Mork & Mindy was an ABC sitcom which aired from 1978 to 1982. One of the many spin-offs of Happy Days (that also include Laverne & Shirley), it was the show that catapulted comedian Robin Williams to stardom.
An alien who crashes into earth and settles with a young woman is a silly premise, but it worked and the show charmed its audiences during its four-year run. And who would ever forget the language (“nanu-nanu,” “shazbot!”), the rainbow suspenders and other elements that made this show a pop culture phenomenon?
1) Mork & Mindy was inspired by The Dick Van Dyke Show.
The inspiration harks back all the way from Happy Days, of which Mork & Mindy is a spin-off. In Happy Days, there was a character that was inspired by an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show called “It May Look Like a Walnut” which featured an alien character named Kolak (played by actor Danny Thomas).
When Dick Van Dyke director Jerry Paris was later tapped to direct some Happy Days episodes, the show’s producer Gary Marshall mentioned about his young son, who was an avid fan of Star Wars, who wished to see an alien on Happy Days. Paris recalled the “Walnut” episode on the Dick Van Dyke show, and the character of Mork and his encounter with the Cunningham family was created.
2) Other actors were also considered to play Mork.
It’s hard to imagine other actor than Robin Williams to play Mork, but producers considered diverse prospects from Dom de Luise and Roger Rees (both of whom had also guested on Happy Days).
3) There were other possible titles for the sitcom.
Mork & Mindy was almost called “Mork & Melissa” and “Mork & Marlo.”
4) Williams was “the only alien to audition.”
Marshall was looking for an actor who would play Mork on Happy Days. As soon as he met a then-unknown Robin Williams, the comedian impressed Marshall with his quirky comedic talents. And what do you know – Marshall cast Williams right on the spot, and later commented that Williams was “the only alien to audition.”
5) Pam Dawber was unaware that she had been cast
Another relatively unknown, Pam Dawber, taped a pilot for the series Sister Terri which featured the actress playing a lead role of a gang leader-turned-nun. The pilot didn’t sell, but scenes of it were spliced and put alongside footages of Robin Williams’ Happy Days appearance. The recycled footage gimmick worked, and ABC bought it. Dawber, meanwhile, learned of her casting after her agent discovered a magazine article about the show. She only got to meet Robin Williams for the first time when they went to shoot the opening title sequence.
6) Mork & Mindy’s famous house.
Mork & Mindy‘s abode is actually a real house in Boulder, Colorado. In fact, the house still stands and it is now a popular tourist attraction. After Williams died in 2014, fans flocked to the residence and left flowers and other memorials at the front yard.
7) A fifth season could have materialized.
Mork & Mindy‘s proposed fifth season had a bit of bizarre turn, with Mork and Mindy traveling through time to escape an assassin, while meeting historical figures such as Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin along the way. Obviously, the idea wasn’t picked up.
8) It was turned into a very brief animated series.
Although season five didn’t push through, Mork & Mindy still continued – but in a cartoon form. Hanna-Barbera Productions, together with Ruby-Spears Enterprises in association with Paramount Television, launched an animated spin-off of Mork & Mindy along with Laverne & Shirley and Happy Days. It was called Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour. This Saturday-morning cartoon lasted for one season, from 1982 to 1983. Williams and Dawber did provide their own voices to the animated versions of their famous characters.