|Mork & Mindy|
Seasons 2 and 4 logo.
Country / Launguage
USA / English
95 / 4 seasons
Original Network Run:
September 14, 1978 -
Garry Marshall & Antony W. Marshall
Mork & Mindy is an American science fiction-based sitcom TV series broadcast from 1978 until 1982 on Syndication. The first episode was broadcast on the network for a total of 95 episodes, from September 14, 1978 to May 27, 1982. The series starred Robin Williams as Mork, an alien who came to Earth from the planet Ork in a large egg-shaped space ship, and Pam Dawber as Mindy McConnell, his human friend, roommate, and wife after they married in the final season.
- 1 First Season and success
- 2 Second season
- 3 Third season
- 4 The Happy Days connection
- 5 Four-season story development
- 6 The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour animated series
- 7 Recurring characters
- 8 Filming locations
- 9 Spin-offs and adaptations
- 10 Episodes
- 11 DVD releases
- 12 References
- 13 External links
First Season and success
The series was a spinoff of the sitcom Happy Days. The character of Mork (Robin Williams) 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 in Boulder, Colorado, and in the (then) current day of 1978 as opposed to Happy Days' 1950s Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Mork's egg-shaped spacecraft lands on Earth, with his mission to observe human activity, assigned by Orson, his mostly-unseen and long-suffering superior (voiced by Ralph James), who has sent Mork to Earth to get Mork off Ork. To fit in, Mork dresses in a suit - but with the tie, shirt, and coat all on backwards. He befriends Mindy (Pam Dawber) after witnessing her and her boyfriend getting into an argument and him driving off in her vehicle, leaving her stranded. Mork offers assistance, and Mindy, not seeing his back or the on-backwards suit, assumes he's a priest judging simply by looking at him from the front, mistaking his wardrobe gaffe for a priest's collar. Mindy is taken in by Mork's willingness to listen (unknown to her, he's simply observing her behavior as part of his mission), and the two become friends. The two 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 apartment's 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 a black pre-teenager, Eugene (Jeffrey Jacquet) when both are introduced—Cora's role in the series was limited to comic counter-points never carrying much plot development. Eugene, played an occasional plot role as a Mork confidant who gave views or advice which then created the conflict-resolution of the episode. 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 on what he has learned about Earth. These end-of-show summaries allow Mork to comment humorously on social norms.
Mork's greeting was "Nanu nanu" (pronounced "nah-noo nah-noo", sometimes spelt Nanoo Nanoo) 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 curse word that Mork used. Mork also said "kay-o" in place of okay.
This series was Robin Williams' first major acting break. It became famous for Williams' use of his manic improvisational comedic talent. However, it is Untrue that scripts ever left gaps for Williams to ad-lib at will. As many of the writers and Director Howard Storm has often pointed out, it is impossible to shoot a show that way, as the other actors can't react to someone constantly ad-libbing freely, and the cameramen have to be able to know where to go in advance to properly shoot the show. Full Scripts were assiduously created by the talented writing team, and over the course of the first table read through, through final rehearsal on a Thursday, a creative process would occur where Williams (and other members of the cast) could improv or suggest other jokes in place of the ones that were there. Over the course of the week Robin Williams might come up with two or three alternatives to various lines, and play with the props coming up with new 'moments', causing constant rewrites. However by Thursday's full rehearsal any final changes were locked in as the show had to be blocked for the cameras, in order to follow the actors/characters and the plot, and the other cast, especially Pam Dawber had to be able to move the scenes along to cover the plot. So while shooting on a Friday Robin might occasionally throw in an ad-lib, or a riff, it wasn't constant, and if it wasn't better than what was in the script it didn't go in.
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 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 out rated 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 effectively dropped, though Fred and Cora would both appear briefly in later episodes, including Fred's returning with a bride. 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. All this was done without the knowledge of the primary cast members, Robin Williams & Pam Dawber, and Howard Storm who was the de factor director of the show, and by the time the returned from the hiatus it was effectively a done deal.
