Mork & Mindy

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Mork & Mindy
Mork & Mindy.jpg
First season title card
Genre Sitcom
Extraterrestrial
Fantasy
Comedy
Slapstick
Created by Garry Marshall
Dale McRaven
Joe Glauberg
Starring Robin Williams
Pam Dawber
Elizabeth Kerr
Conrad Janis
Tom Poston
Jay Thomas
Gina Hecht
Jim Staahl
Crissy Wilzak
Jonathan Winters
Theme music composer Perry Botkin, Jr.
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 4
No. of episodes 91 (original run)
95 (syndication) (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s) Anthony W. Marshall
Garry Marshall
Producer(s) Bruce Johnson
Brian Levant
Dale McRaven
Ed Scharlach
Tom Tenowich
Camera setup Multi-camera
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s) Henderson Productions
Miller-Milkis Productions
Paramount Television
Distributor CBS Television Distribution
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Audio format Monaural
Original run September 14, 1978 (1978-09-14) – May 27, 1982 (1982-05-27)
Chronology
Preceded by Love, American Style
Happy Days
Related shows Laverne & Shirley
Blansky's Beauties
Out of the Blue
Joanie Loves Chachi

Mork & Mindy is an American sitcom broadcast from 1978 until 1982 on ABC. The series starred Robin Williams as Mork, an alien who comes to Earth from the planet Ork in a small, one-man egg-shaped spaceship. Pam Dawber co-starred as Mindy McConnell, his human friend and roommate. In 1997, the episode "Mork's Mixed Emotions" was ranked 94 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time list.[1]

Broadcast history[edit]

Premise and initial success[edit]

The series was a spin-off from the sitcom Happy Days. The character of Mork was played by a then-unknown Robin Williams who impressed producer Garry Marshall with his quirky comedic ability as soon as they met. This occurred when Williams was asked to take a seat, Williams immediately sat on his head on the chair and Marshall cast him on the spot, and later wryly commented that Williams was the only alien who auditioned for the role.[2]

Mork first appeared in the Happy Days Season 5 episode, "My Favorite Orkan", which was a take on the 1960s sitcom, My Favorite Martian. Williams' character Mork attempts to take Richie Cunningham back to his planet of Ork as a human specimen, but his plan is foiled by Fonzie. In the initial broadcast of this episode it all turned out to simply be a dream that Richie had, but when Mork proved so popular and made several return appearances, before going on to appear in Mork & Mindy, the ending was re-edited to show Mork erasing the experience from everyone's minds, thus meaning the event had actually happened and wasn't a dream.

In Mork & Mindy, Mork resides in contemporary Boulder, Colorado (as opposed to the late-1950s setting of Happy Days).

Mork arrives on Earth in an egg-shaped spacecraft. He has been assigned to observe human behavior, by Orson, his mostly unseen and long-suffering superior (voiced by Ralph James), who has in fact sent him to get him off Ork, where humor is not permitted. Attempting to fit in, Mork dresses in an Earth suit, but wears it backwards. He encounters 21-year old Mindy (Pam Dawber) who is upset after an argument with her boyfriend, and offers assistance. She mistakes him for a priest, and is taken by his willingness to listen (in fact, simply observing her behavior). When Mindy notices his backwards suit and unconventional behavior, she asks who he really is, and he innocently tells her the truth. She promises to keep his identity a secret and allows him to move into her attic. Mindy's father Fred (Conrad Janis) objects to his daughter living with a man (particularly one as bizarre as Mork), but Fred's mother-in-law Cora (Elizabeth Kerr) approves of Mork and the living arrangement. Mindy and Cora work at Fred's music store, where Cora gives lessons to Eugene (Jeffrey Jacquet), a child who becomes Mork's friend. Also seen occasionally are Mindy's snooty old high-school friend Susan (Morgan Fairchild) and the possibly insane Exidor (Robert Donner).

Storylines usually centered on Mork's attempts to understand human behavior and American culture as Mindy helps him to adjust to life on Earth. It usually ends up frustrating Mindy, as Mork can only do things according to Ork customs. For example, lying to someone, or not informing them it will rain is considered a practical joke (called "splinking") on Ork. At the end of each episode, Mork reports back to Orson on what he has learned about Earth. These end-of-show summaries allow Mork to comment humorously on social norms.

