Remembering Robin Williams: Mork And Mindy’s Window Scene

Mork and Mindy was a popular American show from the late 1970s.  The opening theme was a series of clear melodies with a soothing harmony.  Quite a contrast to My Favorite Martian’s, disjointed, unsettling theme from the 1960s.  America had changed and its view of alien beings had changed.  The world of the 1970s was one of unprecedented freedom, acceptance and the belief in the unlimited potential of a human individual.  Suddenly, discrimination diminished.  All ethnicities, religions, people of various sexual orientation flourished.   Julian Beck’s Living Theater was thriving on the streets and experimental art became the norm.  To be sure, the 1960s began the reform movement on TV and beyond;  Bewitched(in 1964) was the first TV sitcom to show a couple in the same bed and was redolent of intimacy and passion.  Poetry of Richard Brautigan and others were gaining prominence. The generation gap was getting wider.  But the 60s was an explosive age, an eruption from the stale, too-well role-defined, authoritarian world of the 1950s, while the 1970s was an age where the rebellions and upheavals settled into a new, but still discernible pattern.

Mork and Mindy took the American audience by storm in 1978, when a young, short, athletic, comic actor cavorted as an alien from the planet Ork.  He was juxtaposed with the more refined, careful, Mindy McConnell(Pam Dawber), who worked in her Dad’s music store in Boulder, Colorado.  Together, their slow evolving relationship of mutual discovery and respect, formed the main subject of the show.

Mork comes from an emotionless planet and has been sent by leader Orson to observe earth habits.  Mork communicates his observations to Orson through his brain and these comments usually conclude the show.  They are often quite provocative and thought-provoking.

Through Mindy, Mork gains an appreciation of emotions and their consequences, reaching an apex with the manic “Mork’s Mixed Emotions.”  His first love is a mannikin named Dolly whom he worships and reveres.  However, Mindy teaches him that there is something rather special about a woman’s touch that Dolly does not have.  And so begins the growing intimacy that Mork and Mindy share in their developing awareness of their mutual feelings.  The episode blends slapstick humor, exaggeration, sadness and wistfulness in a blend that only Robin Williams could deliver in his quiet innocence.  And he provides this special mixture throughout the series.

The famous Window Scene from “A Mommy for Morky” epitomizes Williams’s capacious artistic talents.  Mindy has met an old boyfriend, who once broke off an engagement.  However, she is attracted to him, and agrees to go out with him to various restaurants, causing Mork to blurt out:  “Is this the guy you’ve been eating around with?”  Mindy tells Mork that she’s serious about her boyfriend, with marriage a distinct possibility.  Mork  is jealous and sad, but cannot admit these feelings.  Mindy’s boyfriend is anxious to have children, but Mindy questions what kind of mother she’d be.  Mork has never had a mother, only a Nanny computer that attended to his needs.  Since Mork has a time machine that will transform him into a three-year-old(which he sets for 10 minutes), he decides to use it for such a purpose; so that he can experience a Mommy and Mindy can experience what it’s like to be a mother.  Before our eyes, Robin becomes a three-year-old with tantrums, irresponsible playfulness, and seemingly inexhaustible energy and Mindy learns how difficult it is to be a mother.  When Mindy leaves with her boyfriend, the scene turns dark, and we can feel Morky’s despair at being left alone.  With tears in his eyes, he runs toward the window, shouting:  “Mommy!  Mommy!’  As he looks through the window, we see the tear-streaked face of a lonely child.  Suddenly, as if by an unseen magic, Mork changes back to a young man, and his:  “Goodbye, Mindy” is delivered in a subdued, sad, almost resigned manner.  The young boy’s dependent need for his mother has been juxtaposed with a man’s growing dependence on a love he, too, cannot do without.  It is a piece of TV magic that only Robin could have brought off, because throughout his life, the child never departed.  It often raised its head  in its sheer innocence, playful exuberance, and delight in its surroundings.

At the conclusion of the episode, it was usual to hear Mork stating to Orson:  “This is Mork signing off.”  Alas, forever, Robin.

“Like The Wind Across Your Face, Lucas Boy.”

The previous year is already gone, replaced by a new year.  Thus, it seems fitting to quote marshal Micah Torrance’s description of the passage of time from The Rifleman:  “Like the wind across your face, Lucas boy.”  He is an older man talking to a younger man, Lucas McCain, about the fleeting nature of time, a major theme in the show.

The series shows the special relationship between widower, Lucas McCain and his son Mark.  We see how Mark changes, from a ten-year-old to an adolescent and how this affects the relationship with his father.  He learns to accept people’s differences(another major theme), and learn there is a time for different things in life.  But, even in the early episodes, Mark takes an active role in defending his father and saving his life.  The Rifleman really deals with Mark’s education in the broadest sense, from going to the confines of the schoolhouse to learning about survival amidst rugged terrain.  His interaction with his father gives the show its dynamic, as they confront outlaws, outcasts, people uncertain of what they want and people who are too proud to admit they may be wrong.

In the last episode, we see Mark with a potential girlfriend, though it is clear Mark is not ready for commitment.  If the series had continued, Mark would have become an adult, which was not what The Rifleman was about.  As an audience, we are visual witnesses to the characters’ swift aging, and we are forced to accept Micah’s statement about the sudden rush of time.

“Just Be Mighty Sure There Are Pickles In The Pickle Jar.”

Prejudice has been around since human beings were created.  Stories have been written about people who have been perceived as “different”, and the social problems they encounter.  Labeling people is both a mental shortcut and protective device.  It is a mental shortcut, because we need not take the trouble to investigate the personality or personalities in question in depth.  Labeling is a protective device, because it shields us from concepts, ideas, beliefs and ways of living that may run counter to our own.  A vivid example of labeling is given in one episode of The Rifleman, a western, which ran from 1958-1963.  The show was ahead of its time, because it featured two episodes starring an African American  before civil rights legislation was passed by President Johnson, and several episodes dealt with prejudicial labeling. How folks are different and the need for tolerance are some of the main themes in The Rifleman.  It was also the first television show to portray a widower and his son as main characters.  It is precisely the interaction between Lucas McCain(Kevin”Chuck” Connors) and Mark McCain(Johnny Crawford) that give the show its special dynamics as the adult world and the child world intermingle and often collide.  However, the interaction is blatantly honest and one displaying mutual respect.  Questions are raised, sifted through, answers arrived at.  In one episode, a saloon girl is called a hussy by some of the girls in Mark’s school.  When Mark asks his dad what a hussy is, Lucas replies:  “A hussy is a worthless woman.  A no account.”  Mark has already met the woman in question and his instinct rebels against this label.  Lucas explains that when folks are different, it’s easier for others to put a label on them rather than to take a closer look.  But Mark retorts:  “But a pickle jar has a label on it.”  And Lucas responds:  “Yes.  Just be mighty sure there are pickles in the pickle jar.”  A gleam comes into Mark’s eyes.

A Funny Episode From Pete And Gladys

Several nights ago I saw a very funny episode from the 1960-1962 sitcom Pete and Gladys.  The show co-starred Harry Morgan(Bratsberg) and Cara Williams(Bernice Kamiat).  As is well-known, Cara was an irascible redhead, jealous of others’ success, and, in general, a difficult person to work with.  However, there is no denying the lady had talent.  In several episodes she displays her talent, but she is at her best in the episode”Sleepy Time Wife.”, which deals with the fear of a dentist.  There is certainly nothing novel in this theme, but there is in her portrayal of it, which borders on the surreal.  If you’re looking for unbounded laughter, this episode might be your answer.  You may find this through Nostalgia Merchant.