The Norm Show

The Norm Show is an American television sitcom that ran from March 24, 1999, to April 6, 2001, on ABC; from September 1999, the show's title was shortened to Norm.[1] The series starred Norm Macdonald, who created the series with Bruce Helford.

The Norm Show
Also known as''Norm''
Created byBruce Helford
Norm Macdonald
Theme music composerW. G. Snuffy Walden
Opening theme"Too Bad" performed by Doug and the Slugs
Composer(s)W. G. Snuffy Walden
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons3
No. of episodes54 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s)Norm Macdonald
Frank Sebastiano
Camera setupMultiple camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production company(s)Mohawk Productions
Warner Bros. Television
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Original networkABC
Original releaseMarch 24, 1999 (1999-03-24) 
April 6, 2001 (2001-04-06)


The show focused on the life of Norm Henderson (Norm Macdonald), a former NHL hockey player who is banned for life from the league because of gambling and tax evasion. To avoid jail time for these crimes, Norm must perform five years of community service as a full-time social worker. Other characters in the show included fellow social workers Laurie Freeman (Laurie Metcalf), Danny Sanchez (Ian Gomez), and Danny's sometime girlfriend and former prostitute Taylor Clayton (Nikki Cox). Norm's boss on the program for the first several episodes was named Anthony Curtis (Bruce Jarchow). This character was quickly replaced by a new boss, Max Denby (Max Wright), whom Norm frequently antagonized and pranked.

The second season of the show added Artie Lange as Norm's half-brother Artie, and Faith Ford as Shelly Kilmartin, Norm's probation officer and love interest.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally aired
First airedLast aired
110March 24, 1999 (1999-03-24)May 26, 1999 (1999-05-26)
220September 22, 1999 (1999-09-22)March 15, 2000 (2000-03-15)
324October 3, 2000 (2000-10-03)April 6, 2001 (2001-04-06)

Cast and characters

Main cast

  • Norm Macdonald as Norm Henderson: Norm was once an NHL hockey player and greatly enjoyed it (though he was purportedly not very good). However, constant gambling and tax evasion caught up with him – leading him to being banned from hockey forever. He avoided jail time by agreeing to five years of community service as a social worker. He was not properly trained, however – saying he was only ever shown how to work the coffee maker (which he still did not understand). Norm often showed complete disregard for his work – speaking frankly about the clients' problems, playing with toys at his desk, openly mocking/defying his bosses, etc. Nonetheless, there were times he attempted to help others and do the right thing. Norm is a compulsive gambler and had to seek counseling. Norm also had a deep fear of death (attributed to his parents telling him nothing good would happen to him after he died), but a children's book about Heaven showed it was nothing to fear. At the end of the series, a technicality releases Norm from his community service, but he ends up voluntarily returning to work.
  • Laurie Metcalf as Laurie Freeman: Laurie was previously Norm's social worker. Once he started working at the office, she became his co-worker and best friend. Often (and usually to her exasperation), she had to guide Norm in social work. Laurie is a dedicated social worker and frequently makes noteworthy proposals to help clients. However, she once lost her commitment when she felt like she was not making a difference. A visit to her old mentor (who was going to attempt suicide) showed Laurie that she should not let her job consume her, so she sought more of a social life. Laurie has a twin sister (also played by Metcalf), with whom she is argumentative.
  • Ian Gomez as Danny Sanchez: Another social worker at the office, Danny is usually portrayed as quite effective at his job. He could usually be Norm's partner-in-crime – aiding in his gambling pool and other schemes. He was also a more sensitive man. His dad in contrast was always more of a man's man that ridiculed his job, so Danny found their get-togethers stressful at times. Danny was heartbroken when his dad died, however, but was surprised to learn that he was gay (at the funeral, no less). Danny had a long-term relationship with Taylor and was set to propose. When she broke up with him, he was devastated. He was horrified to learn that he was related to Hitler.
  • Bruce Jarchow as Anthony Curtis (episodes 1-5): As Norm's first boss, he had a great deal of difficulty managing Norm, which induced a great deal of stress. Mr. Curtis has a daughter, with whom Norm ended up having sex. This caused Mr. Curtis to snap, and he actually attempted to shoot Norm from the roof. He was, however, tackled by the police.
  • Amy Wilson as Molly Carver (season 1): Molly was hired as a new social worker a little while after Norm's sentence began. She believed that her education and street smarts enabled her to be an effective social worker without anyone's help. She disappeared without explanation after the first season.
  • Max Wright as Max Denby (episodes 6-54): Norm's second boss. When Mr. Denby took over the office, he wanted to do nothing to risk getting fired and losing his pension. He even offered to allow Norm to do nothing throughout his community service. However, when Mr. Denby caused Laurie to quit, Norm tricked him into hiring her back – ending that deal. From then on, Norm did whatever he could to embarrass or undermine Mr. Denby's authority – much to his annoyance. Mr. Denby was married, but as he and his spouse clearly hated each other, they divorced. He also has a son and a daughter – neither of whom has a good relationship with him. Details about Mr. Denby's past include serving in the military (where he shot six of his own men) and working for the Nixon administration (though he was not involved in the infamous Watergate break-in).
  • Artie Lange as Artie Henderson (seasons 2-3; guest season 1): Artie is Norm's overweight paternal half-brother. Artie at times lived in Norm's shadow while growing up. When he came to visit Norm, he seemed to turn things around and had become a bonafide success. However, he later admitted his business partner had ripped him off, and he lost everything. After moving to New York, Artie took up various jobs (including even subbing for Norm at the office when his back was injured). In the third season, Artie became a bartender at the gang's usual hangout. It was also revealed that in the tenth grade he knew The Drew Carey Show's Mimi Bobeck (then known as Miriam and purported to never wear make-up).
  • Faith Ford as Shelly Kilmartin (season 3; recurring season 2): In the second season, Shelly was introduced as Norm's probation officer. Norm was immediately attracted to her and pursued her, but she insisted they keep their relationship professional. However, she eventually developed feelings for him and they began a relationship. Just as quickly, though, Shelley took a big job offer out of town and broke up with Norm. She returned a year later and the season saw Norm constantly trying to get back together with her. She continued to resist his advances, but she later admitted that she did love him.


