In the late 1970s, America was introduced to a quirky pair – Mork & Mindy. Mork, an extraterrestrial from planet Ork who lands on Earth, becomes roommates with Mindy, a female human. This kooky sitcom, featuring Robin Williams as Mork and Pam Dawber as Mindy, was a huge hit when it first graced the screens.
It ran for four seasons until declining ratings led to its cancelation. To this day, though, people who grew up in the ’70s will surely remember the bizarre sounds Mork let out, and the sweet and funny faces Mindy made. Here are some facts about the show that are out of this world.
Pam Dawber Had No Clue What Was Going On
Back in the ’70s, Pam Dawber had a deal with ABC where they had to keep her under contract until they found the right acting project for her. She tried filming a pilot called Sister Terri, but it didn’t work out.” I played a nun who used to be a gang leader, but she found God, so she’s there to fix up the neighborhood,” she explained.
While the pilot didn’t sell, the scenes she shot were later joined with scenes of Robin Williams from Happy Days. The splicing did the trick, and Mork & Mindy sold straight away. Dawber found out she was hired for the show when her agent came across an article about it in Variety.
“Who in the World Is Robin Williams?
When actress Pam Dawber heard she was cast to appear on Mork & Mindy, she had no idea what the show was even about. Not only that, but Dawber didn’t even know who her co-star was! During an interview, the actress recalls wondering, “Who in the [world] is Robin Williams?’”
She hadn’t auditioned yet, nor met any of her fellow castmates, yet her name was signed on the show. Thankfully, it turned out great, and the chemistry between her and Robin Williams turned the show into one iconic comedy.
Robin Williams Was the Only Alien to Audition
Robin Williams was called into auditions because the casting agent (one of the producer’s sisters) had spotted him in an acting class that another one of their sisters, Penny, was taking. Eventually, producer Garry Marshall chose Williams because “he was the only alien to audition.”
When a crew member asked Robin to take a seat during the audition, he sat in the chair upside down. “It was immediately obvious that he was exactly right for the role – anarchic and a little bit crazy, you could easily believe he was actually an alien,” Gary Marshall explained.
Inspired by an Episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show
You’ve likely heard that Mork & Mindy was inspired by an alien character on Happy Days, which is true. But it goes farther back than that. The Happy Days alien was actually inspired by an episode in The Dick Van Dyke Show.
The episode is called “It May Look Like a Walnut,” and it had Danny Thomas in the role of an alien. When the show’s director Jerry Paris was later hired to work on Happy Days, producer Garry Marshall told him that his son wanted to see an alien on TV. Paris recalled the success of Walnut and created the episode “My Favorite Orkan” which eventually led to the spinoff: Mork & Mindy.
Dom DeLuise Was Almost Mork
It’s hard to picture anyone other than Robin Williams playing the character of Mork, but before he got the part, actors Dom DeLuise and Roger Rees were both signed on Happy Days for the alien guest spot.
Eventually, both actors back out of the deal, each one with his own reason for doing so. This left the casting directors in a pickle, with a very specific role to fill, for a very specific person. Thankfully, it all turned out for the best!
Did Robin Williams Ad Lib the Entire Role?
Contrary to popular belief, no, Robin Williams didn’t ad-lib the role. During the peak of Mork & Mindy’s popularity, rumors surfaced about the fact that Mork’s role was largely unscripted and that scriptwriters left massive blank spots saying, “Robin does his thing.”
As you can imagine, the show’s writers weren’t too happy with the rumors and decided to clear them up. “We’re up until four in the morning writing Robin William’s ‘ad libs’,” one of the show’s writers, David Misch angrily responded.
Censors Were a Problem
Looking back at Mork & Mindy, it’s considered a pretty wholesome show. But back in the days, there were a few words that weren’t allowed on television. For example, in one episode, one character (played by Morgan Fairchild) tells Mork that she’s pregnant.
There’s nothing wrong with that word, right? Wrong. At the time, censors wouldn’t allow the use of the word “pregnant.” So, the writers had to change the line to “Mork, I’m having a baby.” Writer David Misch explained: “Being pregnant means you’ve had sex, but having a baby is adorable.”
Boulder, Colorado Was a Random Choice
Apparently, Mork & Mindy’s filming location wasn’t thought out very well. It was pretty much chosen on a whim. It was the first city to come to mind when the show’s producer, Garry Marshall wrote a description of the show’s storyline.
At the time, Garry Marshall’s niece was attending the University of Colorado, Boulder, and it was simply the first city that popped up as he was working on the script. The second it appeared in his mind, it stuck. And that was that!
