'Scorch' and 'Fish Police' are no 'ALF'

February 28, 1992|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

Tonight CBS introduces two new shows -- "Scorch" at 8 and "Fish Police" at 8:30 on Channel 11. And all I can say is: Bring back ALF. Please, oh please, bring back the old ALF-meister.

For those with short memories, ALF was the star of the show, "ALF," which premiered on NBC in the fall of 1986. ALF was a robo-dog from outer space who crash-landed in the garage of a perfectly square sitcom family when his planet, Melmac, exploded. ALF and his girlfriend, Rhonda, lost each other after the intergalactic explosion, and it was a constant source of heartache for the little fellow.

The show was a hit almost from the start. It worked on two levels -- for kids and adults. Almost immediately, it made the Top 20 in Nielsen ratings. And, after a couple of years, critics started raving about its postmodern sensibility: It was a sitcom with a

character in it, ALF, who continually undercut and mocked the very sitcom genre the way David Letterman mocks the talk show from within.

So, what happens? In 1990, "ALF" slips a little, and, bang, NBC cancels it. But how do they cancel it? They kill the show after the first part of an announced two-part cliffhanger in which ALF is left standing in a field surrounded by police from the Alien Task Force while Rhonda hovers in a spaceship overhead.

Do I sound upset? I am upset. I bond with ALF for four years and I'm left hanging by the network this way. This is one reason people come to hate networks.

OK, I'll calm down. I'm calm.

So now what happens? CBS introduces a low-rent ALF with this "Scorch." It's a four-foot (same size as ALF) dragon (looks like a robo-dog to me) that crash-lands (didn't ALF?) in the arms of a kid. And then they promote it so much during the Olympics that you expect to see the dragon on skates.

I know, I'm not being fair. Go ahead, watch it. Be fickle. At 8, I'm starting a special ALF Festival. I'm going to watch all 22 episodes from the first season back to back, don an inky cloak and quote Hamlet about "what a great falling off there was" in network TV.

Oh, yeah, "Fish Police." See, I'm OK. I'm under control.

"Fish Police" is an animated series about fish who are members of the police squad in Fish City -- just as "Capital Critters" is an animated series about critters. "Fish Police" is almost as interesting as "Capital Critters," which means if you are pushing 8- or 9 years old, you'll think it's tedious.

The big hook here is the voices of the fish are those of John Ritter, Ed Asner and other celebrities.

Let's see, by 8:30 when "Fish Police" premieres, I'll just be getting into the second episode where ALF stumbles into contact with Rhonda on Willie's ham radio. Help me, Rhonda.

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