Television Reviews : ‘Norman’s Corner’ Boasts Bite, Charm


Sardonic, strange, and seemingly very disturbed, Gilbert Gottfried is one of those comedians who would seem to be forever exiled to the fringes. Mainly known to cable viewers for his stints on MTV and Cinemax, the very New York, very Jewish, and very odd Gottfried takes a little getting used to. And then some.

His chief shtick is meeting just about any random comment or idea by scrunching up his face into a pained, closed-eyed expression, raising his hands in exasperation, and letting forth a barrage of super-sarcasm.

For example, take an early moment in “Norman’s Corner” (Saturday at 9:30 p.m. on Cinemax), where he plays a newsstand vendor. Simply asked how he’s doing by a newspaper deliverer, Gottfried (as Norman) launches into: “It’s like a religious experience working here--just to give stale candy out all day and just breathing in bus fumes. It’s like I died and went to heaven.”


If you’ve seen Gottfried’s stand-up act (best showcased in a previous Cinemax half-hour), chances are you’ve either learned to love his unique personality or hate it. If it’s the latter, please give the guy--and your funny bone--one more chance by checking out “Norman’s Corner,” in which the people at Broadcast Arts (who created “Pee-wee’s Playhouse”) do for Gottfried what the new and super-successful network sitcom “Roseanne” has done for Roseanne Barr--making a formerly cantankerous and often obnoxious stand-up comedian palatable (maybe even lovable ) for the masses without losing the appeal for hard-core fans.

And they’ve done it without taking too much of the edge off Gottfried’s style, something that can’t be said for the too-eager-to-mollify-every-rough-line “Roseanne.”

Featuring cameos by Henny Youngman, Arnold Stang and others, taped with a High-Definition TV system (a sitcom first) that gives it a bright look, and meandering into clay-animation and filmed fantasies that sometimes slow things down a little too much, “Norman’s Corner” is very different and very funny.

Biting and charming at the same time, it’s just the sort of show that America needs as a series--and there’s good news: It’s under consideration. Maybe the 1988-89 season will be remembered as the year of the curmudgeons.