Trading Card Set of the Week – Mork & Mindy (1978, Topps)
Robin Williams has a new TV show debuting this week. The Crazy Ones, co-starring the Sarah Michelle Gellar (still trying to recreate that old elusive Buffy magic), looks like your typical bland network cringe-fest, made doubly so by Williams’ presence. Not because of the quality of his mirth-making, but because of what a return to television means. Wasn’t he a movie star of some significance at one point? Isn’t having a TV series, even in this age of TV-as-art ascendance, a bit of a comedown, a variation on seeing the same people on the way down that you saw on the way up?
To Williams’ credit, he’s been fairly up front about the reason for doing it, couched of course in verbiage about how excited he is about the project blah blah blah: he needs the money. Multiple divorces will do that to a man, even one with more money than most of us can imagine, much less split with an ex.
Reasons aside, we all wish Williams the best, and remember fondly those old stand-up routines of his, when he was coked up out of his mind, bedecked in rainbow suspenders and romping about a stage like a human dynamo. To commemorate his return to regular series television, today we briefly examine a product that commemorated his first foray: Topps’ Mork & Mindy trading cards.
For the uninitiated, Williams’ character of Mork from Ork first appeared in an episode of Happy Days, as an alien come to take Milwaukeean Richie Cunningham back to his home planet as a specimen of humanity (and what a specimen), only to be foiled by the Fonz. It all turned out to be a dream — up until Mork got his own show, one of the many to be spun off of the HD branch. Mork & Mindy was a big initial hit, with Mork’s fish out of water hijinks alongside the fetching Mindy, played by the alluring Pam Dawber, drawing excellent ratings and making the character one of the more memorable in the history of the medium. The series ran for four seasons, from 1978 to 1982, and saw a number of retoolings along the way as the once-high viewership waned. The titular pair became romantically involved, not just pals. Jonathan Winters joined the cast as their full-grown child — like wizards, Orkians age in reverse. It was always going to be a tough premise to sustain, but the changes didn’t help things, just confused them. And soon M&M was gone, and Williams was off to bigger, if not always better, things.
The Topps cards came out in 1978, during the first flush of success. With 99 cards and 22 stickers, it was slightly larger than some contemporary offerings, and needlessly so. Almost all of the base cards feature stills from episodes surrounded by a half-assed starry border, with fake word balloons delivering viciously unfunny jokes (sub what you’d get in a kid joke book). Things don’t surge uphill after the first card that you see above, put it that way. It’s a tedious product, one not all that aesthetically pleasing and remorselessly stupid in its artifice. But what would you expect?
The card backs are either puzzle pieces for several large Mork and Mindy pics, or selections from “The Orkean Reader,” presenting trivia or series background under a nice artistic rendering of the two principals (also seen on the wax packs and boxes). Here’s one, restating the senses-shattering Happy Days origin of the premise:
The main revelation one gets when flipping through these cards 35 years on is what a total babe Pam Dawber was, the hot girl next door writ large, who could knock your socks off in itchy 1970s flannel. Like most actresses of a certain age she’s now faded into obscurity, a victim of the sagging and wrinkles that conquer all. But let it be said, among these cards not even frumpy clothes and dopey dialogue can tame her beauty:
A few of the supporting players make it into the set, including Mindy’s buttoned up dad, played by Conrad Janis. Here he is in all his aggressively bald glory:
I fear that my Close Encounters of the Third Kind Topps cards just spontaneously combusted in utter despair.
Ah yes, Mork’s one-man, egg-shaped spaceship:
Back to Ms. Dawber. This site speaks for all heterosexual males in fully endorsing Mindy in a fuzzy catsuit that shows a whole hell of a lot of décolletage:
The stickers are your typical Topps fare, i.e. some publicity stills and color borders around the area to be peeled. To wit:
The backs of some stickers even include handy-dandy instructions on how to peel them, in case you’re either A) from Ork yourself and completely unfamiliar with our human ways, or B) an idiot:
And here I was going to peel them with mountaineering axes and a blowtorch. Thank you, Topps.
There you have it: Mork & Mindy, the trading cards. Best of luck to you in your new endeavor, Mr. Williams, and may you at least recoup some of the cash that your once better half got in the divorce. The rest of us are off to track down the episode with Mindy in the cat outfit.