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‘ALF’: 18 Surprising Behind-the-Scenes Facts About the Furry Alien and the Tanner Family

Plus, find out why they needed two different humans to play the part of ALF!


ALF, the iconic 1980s sitcom featuring an extraterrestrial life form living with an American family, captivated audiences with its blend of humor and heart. Who would have though a show about a furry alien wiseguy that comes to earth to live in an American family’s garage would be such a hit, but it was. 

ALF (which stands for Alien Life Form), premiered on NBC in 1986 and ran for four seasons. It was a combination of a classic family sitcom with the wackiness of a cartoon character come to life. At the core of the show was ALF, a funny, sarcastic, hairy creature who was always causing chaos in the Tanner household.

Here, 18 surprising facts about the show

1. The show’s creator was also the voice of ALF

The show was co-created by Paul Fusco, who was also the voice of the star, ALF. Fusco created the character from a puppet he had in his house. He used the puppet to play tricks and pranks on family and friends. He had the idea that the character might make a good television show (he was right).

2. Initially the producer was not interested in the show

Paul Fusco and Andrea Elson in ALF (1986)
Paul Fusco and Andrea Elson in ALF (1986)

Producer Bernie Brillstein was initially not interested in ALF, because he managed Jim Henson (of the Muppets fame) and regarded Henson as the best puppeteer in showbiz. However, once Brillstein saw Fusco in action, he thought the character was really funny and gave the green light to do the show. The show appeared on NBC for 99 episodes.

3. The final episode was a cliffhanger in hopes the series would get renewed

NBC cancelled Alf in 1990 after production wrapped for season four, leaving the final episode as an unresolved cliffhanger. Ironically, the writers wrote it this way in hopes of pressuring NBC to renew the show for another season. It didn’t work.

4. The television series launched a movie

A television movie, Project ALF, came out in 1996. It co-starred Martin Sheen was produced by ABC. The movie gave closure to the story line. Spoiler alert: He escaped from the military base where he was held for testing. The scientist—who the alien thought was helping him—was really plotting to expose his existence to the world on a television talk show.

Paul Fusco in ALF
Paul Fusco in ALF (1986)

5. ALF did guest appearances on numerous other shows.

Even after the series was canceled in 1990, the alien continued to live on in guest appearances on many popular shows including The Cindy Margolis Show, Talk Soup, Love BoatMatlockBlossom, Hollywood Squares, Mr. Robot and Young Sheldon.

MUST-READ: ‘Blossom’ Cast: See the Hilarious Russo Family Then and Now

6. ALF represented a brand

Paul Fusco and Andrea Elson in ALF (1986)
Paul Fusco and Andrea Elson in ALF (1986)

He became the spokesperson (spokes alien?) for phone company 10-10-220 in the 1990s. That company is no longer in existence.

7. ALF had his own talk show

In 2004, Fusco created and produced the show, ALF’s Hit Talk Show for TV Land. The show was a mix of celebrity interviews and skits. It was filmed in front of a live audience with co-host Ed McMahon. It only lasted seven episodes.

8. ALF was played by two different humans

Paul Fusco in ALF (1986)
Paul Fusco in ALF (1986)

During the first season, the character ALF was both a puppet and in some scenes, an actor played ALF in costume. The actor was Mihaly “Michu” Meszaros, who was 2 feet 9 inches tall and also was a circus performer for  Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Michu was also known for his stunt work.

9. ALF’s real name was Gordon Shumway

Furing the series it was revealed that the alien had family back in Melmac, where he was originally from. His mother’s name was Flo, his father was Bob, his sister Augie and his brother was Curtis. He even had a girlfriend, Rhonda.

10. There were four one-hour specials

In addition to the 99 episodes in the series, there were four one-hour specials including: Try to Remember, ALF’s Special Christmas, Someone to Watch Over Me and Tonight, Tonight.

Paul Fusco (1986)
Paul Fusco in ALF (1986)

11. There was talk of a reboot

In early 2018, Warner Bros. Television announced the development of a reboot. The reboot was canceled later that year.

12. The show had three puppeteers

Paul Fusco  (1986)
Paul Fusco in ALF (1986)

In addition to Paul Fusco, the show had two assistant puppeteers on hand: Lisa Buckley and Bob Fappiano.

13. Filming the show was complicated

Filming with humans and a puppet wasn’t easy. The show’s set was built on a platform that was four feet above the ground, so that Fusco could puppet ALF anywhere on the stage. Fusco used a series of trapdoors to puppet ALF around. The human cast had to maneuver around the puppet and the trap doors.

14. The (human) cast found filming challenging

The cast complained that the set was hazardous. The technical demands of such a program were especially wearing on the human cast, many of whom hated playing second fiddle to a puppet. Tension plagued the cast during all four seasons.

Max Wright, Anne Schedeen, Benji Gregory, Andrea Elson, Charles Nickerson and Paul Fusco (1986)
Max Wright, Anne Schedeen, Benji Gregory, Andrea Elson, Charles Nickerson and Paul Fusco in ALF (1986)

15. The sound was on a different level

While Dolby Surround Sound is now very common, he was the first show to be presented in it.

16. ALF merchandising was quite popular

Paul Fusco(1986)
Paul Fusco in ALF (1986)

In addition to posters, t-shirts and other paraphernalia, He even had his own set of trading cards. Issued by Topps in the late ’80s, they were parody sports cards that depicted ALF’s favorite sport, Boulliabaseball.

17. There was a fake ALF

A rehearsal puppet was often used, in order to avoid wear and tear on the real ALF puppet. The fake ALF was called RALF—Rehearsal Alien Life Form.

18. ALF initially was targeted to adults

ALF’s popularity with children changed the direction of the show. Which is why ALF, who drank a beer in the first episode, didn’t consume any alcohol on screen after the first season.

For more 80’s TV click through the links below!

‘Fame’ TV Show Cast: What Are Debbie Allen and Other Stars Doing Today

Paging All Medical Drama Lovers: Catch Up With the ‘St. Elsewhere’ Cast 40+ Years Later

Party of Five’ Cast Then & Now: Catch Up With the Salinger Siblings Today

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