While Judge Christopher Kulik's ultimate fantasy has always been to spend an evening with Bo Derek with Ravel's Bolero playing, he would settle for S&M torture by Raquel Welch on a spacecraft.
Mork and Mindy are back in an energetic and funny, though rather disappointing second season which was hurt by corporate cockiness. Heavy sigh!
Season One of Mork & Mindy was welcomed with high ratings and a Golden Globe for star Robin Williams. For some reason, though, ABC executives decided to do some outrageous tampering with the series, resulting in the show losing half its audience. What the hell happened? We shall see, as Mork & Mindy: The Second Season comes to DVD courtesy of Paramount.
Facts of the Case
Just to update the unitiated, Mork is an alien from the planet Ork who landed on Earth to study human behavior and emotions and hooks up with a pretty college student named Mindy. Throughout the first season, Mork gets to know Mindy's father Fred and grandmother Cora who run a small music store in Boulder, Colorado, and ingratiates himself with the people around him, most of who find him too weird or eccentric to comprehend. In Season Two, Fred closes the music store to go up to Denver to be an orchestra leader and takes Cora with him (though we never see this). While Exidor (Robert Donner) and Mr. Bickley (Tom Poston) are back, we also meet Remo (Jay Thomas, The Santa Clause 2) and Jean DaVinci (Gina Hecht, Night Shift), a sibling duo from the Bronx who have opened up a local delicatessen. Then there is Mindy's idiot cousin Nelson Flavor (Jim Staahl, Spies Like Us) who has his eyes on securing a seat in the local government. The second season has 22 episodes:
• "Stark Raving Mork": Mork meets a brother-in-sister team from the Bronx who have opened up a local deli and is fascinated how much they fight. Mork doesn't see that the fighting is only done to relieve stress, and thus gets the wrong idea that a fight with Mindy will strengthen their relationship. Everything goes shazbot in more ways than one, with Mindy exploding into a rage.
• "Mork's Baby Blues": A young, sexy gold-digger named (Dinah Manoff, Grease) gets the impression that Mork is rich, and thus decides to scheme him out of his "dough" by "spending the night" with him and pretending to be pregnant.
• "Dr. Morkenstein": Mork manages to get a job as the night watchman at the Boulder museum and one night befriends a robot named Chuck (who eerily looks like Robby the Robot). Chuck is about to be dismantled by the staff, though when he experiences emotions for the first time he asks Mork to help him enjoy life as much as possible. Chuck is voiced by the late Roddy McDowall.
• "Mork vs. Mindy": Mindy's snobby, sexist, terminally moronic cousin Nelson Flavor comes into town with political ambitions. He hires Mork and Mindy to serve on his political staff, though he soon finds out he can only afford to pay for one, so he asks Mork and Mindy to battle for the position.
• "A Morkville Horror": Originally shown just before Halloween in 1979, this episode has ghosts from Mindy's past haunting her and Mork in the house. In case you didn't notice, the title pokes fun at the The Amityville Horror, which was released just a month before.
• "Mork's Health Hints": One of the funniest episodes of this season has Mindy going into the hospital to have her tonsils taken out, but when she goes "lost" Mork must find her before she gets brain surgery after being mistaken for another patient! Pam Dawber really pulls out the stops in this one after her mind gets seriously affected by a sedative.
• "Dial 'N' For Nelson": Nelson Flavor has found a female enemy in Boulder who threatens to kill him (it bound to happen sooner or later), and soon finds out it may be a stripper. Mork and Mindy promise to help, but doing so forces Mindy to pose as a stripper called the Boulder Bombshell.
• "Mork vs. The Necrotrons": Quite possibly the most raucously funny episode of the whole season, this hour-long special has Mork being informed by Orson that their archenemies, The Necrotrons, have landed on Earth and threaten to torture Mork for information and then continue. Turns out, these Necrotrons are not only female, but are also supersexy, buxom knockouts who plan to use S&M tactics—including scrubbing Mork in a Jacuzzi onboard their spacecraft—to make him talk.
• "The Exidor Affair": Exidor has, in fact, fallen in love with a meter maid named Ambrosia (Georgia Engel, Everybody Loves Raymond), though there is just one problem: he can't tell her he loves her, not withstanding he can't stop talking to his imaginary friend Pepe.
• "The Mork Syndrome": Mork gets the idea that he wants to travel and see the world, so he tries enlisting for the Air Force, though he doesn't have the required documentation. So, he basically "borrows" an officer uniform, and learns of a nuclear waste accident.