Mork's greeting was "Na-Nu Na-Nu" (pronounced /ˈnɑːn ˈnɑːn/ NAH-noo NAH-noo) along with a hand gesture similar to Mr. Spock's Vulcan salute from Star Trek combined with a handshake. It became a popular catchphrase at the time, as did "Shazbot" (/ˈʃɑːzbɒt/ SHAHZ-bot), an Orkan profanity that Mork used. Mork also said "KO" in place of "OK".

This series was Robin Williams' first major acting role and became famous for Williams' use of his manic improvisational comedic talent. Williams would make up so many jokes during filming that eventually, the scripts had specific gaps where Williams was allowed to perform freely. In many scenes, Dawber apparently had to bite her lip to avoid laughing and ruining the take.

The series was extremely popular in its first season. The Nielsen ratings were very high, ranking at 3, behind Laverne & Shirley (at 1) and Three's Company (at 2), both on ABC, which was the highest rated network in the US in 1978. The show even gained higher ratings than the series that spawned it, Happy Days, at 4.[3][4] However, the network management sought to improve the show in several ways. This was done in conjunction with what is known in the industry as counterprogramming, a technique in which a successful show is moved opposite a ratings hit on another network. The show was moved from Thursdays, where it outrated CBS' The Waltons, to Sundays where it replaced the cancelled sci-fi series Battlestar Galactica. The show then aired against two highly rated shows: NBC's anthology series titled The Sunday Big Event and CBS' revamped continuation of All in the Family titled Archie Bunker's Place.[3]

Second season[edit]

Robin Williams and Pam Dawber as Mork and Mindy

The second season saw an attempt to seek younger viewers and premiered a new disco arrangement of the gentle theme tune.

The characters of Fred and Cora were dropped from the regular cast. It was explained that Fred went on tour as a conductor with an orchestra, taking Cora with him. Fred and Cora made return appearances in later episodes. Recurring characters Susan and Eugene made no further appearances after season one and were never mentioned again.

New cast members were added. Among the new supporting characters were Remo and Jeanie DaVinci (Jay Thomas and Gina Hecht), a brother and sister from New York City who owned a new neighborhood deli where Mork and Mindy now spent a lot of time. Also added as regulars were their grumpy neighbor Mr. Bickley (who was seen occasionally in the first season and ironically worked as a verse writer for a greeting-card company), portrayed by Tom Poston, and Nelson Flavor (Jim Staahl), Mindy's snooty cousin who ran for city council.

The show's main focus was no longer on Mork's slapstick attempts to adjust to the new world he was in, but on the relationship between Mork and Mindy on a romantic level. Also, some of the focus was on Mork trying to find a steady-paying job to pay his own way and support each other.

Because of the abrupt changes to the show and time slot, ratings slipped dramatically (from 3 to 27). The show was quickly moved back to its previous timeslot and efforts were made to return to the core of the series; however, ratings did not recover.

Decline[edit]

Third season[edit]

For the third season, Jeanie, Remo, and Nelson were retained as regulars with Jeanie and Remo having opened a restaurant.

Mindy's father and grandmother returned to the series. The show acknowledged this attempt to restore its original premise, with the third season's hour-long opener titled Putting The Ork Back in Mork.

Several new supporting characters were added to the lineup. Joining were two children from the day-care center where Mork worked named Lola and Stephanie. Also added was Mindy's close friend Glenda Faye Comstock (Crissy Wilzak). Wilzak lasted one season as a regular.

When these ideas failed to improve ratings, many wilder ideas were tried to attempt to capitalize on Williams' comedic talents. The season ended at number 49 in the ratings.

Fourth season[edit]

Despite the show's steady decline, ABC agreed to a fourth season of Mork & Mindy, but executives wanted changes.

