DVD review: “Mork & Mindy” (1978-1982)

“Mork & Mindy” (1978-1982)

Television/Comedy

Ninety-five Episodes

Created by: Garry Marshall, Dale McRaven and Joe Glauberg

Featuring: Robin Williams, Pam Dawber, Elizabeth Kerr, Conrad Janis, Tom Poston, Jay Thomas, Gina Hecht, Jim Staahl, Crissy Wilzak and Jonathan Winters

Mork: “Nanu-Nanu!”

Mork: “Shazbot!”

Released on DVD recently is the entire series “Mork & Mindy” (1978-1982) which is notable for featuring superstar Robin Williams in the lead role, who was already a staple on the stand-up circuit, this role as Mork would launch him into international households, setting up a big screen career that he would continue until his death in 2014. What is of interest is that “Mork & Mindy” was a happy accident after Mork had appeared in an extremely successful episode of “Happy Days” (1974-1984) it was decided to develop a series around that character as well as an Earth companion in the form of Mindy, played by Pam Dawber.

Looking back after all these years there are of course elements that stand out, the first and most obvious is of course the performance by Robin Williams who shines in possibly his most chaotic and wild performance of his career which is really saying something considering his other work. Of course the other element that is directly linked with William’s performance is that of Pam Dawber who has always been overlooked but if you watch the series with fresh eyes you can see a funny, caring and very aware performance. Dawber like many of Williams costars are the real strength when viewing him, in all of the stars best known and successful movies and television shows it is the understanding of those around him that made them. Having passive co-stars did Williams no favours, those that could match him in different ways complemented him making his performance even better, much like Dawber in “Mork & Mindy”.

“Mork & Mindy” of course is based around Mork who arrives on Earth in an egg-shaped spacecraft. He has been assigned to observe human behavior by Orson, his mostly unseen and long-suffering superior (voiced by Ralph James). Orson has sent Mork to get him off Ork, where humor is not permitted. Attempting to fit in, Mork dresses in an Earth suit, but wears it backward. Landing in Boulder, Colorado, he encounters 21-year-old Mindy (Pam Dawber), who is upset after an argument with her boyfriend, and offers assistance. Because of his odd garb, she mistakes him for a priest and is taken in by his willingness to listen. When Mindy notices his backward suit and unconventional behavior, she asks who he really is, and he innocently tells her the truth. She promises to keep his identity a secret and allows him to move into her attic. Mindy’s father Fred (Conrad Janis) objects to his daughter living with a man (particularly one as bizarre as Mork), but Fred’s mother-in-law Cora (Elizabeth Kerr) approves of Mork and the living arrangement. Over the next four years the series would attempt to try and broaden the story introducing new characters as well as getting rid of others, sometimes seemingly at random. The series suffered in the ratings as the wore on which was not assisted by endless tinkering, however you can see the central performances as key and those are what people remember to this very day.

Of course as with many television shows from the 1970s and early 1980s including “Mork & Mindy” there are a few elements that either could be off-putting to modern audiences or leave them feeling that the plots are almost simplistic in nature. Not only that but with “Mork & Mindy” specifically the four seasons that aired were very different in tone and feeling, especially when the leads were married and had a child, which meant that you had Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams vying for attention. Of course on the plus side there is a certain amount of pureness to the series which follows through to all the seasons, especially the last one which features the prototypical nuclear family, with a twist of course. The show was also not afraid to break the fourth wall at times especially with the episode ‘Mork Meets Robin Williams’ which brings William and Mork face to face, with odd results, it is actually influenced by the Beatles movies where a fictionalised version of the band interacts with real people and places. Apart from the nostalgia that is in play, and it it pretty heavy, more so than most shows mainly I believe because we are seeing the nascent beginnings of Williams career, and it is one of the greatest comedic careers in motion picture history even with his pivots into drama. It is quite magical to see all of Williams unhinged, scattershot, manic performances especially when he is with Winters and it is also great to see his dramatic turns when explaining humanity or when he attempts to understand humanity through his interactions with many different people of all ages and backgrounds.

A few years ago I might not have recommended this as highly as I am now, the main reason being Williams untimely and tragic death, in these early performances you can see he has a spark that just will not go out, which is true for his best performances.