• "Exidor's Wedding": Just what the title implies, with the complication being that Exidor's mother just appears out of the blue and objects to the potential union between Exidor and Ambrosia.
• "A Mommy For Mindy": Fred finally returns home to see Mindy and Mork, though he brings a guest: the woman he just married the night before. Mindy is put off, as it recalls the painful experience of losing her own mother at such a young age. However, Mork is so happy because he has never had a mother before (read: test-tube baby).
• "The Night They Raided Mindi-ski's": Mork wants to help boost Nelson Flavor's campaign, so he goes to a meeting of people who want to "clean up" Boulder…wearing white hoods!
• "Mork Learns to See": Syrupy episode—complete with montages—in which Mr. Bickley asks Mork and Mindy to entertain his son Tom, who happens to be blind. Then Mr. Bickley runs off (apparently he hasn't seen his son in twelve years), which angers Mork and Mindy as they get to know the talented Tom, a skilled pianist.
• "Jeanie Loves Mork": Mindy gets a job on a local newspaper as "Miss Lonelyhearts," who answers letters from people with nonexistent lovelifes. Her first letter is from Jeanie (yes, from the deli) who feels lost since moving from the Bronx, and yearns to meet a nice man. Enter Mork, though his good nature doesn't include serious romance…
• "Little Orphan Morkie": Mork gets a letter from the immigration office demanding for paperwork on him to make him a citizen (its about time!). Charles Lane, who plays the immigration agent also played on in a classic episode of I Love Lucy.
• "Looney Tunes and Morkie Melodies": Final episode with Nelson Flavor has the guy appearing on television to help his campaign, and Mork and Mindy decide to help with songs, dances, and musical montages.
• "Clerical Error": Mork gets the idea being a priest, and starts doing sermons at the local church.
• "Invasion of the Mork Snatchers": This episode has nothing to do with seed pods, but rather Mork's unhealthy TV buying habits and how characters from the commercials start terrorizing him. Sheesh!
• "The Way Mork Were": While the final episode does include Conrad Janis again, this pointless "memory" episode basically just rehashes scenes from older episodes just to let Mindy's father catch up on what he has been missing.
After reading all those episode descriptions, you would think that not much of a change has been made aside from some cast tweaking and a bizarre first episode. Think again. Personally, I was so traumatized by how bad and unfunny the season premiere was that I didn't have high hopes for the rest of the episodes…though "Mork vs. The Necrotrons" nearly made up for it, and much of the old magic from Season One does come back. As a result, I think Season Two is only a small step down from the first one, though it still has its fair share of flaws, starting with the surgery done on the music.
Right when the opening credits begin, you notice that they decided to disco-ize the theme music, which will no doubt make 21st century audiences either groan or have embarrassing memories brought back to them. As for me, even though I liked the film Saturday Night Fever, disco music is nowhere on my iPod, aside from one okay tune from the O'Jays. Hearing the "new and improved" theme tune reminds me of Judge Reinhold in Stripes when he wore that sweatshirt that said "Death Before Disco." Damn, I wish I had that sweatshirt.
The second major change involves the casting. Jay Thomas and Gina Hecht are just fine as the DaVincis, though I believe I empathize with much of the audience at the time by saying that Conrad Janis and Elizabeth Kerr are sorely missed. I really liked how they both played off each other with their cheeky insults, and I can see that the same element was given to Remo and Jean, courtesy of the writers. It's not that Thomas and Hecht are bad or unlikable, though they just seemed unnecessary. On a side note, I will say that it was interesting to see Hecht again, as I loved her role in the criminally underrated Night Shift, as Henry Winkler's difficult-to-please fiancée who is constantly worried about her figure ("I cheated today…I had a Nestle's Crunch bar!").
I certainly had no objection to the character of Susan Taylor being dropped, though why get rid of the cute Eugene? Instead, we are now forced to deal with Nelson Flavor, whose character is so mind-numbing, that you wish Mork would just freak him out (since Mork's character doesn't believe in violence) and make Flavor leave Boulder for good. On a positive note, Exidor and Mr. Bickley are given more screen time, and I think the writers made a smart move by making Mr. Bickley loosen up a bit and not making him such a humbug. As for Exidor, he is beginning to grow on me, I must admit, though his personality still ranges from annoyingly campy to mildly amusing.