In the fourth season, Mork and Mindy were married. Jonathan Winters, one of Williams' idols, was brought in as their child, Mearth. Because of the different Orkan physiology, Mork laid an egg, which grew and hatched into the much older Winters.[5] Winters had previously appeared in a season 3 episode as Dave McConnell, (Mindy's uncle and Fred's brother).[6] It had been previously explained that Orkans aged "backwards", thus explaining Mearth's appearance and that of his teacher, Miss Geezba (portrayed by then 11-year-old actress Louanne Sirota). Other attempts included the use of special guest stars. Those changes failed to increase ratings, and the show ended at a dismal 60th place. After four seasons, and 95 episodes, Mork & Mindy was canceled.

Characters[edit]

  • Mork (portrayed by Robin Williams) - An alien from the planet Ork sent to observe human behavior. Mork mentions many times that Orkan scientists grew him in a test-tube.
  • Mindy McConnell (portrayed by Pam Dawber) - A female human who finds Mork and teaches him about human behavior. Eventually falls in love, marries Mork and raises an Orkan "child".
  • Fred McConnell (portrayed by Conrad Janis) - Mindy's father with conservative values. In the first season, Fred owned a music shop with Cora. In the third season, Fred became the conductor of the Boulder Symphony Orchestra.
  • Grandma Cora Hudson[7] (portrayed by Elizabeth Kerr) - Mindy's less-conservative, progressive grandmother.
  • Franklin Bickley (portrayed by Tom Poston) - Mindy's downstairs neighbor. He has a job involving writing out greeting cards.
  • Mearth (portrayed by Jonathan Winters) - The "child" of Mork and Mindy. Because of Orkan physiology, Orkans age backwards, starting with elderly adult bodies but with the mind of a child and regressing to feeble "old" kids.
  • Remo Davinci (portrayed by Jay Thomas) - The co-owner of The New York Delicatessen.
  • Jean Davinci (portrayed by Gina Hecht) - The sister of Remo Davinci and co-owner of The New York Delicatessen.
  • Nelson Flavor (portrayed by Jim Staahl) - The straight-laced cousin of Mindy with dreams of political power.
  • Orson (voiced by Ralph James) - Mork's mostly unseen and long-suffering superior who has sent Mork to Earth to get him off Ork because humor is not permitted on Ork.

Recurring characters[edit]

  • Susan Taylor (portrayed by Morgan Fairchild) - Mindy's snooty ex-friend from high school. In the episode, "Mork's First Christmas", a glimpse into why Susan is such a shallow person was shown. As she and Mindy are turning out the lights to the apartment, Susan comments that it seems like Mork's first Christmas, whereupon Mindy says that his family never celebrated Christmas. As Mindy enters her bedroom, Susan turns out the light saying (out of Mindy's earshot) "Mork and I have a lot in common" (This part of the scene is usually cut during reruns)..
  • Exidor (portrayed by Robert Donner) - An odd man (with possible mental illness) who regards himself as a prophet. He often appears wearing a flowing white robe with a brown sash. He recognizes Mork as an alien, but nobody believes him. As the leader of a cult called "The Friends of Venus", of which he was the only member, he regularly engaged in conversations with imaginary members of his cult (such as "Pepe" and "Rocco"), but was the only person who could see them. Most times he is found yelling at his imaginary cult. He makes the comment "Entourages can be the pits!". Later, since the Venusians had abandoned him, he began to worship O.J. Simpson. He also had a plan to become "Emperor of the Universe" by becoming a rock-star; his musical instrument of choice was the accordion. Exidor appears to be something of a squatter, as on at least two separate occasions he is present in homes not his own. Once Mork visited Exidor at a very nice apartment where he supposedly lived with his imaginary girlfriend and her twin sister. Another time, he is "on vacation" in Mindy's family home, where he apparently believed there was a beach in the living room closet. ("Everybody out of the water! Can't you see that fin?") He eventually got married, in a "forest" (Mindy's attic). Mindy thought his wife would be imaginary, but she turned out to be a real woman named Ambrosia. Exidor became highly popular with audiences and prompted wild applause from the studio audience when entering a scene.
  • Mr. Sternhagen (portrayed by Foster Brooks) - Mindy's boss when she got a job at a local TV station. He is overbearing and demanding of Mindy when sober, but occasionally turns up drunk and cheerful (Brooks was a comedian noted for his "drunk" act).
  • Glenda Faye Comstock (porytayed by Crissy Wilzak) - Mindy's friend.
  • Todd Norman "TNT" Taylor (portrayed by Bill Kirchenbauer) - An obnoxious and arrogant womanizer. He later teaches Mork to drive at the FastLane Driving School.
  • Cathy McConnell (portrayed by Shelley Fabares) - Fred's new younger wife and Mindy's stepmother.
  • Lola and Stephanie (portrayed by Amy Tenowich and Stephanie Kayano) - Two children from the daycare center Mork works at later in the series. Lola is a young philosopher and Stephanie is a chubby girl who loves to eat.
  • Billy (portrayed by Corey Feldman) - A daycare-center child, he wants to be like his namesake Billy the Kid. Mork introduces him to the Orkan hero Squellman the Yellow.
  • Eugene (portrayed by Jeffrey Jacquet) - A ten-year-old boy - taking music lessons from Cora - who befriends Mork.
  • Arnold Wanker (portrayed by Logan Ramsey) - The landlord of Fred and Mindy's music store.[8][9] He dies in Fred's music store, but Mork (misinterpreting the comments made to his wife) brings him back to life (a "one-in-a-billion" chance).

