My first awareness of Robin Williams was from Mork & Mindy, a show beloved by me in my youth. During that period, he appeared on The Dick Cavett Show (apparently the PBS variety), and my father remarked that he had seen him on the show and was impressed that Dick Cavett — himself sharp and quick-witted — could barely keep up with Robin Williams.
That was something that always stuck with me, even though I had limited familiarity with Dick Cavett. Because of my father’s comment, Robin Williams was probably the first celebrity whom I considered particularly intelligent and witty. It’s a small coincidence that PBS has been airing Dick Cavett’s Watergate, and that I was thinking of Robin Williams on his show — even though I never saw that appearance — the day before he died.
Dick Cavett wrote on Robin Williams’ death in Time:
Sitting next to him on my old PBS show was like sitting in the Macy’s barge next to the fireworks going off. He was at full, manic, comic frenzy for an hour without let-up. (We even improvised a short Shakespeare play together, with and without rhymed couplets.) I caught his manic energy. It was exhilarating. And exhausting.
When it ended, I was wet and spent. It took him a while to come (partially) down, and I thought, “Can this be good for anyone? Can you be able to do all these rapid-fire personality changes and emerge knowing who you yourself are?
Cavett’s comments echo my father’s.
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Robin Williams did not involve himself in many movie projects that have had much impact on me, save one: Good Will Hunting, for which he earned his only Oscar. His incredible performance in that terrific movie is one of the reasons I lauded it as a “Cinematic Great.”
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I found it a little odd that Williams became involved in last year’s sitcom The Crazy Ones, on CBS. But not that strange, I suppose, given the trend of bigger and bigger stars headlining sitcoms. What was ‘off’ about it, though, was that in the very brief bits I saw it did not work at all, just like its NBC twin The Michael J. Fox Show. Both shows featured a return to television by former stars of the genre, both failed miserably, and both were cancelled on May 10 of this year.
I have to believe that the failure of The Crazy Ones contributed to Robin Williams’ death. At the very least, if he had been involved in a successful sitcom, he would have been filming a second season in Los Angeles instead of heading towards the end in Tiburon.
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Robin Williams was involved in a more positive experience on TV in the last year: Apple’s “Your Verse” ad, which features his narration from Dead Poets Society.
A tragic and shocking loss.