run-of-the-mill tedious. His 8-year-old son (Benji Gregory) whines at the dinner table. His teen-age daughter (Andrea Elson) wants the car keys to go out with a guy named Lash, who she insists is ''a mature 14.'' His wife, Kate (Anne Schedeen), does her best as housekeeper and amiable referee.

Willie makes an effort to stay calm by making little jokes that nobody seems to get. ''I mean,'' he says after delivering a homily on respect for each other, ''have we learned nothing from watching 'The Cosby Show'?'' Fortunately, Willie is played by Max Wright, a splendidly versatile fellow who has been first-rate as an oddball television news executive in the series ''Buffalo Bill'' and as Josef Mengele in the television movie ''Playing for Time.'' Not coincidentally, Mr. Patchett, who wrote and directed this pilot episode, and Bernie Brillstein, the executive producer, were also associated with ''Buffalo Bill.''

When ALF crashes through the garage roof, the result of a glitch in Willie's citizens'-band equipment, the family is ready for some diversion, and the short, furry, gruff creature is more than willing to provide it. Putting on Willie's glasses, he snorts, ''Boy, you're as blind as a bat.'' But he learns quickly. Watching Willie shave, he snuggles up and insists, ''I want to do everything you do; you're my idol.''

Although the youngsters are enthusiastic about their new ''brother,'' Kate is dubious. Assertive ALF is a model of confidence. ''I guess you'll have to love me for as long as it lasts,'' he declares, no doubt keeping one eye on the ratings.

An Article From Time Magazine on all the family sitcoms now popular in prime-time.

All in the Family Again
Monday, Sep. 29, 1986


The Tanner family of NBC's new sitcom ALF has an unusual pet -- an E.T.-like visitor from outer space -- but in most other respects the Tanners are the very picture of TV normality. When Dad comes home from work and gets fawned over by his teenage daughter, he instantly guesses, as TV fathers have done for decades, that she wants to borrow the car. And as they have also done for decades, he puts his foot down: no driving on a school night. "If we don't respect the rules we make, we're never going to respect each other," he says at the dinner table. "I mean, have we learned nothing from watching The Cosby Show?"

The Tanner children may still need some tutoring, but the networks have learned their lesson well. At the start of its third season on NBC, The Cosby Show has become a hit worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records, drawing more viewers (an average 60 million each week) than any other situation comedy in TV history. The show's strong nuclear family and old-fashioned values have exerted a potent influence -- at least on TV programmers. As a result, wholesome households of all shapes and sizes are proliferating in prime time this fall.

Lucille Ball, for example, is returning as a "free-spirited grandmother" who moves in with her daughter's family in ABC's Life with Lucy. Elliott Gould, Ellen Burstyn and Wilford Brimley are among the other stars who will be heading TV homes this season. Pam Dawber (Mork and Mindy) becomes a roommate and surrogate parent for a runaway sibling in CBS's My Sister Sam. In ABC's Heart of the City, a police detective has himself transferred out of the SWAT unit so he can spend more time with his motherless children. And Starman, also on ABC, brings back the alien from John Carpenter's 1984 sci-fi film and unites him with the son he fathered on his first trip to earth.

Perhaps the most telling sign of the times was the fate last season of two of TV's most famous singles from the 1970s. Both Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper returned in new sitcoms. Moore's show, in which she played a single newspaper columnist, was a flop. Harper's, in which she portrayed the mother of three children, was a ratings winner, and will be coming back this season. It joins a thriving bedroom community that includes the returning Family Ties, Growing Pains, Who's the Boss?, Kate & Allie, Webster and Mr. Belvedere. Meanwhile, outside the networks' realm, Beaver and Wally Cleaver are back + -- with children of their own -- in The New Leave It to Beaver, which started this month on superstation WTBS. And Danny Thomas, one of TV's original fathers (Make Room for Daddy), has returned as a crusty uncle in the syndicated One Big Family.

