8/12/2014

Mork and Mindy (1978) - Mindy (Pam Dawber) and Mork (Robin Williams)
Here are some things you probably didn't know about the show Mork and Mindy. An oddball show from the 70's, it launched the career of Robin Williams and created an enduring character from television history. Phrases like "Nanu-nanu" and "Shazbot" became American traditions. It's one of my favorite shows since I was a kid and inspired a lifelong love of comedian Robin Williams and his comedy. With the death of Williams yesterday, let's look back at the show that started it all.

1. The Dick Van Dyke Show inspired Mark and Mindy. According to the book The Dick Van Dyke Show: Anatomy Of A Classic Jerry Paris directed the episode "It May Look Like A Walnut" which had a walnut eating alien named "Kolac" played by Danny Thomas. When Paris took over as director of Happy Days, he suggested the idea of an alien visitor. The character of Mork was matched with Garry Marshall's idea of a new series about an alien. Marshall's son had begged him to do a show about an alien after seeing Star Wars, but the Dick Van Dyke Show (1966) predated that by many years.


2. At his audition for Happy Days, Garry Marshall asked him to take a seat and Robin Williams sat on his head. They wrote the joke into the show.

3. Dawber would laugh so hard at Williams' jokes that you can often see her biting her lip to keep from cracking up.

4. The first season ratings for the show were better than Happy Days.

5. The voice of Mork's boss Orson was played by Ralph James, who's best known as the voice of "Mr. Turtle" in the classic Tootsie Pops commercial.

6. According to Garry Marshall's book Wake Me When It's Funny: How to Break Into Show Business and Stay, to create buzz for the show, the writers came up with gags like Mork drinking orange juice with his finger. The next morning, kids would stick their fingers in their juice. Parents would tune into the show to find out what it was all about.

7. The show depended so much on Robin Williams manic ad-libs that they wrote scripts based on his pitch ideas. While the audiences loved it, some of the cast and writers found it exhausting. Marshall said that's what drove the writers off the show after the first season.

8. The rumors about how much the show depended on Robin Williams' wild improvisations led to articles titled "Robin Williams Ad-Libs Whole Show - Does His Thing." It irritated the ten-person writing team so much that when Williams showed up for work one day they handed him a blank script with a cover that read, "Robin Does His Thing." He laughed and said, "Hey, guys, you know I didn't tell the press that" and they gave him the real script.

9. Pam Dawber, mainly a commercial actor for Nair and Underalls, had very little acting experience when cast for the show and didn't audition for the part. Dawber later told AV Club, "I’d done practically nothing, so I was faking my way to the top!"

10. Mork and Mindy's house from the show is located at 1619 Pine Street and is the most popular landmark in Boulder, Colorado. It's privately owned and visitors are asked to stay on the sidewalk.

What's your favorite role from Robin Williams? What did you think of Mork and Mindy? Did you have a favorite moment from the show?

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18 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If they hadn't let him do his thing sometimes though, the show wouldn't have been as funny.
Didn't know Dawber had so little experience. And yet she was perfect in the roll.

Pat Dilloway said...

I never really watched that show. I always thought his dramatic roles were better like Awakenings, Good Will Hunting, and One Hour Photo.

jeremy [retro] said...

one of my favorites... and things i did not know. still in shock, sad.

DAVID WALSTON said...

This was one of my favorites. I remember when they had Jonathan Winters as their baby that hatched from an egg. I can't imagine how crazy the set must have been with both Williams and Winters.
Nanu nanu Mork

Tony Laplume said...

I'm not sure I've ever seen Mork & Mindy. Williams was a genius.

Carol Kilgore said...

"Na-Nu, Na-Nu."
I miss him already.

spacerguy said...

Several people, including Congressman Jared Polis, stopped by the Mork and Mindy house in Boulder to pay tribute to the 63-year-old. We'll never forget Williams, he was great.

Candice Frederick said...

love this! Great show.

sc341 said...

8. The rumors about how much the show depended on Robin Williams' wild
improvisations led to articles titled "Robin Williams Ad-Libs Whole Show
- Does His Thing." It irritated the ten-person writing team so much
that when Williams showed up for work one day they handed him a blank
script with a cover that read, "Robin Does His Thing." He laughed and
said, "Hey, guys, you know I didn't tell the press that" and they gave
him the real script.

***********

Mork & Mindy Show writer David Misch told a different story in a radio interview, he said the whole rumor about "Mork does his thing" written into the script was not true, it was made up by a NY Times reporter......after the NY Times reporter spent the whole day on the set and was allowed to observe he made up that story. That is how rumors get started.

Maurice Mitchell said...

That's true. It's commonly believed that the scripts had that in it which is why it was do irritating to the writers.

Matthew Thomas Bowling said...

Syfy, back when it was Sci-fi would do marathons every now and then when I was younger but I didn't truly come to love the show until about a year and a half or so ago when the Hub, now called Discovery Family or something, showed the series alongside Alf. My favorite thing about the series are the Orson reports. There is some incredible social commentary in those reports.

Zach K said...

All though the show was all great, I think my favorite episode was when he turned himself in a child at heart and the whole thing where the Plummer brought his kid and the pearls. It was too funny. RIP Robin Williams, one of the greats.

riverrat said...

Because Robin would ad lib some of his lines, it forced Pam to think on her feet to finish up the scenes. Some other items of note, 1, When Pam first met Robin, he started speaking to her in Russian, so Pam thought Robin was Russian .2 When Jonathan Winters came in the fourth year, according to Dawber, it was "total chaos" 3, According to Robin, Mork and Mindy "jumped the shark when Robin played a Denver Broncos cheerleader.4, After the first season, Conrad Janis, Elizabeth Kerr and Jeffrey Jacquet were all let go, when the ratings tumbled, both Janis and Kerr were brought back. 5, Robin Williams called Pam Dawber his dream co-star, 6, Dawber called working on Mork and Mindy the single greatest learning experience of her career to that point. 7, It would take 32 years for both Dawber and Williams to reunite on-screes in Robin's short lived series "The Crazy Ones".

Angie said...

Actually Garry Marshall himself said that his son wanted an alien on Happy Days and that's how HE came up with Mork, so that "fact" is wrong about Jerry Paris

Angie said...

Actually Robin confirmed that they left alot of the script blank for him to improvise, it said "Robin does his thing" the same thing on "Crazy Ones" part of the script had "Mork does his thing" lol

Maurice Mitchell said...

Thanks for joining us Angie! In a way we're both right. Paris' idea was first in 1966, but was combined with Marshall's son's wish to have a show about an alien. I've updated the post to clarify that point.

sam said...

One of the show's writer's from the last season gave an interview to the BBC. Her name is Cindy Begel. The interview is on yt: "Writing for Robin Williams on Mork and Mindy" She claims the scripts were completely written. She co-wrote the episode: "Drive, she said" where Mork learns to drive.

Writing for Robin Williams on Mork & Mindy: youtube/
0dZbU4TYUEQ

sam said...

http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/howard-storm#

Howard Storm, the director of M&M, seasons 1-3 gAve a very good interview here. This is a great site, btw. Lots of great interviews.

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