Mork & Mindy
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Mork & Mindy
Robin Williams and Pam Dawber as Mork and Mindy
Format: Sitcom / Sci-Fi
Created by: Garry Marshall
Starring: Robin Williams, Pam Dawber, Elizabeth Kerr, Conrad Janis, Jeffrey Jacquet, Jay Thomas, Gina Hecht, Tom Poston, Jim Staahl, Jonathan Winters
Country of origin: United States
Number of episodes: 95
Production Running time: 24 - 25 Minutes
Broadcast Original channel: ABC
Original run: September 14, 1978 – May 27, 1982
Mork & Mindy was a sci-fi-based American sitcom broadcast from 1978 until 1982 on the ABC. The first episode was broadcast on September 14, 1978. The series starred Robin Williams as Mork, an alien who came to Earth in a large egg shaped space ship from the planet Ork, and Pam Dawber as Mindy McConnell, his human comedic foil.
Premise and initial success
The series was a spinoff of the sitcom Happy Days. The character of Mork first appeared in the season 5 episode, ''My Favorite Orkan,'' where he threatened to take Richie Cunningham back to Ork as an example of a human, but his plan is foiled by Fonzie. The character proved to be popular enough with the audience to rate a starring role in a series, though in the series Mork would reside near Boulder, Colorado, and in the (then) current day of 1978 as opposed to Happy Days' 1950s Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
After discovering Mork, Mindy promises to keep his true identity a secret and allows him to move into her attic. Complicating factors include Mindy's father, Fred (Conrad Janis), who expresses outrage that his daughter is living with a man. Fred's mother-in-law, Cora (Elizabeth Kerr), presents a much less conservative view, and approves of Mork and the living arrangement. Mindy and Cora also worked at Fred's record store with Cora giving music lessons to an African American teenager, Eugene (Jeffrey Jacquet). Storylines usually centered on Mork's attempts to understand human behavior and American culture as Mindy helps him to adjust to life on Earth. At the end of each episode, Mork must report back to Orson (voice of Ralph James), his Orkan supervisor, 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'' (sounds like Nah-Noo Nah-Noo) along with a hand gesture similar to Mr. Spock's Vulcan salute from Star Trek. It became a popular catchphrase at the time. This series was Robin Williams' first major acting break. It became famous for Williams' use of his manic improvisational comedic talent. Williams would make up so many jokes during filming, the scripts eventually had specific gaps where Williams was allowed to perform freely. In many scenes, Pam Dawber had to bite her lip to avoid laughing and ruining the filming.
Mindy and Mork demonstrate the Orkan greeting
The series was hugely popular in its first season. The Nielsen ratings were very high, ranking at #3 behind Laverne & Shirley (#1) and Three's Company (#2). The show even garnered higher ratings than the show that spawned it, Happy Days (#4). However, the network brass sought to ''improve'' the show in several ways. This was done in conjunction with what is known in the industry as counter programming, a technique in which a successful show is moved opposite a ratings hit on another network. The show was moved from Thursdays, where it soundly beat CBS' The Waltons, to Sundays, replacing Battlestar Galactica. The show now aired against two highly rated shows: NBC's anthology series The Sunday Big Event and CBS' Archie Bunker's Place, the revamped continuation of All in the Family.
The second season saw an attempt to seek younger viewers. The characters of Fred, Cora and Eugene were dropped. It was explained on the show that Fred was sent off to tour as a conductor with an orchestra, and he took Cora with him on the road. Eugene was never mentioned again. New cast members and a disco like version of the first season's gentle theme tune were added. Among the new supporting characters were Remo and Jean 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 portrayed by Tom Poston, (introduced in one episode of the first season), and, introduced a few episodes into the second season's run, 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 began to focus on the relationship between Mork and Mindy on a romantic level. The network executives also are rumored to have tried to get Pam Dawber to add ''jiggle'' by wearing padded bras and more revealing clothes. She refused, and Robin Williams supported her decision. The show's ratings fell tremendously. It was quickly moved back to its previous timeslot but the ratings never fully recovered. Several efforts were made to return to the core of the series. For the third season, Mindy's father and grandmother were brought back. The new characters, except Mr. Bickley, were dropped. (The show itself acknowledged this desperate attempt to fix its previous meddling, with the third season's hour-long opener aptly titled ''Putting The Ork Back in Mork'').
