Just like today, countless of sitcom ideas were presented back then to the studios and the best of them were ordered a pilot, to see how it performs with the audiences. This was also the case of ALF – Paul Fusco came up with this idea in 1984 and pitched it to Disney and Muppet-creator Jim Henson. But he failed to convince them that it was worth it.
However, a year later NBC accepted the challenge and produced the first episode. As NBC executive Warren Littlefield remembered, the concept of ALF and how Paul Fusco presented it was the funniest thing he ever saw. The pilot was shot and the network executives loved it – 103 episodes were made and a cult series was born!
Paul Fusco acted as a producer, as well as lending his voice to the titular character: an alien life-form living in the typical American family.
So far so good, but the show needed something else than this (somewhat) common concept: a peculiar individual adjusting to the normal American life. And the history of Melmac was born, with details concerning both the history of the planet, as well as the reasons for its destruction.
If ALF remained only with the concept and without all the additional flourishing, the best chances are that it wouldn’t have been such a hit. However, the Universe created was an exhaustive one and it gave new opportunities for new stories to be told.
Such as the story in which ALF says that Melmac was destroyed because all the Melmacians plugged their hairdryers at the same time (episode Pennsylvania 6-5000). Or the stories which speak about ALF’s life before becoming stranded on Earth – he was a professional Bouillabaseball player, a model for a short time, and an Orbit Guard (facts which can be compiled from the ALF card collections).
Another interesting and hilarious fact concerns ALF’s age. He was 285 when the show aired – or, as he put it, I’ve got dandruff older than your country. These are all things that made the show run for as much as it did.
We see nowadays that this is the best way in which you can create a successful franchise/series: by developing its Universe in front of the viewers’ eyes, while also making clear statements. ALF did that and maybe it should have continued to do so.