ALF

TV classics: ALF

USA 1986-90, four seasons, 120 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, NBC, color. Cast: Paul Fusco, Max Wright, Anne Schedeen, Andrea Elson, Benji Gregory.

Plot summary: He’s an alien life form who crashes into the Tanner’s garage. Needless to say that from that day onwards, nothing will ever be quite normal again.

ALFReview: In the 1980s, television offered a lot of gems for kids to grow up with. Out of this World, The Cosby Show and an odd fur ball called ALF. As a mixture of comedy and science fiction, the show was one of a kind. It stood out from a wide array of family shows by blending new ideas with proven concepts. It was directed at an audience who still had a heart for Mork and Mindy but also liked true-to-life puppets like the Muppets. Operated by creator Paul Fusco, ALF was a 285-year-old alien from a planet called Melmac whose sense of humor was as grown-up as his appetite. Loud, funny and always looking for trouble, the little alien soon won the hearts of the Tanners, the family whose garage he had crashed into with his flying saucer. Although still struggling to fit in with his human rescuers in the pilot, ALF quickly adapted to the habits and joys of American life. Glued to the radio, television and the fridge, the visitor from outer space made the best of his secret existence in the Tanner household and entertained his audience with comments on human customs.

Technically difficult and thus demanding in production, the show only lasted four short seasons and left its fans with a cliffhanger finale. Despite his untimely farewell, ALF has remained popular in reruns until today. Available on DVD since 2004, the show is now considered a TV classic and continues to entertain children and their parents in equal measure. Unfortunately, the boxsets are incomplete and only offer all episodes as shown in syndication and not the full length versions. For die-hard fans, however, there’s still hope for an improved release. Until then, the edited edition will have to do (unless you are lucky and still have your tapes from the late 1980s).

Don’t hear the theme song in your head?! Here’s the pilot episode to refresh your memories of how ALF actually came to our planet.

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The Muppet Show

TV classics: The Muppet Show

USA 1976-81, 5 seasons,  122 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, CBS, color. Created by: Jim Henson. Cast: Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, Louise Gold, Steve Whitmire, Kathryn Mullen, Eren Ozker, John Lovelady

Plot summary: It’s time to play the music. It’s time to light the lights. It’s time to meet the Muppets on the Muppet Show tonight.

The Muppet ShowReview: Julie Andrews sang with them, Shirley Bassey annd Petula Clark. Johnny Cash appeared for a gig and Madeline Kahn. Nancy Walker joked with them and Harry Belafonte. Roger Moore paid them a visit and Liberace. The list is long and colorful: stage, TV and film stars standing in line to perform with the fluffiest gang on television, the Muppets.

Created by puppeteer Jim Henson, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and company took television by storm in the late summer of 1976. Set in the Muppet Theater, The Muppet Show is a variety program for children and adults alike. With recurring skits such as Pigs in Space, Musical Chickens or Muppet Labs, the Muppets put their famous guest stars in the middle of their chaotic show and at the heart of turmoil, fun and drama behind the scenes. As one of the central stars of the The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy is the warrantor for melodrama and jealousy fits, an epitomized Diva whose love for “Kermie” is as tempestuous as her performances. A direct opposite to his girl-friend, Kermit the Frog hosts the show with as much dignity as his colleagues permit and always finds a way to keep the ball rolling on stage. They are supported by regulars such as Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and Animal who each have trademark acts which range from telling bad jokes over doing doomed stunts to playing drums.

Who doesn’t remember their favorite scenes and characters or Statler and Waldorf’s encouraging interjections from the balcony?! With the first three seasons available on DVD, The Muppet Show can now be revisited by old fans and new ones alike. Beaker, Rawlf and Camilla the Chicken are already starting the music and lighting the lights. It’s time for The Muppet Show tonight!

Academy Awards 2012

This is the out-of-the-ordinary post about the Oscars, a show that always comes with a lot of emotions, deserving recipients and a whole bunch of silver medalists (because it’s already a boost to be nominated).

So who are the lucky winners?! I’m sure you’ve all already heard it but I’m still as excited as can be:

  • Best Film: The Artist
  • Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
  • Best Actress: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
  • Best Actor: Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)
  • Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
  • Best Song: Man or Muppet (The Muppets)
  • Best Score: Ludovic Bource (The Artist)
  • Best Costume Design: The Artist

That makes ten favorites of mine in my top ten categories. I never thought I’d get to see this – I mean, what are the odds?! But 2012 had big love for new vintage and retro, including a nine-time Oscar host to run the show.

So I’m raising my glass to toast to The Artist as the first silent movie that won Best Picture since 1929. I know it’s ingenuous to hope for a long-term revival of class, simplicity and style, but right now I want to celebrate the overwhelming reception of a film that has won over critics, movie makers and a worldwide audience alike. Congratulations to Michel Hazanavicius and his team, and thanks for creating this gem of a true modern classic.

The 70s

On the next couple of Fridays I will bring you information about and recommendations from beyond my favorite decades, starting today.

The 1970s

Fashion in the 70s was colorful with patterns that could make you dizzy. Skirts were super long or super short. You had knee-high boots and ethno-chic tunics. Trousers were flared and paired with platform shoes. Popular colors were hippie rich and often psychedelic. A deep rich brown combined with a bright orange and sunny yellow, or a combination of colors that weren’t necessarily easy on the eyes. 1970s fashion was about fun, second wave feminism and comfort. The music world presented ABBA from Sweden and Saturday Night Fever on dance floors worldwide. Glam rock and punk entered the scene, while microwave ovens became more popular in US homes.

On TV, Mary Tyler Moore had her successful debut, as well as The Muppets. Following affirmative action, Woodstock and the relaunch of an arduous gender debate in the 60s, 1970s television was the mirror of a society still heavily entangled in the Vietnam war. M*A*S*H was a direct answer to the pains and fears of an entire generation, inspired by its preceding feature film and novel. Other examples for successful shows from that era are Happy Days, my decade favorite Hart to HartThe Love Boat, or The Waltons with their rather classic entertainment qualities. New family realities and changing structures were picked up on The Brady Bunch, The Odd Couple, The Partridge Family or Three’s Company, the ongoing debate on gender equality on a variety of shows that circled around female leads. Not that TV hadn’t presented women as central heroes before, but the tone had changed and the atmosphere. Charlie’s Angels, Maude, Police Woman or Wonder Woman didn’t have much on Lucy Ricardo, Donna Stone, Samantha Stephens or Susie McNamara. It was a different fabric these “new women” were made of, independent and hard-boiled yet often sexed up. They were supposed to find their way in a man’s world, no matter what, and their wardrobe and wisecracking attitude helped them accomplish that goal.

On the silver screen, gritty, sexed-up, shocking or taboo-breaking was in vogue: The Godfather, The GraduateKramer vs. Kramer, Norma Rae, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Taxi Driver were big hits, as well as the emerging genre of disaster movies kicked off by the adaptation of Alex Haley’s Airport. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of either one of these films although I have always greatly appreciated each film’s stellar cast. Cabaret or Love Story  are more my cup of tea, along with the surfer movie Big Wednesday for three simple reasons: California, William Katt and his mother Barbara Hale. I guess you can see my priorities.