Entertainment Weekly

Fall TV Preview

NORM (ABC) 8:30-9 PM Starts Sept. 22

Say what you will about Norm Macdonald, but he's nothing if not civic-minded. In fact, the love-him-or-hate-him comedian is so concerned about his racy sitcom's move to the family zone of 8:30 p.m., he's going to begin each episode with a candid explanation of that week's naughty content. Explains Macdonald: "We thought it would be better to go on at the beginning of the show and tell people not to watch it."

Thoughtful, eh? As for those brave enough to disregard the warnings, here are some other wacky format tweaks you'll notice in Norm's second season: For one thing, there'll be way more celeb wattage. Each week Norm's hockey player-turned-social worker will begin the show by paying a visit to a particularly high-profile guest client. Though exec producer Bruce Helford won't spill the beans about exactly which stars have lined up, he does mention Macdonald friends Dana Carvey, Eddie Murphy, and Martin Short as for-instances. "I don't like to do stunt casting.... It gets to be really stretched," says Helford. "But these are really cool people, and these [segments] will be separate from the show's story, so we don't have to get into that nonsense."

Macdonald's ensemble gets a good shake-up as well, with costar Laurie Metcalf being joined by Mad TV's Artie Lange (as Norm's corpulent scam-artist half-brother); Faith Ford (Murphy Brown) in a six-episode stint as Norm's parole officer-turned-girlfriend; and Nikki Cox (Unhappily Ever After), who reprises her role as a former massage-parlor employee trying to go legit with a gig as the office receptionist.

"She's got this great bulls--- detector," says Helford of Cox's character. "She knows things that these people don't know because she's from the street." Adds Macdonald, "It's a great device, 'cause she's a real nice girl now, but she still has a past that we can call upon--about her being a dirty, dirty whore." That's right, fans: Macdonald's signature, often ad-libbed epithet will figure into as many episodes as possible. Notes Helford: "If one episode slipped by [without it], it must have been because he was tired that week."

Okay, so maybe that "civic-minded" thing was a bit of a stretch, but will we see anything likable about this guy? "Right at the core of him, he's truly a very nice person, and I think you're just starting to see that come through," insists Helford. "I don't think we're sending out any wonderful messages to America with this character, but when he does something really wrong, it bites him in the ass."

© 1999 Entertainment Weekly. All Rights Reserved.