Anything is plausible for a sitcom, and in the 1970s, it meant a couple who represented Earth and Space in the half hour series Mork & Mindy.
The character of Mork, played by Robin Williams, first debuted on Garry Marshall’s flagship show Happy Days, as a resident of Ork who tries to bring Richie back to his home planet as a specimen, but is foiled by Fonzie.
Impressed by Williams dedication to his character and crazy antics as a comedian, Marshall created this series, with Mork transplated to Earth in the 1970s by his handler Orson, to observe humans.
He befriends Mindy (Pam Dawber) one night when she is stranded and when she learns he is an alien, she decides to take care of him and lets him live in her attic as she deals with his interests and exploration in Boulder, Colorado.
Each episode brought wacky, bizarre and frenetic humour from Williams, who made Mork as off the wall as possible, yet made viewers sympathetic to someone who doesn’t understand the society and its rules.
Mork ends up working with Mindy at her Dad’s music store, who tolerates Mork and becomes friends with Mindy’s music student Eugene. Thanks to his creative mind, Williams created many unique attributes of Mork, including his greeting – “nanu nanu”, the accompanying hand gesture and his rainbow suspenders.
Debuting in September 1978, the series was popular with viewers, hitting number three in the Nielsen ratings after Laverne & Shirley and Three’s Company, and in front of Happy Days, who were at #4. All of these shows were on ABC, the leading network in the late 1970s.
The series was nominated for two Emmy Awards for its inaugaral season and in season two added new characters, but by the third season were losing viewers and the quirkiness of the show. In season four the network married Mork and Mindy, and added more guest stars, but was cancelled at the end of the season.
The pop culture influences were fast and furious thanks to Mork’s distinct habits and although the series wasn’t watched by many after the first two seasons, including this writer, the creativity and craziness of Robin Williams was always remembered to have started with Mork from Ork.