Mork & Mindy is an American sitcom that aired on ABC from September 14, 1978 to May 27, 1982. A spin-off after a highly successful episode of Happy Days, it starred 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-starred as Mindy McConnell, his human friend and roommate, and later his wife and the mother of his child.
|Mork & Mindy|
First season title card
|Theme music composer||Perry Botkin, Jr.|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes|
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Distributor||Paramount Domestic Television|
CBS Television Distribution
|Original release||September 14, 1978 –|
May 27, 1982
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Nielsen ratings|
|First aired||Last aired||Rank||Rating|
|1||25||September 14, 1978||May 10, 1979||3||28.6|
(Tied with Happy Days)
|2||26||September 16, 1979||May 1, 1980||27||20.2|
|3||22||November 13, 1980||May 14, 1981||49||N/A|
|4||22||October 8, 1981||May 27, 1982||60||N/A|
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. Marshall was looking for an actor for an episode of Happy Days. 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. The show wanted to feature a spaceman in order to capitalize on the popularity of the then recently released Star Wars film. 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 in the syndicated version 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 & Mindy is set in Boulder, Colorado, in the then present-day late 1970s and early 1980s (as opposed to the Happy Days setting of Milwaukee in the late-1950s). Mork explains to Richie that he is from the "future": the 1970s.
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 /ˈnɑːnuː ˈnɑːnuː/) 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" (/ˈʃæzbɒt/), an Orkan profanity that Mork uses. Mork says "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 made up so many jokes during filming that were considered superior to the writing staff's contributions that 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, often a difficult task with Williams' talent.
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's 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's 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 casual 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.
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.
|DVD name||Episodes||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||December 9, 2014||TBA||TBA|
|The Complete Series||95||December 9, 2014||December 15, 2014||TBA|
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 1984, 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).
|TV series created|
|Robert L. Boyett|
1 This series began being produced under the Miller-Milkis-Boyett banner beginning with the 1980–81 television season.