The House Is a Popular Tourist Destination
While Mork & Mindy was filmed in a studio in California in front of an audience, images of a house in Boulder, Colorado, were often shown to set the scenery. The home that was shown is located on 1619 Pine Street in Boulder and has become a popular tourist attraction!
Back in the 1970s, the 3,818-square-foot house was sold for about $80,000! Nowadays, however, it’s estimated that the place is worth a little over 2 million dollars. We definitely recommend visiting this nostalgic mansion!
If Orson’s Voice Seems Familiar…
That’s because it is. At the end of each episode, Mork contacts his boss, Orson. And while the boss may sound like a pretty stern guy, many of you may recognize his voice due to some friendlier voiceover work.
Orson’s voice actor, Ralph James, voiced some well-known characters in his career. Among them, and likely his best-known gig was Mr. Turtle from the famous Tootsie Pop commercials! He also voiced various episodes of Looney Tunes.
Williams Learned About the Cancelation in a Magazine
Like Pam Dawber, Robin Williams came across the unfortunate fact that he was fired through the media. “I found out the show was canceled by reading it in Variety,” the actor later revealed.
That’s not to say he was TOO surprised by the announcement. By the time the fourth season aired, Mork & Mindy’s ratings were declining. Still, it was a bit shocking he wasn’t given the news in person. He believed the network was going to move forward with a fifth season and was disappointed to find out that it wasn’t so.
The Show Can Only Be Streamed on Paramount+
The sitcom Mork & Mindy was one of the ’70s and ’80s most successful shows. That being said, and unlike many other shows, the successful series hasn’t been retrieved to famous streaming platforms like Netflix.
The only streaming service around with a catalog that offers episodes of Mork & Mindy is Paramount +. That’s because Paramount Television was one of the few companies that helped produce the series in the first place.
Mork’s Star Trek Jumpsuit
The iconic red jumpsuit Mork wears in Mork & Mindy was brought from another popular TV show. In one Star Trek episode titled “The Savage Curtain,” Colonel Green can be spotted sporting the jumpsuit.
For the sitcom Mork & Mindy, the show’s costume designers left the silver outline encircling the collar and sleeves on Colonel Green’s suit, but for Mork, they added the huge silver, upside-down triangle to his outfit, making it uniquely his!
A New Time Slot Lost Viewers
The first three seasons of Mork & Mindy were a total hit for ABC. Unfortunately, by the time the fourth season rolled around, ratings were steadily declining. What’s worse, was that executives of the network decided to change the show’s timeslot.
ABC decided to move Mork & Mindy to Sunday night. This specific time lot was in direct conflict with the show 60 Minutes, which aired on CBS. Several people believe that the time swap and decline in popularity led to the show’s cancelation.
Season Five Was Meant to Be Educational
Even though ABC decided not to move forward with the sitcom, the fifth season of Mork & Mindy was still pitched. In the potential season, they snatched the time-traveling shoes from the fourth season and turned the series into something a bit more “educational.”
The fifth season’s pitch had Mork and Mindy time-traveling and running away from an alien assassin. They were meant to meet historical figures and have discussions with people like Abraham Lincoln. The educational premise didn’t really interest the network.
Mork & Mindy Became Animated
Even though Mork & Mindy was canceled in 1982, the sitcom lived on, in animated form. In 1982, ABC aired an hour-long cartoon special titled the Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour.
The special cartoon showed some fan-favorite sitcom characters in animated form. While the cartoon, which aired on Saturday mornings, ended up being short-lived (with just one season), it was still pretty entertaining while it lasted.
Williams and Dawber Got Together in 2014
After Mork & Mindy was canceled, actors Pam Dawber and Robin Williams said their goodbyes and hoped to work together again in the future. And while it took several years to happen, they ultimately met again!
The two stars joined forces again in 2014 to work on the show The Crazy Ones. According to Pam Dawber, getting together with Robin Williams was “like slipping into an old shoe.” The comedian responded a shoe that “fits somewhat more loosely.”
Pam Refused to Wear a Padded Bra (Good for Her)
According to a 1979 article in People Magazine, producer Gary Marshall once suggested that Pam Dawber wear a padded bra in order to properly “fill out her role.” Thankfully, Pam was strong enough to not give in to the pressure. She rejected the producer’s preposterous idea.
Not only did Pam suffer sexist remarks from the producer, but some harsh critics complained that her acting was frigid. One viewer stated that Pam was a: “Marie Osmond clone with no comedic timing and the appeal of cold margarine.” We beg to differ.
The Show Was Almost Called Mork and Marlo
According to the book Happier Days: Paramount Television’s Classic Sitcoms, 1974-1984, the show’s producer, Garry Marshall first suggested the names Melissa or Marlo for the female lead. But truth be told, Mindy had a much better ring to it.
