A ‘Mork & Mindy’ Cartoon Spinoff Died After Only One Season

These days, we all poke a bit of fun at networks and studios that seem stuck in ruts — rehashing the same content again and again. It seems like for every successful reboot, there are three terrible ones, and even blockbuster hits can lead to some really terrible sequels.

From a creator’s standpoint, though, you can’t beat a reboot when it works. After all, there’s already a built-in fan base, and you don’t have to work nearly as hard to get buy-in and recognition — something that really matters in today’s crowded streaming market. 

The tendency to rely on spinoffs and reboots is not a new phenomenon, however. Back in the 1980s, there was a ridiculous juggernaut of a cartoon filled with mashup references to some of the era’s top shows. Mork & Mindy got top billing in the universally panned tv show, but it probably wasn’t an honor the show’s original stars appreciated much. 

‘Mork & Mindy’ was part of a classic TV lineup

Back in 1978, a television show with a bizarre premise premiered, and it became a major hit that helped launch Robin Williams into stardom. Mork & Mindy starred Williams as Mork, an alien who is sent to Earth to collect data on human ways. He stays with a woman named Mindy (portrayed by Pam Dawber), and their hijinks — primarily based on Mork’s misunderstandings of the way Earth works — makes for plenty of laughs.

While the series only lasted four seasons before concluding in 1982, it has lived on as a classic, helped in no small part by Williams’ subsequent fame. 

‘Mork & Mindy’ had other classic TV tie-ins

Back in the 1970s, Williams was an unknown comic who was impressing the limited audience who got to see him perform. In fact, it was another classic TV show that helped give him his big break

Happy Days was a hit sitcom set in the 1950s that was working to keep its long-running material fresh and interesting for audiences. Show creator Garry Marshall recalled his sister telling him about an actor in her acting class: “He’s done nothing. He stands on a street corner and he does mime and he passes his hat around and they give him coins. That’s what he’s done so far! And you have to see him.”

Robin Williams as Mork, an alien from the planet Ork.
The character of Mork, an alien from the planet of Ork, became so popular from an episode of “Happy Days” that it was spun-off into this series starring Robin Williams in the lead role (his first major acting break). | Jim Britt/ABC/Getty

That actor was none other than Robin Williams, and he did find his way onto Happy Days. The show was having trouble casting for a bizarre episode in which an alien comes to visit.

“He was wearing these clown suspenders, rainbow-colored suspenders. We started right in rehearsing. And he started improvising instantly. It was the most exhilarating thing because it was hilarious,” Marshall recalls.

Williams landed the role of Mork from Ork, and he even revisited Happy Days for a second episode before getting greenlit for a show of his own. 

A cartoon tried to keep ‘Mork & Mindy’ alive

After Mork & Mindy went off the air in 1982, there was an attempt to keep the magic alive in the form of a cartoon. The ill-fated effort had the ridiculously long title of Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour. As the name suggests, the series attempted to bring several TV characters to life as cartoon versions of themselves. 

Despite its rather thin premise, the cartoon was able to secure the actual actors to voice their animated counterparts. Williams and Pam Dawber are each credited with 14 episodes. Henry Winkler voiced the Fonz in eight episodes. As Mental Floss reports, the series only aired for a single season, and it definitely didn’t do much to impress its intended audience before getting the ax.