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When Mork Arrived In Primetime

Entertainment | March 13, 2022

Source: (IMDb/Pinterest).

From 1978-1982, Mork from Ork made his home on ABC in the television show Mork & Mindy. The show introduced a then little-known comedian to American audiences, and for a brief time, introduced new catchphrases, as people began saying “shazbot” (an Orkan interjection) and “na-nu na-nu” which was followed by a hand gesture and handshake.

Mork's first appearance on TV. Source: (IMDb).

Mork Got His Start On Happy Days

In February 1978, Happy Days aired an episode titled “My Favorite Orkan.” In the episode, Mork, played by Robin Williams, attempts to take Richie Cunningham back to Ork, but Fonzie foils the plan and Mork plans to take him back to Ork. During the original broadcast of the episode, the incident turned out to be simply Richie’s dream, but once Mork became a popular character, the original was edited for syndication, so that Mork simply erased the experience from their minds and explains to Orson that he decided to let Fonzie go and was planning to head to 1978 to continue studying human behavior. This was not the final time that Mork would connect to Happy Days, as in one episode, he returns and Fonzie sets him up on a date with Laverne.

Source: (The Things).

The Idea Appeared On An Earlier Show

Prior to Mork’s appearance on Happy Days, Jerry Paris directed an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show which included “Kolac,” an alien who ate walnuts. When Paris started directing Happy Days, he suggested using an alien visitor. Coincidentally, Garry Marshall’s son, who had seen Star Wars, asked him to do a show about an alien.

Source: (IMDb).

Finding The Main Characters

They originally offered the role of Mork to Dom DeLuise and Roger Rees, who passed on it, and they also considered Richard Lewis and Jeff Altman. When Williams, who was an unknown actor at the time, was asked to take a seat at the audition, he flipped and “sat” on his head and so he was offered the role on the spot. At the time, Pam Dawber had very little acting experience, as she had worked mainly on commercials for Nair and Underalls. When auditions for Mork and Mindy were taking place, she was working on a pilot for Sister Terri, a show which failed, and Dawber landed the role of Mindy. She hadn’t auditioned for the part and knew nothing about it, learning about her new role when she read about it in Variety. Orson, Mork’s superior on Ork, remains unseen with the exception of his silhouette in the pilot; he was voiced by Ralph James, who had also provided his voice for Looney Tunes and Pink Panther as well as Mr. Turtle in the Tootsie Roll Pops commercial.

Source: (Pinterest).

Mork's Arrival In Boulder

Mork, who arrives in an egg-shaped spacecraft, has been assigned to study human behavior; he is given the assignment because humor is not permitted on Ork. Mork lands in Boulder, Colorado in the late 1970s (the timeline works with Mork’s claim in Happy Days that he was from the “future” as Happy Days was set in the 1950s). In Boulder, Mork meets Mindy, a 21-year-old who is upset because she had an argument with her boyfriend. She mistakes Mork for a priest and Mork, who is trying to observe her behavior listens to her. Mork’s suit is on backward and his behavior is unconventional, which leads Mindy to ask who he is. He tells her the truth and she promises to keep his secret. When he moves into her attic, her father, Fred (Conrad Janis), doesn’t approve, but Fred’s mother-in-law approves of the arrangement.

Source: (IMDb).

The First Season

The episodes typically focus on Mindy’s attempts to help Mork adjust to life on Earth as he struggles to understand human behavior and American culture. Mindy frequently is frustrated by Mork, as he continues to do things the Orkan way. At the end of each episode, Mork begins his report back to Orson, saying, “Mork calling Orson. Come in Orson,” before he shares his findings. These findings are often humorous reports on what he has learned about humanity, but of course, underneath the humor is some insightful commentary.

Source: (IMDb).

The First Season Was A Tremendous Success

The show’s Neilson ratings were high during its first season, and it ranked at 3, right behind Three’s Company and Laverne & Shirley. It was nominated for two Primetime Emmy Awards for its first season: Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

ABC changed things up a bit for the second season as they attempted to seek younger viewers, adding new supporting characters and shifting the focus from Mork’s attempts to adjust to life on Earth to the romantic relationship between Mork and Mindy and Mork’s attempts to find steady employment. ABC also changed the time slot, and these changes led to a dramatic drop in ratings. By the third season, they tried to return to the show's original premise, but this did not revive the sinking ratings. During the fourth and final season, Mork laid an egg to hatch their child, named Mearth, who was played by Jonathan Winters. The originally planned finale for the show, “Gotta Run: Part 3” was an attempt to set up the fifth season, in which the couple would have traveled through time meeting historic figures, but when the show was canceled, they changed the order of episodes, ending its run with “The Mork Report,” a cliffhanger which was never resolved. The show finished at 60th place in the ratings and was canceled in 1982.

Tags: Mork & Mindy | Pam Dawber | Robin Williams

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Linda Speckhals

Writer

When she’s not out walking her dog, or taking in a baseball game, Linda loves learning about history, science, and philosophy. She will travel wherever the wind may blow, and happily loses herself in a book, whenever she can. At heart, she is a music loving tree-hugger.