In addition, to spice up the show’s fourth and final season, Mork and Mindy were given a child – Mearth. But before they announced the name, the producers held a contest to name Mork’s baby, despite already choosing the name Mearth among themselves.
They Released a Set of Trivia Cards
In 1979, the baseball card company Topps released a personalized and quirky set of Mork & Mindy cards. It depicted different stills from the series with cartoonish dialogue bubbles. The backs of some of the trading cards showed interesting bio bits about the actors.
For example, card number 31 read that Peter Lorre was Robin Williams’ absolute idol. Robin Williams actually had all of Peter’s lines from The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca well ingrained in his memory!
One of the Kindest People Pam Ever Met
Shortly after Mork & Mindy was canceled, Pam Dawber took a step back from show business. She got married in 1987 to actor Mark Harmon, and even though she worked in a few TV and movie projects, her most memorable role remains Mindy.
Not long before Robin William’s death, Dawber revealed in an interview how fun it was to work with him. “Oh, it was so much fun. I mean, it really was just so much fun,” she stated. “Robin is truly one of the kindest, most caring people I’ve ever met.”
His Sole Purpose Was to Make Pam Blush
During the ’70s, the definition of sexual harassment was a bit, how to put it… loose? Pam revealed that Robin would do the weirdest yet funniest things to her on set. I never took offense,” she stated, “I mean I was flashed, humped, bumped, grabbed. I think he probably did it to a lot of people … but it was so much fun.”
Robin would wrestle her, fart on her and appear on the set completely naked. “If you put it on paper, you would be appalled,” Dawber continued, “But somehow, he had this guileless little thing that he would do, those sparkly eyes. He’d look at you, really playful, like a puppy, all of a sudden. And then he’d grab your tits and then run away. And somehow, he could get away with it. It was the 70s, after all.”
Stars of the Show Who Passed Away
The most famous star on the show who is no longer alive is obviously Robin Williams. But other than him, there are a few more comedy legends worth noting. Number one – Tom Postom, who played Mr. Bickley on the sitcom.
Anyone who began watching television in the 1950s will surely recognize his face. Postom’s career began on The Steve Allen Show, which he joined as a recurring star. He delighted the viewers with hilarious interviews.
The Grouchy Neighbor
Tom Postom, who played the grouchy neighbor from downstairs on Mork & Mindy, went on to play a character that was the exact opposite of Mr. Bickley. He was cast to star on Newhart, where he played George Utley, the kind caretaker of the inn.
After eight seasons on Newhart, Postom went on to star in other projects including Grace Under Fire, Committed, That ’70s Show, and even Disney’s The Suite Life of Zack & Cody in 2007. The lovable actor died at the age of 85.
Mindy’s Grandmother, Cora
When Mork and Mindy decided to move in together, Mindy’s father Fred (played by Conrad Janis) wasn’t too happy. However, Mindy’s grandmother Cora (played by Elizabeth Kerr) was delighted! Elizabeth was a great comedian, sharp and feisty; she would spit rapid-fire insults at Mindy’s dad whom she called Fredzo.
When ABC fired Kerr after the show’s first season, fans were startled. Ratings dropped, forcing the network to bring Elizabeth back into the cast. Apart from Mork & Mindy, Kerr starred on shows like Highway to Heaven and Punky Brewster. She passed away in 2000.
The Bizarre yet Lovable Exidor
Exidor, played by Robert Donner, was a quirky character who happily accepted Mork the alien into his earthly home. Probably because he already had a bunch of friends (most of them imaginary) hanging around. He was just as outrageous as Mork; the two were the perfect buddies.
After the show wrapped up, Robert Donner appeared on shows like Fame, Murder, She Wrote, The A-Team, and many more. The actor’s final on-screen performance was in 2006 when he starred in the film Hoot. He passed away that same year.
Remo, the Local Deli Owner
Mork & Mindy was the first show on which Jay Thomas ever starred. He joined the show’s second season as Remo, the jolly owner of a deli who befriends Mork & Mindy. But the series was hardly the last one Thomas appeared in.
Five years after the show was taken off the air, Thomas landed a recurring role on the long-running hit show Cheers, where he played Eddie LeBec, Carla Tortelli’s boyfriend and later, husband. Two years later, he joined Murphy Brown as Jerry Gold.
He Died of Throat Cancer
Jay Thomas earned an Emmy award for his performance as Jerry Gold, Murphy Brown’s nemesis turned love interest. This led to another role on the sitcom Love & War, which ran for three seasons throughout the ’90s.
Thomas also starred in Mr. Holland’s Opus and The Santa Clause. After years of acting, Thomas’ final role was on the second episode of the show Ray Donovan in 2017. Later that year, he passed away at the young age of 69 due to throat cancer.
