In the mid-2000s NBC must have been noticing the ridiculously stiff competition coming from HBO in the form of The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and The Wire, because at some point the traditional networks (that’s CBS, NBC, ABC, and I guess maybe Fox, for younger readers) started to give up altogether. One sign of this was that the networks started casting, filming, and broadcasting docudramas about famous sitcoms from the 1970s. On May 5, 2003, NBC ran a movie that I would assume was a successful venture called Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of ‘Three’s Company’ with Brian Dennehy as ABC executive Fred Silverman. It couldn’t be clearer that this represented the ultimate cannibalizing strategy of a dying entertainment ecosystem. Right?
I remember watching that Three’s Company movie, which was, well, a disappointment. Two years later, April 4, 2005, NBC went for the gusto all over again, with Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of ‘Mork & Mindy’. I don’t remember this one. Playing the impossible-to-portray Robin Williams is Chris Diamantopoulos, who is probably best known for portraying Moe in the recent Three Stooges full-length feature by the Farrelly Brothers (I also saw him recently on an episode of Hannibal). That Diamantopoulos makes a young Robin Williams moderately watchable is something akin to a miracle, if you think about it. So it must be conceded that Diamantopoulos did a very good job. Playing Garry Marshall is Daniel Roebuck, best known to me as the guy who played Jay Leno in the 1996 HBO movie The Late Shift, a project superficially similar to this Mork & Mindy thing. Roebuck had a recurring role on Lost and weirdly, that Three’s Company movie too.
“Henry Winkler,” “Garry Marshall,” and “Penny Marshall”—of course
I should be up-front with the fact that this is not a good movie, but it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why. The main actors are fine (Erinn Hayes also does a fine job as Pam Dawber), but the action of the movie is uninteresting and unconvincing, that’s the main thing. Whereas that Three’s Company movie at least had “drama” in the Jersey Shore sense of the word, The Unauthorized Story of ‘Mork & Mindy’ does not. We hear a lot about shocked censors (!) and cocaine (!!) and extra-marital sex (!!!), but the main plot emphasizes the efforts of the executives (that cannibalizing thing again) to tinker with what was obviously a very effective formula ... sorry, I actually fell asleep while writing that sentence, there. For no real reason they hired actors to play Richard Pryor and John Belushi, for whatever that’s worth.
All in all, this is the kind of movie that cries out for the razzle-dazzle of a Bob Balaban.