Remembering maker-of-much-laughter Norm Macdonald


Norm Macdonald

Q: I was sorry to hear of Norm Macdonald’s passing. Which years was he on “Saturday Night Live”? — Jim Aylward, via e-mail

A: The late comedian joined the NBC staple in 1993 as both a writer and a performer. He stayed for five seasons, spending three-and-a-half of those as the anchor of the “Weekend Update” segment, but he was removed from that role in 1998. A then-NBC executive claimed it was because of ratings, but Macdonald said he believed it was due to jokes he made about O.J. Simpson, who was a close friend of the executive (who maintained that wasn’t the reason). Macdonald and “SNL” parted company soon afterward.

In October 1999, Macdonald returned to the show as a guest host, and he didn’t hesitate to opine in his opening monologue that the program had gotten “really bad” … thus his receiving the call to come back to it, supposedly. He also was present for the 40th-anniversary special in 2015, joining fellow “SNL” alumni Seth Meyers, Kevin Nealon and Colin Quinn to present a tribute to Chevy Chase.

Q: What was the name of the sci-fi series Halle Berry did several years ago? — Adam Reiss, Buffalo, N.Y.

A: That was “Extant,” which CBS aired during the summers of 2014 and 2015. Oscar and Emmy winner Berry played an astronaut who came back to Earth pregnant … a major mystery, since she was the only one aboard her 13-month mission in space, and also since she’d had fertility problems before. The show’s second and last season also was notable for casting husband and wife Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Hilarie Burton, who have worked together again since on “The Walking Dead.”

Halle Berry

Q: I heard that even though the new show “La Brea” is set in Los Angeles, it’s being made in Australia. Is that true? — Daphne Ward, via e-mail

A: It is. The pilot for the NBC series was filmed in Vancouver, and then, the coronavirus pandemic meant a long stretch of time between that and the start of work on weekly episodes. By then, it had been determined to move the production to Australia … and co-star Jon Seda told us recently that though he was surprised, and though it would mean quite some time being separated from his family (with the time difference and quarantines ruling out back-and-forth trips), he decided to stick with the opportunity to do something different that the show is affording him.

Q: I enjoy Cynthia Watros as Nina on “General Hospital,” but I know she’s done soap operas before. What others has she been on? – Tammy Ryan, Twin Falls, Idaho

A: The actress’ first claim to fame in that genre was on “Guiding Light,” where she wrapped up her four-year (1994-98) run with a Daytime Emmy win as outstanding lead actress in a drama series for her portrayal of Annie Dutton. She then assumed the role of Victoria Hudson McKinnon on “Another World” while usual portrayer Jensen Buchanan was on maternity leave.

After that, Watros headed to primetime television for more than a decade as a regular on such series as “Titus,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Lost” and “House.” Also with many guest-star credits ranging from “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Criminal Minds” to “Gossip Girl” and “Hawaii Five-0,” she returned to daytime acting in 2013 on “The Young and the Restless,” but her run there wasn’t all that long. In a somewhat ironic twist, she joined “General Hospital” in 2019 when Michelle Stafford left that show to return to … “The Young and the Restless.”

Q: I know it’s early, but will Turner Classic Movies have its usual festival of Christmas movies this holiday season? — Roger Lang, Kansas City. Mo.

A: At the time this was written, we hadn’t seen the channel’s December lineup yet, but we’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that it will showcase seasonal fare again. Certain pictures have become year-end traditions for TCM viewers … such as “Christmas in Connecticut,” “The Bells of St. Mary’s” and Dick Van Dyke’s yuletide-themed “Fitzwilly,” to name just a few.

Even with its new on-air look, we doubt the channel will disappoint on that programming count. We also hope for another TCM showing of the wonderful documentary “A Night at the Movies: Merry Christmas!,” with clips from many holiday classics and related interviews compiled by producer-director Laurent Bouzereau.

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Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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