Episodes

Season One 

Pilot: Mork is sent to Earth to explore its traditions and, along the way meets Mindy.

Mork Moves In: Mindy lets Mork move into her apartment, much to the dispute of her father.

Mork Runs Away: Mork runs away from home after he ruins Mindy’s date.

Mork in Love: Mork falls in love with a music store mannequin; Fred plans to buy a luxury car to take to his class reunion.

Mork’s Seduction: Mindy’s snobby friend Susan tries to steal Mork away.

Mork Goes Public: When a reporter offers a reward for proof of alien life, Mork decides to turn himself in to pay back the McConnells.

To Tell the Truth: Mindy instructs Mork not to tell lies. Meanwhile, the grouchy landlord of the music shop drops in… and drops dead.

Mork the Gullible: Mork is jailed for freeing an escaped convict who’s captured at the music store. Meanwhile, Exidor begins worshiping O.J. Simpson.

A Mommy for Morky: Mindy reconnects with an ex boyfriend who’s intent on marriage. Meanwhile Mork uses his age machine to revert to childhood.

Mork’s Greatest Hits: A womanizing bully vows revenge after Mork embarrasses him in public.

Old Fears: Cora’s depressed after the death of a friend, so Mork ages himself to cheer her up.

Mork’s First Christmas: Mork can’t afford to buy Christmas presents, so he makes strange, unique gifts for each of his closest friends.

Mork and the Immigrant: Mork meets Sergei, a Russian immigrant, and invites him to live with them. After Sergei refers to himself as ‘an alien,’ Mork becomes convinced that he himself has to register with the government as an alien.

Mork the Tolerant: Mork goes out of his way to be nice to his grouchy new neighbor, Mr. Bickley.

Young Love: Mork agrees to perform a wedding ceremony for runaway Eugene and his new girlfriend.

Skyflakes Keep Falling on My Head: Exidor loans Mork and Mindy his decrepit cabin in the woods. Meanwhile, Exidor plans to become a rock star so he can obtain the title Emperor of Earth.

Mork Goes Erk: Mork decides to leave the planet. Meanwhile, Susan convinces Mork, Mindy and Mr. Bickley to see a lecherous motivational speaker.

Yes Sir, That’s My Baby: When a kidnapper solicits Mork to buy a baby, the police ask Mindy to help catch the criminal.

Mork’s Mixed Emotions: Mork’s attempt to lock up his emotions backfires and each of his emotions boil to the surface.

Mork’s Night Out: While Mindy’s out of town, Mork drags Mr. Bickley to a single’s bar where they meet a nefarious mother and daughter.

In Mork We Trust: Mr. Bickley begins stealing things from Mork and Mindy — including Mork’s age machine.

Mork Runs Down: On Mork’s birthday, he gets so run down that he forgets he has to recharge his body with an egg-like Gleek.

It’s a Wonderful Mork: After ruining Fred and Mindy’s night, Mork decides he wants to go back to Ork, so Orson shows him what the McConnells’ lives would have been like if Mork had never arrived on Earth.

Mork’s Best Friend: Mork gets a pet caterpillar; Exidor begins preaching about reincarnation.

Season Two

Mork in Wonderland: Part 1: After taking cold medicine, Mork begins to shrink.

Mork in Wonderland: Part 2: Mork winds up in a parallel universe where Exidor has become a tyrannical king.

Stark Raving Mork: Mork foolishly picks a fight with Mindy in order to “kiss and make up.”

Mork’s Baby Blues: Kathy drags Mork home for an evening and later announces that she’s pregnant with his child.

Dr. Morkenstein: Mork instills human emotions in a robot.

Mork vs. Mindy: Mork and Mindy compete to earn a job working for Nelson.

Mork Gets Mindy-itis: As Mindy prepares a formal party for Nelson, Mork discovers he’s become allergic to Mindy.

A Morkville Horror: When Mindy’s childhood home is put up for sale, Mork discovers several of Mindy’s deceased relatives still reside there.

Mork’s Health Hints: Mindy goes to the hospital to have her tonsils removed, but a mix-up finds her being prepped for brain surgery.

Dial ‘N’ for Nelson: Nelson gets threatening phone calls after he makes a stand against strip joints, so Mork and Mindy decide to sneak into one to investigate.

