Robin Williams: 1951-2014
Tonight on Happy Days, we’ll be showing the second appearance of Robin Williams as the character Mork, a 1979 episode entitled "Mork Returns". The alien character had appeared on the series the year before in an episode called "My Favorite Orkan", which aired on MeTV last night. In that first episode, Richie Cunningham spots a flying saucer and is investigated by the craft’s pilot, a being called Mork who’s been sent to Earth to study the planet’s inhabitants. We’re incredibly saddened by the loss of this gifted actor, and paying tribute in the way we’re best able—by airing this episode.
This appearance was merely a means to introduce the all but unknown (unless you’d spotted him in his earliest TV appearances: The Richard Pryor Show, Eight is Enough, America 2-Night) Williams to the world. The actor had famously impressed series producer Garry Marshall when, after being asked to take a seat at the audition, Williams promptly went to a chair and sat on his head. Marshall hired Williams on the spot, claiming he was “the only alien to audition.” His character was so popular that the career-making spinoff series Mork and Mindy followed shortly.
Revered by fellow stand up comics, Williams’ mile-a-minute style, with its hyperactive, character-filled, extemporaneous routines, was like no one else’s, before or since. His only stylistic comedic peer would have been Jonathan Winters, another troubled soul who was able to conjure worlds on the spot, with or without so much as a simple prop, spinning incredible scenes out of mid-air, out of an overstuffed mind of memories and observations.
Williams brought Winters into the Mork and Mindy series near the end of its run, and the two clearly delighted in each other’s company. With such busy and acutely aware minds like those bestowed upon Williams and Winters, there is often a darkness, and Winters battled his demons for years. Upon the death of Winters, Williams said “First he was my idol, then he was my mentor and amazing friend. I’ll miss him huge. He was my comedy Buddha. Long live the Buddha.” Today, as we process the news of Williams’ death, in what appears to sadly and bafflingly be by his own hand, there are similar outpourings of grief and admiration of filling the channels of social media around the world.
We haven’t even touched on his incredible gifts as a dramatic actor, his long list of awards and nominations, or his unforgettable appearances on late night television. To wade through the hundreds of clips of Robin Williams on YouTube is to once again marvel at a dazzling talent; to be lifted by the energy of his creative mind, but to pause in sadness knowing that within that singularly attuned mind there was such despair.
Today at MeTV, we wish we had more examples of Robin Williams’ work to share with you, but the truth is we don’t. He skyrocketed onto the big screen fairly quickly. So we’ll pay our humble tribute the best we can with tonight’s Happy Days, where we can see an incredible talent poised for take off. I guess we just never thought the landing would be so hard, so awful, so sad.
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