This Fantastic Comedy
series on ABC
, spun off from an episode of Happy Days
, introduced the world to the comic genius of Robin Williams
Williams played Mork, a visitor from the planet Ork. After his egg-like space vessel landed near Boulder, Colorado, Mork bonded with a pretty Earth woman named Mindy McConnell (Pam Dawber). Late in the series, they became romantically involved, got married, and Mork promptly laid an egg out of which was born their son Mearth (Jonathan Winters).
The supporting cast started off being mainly Mindy's father and grandmother, and in later seasons added a small circle of friends along with a curmudgeonly downstairs neighbor and a self-styled prophet
Every episode ended with Mork's report to Orson, the being who sent him to Earth, on Mork's latest lesson in Earth culture.
This series provides examples of:
- Acting for Two: During one episode, Mork and Mindy interview Robin Williams.
- And, apparently, "robin" is a dirty word in Orkan.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Mork, Mindy, and later on, Mearth.
- Alien Among Us: Since it is a spin-off, aliens are also presumably canon in Happy Days, they just do not make an appearance. Which is just strange.
- Aliens Speaking English
- Inverted in the episode with Rick n Ruby. When Mork is subbing for Ruby as lead singer of their band, he and the band sing "This Heart is Closed for Alterations." Mork sings the second verse in Orkan.
- All Just a Dream
- Amusing Alien: Mork, natch.
- An Aesop: Typically more for Mork, but sometimes for the viewer as well.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Depending on how you look at it, some of the reports to Orson can be seen as this, although it's a subversion in that it's not addressed to the viewer directly.
- Animated Adaptation: In which they gain a six-legged pink dog. The Eighties were a special time...
- Badass Cape: In the episode 'Watcher of Earth,' an alien named Xerko came to Earth and challenged Mork to a battle. Before the battle, he put on a Badass Cape... only to tear it off in an exaggerated twirl.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: During a conversation with Mr. Bickley about his marital status.
Mr. Bickley: I lost her in 1966.
Mindy: Oh, I'm sorry.
Mr. Bickley: Every night I pray that the old bat doesn't find me.
- Belly Buttonless: After Mork and Mindy get married and have sex for the first time, Mork proves he had laid an egg by showing his navel — since he's an Orkan he doesn't have one from the natural gestation process. Other than all the times he'd shown his belly before that episode and we'd seen it.
- Berserk Button: Not much really makes Mork angry, but hurting Mindy in front of him is a good way to do it.
- Betty and Veronica: Mindy and Susan, in the first season.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Mork may be a childlike jokester, but he is still an alien with limited telekinetic abilities, and can be a dangerous opponent when angered, as seen in "The Night They Raided Mind-ski's".
- Bizarre Alien Biology: The Orkans are chicken-descended bipeds who age backwards, drink through their fingers, and whose males lay eggs; they also possess odd powers, allergies and reactions.
- Blowing a Raspberry: This show had recurring a elder character from Mork's planet whose name was pronounced by blowing a raspberry. This leads to the wonderful parting line from Mork and Mindy at the end of his first appearance as he turns to leave:
Mork: We'll write!
Mindy: As soon as we figure out how to spell [blown raspberry]
- Boxing Lesson
- Blunt Metaphors Trauma
- Broken Aesop: In "Mork and the Bum Rap," Mindy asks the bum, Godfried, why he doesn't take on responsibility. Godfried reminisces about getting married, raising a couple of kids and then sending them through college. He said he did that, that's why he's a bum!
- The Bus Came Back: Mindy's Dad returned in Season 3.
- Can't Believe I Said That: in "Mork Runs Down", Mindy's father. Justified in that he's using very goofy alien words.
Mork, don't worry. After you get your gleek, your gorgles will be gone! (Beat) I can't believe I just said that.
- The Cast Showoff
- Catch Phrase: "Nanu nanu", "shazbot" and other "alien" words used by Mork.
- Celebrity Paradox: Averted thoroughly when Mork meets Robin Williams.
- Characterization Marches On/ Retcon: People who see Mork's original appearance on Happy Days after watching this series are likely to be shocked at what a Jerkass he originally was and that his appearance was said to have been All Just a Dream in that episode. Oddly enough All Just a Dream was a hurdle that another Happy Days spinoff (the long-forgotten Out of the Blue, which featured an angel as its protagonist) had to overcome as well.
- Christmas Episode: Mindy has to explain to Mork the meaning of Christmas.
- Citizenship Marriage
- Color Me Black: Mork uses his Orkan powers to turn a bunch of racists into Latino, Black and Asian, among more exotic changes. They were expies of the KKK, so they didn't know it until they took their white hoods off.