Mork vs. the Necrotons: Part 1: Three voluptuous aliens from Necroton capture Mork and attempt to find out what information he’s learned about Earth.

Mork vs. the Necrotons: Part 2: Captain Nirvana kidnaps Mindy in order to coax Mork out of hiding.

Hold That Mork: Nelson tries to further his political career by getting Mork the opportunity to try out to be a Denver Broncos cheerleader.

The Exidor Affair: Mindy’s level of annoyance with Exidor hits an all-time high when he invites himself and his new girlfriend, Ambrosia, to dinner.

The Mork Syndrome: When Mork decides to join the air force, he unwittingly learns of the cover up of a radiation spill.

Exidor’s Wedding: Mork finds Exidor’s estranged mother who protests his forthcoming marriage to Ambrosia by chaining herself to Mindy’s kitchen counter.

A Mommy for Mindy: Mork is overjoyed when Fred returns and announces that he’s remarried, but for Mindy, it dredges up painful memories of her mother’s death.


The Night They Raided Mind-ski’s
: Mork haplessly gets involved with a group of white supremacists.

Mork Learns to See: When Mr. Bickley’s blind son comes to town, he gets dumped on Mork and Mindy.

Mork’s Vacation: When Mork takes a mental vacation, other strange, vacationing aliens take up residence in his body. Meanwhile Jean and Remo’s mother visits Boulder.

Jeanie Loves Mork: Mindy takes a job writing the Miss Lonely Hearts newspaper column and unknowingly encourages Jean to pursue a romantic relationship with Mork.

Little Orphan Morkie: When Mork is threatened with deportation, Exidor adopts him.

Looney Tunes and Morkie Melodies: Nelson is given TV air time to plug his political views on a Saturday morning, so Mork uses the opportunity to put on a kiddie show. 

Clerical Error: Mork decides to become a priest.

Invasion of the Mork Snatchers: Mork becomes so hopelessly addicted to advertisements that they invade his dreams.

The Way Mork Were: Fred confesses that he’s having marital difficulties, so Mork and Mindy relay stories of their troubled times.

Season Three

Putting the Ork Back in Mork: Part 1: Mindy becomes so alarmed when Mork starts behaving like a boring Earthling that she suggests he finds a new place to live.

Putting the Ork Back in Mork: Part 2: An Orkan elder arrives and attempts to make Mork revert to his Orkan ways.

Mork in Never-Never Land: Mork befriends a mental patient who claims to be Peter Pan. Meanwhile, Mindy anxiously awaits word of whether or not she’s received a college scholarship.

Dueling Skates: When Wheels, the owner of the daycare center, announces plans to level the building, Mork challenges him to a skate-off through the city of Boulder.

Mork the Prankster: After Mindy introduces Mork to the concept of practical jokes, he puts her jeep in their second-floor apartment. Meanwhile, Mindy discovers Glenda Faye is feeling lonely and unhappy.

Mork, the Monkey’s Uncle: Mork takes a chimp from the zoo after the chimp’s mother goes missing. Meanwhile, Mindy decides to bleach her hair.

Gunfight at the Mor-Kay Corral: A boy at Mork’s day-care center becomes obsessed with Billy the Kid.

Mork’s New Look: Mork goes to see a plastic surgeon.

Alas, Poor Mork, We Knew Him Well: Mork becomes so paranoid about natural disasters that he locks himself inside a glass bubble.

Mork and the Bum Rap: Mork becomes a bum in order to help Mindy open a children’s hospital.

Mindy Gets Her Job: Mindy gets a job at a local news station

Twelve Angry Appliances: Mork gets revenge when a disrespectful repairman refuses to fix Mindy’s stereo.

There’s a New Mork in Town: An Orkan comes down to Earth in order to challenge Mork.

Mork Meets Robin Williams: Mindy brings home a record of Robin Williams’ “Reality, What A Concept” and notices that Mork greatly resembles the comedian on the album cover. Mork doesn’t see it but the people in Boulder do because they think he “is” Robin. Robin happens to be coming to Boulder for a live show and Mork is nearly trampled by crazed fans. Mindy gets to interview Robin and brings Mork with her.