Mearth Hatched Out of an Egg
Mearth, Mork and Mindy’s child, joined the cast on the show’s fourth season (he also had a guest appearance on Season Three as a different character). The actor who played him, legendary comedian Jonathan Winters, was greatly praised by Robin Williams himself.
An award-winning comedian, author, and actor, Jonathan Winters was known for his bubbly energy and incredible ability to improvise. He rose to stardom in the 1960ps for his many stand-up comedy talk shows and appearances.
It’s a Mad World
Jonathan Winters grew so successful that he eventually headlined his own primetime series. He also starred in the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Later on in life, Winters co-starred in the funny sitcom David Rules.
Apart from acting, Winters also wrote books filled with witty and short stories and got into children’s minds by voicing Grandpa Smurf on the ironically blue ’80s cartoon “The Smurfs.” In 2013, Jonathan Winters passed away. He was 87 years old.
The Voice of Orson
There was one central character in Mork & Mindy that viewers never got to see – Orson, Mork’s stern boss. Audiences heard him speak at the end of each episode, his deep voice responding to young Mork’s reports about human life on Earth.
“Mork calling Orson,” a line Robin Williams used to say, became one of the show’s favorite catchphrases. Fan’s loved listening to Mork’s funny descriptions of what Orson really looked like (although fans never truly saw him for themselves).
The Man Behind the Voice
The man responsible for Orson’s booming voice was, as mentioned before, Ralph James, the same man who lent his voice to shows like The Pink Panther, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat, and Mr. Turtle in the series of Tootsie Pop commercials.
After playing Orson, James developed his voice acting career with characters on the 1980s cartoon iteration of Spider Man, as well as Yogi’s Space Race, Plastic Man, and, of course, on the Saturday morning animated version of Mork & Mindy. In 1992, he passed away at the age of 67.
Robin Williams’s Tragic Demise
Robin Williams kicked off his career as a stand-up comedian in the 1970s. By the end of the decade, he had managed to make his way into the world of television. His role as Mork was one of his first professional acting gigs.
Needless to say, Robin Williams went on to lead an extremely successful film career. He’s considered by many to be one of the greatest comedians of all time. During his run, he won two Emmys, six Golden Globes, and one Academy award. Tragically, he committed suicide in 2014. He died at the age of 63.
Where Are They Now? Pam Dawber
Mork and Mindy was one of Pam Dawber’s earliest acting projects. When the show wrapped up, she spent the rest of the 1980s starring in TV films and making guest appearances on various shows. Finally, in 1986, she landed a recurring role in the series My Sister Sam.
Tragically, though, the series lasted for just two short seasons. In 1987, she married actor Mark Harmon, with whom she raised two children. She’s continued to work over the years, but her role as Mindy is likely her most well-known one. Her most recent appearance was in 2021 when starred in a few episodes of NCIS.
Where Are They Now? Conrad Janis
Born and raised in New York, Conrad Janis kicked off his professional acting career in 1945, while still in his teens. From that point on, he became a fixture in the industry. From the small screen to the silver screen, Janis showed how versatile and talented he was.
Mork and Mindy was the actor’s first major television role. When the show ended, he starred in several other TV shows as well as additional movie appearances. Apart from his acting career, Janis found success as a jazz musician. Now in his ’90s, he no longer performs anymore.
Where Are They Now? Gina Hecht
Gina Hecht broke into the business in 1979, which was also the same year she joined the cast of Mork & Mindy. Despite being in just two of the show’s seasons, the sitcom proved to be a great starting point for her acting career.
From films to television shows, Gina Hecht has found steady work in show business. You may have spotted the former Mork & Mindy actress in shows like Dave and General Hospital. Apart from acting, the star has also debuted as a producer, producing a short film in 2011 called Odessa or Bust.
Where Are They Now? Jim Staahl
From acting to screenwriting, this former Mork & Mindy star has had quite an impressive career in show business. Jim Staahl has had the opportunity to work on a host of interesting projects. Seems like he’s been extra busy since his Mork & Mindy days.
That being said, Jim Staahl seems to have slowed down these past few years, as nothing new has been noted on his IMDB credentials. The last thing written on his name is the kid’s animated series Trollz which was released in 2005.
Where Are They Now? Crissy Wilzak
Crissy Wilzak’s acting career kicked off with Mork and Mindy. Surprisingly, though, the star made just one additional on-screen appearance after her time on the series. Most of Crissy’s acting experience was on stage. She preferred Broadway to movie sets.
Sadly, we haven’t been able to find much information about this star’s whereabouts. It appears that she doesn’t have any social media accounts, and her IMDB credentials are quite lacking. We hope she’s doing well and fulfilling herself in whatever project she’s keeping herself busy with!