Robin Williams burst on TV screens through his role in “Mork and Mindy,” which closed its four-season run on ABC on this day in 1982.
Williams played Mork, an alien from the planet Ork who landed on Earth in an egg. The rather eccentric Mork actually makes his first appearance during an episode of “Happy Days.” Yes, a series based in the 1950s found a way to have Mork appear in scenes with Henry Winkler, who played The Fonz, and Ron Howard, who played Richie Cunningham.
Mork tells Richie in his debut appearance on “My Favorite Orkan” that he’s from the future, explaining why the series ended up being set in 1970s Boulder, Colo.
‘Mork and Mindy’ Was Ratings’ Smash Hit In First Season
The spin-off series also starred Pam Dawber as, you guessed it, Mindy McConnell. He greets her like everyone he meets at first with “Na-Nu Na-Nu” and the rest, as they say, is history. Garry Marshall, who created “Happy Days,” also created “Mork and Mindy.”
Now the show ended up being a smash hit in its first season, finishing at No. 3 behind “Laverne & Shirley” (another “Happy Days” spinoff) and “Three’s Company.”
Why was the series so successful at first? The focus on “Mork and Mindy” was on Mork’s relationship with other humans. This allowed Williams freedom as an improv comic to bring his wild, off-the-wall abilities to the forefront.
ABC’s Decision To Move Sitcom From Original Timeslot Damaged It
But ABC had other ideas about “Mork and Mindy.” They wanted to put the show up against other networks’ established shows, hoping the comedy sitcom would dent them a bit. It didn’t work out. The funny sitcom found itself finishing ranked No. 27 in the Nielsen ratings for the second season. “Mork and Mindy” went downhill from there.
In the show’s fourth and final season, Williams’ childhood idol, comedian Jonathan Winters, joined the cast as Mork and Mindy’s child Mearth. They provided moments of sheer improv comedy madness, but it proved to be a case of too little, too late.
“Mork and Mindy” finished at No. 60 in the Nielsens, and ABC cancelled the show.
Robin Williams Found Fame After Sitcom, Yet His Life Ends Too Young
After the sitcom, Dawber starred in “My Sister Sam” for two seasons. She’s been married to “NCIS” star Mark Harmon since 1987.
Williams went on to more fame as a movie star, one-man comedy shows, and additional TV work. But Williams the human being was dealing with a lot of inner demons in his life, too.
On Aug. 11, 2014, Williams committed suicide at home in Paradise Clay, Calif. He had been battling Lewy body disease, which is a form of dementia. Robin Williams was 63 years old.
Yet classic TV fans get a chance to watch “Mork and Mindy” in reruns, seeing Williams in one of his trademark characters.