Anyone who lived through the 1980s knows that they were some very odd times. And there's probably nothing which illustrates that point more than a TV show called ALF. This show dealt with an Alien Life Form or ALF (voiced by Paul Fusco) who crash-lands on Earth and moves in with the Tanner family; Willie (Max Wright), the neurotic father; Kate (Anne Schedeen), the uptight mother, and the two kids, teenager Lynn (Andrea Elson) and youngster Brian (Benji Gregory). The Tanner's begrudgingly take in ALF, who immediately begins to wreck their lives with his outrageous antics. The ALF puppet is probably one of the most unconvincing ever, and the jokes are typically lame, but the show was popular enough to last for four seasons.
Canadian company Video Service Corp has now gathered three hour-long ALF specials into a DVD package entitled The ALF Files. The first of the three segments is "ALF's Special Christmas", which originally aired December, 1987. This entry is clearly the weakest of the three included on this DVD, as it's way too serious and ventures too far from the corny ALF antics which made the show so popular. In this episode, the Tanners venture to a mountain cabin for a Christmas vacation. There, they meet Mr. Foley (Cleavon Little), the owner of the cabin, who dresses as Santa Claus each year and delivers presents to the children at a nearby hospital. ALF stows away in Mr. Foley's truck and is mistaken for a toy. He is given to a girl named Tiffany (Keri Houlihan), who is terminally ill. As the Tanners search for ALF, he gets to know Tiffany and finds out that she is dying. Through Mr. Foley and Tiffany, ALF learns the true meaning of Christmas. There are a few laughs here, but overall the episode is far too treacle and has none of the sarcastic wit which made ALF somewhat different from other shows of the era.
The other two offerings on the DVD are each clip-shows. In "Try to Remember" (Original airdate February, 1987), ALF slips in the bathtub and hits his head. This causes him to be convinced that he is actually Wayne Schlagel of Michigan Life & Casualty. As ALF attempts to sell insurance to the Tanners, they attempt to convince him that he is actually an alien by re-counting many of his whacky adventures. This is your typical clip show, and while there are some great ALF moments here, many of them don't work out of context. "Tonight, Tonight" (original airdate October, 1988) may be one of the weirdest things to ever be shown on network TV. When Johnny Carson was the host of "The Tonight Show", it wasn't unusual for Johnny to take a night off and have a guest host. "Tonight, Tonight" is essentially an episode of "The Tonight Show" with ALF filling in as host. "The Tonight Show" regulars Ed McMahon, Fred de Cordova, Tommy Newsome, and Teresa Ganzel are all there, and ALF welcomes guests Dr. Joyce Brothers, Joan Embry of the San Diego Zoo, and Rich Little. In between all of this madness, ALF shows clips from his show. There are some very good clips here, although only half of my favorite (when ALF and Willie are in a boxcar together) is shown.
For better or for worse, ALF was a decent show and had some truly funny moments. But, this DVD collection is a true mystery. I hate to sound like every other DVD fan, but why not release full season sets as opposed to this compilation, which can't even be called a "greatest hits" collection. It's great to see ALF on DVD, but these episodes, especially the two clip shows, are no way to preserve or present the show.
As noted earlier, The ALF Files comes to DVD from Video Service Corp. The three episodes are presented full-frame, as they were originally broadcast. Speaking of original broadcasts, each episode carries the original NBC "In Stereo" and "CC" logos. (Were these taped off of TV?) "Tonight, Tonight" and "Try to Remember" look very good, rivaling original broadcast quality. The (shot on video) image is very clear and there is no overt video noise or distortion. However, "ALF's Special Christmas" does contain evidence of pixellation and some video noise. The colors are good on all three segments and the picture is always stable.
As indicated by the NBC "In Stereo" logo, all three episodes are presented in digital stereo. The audio is unremarkable, but passable. The dialogue is always clear and audible and there is no distortion or hissing on the track. The stereo effects are limited, but the audio fits the era of the original broadcasts.
The only real extra on the DVD is an audio commentary on the "Try to Remember" episode from series co-creators Paul Fusco, Tom Patchett, and ALF himself (who is, of course, Fusco). The talk is fun as Fusco and Patchett are clearly having fun reminiscing about the show and there are some good jokes from ALF. The only other extra on the DVD are biographies for the primary cast and crew.
If you've seen Permanent Midnight, then you know, for once, we can actually say that the people who made ALF must have been on drugs. The show is a bright (?) spot of 80s nostalgia, but I must recommend that you wait for complete seasons of ALF to be released.