As a college freshman in the fall of 1978, I spent countless evenings camped near the TV in the dorm lobby.
And why not? Three freshman sitcoms offered a ray of sunshine in the cultural malaise. Yes, 40th anniversaries loom for “Taxi” (September 12), “Mork & Mindy” (September 14) and “WKRP In Cincinnati” (September 18).
I was so smitten with “Mork” in particular that I missed only one episode that first season, all because I had to help hang tobacco in the barn for my cousin’s mother-in-law.
It seems like only yesterday that Mork’s alien greeting (“Nanu nanu”) and exclamation (“Shazbot!”) joined iconic Seventies phrases such as “Stifle, Edith!,” “Aaaayyyy!” and “Dyn-o-mite!”
Of course, force-of-nature Robin Williams was the main attraction of “Mork & Mindy.” But I also arranged my Thursday night schedule around the program because the vivacious Pam (Mindy) Dawber reminded me greatly of a hometown girl on whom I had a crush.
Alas, the giant egg in which Mork came to earth wasn’t nearly as big as the egg I laid with my courtship attempts.
“Taxi” didn’t necessarily prepare me for my first New York City cab ride nine years later, but it did offer a jazzy, memorable theme and a stellar cast (including Judd Hirsch, Marilu Henner, Tony Danza, Danny DeVito, Andy Kaufman and, eventually, Christopher Lloyd).
“Taxi” won an Emmy for “Best Comedy Series” three years in a row. James Burrows’ directing was superb, and the writing was instantly recognized as “smart.” (With so many of today’s uninspired “comedies,” the best you can say about the writing is “received a certificate for PARTICIPATING.”)
Content restrictions have been loosened and streaming service are cranking out “edgy” series right and left, but how many of today’s gags will hold up as well as something as simple-but-priceless as Rev. Jim’s written driver’s license test? Whisper it with me now: “What does a yellow light mean?” “Slow down.” “What…does…a…yellow…light…mean?”
I sometimes struggle to remember the name or cast of a series that aired just two or three years ago, but four decades after the premiere of “WKRP,” I still whistle the theme song and think fondly of DJs Dr. Johnny Fever and Venus Flytrap and newscaster Les Nessman (infamous for mangling a certain golfer’s name as “Chy Chy Rod-ri-gweeze”).
Despite all the water under the bridge since the four-year run of “WKRP,” I still smile to think of self-styled “hoodlum rock” band Scum of the Earth, station sponsor Red Wigglers (“the Cadillac of worms”), and, of course, “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!”
“Taxi,” “WKRP” and “Mork” were products of a special time.
The only “binge watcher” was that one moss-covered sophomore who slept on the dorm sofa between weekly episodes of “Dallas.”
“Reboot mania” wasn’t in force, so “Taxi” wasn’t built around My Mother the Car picking up fares in a zany P.O.W. camp.
“WKRP” existed blissfully ignorant of the “shock jocks,” talk radio and station consolidation to come. (Now you can’t even sing in the shower without a playlist supplied by the corporate office.)
And Mork could get away with those quaint WEEKLY reports to his boss Orson back on Ork, instead of constantly tweeting.
“This I can tell you – the World War I veterans parade in Boulder, Colorado was 10 times bigger than MLK’s March on Washington. So much bigger.”