August 13, 2016


(NBC, September 26, 1987-January 7, 1989)

DiC Entertainment, Alien Productions, Lorimar-Telepictures, Saban Entertainment

Paul Fusco – Gordon Shumway/ALF, Rick Fusterman
Thick Wilson – Bob Shumway, Larson Petty
Peggy Mahon – Flo Shumway
Tabitha St. Germain (as Paulina Gillis) – Augie Shumway, Rhonda
Michael Fantini – Curtis Shumway
Len Carlson – Cantfayl, Sargent Staff
Rob Cowan – Skip
Dan Hennessey – Sloop, Eggbert Petty

            Move over, Muppets—a new puppet was taking over the 80s.

            Airing on NBC, ALF was a sitcom following the adventures of Gordon Shumway (Paul Fusco, who created, voiced and operated the puppet) from the planet Melmac who crash-landed on Earth after his planet suffered a nuclear explosion. He was taken in by the Tanner family (not the ones from San Francisco), who protected him from the Alien Task Force while he repaired his ship. Nicknamed Alien Life Form by the family patriarch, Willie (Max Wright), ALF would spend the next four seasons enthralling America and becoming a media darling.

Promotional ad for NBC's Saturday line-up.

            As ALF became more popular with children, the content of the show was gradually altered to reflect their new viewing audience (for instance, ALF was only seen drinking alcohol during the first season and certain imitable antics were either altered for future broadcasts or toned down in future episodes). Recognizing an opportunity, NBC ordered an animated spin-off of the show for inclusion in their Saturday morning line-up.

The planet Melmac.

            Developed by Fusco and Tom Patchett, ALF: The Animated Series served as a prequel to the regular ALF series. The show followed the adventures of Gordon (ALF was never used in the show beyond the title) on the planet Melmac, having freshly graduated high school at the ripe young age of 193. The biggest differences between the animated ALF and the puppet was that the animated version’s full body was always seen and he wore a Hawaiian shirt. The series made full use of its alien setting to generate humor from surrealistic activities being treated as ordinary, such as getting mayonnaise from mines, the names of locations, such as Gordon’s hometown being East Velcro, or from pop culture satire, like an entire episode dedicated to parodying the James Bond franchise. Even the episode names themselves were parodies of movie and song titles, as well as popular sayings. The cartoon also poked fun at itself by featuring a show within a show where an Earthling crashes on planet Melmac and stays with a family of Melmacians.

The Shumways: Bob, Gordon, Flo, Neep, Augie, Curtis and Harry.

Among Melmac’s other residents were Gordon’s family: father Bob (Thick Wilson), mother Flo (Peggy Mahon), sister Augie (Tabitha St. Germain) and brother Curtis (Michael Fantini). The Shumways also had two pets: a bird named Harry and a dog, called a “vespa”, named Neep. Gordon’s closest friends included neighbor Rick Fusterman (Fusco), Skip (Rob Cowan) and Sloop (Dan Hennessey). Gordon also had a girlfriend, Rhonda (Germain). Rhonda, Rick and Skip all made appearances on the live show, establishing that ALF wasn’t the last of his kind. The series’ primary villain was Larson Petty (Wilson), who constantly sought to conquer the planet Melmac but was thwarted by Gordon and his allies. A recurring Melmacian was Madame Pokipsi (Deborah Theaker), a fortune smeller. The characters were designed by Fil Barlow, Lou Police and Dave Smith.

Rhonda and a dinosaur bone.

ALF: The Animated Series debuted on NBC on September 26, 1987 and ran for a total of two seasons. The series was written by Duane Capizzi, Martin Donoff, Richard Raynis, Alicia Marie Schudt, Dan DiStefano, Steve Roberts, Howard Bendetson (who also wrote for the original), Terrie Collins, Steve Hayes, Mark Jones, Michael Maurer, Bradley Kesden, Mark C. Miller and Skip Shepard, with Maurer serving as story editor. It was produced by DiC Entertainment, Alien Productions, Lorimar-Telepictures and Saban Entertainment. Haim Saban and Shuki Levy provided the music. Animation duties were handled by KK C&D Asia, Mook DLE and SHAFT. The ALF puppet made appearances at the beginning and end of the episodes to introduce the story, read fan mail, or provide commentary.  For the second season, ALF was paired with an additional animated series called ALF Tales to form The ALF/ALF Tales Hour. The Hour used the same intro as ALF but featured the new title at the end. When ALF ended its Saturday run, the two shows were split to allow ALF Tales to run its brief second season unaccompanied. All versions of ALF left the NBC schedule by the fall of 1990.


