October 20, 1978
Last night I watched morK and mindy.
Last night I too watched Mork & Mindy, young me. The very same one you did, in fact.
"Mork Goes Public" was only the sixth episode of the show, already on its way to smash hit status (it ranked #3 overall for the 1978-79 TV season).
The plot: After overhearing Mindy and her father daydreaming about what they would do with a $25,000 reward for evidence of alien life on Earth, Mork selflessly turns himself in for the money so they can fix the plumbing and save their music store*.
It was better than it sounds.
Despite bearing some of the cheesier hallmarks of the era’s sitcoms, the episode remains refreshingly cute and breezy**. It’s easy to see why both Robin Williams and Mork (who’s both a fully ensouled character and an excuse for Williams to be Williams) became instant stars. It’s also a nice reminder that once upon a time, Robin Williams’ cocaine-fueled, hyperlink-style riffing was actually enjoyable.
ABC had more than a hit — it had one of those rare comedies that became part of the American cultural quilt, like Seinfeld or The Honeymooners. Mork was weird yet family-friendly, so kids loved him. I had a pair of his rainbow suspenders and an action figure that came in an egg-shaped spaceship. My younger sister had Mindy’s haircut. Everyone wanted a puffy vest like they wore in Colorado. Given the retro-feel-goodery of the show, I’m surprised no guy-and-girl hipster musical act has yet to take Mork & Mindy as their stage name.
You’d think that a brand new program finishing third in the ratings would be enough for the number one network in the country, but you’d be wrong. The cast and concept were retooled for the second season (complete with disco theme song) and M&M was moved to a new time slot. It never recovered, declining steadily in popularity until its cancellation in 1982.
Now that he’s back on TV, Williams was recently asked about returning to the role that made his career and said he’d never play the character again. It’s a shame, because he’s never done anything better***.
*Seven-year-old me has actually (and fairly accurately) illustrated a scene from the climax in which Mork attempts to prove his resident alien status to an investigative reporter. I even got some of the dialogue right.
**Spoiler alert: There’s an unexpected moment when Mindy appears in an alien catwoman costume. Pam Dawber is too wholesome to wring much sex appeal from the getup (and you don’t see a lot of it), but it’s worth noting that her cowl bears a significant resemblance to David Mazzucchelli’s Catwoman design from Batman: Year One.
***Nice try, but the genie from Aladdin is basically just a blue Mork.