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Remembering Robin Williams: The first time we met Mork

Highlight on New Movie Released DVD

On August 11, 2014, the funniest man in the world passed away at the age of 63. To pay tribute to Robin Williams, Zap2it takes a look back at the event that sparked his career: when Mork visited “Happy Days.”

During its fifth season, the “Happy Days” writers were looking for new and interesting ideas for Richie, Fonzie and the rest of the gang. It was Garry Marshall’s young son who pitched the “space man” angle.

Actor/director Jerry Paris had co-starred on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” before moving behind the camera on “Happy Days.” Taking inspiration from the classic episode, “It May Look Like a Walnut” — which found Rob Petrie dreaming of alien invaders out to steal our walnuts, thumbs and imaginations — the idea for the episode, titled “My Favorite Orkan,” was born.

RELATED: Remembering Robin Williams: From ‘Dead Poets Society’ to ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’

Aside from the obvious homage to “My Favorite Martian,” the “Happy Days” crew had a foundation for the story which found a weird alien seeking out Richie Cunningham for his “humdrum” nature. Needless to say, the people writing the story weren’t sold on the idea until Robin Williams came in to take on the character.

Actor Henry Polic, II (“Monster Squad,” “Webster”) was cast in the role, which he subsequently quit. Dom DeLouise (“The Muppet Movie,” “Cannonball Run”) was offered the part, but declined. Set to shoot on a Friday, Williams — an unknown comedian at the time — came in and booked the part that Wednesday. As soon as the writers witnessed his brilliance, doubt turned into gold.

What started as a very out-of-the-box idea for the series turned into the season’s most popular episode. Williams reportedly received a standing ovation once filming ended. And with their newfound lightning in a bottle, ABC rushed to create a spinoff. By year’s end, “Mork & Mindy” was on small screens everywhere garnering better ratings than its predecessor “Happy Days.” The world — and Williams’ career — would never be the same.

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