GREATEST TV NETWORK FAILS! Mork & Mindy, ABC, 1979

Written By: Greg Howell - Mar• 27•18

GREATEST TV NETWORK FAILS! Mork & Mindy, ABC, 1979

Every so often, television network executives get so high on success they begin to believe they are creative geniuses. Suddenly, they know more about creating TV shows than the talented people that actually create the programs. Such is the case with 1978-1979’s breakout smash, Mork & Mindy.

The show was a classic “fish out of water” tale with one very special difference. That, of course, was the genius of Robin Williams. His manic, zany physical humor took the show to astronomical heights. The show, that first season, became instantly ingrained into popular culture. Robin, and co-star Pam Dawber as Mindy, landed magazine cover after cover, headline after headline, and was one of the most exciting debuts in decades!

Robin Williams genius and acting chops were so remarkable, and so natural, people began to assume he simply was ad-libbing his way through each episode. However, this was not the case, as reported by Charlie Jane Anders for a wonderful expose´about the show, with interviews from Mork & Mindy‘s writers.

“There was a pervasive myth at the time that Williams ad-libbed all his lines on Mork & Mindy. This drove the writers nuts, because Williams always followed the script. Misch says their standard response was, “We’re up until four in the morning, writing Robin’s ad-libs.”

While Williams offered up improv, action, and jokes in rehearsal, come time to film, he was letter perfect with the script. He was the hyperkinetic male Lucille Ball. Mork & Mindy bounced around the top three of the national Nielsen ratings that first season, often landing well ahead of the pack. The show averaged a high enough rating that first season as the #3 program in all of TV, even though by season’s end, it was most often at #1. The show was poised to be one of the great all-time hits, and Williams to become one of the top TV clowns ever, ranking with Lucy, Gleason, Berle, Skelton and Carol Burnett.

Then, the ABC networks intervened! After decades of being the distant 3rd rated network, ABC destroyed the other networks in the ratings beginning in the mid-1970’s. The network had so many hit shows they began to toss them around like salads, and aside, like they were two day old popcorn. The executives were cancelling top hits like The Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman without a second thought. The network basically owned 4 of the 7 nights of programming.

Egos swelling, those executives became high on power. They suddenly knew everything about TV and creating great programs. Thus, they insisted the production team at Mork & Mindy fire the supporting cast, and add younger characters, and re-focus the direction of the show! Then, ABC moved the show from Thursday to Sunday, believing they could finally end CBS’s ownership of the night.

The entire affair was a mess, a disaster on the highest scale! The show plummeted in the ratings, and even worse, hardly anyone even spoke about the show any longer, except to remark how bad it had become. Desperately, the network attempted to return the show to its first season glory, but it was too late. People tuned out and never came back. The show continued to collapse in the ratings until cancellation was a necessity just two years later.  The magic was over.

As for ABC, their constant tinkering and re-scheduling of hit shows, such as What’s Happening, Angie, Charlie’s Angels, Too Close for Comfort, Soap and Taxi, ended their tidal wave reign and place as the nation’s top network.

For a more complete read about the show, check out https://io9.gizmodo.com/mork-and-mindy-was-one-of-the-most-unlikely-miracles-in-1745289352

 

GREAT TV QUOTE OF THE DAY: I Love Lucy, 1954

Written By: Greg Howell - Mar• 24•18

ICONIC COLLECTIBLES! Vintage TV-Themed Lunch Boxes

Written By: Greg Howell - Mar• 24•18

Launched in the early 1950’s, TV-themed lunch boxes trickled slowly into school lunchrooms for a few years. Early boxes featured Tom Corbett – Space Cadet, Howdy Doody, Disney, Roy Rogers, and Hopalong Cassidy. By the 1960’s, however, going to school carrying your lunch AND your favorite TV show in the same hand was exceptionally cool. Lunch boxes during these decades sum up the most popular kids shows on TV.

These days, a well cared for lunch box can fetch top dollars. The average collectible lunch box will run $25 -$50. Many are priced in the $100-$500 range, and some, run in the thousands of dollars. At first glance, there seems to be little rhyme or reason regarding the highest-priced collectible boxes. Ultimately, collecting comes down to supply and demand. Boxes, such as the Bullwinkle series, The Waltons, Star Trek, and the earliest themed boxes from the 1950’s bring the most money at auctions and in antique stores.

A comprehensive collection like represented in this video would cost a buyer $20,000 or more!

GREATEST TV QUOTES: Dallas, J.R. Ewing

Written By: Greg Howell - Mar• 14•18

Barney Miller, “Hash,” The 12th Gets Stoned, December 30, 1976

Written By: Greg Howell - Feb• 27•18

Barney Miller, Hash, pot browniesWritten by Tom Reeder and directed by Noam Pitlik, this third season Barney Miller episode titled “Hash” is one of the most beloved of all the sitcoms from the 1970’s. Reeder’s script brilliantly keeps the brownies’ ingredients secret for half of the episode, allowing for the viewer to grasp the details of the plot as it unfolds. Savvy viewers likely noticed Wojo’s suspicious behavior and squinty eyes, brilliantly played by Max Gail, from the very beginning; but, by the time Sgt. Nick Yemana is proclaiming that he can hear Harris’ eyes blink “Squish Squish” half way through the episode, all is very clear. Greenwich Village’s 12th precinct is stoned!

Even funnier, Harris, played by Ron Glass, grins his way through the show with a knowing daze, even as he grabs additional brownies like it is found money. Harris recognizes his condition long before Barney Miller does. It is Miller that breaks the news to Barney that the brownies are loaded with hashish and the culprit to the morning’s strange conduct by Fish, Yemana, Wojo, and possibly Officer Carl Levitt. Tom Reeder’s script hysterically indicates that anyone in the office but Barney and Officer Frank Slater maybe high as a kite, yet nutty Slater seems more stoned than anybody!

The brilliant script is filled with subtle political observations, and all ends with a promise for all to forget everything that happened. Wojo sincerely remembers nothing, but viewers will remember all about this episode for decades and decades to come.

1976 was Barney Miller‘s breakout year. After landing in the bottom ten for the first season, and struggling through its second year, the third season climbed into the national Top Twenty and secured 6 Emmy Award nominations.

 

Watch the entire episode on YouTube HERE:  https://youtu.be/9WdEoCLzzU4