TV clans have never gone completely out of style, but they have changed over the years. The genre's archetype -- stable, well-scrubbed, usually small- town families that deal with minor domestic problems that are always resolved, gently, before the final credits -- was established in such classic series of the 1950s and early '60s as Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet and The Donna Reed Show. In the early 1970s, under the influence of Norman Lear (All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons), TV families became more realistic and contemporary, their problems more substantial and socially relevant. But as the decade waned, TV moved toward increasingly outlandish family match-ups (Diff'rent Strokes, Eight Is Enough) or escaped into nostalgia and parody (Happy Days).

Under the Cosby spell, family shows have reverted to classic form. Though divorced mothers and one-parent households are far more common than they once were, the old-fashioned two-parent model has staged a comeback. Indeed, the circle of kinfolk is expanding: grandparents are central figures in several of TV's newest households. Superficially, these shows have kept pace with the times; the teenage daughter's boyfriend is likely to have a punk haircut and be named Lash. But the uplifting message has changed little. Children still need firm, loving guidance, but will ultimately do what is right if left on their own.

Families have not completely seized the sitcom field this fall. ABC's Sledge Hammer!, about a trigger-happy cop who talks to his gun, is an earnest but lame attempt to satirize Dirty Harry-type heroes. CBS's Designing Women features a quartet of single friends in Atlanta who run a decorating business together, a sort of pre-mid-life Golden Girls. The show has a good cast (including Annie Potts and Dixie Carter) but an overload of formula gag writing ("Suzanne, if sex were fast food, there'd be an arch over your bed").

ABC's Head of the Class is a family show in spirit, if not in fact. Howard Hesseman plays a substitute teacher who takes over a high school class of geniuses. The students are fiercely motivated (one girl is so crushed at getting a B that she has grounded herself), but Hesseman knows more about life and takes on the role of surrogate father. The pilot episode was overstuffed with characterization, but the funny premise and Hesseman's laid-back way with a line make the show one of the most promising comedies of the fall.

Most of the season's action, nevertheless, takes place around cozy couches, homey banisters and bustling kitchen tables. A sampler:

ALF (NBC). When a spaceship crashes through the roof of the Tanners' garage, out pops a wisecracking alien, who promptly moves in with the family. The Tanners accept this turn of events with amazing matter-of-factness, but ALF is no place to look for plausibility -- or charm. The outer-space visitor looks like an Ewok from the wrong side of the tracks and talks like Charlie the Tuna. In no time he is barging into the bathroom, hogging the stereo headset and cranking out ancient one-liners ("Do you get Sesame Street where you live?" "No, and frankly I don't get it here, either"). This is the show that NBC has chosen as the lead-in for Steven Spielberg's expensive Amazing Stories, which drew disappointing ratings last year. The creator of E.T. must be pretty embarrassed.

Together We Stand (CBS). In a close encounter of a more familiar kind, Elliott Gould and Dee Wallace Stone play parents who decide to adopt a child and wind up with two: a 14-year-old half-Vietnamese boy and a six-year-old black girl. Added to the Wasp pair already on hand, the newcomers set the family melting pot at high boil. The sentiment gets a bit thick, but there is something appealing about the war orphan's brashness ("My dad was a big hero. Maybe you heard of him -- John Wayne") and something real about the way the daughter, who was adopted years earlier, resents the attention given the newcomer. Gould, once Hollywood's epitome of anti-Establishment scruffiness, has drifted into sitcomland with surprising meekness. Still, even an Elliott Gould possessed by pods is better than nothing.

