The science fiction comedy sitcom ALF got canceled before long. Running from just 1986 until 1990, the NBC series made a true mark on television thanks to the unusual subject matter and very memorable main character.
But the alien ALF himself is the main reason the show could never last very long. Fans may have loved his smart-talking ways and curious antics. His human co-stars, however, had a very different feeling about the situation. It turns out most of the actors hated being part of ALF for a multitude of reasons.
No wonder ALF was canceled in short order.
ALF capitalized on people’s alien obsession
The acronym ALF stands for “Alien Life Form.” On the show, ALF was an extraterrestrial who crash landed into a regular suburban home and had to repair his ship. The Tanner family hides him from authorities and from their nosy neighbors as he acclimates to life on planet Earth. Including his intense desire to eat the family cat.
Entertainment fans became obsessed with aliens following the release of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. ALF was nothing like that alien. But he did make everyone laugh with his antics.
The ‘ALF’ puppet was difficult for everyone to handle
ALF the character wasn’t a person in costume or a real alien. He was actually a puppet, and working with him was more complicated than most fans of the series realized.
In a 2000 People interview, all four main cast members admitted they had some difficulty interacting with ALF on set, and everything took longer because of the demands inherent to working with a hand-operated puppet. It didn’t help that ALF’s operator didn’t get along well with the other actors.
“It was hard work and very grim,” co-star Max Wright admitted. By the time the series ended in 1990, all the human actors were relieved to see the show canceled. “I was hugely eager to have it over with,” he continued.
Fellow co-star Anne Schedeen recalled of the finale, “There was one take, and Max walked off the set, went to his dressing room, got his bags, went to his car and disappeared. Nobody had to say, ‘Wrap,’ and there were no goodbyes.”
She also said being on set was a miserable experience. “There was no joy on the set…it was a technical nightmare – extremely slow, hot and tedious… A 30-minute show took 20, 25 hours to shoot,” Schedeen explained.
‘ALF’ was canceled because of what it was about
Working with a giant puppet was only half the battle. Another reason ALF got canceled was because of the nature of the show. Since the alien could only interact with members of his own family, there was a limited number of storylines that writers could create with that small cast of characters.
“ALF could never go out,” creator Paul Fusco told People. “It got tough to do stories where he could only interact with the five or six people he knew.”
The series ended with a cliffhanger finale. That was followed by a movie in 1996 that answered some questions for fans. Warner Brothers announced an ALF reboot in 2018, but the project was canceled before it could begin.
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