ALF: The Furry Alien from Melmac that Just Won’t Go Away

ALFOne of the more memorable and unusual TV shows of the 1980s was ALF. It centers around an alien named Gordon Shumway from the doomed planet Melmac. He crash lands his spaceship into the California garage of the Tanner family, who nickname him ALF (Alien Life Form). The cast of the show includes Max Wright, Anne Schedeen, Andrea Elson, and Benji Gregory, with John LaMotta, Liz Sheridan, Anne Meara, and Paul Dooley. The series ran on NBC for four seasons and 102 episodes.

ALF kept the Tanners quite busy as he was constantly breaking things, trying to eat their cat, and just overall being obnoxious. Filming on the show was apparently a lot to handle as well.

The production details of the series were kept relatively secret during the show’s production. Once the series finished airing, many in the cast and crew have conceded that the series was a technical nightmare and that there was a great deal of tension on the set. ALF was primarily performed by Paul Fusco, one of the show’s executive producers and co-creators with Tom Patchett.

The last episode ended in a cliffhanger, with ALF being captured by the US military’s Alien Task Force. As you might expect, the producers didn’t plan on ending the show this way. In fact, Fusco says they were planning on doing a fifth season with ALF living on a military base. He felt that the new setting would have opened up the show to new characters and situations.

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Based on what we now know about the show’s production, it seems likely that this change in cast and setting was also conceived to put an end to the four years of backstage tensions.

Unfortunately, ALF was cancelled and the series remains open-ended in syndication. Fusco says a one-hour special was planned to wrap up the series but there was a change in management at NBC and it never happened.

But, that wasn’t the end of the furry little extraterrestrial; he’s popped up several times over the years.

Less than a year after his show’s last episode, in February 1991, ALF appeared on an installment of NBC’s Blossom sitcom. Mayim Bialik’s character gets tricked into date with a geek for homecoming and wants to break it. She dreams that she’s gone to heaven and meets ALF who gives her advice.

ALF callingIn 1996, ABC aired a 90 minute TV movie called Project ALF. The story picks up six years after the end of the TV show, with ALF in government custody. None of the other series castmembers returned for the movie. The Tanners are mentioned briefly when ALF is told that they are in the witness protection program and have been relocated. The self-absorbed alien seems to have no interest in finding them. The movie features a pre-West Wing Martin Sheen. Though the drama wouldn’t debut for three years, at one point Sheen’s character asks another military officer if he knows when the New Hampshire primary will be held. By the end of the movie, ALF is released and looks like he’ll be annoying some young officers for awhile.

The character’s next appearance was on the April 30, 1999 episode of The Love Boat: The Next Wave. In the story, a young girl whose parents recently divorced comes to visit her cousin Nicole (Heidi Mark) on the ship. The child hasn’t spoken in a month so John (Corey Parker) lends her his ALF doll to keep her company. At one point a hypnotist prompts the doll to magically come to life.

On the November 3, 2000 episode of The Cindy Margolis Show, ALF stopped by for a visit. The dance party show only lasted for a few more episodes.

In 2002, the furry alien returned as a spokesperson for Telcom USA’s 10-10-220 service, teamed with other celebrities like football’s Terry Bradshaw and wrestler Hulk Hogan.

ALF's Hit Talk ShowIn May 2002, ALF sat amongst dozens of TV veterans for the NBC 75th Anniversary Special. Michael Gross (Family Ties) complains to host Kelsey Grammer (Frasier) about the person sitting next to him. As the camera pulls back, we think that he’s talking about ALF. Gross clarifies and says that he and ALF came together and that the annoyance is David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider) who keeps talking to KITT via his watch. Tina Fey, the producer of the program, once complained that ALF’s “people” were the toughest that she had to deal with during that show.

On March 12th of 2003, the alien joined a slew of classic TV stars and appeared on TV Land’s annual TV Land Awards. Highlights of the show include a tribute to Star Trek and The Dick Van Dyke Show (which led to a reunion special).

In 2003 and 2004, ALF appeared as a celebrity square on the revival of Hollywood Squares. For 2004’s TV Land Week group of shows, he appeared with classic stars from The Brady Bunch, The Jeffersons, The Love Boat, and others.