Mindy, Mindy, Mindy: Mork attempts at creating clones of Mindy when she goes out of town.

Mork the Swinging Single: Mork becomes a swinger after Mindy suggests he see other single women.

Mork and Mindy Meet Rick and Ruby: Mindy leads a picket line on Remo’s restaurant after he fires an unsuccessful singing duo.

Mork and the Family Reunion: Fred’s estranged brother comes into town for a family reunion, but what happens when Mindy eats an Orkan dessert the night of the reunion?

Old Muggable Mork: When Mindy’s grandmother comes to visit, she is mugged, so Mork disguises himself as an old lady to catch the muggers.

I Heard It Through the Morkvine: Mork goes on television and gives some tasty but hurtful rumors about his friends.

Mindy and Mork: Mindy has to work late hours on a new TV call-in show, “Talk to Dr. Lincoln”, so she asks Mork to help with the housework. When his cleaning efforts turn the apartment into a disaster area, he calls Mindy on the air for advice and nearly gets her fired. When Mindy asks Dr. Lincoln for advice on how to help Mork adjust better to her working, Dr. Lincoln suggests they do a role reversal exercise – so they switch places.

Reflections and Regrets: On Mr. Bickley’s fiftieth birthday, Mindy refuses to share her regret with everyone else as it’s too personal.

Season Four

Limited Engagement: Mork proposes to Mindy.

The Wedding: Against direct orders from Orson, Mork goes ahead with his plan to marry Mindy.

The Honeymoon: Mindy attracts a lot of Orkans when she and Mork spend their honeymoon on his home planet.

Three the Hard Way: Mork discovers he’s pregnant after he and Mindy return from their honeymoon.

Mama Mork, Papa Mindy: The newborn Mearth seems to show more affection for Mork than for Mindy.

My Dad Can’t Beat Up Anybody: Mork pretends to be a superhero for Mearth’s sake.

Long Before We Met: Mork fantasizes about competing for Mindy in high school.

Rich Mork, Poor Mork: Mork makes an investment in a boutique of Exidor “originals”.

Alienation: Mearth runs away upon realizing he’s an alien.

P.S. 2001: Mearth attends school on Ork where he’s teased for being an “Earth-head”.

Pajama Game II: Mearth has a sleepover.

Present Tense: Mork and Mindy are unable to have a conversation while Mearth is away.

Metamorphosis – The TV Show: A short circuit causes Mork and Mearth to switch minds.

Drive, She Said: Mork takes driving lessons.

I Don’t Remember Mama: Orson erases Mork’s family from Mork’s memory in order for Mork to focus on his work.

Mork, Mindy, and Mearth Meet MILT: Following a brief visit from a space traveler, Mork builds a home computer that subsequently takes over.

Midas Mork: Mork learns the secret of turning polyester into gold.

Cheerleader in Chains: Mindy is held in contempt of court for refusing to reveal a source of news.

Gotta Run: Part 1: Mork befriends a Neptunian who has an Earth wife of his own.

Gotta Run: Part 2: In attempt to stop Kalnik, Mork decides to tell the world he’s an alien.

Gotta Run: Part 3: As a result of his notoriety, Mork is faced with fans, marketing executives and Kalnik.

The Mork Report: Mork bucks hard for a promotion from leader Orson on planet Ork, and unintentionally comes up with a report on how to stay happily married on Earth.

One thought on “DVD review: “Mork & Mindy” (1978-1982)

  1. Lian McGuire

    Nice review, and especially in acknowledging the contribution of Pam Dawber, who, as you say was at the time overlooked. Her performance, as her co-stars and directors noted, is what grounds the show and gives it its heart. Her and Robin Williams’ chemistry is wonderful, and on that score she is easily Williams’ best female co-star throughout his career (especially considering he so rarely played romantic elements to his roles). All the stranger given how haphazard the casting/green lighting of this show/their pairing was.

    Also, as today is Conrad (Fred McConnell) Janis’s birthday, shout out to him, one of my favorite ‘TV Dads’ growing up. It’s a bonkers show, that suffered (as you say) from too much external tinkering and differing views on how it should go, but it has a unique magic to it, and an unexpected ability to touch the heart, that is rooted in the performances,

    Like

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