- Broken Aesop: Well, maybe not broken. Dinged a little. In an episode about how racism is bad, they really should have resisted the urge to use the stereotypical "Asian music" sting when one of the women takes off her hood and is revealed as Chinese.
- Cool Old Lady: Mindy's Grandma Cora.
- Corpsing: Often. It's really hard to keep a straight face when Robin Williams is around. One especially noticeable example was in an episode homaging It's a Wonderful Life. Mork is supposed to be invisible and inaudible as he observes Mindy's life without him. Pam Dawber makes a valiant but ultimately futile effort to keep a straight face to Robin's antics.
- Apparently, Robin liked to do this deliberately. In an interview, Pam mentioned one time where he stood offstage completely naked just to mess with her.
- Cousin Oliver: The rare middle-aged variation in Jonathan Winters.
- Cranky Neighbor: Mr. Bickley.
- Crazy Cultural Comparison: Much of the humor comes from this.
- Crazy Homeless People: Exidor.
- Creepy Crossdresser: Well, Robin's appearance as a cheerleader, baring his midriff. Unless you like that sort of thing.
- Cross Over: The first episode featured a flashback to Mork getting dating help from Fonzie. Said date turns out to be Laverne.
- Mork also appeared in an episode of another Happy Days spinoff, Out of the Blue.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Some jerks make fun of Mork's son Mearth, and suddenly the joking, light-hearted alien is scary serious. A sobering reminder that Mork is indeed not from around here.
- Directed by Cast Member: The Series Finale, "The Mork Report," marks the only time Robin Williams went behind the camera (if you don't count the first HBO Comic Relief concert).
- Drunk on Milk: Mork does not react well with either carbonation, or ginger.
- Establishing Character Moment: How Williams got this character back on Happy Days. He went to the audition for a "alien character". When he was called to the auditioning, they found him sitting upside-down (like Mork in the show) and that was pretty much enough to give him the role.
- Every Episode Ending: "Mork calling Orson. Come in, Orson..."
- "Come in, laser breath!": Although not in the earlier episodes, and even then, it was initially only done on occasion.
- Executive Meddling: The new time slot, plus the second season onward featured major changes to try and appeal to a younger crowd. Not to mention trying to make Pam Dawber add more jiggle to the show, which she fortunately refused to do, with Williams' support. Ratings plummeted, and suits were sent scrambling to fix things.
- Show retoolings included "resetting" Mork so that he forgot everything he forgot about humanity and Earth, and later had the most bizarre Cousin Oliver ever with a middle-aged Jonathan Winters.
- Fantastic Anthropologist
- Fantastic Comedy
- Filk Song: "Nanu Nanu (Shazbot)" by The Barron Knights.
- Foreign Cuss Word: Shazbot!
- Functional Magic: Much of what Mork could do.
- Funny Schizophrenia: Exidor, the Ensemble Darkhorse, had a habit of talking to imaginary cult members, seeing closets as oceans and other bizarre behavior. All Played for Laughs.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Named for Williams' efforts to sneak all manner of things past the censors on this show.
- Harpo Does Something Funny: Williams' improvisation proved to be so persistent and good, it was actually better than what the writers could do, so they budgeted minutes in the script with "Robin goes off here."
- Hey, It's That Guy!:
- Human Aliens
- Human Outside, Alien Inside: Orkans can drink with their finger (and use various Psychic Powers focused through their index fingers), have three hearts, physically age backwards, and are hatched from eggs which come from the male's bellybuttonnote .
- Humorless Aliens: Mork has a hard time with the concept of humor.
Oh, humor! AR! AR!
- I Am Not Spock: Williams has joked that after he won the Oscar for Good Will Hunting, it only took a few weeks for people on the street to begin calling him "Mork" again.
- Imported Alien Phlebotinum: The occasional piece of Orkan technology, such as the hand-held device that temporarily aged Mork so that he could provide Mindy's grandmother with a date.
- Incredible Shrinking Man: The second-season premiere, "Mork in Wonderland", has Mork shrinking into a micro universe after he takes a cold pill.
- Informed Ability : Mindy teaches music lessons, but is never shown playing any instruments.
- Innocent Aliens: Mork.
- Instrumental Theme Tune: Which got a reworked arrangement in each of the show's seasons.
- Interspecies Romance: Between the title characters.
- It's a Wonderful Plot: "It's a Wonderful Mork"
- "Jeopardy!" Thinking Music
- Lampshade Hanging:
Mindy: Oh, Mork; what Earth concept have you misunderstood this week?
- Left Hanging: The final episode of the series has the titular duo lost in time and space being chased by a vengeance-crazed Venusian with no resolution in sight.
- Light Bulb Joke: How many Martians does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 8.7 Arh! Arh!
- Man Bites Man: Played for Laughs in "Mork's Health Tips", when Mork bites a nurse who is trying to recapture Mindy. According to Mork, the nurse returned the favor.
