ALF Returns: The 80s live on and on …

ALF title shot (image via fiz-x.com)

 

It’s not exactly news I will grant you that the 80s are back in a big way.

At the moment we have all the New Romantics-inspired synth pop we can listen to, the return of acid washed jeans and Hypercolor-esque Tshirts, the Rubik’s Cube restored to icon status … and now ALF.

Yes adorable, wisecracking, cat-loving (as a meal anyway), ALF.

Real name Gordon Shumway, which so Wikipedia tells me was a humorous word play on the real name of Sting, Gordon Sumner, is a Alien Life Form from Melmac who, following an amateur radio signal to Earth, crash-lands in the garage of the Tanner family, an ordinary family living in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.

 

ALF (image via listal.com)

 

Friendly and likeable, ALF eventually becomes a part of the family – after they recover from the shock of an alien gatecrashing their sedate suburban existence – and through 102 episodes, running from 1986 to 1990 (the series was helmed by puppeteer Paul Fusco who also supplied ALF’s voice), they protected ALF from the Alien Task Force (part of the US military who seem to spend their every waking moment chasing aliens in various TV shows and movies) and the prying eyes of the their next door neighbours, the Ochmoneks.

What made ALF stand out from the usual sitcom fodder was the fact that ALF, while wise-cracking and cocky, also exhibited a depth of emotion you might not have expected from a short furry alien whose standard reaction to most situations was a zippy one liner.

As one of the few survivors of his planet’s catastrophic destruction during a nuclear war – a theme which was played out during a season 4 episode which showed the show had more on its mind that cheap laughs – he struggles with survivor guilt, loneliness and a gnawing sense that he will never have a home to return to. His attempts to alleviate these feelings result in much mirth and mayhem, and in season 4, even some serious consequences for his adopted family.

Of course what he  eventually realises is that he has a home with the Tanners – Max Wright as Willie Tanner, Anne Schedeen as Kate Tanner, and Andrea Elson and Benji Gregory as their children, Lynn and Brian Tanner – and this forms the core of a show that played for laughs certainly but reinforced again and again that family, even one thousands of light years from home, is your one place of refuge in an often wild and uncaring galaxy.

 

ALF looking for a snack - thankfully the Tanners cat survived through all 102 episodes (image via blog.zap2it.com)

 

Now the show which I taped faithfully all through the late 80s – I am sure I have a video still tucked away somewhere with ALF episodes on it – is being resurrected as a possible (I stress possible as apparently there isn’t even a script yet) hybrid CGI/live action movie,  according to a report on the Hollywood Reporter site, to be produced by the man responsible for the 2011 Smurfs movie, Jordan Kerner, in conjunction with the show’s creators, Tom Patchett and Paul Fusco.

Without a script it’s impossible to tell what SONY Pictures, who have acquired the rights to the 80s sitcom stalwart will change about ALF – given the track record of TV-to-movie adaptations it will either be a crowning success or a cringing failure; nothing in-between) – but one thing is certain. He is no longer a puppet as he was in the show (where, of course, he was given life by the talented Paul Fusco); he will be rendered in the movie as a CGI figure which given the advances in recent years, particularly in the way fur is represented, should work rather well.

 

Paul Fusco and ALF (image via hollywoodreporter.com)

 

The one piece of news that gives me hope that will transcend the often mediocre TV-to-movie attempts in the past is that it involves the same people who produced the original TV series, as the article goes on to explain:

“Ben Haber of Kerner Entertainment Co. and Kenneth Kaufman will exec produce.

Kaufman, who runs Alien Production with Patchett and Fusco (the trio are the ALF rights holders), is a former producer of TV movies and used to be a producing partner of Kerner’s. It was that relationship that paved the way for the feature project.”

No word on when the movie will be out in theatres or even when it will go into production but its exciting news for people who grew up with ALF, and welcome the 80s obsession with open arms.

 

 

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