Television reboots and revivals are all the rage mostly because the entertainment industry prefers name recognition over original ideas. But there are some properties that truly deserve a re-look because they didn’t quite achieve their goal the first time around or they were cut short.
What Is It? In this 80’s sci fi sitcom, the alien Gordon Shumway comes to Earth from the planet Melmac after following the signal from a ham radio. His ship crashlands in the garage of the Tanner family and he ends up living with them as they try to conceal his existence from others. He takes the nickname ALF for Alien Life Form
When Did It Air? NBC, 1986-90, 4 Seasons Totaling 102 Episodes
Where Did the Original Fall Short? They took one of the all-time great character ideas and wasted him for four seasons by cycling him through stock sitcom plots. Reason enough to justify an alien invasion!
Why Reboot It? I recall when this show was first in development that I was really pumped for it because it looked like it could be ton of fun. And ALF himself definitely was. The perfectly rendered puppet character was immediately likable with his snarky wit and biting sarcasm and he regularly had me rolling on the ground with some of his killer lines. And I always felt that ALF had good chemistry with human lead Max Wright who acted as his milquetoast straight man. But from the first season I found myself already at odds with the show because while it could be hilarious at times, all too often its was dragged down by substandard writing. Apparently, the show put all of its money into bringing the ALF character to life and had to settle with recycled scripts to fill out the episodes (Perfect Strangers was another, non-genre, sitcom that aired at the same time and had the same problem of great characters but poor scripts). So after wasting the character for four seasons, I believe that justice should be served by bringing him back in a show that makes much better use of his comic potential. And it could even be a sequel series seeing as ALF is a long-lived alien (I believe he was around 250 Earth years old during the series). Basically, bring him into the 21st century, but without the copy-and-paste sitcom family. The Project: ALF movie could potentially be the blueprint. That was a TV movie produced because the show was cancelled on a cliffhanger and it involved ALF being studied by Earth scientists with the Tanners nowhere to be seen. I recall really liking the movie because it threw out the worst of the sitcom aspects of the series (I haven’t seen it in years, though, so go easy on me if it doesn’t stand up to the test of time). Or just have ALF finding his way in the modern day and rolling off those great lines he is known for. Of course, with last year’s failure to bring the Muppets back (which had everything to do with a poor concept and poor writing and nothing to do with the characters), there would probably be a hesitance among the networks. But give it another year or so, and then bring the show back. Paul Fusco is still around and apparently revived ALF briefly on an episode of Mr. Robot this past season, so maybe we should get him working full time on the character again.
Cancelled Too Soon? The show did have a four season run that got it just over one hundred episodes, more than enough to live on in syndication. But its ratings had dropped in its fourth season and NBC axed the show at the end of the year, even though it ended on a major cliffhanger. The network originally indicated that they would at least do a TV movie to give the show a proper conclusion, but failed to live up to that commitment. ABC eventually stepped in and produced the Project: ALF movie that resolved the fourth season cliffhanger.
Where Can I Watch the Original Series? The entire series has been released on DVD and is widely available at an economic price (except for the Project: ALF movie which is going for more than $20 for some reason). The entire series is also currently available on Hulu.
Already in the Works? Paul Fusco has apparently been trying to get an ALF movie going forward for several years now, though allegedly they would use CGI to bring the title character to life (bad idea, keep the puppet). IMDb.com does have it listed as in development, but it appears to be in Development Hell at the moment, so I don’t know where that stands. If it goes forward, maybe it could lead to ALF’s return to television. If it stalls (which it appears to have done), then they should get to work on a new television series. ALF did return to television briefly back in 2004 with the Tonight Show-like ALF’s Hit Talk Show on TV Land, but that only lasted for seven episodes.
Interesting Fact: During the show’s original run, there were two different animated spin-offs that aired on Saturday mornings. ALF: The Animated Series was a prequel that dealt with ALF’s life on Melmac before coming to Earth and it ran for two seasons totaling 26 episodes. ALF Tales has characters from the other ALF animated series act out various fairy tales and it ran for two season totaling 21 episodes. Paul Fusco provided the voice of ALF in both of these shows along with his duties in the main series.
Buy ALF on DVD from Amazon.com: