Mork & Mindy
|Mork & Mindy|
First season title card
|Theme music composer||Perry Botkin, Jr.|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||
91 (original run)|
95 (syndication) (list of episodes)
Antony W. Marshall|
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
Miller-Milkis Productions (1978-1981)
Miller-Milkis-Boyett Productions (1981-1982)
|Distributor||CBS Television Distribution|
|Original release||September 14, 1978 – May 27, 1982|
Love, American Style|
Laverne & Shirley|
Out of the Blue
Joanie Loves Chachi
Mork & Mindy is an American sitcom and a spin-off of Happy Days that aired on ABC from September 14, 1978 to May 27, 1982. It stars Robin Williams as Mork, an extraterrestrial who comes to Earth from the planet Ork in a small, one-Orkan egg-shaped spaceship. Pam Dawber co-stars as Mindy McConnell, his human friend and roommate.
Premise and initial success
The character of Mork is played by a then-unknown Robin Williams, who impressed producer Garry Marshall with his quirky comedic ability as soon as they met. When Williams was asked to take a seat at the audition, 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.
Mork appears in the Happy Days season five episode, "My Favorite Orkan", which first aired in February 1978 and is 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 be a dream that Richie had, but when Mork proved so popular, the ending was re-edited to show Mork erasing the experience from everyone's minds, thus meaning the event had actually happened and was not a dream.
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). Orson has sent Mork to get him off Ork, where humor is not permitted. Attempting to fit in, Mork dresses in an Earth suit, but wears it backward. Landing in Boulder, Colorado, he encounters 21-year-old Mindy (Pam Dawber), who is upset after an argument with her boyfriend, and offers assistance. Because of his odd garb, she mistakes him for a priest and is taken in by his willingness to listen (in fact, simply observing her behavior). When Mindy notices his backward 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 violin lessons to Eugene (Jeffrey Jacquet), a 10-year-old boy 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 center 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 Orkan 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 humorously comment on social norms.
Mork's greeting is "Na-Nu Na-Nu" (pronounced / /) 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" (//), an Orkan profanity that Mork uses. Mork says "KO" in place of "OK".
This series is Robin Williams' first major acting role and became famous for Williams' use of his manic improvisational comedic talent. Williams made up so many jokes during filming, eventually scripts had specific gaps where Williams was allowed to freely perform. Pam Dawber found him so funny that she had to bite her lip in many scenes to avoid breaking up in laughter 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 U.S. in 1978. The show gained higher ratings than the Happy Days series that had spawned it, at 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 canceled 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.
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.
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.
For the third season, Jeanie, Remo, and Nelson were retained as regulars with Jeanie and Remo having opened a restaurant. Nelson was no longer into politics and wore more causal clothes.
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), a lovely young widow whom Nelson falls for. 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.
Despite the show's steady decline, ABC agreed to a fourth season of Mork & Mindy, but executives wanted changes. The show began to include special guest stars this year.
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. Winters had previously appeared in a season 3 episode as Dave McConnell (Mindy's uncle and Fred's brother). 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). After four seasons and 95 episodes, Mork & Mindy was canceled in the summer of 1982. The show ended at 60th place at season's end.
- Mork (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 (Pam Dawber) — A pretty female human who finds Mork and teaches him about human behavior. Eventually falls in love, marries Mork and raises an Orkan "child".
- Fred McConnell (Conrad Janis) — Mindy's father, a widower 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 (Elizabeth Kerr) — Mindy's less-conservative, progressive grandmother and Fred's mother-in-law.
- Franklin Delano Bickley (Tom Poston) — Mindy's downstairs neighbor. He has a job involving writing out greeting cards. At first, he is a total grump and always complains about noise. In time, however, he warms up and becomes a friend to Mork and Mindy and the gang.
- Mearth (Jonathan Winters) — The "child" of Mork and Mindy and godson of Orson. 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 (Jay Thomas) — The brother of Jean Davinci co-owner of The New York Delicatessen in season 2 and Davinci's Restaurant in season 3.
- Jean Davinci (Gina Hecht) — The sister of Remo Davinci and co-owner of The New York Delicatessen in season 2 and Davinci's Restaurant in season 3.
- Nelson Flavor (Jim Staahl) — The strait-laced, driven, yet aloof 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-world because humor is not permitted on Ork.
- Susan Taylor (Morgan Fairchild) — Mindy's snooty ex-friend from high school who was only seen in Season 1. In the episode "Mork's First Christmas", a glimpse into why Susan is such a shallow person was shown.
- Exidor (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 when Mork encountered him at the Boulder Police Station. 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. Miles Sternhagen (Foster Brooks) — Mindy's boss when she gets a job at a local TV station. He is overbearing and demanding of Mindy when sober, but occasionally turns up drunk and cheerful (per Brooks' famous "drunk" act).
