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Consider ALF Gone . . . Unless He Phones Home

March 23, 1990|DAVID ZURAWIK | THE BALTIMORE SUN

It looks like "ALF" is a goner.

"Consider Me Gone" is the "ALF" episode that airs Saturday night on NBC. It's the last "ALF" of the year and probably the last "ALF" ever. But it's not supposed to end this way for a show that was a ratings winner and one of the smartest ever.

Two years ago, "ALF" was a bona fide hit--Top 20 in the Nielsens, with articles celebrating the show for its hip feel and pop culture astuteness. This year, "ALF" started losing some of its audience. Then NBC shuttled "ALF" to Saturdays, and the show's ratings plummeted--the way ratings do when a 4-year-old show is moved to an alien time period. Now "ALF" is being scuttled for this year and probably forever.

"We just don't know (what the future of the show is) at this point," Bob Meyer, an NBC spokesman said this week. "A big tune-in (of viewers) Saturday, though, can really help."

Saturday's show opens with ALF making radio contact with Skip and Rhonda (his best friend and girlfriend) from Melmac, the planet from whence he came. Skip and Rhonda bought a new planet in a foreclosure sale and want ALF to join them.

ALF decides to go; a rendezvous is set up with their spaceship.

Unfortunately, the Alien Task Force has been monitoring the communication. Task force members are also going to show up at the rendezvous. The farewell party, with each of the Tanners making a speech and giving ALF a gift, is touching, funny, sad and profound. When ALF leaves the Tanner house--in trench coat and fedora--turning out the lights, it as moving as Mary Richards leaving the WJM newsroom the last time.

ALF was a television version of Chance the gardener in "Being There." He was trapped in the house by fear of being nabbed by the Alien Task Force, and virtually everything he knew about Earth, he learned from television.

ALF himself, said, back in the glory days of 1988, "People are full of theories about my popularity. Some compare me to some klutz named Mork from Ork. . . . Some see me as cuddly like a dog. Paul Fusco (one of the show's creators) goes all Freudian and burbles like this: 'I think we all need magic and fantasy in our lives. ALF brings out the little girl or boy in people. He touches something inside you that you can go back and remember.'

"Sure--blind fear of the dark. Haaah! I still kill me."

Let's leave ALF that way--riding high and cracking wise.

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