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'ALF' Is A Bizarre Fever Dream Of An '80s TV Show That’s Way Darker Than You Remember

An alien who imbibes, eats cats, and otherwise shakes up a suburban American family doesn't necessarily sound like family-friendly viewing. For four seasons in the late '80s, that series was brought to reality through ALF. The show was named after the main character (think Seinfeld, but hairier and with a taste for cats). It took a season to find its audience, but when people caught on, it was a massive hit. However, ALF had a dark streak, and the fact that a lot of young people gravitated to the sarcastic, hip alien puppet did not help it stick around. 

Like a lot of dark entertainment aimed at young people, ALF constantly wrestled with unsettling topics while doing its best to be a family-friendly sitcom. This juxtaposition of styles created one of the most fascinating and truly weird TV shows that’s ever been created. 

  • ALF Ate Cats

    Photo: Lionsgate

    Imagine, if you will, pitching a series starring a cute puppet whose main form of sustenance is cats. During the first season of the show, ALF explained to his adoptive family, the Tanners, that on his home planet of Melmac, cats were a delicacy. In fact, they were essentially raised like cattle.

    That might sound fine in writing, but when kids started aping ALF and trying to take out their family felines, the creators had to do a massive overhaul of the character. Before too long, ALF came to love cats. Series creator Paul Fusco - who also voiced ALF - told Mental Floss, "Kids were duplicating what ALF was doing. It was kind of sad in a way. Some kid [harmed his cat] because ALF tried to do that once. We had to be real careful."

  • 'ALF' Accidentally Showed Viewers Irresponsible Behaviors

    Photo: Lionsgate

    One of the biggest problems with producing ALF is that kids would copy everything that the lovable puppet did - including how to combine water and electricity. In the episode "Try To Remember," ALF took an electric mixer into the bathtub to create a home spa; instead, he shocked himself and ended up with amnesia.  

    At the end of the episode, a public service announcement warned viewers not to try the mixer-bath combo at home. However, it happened anyway, and the result was an episode re-shoot that removed the electric mixer scene. 

  • The Series Ended With ALF Being Abducted By The Government

    Photo: Lionsgate

    At the end of the fourth season, NBC pulled ALF with little warning. This meant that the final episode of the series left the audience with a major cliffhanger. It ended with ALF being abducted by a government alien task force that wanted to dissect him. This was supposed to lead into a final season, in which ALF would be "the new Sgt. Bilko; he would have been this captive driving everybody crazy," according to series creator Paul Fusco. 

    That didn't happen; but, in 1996, ABC gave Fusco the chance to wrap things up with a made-for-TV movie. It was met with poor critical reviews, and that was the end of the alien from Melmac. Fusco has tried to bring ALF back at various points since then, but nothing has worked out to date. 

  • There Was Controversy Over ALF Drinking Beer

    Photo: Lionsgate

    While the series was never geared towards children, they did love the big furry puppet. After all, ALF looked like a Muppet and even had his own cartoon. Despite his child-like leanings, ALF was more of an adult puppet. He used saucy language, and he drank beer. NBC was worried about how this looked to advertisers, so they had Fusco tone down the alien's hard-partying ways. 

    Fusco told the Hollywood Reporter:

    If you remember, toward the first season and second season, ALF used to drink, he was a party animal. He drank beer and everything, and once the kids and families started watching it, they said, ‘ALF's not really a great role model if he’s drinking beer; maybe you should pull that back a little bit.’ And our response was ‘He’s 225 years old; he can drink beer, he can do whatever he wants to do.'