Question: Oh, wise one... please save my sanity and tell my brother he's mean. I remember Jonathan Winters hatching out of an egg on Mork & Mindy. He says it's just another one of my dreams. Is he being stupid? Vivian
Televisionary: Tell him I said to knock it off.
In what I believe to be one of TV's strangest and most ill-advised experiments, the producers cast Winters, a veteran comedian and hero to Mork star Robin Williams, as Mork and Mindy's son, Mearth. I don't know about you, but, merely being an occasional fan of the show, I'll admit I was freaked to see Winters as the couple's son, especially when he pulled that unsettling baby act. It wasn't amusing; it just made me feel kind of icky.
From where I sit typing, that kind of thing was a problem for the show almost from the start. Undeniably a huge hit for ABC when it launched in the fall of 1978, Mork & Mindy was a spinoff of Happy Days, a show in which Mork had debuted long after its creative peak. ("What else can we do on our '50s-era show? An alien would be perfect!") He came to earth to kidnap Richie (Ron Howard) and was enough of a hit with the audience to warrant his own series.
In its first season, Mork & Mindy, carried by the zany Williams, was a runaway hit. Williams was a breath of fresh air in the standard stranger-in-a-strange-land setup. And the appealing Pam Dawber was a fitting foil as Mindy. However, when it returned the next season, it got weirder — and not necessarily funnier. Winters came along in the last season, completing the same fresh-to-desperate cycle as Happy Days in a fraction the time.
Credit goes to Williams on the career front, though. While most performers would have been unable to shake the alien image, he continued to distinguish himself with his standup act while building an impressive résumé of comedic and dramatic roles. Granted, I long ago got sick of his shtick and can't stomach either his zany (Patch Adams) or his misty-eyed (um, Patch Adams again) personnas anymore, but the man's undeniably talented and he remains a star nearly two decades after his show left the air.