13 furry, out-of-this-world facts about 'ALF'

The '80s alien met Gilligan and Matlock, released pop albums in Germany, and had his own baseball card.

Top image: The Everett Collection

In the 1980s and '90s, all kinds of fantastic beings were moving in with sitcom families. There was the robotic girl on Small Wonder, a friendly Bigfoot on Harry and the Hendersons, and, of course, a certain furry alien from the planet Melmac named Gordon Shumway. This was not a new concept. Two decades earlier, Jack Chertok produced two similar comedies, My Favorite Martian and My Living Doll. Later, Mork came to the world of Happy Days.

ALF, however, took the alien-and-family concept to new territory with its use of puppetry. ALF creator, operator and voice actor Paul Fusco brought the brown creature to life. For four seasons, from 1986 to 1990, the lovable and sarcastic "Alien Life Form" lived with the Tanner family on NBC. The show clicked with millions of viewers, spawning shelves full of merchadise, a cartoon spin-off, a TV movie and comic books.

Here are some things you might not know about ALF. ALF fans should also check out Noiseless Chatter for complete recaps and more screenshots.

1. Almost every episode is named after a popular song.

Save for a few outliers like the pilot and "ALF's Special Christmas," the 102 episodes were largely named after pop songs. There were references to everyone from the Beatles ("When I'm Sixty-Four") to Duran Duran ("Hungry Like the Wolf").

Image: Warner Bros. Television

2. Original cast members from 'Gilligan's Island' reprised their characters in an episode.

The last time Alan Hale, Jr., appeared as Skipper Jonas Grumby on network television was not a Gilligan's Island reunion; rather, it was in an early second season episode of ALF. The alien becomes a big fan of the classic comedy of castaways and turns the Tanner backyard into a tropical oasis. He dreams that the cast of Gilligan's Island shows up, and actors Hale, Bob Denver, Dawn Wells and Russell Johnson all return to reprise their iconic roles.

Image: Warner Bros. Television via noiselesschatter.com

3. It could take a full day to film one 30-minute episode.

While the final product was lighthearted fun, the creation process was no picnic. Due to the inherent difficulties in filming scenes with a puppet, with Fusco and another puppeteer working four feet under an elevated stage through trap doors, creating an episode could be grueling work. One Hollywood Reporter article in 1990 claimed the process could last 12 hours, while Anne Schedeen, who played Kate Tanner, told People magazine in 2006 that "a 30-minute show took 20, 25 hours to shoot." Either way, that's a long day. That would explain why a laugh track was utilized in lieu of a live audience.

Image: Warner Bros. Television

4. ALF drank beer in the first season.

The ALF character was 285 years old, and certainly entitled to pop open a bottle of suds on Earth. However, in reality, he was a fuzzy puppet adored by children. The network convinced Fusco to eliminate the alcohol consumption so as not to make ALF a bad role model. You won't see brewskis in later episodes.

Image: Warner Bros. Television via noiselesschatter.com

5. An actor sometimes wore an ALF costume in the first season.

Another early trait of the show that was eventually abandoned was the use of an actor inside an ALF suit for scenes showing the character walking. Hungarian performer Michu Meszaros, who stood at 2' 9", wore the costume.

6. Some elements were censored due to their adverse effect on children.

As mentioned above, ALF is a grown, adult Melmacian, akin to Oscar Madison with Don Rickles' sense of humor. He famously enjoyed the taste of cats, and often spoke of his culinary habit early on in the series. This cat-chomping talk mostly faded away with his beer consumption. In the episode "Try to Remember," ALF creates a jacuzzi in the bathtub with an electric mixer from the kitchen. A child recreated the scenario and nearly died from the electric shock. The scene was refilmed with a manual egg beater, which is what you see in reruns.

Image: Warner Bros. Television

7. ALF appeared on 'Matlock,' 'Blossom' and 'Love Boat: The Next Wave.'

Shumway was a sensation away from his own program, too. He pops up in the 1987 Matlock episode "The Network," pictured here, and took a cruise with Love Boat: The Next Wave in "Trances of a Lifetime" (1999).

Image: Matlock

8. Burger King released ALF records with its kids meals.

In 1988, the fast food chain gave away a series of four cardboard record singles with its kids meals, featuring the songs "Melmac Rock," "Melmac Girls," "Cookin' with ALF" and "Take Me, ALF, to the Ballgame."

Image: Burger King / Discogs

9. ALF released an album in Germany, too.

He was a regular David Hasselhoff. The character dropped his full length Jetzt Sing' Ich! ("Now I Sing!") in 1991. It featured songs in German such as "Raus Mit Dem Senf" and "Nimm's Leicht, Nimm's Locker," which you would recognize as translated versions of "Pump Up the Jam" and "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Image: Discogs

10. Topps issued "Bouillabaisseball" trading cards.

Back on planet Melmac, the natives played a sport called Bouillabaisseball, which was just baseball with a fish. Baseball card giant Topps published a line of ALF cards in the late '80s that featured some of the sport's stars.

Image: tradingcarddb.com

11. Ben Stiller starred in a dark drama film about an 'ALF' writer.

Ben Stiller showed off his serious side in the 1998 drug addiction drama Permanent Midnight, which was based on the life of ALF writer Jerry Stahl. In the movie, ALF is replaced with the quite similar "Mr. Chompers."

Image: Artisan Entertainment

12. ALF hosted a talk show with Ed McMahon as his sidekick.

In 2004, the cable network TV Land launched a talk show with ALF as the host. Former Carson sideman McMahon was there to his right on the couch. The alien was no Johnny, unfortunately, and ALF's Hit Talk Show lasted seven episodes.

Image: TV Land via epguides.com

13. Sony Animation is developing an ALF movie.

ALF is perhaps coming to a theater near you in the future. In 2012, Sony Animation purchased the film rights to the property and the studio is developing a CGI/live-action hybrid movie with the producer of The Smurfs.

Image: Alien Productions / NBC

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Snickers 30 months ago
Still have my ALF comic books.
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