Like many of my fellow reviewers here at DVD Talk I too was a child of the 80s. I spent much of my spare time in front of the TV with the likes of Family Ties, The Cosby Show, and Cheers. While you can pretty much find a rerun for any of those shows here and there it has been ages since I have seen ALF. Well, I suppose I should clarify that because the character has appeared on TV in the last few years. I just mean it has been a long time since I have seen the ALF sitcom show.
Twenty years ago a furry alien escaped from the doomed world known as Melmac and crash landed here on Earth. Luckily for the creature he couldn't have been found in the care of a nicer family. If you're thinking this sounds something like E.T. then you're probably right because in many ways the series' concept was a parody of the film. Anyways, this particular alien was no ordinary visitor. He had a penchant for sarcasm and lame jokes plus constantly chased the family's cat in hopes of catching a tasty kitty treat. Yes, this was ALF.
In the show ALF was basically trying to find his place in the Tanner household. Aside from a few particular stories that broke the mold the series followed the sitcom guidebook to the letter with just about every episode. To say that the show was very formulaic would be a gross understatement but there's no way around denying the charm that it had. The basic premise for each episode would go as follows: ALF comes up with a cockamamie idea, Willie Tanner (and sometimes the rest of the Tanner clan) gets irritated, things right themselves, lessons are learned, and everybody has a laugh.
In the third season here you have all of the staples that sitcoms were founded on. The teenager has some issues with her love life, a baby is brought into the picture, the obnoxious neighbor moves in, and there is even a It's a Wonderful Life type episode. That doesn't mean ALF falls into the category of generic; it just means it's "familiar." To be fair, even though there are quite a few passable episodes this season like "Do You Believe in Magic?", "Stop in the Name of Love", and "Promises, Promises" there are quite a few that are worth mentioning.
Even though portions of it technically make it a clip show "Tonight, Tonight" was a real treat and one of my old favorites. In that particular episode ALF acts as the host of the Tonight show in Johnny Carson's place. With Ed McMahon making an appearance it gave the sequence a certain amount of authenticity. I guess you could say this little bit was the inspiration for ALF's short-lived 2004 talk show.
The offbeat "Like an Old Time Movie" was interesting because it broke from the traditional nature of the show. ALF sits down to watch some black and white films and finds his muse. His inspiration makes him think that he can pen the next great classic so we get to see his "vision" in the guise of a black and white movie starring himself and the Tanners. I also got a kick out of "Hide Away" if only for seeing ALF sneak around the backyard with a baseball bat looking for mobsters to beat with it.
"Alone Again, Naturally" was a good episode as well with plenty of laughs and some solemn, reflective moments for our furry friend. Being all alone on Earth, constantly having to hide, and dealing with the fact that he's the last of his kind is beginning to take its toll on ALF. When he reads about a furry alien that likes to eat light bulbs living with another family he assumes it's his cousin Blinky and gets Willie to drive him there. What he discovers is a retired couple who used to be part of a traveling freakshow and in the end he gets more than he bargained for.
There are a few more highlights to be found in this season but to be honest your enjoyment of them will depend on your affinity to nostalgia. Being a kid of the 80s going back to watch this show was a welcome trip down memory lane. Of course there is also the part of me that has grown up since then and recognizes the cheesiness inherent in just about every episode. Whether it's hit or miss, I loved ALF back in the 80s and I still like him now. Your enjoyment of the show will hinge completely on your background and whether or not you have a tolerance for tacky nostalgia. I guess you also have to take into consideration that these episodes are all the syndicated version of the show and not the original as well.
Stop in the Name of Love
ALF is presented with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio which is basically what you'd expect from a show of this age. What you wouldn't expect though is the quality of the transfer. It has been my experience that revisiting old shows tends to hurt not only because of the content but because of the way it looks. Fortunately that's not the case at all with ALF. Yes the image does appear soft at times and sure it contains some bits of grain and edge enhancement, but apart from that there's really nothing to complain about. This is about as good as the show has ever looked and much better than those cruddy old VHS tapes you have kicking around.
As far as the sound department is concerned ALF sounds decent, but not great. The show is presented with a 2.0 stereo track with English as the only language and with no subtitles to boot. The quality is like I said, "decent", meaning the soundstage isn't very diverse and there isn't a lot of directionality or channel separation. I didn't encounter any technical glitches while I was watching the show though so in that regard things sound good.
The only "extra" (if you want to call it that) on this set is an introduction to each episode by ALF himself. Other than that he gives a couple of funny one-liners and plugs the cartoon releases. Yay!
Going back to a show from your youth can be a dangerous thing. More often than not things just aren't as good as we remember and it inevitably leads to disappointment. That's kind of where ALF comes in. There are several episodes in this season that just don't work on any level. Other ones are great and a few others have some funny lines, but aside from those few bits this show doesn't withstand the test of time entirely. I still had a good time and I'll continue to watch my favorites like "Tonight, Tonight" and "Turkey in the Straw" though I do have to admit that the enchantment of ALF has worn off quite a bit twenty years later.