Review: Norm Macdonald Has a Show

Hot off the heels of the cancellation of Michelle Wolf and Joel McHale’s weekly talk shows, Netflix has decided to try their luck again. This time, they’ve taken a chance on criminally underrated comedian Norm Macdonald. Unlike McHale’s rehash of his old show The Soup, or Wolf’s attempt at copying The Daily Show, Norm Macdonald Has a Show takes no cues from network TV and does not try to stay topical, and the result is a show that finally feels tailored to the advantages of a streaming service.

Fittingly for a new media platform like Netflix, Norm’s new show has most in common with his internet podcast Norm Macdonald Live. Though in true Norm fashion, the merging of Netflix and podcasts ends up feeling stubbornly old-fashioned. The pacing is slow, and the comedy is subtle and sharp. The conversations lack the distractions of other talk shows, like promotions, comedy skits, or games for the guests to play. At times, it feels as if Norm is challenging the crippled attention span of modern audiences, daring viewers to check their phones. The guest line-up is no different, filled with celebrities that haven’t been relevant for decades, like 60’s movie star Jane Fonda, 70’s comedian Chevy Chase, and 80’s child actress Drew Barrymore. However, the show is not without its modern touches. The fourth wall is nowhere to be seen, and Norm’s total incompetence as an interviewer is one of the show’s best running gags.

Critics have seized on the show’s old-fashioned sensibility and chaotic presentation as a failing, as if the jazzy 60’s showtune they sing at the end of each episode was meant to make them look current. Really, this is the charm of the show. Norm’s masterful balancing of the old-fashioned and the modern, and the irreverent and the sincere, is what sets this show apart from the glut of other talk shows out there.

Really, whether you’ll enjoy the show or not depends on whether you enjoy Norm’s divisive brand of bizarre, so-bad-it’s-good comedy. If you think this joke, read out Norm’s folksy Canadian drawl: “when you fight fire with fire, there’s only one winner…America’s powerful fire lobby!”, is as brilliant as I do, then this is the show for you. If it makes you wonder, as Jane Fonda did, “Who writes these?”, then you should watch it anyway, because this show needs a second season.

Troy Hunneyball

Image: [Toronto Star]