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Happy Days maintained a fairly realistic bent throughout it's run (I'm not here to debate shark jumping, I promise). Two notable detours from this were Mork and Mindy and Out of the Blue. Mork seemed like an random introduction to the show, and would end up in Colorado on his show, far away from Milwaukee, so he wouldn't have even been considered a "TV neighbor" to the Cunninghams anyway.

What was the decision-making behind conceiving the Mork character within the Happy Days universe? Why was it decided that it was worth risking the alienation of the existing audience for a show that might not take off at all?

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Money... They recognized the talent in Robin Williams and saw an opportunity to profit.. Mork was funny... –  David Stratton Feb 3 '12 at 13:39

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At that time, Happy Days was the best vehicle to test Williams in a Prime Time environment. One has to remember that Happy Days is one of the biggest spin-off trees in TV history (Itself being a spin off)

In general, spin-offs are finding talent and testing them on a show with a similar demographic to see if they might be able to hold up the ratings and drive more viewership.

Williams was known for his spontaneous comedy. It's known that many of the M&M scripts consisted of Dawber's lines followed by "Robin does something funny"

When the episodes turned in very high ratings it was decided that it was worth doing the pilot run on M&M and see how it went. On a side note, it is evident that Williams' drug issues, tied to the lack of organized writing left that show (and cast) to get somewhat retooled almost every season.

I'm sorry I can't back this up with any references. It was sort of a pet 'trivia' hobby of mine and I've always loved to talk about the Happy Days spin-off tree.

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From Wikipedia:

Actor-director Jerry Paris was inspired to create the character of Mork after directing an unusual and memorable episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show in which van Dyke's Rob Petrie believed the Earth had been surreptitiously invaded by walnut-eating aliens who stole humans' thumbs and imaginations. When he moved on to direct Happy Days, he introduced Mork in a similarly atypical season-five episode entitled "My Favorite Orkan".

[Mork & Mindy] was a spin-off from the sitcom Happy Days. The character of Mork, played by a then-unknown Robin Williams, first appeared in the Happy Days Season 5 episode, "My Favorite Orkan," which was a take on the 1960s sitcom, My Favorite Martian. Williams' character Mork attempts to take Richie Cunningham back to his planet of Ork as a human specimen, but his plan is foiled by Fonzie (though all this turned out to be simply a dream Richie had). The Mork character proved to be popular enough with the audience to go forward with the planned series of his own.

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It would be best if you added something to your comment other than pasting a wikipedia entry. –  Kevin Howell Feb 3 '12 at 19:27
    
Thanks for the answer. I'd also like to know more about the process leading up to the decision to implement Mork. –  jonsca Feb 3 '12 at 22:32

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