Long before Third Rock From the Sun (but long after My Favorite Martian), there was ALF. Not your average Alien Life Form, Alf—a wisecracking, 229-year-old furball—became part of the Tanner family when he accidentally crashed his spaceship into their garage. Stranded on Earth after his home planet of Melmac (where he was known as Gordon Shumway) exploded, Alf lived in Los Angeles with Willie, Kate and their kids, Lynn and Brian.
Although very human-like in his behavior, Alf did have some uniquely Melmackian habits, including his desire to eat the family cat, Lucky. Alf, though abrasive and crass (and cat-hungry), loved the Tanners and they loved him. Willie, a mild-mannered social worker, was often frustrated by his visitor but continually bailed him out of trouble like he was an extra-terrestial Steve Urkel. The kids were the most sympathetic, with youngster Brian seeing Alf as the galaxy’s best playmate and teenage Lynn seeing Alf as a cute little orange furry guy (Alf kind of had the hots for her, but you know humans and their alienist prejudices).
Explaining that your tenant is from another planet can be tricky, so the Tanners chose to hide Alf from all visitors, including next-door neighbors Trevor and Raquel Ochmonek. But if TV and movies have taught us anything, it’s that nobody can hide a wisecracking orange alien from an inquisitive prepubescent boy, and the Ochmonek’s twelve-year-old nephew Jake proved that theory on ALF. The only other semi-regular was Willie’s brother Neal, who occasionally appeared in ALF’s last season.
The producers had wished to keep the mechanics of Alf’s movement a secret, but it was eventually disclosed that a puppet was used in stationary scenes and diminutive actor Micah Maestros suited up as the alien for walking scenes. Series co-creator Paul Fusco provided Alf’s voice.
As often happens with series whose fates are unknown, the last episode of Alf was not intended as a series-ender, and it left the title character’s fate in question. Alf, who was on his way to colonize another planet with fellow Melmackians Skip and Rhonda (the latter his ex-girlfriend), was captured by a federal military investigative unit. The orange guy’s fate remained in doubt for several years, but a 1996 TV-movie, Project: ALF, tied up the loose ends and put fans’ minds at rest.
ALF may have had one of the most unusual sitcom premises of the 80’s, but the kids dug it. Two cartoon spin-offs were born in its wake, and that big, ridged alien snout found its way onto countless toys spawned from this otherworldly sitcom.
USA / NBC- Alien Productions Inc / 101x30m-e 1x60m-e / Broadcast 22 1986 – 18 June 1990
Creators: Paul Fuscho, Tom Patchett / Executive Producers: Tom Patchett, Bernice Brillstein / Producer: Paul Fuscho
MAX WRIGHT as Willie Tanner
ANNE SCHEDEEN as Kate Tanner
ANDREA ELSON as Lynn Tanner
BENJI GREGORY as Brian Tanner
PAUL FUSCO as Alf’s Voice
JOHN LA MOTTA as Trevor Ochmonek
LIZ SHERIDAN as Racquel Ochmonek
JOSH BLAKE as Jake Ochmonek
J.M.J. BULLOCK as Noel Tanner (1989-1990)