As much as I’ve always liked Norm Macdonald, I’d never seen “The Norm Show,” his first sitcom, which aired from 1999 to 2001. On the basis of the rather weak first episode in Shout! Factory’s eight-disc set, I was ready to call it quits.
Then a funny thing happened: the second episode. And the third. And the fourth. And …
But to back up: Macdonald essentially plays the same wise-ass he did on “Saturday Night Live” and in his stand-up act, but here named Norm Henderson. Once a hockey pro, he’s been banned from the league for bad behavior, and takes the only job he can get, which is that of a social worker. To say he’s not very good at it is obvious; otherwise, from where would the jokes originate?
In that first half-hour, “Norm” is just another average workplace sitcom, where every co-worker is zany (i.e. uptight Laurie Metcalfe and schlubby Ian Gomez), and every case, zanier. In other words, nothing special. Then the show grows some balls, tackling edgy situations such as homosexuality and alcoholism in a non-PC, non-lesson manner, and the viewer wins.
The second season introduces Max Wright as a new boss, and subsequent shows bring Artie Lange on as Norm’s half-brother, not to mention the luminous Faith Ford as his love interest. Nikki Cox pops in and out as “ wait for it “ a reformed hooker. Being more conventional (prologue bits notwithstanding), neither this second year, nor the third and final, matches the laughs of its freshman batch.
The highlight of it all is just Macdonald being Macdonald, which means biting deadpan wit, Bill Murray-esque slob likability, and repeated utterings of his favorite phrases, including “Wiener dog” and “hobo.” (Did I miss a Hasselhoff reference?) “Rod Lott