Ostensibly the reason given was that the support characters of Cora & Fred skewed old, that Mindy (and by default Mork) had no friends her own age, and that Cora & Fred were 'weak' characters. All this was acknowledged by the writers, but they took the blame for this feeling they had not done right by Conrad Janis or Elizabeth Kerr, spending too much time primarily on Mork to allow the other characters to more full develop beyond adjuncts. And this problem also affected the new cast members, proving that age was not the issue.
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 DaVinci and sister and Jean DaVinci (Jay Thomas and Gina Hecht), a brother and sister from New York City who owned a new neighborhood deli, the New York Delicatessen, where Mork and Mindy now spent a lot of time. Also added as regulars were their grumpy neighbor Mr. Bickley (who ironically worked as a verse writer for a greeting-card company) 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 Mork's attempts to find a place within it, with his near constant stream of new jobs bringing him into new situations. In part Robin Williams no longer wanting to play the character the same way (feeling it made Mork look stupid if he wasn't learning as he went) played a part in this shift, either directly or indirectly, bringing a more knowing aspect to the character.
Moving the show with the intent of trying to win over a more mature audience in those who watched All In the Family / Archie Bunkers Place backfired as not only did an audience that was never going to be interested in viewing the zany antics of an alien move from a realism heavy sticom, but the show lost a chunk of their existing fan base (especially college students) by moving to a Sunday night from Thursdays. Due to the new timeslot and the abrupt changes to the show's cast, Mork & Mindy's ratings took a sharp tumble. It was quickly moved back to its previous timeslot but the ratings never fully recovered.
One of the responses by the network execs was the introduction of 'the jiggle factor' the network jargon for T&A...which resulted in probably some of the most unpopular episodes ever to air, Mork vs. The Necrotons and Hold That Mork, featuring Raquel Welch, Playboy Bunnies, and Cheerleaders. The Network were also rumored to have pressurized Pam Dawber into wearing padded bras and more revealing clothes. She refused, and Robin Williams and Garry Marshall supported her decision.
For the third season, Mindy's father and (eventually) her grandmother were brought back and added along with Jean and Remo, Bickley, and Nelson. In addition, another old friend of Mindy's, Glenda Faye Comstock (Crissy Wilzack) was added to bring a touch of the glamour Morgan Fairchild's Susan Taylor had brought in Season One, but without the cattiness, and also provided a love interest of sorts for Mindy's cousin, Nelson.
The show itself acknowledged the need to fix the previous meddling, with the third season's hour-long opener aptly titled "Putting The Ork Back in Mork". Mork's previous season long job hunt was resolved quickly (and ideally!) by his landing a job at a Day Care Centre working with young children, other supporting cast additions included two kids from the day-care center Mork worked, the intellectual Lola and the bright but gluttonous Stephanie. (Possible replacements for the character of Eugene.)
There was also a return to more of the gentle romanticism between Mork & Mindy, something that progressed through the season in tandem with the biggest character evolution of the season, that of Mindy's finally landing her first job in journalism and starting her career in earnest, something which gave Mork new opportunities (there was even an episode where Mork meets Robin Williams) and issues to navigate in their relationship. By season's end both would have hurdled these obstacles, and in a touching finale, finally declared their feelings for one another.
While the Season succeeded in calling back to the first season, ratings did not improve, and prior to the 4th season it was decided on the back of Garry Marshall's decision to make the next season broader, to both reinvigorate and capitalize on Williams' comedic talents.
In the fourth season, based on the outcome of the Season Three finale, Mork went down on bended knee and proposed to Mindy. The culmination of their romance, the difficulties surrounding their engagement, wedding, honeymoon and unexpected pregnancy all provided a ratings rise, for the show, and had they been less condensed it may have suited the show better. The reason however for the swiftness was the impending arrival of comedy legend Jonathan Winters to the cast.
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 and that of his teacher, Miss Geezba (portrayed by then 11-year-old actress Louanne). The choice of making Winters, who had appeared just the season before as Mindy's Uncle, to play their fully grown yet infant son, meant yet another major overhaul to the cast, both to create room for his character, and because their friends could not obviously interact with Mearth without finding out about Mork. So out went Remo, Jeanie and Nelson...with Mr. Bickley and Glenda Faye only appearing in one episode each. Fred & Cora became the only regular recurring characters.
