1978: Mork from Ork – In honour of Robin Williams

Pam Dawber and Robin WilliamsWhat can be said about Robin Williams that hasn’t already been said? He was a comedic genius. He was a phenomenal actor. And he was a legend of his time. He will always be remembered for the way he made people feel.

This people know.

It’s been 9 months since his passing, and he is missed. Fortunately for his fans, he can live on forever in his brilliant performances captured in both movies and TV. So this post, I do in memory of him.

His performance in Aladdin is what makes that movie, in my opinion, the funniest movie they ever did. He’s what I love about Hook and Jumanji. My wife will watch Ms. Doubfire time after time after time, and while I say it annoys me, I enjoy watching it over and over again too. When I watched 1 Hour Photo, he pulled an about face that blew me out of the water. That’s why when I heard he was going to be in The Dark Knight Rises, I almost crapped my pants. That’s why when I found out that he wasn’t really going to be in The Dark Knight Rises and I had just been a sucker for an online rumour, I almost crapped my pants. Most comedians, I don’t care for, because I don’t know them. And if I do, they aren’t some one who has brought me to the emotional highs and lows that he had. But Robin has always been one that stood out for me, ever since I was a child. And when he died I felt that connection, the same connection I felt when Nimoy died, to my childhood grow a little weaker.

However, I have not watched everything he has done. So my journey with him is not over.

Henry-Winkler-and-Robin-Williams-Happy-Days-Mork-and-MindyBefore this week I’d never seen an episode of Mork and Mindy. Nor had I ever seen an episode of Happy Days. It’s not that they are too old for me to enjoy. This whole blog consists of examine stuff from the past. (In fact there is a smorgasbord of work from before 1964 I would love to look at) The fact is, I’ve just never stumbled across them randomly, nor have I ever thought to search them out. These were always properties that existed, had followings, but I was content just to leave them be.

But this week that changed. I knew that Robin had appeared in an episode of Happy Days as Mork, and that the role was so well liked that it spawned its own show – Mork and Mindy. So I watched both the initial appearance, My Favourite Orkan, and pilot of M&M, which had a scene with Arthur Fonzarelli “Fonzie” from Happy Days and Laverne from Laverne and Shirley.

As far as science fiction goes, this show isn’t that spectacular. All it really does is switch out random words for alien sounding words, and give Mork a few tricks. Mork is an alien, from Ork, who visits earth initially in the 50’s to steal a “hum drum” human. He chooses Ritchie Cunningham, the shows main character, but Fonzie attempts to stop him. They have a weird battle where Mork tries a bunch of tricks, but Fonzie is too cool for them to work to their full effect. In honour of his efforts, Mork decides to leave Richie behind. In the Mork and Mindy pilot he is sent to earth, this time 1978, to study human behaviour. The comedy comes partly from Morks inability to understand the human way of doing things, but largely from Williams great comedic timing and personality. In just 2 episodes Robin was able to show off his capabilities as a slapstick artist, an impersonator, a clown, and a regular guy.

These episodes where very entertaining. I don’t see myself searching out more, unless they came on Netflix. (Edit: while writing this post, I watched a few episodes on youtube) but I did quite enjoy them. Mork is, in some ways, just like Robin in the way he can jump in and out of impressions. He pulls off unusual gags brilliantly and makes them look normal, and his probably standard quirks that probably would annoy me if the character was real, I just want to see more of.

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 10.47.41 PMThe two best scenes in my opinion are at the beginning and end of the pilot. In the beginning when he meets Mindy, she has just been abandoned by a lousy date, who’d taken her car when she spurned his sexual advances. Mistaking Mork for a priest she allows him to walk her home, and rants about her date the whole way. It isn’t until she invites him into her house and is bringing him a glass of water that she realizes he isn’t a priest. He’s just a weirdo who looks like a priest, because he is wearing his suit backwards. This shows off the clever writing the show had.

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 10.48.41 PMThe second is the final scene of the story. Although he has convinced Mindy he is an alien, he isn’t telling anyone else. He is about to be locked up for being seen as such a weirdo. When the defence has nothing to say he is called upon to defend himself. Mork’s witt, reference to Orkan ways, face paced arguing with the prosecution, and clever arguments quickly everyone speechless, or run out of the room. This is the best example of Robin’s handle of the character, his range, and his potential of what was to come, and I’m sure part of what everyone back week after week.

No, this show didn’t do very much for Sci Fi.  But thats not really what it was going for. Instead it gave the world a star. A comedian who would make us laugh, and cry, and sometimes laugh until we cried. Robin, you are missed.

Thanks for reading. Na-nu na-nu!

Pictures from http://www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/tvbanners/184152/p184152_b_v7_aa.jpg, http://insidepulse.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Henry-Winkler-and-Robin-Williams-Happy-Days-Mork-and-Mindy.jpg, and from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk-jJ2VRnt8 via screen capture.

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