Connections to other shows[edit]

Actor-director Jerry Paris was inspired to create the character of Mork after directing an unusual and memorable episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, "It May Look Like A Walnut," in which Van Dyke's Rob Petrie has a dream wherein he believes the Earth has been surreptitiously invaded by walnut-eating aliens who stole humans's thumbs and imaginations.[10] (Series creator Carl Reiner had written the episode, which was the 20th in the show's second season and the 50th episode produced.) When he moved on to direct Happy Days, Paris introduced Mork in a similarly atypical season-five episode titled My Favorite Orkan.[10][11] In it, Richie tells everyone he has seen a flying saucer, but no one else believes him. Fonzie tells him that people make up stories about UFOs because their lives are "humdrum." Then while Richie is at home, Mork walks in. He freezes everyone with his finger except Richie and says he was sent to Earth to find a "humdrum" human to take back to Ork. Richie runs to Fonzie for help. When Mork catches up to him, he freezes everyone, but finds himself unable to freeze Fonzie because of The Fonz's famous and powerful thumbs. Mork challenges Fonzie to a duel: finger vs. thumb. After their duel, The Fonz admits defeat, and Mork decides to take Fonzie back to Ork instead of Richie. Then, Richie wakes up and realizes he was dreaming. There is a knock on the door and much to Richie's dismay, it is a man who looks exactly like Mork, except in regular clothes, asking for directions.

When production on Mork & Mindy began, an extra scene was filmed and added to this episode for subsequent reruns. In the scene, Mork contacts Orson and explains that he decided to let Fonzie go, and was going to travel to the year 1978 to continue his mission. In the pilot episode of Mork & Mindy, Orson tells Mork that he is assigning him to study the planet Earth. Mork remembers that he has been to Earth before to collect a specimen (Fonzie) but he "had to throw it back, though. Too small."

Fonzie and Laverne of Laverne & Shirley appeared in the first episode of the show. In this segment, Mork relays to Mindy his trip to 1950s Milwaukee where Fonzie sets Mork up on a date with Laverne.

Mork returned to Happy Days in the episode "Mork Returns" in which Mork tells Richie that he enjoys coming to the 1950s because life is simpler and more "humdrum" than in the 1970s. Fonzie sees Mork and immediately tries to run away, but Mork freezes him and makes him stay. He eventually lets him go, but not before Fonzie asks Mork to reveal two things about the future: "cars and girls." Mork's response is, "In 1979... both are faster." To this, the Fonz replies "Whoa!" The episode is mostly a retrospective in which clips are shown as Richie and Fonzie try to explain the concepts of love and friendship to Mork.

Mork also appears in the first episode of Out of the Blue, "Random's Arrival," as a crossover stunt. For all intents and purposes, Mork & Mindy and Out of the Blue are both spin-offs of Happy Days, even though the episode of Happy Days featuring Random, "Chachi Sells His Soul," aired nine days after the premiere of Out of the Blue.

