Robin Williams Remembered- A Pioneers of Television Special did not provide the audience with any new insights, but it served its purpose: to provide an hour-long look at a legends life. Because the special was only 60 minutes, parts of it seemed rushed.
For some reason, the documentary starts with establishing its weird preoccupation with young Robin’s toy soldiers. Footage of toy soldiers scattered around a bedroom bookend the special. At the beginning, Pioneers of Television makes it sound that as a lonely child with neglectful parents all Robin Williams had was his toy soldiers, which he would create voices for. It never explores why this is true or how they got the information, so it seems like a forced introduction and possibly a bit of a stretch.
Once Pioneers of Television gets past the toy soldiers, the documentary goes into things fans already knew. Williams discovered theater in high school. He received a scholarship to Julliard, where he was trained in drama, and met Christopher Reeves. After Julliard, Williams struggled to find jobs and went to Los Angeles, where he got his start at The Comedy Store. While performing at comedy clubs, Williams audition for the role of an alien on Happy Days. The character became so popular; it was spun off into the show that became Mork and Mindy, which was eventually killed by executive meddling.
Most of Robin Williams Remembered is filled with clips from his work, which could have been the entire show and everyone would have been happy, and interviews with Williams’ friends, which blended into each other. However, Pioneers of Television goes off on two tangents to pay tribute to Williams’ biggest influence, Jonathan Winters, and the groundbreaking Richard Pryor, who was a friend and hired Williams for The Richard Pryor Show. Those are two of the most interesting moments, even though Winters’ work hasn’t held up, because they were different. Everyone has already shared their favorite Robin Williams joke or movie, so those segments were a nice change from what was in danger of become another compilation.
Williams’ struggle with depression, alcoholism, and drug abuse isn’t mention until the last 10 minutes of Remembering Robin Williams. It didn’t make much sense. While the documentary could have easily turned into a suicide prevention PSA, which no one would have wanted, shoving Williams’ battle at the end suggested that depression was only a problem toward the end of his life. In reality, he abused drugs and alcohol before Mork and Mindy and his first child was born. When Williams got sober, it lasted 20 years and he went to rehab as needed, so that he didn’t completely relapse.
Robin Williams Remembered- A Pioneers of Television Special would have been comforting three weeks ago, which wasn’t feasible because the special was obviously thrown together at the last minute. Fortunately, James Lipton interviewed Robin Williams for Inside the Actors Studio, which means you can get most of this information straight from Robin Williams’ mouth without a bunch of celebrities dwelling on how we will never see another one like him again.
The full Inside the Actors Studio episode with Robin Williams can be seen on Youtube.