A Work Com
intended to cash in on the comic persona of Saturday Night Live
's Norm Macdonald, in which he played a complete jerk who gets caught cheating on his taxes and becomes a social worker for community service. A somewhat neglected show which was actually fairly lively and entertaining, if just for its well-conceived, Karmic Trickster
-like lead character.
Apparently, a lot of people tuned in for the premiere, thinking it was going to be a Spin-Off
- Abusive Parents: Norm and Artie's dad is emotionally abusive. At the end of an episode, we learn that his dad is very much the same way (though is genuinely nice to Norm).
- Actor Allusion: As in Dirty Work, Norm and Artie play half-brothers. May double as a Casting Gag.
- And Starring: Ian Gomez was the last credited, but had the "and" credit. Upon joining the cast in Season 3, Faith Ford was listed second-to-last, using the "with" credit.
- Animal Talk: Weiner Dog only barks, but Norm seems to understand him and converses with him as if he could talk.
- Animated Credits Opening: Season 1.
- Bad Boss: Upon his arrival, Mr. Denby didn't want to anything to rock the boat - being more concerned with his pension than his job. His actions annoy even Norm, which leads to a couple items below.
- Brilliant but Lazy: Norm usually only works hard just to get out of work. In one episode, the others find a notebook full of pages of just "I'm writing this so Denby thinks I'm working."
Taylor: Wouldn't it be easier just to work?
- Butt Monkey: Mr. Denby
- The Cameo: Drew Carey, Ryan Stiles and Diedrich Bader all appear as poker players in "Gambling Man."
- Canine Companion: Weiner Dog
- Christmas Episode: "Norm vs. Christmas." Norm's attempt to get Laurie in the Christmas spirit gets Artie (while dressed as Santa) shot in the leg and taken to the hospital.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Molly Carver worked at the office in Season 1, but disappeared afterwards (with Taylor apparently taking her job). Norm's steady Season 2 girlfriend Jenny also disappeared.
- Comically Missing the Point: A source of much humor in the series. Lampshaded in the first episode.
Mr. Curtis: I can't tell if you're being funny or you're just stupid.
Norm: I like to mix it up, sir.
- Confessional: In "Laurie Runs For Office," Norm goes to, but only in the hopes that the priest will say he was right to play dirty politics against Councilman Krantz. The fact that he starts off by entering the priest's side of the confessional indicates how badly this will go.
Norm: I'd like to confess I think I just groped a priest.
- The Danza: Norm Henderson
- Also, Laurie Freeman, Max Denby and Artie Henderson.
- Determinator: Landlady will do anything to collect rent from Norm, including taking his door away and moving in.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Norm suspects Laurie has "thought about Taylor." She denies it, though.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Norm's landlady is simply referred to by everyone as "Landlady."
- Fake Guest Star: Nikki Cox in Season 2. She appears in every episode that season and in the opening title sequence.
- Fanservice Extra: In "Norm Dates a Client," Norm takes William to a bar and discusses helping him get a date. When Norm asks if he sees anyone of interest, William points to a blonde Lady in Red. Norm compliments him on his taste, but tells him to aim lower.
- Friday Night Death Slot: Season 3
- Freudian Excuse: Norm's gambling addiction and Artie's over-eating stem from their childhood interactions with their dad.
- Friend to All Children: For all their faults, Norm and Artie are very good with kids.
- The Gambling Addict: Norm
- Halloween Episode: "Norm vs. Halloween." Norm thinks he can win over Shelly by dressing as a fireman at a costume party, but has to take his youth group out trick-or-treating.
- Heroes Love Dogs: Norm treats Weiner Dog very well. As said in one episode:
"I would never do anything to Weiner Dog that I wouldn't do to myself. That's why I never had him neutered."
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Every time Denby tries to get him, Norm is able to turn the tables and humiliate him instead. Even when simply invoking the trope name.
Denby: You've been hoisted by your own petard.
Norm: Petard? What's that, sir? What's a petard? I never heard of that.
Denby: It's a... it's a... hoisting implement... used very rarely—
Norm: Well, that doesn't even make sense, sir. I don't own a petard.
Denby: No, no, no! Look, it's when you try to make someone else look foolish, you just make yourself look foolish instead.
Norm: Oh. Oh, you mean like a moment ago when I pretended not to know what that phrase meant. I was helping you hoist yourself on your petard?
