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Series / Mork & Mindy

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Nanu nanu!
"Mork calling Orson... Come in, Orson..."

This 1978–82 Fantastic Comedy series on ABC, created by Garry Marshall and spun off from an episode of Happy Days, introduced the world (ar at least America) to the comic genius of Robin Williams.

Williams played Mork, a visitor from the planet Ork sent to Earth to study and report on human behavior. After his egg-like space vessel landed near Boulder, Colorado, Mork moved in with the first human he encountered — a pretty young woman named Mindy McConnell (Pam Dawber) — and used her home as a base from which to observe humans and their strange ways.

The supporting cast initially consisted of Mindy's straitlaced father Fred (Conrad Janis) and her free-spirited grandmother Cora (Elizabeth Kerr); later seasons added a small circle of friends, along with curmudgeonly downstairs neighbor Mr. Bickley (Tom Poston) and a self-styled prophet named Exidor (Robert Donner). In the show's fourth season, Mork and Mindy became romantically involved and got married, and Mork promptly laid an egg and their their fully grown son Mearth (Jonathan Winters) was born.

Each episode concluded with Mork contacting Orson, his unseen Orkan supervisor, to share his most recent observations on Earth culture.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: 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.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Mork, Mindy, and later on, Mearth.
  • Alien Among Us: And since it's a spinoff of Happy Days, aliens are also presumably canon in that show's universe but just never make an appearance outside the one time. 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: In "Midas Mork" Mork appears to have discovered how to turn polyester into gold, becomes incredibly wealthy and ends up running out on Mindy and Mearth to travel the world with another woman. It turns out it was just a bad dream Mindy had while asleep on the couch.
  • Amusing Alien: Mork, natch. Would you expect an alien played by Robin Williams to be anything but funny?
  • An Aesop: Typically Mork learns the lesson of the week, but sometimes the viewer does as well.
  • An Alien Named "Bob": While most Orkans have unusual names, one of them is named Orson.
  • 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.
  • And Starring:
    • Conrad Janis (season one)
    • Tom Poston as Mr. Bickley (seasons two & three, even after Janus returned in the latter)
  • Animated Adaptation: In which they gain a six-legged pink dog. The '80s were a special time...
  • Badass Cape: In the episode "Watcher of Earth", an alien named Xerko comes to Earth and challenges Mork to a battle. Before the battle, he puts on a Badass Cape... only to tear it off in an exaggerated twirl.
  • Baffled by Own Biology: In "Mork Gets Mindy-itis", Mork thinks he's allergic to Mindy due to sneezing when she gets near, but it turns out that the sneezing was a weird nervous tic due to his One-Episode Fear of people getting too near him.
  • 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.
  • Berserk Button: Not much really makes Mork angry, but hurting Mindy in front of him is a good way to do it.
  • 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.
  • Blind Shoulder Toss: In "Mork's First Christmas," when Eugene brings a rope-wrapped tree over, Mork comments, "A tree in bondage? Eugene, you are weird!" Eugene, exasperated, tosses his gloves behind him as he goes for a cookie.
  • 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].
  • 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.
  • The Bus Came Back: Conrad Janis as Mindy's Dad, Fred 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.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Nanu nanu", "shazbot" and other "alien" words used by Mork.
    • Exidor would usually say "Mork, is that you?" before meeting with him.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • Averted thoroughly when Mork meets Robin Williams. Played straight in other ways, however — the show takes place in the same universe as Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley (albeit 20 years later from the events of those shows); however, in one episode Mork mentions Laverne & Shirley as a TV show, and in another episode, Mindy is singing the Laverne & Shirley theme.
    • One episode sees Mork wishing he could meet Anson Williams. Y'know, the guy who played Potsie on that show Happy Days?
  • Christmas Episode: "Mork's First Christmas" (Season 1). Mindy has to explain to Mork the meaning of the holiday.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Susan Taylor from season 1. Remo, Jeannie and Nelson disappear after the third season finale and are never mentioned again.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Due to a series of misunderstandings Mork is believed to be an immigrant to the United States and is told that unless he produces a passport or birth certificate he'll be deported. Mindy offers to marry him so he can stay but Mork refuses to let her "waste" the experience of getting married. In the end they decide to have Exidor adopt Mork which also gives him citizenship.
  • Code Emergency: In "Mork's Health Tips", Mork goes to a hospital administrator when Mindy goes missing. The man picks up the phone and tells the lady on the other end, "the eagle has landed", which, given the context, clearly stands for some kind of situation. She groans, "Again?"
  • 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.
  • Cousin Oliver: The rare middle-aged variation in Jonathan Winters.
  • Crazy Homeless People: Exidor does not seem to have any grip on reality, but lives in his own flexible reality.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Mork's appearance as an NFL cheerleader, baring his midriff. Well, unless you like that sort of thing.
  • Crossover:
    • The first episode featured a flashback to Mork getting dating help from Fonzie. Said date turns out to be Laverne.
    • Mork appeared in an episode of another Happy Days spinoff, Out of the Blue.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass:
    • Mork gave a Karmic Transformation to a group of racists who were terrorizing Mindy because she had some Polish heritage.
    • 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.
  • The Dinnermobile: The Orkans travel the galaxy in spaceships resembling eggs. Justified in-universe as the Orkans worship eggs as part of their religion, because they are descended from birds.
  • Drop-In Landlord: Mindy's landlord, Mr Wanker, who tends to be present when Mork is doing something stranger than usual.
  • 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.
  • Fanservice: An episode guest-starring Raquel Welch was explicitly this.
  • Fantastic Anthropologist: Mork's job is essentially to observe humans in their natural habitat.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The trope namer. As Robin Williams himself says in the documentary Pioneers of Television: Robin Williams Remembered, he would try to sneak all manner of things past the censors, frequently hiding dirty foreign jokes within Mork's gibberish alien languagenote .
  • Group-Identifying Feature: "Putting the 'Ork' Back in Mork" reveals that Orkans who have been stripped of their property as punishment (known as "fallen Orkans") are painted purple to distinguish them from law-abiding Orkans.
  • Halloween Episode: "A Morkville Horror" (Season 2) has Mindy's childhood home getting put up for sale, leading to her and Mork discovering the ghosts of its original occupants residing there and Mork channeling the spirit of Mindy's mother.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs:
    • Mork once explains that carbonated drinks make him "Ork -faced".
    • Mork claims, "I wouldn't harm a harf  on your cholly-cho-cho "
    • "How do you like them iggles ?"
  • Human Aliens: The Orkans.
  • 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!
  • Idiosyncratic Cultural Gesture: Mork is from the planet Ork. He and his fellow Orkans shake hands by extending their hands with their pointer and middle fingers together and their ring and pinky fingers together with a space between the two sets for interlocking (so to speak) with the other person's hand. They also "sit" by bending over and putting their heads upside down on seats.
  • 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.
  • Innocence Lost: Subverted. Mork is talked into freeing an escaped criminal who claims that he just needs to visit his sick mother and will return to turn himself back in afterward. Sure enough, Mork is arrested for freeing him and Mindy tells him that it is obvious that the crook took advantage of him and won't be back. In a genuinely moving moment, Mork tearfully agrees that he can't trust anyone again, until the crook suddenly returns as promised to turn himself in and get Mork released. With that, Mork's innocence is restored with his naive belief in the goodness of humanity vindicated.
  • 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"
  • I Want My Mommy!: Mindy's mother died of cancer when she was 7 years old. Years later, her father, Fred, re-enters the dating scene, setting up the events of the episode "A Mommy For Mindy," where he announces his engagement to a much younger woman. This brings back Mindy's deep-seated grief and one night triggers a nightmare, back to the day where she was told her mother "had gone to heaven." A shocked Mindy cries out "I want my Mommy!" before the adult Mindy wakes up crying, realizes Mork had overheard her screaming out for her mother, and breaks down in deep sobs.
  • The Killjoy: Mr. Berkley takes every opportunity he can to spoil the titular duo's time, although this stems from feeling left out rather than general dickishness (bit of a chicken-vs-egg situation. Does he have a prickly personality from being excluded or is he excluded because of his poor attitude?).
  • Knight of Cerebus: Kalniknote  from the three-part "Gotta Run" finale. While some of his dialogue is Played for Laughs, he's still an evil Venusian who seeks to Take Over the World, blows up Mork and Mindy's apartment, and tries to kill them, even having a group of men with guns to help in that respect.
  • 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.
  • Lightbulb Joke: How many Martians does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 8.7 Arh! Arh!
  • Limited Wardrobe: Mork has and switches between only two everyday outfits — a rainbow-colored long-sleeved shirt and khakis, and a green-and-orange striped long-sleeve and dark blue pants — along with his iconic rainbow suspenders adorned with assorted space-themed pins, multicolored vest and light gray high-top sneakers in every episode. He also wears the same formal suit and bowtie for the appropriate occasions, and his Orkan uniform for his weekly reports to Orson or his visits with Mindy (and later Mearth) back to his home planet.
  • 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: Orkans age backwards, starting out at middle-aged or older and ending as infants. The Elder Orkan looks like a ten year old human while Mearth hatches in the form of Jonathan Winters (56 years old at the time).
  • Mistaken for Insane: In the pilot, Mork, an Amusing Alien, is mistaken for a deranged human and has to take tests to prove he isn't insane.
  • Mister Seahorse: Orkan males lay eggs.note 
  • Mind Screw: The episode where Mork meets Robin Williams. Really.
  • Mood Whiplash: Quite a bit; one minute, you'll have Robin Williams doing funny shtick, the next, there's some big emotional moment. The end of "Mork Meets Robin Williams" is one example, as Mork talks about famous people who died as a consequence of their fame.
  • Name and Name: Mork and Mindy