While Winters himself was nothing short of hilarious, the character of Mearth unbalanced both the central relationship and the focus of the show, the latter increasingly becoming the raising of a child, and even allowing for it being one as strange as Winters, the show suffered as most sitcoms do when that becomes the pivot. Losing the supporting characters again, also gave a feeling of a show being untethered. And towards the end of the season, it was decided to try and return to more of a Sci-Fi element and add (more than) a hint of danger by providing Mork with a malicious 'observer gone bad' nemesis, Kalnik (Joe Regalbuto) intent on either using him or killing him, and forcing his exposure to the world. Designed to be a cliffhanger that would lead into Season 5.
However, due to the continuing ratings slide, Mork and Mindy was canceled after its fourth season, on May 27, 1982, with the final episode (rather more by luck than design somewhat appropriately) being the swapped around episode The Mork Report, which focused on the relationship of Mork & Mindy, and why it worked, and seeing Mork get a deserved promotion for his served time on Earth.
The Happy Days connection
The character of Mork was introduced in a season five 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 arrives on Earth moments after Mindy has argued with her boyfriend and he drives off with her jeep. Initially believing Mork is a priest, she asks him to walk her back home. Mindy then is startled to realize that Mork is not a priest and has actually put a man's business suit on backwards upon landing. However, she quickly realizes that he is 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 decides he can stay in the attic over her second-floor apartment; later we learn that Mr. Bickley lives 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. Reinvigorated by the possibilities out there, Mindy returns to the University of Colorado to take up her studies as a journalism student, continuing to work at the Music Store part time.
During the second season, Mindy's father goes on tour with an orchestra, and Cora decides to go with him. Mindy continues her studies, but has to work on a more piecemeal basis thanks to the closure of the store, and as a result both she and Mork have more involvement with her other relatives, including Nelson Flavor, the son of her rich aunt (and evidently Cora's other daughter) who is ever ready to promote his political aspirations. They also make new friends in Remo and Jean DaVinci, a brother and sister newly moved from the Bronx, who run the New York Deli on the Pearl Street Mall.
At the beginning of the Third season Remo had traded up for a full on Restaurant Da Vinci's in a new corner location, not on the Mall where the Deli had been. An old friend of Mindy's the young and wealthy widow, Glenda Faye Comstock, is introduced. Fred returns in the third season, as eventually does Cora Hudson, Mindy's grandmother, but Mork has gone "native", preferring to be called Mory; Mindy and Mork together call Orson to ask for help and the most ancient of all Orks Elders appears to re-indoctrinate Mork into Orkan behavior. The biggest change comes when Mindy lands her first job at KTNS as an assistant manager and part time news anchor, which opens up new opportunities for both her and Mork and provides new obstacles for them, as her career changes how they interact, leading to an evolution in their relationship.
At the beginning of the final season, Mork proposes to and marries Mindy, although Ork has outlawed marriage. It is allowed to happen, probably due to the effect that Mindy has had on influential Orkans such as The Ancient One/The Elder and Xerko, through the season as well as the revealed popularity of Mork's reports to Ork itself, along with Mindy's being willing to marry Mork even after Orson has turned him into a dog. Orson reverses Mork's punishment, even allowing them to Honeymoon on Ork. After the wedding, a successful honeymoon and a happy month of marriage, Mindy somehow manages to impregnate Mork, who lays an egg and within 24 hours it grows to vast proportions and hatches to reveal their son, Mearth. He develops quickly, walking and talking within a day, and within a month or so starts to take a transporter beam to get to school on Ork.
While trying to call Orson, Mork crosses signals with another alien (Joe Regalbuto), who says his name is Kalnik, from Neptune. Kalnik, his Earth wife Tracy, Mork and Mindy get together to socialize, but Kalnik reveals his true intentions when he suggests to Mork that Earth presents opportunities for powerful aliens like themselves. Mindy overhears Kalnik and his wife say denigrating things about Mearth; Mork firmly asks them to leave, and Kalnik turns on Mork. Although they think they have overcome him, Kalnik has informed the government agency he infiltrated that it is Mork who is the alien who wants to try and take over the Earth. And in order to protect himself and his family, and despite it being Mindy's greatest fear since his arrival on Earth, Mork tries to solve his problem by revealing his alien identity to Earth, Kalnik returns however, trying to annihilate Mork and Mindy, and Mork uses time-travel shoes to escape with Mindy. Kalnik follows Mork and Mindy through time, but the series ends inconclusively, with Mork and Mindy falling through time, declaring their togetherness, a cave drawing of Mork and Mindy being the last thing we see (since the previous battle with Kalnik takes place in prehistoric times). Or at least that is how it was intended to end, before the shows cancellation, had there been a Season 5 their time journeying would have continued.
