Robin Williams was made by TV, if not quite for it. It was only a brief guest shot on Happy Days, a one-off that became a spinoff that launched him into the entertainment stratosphere, where he shone brightly, while, thankfully, rolling around the cosmos untethered.
Williams was ultimately best known for the movie roles that allowed him to showcase all that Julliard-honed talent. But he got the chance because TV showed off how uncontainable that talent was. The rest is frenetic history.
He always seemed to be bouncing around inside the small screen, as though the aspect ratio was too small to contain all that manic creativity.
Once, following a performance at the Kennedy Center, Williams spent an elevator ride literally bouncing off the walls, asking his fellow passengers if he had done well and if they had liked him. He had and they did, of course.
It was exhausting and exhilarating to watch Williams inhabit so many people at once. Imagine how it was to live it.
His agent said last week that Williams had been struggling with depression, the other side, perhaps the price, of that complicated genius. It always seemed that the drugs and alcohol, about which he was painfully honest, were not the problem, but an attempted solution.
NAB president Gordon Smith has championed bringing mental illness out of the shadows so that it can be treated, with respect and compassion. Working toward that end would be a fitting tribute to this late comic genius.