  • Nikki Cox as Taylor Clayton: A prostitute, Taylor was Norm's first client after he became a social worker. The case was not easy, but according to her, she turned her life around after Norm simply told her, "You're a huge whore." She gave up being a prostitute and ended up working in the office. She formed a relationship with Danny, who was intending to propose. However, it turned out that Taylor loved Norm because of what he had done for her. Feeling guilty, she quit her job and left. She briefly returned to engage in an affair with Norm and to consider getting back together with Danny.
  • Wiener Dog: A Dachshund, Wiener Dog lives in Norm's apartment and is a devoted pet. A running gag throughout the series is that Wiener Dog is quite smart for a dog, which Norm does not truly appreciate. (One example sees Norm asking for chips. Wiener Dog brings in some poker chips, but Norm says he wanted potato chips. When Wiener Dog returns with a bag of corn chips, Norm angrily says, "Potato chips!") Nonetheless, Norm has often used Wiener Dog in an attempt to make decisions (such as barking if he should do one thing or not). Also, Norm once tricked Mr. Denby into hiring Wiener Dog at the office.
  • Patricia Belcher as Landlady: Norm's frequently angry landlady, though she is usually angry because Norm consistently fails to pay the rent. Her attempts to get Norm to pay have included removing his door and moving in with him. She is also certified to perform marriages. Her name never revealed, and she is just simply known as "Landlady".
  • Kate Walsh as Jenny: Norm's other main love interest. Laurie set them up on a blind date and after some hi-jinx, they developed a strong attraction. However, Jenny was wooed back by her ex-boyfriend Kevin Fitzgerald, who – among other things – was going to help her become a vet. Norm managed to prove his love for her, but when he hesitated at the thought of marriage, she went back to Kevin. However, Norm interrupted their wedding ceremony and convinced Jenny to be with him. She disappeared after the second season (save for an out-of-order Season 3 episode) without explanation.

Guest stars

Jack Warden guest-starred once as father of Ian Gomez's character, and fakes a grab at Norm's crotch (as he did in Dirty Work).[2]


Originally airing on Wednesday nights after The Drew Carey Show, the series was one of the top-rated sitcoms on ABC among adults 18-49 during its first season.[3] In between the first and second seasons, ABC shortened the series' title to Norm to avoid a legal conflict with Michael Jantze's comic strip The Norm.[4] ABC continued to keep the series on Wednesdays for its second season, though initially moved it an hour earlier. In November, the series moved back to its original timeslot, before moving back again in January. This caused ratings in the second season to fluctuate. When the series was renewed for a third season, ABC moved Norm to Friday nights (also known as the Friday night death slot), in an effort to create a new "Working Comedy" Friday night comedy lineup after the network disbanded TGIF. The third season saw even more time changes and ratings fluctuations. This, in addition to low ratings, caused ABC to cancel the series in May 2001.

DVD release

On September 7, 2010, Shout! Factory released The Norm Show: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time. The 8-disc set features all 54 episodes of the series as well as a handful of running commentaries (only in seasons 1 and 2) by Norm Macdonald and Bruce Helford.[5] The set has since been taken out of print.


Critical reception


Season Episodes Timeslot (EDT) Season Premiere Season Finale TV season Rank Rating
1 22 Wednesday 9:30 PM March 24, 1999 (1999-03-24) May 26, 1999 (1999-05-26) 1998–99 46 8.1[6]
2 24 Wednesday 8:30 PM (1-7, 14-20)
Wednesday 9:30 PM (8-13)
September 22, 1999 (1999-09-22) March 15, 2000 (2000-03-15) 1999–2000 48 7.8[7]
3 22 Wednesday 9:30 PM (1)
Friday 9:00 PM (2-11)
Friday 9:30 PM (12-14)
Friday 8:30 PM (15-24)
October 3, 2000 (2000-10-03) April 6, 2001 (2001-04-06) 2003–04 109 4.3[8]


  1. Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2003). "Dangerous Curves (Detective Drama)". The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946–Present (Eighth ed.). New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 863–64. ISBN 978-0-345-45542-0.
  2. "Norm Dates Danny's Dad". The Norm Show. Season 1. Episode 3. April 7, 1999. 21:12 minutes in. ABC.
  3. Rice, Lynette (December 20, 2000). "'Spin' Out". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-02-09.
  4. Smith, Austin (July 27, 1999). "Situation Norm-al: Macdonald Show Forced to Change Name". New York Post. Retrieved 2015-12-17.
  5. "The Norm Show DVD news: Announcement for The Norm Show - The Complete Series". Archived from the original on 2010-05-28.
  6. "NIELSEN RANKINGS FOR 1998-99". SFGate. May 28, 1999. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  7. "TV Ratings 1999-2000". Retrieved September 10, 2019.
  8. "TV Ratings 2000-2001". Retrieved September 10, 2019.
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