While Judge Christopher Kulik is disappointed that this sitcom is running out of steam, he understands that Suzanne Somers was too expensive to hire.
Mork: I have the night all planned for us, Mindy! Tonight on television, Bo Derek is going to learn how to count to ten! AR-AR!
After a terrific first season of Mork & Mindy, ABC decided to take the series in a whole new direction despite the fact it was one of the top three shows on television. The results were catastrophic, considering half of the audience disappeared, and the show was almost ruined. Some of the problems were cleared up halfway through the second season, though it just wasn't the same, with the results wildly going back and forth between hot and cold. Is Mork & Mindy: The Third Season an improvement? We shall see, as it has been recently released on DVD by Paramount and CBS, just in time for the holidays.
Quick recap: Mork is an alien from the planet Ork that lands in Boulder, Colorado in the late 1970s. He meets the lovely Mindy McConnell (Pam Dawber, Stay Tuned), her father Frank (Conrad Janis, Mr. Saturday Night) and her swingin' grandmother Cora (Elizabeth Kerr, Frankie and Johnny). While Frank doesn't approve at first, Mork moves in with Mindy and starts his mission of learning as much about Earth as possible, and making a report at the end of every week to his superior Orson (voiced by Ralph James, Big Bad Mama). Along the way, he meets and befriends his neighbor Mr. Bickley (Tom Poston, Christmas With the Kranks), a whacked-out zealot named Exidor (Robert Donner, Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold), and the DaVincis (Jay Thomas and Gina Hecht), a sibling duo from the Bronx that open a local deli.
The first two seasons dropped some characters and added some new ones, though in the third season, we get to have Frank, who was largely absent from the second season, again. Many of the characters in the second season are now relegated to occasional appearances, and now we have Glenda (Crissy Wilzak, one of the series' producers), who is supposedly romantically involved with Nelson Flavor. The DaVincis have expanded their deli into an Italian restaurant and Frank has now became good friends with Mr. Bickley, though the biggest plot element that gets sharpened up this season is the growing relationship between Mork and Mindy, who started out both has good friends. Hints of a romantic attachment are finally beginning to be apparent. In Mork & Mindy: The Third Season, we have 22 episodes, including the hour-long premiere:
• "Mork in Never Never Land": Throughout the last two years, Mindy has been hoping to get accepted back to the University of Colorado; when she receives the bad news that she lost a scholarship, Mork attempts to cheer her up by bringing home a pen pal living in an asylum who calls himself Peter Pan (David Spielberg, Wiseguy).
• "Dueling Skates": An episode that is more entertaining than funny, with Mork upset that a roller rink that wants to tear down the child center he's working at to build a parking lot. So, he makes a bet with the aptly named Wheels (the star racer of Boulder) to skate down the Rocky Mountains to the city in order to save the day care center—as well as his job.
• "Mork the Prankster": Mork learns about practical jokes, and tries to pull one on Mindy, except for the fact he keeps spoiling them ahead of time. So, he devises the ultimate prank: putting Mindy's Jeep CR-5 in the middle of their second-story apartment!
• "Mork, the Monkey's Uncle": Been there, done that. In a first season episode, Mork "rescues" a chimpanzee from the local zoo, and he does the same thing here just because he believes that its mother was kidnapped.
• "Mork's New Look": Frank wishes he looked a bit younger to bridge the age gap between him and his new wife. This gives Mork the idea to get plastic surgery to give Frank the message that he looks fine.
• "Alas, Poor Mork, We Knew Him Well": Mork believes Exidor that impending doom and destruction is coming, so Mork decides to isolate himself in a glass chamber that he calls a "survival condo."
• "Mork and the Bum Rap": Mork wants to get into fundraising, and gets involved with a swindling homeless man who wants to use his dynamite personality to make some change. Mindy tries to explain to Mork that he is panhandling, though he just says that is "something that nurses do."
• "Mindy Gets Her Job": One of the series' best episodes by far finds Mindy finally getting a job she always wanted…though she is forced to do a news forecast without any experience on the spot during a snowstorm. Luckily, Mork is on hand to help, and the results are devastatingly funny. Foster Brooks (Cannonball Run II) is a standout as Mindy's drunken boss.
• "There's A New Mork in Town": Mork might receive some competition in a fellow Orkan named Xerxo, who is determined to take over his job of being an Earth observer.
• "Mork Meets Robin Williams": Just as the title implies, Mork gets to meet his alter-ego when Mindy is set to have an interview with the actor and comedian. Clever episode allows Williams to make fun of himself and his celebrity much of the time.
