About Christmas TV History

Monday, July 25, 2022

Christmas in July 2022: Alf (1987)



Merry Christmas in July! It is Day #25 of the month-long celebration of Christmas/holiday entertainment. Each day this month I will be sharing brief reminisces about Christmas TV episodes, specials, and movies with a IT'S A WONDERFUL SUMMER attitude. Yes--this month I'm sharing brief essays about TV adaptations of the 1946 movie "It's a Wonderful Life" along with TV programs with significant references to the movie. Just a little something different and a way for me to show off the diversity of holiday stories I've collected in the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV (the updated and expanded 2nd edition being released soon).  


Alf is handed out as a stuffed toy at the children's hospital.

Today's discussion is on the second season's hour-long installment known as Alf's Special Christmas. In this story, the Tanner family celebrates Christmas in the rustic cabin where Willie spent the holidays of his childhood. When the cabin's owner Mr. Foley drops by, Alf hides in his truck amongst a stack of Christmas presents. Alf is mistakenly given away as a doll at a children’s hospital! 


Alf learns about the true Christmas spirit from Tiffany.

At the hospital, Alf befriends a young girl named Tiffany who is terminally ill. Trying to get back to the Tanners, Alf gets trapped in the hospital elevator with a pregnant woman and he ends up delivering her baby. 


Alf steps in as Mr. Foley's guardian angel to remind Foley that still people need him.

Meanwhile, Mr. Foley is so depressed, he contemplates jumping off a bridge until Alf confronts him, much like the guardian angel in the 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Alf brings together Mr. Foley and Tiffany so each of them has someone who needs them.

In addition to the nod to It's a Wonderful Life, this extended episode makes two references to the famous editorial “Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus” in the context of honoring the hope of children for the future of society. The heart-felt message seems even more poignant in this already emotional episode. There are also several references to Alf being a fan of Perry Como and he’s disappointed to have to miss the annual Perry Como Christmas TV special while staying at the cabin. 



The cast includes Max Wright as Willie Tanner, Anne Schedeen as Kate Tanner, Andrea Elson as Lynn Tanner, Benji Gregory as Brian Tanner, and puppeteer Paul Fusco as the voice of Alf. Special guests include Cleavon Little as Mr. Foley, Molly Hagan as the new mother Denise, and Keri Houlihan as young Tiffany.


Cleavon Little as Mr. Foley.

At the end credits, there is a dedication to Tiffany Leigh Smith. She was a real-life terminally ill girl that inspired this Christmas special. 


Even if the reference in this episode to It's a Wonderful Life is fairly short, it is certainly memorable and the emotional climax of the story. On the icy bridge, Alf is dressed as Santa Claus and Mr. Foley wonders if his angel is actually St. Nicholas/Santa Claus. Foley is comforted by the sentiment in the editorial "Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" that we should all embrace the hope that comes with the idea of Santa Claus, as he chooses to step down from the railing of the ice-covered bridge. This sentiment is certainly beautiful year-round. Merry Christmas in July!

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. She is currently updating and expanding the encyclopedia for an upcoming release. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com

1 comment:

  1. Seems like a much deeper episode of Alf then I even thought the show capable of. Was never my cup of tea.