PASADENA, Calif. — It may seem a quantum leap from the erudite, witty, political humor of "Murphy Brown" to the blue-collar, bodily-function jokes on "Norm," but Faith Ford has made the transition. She'll be a regular on the ABC sitcom beginning this fall.
And, after nine seasons on "Murphy" and another year as the star of her own sitcom, "Maggie Winters," she sort of feels like she's come home.
"I'm such a Louisiana girl," Ford said. "I mean, I was not raised highbrow by any means."
She admits she often didn't even understand the scripts when she was working on "Murphy Brown."
"I would constantly look at Candice (Bergen) and say, 'Well, who is that?' And she would have to fill me in because I would constantly have these jokes that were just, like, miles long that had to do with somebody that I didn't even know who the 'h' they were," Ford said.
(She really did say "who the 'h' " — just the letter 'h' — in that sentence.)
"To do all the constant political humor and have to look at the news every day, it was just exhausting," Ford said. "I have to be real with you. I'm not one that wakes up every morning and looks at the New York Post or the New York Times or anything."
(Which, inadvertently, proved her point. There's a big difference between the low-brow, tabloid New York Post and the high-brow New York Times.)
Ford appeared on "Norm" last season for a few episodes, and her character — probation officer Shelly Kilmartin — left rather suddenly.
"When she re-arrives, she has not contacted Norm, and they come into contact surprisingly," said executive producer Bruce Helford. "And she is unwilling to discuss why she came back or why she left or why she never contacted him.
"And during the course of the year, we'll probably find out more about why she left and why she wasn't in contact. But they're going to be working out of the same office, and Norm is going to be carrying the same torch, and Faith is going to be absolutely, unrelentingly not giving in. Well, for a while anyway."
There was no master plan to bring Ford back this season, but Helford and star Norm Macdonald decided to ask her in as sort of a replacement for Nikki Cox, who is going on to star in her own sitcom on the WB. (Cox's addition to the "Norm" cast last fall was always planned as a one-season stint.)
"Nikki is wonderful, obviously, and we love her and everything else," Helford said. "But it was only meant to be for a year. And when Norm and I sat back and looked at the episodes for the season . . . we looked at each other and (said), 'Wow! Faith was just, like, so wonderful. How could we not have her back and make her a regular on the show?' "
"Norm" will never be confused with sophisticated entertainment, but that doesn't both Ford.
"I just think being on this show is a breath of fresh air for me," Ford said. "We're not doing brain surgery here. We're not curing cancer. We're there to have a lot of fun, and I think that's great."