If you think about it, ALF (1986-1990) has one of the most unusual TV concepts but way back in the 80s and 90s television, all sorts of out-of-this-world beings got to co-habitate with their human families. Case in point: robotic girl Vicki in Small Wonder, Bigfoot Harry in Harry and the Hendersons, and the furry cat-eating alien ALF in ALF.
Sure, you know that ALF the alien hails from the planet Melmac, and his real name is Gordon Shumway. You probably know that, right? Or you don’t? There are some other things about this scifi-fantasy sitcom that you probably didn’t know, and discovering the other lesser-known facts about ALF makes it more fascinating – and may urge you to watch the series once again.
1. About ALF, the puppet
The show’s co-creator, Paul Fusco, provided the voice of ALF and also operated the puppet most of the time. When ALF needed to be shown in his whole body, miniature actor Michu Meszaros – who stood 2 feet and 8 inches tall – wore the ALF costume.
2. It could take a full day’s work to tape a 30-minute sitcom
While ALF provided the laughs to the audience, filming the sitcom was otherwise no laughing matter. Because of the inherent challenges in working with a puppet, Fusco and another puppeteer were operating under an elevated stage through a series of trap doors. Depending on how demanding the work was, it could take from about 12 to 25 hours to complete a single 30-minute episode.
3. ALF had sisters – supposedly
ALF allegedly had two sisters. His full sister was named Augie while his half-sister was named Diane. Augie appeared on the cartoon spin-off ALF: The Animated Series, while Diane was mentioned in the trading cards.
4. Big in Germany
ALF, in case you don’t know it yet, became a sensation in Germany. In fact, the fictional alien had a successful recording career there. ALF (whose voice was dubbed in German by Tommi Piper) waxed a total of two albums and four singles, all of which became hits. Ja, you better believe it.
5. The mystery behind ALF’s huge appetite
Why did ALF eat so voraciously? It’s because he had eight stomachs!
6. Trading cards
If you were a big, big fan of ALF at the time of its original broadcast during the 80s, you might have completed a full set of ALF trading cards. Card maker named Topps! rolled out a series of ALF trading cards which were actually a parody of sports cards, many of which featured himself and his favorite sport, the Boulliabaseball.
7. Animated series
To capitalize the success of the live-action series, its network NBC rolled out a cartoon spin-off titled ALF: The Animated Series. The show, which lasted from 1987 to 1989, was presented as a prequel to the live-action sitcom.
8. On-the-set tensions
Filming with a puppet for several hours a day was already excruciating. To make matters even worse, the technical difficulties associated with operating a puppet had apparently led to a lot of tensions and troubles. These technical difficulties almost took a toll on the human cast, many of whom didn’t like playing second fiddle to an inanimate object.
9. ALF drank beer on the sitcom’s first episode
But because the furry alien became popular with children, NBC convinced Fusco to change the direction of the show by eliminating ALF’s beer drinking, so as not to make him a bad role model to kids.
10. Nearly every episode was named after a pop song
For the exception of the pilot episode and “Alf’s Special Christmas,” every episode was named after or alluded to a popular song, and each of the title was actually connected to what would happen on the show’s episode.
11. A TV series in which an extraterrestrial was a member of a typical American family
Paul Fusco had the idea for a television series in which an extraterrestrial was a member of a typical American family. The network thought the idea had potential, so they went ahead and recorded a pilot episode. The English-language version of the show was the only one in which producer Paul Fusco provided ALF’s voice; the other producer, Tom Patchett, was responsible for writing the script and directing the episode.
12. Series focused more on ALF’s various adventures
Two animated ALF series were produced, one of which was titled “ALF tales,” and the other was either titled “ALF animated” or simply “ALF.” Both of these series focused on ALF’s various adventures.
13. NBC first aired ALF
NBC was the network that first aired ALF from 1986 until 1990. It was always broadcasted on Mondays at 8 o’clock, and the final part of the fourth season was broadcasted on Fridays at the same time. Before the ALF cartoon series began airing, the show’s first season had already been repeated by NBC in their Saturday morning cartoon line-up, despite network television stations not normally rebroadcasting their programs.
14. ALF has not been shown in the US very frequently
Since the year 1990, when the regular ALF episode “Consider Me Gone” was broadcast for the final time, ALF has not been shown in the United States of America very frequently.
15. Alf puppet was operated from hidden trap doors
The fact that the Alf puppet was operated from a variety of hidden trap doors within the set made the production of the show more dangerous than a typical sitcom. The cast needed to remember the locations of the doors to memory to safely avoid them.
16. Max Wright finds satisfaction in reading fan letters
Later on, Max Wright revealed that despite his dislike of working on the show, he found satisfaction in reading fan letters in which they expressed how much the show had brought them joy and happiness.
17. Tensions on the set were at an extremely high level
Both Max Wright and Anne Schedeen have stated, in the time that has passed since the show was canceled, that tensions on the set were at an extremely high level. Because of the technical requirements of the show, the shooting schedules were extremely lengthy, and none of the actors particularly enjoyed playing supporting roles to a puppet who always had the best lines.
18. One of the most expensive to produce
Due to the extensive number of technical components and the extensive amount of time needed for taping, this particular 30-minute sitcom was one of the most expensive to produce at the time. NBC decided to license the character so that it could be used in other products, such as toys, breakfast cereal, and an animated television series.
19. Recorded in a studio that was closed off to the public
The show was recorded in a studio that was closed off to the public so that its secrets would not be revealed, as well as because of the technical requirements of the show. It was recorded in front of a live audience, and a laugh track was used to make it sound like the audience was laughing.
20. Names of Melmacian holidays and currencies are from crew members
The names of the Melmacian holidays and currencies that are mentioned in certain episodes are the crew members’ surnames.
21. Several stomachs
The fictional character known as ALF has eight stomachs.
22. Working hard on a re-boot
As of 2019, the show’s creator, Paul Fusco, has been hard at work on a re-boot, to introduce Alf to a brand-new audience.
23. Full six years stint
Paul Fusco was assured by NBC at the beginning that the show would be given a satisfactory conclusion. It wasn’t until Project: ALF (1996), a full six years later, that the series was finally ended.
24. From the planet Melmac
Gordon Shumway is ALF’s real name, and he hails from the planet Melmac.
25. Alien acronym
ALF is an acronym for alien life form.