Why ALF Is the Most Tragic Fictional Character Ever
We've already told you once before about how the beloved '80s sitcom ALF featured one of the most depressing season finales ever, but as you're about to learn, sometimes we just can't fit all of the depressing details into one 500-word entry. That's especially true for poor ALF.
This luck-deprived alien's life was wrought with tragedy since the beginning of the show's run (and even before that).
One of the few overarching plot points this show held on to over the course of its four seasons was that ALF's home planet Melmac was dead. In short, the entire reason for the living situation that's prompting all of the guffaws from the audience is because an entire world was destroyed. If you're thinking ALF must have taken the loss well, seeing as how he went on to star in a sitcom and all, think again. Check out this line from the pilot, where ALF uses a ham radio to speak into the vast emptiness of space, in hopes that a sympathetic ear might hear:
I wanted to tell you something. I ... uh ... I really miss all of you, and the thought of never seeing you again sort of breaks my heart. So ... uh ... y'know, if you could, try to get in touch with me.
Those hardly sound like the words of a being who's happy to have escaped its dying planet. So that brings up an obvious question. Ask anyone who watched the show during its heyday and they will confirm, ALF was funny stuff. So ... what were we all laughing at? Maybe the answer to that question lies in ALF's adopted family, the Tanners, and their less than compassionate response to his arrival on Earth:
Willie: This is incredible, truly amazing, after all those years of wondering and hoping that it might be possible to contact alien life, to have this happen: It's a miracle. It's the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.
Kate: You've got to get rid of it.
Ha! That controlling shrew of a wife just never lets poor Willie keep the living, breathing, feeling alien life forms he finds lying around. Isn't that just like broads?
Unfortunately, the Tanners' dickishness in the face of a discovery that some argue could be the single event that unites mankind as one is also a trait that's present in their stupid jerk of a son. Check out his reaction to learning ALF's "funny" real name.
Brian: Your name's really Gordon?
ALF: Yeah, Gordon.
Brian: That's funny.
ALF: It was my mother's maiden name, all right?
And guess what: Despite this conversation, the Tanners steadfastly refuse to call ALF by his proper name, instead sticking with the generic acronym that translates to "alien life form." Hell, even the cat gets a proper name in the Tanner home, because an animal that's incapable of human thought or emotion is far more worthy of a personal connection than the thing living in your house that is for all intents and purposes a person who just happens to have a shit ton of hair.
There are other ways to handle that type of thing.
Things take an even more bizarre turn when, eventually, ALF's loneliness becomes too overwhelming for him to handle. Willie, in the smoothest way to possibly address the problem, shows ALF a documentary about a Ugandan orangutan. This ape -- a metaphor, mind you, for ALF -- was "ultimately captured and isolated until its death last year. Scientists speculate that the animal died of loneliness."
That should help -- thanks, Willie! Don't worry, though; before ALF can fix his sorrows with a stop at the medicine cabinet buffet, the Tanners throw him a party to cheer him up. In the end, ALF thanks Willie for the party in what is probably the most blatant call for help any puppet has ever uttered: "It's nice to know there is someone around ... to save me from myself."
Don't worry, Willie responds just as you would expect him to -- by leading the entire family in a sing-along in the living room while ALF sits quietly, sadly alone in the kitchen.
By 1987, NBC realized that people just weren't getting enough of this quietly depressing scene and did the only logical thing: They turned ALF into a Saturday morning cartoon. Because nothing in the ALF universe is done without first being built upon a foundation of sadness, this Saturday morning adaptation acted as a prequel to the sitcom, meaning it took place on Melmac, the planet that the sitcom takes great pains to tell us has been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.
Finally kids had adorable faces to put to the terrible tragedy that preceded ALF's borderline abusive treatment at the hands of the Tanners. Because if your kids need anything, it's another reason to cry.