Tuesday, August 12, 2014


I'm writing this on the day after Robin Williams' death, so it seems entirely appropriate to cite here the 1978 HAPPY DAYS episode "My Favorite Orkan," which served as a de facto pilot for the 1978-82 MORK AND MINDY series.

In the episode, the naive alien Mork descends to 1950s Earth with the intent of finding a typically dull specimen of humanity. He first encounters Fonzie, telling the leather-jacketed lothario that he's famous for his lovemaking prowess throughout the galaxy.  Fonzie, though he's far from comfortable with this close encounter, is relatively friendly toward Mork until the alien gets the idea of abducting Fonzie's buddy Richie Cunningham for his specimen. This leads to an epic conflict in which Mork's magical finger is pitted against Fonzie's prodigous ('Eyyyy...) thumbs.

I can't say I was a big fan of HAPPY DAYS or of most Garry Marshall productions, but when I liked DAYS at all, it was largely when it put aside conventional sitcom humor in favor of goofball absurdity-- and even the famed "jumping the shark" episode can't compete with the first Mork episode. According to Wikipedia, the episode originally ended with the claim that Richie dreamed the whole thing; when Mork proved popular with audiences and got fast-tracked into his own series, the episode was edited to reveal that Mork himself had edited Richie's memories of the event. Mork also met Laverne of LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY, probably with the intent of further boosting the Orkan's TVQ, even though his own series would be set in the 1970s.

I did like MORK AND MINDY, principally for its strong first season.  But even the show's better episodes are less significant than its role in promoting Robin Williams as one of the premiere comic talents of the latter 20th century.

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