A wacky alien comes to Earth to study its residents, and the life of the human woman he boards with is never the same.
30 min (95 episodes), Argentina:30 min
1.33 : 1
Alien, Music Store, Space, Miniature People, Happy Days Spin Off
Has Detailed Data (New)
1, 2, 3, 6
Benign Aliens, Fish Out of Water
Silly, Fanciful, Sweet, Goofy
Has Detailed Data (New)
TV Show Status
Country Of Origin
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 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.
Premise and initial success
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, Willams 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 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, because 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. 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.
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.
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; unfortunately ratings did not recover.
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.
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. 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 #60. After four seasons, and 95 episodes, Mork & Mindy was canceled.
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