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'ALF" returns to Earth for Nick at Nite '80s special

Thursday, March 01, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

The '80s are back on Nick at Nite next week, and on Wednesday night the fur will fly. As part of Nick's "Revenge of the '80s" week, a block of "ALF" episodes will air.

He may be the '80s star with the biggest hair, but he's not alone. Each night from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., episodes from a different series will air, beginning Sunday with "Diff'rent Strokes." "Silver Spoons" episodes air Monday, "Facts of Life" on Tuesday, "227" on Thursday and "Square Pegs" on Friday.

But ALF is the only puppet star in the bunch (if you don't count Gary Coleman). The cat-eating alien starred in his own NBC series from 1986 to 1990, befriending the Tanner family's sitcom-cute kids while terrorizing befuddled patriarch Willie (Max Wright).

ALF has been pretty much out of the public eye since then, but he agreed to a phone interview yesterday to plug Nick's '80s stunt.

QUESTION: So ALF, how are you doing?

ANSWER: I'm fine, considering I haven't worked in 20 years except for a "Love Boat" incident. That's the boat the sub should have come up under.

Q: Why do you think work has been scarce?

A: Ageism. I'm 247, I think. We stop counting after 200, much like the Gabor sisters.

Q: Really? Can casting agents tell how old you are?

A: I think so. You know, Hollywood is a very bitter town. Look what they did to Mindy Cohn. You don't see her on TV anymore.

Q: Her sitcom, "Facts of Life," is also part of Nick's theme week.

A: Oh, boy. Just keep her away from the cake or there won't be enough to go around.

Q: So if you haven't been working in show biz, what have you been doing?

A: Waiting for the phone to ring. I was investing in a lot of bad business ventures, like a pet barbecue and Mr. Gin's House of Chicken and Collie. Nothing exciting, just trying to get into business and raise some free-range kittens, boneless kittens, but that doesn't go over well here.

Q: I know cat is a food staple on your home planet, Melmac, but how does that go over here on Earth? Do you get in trouble with PETA?

A: Pita? That's a nice bread to put a cat on. No, they won't let me do that here; I had to swear off cats. The closest I've come to eating cats without anyone complaining is to go to a Chinese restaurant. No questions asked. You've probably had cat at some point and didn't know it. It tastes just like chicken. Actually, it tastes just like spotted owl. Ha!

Q: Do you watch much TV now?

A: Once in a while "The X-Files" to see how far they take the concept. They stretch it a lot -- there's no endings. The Weather Channel is pretty good. I watched something on Discovery last night: a documentary on the shovel. Exciting.

Q: Your most recent appearance was on the quickly canceled "Cindy Margolis Show."

A: It was a favor to Cindy. She wanted to boost her ratings. A lot of good that did. Cindy owns a chain of delis though, so she's doing fine.

Q: Any chance you'd go on a reality show?

A: Absolutely. I don't know how far I'd get, but I would do that. I could even go on with Regis. I could have hosted ["Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"] -- that would have started me back on my career again. But, no, they went with Regis. By the way, he's close to my age.

Q: Do you ever visit the Tanners, the sitcom family you lived with on your NBC show?

A: No, they're living in Reykjavik. Yeah, I miss them terribly. Actually, I don't see them, so I don't miss them. Ha!

Q: When I watched the show in the '80s, Willie always seemed a little bit off. Was he drunk a lot of the time?

A: On the show, no. Off the show, I have no idea what he did.

Q: You're not of this world originally, so what do you think of the International Space Station?

A: It's kind of a primitive thing. Once you've grown a few crystals, what else is there to do? The novelty of a zero-gravity toilet wears off after a while. You don't know what it's like to have a toilet back up on you in zero gravity. It's like puking in your own helmet.

Q: Any thoughts about writing a tell-all book?

A: I think that's kind of a last resort. I wanted to write a book that would blow the covers off the upholstery business, but nobody went for it. There's a lot of scandal in that business.

Q: What about the ladies, ALF? A big star like you, you must have stories.

A: Let's put it this way, I'm not allowed to date outside my species. I'm a lot like Linda Hunt that way.

Q: You're the only one of your kind on Earth, so there's no one special in your life?

A: I've got a woman who comes in once a week and vacuums me. That's the highlight of my week. Thanks for reminding me.


At that, a slightly dejected ALF handed the phone to series creator Paul Fusco. He said ABC's 1996 TV movie "Project ALF" (co-starring Martin Sheen!) was a backdoor pilot that he hoped would lead to a new series, but it didn't fly.

Now he's trying to get his orange-furred creation back on TV in the talk show format. In a proposed cable series, ALF would interview real people who claim to have had bizarre experiences, including alien abduction.

"Even though the premise of bringing him back in a sitcom might be passe, I don't think the character is passe," Fusco said. "The world has changed a lot since the '80s. It's gotten more ludicrous. Today's politicians or celebrities would be wonderful fuel for his commentary."

No doubt.

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.



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