DVD releases[edit]

Paramount Home Entertainment has released the first three seasons of Mork & Mindy on DVD in Regions 1, 2 and 4. The Region 1 DVD release of season 1 was from Paramount alone; subsequent releases in Region 1, as well as international season 1 releases, have been in conjunction with CBS DVD.

DVD name Episode No. Release dates
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season 25 September 7, 2004 October 29, 2007 September 19, 2007
The Second Season 26 April 17, 2007 April 7, 2008 March 6, 2008
The Third Season 22 November 27, 2007 September 1, 2008 September 4, 2008
The Fourth Season 22 TBA TBA TBA

Nielsen ratings/Broadcast history[edit]

Season Timeslot Rank Rating
1) 1978–1979 Thursday nights at 8:00 P.M. 3 28.6
2) 1979–1980 Sunday nights at 8:00 P.M. 27 20.2
3) 1980–1981 Thursday nights at 8:00 P.M. 49 N/A
4) 1981–1982 60 N/A

Primetime Emmy Award nominations[edit]

For its first season, Mork & Mindy was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards - Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Robin Williams. The program lost to Taxi and Williams lost to Carroll O'Connor for All in the Family.

Syndication[edit]

Mork & Mindy was syndicated off network by Paramount beginning in the Fall of 1982. The show's ratings in syndication were disastrous. By 1983 most stations that owned the show rested it much of the time running it in the summer, during which time weaker programming tended to air back then. Very few stations renewed the show a few years later.[citation needed] By 1987, the show only aired in a handful of TV markets. With the expansion of cable channels available, the show began airing on cable. Nick at Nite reran the show from March 4, 1991 to November 27, 1995.[12] The show has also aired on FOX Family Channel in the late 1990s. From 2008 to 2011, the show aired in marathons on SyFy.[13] It has aired in recent years on Me-TV and is now airing on Hub Network.

Filming locations[edit]

1619 Pine Street, Boulder, Colorado, the location used for the external shots of Mindy's house on Mork & Mindy

In an interview with Garry Marshall on June 30, 2006, Pat O'Brien mentioned that Mork & Mindy was filmed on Paramount stage 27, the former studio for his infotainment program The Insider.

The house from the show is located at 1619 Pine Street, just a few blocks away from the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. This was also used in the show as Mindy's actual address in Boulder, as shown in the episode, "Mork Goes Public". The same house was later used for exterior shots on the series Perfect Strangers in Episode 21 of Season 5, "This Old House", where the show's main characters, cousins Larry and Balki, remodel a home for a fix-and-flip in hopes of huge profits. Often mistaken, it was not the house the cousins moved into with their wives during the final two seasons. In addition, it was used in three episodes of Family Matters as Myra's house.[14][unreliable source?][original research?]

Spin-offs and adaptations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Special Collectors' Issue: 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time". TV Guide (June 28–July 4). 1997. 
  2. ^ "Robin Williams Biography". Biography Channel. Retrieved 27 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Brooks, Tim; Earl Marsh (2003). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-45542-8. 
  4. ^ Screen Source: Top TV Shows, 1970's
  5. ^ "TV Playbook: Let's Add a Kid!". IGN. Retrieved 2010-08-15. 
  6. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0651221/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_45
  7. ^ "Full cast and crew for "Mork & Mindy"". 
  8. ^ Mork & Mindy (TV). USA: Henderson Productions. 
  9. ^ "Mork & Mindy - To Tell the Truth". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 26 April 2011. 
  10. ^ a b Weissman, Ginny; Coyne Steven Sanders (1993). The Dick Van Dyke Show. Macmillan. p. 60. ISBN 0-312-08766-7. 
  11. ^ "Happy Days: My Favorite Orkan (1978)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-12-09. 
  12. ^ Nick at Nite Log - 1985-present
  13. ^ "Mork And Mindy finally being used on SyFy". Sitcoms Online. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  14. ^ "We're Going to Disney World (Part 2)", "Crazy For You (Part 1)", and "Crazier for You (Part 2)"

External links[edit]