Stars: ALF, Ed McMahon
In Short: Gordon Shumway gets his own short-lived talk show.
I like ALF. So sue me. I guess I should clarify and say that I like ALF, the sitcom that aired from 1986 to 1990 and spawned a few spinoffs. They were ALF: The Animated Series (1987-1989), ALF Tales (1988-89) and the subject of today's dissertation, ALF's Hit Talk Show. Which is a bit of false advertising, that "hit" part, but more about that in a moment. Oh, and let's not forget Project: ALF(1996), a movie that rolled out six years after the end of the series.
I came to ALF late, catching it on cable about a decade or so after it first aired. To this day I can't quite put my finger on what appealed to me about the whole affair but appeal it did. The premise is a simple one and arguably not a particularly good one - a wisecracking alien crash lands into the home of an average American family (as the TV industry of the day defined it) and hijinks ensue. Something that was done before, albeit with less fur and perhaps less wisecracking, in My Favorite Martian (1963-66). It shouldn't have been a contender and it often wasn't (the Risky Business parody and ALF's appalling music video, to name a few of the low points) and yet it had a certain something.
Whatever that nebulous something was I'd hazard a guess that it didn't carry over to the movie or the first two TV spinoffs, though I haven't seen them and so I can't say for sure. It didn't quite carry over to ALF's Hit Talk Show and the exceptionally brief run pretty much attests to that, although by some accounts the show was not necessarily intended to be an ongoing series.
Faux talk shows were hardly a new thing, even in 2004. They go back at least as far as Fernwood Tonight (1977) and there are probably other predecessors to that show that have slipped my mind. The Larry Sanders Show (1992–1998) was a more high-profile and successful take on this theme and my own personal favorite, Primetime Glick (2001–2003), which starred Martin Short as the be all and end all of obnoxious talk show hosts, signed off just before ALF took to the airwaves again.
ALF, the sitcom, took a crack at this very same type of thing in the third season, with a two-part episode in which the star sat in for Johnny Carson on what was either the actual Tonight Show set or a very convincing recreation. Also on hand for the proceedings, which featured numerous clips from previous shows, were second banana, Ed McMahon, and Tonight Show producer, Fred de Cordova.
McMahon, that talk show sidekick extraordinaire, is back in the same seat again for ALF's Hit Talk Show, which aired on TV Land. The format is pretty much standard late night talk show - with a puppet thrown in for good measure. Just as ALF was a fairly standard sitcom format...with a puppet thrown in for good measure.
Celebs putting in an appearance included Joan Rivers, Henry Winkler, talk show guy Merv Griffin, and Bryan Cranston (a few years before Breaking Bad broke big). Most off the wall celebrities who turned up during the seven episode run - Leon Redbone and Linda Blair.
Observed: Season 1, Episode 5
Doris Roberts seems to have a thousand yard stare at times but she acquits herself admirably well, given that she's being interviewed by a puppet. Presumably most of the other guests did the same. Which is not so surprising, given that they are actors and that's what they do. When you come right down to it, is the chatty artifice of a real talk show that far removed from one hosted by a clump of cloth and fur? Ed McMahon gives a valiant effort as well, given that this is a considerable step down from being sidekick to Johnny Carson. I can't claim to have made it through this episode but it was innocuous enough. If you're a really big ALF fan or you're really into talk shows maybe it will work for you.