Mork & Mindy

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Mork & Mindy
Mork & Mindy.jpg
First season title card
GenreScience fiction sitcom
Created byGarry Marshall
Dale McRaven
Joe Glauberg
StarringRobin Williams
Pam Dawber
Elizabeth Kerr
Conrad Janis
Tom Poston
Jay Thomas
Gina Hecht
Jim Staahl
Crissy Wilzak
Jonathan Winters
Theme music composerPerry Botkin, Jr.
Country of originUnited States
Language(s)English
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes95 (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 setupMulti-camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production company(s)Henderson Productions
Miller-Milkis Productions
Paramount Television
DistributorCBS Television Distribution
Broadcast
Original channelABC
Audio formatMonaural
Original runSeptember 14, 1978 (1978-09-14) – May 27, 1982 (1982-05-27)
Chronology
Preceded byLove, American Style
Happy Days
Related showsLaverne & Shirley
Blansky's Beauties
Out of the Blue
Joanie Loves Chachi
 
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Mork & Mindy
Mork & Mindy.jpg
First season title card
GenreScience fiction sitcom
Created byGarry Marshall
Dale McRaven
Joe Glauberg
StarringRobin Williams
Pam Dawber
Elizabeth Kerr
Conrad Janis
Tom Poston
Jay Thomas
Gina Hecht
Jim Staahl
Crissy Wilzak
Jonathan Winters
Theme music composerPerry Botkin, Jr.
Country of originUnited States
Language(s)English
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes95 (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 setupMulti-camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production company(s)Henderson Productions
Miller-Milkis Productions
Paramount Television
DistributorCBS Television Distribution
Broadcast
Original channelABC
Audio formatMonaural
Original runSeptember 14, 1978 (1978-09-14) – May 27, 1982 (1982-05-27)
Chronology
Preceded byLove, American Style
Happy Days
Related showsLaverne & Shirley
Blansky's Beauties
Out of the Blue
Joanie Loves Chachi

Mork & Mindy is an American science fiction 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]

Contents

Broadcast history

Premise and initial success

The series was a spin-off from the sitcom Happy Days. The character of Mork, played by a then-unknown Robin Williams, 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 (though all this turned out to be simply a dream Richie had). The Mork character proved to be popular enough with the audience to go forward with the planned series of his own.

In Mork & Mindy, Mork resides in the present-day city of Boulder, Colorado, of the late-1970s and early-1980s (as opposed to the late-1950s setting of Happy Days).

Mork's egg-shaped spacecraft lands on Earth with a mission to observe human behavior. Mork is assigned his mission by Orson, his mostly-unseen and long-suffering superior (voiced by Ralph James), who has sent Mork to Earth to get him off Ork, due to the fact that humor is not permitted on Ork. To fit in, Mork dresses in Earth clothing (a suit, which he wears backwards). He befriends 21-year old Mindy (Pam Dawber) after she is stranded one evening after an argument with her boyfriend. Mork offers assistance, and Mindy, not seeing his back or the on-backwards suit, assumes he is a priest, mistaking his wardrobe gaffe for a priest's collar. Mindy is taken by Mork's willingness to listen (unknown to her, he is simply observing her behavior as part of his mission), and the two become friends. They walk back to her apartment, when Mindy sees his backwards suit and Mork's rather unconventional behavior for a priest. She asks him who he really is, and the innocent Mork, having not learned how to lie, tells her the truth.

After discovering Mork is an alien, Mindy promises to keep his true identity a secret and allows him to move into her attic. However, Mindy's father, Fred (Conrad Janis), expresses outrage that his daughter is living with a man (particularly one as bizarre as Mork). 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 work at Fred's music store where Cora gives music lessons to a young child named Eugene (Jeffrey Jacquet), who becomes Mork's friend. Also seen occasionally were Mindy's snooty old friend from high school Susan (played by Morgan Fairchild) and the possibly-insane Exidor (played by 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 "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" (Shozz-bot), an Orkan profanity that Mork used. Mork also said "kay-o" in place of okay.

This series was Robin Williams' first major acting break 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.[2][3] 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 now aired against two highly-rated shows: NBC's anthology series entitled The Sunday Big Event and CBS' revamped continuation of All in the Family entitled Archie Bunker's Place.[2]

Second season

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 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 (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.

Due to 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; unfortunately ratings did not recover.

Decline

Third season

For the third season, Jean, Remo, and Nelson were retained as regulars with Jean 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 #49 in the ratings.

Fourth season

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. Due to the different Orkan physiology, Mork laid an egg, which grew and hatched into the much older Winters.[4] 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. Unfortunately, those changes failed to increase ratings, and the show ended at a dismal #60. After four seasons, and 95 episodes, Mork & Mindy was canceled.

Characters

Recurring characters

Happy Days connection

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 in which van Dyke's Rob Petrie believed the Earth had been surreptitiously invaded by walnut-eating aliens who stole humans' thumbs and imaginations.[8] When he moved on to direct Happy Days, he introduced Mork in a similarly atypical season-five episode entitled My Favorite Orkan.[8][9] 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'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, 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's 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 a 1979 episode 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 which 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.

DVD releases

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 nameEp#Release dates
Region 1Region 2Region 4
The Complete First Season25September 7, 2004October 29, 2007September 19, 2007
The Second Season26April 17, 2007April 7, 2008March 6, 2008
The Third Season22November 27, 2007September 1, 2008September 4, 2008
The Fourth Season22TBATBATBA

Nielsen ratings/Broadcast history

SeasonTimeslotRankRating
1) 1978–1979Thursday nights at 8:00 P.M.#328.6
2) 1979–1980Sunday nights at 8:00 P.M.#2720.2
3) 1980–1981Thursday nights at 8:00 P.M.#49N/A
4) 1981–1982#60N/A

Syndication

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.[10] The show has also aired on FOX Family Channel in the late 1990s. It has aired in recent years on Me-TV and is now airing on The Hub.

Filming locations

1619 Pine Street, Boulder, Colorado was 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.[11][unreliable source?][original research?]

Spin-offs and adaptations

See also

References

External links