- Glenda Faye Comstock (Crissy Wilzak) — Mindy's friend and recent widow who becomes the love interest of Nelson and was only seen in Season 3.
- Todd Norman "TNT" Taylor (Bill Kirchenbauer) — An obnoxious and arrogant womanizer. He later teaches Mork to drive at the FastLane Driving School.
- Cathy McConnell (Shelley Fabares) — Fred's new younger wife and Mindy's stepmother seen in Seasons 2-4.
- Lola and Stephanie (Amy Tenowich and Stephanie Kayano) — Two children from the daycare center Mork works at later in the series during Season 3. Lola is a young philosopher and Stephanie is a chubby girl who loves to eat.
- Billy (Corey Feldman) — A daycare-center child who appeared during Season 3. He wants to be like his namesake Billy the Kid. Mork introduces him to the Orkan hero Squellman the Yellow.
- Bebo — Mork's ball-of-fur pet who spoke Orkan gibberish and was introduced and only seen in Season 3. He was occasionally seen around the house and stood by Mork during his reports to Orson.
- Eugene (Jeffrey Jacquet) — A ten-year-old boy who takes violin lessons from Cora and befriends Mork during his appearances in Season 1.
- Arnold Wanker (Logan Ramsey) — The landlord of Fred and Mindy's music store during Season 1. 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
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 titled "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 steal humans' thumbs and imaginations. 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. 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." 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.
Paramount Home Entertainment has released the entire series of Mork & Mindy on DVD in Region 1 in both individual season sets and a complete series configuration, while the first three seasons are available in Regions 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.
Nielsen ratings/Broadcast history
|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|
Primetime Emmy Award nominations
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.
Mork & Mindy was syndicated off network by Paramount beginning in the Fall of 1982, to low ratings. By 1983, most stations that owned the show rested it much of the year running it only in the summer, when weaker programming tended to air. Few stations renewed the show a few years later. 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. The show has also aired on FOX Family Channel in the late 1990s. From 2008 to 2011, the show aired in marathons on SyFy. It has aired in subsequent years on Me-TV, the Hub Network and various other classic television stations airing on various digital subchannels. The show currently airs on Antenna TV
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. As of July 2016, the house was valued at $1.9 million, with a last sale date of 1974 for US $80,000 (equivalent to $385,000 in 2015).
Spin-offs and adaptations
- In the United Kingdom, a long-running comic strip version was written by Angus P. Allan, illustrated by Bill Titcombe, and printed in children's television magazine, Look-In. Several British-produced annuals were also released that tied in with the series.
- A subsequent Saturday morning cartoon titled Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour ran on ABC from 1982 to 1983. The Mork & Mindy segments were a prequel with Mindy as a student in high school. The character of Eugene returned in this spin-off voiced by Shavar Ross.
- In 2005, a made-for-television movie titled Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy aired on NBC. Chris Diamantopoulos portrayed Robin Williams, Erinn Hayes portrayed Pam Dawber and Daniel Roebuck portrayed producer Garry Marshall. The movie depicts Williams' instant stardom and behind the scenes turmoil that the cast and crew would have with the network.
- In 1979, a short-lived Brazilian version of the series appeared as Superbronco. It was produced by Rede Globo and starred comedian Ronald Golias and actress Liza Vieira.
- List of Mork & Mindy episodes
- My Favorite Martian
- Out of This World
- 3rd Rock from the Sun
- The Neighbors
- Marvin Marvin
- "Robin Williams Biography". Biography Channel. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
- Brooks, Tim; Earl Marsh (2003). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
- "Screen Source: Top TV Shows, 1970's". Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- "TV Playbook: Let's Add a Kid!". IGN. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
- "Full cast and crew for "Mork & Mindy"".
- "Mork & Mindy - To Tell the Truth". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
- Weissman, Ginny; Coyne Steven Sanders (1993). The Dick Van Dyke Show. Macmillan. p. 60. ISBN 0-312-08766-7.
- "Happy Days: My Favorite Orkan (1978)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-12-09.
- "Mork & Mindy DVD news: Announcement for The 4th Season and The Complete Series - TVShowsOnDVD.com". Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- "Mork & Mindy: Complete Collection [DVD]". Retrieved 10 January 2016.
- Nick at Nite Log - 1985-present
- "Mork And Mindy finally being used on SyFy". Sitcoms Online. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
- "We're Going to Disney World (Part 2)", "Crazy For You (Part 1)", and "Crazier for You (Part 2)"
- "1619 Pine St, Boulder, CO 80302". zillow.com. Retrieved 4 July 2016.