The show actually ended with, Mork & Mindy returned to their own time, and Mork mid report from the outset of the episode, bucking for promotion from Orson, relaying four vignettes about why his relationship with Mindy works so well, finishing with the couple happy and contented, and Mork 'earning his stripes'.
The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour animated series
Following the cancellation of the live-action series, the characters quickly returned in the Saturday morning cartoon The Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour. 26 episodes were produced, each running roughly ten minutes (without commercials). Robin Williams (Mork), Pam Dawber (Mindy McConnell), Conrad Janis (Fred McConnell) and Ralph James (Orson) all reprised their roles and Shavar Ross voiced Eugene. Laverne, Shirley and Fonzie did not appear in the Mork & Mindy segments, though Mork mentioned Fonzie being a TV character in one episode.
In this show, a younger Mork and Mindy attended high school, and new characters included Mork's dog-like pet Doing (pronounced Doyng), rich snob Hamilton J. DuPont XXV, and Mr. Caruthers, the Mt. Mount High School principal.
The series was produced by TV animation companies Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears.
- Susan Taylor (Morgan Fairchild)- Mindy's old high school nemisis, a sort of "frenemy" who at first tries to seduce Mork, but winds up inginting the relationship with Mork and Mindy instead.
- Exidor (Robert Donner) - a lunatic street preacher 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.
- Miles Sternhagen (Foster Brooks), Mindy's boss when she got a job at a local TV station.
- 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 Taylor a.k.a. "TNT" - (Bill Kirchenbauer), an obnoxious and unattractive womanizer.
- Cathy McConnell (Shelley Fabares) - Fred's new young wife.
- Two specific children from the day care center Mork worked at; Lola (Amy Tenowich), the young philosopher, and Stephanie (Stephanie Kayano), the acerbic chubby-faced Asian who loves to eat.
In an interview with Garry Marshall on June 30, 2006, Pat O'Brien mentioned that Mork & Mindy was filmed on Paramount stage 27, now the home of O'Brien's show 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.
The same house was used for exterior shots on Perfect Strangers, where the cousins Larry and Balki lived with their wives.
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 a teen's television magazine Look-In.
- There were also several British-produced annuals to tie in with the series.
- British television has featured two very similar situation comedies. The first was children's comedy series Mike and Angelo, running from 1989 to 2000. Angelo was an alien who came down to Earth and befriended young boy Mike. He shared many of Mork's misunderstandings and curiosities about human life, and like Mork, lived in a wardrobe.
- The second similar British series is My Hero (more closely based on Superman series of the 1950s), which began in 2000.
- In 2005, a TV-movie titled Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Mork & Mindy aired on NBC.
- In 1979, there was a short-lived Brazilian version titled Superbronco. It was produced by Rede Globo, starring comedian Ronald Golias and actress Liza Vieira.
- Nike SB released a Mork & Mindy colorway Dunk, following the colors of Mork's spacesuit.
- Two of Mork's phrases became the final words spoken by AC/DC frontman Bon Scott on his last album, the 1979 Highway to Hell before his death in February 1980. At the end of the last song on the LP, Night Prowler, Scott says, "Shazbot, na-nu na-nu".
- The episode featuring the character Arnold Wanker was extensively edited when transmitted on the British network ITV as the word wanker, although a reasonably recognizable surname in the United States and of German origin, is in British English a vulgar term for a person who masturbates. When the episode was repeated on the more liberal Channel Four, some years later no alterations were made.
- The show was spoofed in the 1979 pornographic film Playthings, which features Dork (Larry Davis) coming to Earth to learn about sex from Cindy (Starr Wood).
Paramount Home Entertainment and Syndication DVD have released the first three seasons of Mork & Mindy on DVD in Regions 1, 2 and 4.