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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mork & Mindy

I still can't believe that it's been a month since actor Robin Williams died.  I know that we've all grieved his loss over the last thirty-one days, and I'm sure that many of us have certainly watched a marathon of his films at some point after his passing.  But Robin Williams was such a huge presence in Hollywood that it still seems like a dream.

I mean, I can still remember just days after his death, customers at the store I work at swarmed the electronics area looking for every single movie that they could get their hands on that featured him in a starring, or even a supporting role. 

I certainly remember scanning my fair share of copies of "Hook", "Mrs. Doubtfire", "Patch Adams", "The Fisher King", "Awakenings", "Jumanji", "RV", and even some of his recent films such as "The Big Wedding" and "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn" through the cash register.  Eerily enough, the day after he died was the day that we reset our movie section, and there was a LOT of Robin Williams movies in the movie plans.  It was certainly a huge coincidence that we'd have so many of his movies added onto the new movie set-up! 

Now, certainly, Robin Williams had an extensive film library.  From "Good Morning Vietnam" and "Dead Poets Society" to "Good Will Hunting" and "Happy Feet", he certainly made his mark on Hollywood.  But he also was a recognizable face on television as well.  Most recently, he starred in the short-lived series "The Crazy Ones" which also featured Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Wolk.

However, for today's blog entry - on this, Tube Talk Thursday - I thought I'd devote today to the television show that first made Williams a star.  It was really the first time that any of us really got to see him in action, and yet after just a few episodes, the general public could automatically tell that he was meant to do great things. 

Even show producer Garry Marshall saw something in the then 26-year-old actor.  When they first met, Robin was auditioning for a guest starring role on the already established sitcom "Happy Days".  It was early 1978, and Marshall was looking to fill a rather...unusual part.  The story goes that at the audition, Garry had asked Robin to have a seat, and Robin did - upside down!

Is it any wonder that Robin ended up getting the part on the spot with such a response?  Turns out that the role was almost custom made for him, as in February 1978, Robin made his very first appearance as Mork from Ork, a space alien who ended up on Earth and paid Richie Cunningham and his family a visit on an episode of "Happy Days".  Mork was on a mission to bring Richie back to Mork's home planet as a human specimen, but the plan was foiled by Richie's best friend, Fonzie. 

Now the initial airing of the "Happy Days" episode had Richie dreaming the whole thing, but in subsequent airings on ABC and in syndication, the show's ending was re-filmed where Mork actually erases the memories of everyone involved in the "Happy Days" episode so that the event really did happen.

Why would they do this?  Well, it turns out that Mork's appearance on "Happy Days" was an absolute hit in the ratings, and fans of the show couldn't get enough of Mork. 

So, the decision was made to give Mork his own series just a few months later.  All Mork needed was a love interest to get the ball rolling.  Perhaps a young woman named Mindy played by Pam Dawber?

And that is how "Mork & Mindy" was born.

Hard to believe that it has been over thirty years since the series last aired on television.  But considering that the show lasted for four seasons (September 14, 1978 - May 27, 1982 to be exact), I'd call that a success story. 

Of course, I was only a year old when the show ended, so unfortunately I had to wait until the show aired in reruns before I had the opportunity to enjoy it.  But, boy oh boy did I ever love it when I finally watched it.  And for fans of the show in DVD Region 1, the first three seasons are available on DVD box sets.  Still no word on whether Season 4 will ever be released on DVD though.  I guess you never can tell.

Anyway, the story of Mork & Mindy is this.  Mork arrives on Earth (circa 1978) in his egg shaped spaceship where he has been given an assignment by his superior, Orson (voiced by Ralph James) to observe human behaviour on Earth.  In actuality, Ork is a planet in which humour is forbidden (what a sad place to be!) and Orson sends Mork to Earth so that he will be out of his hair.

Who knew that Mork's arrival in the state of Colorado would end up turning into the best four years of his life?

