“Everybody knows how to throw parties. No one knows how to end them. This is an acute problem in New York, where people who give parties have plenty of room to entertain but those who attend them never want to return to the heartbreaking places they call home. They’re desperate to spend evenings anywhere but in their wretchedly small apartments…”—A Man’s Guide to Holiday Entertaining: Eat + Drink: GQ
The production of ALF was technically difficult and demanding. All four lead actors – Max Wright (Willie Tanner), Anne Schedeen (Kate Tanner), Andrea Elson (Lynn Tanner) and Ben Hertzberg, also known as Benji Gregory (Brian Tanner) – have conceded a high level of tension on the set.
Max Wright stated that he despised supporting a technically demanding inanimate object that received most of the good lines of dialog. He admits to being “hugely eager to have ALF over with”. Anne Schedeen said that on the last night of taping ALF “there was one take and Max walked off the set, went to his dressing room, got his bags, went to his car and disappeared. […] There were no goodbyes.” Schedeen herself said “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.” While fond of her on screen children, Schedeen said some adults had “difficult personalities. The whole thing was a big dysfunctional family”. Schedeen added, “It’s astonishing that ALF really was wonderful and that word never got out what a mess our set really was”. Elson, who suffered from bulimia during the second season of shooting, stated, “If ALF had gone one more year, everybody would have lost it”. Wright would eventually reflect more kindly on ALF, saying in June 2006, “It doesn’t matter what I felt or what the days were like, ALF brought people a lot of joy”.
Fusco was secretive about his character up until the series premiere. During the show’s production, Fusco refused to acknowledge that the puppet ALF was anything other than an alien. All involved with the production were cautioned not to give away any of ALF’s secrets.
Cast interviews since the show ended have revealed a few details about making the series: To make room for the puppeteers, the entire set was built on a raised platform with dozens of trapdoors in the floor. The trapdoors had to be reset multiple times, sometimes during a single scene, forcing them to shoot each episode over the course of several hours and without a studio audience.
Paul Fusco was the principal puppeteer. He used one hand to control ALF’s mouth leaving the other free to control one of the puppet’s arms. A second puppeteer, Lisa Buckley, accompanied Paul under the stage and operated the other arm. Together with a third person (Bob Fappiano), who controlled ALF’s facial and ear movements via an RC controller offstage, they worked in concert to make ALF’s movements fluid and believable. During tapings Paul would wear a “halo” which was used to record his voice for the ALF character. All of this made for a painstaking process and there were countless mistakes and retakes.
To avoid wear-and-tear on the principal ALF puppet, the performers rehearsed with a battered, early version of ALF. They nicknamed him “Ralph”. Often during rehearsals, Fusco would substitute his hand for the puppet.
In an interview on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Tina Fey said that her biggest frustration as producer of NBC’s 75th anniversary special was dealing with ALF’s “people”. Fey said Fusco would only allow ALF to appear on the show if the puppeteers were completely hidden from everyone else, even the studio audience. After his cameo (as an audience member), ALF disappeared through a hole in the riser, was stuffed into a case and immediately hustled out of the building.
While a puppet was usually used for ALF, there were some shots of the tiny alien running or walking around. This was accomplished by actor Michu Meszaros wearing an ALF costume. This can be seen in one of the series’ intros, which concludes with the Tanner family getting their picture taken; ALF, played by Michu, walks over to be part of the photo.
Why do you think you have so many anon lovers? More so why do I have so much competition for your love?
I feel like all my lovers are anon because it’s uncool to publicly love me (since I’m a fairly horrible person). But there’s no competition! There’s more than enough of me to go around — and you’re my favourite anon anyway :)