Not ready for his “Reverse Mortgage” close-up, Robin Williams returns to network television this Thursday. His role in The Crazy Ones is his first TV stint in over 30 years. This time, the rainbow suspenders and (hopefully) the mountains of cocaine will be absent.
As a kid, I loved me some comedy albums. From Vaughan Meader’s First Family, an ill-timed 1963 take on the Kennedys, to Steve Martin’s quartet of laugh riotous LPs, I was enthralled with the skills of your garden-variety comedian.
Then, along came Robin Williams, then famous for his portrayal of Mork from Ork.
Mork and Mindy aired during the halcyon days prior to recordable VHS/Beta or DVR. There he was, an alien traveling from planet Ork in a large egg. Resplendent in rainbow suspenders and baggy pants, he greeted earth people with a hearty, “Nanu, nanu” and exclaimed, “Shazbot,” when things would go awry. He also mocked his Orkan leader, Orson, for the ruler’s rather ample, yet unseen girth, forcing the despot into dangerous laparoscopic surgery.
He drank water through his finger. He sat on his own face, giving prominence to a specific category of pornography.
Mork and Mindy was a smash hit. It led off ABC’s Thursday night line-up. The earthling cast featured Mindy, Fred (Mindy’s dad) and Cora (Mindy’s grandmother). Fred was a stuffed-shirt classical music enthusiast who owned a music store. Cora was the stereotypically unlikely counterpart. An old lady who loved rock and roll.
At the end of the first season, ABC had a hit on their hands. Ranking 4th in popularity, Mork and Mindy would return for a second season.
That’s when the wheels on the egg stopped going ‘round and ‘round and fell off and off.
ABC executives looked at a smash hit sitcom featuring characters that meshed well chemistry-wise and decided to change it. Gone were Fred and Cora in season two, replaced by the much younger Remo and Jean DaVinci, an Italian brother-sister duo who ran the New York Deli. Storylines focused less on Mork’s antics and Williams’ improv skills to a “will-they-or-won’t-they” storyline with Mindy.
If that wasn’t the height of boneheadedness, they moved Mork and Mindy from Thursday to Sunday. Ratings by the end of that season went from fourth to twenty-seventh.
Oh, they tried to restore the series’ to its season one glory. Moving back to Thursday with the promise of putting the “Ork” back in “Mork.” Flopped worse than Father’s Day.
By the fourth season, the network resorted to stunt casting Jonathan Winters (Williams’ idol) to play Mearth, the child of a now-married Mork and Mindy. Breaking free from the shell of a giant egg, the offspring was revealed to be a middle-aged man. You see, Orkans age backwards, making it extremely possible that Mindy would someday become a registered sex offender for her betrothal to a small child.
Mork and Mindy was quietly cancelled after four seasons. Williams went on to make many movies of varying success. (see Father’s Day reference) and made the occasional stand-up appearance, joking about his increasingly sagging and wrinkled junk.
It’s a far cry from my 1970’s quest to get all things Robin Williams/Mork and Mindy. Trading cards, posters, books, and magazines (including a few issues of Cracked that parodied the show). While I never got the action figures, I do have a stuffed Mork from Ork doll with a string that, when pulled, would utter the character’s catch phrases.
I have that doll to this day. Yet, when you pull the string, a garbled, demon-like sound comes from it. A couple of years ago, my daughter found another one at a second-hand store. Better condition, but no string.
Maybe, I’ll combine the two sound mechanisms and see if I can get it to work. My luck, stuffed Mork will be talking about his stuffed junk.