Now, part of Mork's plan to blend into human society is to dress the part.  And Mork happened to find a rather groovy looking suit to wear in hopes of fitting in.  The problem is that he dresses himself backwards, and when he happens to cross paths with Mindy, she mistakes him for being a priest (as his backwards suit jacket sort of resembles a priest's collar).  She has just had an argument with her boyfriend, and Mork tries to offer comfort in his own alien manner.  But the jig is up when Mindy notices that Mork's clothing is on backwards, and Mork reveals that he is really an alien from outer space.

Now, you might think that this news would make Mindy run screaming for the hills, but Mindy's heart was as pure as freshly fallen snow, and she felt for the guy.  Rather than abandon him, she takes him in to live in her attic.

Of course, this causes problems for Mindy as Mindy's father (Conrad Janis) disapproves of Mindy sharing her home with an unmarried man.  On the flipside, Mindy's grandmother (Elizabeth Kerr) loves Mork, and is much more accepting of the friendship between Mork and Mindy.

Of course, living with Mork is also incredibly challenging for Mindy.  You see, Mork is completely clueless about the cultures of Earth, and some traditions that might be considered a good deed on Earth could be a grave insult on Mork's home planet, and vice versa.  And Mindy really had to work overtime to try and steer Mork in the right direction a lot of the time which naturally lead to major hilarity.  But why would I talk about it when I can show you instead?  Have a look at these video clips!

And as the show progressed, we ended up seeing quite a lot of star power on this series.  After all, Morgan Fairchild played the recurring role of Mindy's friend from high school during season one.  Comedian Jay Thomas played Remo DaVinci for the last three years of the show, the man who owned the deli in which Mork and Mindy hung out at.  And when Mork and Mindy got married and had a child together, that child was played by Jonathan Winters (on Mork's planet, people age backwards).

Perhaps the best part about the show was at the end of each episode was the segment where Mork calls Orson at the end of another day to report back to what he has learned from being on Earth.  And, here is one poignant example for you to watch.

All in all, "Mork & Mindy" was the show that really made both Pam Dawber and Robin Williams big stars.  Pam went on to marry actor Mark Harmon and she would star in "My Sister Sam" and a few films.  And of course, we know just how brightly Robin's star shined.

One interesting, yet sad footnote to add to this blog entry.  Just four months before Robin's death, Robin had the chance to reunite with his "Mork & Mindy" co-star, Pam Dawber on "The Crazy Ones".  And just as they had done thirty years earlier, Pam revealed that even now she had great difficulty keeping a straight face whenever she and Robin would do a scene together.  More often than not, Pam really had to keep it together to prevent the scene from being scrapped on "Mork & Mindy" due to Robin's tendency to ad-lib everything, and it seemed as though very little had changed.

At any rate, it was really nice to see Robin and Pam work together one last time. 


  1. He is the alien from another planet called Ork lands on earth with the aid of her friend Mindy daughter of a librarian & a shopkeeper in Boulder City CO their new home based from the ABC network TV series for 5 years(1978-82) & a reboot of the classic TV show a new role will be Adam Sandler & Anne Hathaway as Mork & Mindy filming underway by early spring March of 2016 by Warner Bros. coming soon. Thanks for the information. From:Wayne.

  2. Adam Sandler as Mork from Ork from the television series. Thanks!

  3. Anne Hathaway as Mindy from the popular TV series. Thanks!

  4. Commander Orsen the leader & commander in chief from Planet Ork as president of State of Ork from the TV series. Thanks!

  5. Boulder City Colorado the legal resident of Mork from Ork will be a legal name Morton B Olsen his pseudonym in the popular TV series. Thanks!

  6. Egg rocket pod a lifeboat & one man capsule use to travel planet earth resembles Kryptonian rocket pod in the popular TV series. Thanks!

  7. Mork & Mindy coming to Me TV & in syndication worldwide. Thanks!

  8. Robin Williams(1951-2014) Rest in Peace & I missed him now & forever the legacy continues for a long time. Thanks!