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Robin Williams: Remembering his breakthrough TV performances

He’s best remembered for his unforgettable movie roles, yet Robin Williams made a lasting impression as the lovable space alien on two popular 1970s TV sitcoms. On Monday the world was left grief-stricken when news of his death was announced on television news broadcasts and social media. It has not stopped since.

Robin Williams attends the world premeire of "Happt Feet Two" in Australia.
Robin Williams attends the world premeire of "Happt Feet Two" in Australia.Eva Rinaldi from Sydney Australia via Wikimedia Commons

As a promising drama student at Julliard, under the tutelage of John Houseman, Williams and his fellow classmate and roommate, Christopher Reeve, would later set the world on fire. It was John Houseman who later told Williams to do stand-up comedy, instead of attend Julliard. Upon Houseman’s advice he honed his craft as a comedian. After some stints on television he landed a role as an alien from outer space named Mork on the 1950s-based hit show “Happy Days.”

His character was so beloved, the network decided to give Robin his own television show titled “Mork and Mindy.” His co-star Pam Dawber, as the adorable Mindy, was a brilliant team together. He had complete creative control where all of his lines were improvised. “Mork and Mindy” ran from 1978 to 1982. He was also nominated for an Emmy for his role as Mork.

In 1986 HBO aired the comedy charity special titled “Comic Relief.” Robin Williams, along with Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, all co-hosted the event to raise money and awareness for the homeless. It was the first of its kind in the ‘80s where other charities had been for Africa, AIDS, and farmers.

Periodically Robin returned to television to guest star in a number of hit shows like “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” His performance where he turned the tables on the SVU detectives, and later getting the assistant district attorney disbarred, earned him another Emmy nomination.

In 2013 CBS announced his return after 30 years to series television. Williams starred as an ad agency executive in “The Crazy Ones.” Unfortunately the show was cancelled after one season. Dealing with decades of substance abuse he went into rehab at a treatment center in Minnesota back in July. According to news reports, Robin’s former co-star was, "I am completely and totally devastated. What more can be said?!" Dawber said.