ALF was a sci-fi comedy series starring a puppet alien named ALF (Alien Life Form) that premiered in 1986. For years people have referenced the show, used the title character as an easter egg, and its become a strange icon of pop culture. There’s an emphasis on strange because a lot of people know of it, but few really know what it is. Surely this writer didn’t.
This week, Warner Brothers Television announced a reboot of the series. The new ALF is currently in development. It’s been discussed that the new ALF might follow the alien leaving Area 51 (where fans last left him) and interacting with the new world around him.
With this news, some younger TV lovers might want to get in the know about ALF. Some merely thought of it as this weird, blip of a strange show that people mention a lot. However, under further inspection, ALF had a fairly popular, four season run on NBC. It hardly was a blip. So what was ALF all about, then, if it ran that long?
The best place to start is with the alien himself. ALF was an alien from the planet Melmac who crash landed in his human friends’, the Tanners, garagel. He was a member of Melmac’s Orbit Guard, explaining his space exploration. He also was in space, though, because his planet exploded after a nuclear war. Living with the Tanners, ALF must deal with culture shock, whacky hijinks, governmental danger, and survivor’s guilt.
A sentence has never been so jarring and depressing. Just as a friendly reminder, this show was a comedy.
ALF lived in this sort of strange realm of bizarre, unorthodox humor mixed in with the common puns and sitcom gags of its era. Watching only a few clips from the show, the tone of its humor shifts dramatically scene by scene. It’s a bit of a phenomenon, considering it ran well for as long as it did.
But the ultimate, coolest part of ALF has to be its puppetry. Even though its nearly illogical to think any other way, some may not know that ALF is a Jim Henson production. Some is the word used because even I didn’t know. Disappointing, considering how many times I watched The Dark Crystal. But the point is, it would be an ultimate delight to have a resurgence of any of Jim Henson’s fantastical creations.
Even if ALF seems like an obscure, odd choice, it’s pretty exciting following the failure of the recent 2015 The Muppets sitcom. Other than Sesame Street, Jim Henson’s works have struggled to capture audiences since his death. Only a few, varying Muppet movies have slipped through the cracks with differing levels of success. With the artistry and creativity put into them, that’s devastating. If a single show could turn the corner and return his art to the spotlight, pop culture would be better for it.
Even odder, ALF might be the perfect choice to make puppets front and center once more. Current comedy includes a lot of honesty, dark humor, and self-deprecation. An alien with a sole survivor complex and loneliness, who deals with those feelings through humor, could be just right for the cultural funny bone of today. Remove the cheesier, way-too-80’s puns and jokes, and there could be a real, relevant, effective show there.
Many just thought of ALF as a weird nostalgic joke. Probably very similarly to the way people reference the tightness of David Bowie’s pants in Labyrinth. Its strange, absurd, and oddly unforgettable. Yet ALF could be much more than that.
ALF was a strange oddity in the 80’s, but it might just find its perfect home in the 22nd century. After all, with more people talking about mental disorders, a more honest dialogue about hard feelings, and the complex effects of the internet, this odd alien life form might just fit right in. He could bring hard truths about the pain of loss and isolation, but also bring light to them.
After only a bit of research, ALF becomes so much more than a pop culture reference. It becomes a beacon of hope for a neglected artform and home for just the kind of dynamic humor our culture needs right now. In the coming months, more updates will reveal where this wild show may take us. If it’s the perfect it sounds like it could be, this show could be be game-changing.
Cat lovers might want to keep a closer eye on their wandering friends, though. ALF might be a little hungry after all these years in Area 51.