"What's It All About, 'ALF'?": Behind the Troubled Scenes of the Beloved 1980s Sci-Fi Sitcom Classic

Herbie J Pilato

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Photo byTigerTrypes

The show marked a return to the sci-fi/fantasy programming that was so rampant in the 1960s and early '70s. It was a cross between My Favorite Martin and Bewitched, with a little Brady Bunch on the side. The name of the series was ALF, a half-hour sitcom that originally aired on NBC from September 22, 1986 to March 24, 1990. And while there was been talk for years of rebooting the series in some fashion, let's take a look back at the series (which did inspire a TV-movie sequel in 1996).

As documented on TigerStrypes.com, "ALF was the first television series to be presented in Dolby Surround. 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."

According to IMDB.com, "Max Wright later said that while he disliked working on the show, he got satisfaction from fan letters sharing how much joy and happiness the show brought them. In the years since the show was canceled, Wright and Anne Schedeen have said that tensions were very high on the set. The show's technical demands made for very long shooting schedules, and none of the actors enjoyed playing supporting roles to a puppet who always had the best lines."

As IMDB.com continues to reveal, "Wright was so ready to be done with the show that when the final day of taping ended, he immediately cleaned out his dressing room and left the studio, without saying goodbye to any of the cast or crew. However, when the last episode was filmed in the spring of 1990, the show's fate was still up in the air. So it was likely not known at the time if the cast would come back. Reportedly, during the fourth season, tensions on the set were so high that Wright attacked the ALF puppet and screamed 'Put us all on sticks. We're all puppets!'"

That was pretty intense for a happy sci-fi sitcom that has brought so much joy to the world.

Make that, universe.

For more details and revelations about ALF, click here and here.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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