The premise of It’s a Wonderful Life has been done a number of times, yet they didn’t have the magic of Robin Williams. That’s one thing that makes the connection between the Frank Capra movie and Williams so interesting.
Let’s start, though, by doing a little review. It’s a Wonderful Life features Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a faithful son who takes over the family’s savings and loan business. He gets married to his sweetheart Mary (Donna Reed) and has his children with her. Life goes along, but one day it all seems to fall apart.
George somehow loses his way and needs some help seeing that life without him in it doesn’t work. This is where Clarence (Henry Travers), an angel, comes into play. For Clarence to earn his wings, he’s got to “save” George from himself. Things get so bad for George that he jumps off the bridge…only to be saved by Clarence. At this point, Clarence begins to show George a life minus him in it. Family, friends, and Bedford Falls don’t recognize him.
George Bailey Paves Road For Robin Williams’ Character
It’s only when George is at his last straw does he screams out to Clarence, “I want to live!” As soon as he does it, Burt, the cop recognizes George. Everyone recognizes him now, even Mary and the kids. It took George to see that life with him in it did matter.
OK, got it? Now, let’s turn our attention to Williams and his 1970s sitcom Mork & Mindy on ABC. Reportedly, his show was the first sitcom ever to use the setup provided by It’s a Wonderful Life. Williams, co-star Pam Dawber, and fellow cast members had parts in It’s a Wonderful Mork.
In this episode, Mork (Williams) just blows up everybody’s plans for their lives. Cora (Elizabeth Kerr) loses a student for her music business, Fred (Conrad Janis) sees a romantic relationship fall apart, and Mindy misses out on a part-time journalism job.
Williams’ Mork Takes Page Out Of Bailey Playbook
Seeing all this happen, Mork asks Orson (Ralph James) to let him come home. Orson then suggests Mork use the Plasma Essence Reversifier. That way, Mork could see what their lives would be like if he’d never gone to Earth. Mork can only observe them. No other contact.
Life does not get better for Mindy, Cora, and Fred. Once he sees what’s happening, Mork tearfully asks Orson to let him return to the present moment. When he does, things begin to settle down. His connection with Mindy is repaired and everyone returns to a normal life. In his final examination, Mork sees that he does bring some value to people’s lives.
Just like George Bailey.
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