A final farewell to a comedy legend.
Robin Williams’ passing in August of 2014 sent ripples not only through Hollywood, but also America. Williams’ suicide (brought on by depression and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease) was felt heavily on social media where outpourings of love, affection, and admiration flooded news feeds via Twitter and Facebook. Through movies and television shows, Robin Williams had been a staple of American entertainment for more than four decades, and his final curtain call was a sad ending to a successful career of making people laugh.
Williams had a long career in Hollywood, starting in television on the classic sitcom Mork & Mindy and moving quickly into feature films. Willams’ filmography is filled with a vast array of hits (Mrs. Doubtfire, Dead Poet’s Society) and a share amount of clunkers (Bicentennial Man, Toys). Yet, no matter if the film was a success or a flop, Williams seemed to give his all in his performance, his brand of scattershot comedy reverberating around the screen. Williams eventually gained the admiration of Hollywood when he received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Good Will Hunting.
PBS’ Robin Williams Remembered is a very brief retrospective of the comedian’s lengthy career. The hour long show includes interviews with many who worked with Williams including Mork & Mindy stars Pam Dawber and Jonathan Winters, comedians Yakov Smirnoff, Louie Anderson, and others, all discussing their recollections and memories of the late actor. It’s an all-too-short rememberance of Williams’ talent and generostiy, featuring some teary eyed moments that truly pull at the heartstrings.
Unfortunately, fans of Robin Williams are going to be left wanting more. Since the feature runs only an hour, Robin Williams Remembered only skims the surface of Williams’ body of work. While some of his biggest movies are touched on – including Popeye, The World According to Garp, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Good Will Hunting – others aren’t even mentioned. I would have loved to have heard from director Steven Spielberg about his time with Williams on Hook, or Barry Levinson’s thoughts about the actor’s turn in the flop Toys. As it stands this is a decent encapsulation of Robin Williams’ time in Hollywood, but by the end of the hour mark it often feels incomplete.
Robin Williams Remembered is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. For a standard definition DVD this PBS special looks very good. There is some stock footage of Williams in old shows like Happy Days and Mork and Mindy, as well as from his early stand-up comedy days, and it sometimes is a bit roughhewn. Otherwise, the newly recorded interviews are in great shape and the overall presentation is solid. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby 2.0 Stereo in English. There isn’t a lot to report about this audio mix – it features a front heavy track with clearly recorded dialogue and DVD quality film clips. Also included on this disc are English subtitles. There are no bonus features.
While Robin Williams Remembered is an above average shorthand version of the actor’s life and career, it’s still lacking and feels like it was put together rather quickly to capitalize (or at least celebrate) the life of Robin Williams. I’d be very interested to someday see a full, feature length (or longer) documentary on Williams’ career and personal life, as he was known as a truly gentle man who did a lot of good for others. PBS’ work on this disc is good albeit not that exciting.