Anyone old enough to remember the late 1980s with any amount of clarity is sure to remember Alf For a while, Alf (short for Alien Life Form) was everywhere, hid oddly phallic nose peaking out at you from cartoons, comic books, books, toys, trading cards, and pretty much any other knock off or cash in that you can think of. Yes, in the late 80s, Alf was king. Almost twenty years later, however, things have changed.
The basic premise of the show is simple enough. An alien named Gordon Shumway crash-lands his spaceship on the planet Earth and ends up being taken in by the Tanner family. They give a place to call home while he tries to fix his ship or figure out how he can get back to his home planet, Melmac, but at the same time they need to keep his existence a secret lest a national brew-ha-ha break out over a real live alien calling Earth his (temporary) home. With nosey neighbors making matters worse for the Tanner family and Alf himself a bit of a loudmouth who sometimes acts before he thinks, this isn't always an easy task as cuddly and loveable as Alf may be, at times he's not the most considerate of house guests especially when he tries to eat the family cat. Considering Alf has a penchant for wandering outside unattended or for doing stupid things like throwing a football through the neighbor's window periodically, keeping him safe and sound and undiscovered in the Tanner home gets to be a bit of work. Add to that the fact that Alf gets bored easily and is obviously getting a bit of cabin fever while waiting to figure out how to get home and you can see where the relationship between he and his foster family could get a little stressed at times.
It wasn't that far off from other situation comedies where a family has to deal with a notably unusual member, not too far removed from how Larry Hagman had to keep Genie's real identity a secret in I Dream Of Genie but in Alf's case, the humor hasn't aged all that well and the episodes in the second season get a little redundant. How many times can an alien puppet pretend to chase a cat, mouth off to Willie Tanner, or hit on a human female before the jokes get old? Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some stand out moments in the series (the episode where Alf joins some of the castaways from Gilligan's Island is a fun crossover) but on the whole it feels pretty stale. The highlight of the series is Willie's interaction with Alf. Their relationship was the most interesting aspect of the series and while yeah, some of those jokes got tired pretty quickly too, at least it was interesting to watch them go back and fourth with one another and you could tell that although on the outside he pretended otherwise, by this point in the series Willie really had started to warm up to Alf and vice versa even if neither one of them were too keen on admitting it to one another. A prime example of this is the episode Night Train (which has nothing at all to do with the Guns N Roses song of the same name, unfortunately) where Willie and Alf end up hopping a train together.
At any rate, the show was a raving success in the 80s and nostalgia buffs who dig on TV from that decade might get more out of the set than those looking for more cerebral humor. The episodes that make up the second season and the order in which they appear in the set on each disc is as follows:
Oh, Pretty Woman
You Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog
Working My Way Back to You
The Ballad Of Gilligan's Island
Some Enchanted Evening
Take a Look at Me Now
Can I Get a Witness?
Isn't it Romantic
Wedding Bell Blues
Something's Wrong With Me
I'm Your Puppet
Hail to the Chief
The Boy Next Door
We're So Sorry, Uncle Albert
We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Someone To Watch Over Me Pt 1
Someone To Watch Over Me Pt 2
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
We Are Family
ALF's Special Christmas
Worth noting is that for some reason, the episodes included on this set are the syndicated episodes, not the original broadcast ones. To Lion's Gate's credit this is noted in the small print on the back of the packaging so you should know what you're getting before you buy it (at least if you pick it up in a brick and mortar store – those who purchase their DVDs online may not have that luxury) but the fact still remains that some of these episodes might be slightly abridged.
The episodes are all presented as they should be in 1.33.1 fullframe. The picture quality is good on these discs, if not quite perfect. The picture is consistently clean during playback though there is some mild line shimmering as well as some edge enhancement present on the transfer. There are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts, however, and the black levels stay pretty strong. Skin tones look normal, color reproduction is decent and accurate looking, and there's a reasonably high level of detail present throughout.
Each and every one of the episodes in this set is presented in its original English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix. There are no alternate language options or subtitles provided though there is an English language closed captioning feature available. Overall the quality of the audio in this set is fine. While there isn't an abundance of channel separation, the dialogue comes through without any problems as do the sound effects and the background/theme music used throughout the series. The lower end could have been just a little bit stronger but as it stands there's not a lot worth complaining about here. There are no issues with hiss or distortion and the episodes sound as good on DVD as they ever did on television.
The only real extras on this release come in the form of two Alf bonus cartoons. The first one is Phantom Pilot, a 1987 episode from Alf: The Animated Series and the second one is Robin Hood, the 1988 premiere episode from Alf Tales. While neither of these cartoons are really all that good, they're here anyway so you can watch them over and over again until you feel content in life. Also worth noting about this release is that it comes with a slipcase cover that features metallic embossment on the Alf logo and on the rose he carries in his teeth. The animated menus are especially well designed on this release, and if you hold the indicator over any of the episode boxes, Alf himself will give you a brief audio synopsis of each one – it's a nice touch, really. There's also a double sided insert inside the package that outlines which episode is on each disc, which is handy if, say, you wanted to go straight to your favorite one without searching through four discs worth of material.
Why Lion's Gate slapped the syndicated versions of the show onto DVD and not the original broadcast versions is a very good question but that's the way it is on this set. While the menu design is fantastic, the episodes look and sound pretty good, and the two bonus cartoons are a nice touch Alf – The Complete Second Season just doesn't hold up all that well. There are a few shining moments but overall this season has its fare share of problems. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.