Space aliens have populated classic TV for decades. From the Vulcan logic of Spock to the zany antics of the Coneheads, aliens captivate us. However, on sitcoms, Aliens provide a lot of humor due to their fish-out-of-water perspective of humanity.
Here are some of our favorite “little green men” that invaded the small screen.
Mork, ‘Mork & Mindy’
Though Mork & Mindy had a relatively short run of four years, its impact remains immense. Iconic for launching the career of its star Robin Williams, the show was a spin-off of Happy Days. Mork, an extraterrestrial hailing from the planet Ork, was viewed as an oddity among his own kind. As a result, he was dispatched to Earth to observe and understand our way of life. He meets Mindy (Pam Dawber), and they become fast friends and roommates.
Mork & Mindy was a great showcase for Robin Williams. He was able to do impressions, display his frantic energy, and perform hilarious slapstick. However, since Mork was an observer of human behavior, Williams was also able to flex some dramatic chops. “I don’t know how much value I have in this universe,” Mork says to his space alien peers in the clip below. “But I do know that I made a few people happier than they would have been without me.”
Uncle Martin, ‘My Favorite Martian’
In My Favorite Martian, Bill Bixby stars as Tim O’Hara, a reporter who befriends a Martian named Exigius 12½, played by Ray Walston. When the Martian crash-lands near Los Angeles, Tim decides to shelter him. Tim introduces him as his “Uncle Martin” to conceal his true identity. However, hiding the Martian’s abilities proves challenging. “Uncle Martin” has retractable antennae, mind-reading powers, the ability to turn invisible, and the capability to freeze or speed up people. He’s also a brilliant inventor, creating extraordinary creations that are out of this world.
Of all the classic TV space aliens on this list, Uncle Martin is the most subdued. Walston (who went on to be a great character actor) plays Uncle Martin with dry, sardonic humor. In the clip below, you can even see the DNA of characters like Niles on Frasier.
The Classic TV Space Aliens of Sketch Comedy… The Coneheads, ‘Saturday Night Live”
During its prime, Saturday Night Live was a launching pad for many careers. Original “not ready for prime time players” like Dan Akroyd, Jane Curtain, and Laraine Newman portrayed the Coneheads, a beloved alien family. This comedic portrayal of extraterrestrial life inspired future shows like 3rd Rock From the Sun. The Coneheads, stranded on Earth, hilariously navigated human society by blending in. The humor derived mostly from polite society trying to avoid pointing out the obvious, weird differences the Conehead clan had compared to the rest of humanity. They were so popular that they even had their own movie in 1993, with Michelle Burke taking on Laraine Newman’s role.
The Solomon Family, ‘Third Rock from the Sun’
’90s kids have a soft spot for the sitcom 3rd Rock From The Sun. It followed an alien family disguised as humans, on a mission to observe and report back on our intriguing world (sound familiar, Mork?). With a stellar ensemble cast including John Lithgow, Kirsten Johnson, French Stewart, and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the show delivered comedic brilliance. It even starred original Conehead and SNL player Jane Curtain.
The Classic TV Space Alien Who Was Also a Puppet… ALF, ‘ALF’
Alf jumps out of this list just on account of the originality of the character design. Space aliens in sitcoms are nearly always played by actors with minimal, if any makeup. Of course, ALF was a puppet, performed and voiced by Paul Fusco. Instantly appealing to kids for his lovable appearance, adults became hooked due to ALF’s sarcastic sense of humor.
Gordon Shumway, also known as Mihaly ‘Michu’ Meszaros or Paul Fusco, is a furry alien from the planet Melmac. After escaping his destroyed home planet, he crash lands in the Tanner household. The Tanners (who predate the Tanners of Full House) name him ALF, short for Alien Life Form. Their commitment is to protect him from the Alien Task Force until he can repair his spacecraft. With his wit and humor, ALF brings excitement and chaos to the family’s life. Over time, they develop a deep affection for him, even if he occasionally targets their feline companion.
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