When this idea failed to improve ratings, many wilder ideas were tried to try and capitalize on Williams' comedic talents. In the fourth season, Mork and Mindy were married. Jonathan Winters, one of Williams' idols, was brought in as their child, Mearth. Due to the different Orkan physiology, Mork laid an egg, which grew and hatched into the much older Winters. It had been previously explained that Orkans aged ''backwards'', thus explaining Mearth's appearance. Other attempts included the use of special guest stars. In a two part second season episode, Raquel Welch appeared as Captain Nirvana of the Necrotons, an alien species of beautiful women that were enemies of the Orkans. There was even an episode where Mork meets Robin Williams. Mork and Mindy was cancelled after its fourth season, in 1982.
The Happy Days connection
Fonzie (Henry Winkler) arranges a date for Mork with Laverne (Penny Marshall). The character of Mork was introduced in an episode of Happy Days titled ''My Favorite Orkan.'' 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's 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 due to The Fonz's famous and powerful thumbs. Mork challenges Fonzie to a duel: Finger vs. Thumb. After their duel, The Fonz admits defeat. But 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.
Fonzie and Laverne of Laverne & Shirley appeared in the first episode of the show. In one segment, Mork returns to 1950s Milwaukee where Fonzie sets Mork up on a date with Laverne. Mork returned to Happy Days in an episode in 1979. 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.'' 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.
Four season story development
Mork arrived on Earth moments after Mindy argued with her boyfriend and he drove off with her jeep. Initially believing he is a priest, she asks Mork to walk her back home. Mindy then is startled to realize that Mork is not a priest and actually had put a men's business suit on backwards upon landing. However, the University of Colorado journalism student quickly realizes that he is actually telling the truth about being a friendly alien who will not hurt her. Mindy decides to let Mork stay with her. Initially, he takes up residence in a closet. Shortly afterward, Mindy decided he could stay in the attic over her second floor apartment; later we learned that Mr. Bickley lived downstairs. She stands up to her father, uncomfortable with cohabitation. Because he is so different, Mork needs a safe place to stay while on assignment to learn about Earth.
During the second season, Mindy's father went on tour with an orchestra, and Mindy had more involvement with her other relatives, including Nelson Flavor, who was ever ready to promote his political aspirations, and her friends Remo and Jean DaVinci, who ran a local deli. Fred returned in the third season, as did Cora Hudson, Mindy's grandmother, but Mork had gone ''native'', preferring to be called Morry; Mindy and Mork together called Orson to ask for help and an elder came to reindoctrinate Mork into Orkan behaviour. At the end of the third season, Mork married Mindy, although Ork had outlawed marriage; somehow, Orson came around and defended Mork's decision. In the fourth season, Mork laid an egg and it quickly matured and their son, Mearth, popped out. He developed quickly, and took a transporter beam to get to school on Ork each day.
While trying to call Orson, Mork crossed signals with another alien (Joe Regalbuto), who said his name was Kalnik, from Neptune. Kalnik, his Earth wife, Mork and Mindy got together to socialize, but Kalnik tipped his true feelings when he suggested to Mork that Earth presented opportunities for powerful aliens like themselves. Mindy overheard Kalnik and his wife say denigrating things about Mearth, Mork politely but firmly asked them to leave, and Kalnik turned on Mork. Although Mork tried to solve his problem by revealing his alien identity to Earth, Kalnik kept threatening them, trying to annihilate them. Mork used time travel shoes to escape with Mindy (with Mearth staying with Fred). Kalnik followed Mork and Mindy through time, but the series ended inconclusively, with Mork and Mindy falling through time, declaring their togetherness, and a cave drawing of Mork and Mindy being the last we see (since the previous battle with Kalnik took place in prehistoric times).
Exidor (Robert Donner), an eccentric man (with possible mental illness) who thought of himself as a prophet. He knew that Mork was an alien but no one believed him. He was the leader of a cult called The Friends of Venus, of which he was the only member. Later, since the Venusians had abandoned him, he began to worship O. J. Simpson.
Mr. Sternhagen (Foster Brooks), Mindy's boss when she got a job at a local TV station.
Glenda Faye Comstock, a wacky neighbor played by show producer Crissy Wilzak Comstock.
Todd Norman Taylor a.k.a. TNT (Bill Kirchenbauer), an obnoxious and unattractive womanizer.
Cathy (Shelley Fabares), Fred's new and much younger wife.
Lola (Amy Tenowich) and Stephanie (Stephanie Kayano), children from the day care center where Mork worked.