At Aug. 21’s closing ceremonies, the Olympic flag will be passed to the mayor of Tokyo, home of the 2020 Games. This dramatic act provides a much-too-clever way for us to give props to TV’s most prominent actor of Japanese heritage: the one and only Noriyuki “Pat” Morita. The California-born actor (1932-2005) is probably best known for his roles in the “Karate Kid” movies, but he also has a substantial body of TV work, including these five series:
HAPPY DAYS (1975-76; 1982-83) His real name was Matsuo Takahashi, but everyone knew him as Arnold (after the name of the malt shop he had purchased).
MR. T AND TINA (1976) No, this was not the first series starring the muscle-bound hero of “The A-Team.” Rather, Morita played Taro Takahashi (aka Mr. T), a Japanese inventor who was transferred by his company from Tokyo to Chicago. He had to deal with radically different American mores, as personified by his energetic housekeeper, Tina (Susan Blanchard).
BLANSKY’S BEAUTIES (1977) — In this short-lived “Happy Days” spinoff, Morita pretty much reprised his Arnold role, although this time he ran the coffee shop at a Las Vegas hotel, where Nancy Blansky (Nancy Walker) staged shows. (She had been introduced on a “Happy Days” episode as the cousin of Tom Bosley’s Howard Cunningham.)
OHARA (1987-88) — In this drama, Morita starred as Lt. Ohara, a Japanese-American member of the LAPD who preferred patience and persuasion, rather than using his gun, when dealing with bad guys.
BAYWATCH (2000-01) — In the final season of the syndicated version of the long-running beach drama (by then known as “Baywatch Hawaii”), Morita had a recurring role as Hideki Tanaka, a wealthy Japanese businessman and father of lifeguard Kekoa (Stacy Kamano).