The animated ALF made one additional appearance in the drug-prevention special Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, which was broadcast across all the major networks on April 21, 1990 and starred a collection of Saturday morning characters. Coleco produced a set of six figures based on the show. In 1988, three VHS tapes were released in Australia by Roadshow-Lorimar Home Video and in the United Kingdom by The Video Collection featuring two episodes each. In 2006, Lions Gate Home Entertainment released the first nine episodes of the series to DVD in ALF Animated Adventures: 20,000 Years in Driving School and Other StoriesIn 2023, Shout! Factory released Alf: The Complete Series Deluxe Edition, which contained the complete original series, spin-off film, and both animated series.

Season 1:
“Phantom Pilot” (9/26/87) – Gordon gets some unlikely help in defending Melmac from Larson Petty

“Hair Today, Bald Tomorrow” (10/3/87) – After Harry uses Gordon’s hair for his nest, Gordon goes for a baldness cure only to accidentally insult Madame Pokipsi and receive a baldness curse.

“Two for the Brig” (10/10/87) – Gordon and Sargent Staff accidentally mistake their ship for a cruise liner and end up in jail.

“Gordon Ships Out” (10/24/87) – Gordon, Rick and Skip chip in for a sailing yacht and end up stranded on an island thanks to a termite.

“Birdman of Melmac” (10/31/87) – When Harry is declared an extinct species, it becomes a royal pain for the Shumway family.

“Pismo and the Orbit Gyro” (11/7/87) – The Orbit Gyro’s regular maintenance leads the robot in charge of it to having a few screws loose.

“20,000 Years in Driving School” (11/14/87) – Gordon must re-attend driving school in order to get his license back after losing it in an accident.

“Pride of the Shumways” (11/21/87) – Gordon is offered a chance for the major leagues in Bouilliabaseball, but Curtis suspects something is amiss.

“Captain Bobaroo” (12/5/87) – When Bob gets hit on the head he believes he’s a children’s TV show host.

“Neep at the Races” (12/12/87) – Gordon enters Neep in a race, but bikers want a cut of his winnings.

“Salad Wars” (12/19/87) – Gordon’s family vacation is interrupted by someone’s desire to have a salad seed monopoly.

“Tough Shrimp Don’t Dance” (1/2/88) – Gordon helps rescue an alien race of shrimp from Larson Petty.

“Home Away from Home” (1/16/88) – When his parents are away, Gordon loses their house to a sleazy real estate agent.

Season 2:
“Flodust Memories” (9/10/88) – Flo is entered into and wins a Mom of the Millennium contest, but her celebrity status goes to her head.

“Family Feud” (9/17/88) – The Fustermans declare war on the Shumways after losing to them on a game show.

“Clams Never Sang for my Father” (9/24/88) – Bob and Frank Fusterman face each other in the traditional Mayonnaise Lodge rite of passage clam-wrestling contest.

“A Mid-Goomer Night’s Dream” (10/1/88) – Larson Petty accidentally abducts Bob wearing a Goomer suit, leaving Gordon and Augie to find the real one and save their dad.

“The Bone Losers” (10/8/88) – Gordon finds dinosaur bones in his yard which makes a celebrity paleontologist jealous enough to want to steal them away.

“Thank Gordon for Little Girls” (10/15/88) – Gordon invents a new device that Augie and her scout troupe end up taking credit for.

“Hooray for Mellywood” (10/29/88) – Gordon’s life is about to be turned into a movie--maybe.

“The Spy from East Velcro” (11/12/88) – When an evil spy mistakes Gordon for agent James Bonzo, Gordon ends up captured by the villain.

“He Ain’t Seafood, He’s My Brother” (11/19/88) – Renegade Muklukians kidnap Cutis in a plot to claim their planet’s throne, and Fescue comes to Gordon for help in stopping them.

“Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places” (12/3/88) – Gordon tries to help a friend get a girl, but she ends up falling for him instead.

“The Slugs of Wrath” (12/10/88) – During a mayonnaise shortage, the Shumways move to a farm to try their hands at raising slugs.

“Housesitting for Pokipsi” (12/17/88) – Gordon and his friends housesit for Madame Pokipsi and Gordon gets into trouble using her crystal ball.

“Skipper’s Got a Brand New Dad” (1/7/89) – Larson Petty needs to find a son in order to claim an inheritance while Gordon and Rick try to find Skip’s birth parents.

Originally posted in 2016. Updated in 2023.

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