The biggest mistake that ABC made, however, was moving the show to Sunday nights, which resulted in the show having to compete with CBS's Archie Bunker's Place and NBC's The Big Event. The confusion it brought on viewers resulted in Mork & Mindy dropping from No. 3 in the ratings to No. 27, and while ABC attempted to correct their mistake in December 1979 by moving it back to Thursday nights, the damage had already been done. Seasons Three and Four were never able to reach the heights that Season One had achieved, and the series was finally cancelled in 1982. Granted, this has happened many times to other TV shows, though in this case, there just seemed to be no reason for any of the changes.
Tampering aside, there were still a few improvements made with Season Two, with my favorite allowing Pam Dawber to exercise her character more. This is most evident with "Stark Raving Mork" when Dawber actually garners applause from the audience for the first time when she lashes back at Mork for the fight that he started. However, there is also her hilarious turn in "Mork's Health Hints" where she goes nuts after getting a sedative, and in "Dial 'N' for Nelson" she pretends to be a stripper! Throughout the rest of the season, she is given more dialogue, more personality, and—most important—some very funny one-liners. Even though she still seems not a perfect match for Williams, at least she holds her own much of the time and less of a foil this time around.
As for Williams, he is pretty much the same as Mork, with his constant ad-libbing, multiple voices, and sterling physical comedy. It's easy to see why he started his movie career soon after Mork & Mindy, and his first assignment was playing the starring role of Popeye, in director Robert Altman's bouquet to E.C. Segar's spinach-eating creation. Plus, we get to see Williams work with a number of guest stars, though there really aren't that much more than there were in Season One. We have the sadly forgotten Dinah Manoff in "Mork's Baby Blues," Conrad Janis' return in a couple of episodes, and of course the Pony Express. However, the biggest surprise in terms of the guest stars is in the hour-long "Mork vs. The Necrotrons," when the erotically evil Captain Nirvana (Raquel Welch, Fantastic Voyage) and her two assistants Kama and Sutra wants to kidnap Mork and suck his…err, brain.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio in English and the 1.33 full-frame image are pretty much the same as Season One and serve their purpose, staying faithful to how the show has always been seen on television. The quality of the season premiere, with obvious use of blue screen (and "Magivision") is just plain atrocious, making it a painful viewing experience, though the rest of the season retains its bright colors with the expected scratches and specks. Paramount has once again provided a disappointing package of this fondly remembered sitcom, with not a single bonus feature to be found, though they have made some slight improvements from the 2004 Season One release. First off, they wisely drop the slip cases and fit all four DVDs in a single case, and they even go so far as giving a plot synopsis for every episode on the opposite side of the insert. That's about it, though, and it results in another wasted opportunity for some commentaries or perspectives from the cast and crew.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
While I didn't mention this in my review of Mork & Mindy: The Complete First Season, one thing I liked about the show was its lack of sentimentality, considering the fact its only purpose is to be a likeably silly sitcom. In Season Two, it does get serious a bit too often, particularly during "Mork in Wonderland," "Mork Learns to See," and "Jeanie Loves Mork." Even "Mork vs. The Necrotrons" tends to surrender itself near the end, though the episode is so insanely funny most of the way, I can overlook that.
One thing that kind of ticks me off also is the fact that many of the titles given to the episodes were taken from movies: "They Night They Raided Mind-ski's," "Invasion of the Mork Snatchers," and "The Way Mork Were" are the most obvious culprits. To me, it is one thing to spoof or homage films (such as in "Mork vs. The Necrotrons," when Mork and Captain Nirvana imitate the dance between Jack Lemmon and Joe E. Brown in Some Like It Hot), though is there really any point to use the same film title and just add the name Mork or Mindy to it?
Then there is the series premiere, which makes me ask over and over again: what the hell were they thinking? I guess they were trying to start of the season with a surprise or two, but it seriously doesn't work; even Williams himself feels restrained with such an unfunny script. Maybe if they had started the season with "Mork vs. the Necrotrons" it would have been better, though the changing of time slots was no doubt the Achilles heel in the show's downfall. Seriously, why mess with a show when it's one of the three top-rated shows in the country? Does that make any sense at all? It's almost as if the head of ABC started acting like Exidor.
While the second season isn't nearly as good as the first, it still manages to crank out laughs, even it if depends on syrup and social commentary too much this time around. Makes one wonder how well the show would have done if not for ABC's modifications.
While Mork and Mindy are both free to go, Paramount is sentenced to another ten years on an Orkan chicken farm. Until season three, Na-nu, Na-nu!
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