The Norm Show: The Complete Series
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All 54 Original Episodes
From Norm Macdonald and executive producer Bruce Helford (creator of The Drew Carey Show) comes this warped look at a pro hockey player turned criminal turned social worker.
Meet Norm Henderson. Once a fairly well-known, but not particularly skilled, professional hockey player, Norm had a penchant for gambling and an aversion to paying taxes that resulted in his expulsion from hockey for life. Facing a possible jail term, Norm was instead sentenced to community service as a caseworker in social services, where his mischievous and sarcastic personality has him breaking all the rules, leaving his friends, by-the-book coworker Laurie (Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne) and neurotic colleague Danny (Ian Gomez, Cougar Town), to constantly help him out of trouble. Also starring Max Wright (ALF) as his Boss Mr. Denby, Nikki Cox (Las Vegas) as Taylor the ex-prostitute social worker and Artie Lange (The Howard Stern Show, Dirty Work) as his crooked if not crazy half-brother: smart, edgy, dry comedy was the norm.
In the booklet that accompanies this welcome boxed set, The Norm Show cocreator Bruce Helford calls this late lamented series "the one that got away." A show that was just getting better as it went along, it fell prey to the vagaries of network scheduling, moved from Wednesday nights where it did very well to the programming sinkhole that is Friday night, where it did not, and was cancelled after three seasons. Helford also cocreated The Drew Carey Show, and Norm is cut from the same cloth. It shares the same off-center rhythms, delight in meta-musings and tweaking sitcom conventions, and cold openings, such as Norm's parsing of TV's ratings system (with rebuttal in one episode by the Devil) and the episode that begins apropos of nothing with costumed cast members engaged in a Pokémon battle. The show also engaged in Carey-esque stunts, such as the punch line and movie reference contests. Norm MacDonald is a pricklier personality than Carey. His Norm is not as likeable as Carey's Everyman. He is a former professional hockey player who avoids jail for tax evasion by performing community service as a social worker. He is a slacker in an office of dedicated professionals, including compassionate and overworked Laurie (the remarkable Laurie Metcalf) and the luckless and sensitive Danny (Ian Gomez). To the show's credit, little effort is made to dull Norm's sarcastic and acerbic edge that made him one of SNL's best Weekend Update anchors and Conan O'Brien's most dependably funny talk show guests. In one episode, when Danny says, "But you don't want to hear my problems," Norm replies, "Thanks, buddy. I was gonna say that but I thought it'd sound bad." The ensemble also includes sitcom veterans who raised MacDonald's game, including Murphy Brown's Faith Ford as Norm's social worker and romantic interest, Alf's Max Wright as Norm's tormented boss, MacDonald's Dirty Work costar Artie Lange as Norm's irresponsible brother, and Nikki Cox as Taylor, a former hooker, whom Norm helps rehabilitate. There are no Very Special Episodes, but several involving story arcs (Norm lapses into gambling, Danny and Taylor's budding relationship). And just for fun, there are memorable cameos (Richard Pryor in his last screen appearance as an abusive and uncooperative case, Lou Rawls as a hansom cab driver) and guest star turns, including Jack Warden as Danny's macho father who may be gay and Tommy Smothers as Norm's less than paternalistic father. As the show got better, so did its opening credit sequences. Season 2's never gets old, a comically choreographed street scene that perfectly encapsulates the characters. Extras are limited to several entertaining audio commentaries by MacDonald and Helford, who share writing and comedy insights and secrets from the set (during the episode "Norm Dates Danny's Dad," Helford reveals Norm's failed catchphrase that, alas, can't be repeated here). --Donald Liebenson
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