  • New Baby Episode: In an episode, Mork lays an egg, which hatches into a baby that looks like an old man. They name him Mearth, based on their own first initial and "Earth", and Mindy has trouble getting used to him, especially when he learns to talk and calls her "Shoe" or "Daddy" instead of "Mommy".
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Mork's powers and their limits are never really defined, so he can do anything the plot requires: in one episode, he explains that he has the power to bring a person back from the dead, but he can only do it for one person (unfortunately, he wasted it on an old man everyone hated).
  • 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 Navel, Novel Birth: 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.
  • 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..."
  • "Pan from the Sky" Beginning: Every episode begins with a shot of outer space with Mork's egg-shaped spaceship zooming through the sky, then it pans down to Earth.
  • 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 (but he can only do that once).
  • Plot Allergy: Subverted. In "Mork Gets Mindy-itis", Mork thinks he's become allergic to Mindy since he starts sneezing when she's nearby, but it turns out that he's just afraid of being near people in general (since he's an alien and his species apparently sneezes when they're afraid).
  • Profound by Pop Song: While impersonating a priest, Mork gives advice to a congregant.
    Mork: You can't hurry love. You just have to wait. It don't come easy, it's a game of give and take.
    Woman: That's beautiful, Father. Psalms?
    Mork: Supremes.
  • Put on a Bus: Mindy's Dad and Grandma in the second season, in favor of a bunch of new characters who later got written out at the end of season 3.
  • Redemption Demotion: When he was a villainous character on Happy Days, Mork was so powerful that only the equally god-like powers of the Fonz could even fight him to a draw. On his own show, as a hero, he's much less powerful, or at least more hesitant to use his powers.
  • Retcon: Mork's appearance in Happy Days was said to have been All Just a Dream in that episode. But as Mork explains to the Fonz...
    "Sorry, real thing. I had to zap your mind to make you forget. Didn't want you to go Bozo City!"
    • 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.
  • Running Gag: Mork teasing Orson about his girth in his debriefings.
  • Scenery Censor: On one occasion, Mork walked out of the shower naked to talk to a shocked Mindy, who had to explain human customs regarding nudity. The low cabinet that blocked his bathing-suit-area kept the audience from seeing that Robin Williams actually was naked.
  • Shout-Out:
  • 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!
    Orson: Mork! This is not your regular night to report back.
    Mork: 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.
  • Spoof 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!
  • Standardized Sitcom Housing: Mostly averted: Mindy's upper-floor apartment in an old Victorian house had few of the usual features of a typical sitcom home.
  • Straight Man: Anyone not named Robin Williams. Or Robert Donner (Exidor). Or Jonathan Winters.
  • String-on-Finger Reminder: In the episode "Mork Runs Down", Mork ties a string around his neck and says that it's his species' way of remembering things. Mindy says that humans tie it around their fingers.
    Mork: That's how we used to punish cattle rustlers.
  • Studio Audience: Williams caused a joyous cacophony from the audience whenever he first appeared in an episode and left them rolling in the aisles with his comedic talent.
  • Subverted Catchphrase: In "Putting the Ork Back in Mork", Mork has forgotten what he's meant to say when he gets hurt. It's meant to be "Shazbot!", but he instead says two Non Sequiturs: "I do not know any Libyans and I have not yet cashed the cheques" and "Let's move Laverne & Shirley to Thursday night, okay?".
  • 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. McConnall: Yeah, I feel like I'm in a Lassie movie.
  • Trash the Set: "Gotta Run: Part 1" ends with the living room of the apartment getting blown up.
  • Tsundere: Mr. Bickley is a rare male example. He acts harsh, but every time someone shows him kindness, he becomes adorable.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Mork and Mindy for the first couple of years.
  • Vocal Evolution: Mork's fast, nasal "spaceman" voice gradually disappeared as the show progressed, as he grew more accustomed to Planet Earth. The nasal voice makes a reappearance in season four when Orson wipes Mork's memories of his time on Earth.
  • The Voice: Orson is never seen, but he is heard. Sometimes, in scenes that take place on Ork, his shadow can be seen, but he is never personally seen.
  • Wearing It All Wrong: Amusing Alien Mork wears his watch on his ankle, and thinks it's weird that earthlings wear watches on their wrists. It may have something to do with the fact that Orkans evolved from birds, who'd want their arms free to fly with.
  • "We're Live" Realization: Mindy, who's having a quarrel with Mork, talks with the relationship guru at the TV station where she works during a commercial. The two talk it out. Then the woman quietly realizes that they went live some time ago. The alarm buzzes, and Mindy resignedly tells her boss that she'll be there in a minute.
  • World of Snark: Robin Williams was NOT the only person who could give a good one-liner.
  • Younger Than They Look: Robin Williams was only in his late 20s when the show was being made. He looked more like he was in his mid-40s, 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 20s, 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.


Video Example(s):


Mork & Mindy: Fly! Be Free!

Having arrived in an egg himself, Mork finds several smaller eggs in Mindy's fridge, and mistakes them for imprisoned fellow Orkans.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / HumansThroughAlienEyes

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