The Ellen Burstyn Show (ABC). Appearing in her first TV series, Burstyn plays Ellen Brewer, a college professor who shares a house with her separated daughter and her five-year-old grandson. Her opening lines, directed to the audience, are pleasantly sardonic: "Let me tell you how much I love being called Grandma . . ." But this grandma turns quickly into a cloying paragon of hip, enlightened '80s attitudes. When her mother (Elaine Stritch) sneaks into the closet for a smoke, Ellen admonishes, "You've read the Surgeon % General's report." When the family dog is about to have puppies, Ellen argues that her young grandson ought to be allowed to watch the event. And when one of her students wavers in motivation, she tries to encourage him by citing Bruce Springsteen. The Ellen Burstyn Show begs to be hugged but is easily resistible.

Our House (NBC). Wilford Brimley here reminds us that grandparents, long the most idealized of TV figures, can sometimes be crotchety as well. When his recently widowed daughter-in-law and three grandchildren move in, he welcomes them but grumpily resists the change in routine. To teach the children a lesson, he throws into the garbage the toys that they have left on the floor. Half the time he does not even look up from his newspaper when they are talking to him. Our House tugs at the heartstrings a little too aggressively, and Brimley's big scene (telling off the school board when it denies his granddaughter permission to transfer high schools) plays like a recruitment poster for Grandpa power. Still, Brimley's unsentimental portrait and an unusually well directed group of child actors give Our House a warmth and authenticity reminiscent of The Waltons.

It is probably no coincidence that Our House, the season's best family show, is the one that is not a half-hour sitcom. The form may simply have grown too fast paced and hyped with gag lines to accommodate the subtleties of relatives living under one roof. In a scene from Our House, Brimley is concerned about his grandson, who has been sulking because his moneymaking project of painting neighborhood curbs is being threatened by a pair of bullies. Brimley walks into the boy's room and finds him brooding alone. Instead of launching into a typical TV heart-to-heart talk, Brimley turns around and leaves without a word, thus imparting a lesson that even The Cosby Show never seems to offer: sometimes family problems are best dealt with by saying nothing at all.

An Article From Time Magazine

Our Alf in Havana
Monday, Mar. 05, 1990 Article

Will the cozy images of life with the Huxtables and the wacky exploits of a furry extraterrestrial foment democratic urges in Cuba and help topple Castro? Stay tuned: the U.S. may soon begin broadcasting sitcoms (including The Cosby Show and Alf), Mexican soap operas and, yes, news to the land of Ricky Ricardo's birth. The station, called TV Marti, represents Washington's hope that capitalist programming will achieve what the Bay of Pigs invasion could not.

The plan is to beam TV Marti's signal to the Havana area from a tethered blimp floating two to three miles above the Florida Keys. But still unresolved technical hitches have postponed TV Marti's 90-day test run three times, and the service is now scheduled to begin sometime in March. Even then, however, Cuban couch potatoes may be stymied by their government. Castro has promised not only to jam transmissions but also to retaliate against this "imperialist ideological tele-aggression," probably by flooding American AM radio frequencies with Cuban programs.

Supporters of TV Marti, the foremost of whom are Cuban emigres, recall that when its precursor, Radio Marti, began operating five years ago, Castro made similar threats. He interfered briefly with U.S. radio transmissions, but relented when it became clear that the programming was not anticommunist invective but entertainment mixed with balanced news, the same formula planned for the TV channel. He also abrogated an immigration accord with the U.S. but restored it two years later.

"My advice to Castro would be wait awhile and see," says a congressional staffer who has worked to get TV Marti approved. "It's not going to be blatantly antagonistic. It will be enough for us to show what's going on in the world, what life is like in the U.S." Yet that is precisely what Castro may fear. After all, how can Cubans remain true believers once they see how many sweaters Dr. Huxtable owns?

To watch some clips from Alf go to

For a Website dedicated to Alf go to

For a Website dedicated to Alf go to

For Tim's TV Showcase go to

For a page dedicated to Alf go to

For some Alf-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to

For a Review of Alf go to
Date: Wed June 2, 2004 � Filesize: 66.1kb, 64.9kbDimensions: 888 x 626 �
Keywords: ALF (Links Updated 7/14/18)


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