If “ALF” comes back as anything other than a puppet, keep it.
The 1980s were weird, man. Especially if you remember that decade exclusively through what passed for television. When a robotics engineer allowed his inner Frankenstein unleashed, he created a robot daughter to confuse and disturb all the neighborhood kids of Small Wonder. Doctor Jonathan Chase had the ability to transform from a man into a beast and used this confusing power to solve crimes on Manimal. Then there was the strange case of Gordon Shumway, an alien lifeform with a hunger for cats that was befriended by an All-American family after he crashlanded in their garage.
ALF was about as bizarre a sitcom as they got. On the run from a clandestine alien task force, Gordon hid out with the Tanner family in their suburban home. Gordon’s planet of Melmac was destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, and he fears that Earth will suffer a similar fate. The show never worried itself with contemporary concerns as it was much more delighted to terrorize Lucky, the household cat, which Gordon would constantly threaten to gobble down.
Gordon was performed and voiced by the puppeteer Paul Fusco. He was a wise-cracking, contemptuous creature with little respect for the head of the household. The furball seemingly made it his mission to frustrate husband/father/social worker Willie Tanner (Max Wright) and would often use other family members to turn against the patriarch. As the show progressed, Gordon created various human relationships with Willie’s brother Neal, his recently widowed mother-in-law, her boyfriend Whizzer, his psychologist, and a blind woman next door.
ALF is the very definition of being “of its time,” and I can’t imagine what a child of 2018 would think of the program. Well, we may just get that opportunity. According to Variety, Warner Bros. Television is in the process of reinventing the series. No actors, writers, or directors have been attached to the project as of yet. Rumors suggest that the reboot would see Gordon escaping from Area 51, where he was apparently imprisoned after the original show’s four seasons concluded. This concept would allow the new ALF to comment on how much our society has evolved over the last 32 years.
Huh. Ok. Maybe. The thing is…well, I’m at a loss here. I loved ALF as a kid. Give me a puppet or a muppet or Eureeka’s Castle, and I’ll show you a fan for life. But do we currently need or want a belching, cat-scarfing, alien jerk who is more nuisance than hero?
While the television series only existed within a short window of time, ALF’s visage refused to fade away. There was an even shorter animated series, a Marvel Comics spinoff, and various action figures and vinyl dolls. In 2004, Gordon even hosted his own late-night talk show in which celebrities including Drew Carey, Tom Green, and Merv Griffin agreed to be berated by a puppet. He was spotted on The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Robot Chicken. The Melmac maniac made one helluva impression on those susceptible minds that encountered him.
So, why not? I’m good, as long as Warner Bros. doesn’t transform him into some routine CGI glob. Whatever charm got the show through its initial run came from Fusco’s puppeteering. Modernizing him into the form of the popular 3D animation style would rob the character of what made him so unique in the first place. The Gordon puppet sets him apart from anything else on television. Archaic? Naw. Necessary.