- Merlin Sickness
- Mr. Seahorse: Orkan males lay eggsnote .
- Mind Screw: The episode where Mork meets Robin Williams. Really.
- Name and Name
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The second season premiere features Bizarro versions of comedians Bob Hope ("Bob Faith"), Danny Thomas ("Danny St. Thomas") and Jerry Lewis ("Jerry Looney").
- No Sense of Humor: In early episodes, Mork identifies people making In-Universe jokes by saying "Oh, humor - Ar-Ar!" And almost as often he does that when people aren't joking.
- Once an Episode: Every episode ended with Mork broadcasting his experiences to Orson, saying, "Mork calling Orson; come in, Orson. Mork calling Orson...come in, Orson..."
- Pardon My Klingon: Slightly lampshaded when Mork is thinking of revealing himself as an alien in season 1:
Mindy's Dad: And people will follow you around saying "Shazbot!!"
Mork: If only they knew what that meant...
- Mindy once mentioned Robin Williams was in town for a show (!). Mork cracks up at the name, and whispers to Mindy what "robin" means on his world. Apparently it's disgusting.
- In the episode with Rick and Ruby, Mork sang an entire verse of "This Heart Is Closed for Alterations" in Orkan.
- Physical God: Mork possesses super strength and telekinesis as well as mind-control powers, can freeze time, can control earthly elements (like wind) to some extent, and is capable of raising people from the dead.
- Prop Recycling: Mork's Red Spacesuit is the same jumpsuit worn by Col. Green in the Star Trek episode The Savage Curtain, While In an episode in which Mindy and Fred pretend to be aliens to throw off a nosy reporter, Fred wears a spacesuit helmet seen in the episode The Tholian Web.
- Put on a Bus: Mindy's Dad and Grandma in the second season, in favor of a bunch of new characters - most of who were in turn Put on a Bus the 3rd season.
- Running Gag: Mork teasing Orson about his girth in his debriefings.
- Sleep Cute: In the episode "Sky Flakes Keep Falling On My Head", Mork and Mindy fall asleep huddled together in Exidor's literally falling-apart summer home to keep warm from the snow. Unfortunately, because they fell asleep, their fire went out...
- Spin-Off: Of Happy Days. Mork lampshades this during an appearance in a later Happy Days Clip Show, in which he tells Orson about the insights into human relations he's gained from Richie and Fonzie.
Mork: Mork calling Orson! Come in, Orson!
: Quite true, your Immenseness! However I had to do a Spin On to pay back for my Spin-Off
- Split Personality / Starfish Character: In an early episode Mork attempts to turn himself into The Spock but it backfires, releasing all his emotions as separate personalities instead.
- Standardized Sitcom Housing: Mostly averted: Mindy's upper-floor apartment in an old Victorian house had few of the usual features of a typical sit com home.
- Star-Making Role: Robin Williams launched into the stratosphere from here.
- Straight Man: Anyone not named Robin Williams. Or Robert Donner (Exidor). Or Johnathan Winters.
- Straw Vulcan: Mork's race, which is why they sent him to Earth.
- Talkative Loons
- Technology Marches On: What's a music store? And what are those big square things in the bins?
- Telepathic Spacemen
- Timmy in a Well: Referenced in "Mork Runs Down". Mork, severely ill, has to use non-verbal communication with the McConnalls.
Mindy: I think he's trying to tell us something.
Mr. McConall: Yeah, I feel like I'm in a Lassie movie.
- Tsundere: Mr. Bickley is a rare male example. He acts harsh, but every time someone shows him kindness, he becomes adorable.
- Unintentional Period Piece: Unlike Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley, this show (at the time it originally aired) was set in the "present day" of 1978-1982.
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Mork. Very justified. Mork keeps getting fired.
- World of Snark: Robin Williams was NOT the only person who could give a good one-liner.
- Vocal Evolution: Mork's nasal "spaceman" voice gradually disappeared through the show's run, as Mork grew more accustomed to Planet Earth.
- The Voice: Orson
- You Look Familiar: Johnathan Winters made an early season guest shot as a human before becoming Merth in the final season.
- Younger Than They Look: Robin Williams was only in his late-20's when the show was being made. He looked more like he was in his mid-40's, at least. (He had a well-publicized addiction to cocaine at the time, which may have contributed to his prematurely aged look.) Pam Dawber, who was also in her 20's, looked a little more age appropriate but definitely sounded older than she really was. Although it's also a weird case of Dawson Casting , as in the second episode of Season 1, Mindy states that she is 21 years old. Dawber was 27 when the series started.
- Fridge Brilliance: Orkans age in reverse, so one more reason for Robin Williams to get the part was that he was young, but he looked older.