On July 7, 2004, ALF returned to series television on ALF’s Hit Talk Show for TV Land. A half-hour, Tonight Show-style interview show, Ed McMahon served as the host’s sidekick. ALF trades quips with celebrity guests like Drew Carey, Doris Roberts, Tom Green, and Eric Roberts. It ran for only seven episodes.

ALF with Bill O'ReillyAlso in 2004, the ALF series began being released on DVD. A lot of new introductory and interstitial footage was shot and included on the DVD season sets. The human castmembers didn’t take part in the releases.

On November 30, 2007, ALF appeared as a guest on The O’Reilly Factor as part of the weekly “American TV Icon” segments. The alien and host Bill O’Reilly seemed quite comfortable trading barbs with one another.

What does the future hold for the furry alien? Fusco has discussed making a prequel movie, about ALF’s trip to Earth. Though there doesn’t seem to have been much movement on that project lately, it doesn’t look like the cat-loving extraterrestrial is going away anytime soon.

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24 Comments · Read them below or add one

  1. chris r says

    i think alf was great got them all on dvd and still watch and find them good clean and funny stilnow my kids are watching them and enjoying them to. bring back alf its a lot better than stuff that is out today and kids would laugh and enjoy it

  2. kumaresh says

    alf. great show. we dont have much option of watching them in india. thank god i didnt missed alf.thanks to the internet. i hope we see alf in future. come on paul…

  3. Danelle W says

    I got hooked on ALF after the matter and am in love with the show! I own all four seasons and re watch them often. I wish they would have at least resolved the cliffhanger in the last episode.. =( Either way I love Alf and will continue to watch it!

  4. michelle s. says

    I think they should bring alf back it was funny, great for the kids, my kids enjoy it and after all these years i still love it. it makes me smile and really laugh it will get the kids attion with the kids these days i miss it i wish they can bring it back. i think a lot of kids will enjoy the show it teaches how to learn from wrong things. and not to eat a cat as well lol. but they need to bring it back on.

  5. CassandraT says

    As much as I wished the show had come back for a fifth season it just wouldn’t have worked with Alf living on a military base. It’s a real pity if the cast and didn’t get along cause Alf was always more funny when he had the Tanners to play off.

  6. Bayleaf1012 says

    And isn’t it great that we can watch episodes on our computers now? I missed the very first ones, and feel so grateful that I finally got to see it. I think production companies should tally the different shows to see how many times they’re being watched, and maybe bring some of the oldies but goodies (and there have been many) for another trial run if possible. Even with new actors if necessary. I hated to see Boston Legal canceled last year. And there are some great Canadian television shows that should be shown in reruns in the USA. I was a devotee of “North of 60″ (about a far north Canadian village of Native Canadians, with an emphasis on the female who was a mountie. ) It was a great story, and I think it lasted 6 years. The USA is ripe for some good drama and new outlooks. We’ve had nothing about our Native Americans on TV except Tony Hillerman’s Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee novels on Mystery.

  7. Bayleaf1012 says

    I have an ALF doll and every so often I give it a hug. I’d love to see the show come back.Especially with the former characters showing up from time to time. I think it should have had that 5th year airing, but TV networks are notoriously fickle, and the slightest drop in popularity can get a good show kicked off the television.
    Bring back ALF!

  8. says

    I LOVE ALF and have since he debuted in 1986 (I was 12). The sarcastic, cocky humor of an alien is awesome! It was a perfect time for ALF, its was the 80s. You had Alex P. Keaton, Arnold Jackson and ALF all on one network, not to mention Knight Rider. But ALF is and always will be a TV icon. I loved seeing ALF make all of those gues appearances, it was cool!

    I would like to get in touch with Paul Fusco I have a few ideas for the ol ALFer. If you know how I can write or email him, please have him contact me.

  9. GregH says

    Alf was great. Yes, Fusco did the voice in Alf Tales (also good). I would have remembered if it wasn’t him. I believe he did several voices, even. It’s in IMDB right now.

  10. Sara Hanley says

    Alf had his own cartoon too. It was very bipolar, half the episode was him on Melmac and the other was Alf Tales (Alf retelling fairy tales) and neither made much sense, or at least that’s how I remember it.

  11. says

    @Alex: Hmmm…I seem to recall something like that on The Simpsons but I don’t think Fusco provided the voice. It’s not in IMDB.

  12. Alex says

    I believe you might have missed one… wasn’t there a Family guy or American Dad … perhaps Simpsons… It was animated that’s all I can remember… dang it…. episode?

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