The Conners gathered around their famous sofa at the end of Wednesday’s live season premiere and held a sign that read “Dedicated to the memory of our friend and colleague Norm Macdonald.” The cast shouted “Here’s to you, Norm,” as the show cut to black, Variety reported.
MacDonald died September 14 after suffering from cancer for nine years.
Norm MacDonald was a writer on Roseanne, the predecessor to The Conners, in the fifth season (1992-93). He left to join Saturday Night Live. Bruce Helford, who worked on Roseanne during that time, is the showrunner for The Conners.
Helford and MacDonald worked together for years, Deadline said. The Canadian comic would make guest appearances on Helford’s next project The Drew Carey Show during his off time with SNL. After NBC fired him as SNL’s “Weekend Update” host, MacDonald and Helford teamed up to produce The Norm Show. Laurie Metcalf, who plays Jackie on Roseanne and The Conners, co-starred.
“We did his Norm show together, which is one of the best shows I’ve ever done,” Helford told Deadline. “And it was because he was so brilliant and irreverent and he pretended he didn’t care, but he cared very much and worked really hard to create something unique. He was so admired by other comics because he had that rare gift — a voice that no one else had. A rhythm and a brain that were unlike anyone else.”
Norm ran from 1999 until 2001. MacDonald played a former hockey player who the police arrest for cheating on his taxes. His punishment is to serve as a New York City social worker.
‘The Conners’ Enlist Fans To Play Roles in Season 4 Premiere
The Conners returned for the show’s fourth season Wednesday, and it featured a lot of big surprises. Most notably, ABC broadcast the episode live. But The Conners added another twist by having fans appear in the episode titled “Trucking Live in Front of a Fully Vaccinated Studio Audience.”
The show picked fans from the “Be a Conner” contest this summer and had them play distance relatives of the Conners. In the episode, Mark is working on a school project and needs to interview those far-off family members from around the country.
Helford admitted that it was a gamble having untrained actors on live television, but it gave the show a sense of danger, he told Newsweek.
“It’s a bit of a tightrope walk,” he said. “The fans entered a sweepstake to become eligible for the live call, but none of them know if they’re the ones who will get the video call. And we don’t know what they’re going to say when we ask them a couple of questions. Live TV that’s really live!”
Luckily, it appears that it all went down without a problem.