Denby: Exactly. (realizes and groans)
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Taylor
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Norm and Artie, of course, worked together before this series. Also, in different episodes, Norm's former Saturday Night Live co-stars Kevin Nealon and Dennis Miller also appear.
- Johnny Galecki guest starred in a two-parter as Laurie's young boyfriend.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most episodes were titled "Norm vs. _____"
- Intellectual Animal: Weiner Dog. Granted, Norm yells at Weiner Dog for bringing him corn chips instead of the potato chips he asked for, but still...
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The defining characteristic of Norm. He was arrogant, angry, and mean to everyone he knew, but usually ended up wanting to help the people he worked with.
- Karma Houdini: Norm is this when, say, Mr. Denby hasn't done anything in the given episode to deserve it.
- Lampshaded in one episode: "How come he can pick on me, but I can't pick on him?"
- Karmic Trickster: On the other hand, Norm is this when, say, Mr. Denby does do something to deserve it.
- Landslide Election: Laurie airs a nasty electoral ad where she dances on the grave of her opponent... seconds after a newscast where his death was announced. Despite being the only living candidate left, she still gets trounced.
Laurie: I would like to congratulate the winners of this election, write-in candidates Mickey Mouse and pornstar Wendy Whoopers.
- Odd Friendship: In "Norm's Free," Norm and Mr. Denby develop one of these.
- Out of Order: "Norm vs. Cuba" was filmed for Season 2, but wound up airing very late into Season 3 - leading to inconsistencies such as Taylor still working at the office and Norm still dating Jenny. This ordering is maintained for the DVD release, but a title card informs viewers of the mistake.
- Platonic Life Partners: Norm and Laurie.
- Put on a Bus: Taylor three episodes into Season 3, as Nikki Cox got her own show on The WB.
- The Quiet One: William, one of Norm's clients. He does talk, but he's so incredibly shy that it's almost always an inaudible whisper.
- Ripped from the Headlines: "Norm vs. Cuba" is a parody of the Elián González story. The episode was meant to air during Season 2 when the story was still ongoing, but it didn't air until a year later due ABC abruptly putting the show on hiatus.
- Screwed by the Network: The series was a hit in its first season in a post-Drew Carey timeslot. For the second season, the show was moved to before Drew (where ratings fell) to after Drew (where ratings rose) to before Drew (where ratings again fell) before the show was taken off the air in March 2000. Though the show was renewed for a third season, it was moved to Fridays, where its fate was sealed.
- Series Fauxnale: "Norm Comes Back" was filmed as this, though it was the second-to-last episode aired.
- Shout-Out: In "Norm vs. Youth, Part 2," Norm greets the bar and the response is "Norm!" - just like another character of the same name.
- Something Completely Different: "Norm vs. Fear", which was used for "The Norm Movie Contest." The episode contained over fifty Shout Outs to different movies via lines, costumes and props - with the goal being to list the most. The winner would receive a new car, a trip for two to L.A. and passes to Oscar functions.
- During Season 3, ABC ran a contest allowing viewers to send in punchlines for Norm. The winning lines were used in "Norm vs. Danny and Shelly" (with the end credits featuring a montage of the best runner-ups).
- Team Pet: Weiner Dog.
- Theme Tune: "Too Bad" by Doug and the Slugs.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Taylor hooked up with a portly, balding man who was maybe a 3 while she was a 10.
- Voodoo Doll: When searching through his desk for clues to Norm's whereabouts, the others find a voodoo doll of Mr. Denby, who dismisses it as childish nonsense. Once the others leave, however, Denby whips out his Norm voodoo doll.
- What Could Have Been: Artie was the original choice to play Danny. He expressed interest, but he was unavailable due to filming a movie. The character Artie was created for him once he was free to join the series.
- What the Hell, Hero?: In the pilot, Norm gives a brief one to Taylor that ultimately motivates her to turn her life around:
"Look, Taylor, I don't think you understand. You're a huge whore."
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Artie in Season 2. He even once filled in for Norm.
- Wisdom from the Gutter: Artie may be a bit gruffer and sleazier than the others, but he more often than not tends to provide reasonable or correct advice.
- You Mean Xmas: In-universe example. Norm wants to hold a Christmas party at the office, but Mr. Denby informs him that separation of church and state makes that impossible in a government office. Norm has his party anyway as intended, but includes every other possible religion to prevent any backlash.
"Ah, that's for the goat sacrifice."