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ALF - Season 1 Review




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Rating
Video:   6/10
Audio:   6/10
Extras:   3/10

Uhhh....
by Gord Lacey (All reviews)
8/17/2004

It was a peaceful Monday night in 1986 when the lovable alien, ALF, crashed into our living rooms as the star of his own TV show. Known on his home planet of Melmac as Gordon Shumway, ALF (short for Alien Life Form) crashed into the Tanner house, a normal family in Los Angeles. Willie, Kate, Brian and Lynn decide to take ALF into their family, rather than turn him over to the Air Force. ALF can be a bit of a handful, especially since he likes to eat cats, and the Tanners' have one.

Time for one of my "hard-done-by" childhood stories. When I was a kid I wasn't able to watch ALF, not because it was violent (the reason I couldn't watch The A-Team), or because it was past my bedtime, but because I was in Boy Scouts. We would meet every Monday night, and every Tuesday I would feel left out while the other kids talked about the crazy mischief ALF got himself into the night before. Scouts was occasionally cancelled, so I could catch the odd episode, but I would only see a handful of episodes during a season. I was excited when this was announced because it gave me a chance to see what I missed when I was a kid.

The Packaging:
Lions Gate has picked one of the poorest packages possible for this DVD set. The case opens to reveal 2 disc on either side, with the top disc overlapping the bottom one. Consumers hate these cases because they have to remove the top disc to get at the bottom one, and the plastic feels very cheap. My set had another problem; the lower disc was on top of the upper disc so neither was secured because the upper disc is supposed to be above the lower one to help secure it in place. Luckily the discs weren't scratched, but I quickly learned this was a common problem when I walked across the street to check out the sets for sale. All the sets I checked had at least one loose disc in them, so I think Lions Gate had a small production problem on the assembly line. A paper insert listing the episodes and disc numbers is also inserted inside the package. The plastic case also comes with a wasteful slipcover that contains exactly the same information as the package. If they were looking to save money on the packaging then why include something that isn't necessary? I don't understand it.

Menus
ALF hosts the DVD menus, commenting on things you can click on, or offering witty cracks. He'll also tell you a bit about each episode, if you want him to.

Video

These episodes have been remastered for DVD, but they contain one major flaw; syndication versions were used. "Gord, what's a syndication version?" When a show enters syndication they trim some material from the episodes so they can squeeze in an extra commercial or two. These episodes are shorter and are different from what originally aired. Most sitcoms suffer from this, even the extremely popular shows such as Friends and The Simpsons are trimmed for syndication. Unfortunately, Lions Gate used the syndication prints of the episodes, and fans are rather....well....pissed off! Companies need to double-check materials they are given; ask whether this is the original print, or a syndication print. Fans don't care whose fault it is, they see the name of the company on the box and get fire in their eyes. When something like this happens the fans assume 1) no one cares enough to check, or 2) they don't care enough about the fans to do it properly. Either outcome isn't good for the company involved, and the hate mail will come (trust me, I've received a lot already). When you're releasing a TV show, make sure you're releasing the original episodes, uncut!

Missing footage aside, ALF looks pretty darn good on DVD. The pilot isn't as clean as some of the later episodes, but that's forgivable. The show was shot in video, so it doesn't suffer from dust or debris. Some scenes appear slightly blurry, especially if there's a lot of motion, and other scenes contain a bit of edge enhancement. There isn't a "play all" feature, but chapters are set after the opening of each episode.

Audio

The packaging lists an English Dolby Surround audio track, but I'm pretty sure this is only stereo. Most of the dialog, music and effects can be heard from the center speaker, leaving the left, right and rear speakers with little to do. The dialog can be heard clearly, but it doesn't contain as wide a dynamic range as newer shows. Fans of the show wrote to me to mention that there was some music substituted in a few episodes, something I wouldn't have caught on my own. Once again, if you're going to substitute music then it should be mentioned on the packaging. There aren't any subtitles, but the set is closed captioned.

Extras - How we rate extras

Unaired Pilot (23:50)
A slightly different version of the pilot episode.

Cast Gag/Outtakes Reel (6:34)
Some funny material can be found here.

Trivia Facts (11 screens)
This section contains 11 screens of information about the show, the character and other bits of trivia.

Summary

I'm sure I'll take heat for this, but this isn't a good set. The packaging is cheap, most of the episodes are edited versions, some music has been substituted, and there aren't many extras. Fans on DVD forums are posting about how they are trying to return their purchased sets, and telling friends and family members to stay away from the set. Lions Gate has taken a good property (ALF) and found a way to screw it up. Fans of the show were excited that the show was coming, and now they're disappointed in the set that was released. Lions Gate has done some wonderful DVD sets (The Dead Zone), but this one is a stinker. If you need your ALF fix then I might suggest ordering The ALF Files, a Canadian-only release that's a few years old. Hopefully Lions Gate can repair the damage they've done by releasing a flawless season 2 set, but how many customers have they already lost?


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