Timing is everything in comedy. What time your sitcom airs is also important. When Norm MacDonald’s sitcom debuted on ABC, it was a success on Wednesday nights right after The Drew Carey Show. The next season it was flipped to lead into Drew. There was a little ratings dip, but nothing compared to complete collapse when the third season took place in the Friday graveyard slot. Thankfully The Norm Show: The Complete Series resurrects all 54 episodes about the anti-social social worker.
Norm McDonald had risen to fame on Saturday Night Live with his Weekend Update anchoring. He was a comic bad boy with his caustic observations. This led to him being fired by NBC suit Don Ohlmeyer when he refused to lay off O.J. Simpson jokes. It was hard to think that Norm was going to soften up his act to create a cute sit-com. He didn’t seem like the goofy dad or the butler. Instead he picked a character that allowed him to exploit his jerkish nature. Norman Henderson is ex-NHL player doing his community service for tax evasion. Instead of cleaning garbage on the side of the road, Norman pays back the community by being a social worker. Although he’s not exactly gung ho at helping people improve themselves. He does gain a bit of likability through is adoption of Wiener Dog which is a wiener dog.
“Norm and the Prototype” brings us into his office. He’s doing enough to make sure he doesn’t end back in front of the judge. Laurie Freeman (Roseanne‘s Laurie Metcalf) is a fellow worker that wants him to take the job seriously. He’s in trouble with his boss since one of his charges (Nikki Cox) is working at a massage parlor. He gets guilted into finding Nikki a new job. He finds himself recommended an ad that’s really for adult movie. “Norm Dates a Client” has him pick up a woman in a bar only to discover the next day that she’s in need of social worker. She gets personal touch from Norm even though his job and a trip to prison is at stake. “Norm, Crusading Social Worker” revives Abe Vigoda (Fish).
The second season brings on Artie Lang as Norm’s half brother in “Artie Comes to Town.” Keep alert for the Pokemon sequence. It’s so 1999. “Gambling Man” is a major crossover moment when the crew from The Drew Carey Show deal with Norm’s gambling addiction. The show was co-created and produced by Bruce Helford. He did the same things on The Drew Carey Show. “Norm Vs. The Boxer” gives us the final performance of Richard Pryor. It’s an extremely painful guest spot. Kate Walsh (Private Practice) becomes a recurring character as Norm’s new girlfriend. She’s torn between Norm and her extremely rich boyfriend. Norm has to fight for her heart before she marries the guy. His interruption of the wedding is a woozy doozy. Even after they hook up, her ex-fiance isn’t through with Norm.
The third season doesn’t get too wild. There’s a bit of a Roseanne reunion when Laurie dates a younger man (Johnny Galecki) in “Norm Vs. Youth.” He would go onto star in The Big Bang Theory. There is a character switch when Nikki Cox leaves and Faith Ford (Murphy Brown) arrives. She becomes Norm’s new flame since Kate Walsh vanishes without a trace. There’s also a lot more focus on Norm dealing with his new boss (Alf‘s Max Wright). It’s as good as the first too seasons. But no matter how good you are, it’s hard to avoid the black hole of Friday night. This series deserved to run as long as According to Jim. The ultimate vindication for The Norm Show is that every episode is now out on DVD. The Drew Carey Show can’t make that claim.
The video is 1.33:1. The transfers look nice. You’ll see the smile on Wiener Dog. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0. The levels are fine for a sitcom. The laugh track the actors. The episodes are Closed Captioned.
Audio Commentary with Norm MacDonald and Bruce Helford on eight episodes. Norm points out that Laurie Metcalf made more money than him on the show. Last time the star with his name in the title wasn’t he highest paid in the cast was Lassie. The duo warm up their chat with tales from the production.
The Norm Show is so worth reviving. Norm MacDonald doesn’t compromise his take no prisoners humor. The scripts are freakish. The comic acting is first rate. Laurie Metcalf gets numerous laughs with just great reactions to Norm’s weirdness. The Norm Show: The Complete Series fits nicely in the slot between Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Shout! Factory presents The Norm Show: The Complete Series . Starring: Norm MacDonald, Laurie Metcalf, Artie Lang and Max Wright. Boxset Contents: 54 Episodes on 8 DVDs. Rating: Unrated. Released on DVD: September 7, 2010.
Joe Corey is the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.