• "Mindy, Mindy, Mindy": Mindy goes off on a brief trip, and Mork gets a visit from the Orkan elder from the series premiere. To ease Mork's loneliness, he creates a duplicate of Mindy, which leads to some complications.
• "Mork the Swinging Single": A guy at Mindy's TV station asks her out, which lets her suggest to Mork that seeing other people would be very healthy. However, Mork goes a bit too far (as usual), and eventually becomes Boulder's No. 1 swinger!
• "Mork and the Family Reunion": Mindy and Fred are about to meet his brother Dave (Jonathan Winters, It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World) who has always held a grudge against them, though once he tries one of Mork's Orkan deserts, he has a change of heart…and mind!
• "Old Muggable Mork": Grandma Cora finally returns to see Mindy and Fred, though when she gets mugged in a Boulder park, it ruins her spirit. Mork devises a foolproof scheme to help her, even if it means turning into a fool himself.
• "I Heard it Through The Morkvine": Mindy gets a new gig at the TV station called "Rumor Has It" which is, literally, gossiping on the air. She doesn't think it's right, so Mork takes over…and upsets everyone he knows (well, except for Mr. Bickley).
• "Mindy & Mork": An age-old sitcom cliché has some twists as Mork must run the household when Mindy becomes more demanding at her job. Mork goes nuts and calls Mindy for advice during a call-in program.
• "Reflections and Regrets": A sentimental finale to the third season has the much of the principal cast members sharing memories at a party. An appropriate finish has Mindy finally spilling her feelings for Mork.
While I would hardly call myself a die-hard fan of Mork & Mindy, the reason why I wanted to check it out is because I am a fan of Robin Williams, and wanted to see his beginnings in television. Despite some very minor quibbles, I loved the first season, though the second was a bit of a letdown; characters got dropped, the time slot was changed, and the stories began to address more "serious" topics such as feminism, racism, and sexual discrimination. Still, the second season still had plenty of laughs, and its biggest achievement was making Mindy's character more layered and active. With the third season, much of the social commentary has been dropped in lieu of more sight gags and silly plot twists. Indeed, the creators and writers wanted to bring back the spirit and fun of the first season, and in some ways they succeeded, though the second season tampering did more damage then they realized and once this season ended, only one more would come.
Robin Williams is still a genuine scream as Mork, whether he is imitating the voices of Jack Nicholson or Linda Blair, or making snappy jokes masked in Orkan gibberish. Pam Dawber remains endlessly charming, and her reactions to Mork's alien behavior still remain a drawing card. While the incompetent Nelson Flavor still hangs out, his appearances are minimal this time around, with Exidor and Mr. Bickley contributing more to the proceedings. The biggest advantage was bringing back Frank, who was missed throughout the second season; even Cora comes back for only one episode ("Old Muggable Mork"). Surprisingly, while the first two seasons managed to have some cool guest stars like David Letterman and Raquel Welch, they remain sparse this time around, notwithstanding Jonathan Winters (who has always been Williams' idol) in "Mork and the Family Reunion" and Corey Feldman in "Gunfight at the Morkay Corral."
Many of the jokes are inevitably dated, particularly the political jokes ("Do you really think Earl Shrive does Ronald Reagan's hair?"), and inside jokes ("If you kids are real good, then I shall take you to see Popeye again!"). For some reason, however, if you are unaware of the times, then Williams' delivery still has the ability to make you laugh, especially his one-liners like "A funny farm? Oh, a place where they grow jokes!" In the third season, we see a lot of wild ideas transplanted into the scripts, which were actually desperate attempts to save the series from cancellation. This is most evident with "Putting the Ork Back in Mork" and "Mork Meets Robin Williams," and while they remain funny, it's clear that the fresh magic of the first season was by this time gone.
The DVD of Mork & Mindy: The Third Season is pretty much packaged the same as the second season that came out earlier in 2007. Paramount and CBS have once again put in plot synopses in the inside flap, and the clear plastic case is able to hold all four discs inside. While there are no special features (as expected), they did manage to at least stick in a promo reel of other TV shows on DVD before getting to the episode selections. As always, the audio and visual elements serve the series well, and the colors remain vibrant, providing a lot of eye candy.
However, the court is getting sick and tired of dealing with Paramount's lack of interest in putting special features on a well-remembered sitcom like this. They are found guilty, and now sentenced to life on an Orkan chicken farm. Until the fourth and final season…Na-nu, Na-nu!
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