|Dharma & Greg: Season One (1997)
Starring: Jenna Elfman, Thomas Gibson, Shae D’Lyn, Susan Sullivan, Alan Rachins, Joel Murray, Mimi Kennedy, Mitch Ryan
Greg: What are you doing?
Dharma: Wait a second, can you see me?
Dharma: Oh, I totally misunderstood that groom-can't-see-the-bride-in-her-wedding-dress-thing.
You know how “The Golden Girls” has been declared a comedy-free zone by most guys just because it’s a staple of the Lifetime Network? Well, the same thing has begun to occur as a result of the WE – Women’s Entertainment – adding hours upon hours of “Dharma & Greg” episodes to bolster its lineup. Okay, it’s reasonable (if incorrect) to presume that a man’s not going to find anything funny about a show which has four old women as its title characters…but for God’s sake, guys, don’t write off “Dharma & Greg” just because it’s on a network aimed at the ladies. If the fact that the show’s title actually contains a guy’s name doesn’t inspire you to give it a chance, I’ve got four words that should do the trick: Jenna Elfman doing yoga.
Are you sold yet? If not, hang tight for a few paragraphs.
The premise of the show involves that old romantic chestnut known as love at first sight; either you buy into the concept or not – very few people only kind of believe in it – but, real or not, it’s one of those things that certainly seems to happen far more often on TV than it ever does in real life. That being the case, it should come as no surprise that although Dharma Finkelstein (Elfman) is a free-spirited yoga instructor, Greg Montgomery (Thomas Gibson) is a straight-laced attorney with the Justice Department, and they appear to have nothing in common on the surface, they nonetheless get married within only a few hours of their first conversation. (It’s not their first meeting, but you’ll have to watch the pilot episode to learn that story.)
On the surface, it’s a high-concept show: hippie marries conservative and they deal with their differences. Elfman, however, is a comedic force of nature; to be fair, a quick glance at her website would indicate that she isn’t so terribly far from Dharma in her personality (if not entirely all of her beliefs, Elfman’s a Scientologist…not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the character wouldn’t work nearly as well if Elfman didn’t utterly disappear into the role the way she does. Dharma’s parents – played by Mimi Kennedy and Alan Rachins – have done their best to maintain the same “Summer of Love” attitude and lifestyle they’ve had since the ‘60s, which explains Dharma’s ingenuousness at the realities of Greg’s world. Gibson, meanwhile, consistently plays Greg in such a manner that there’s never any question that, despite the seemingly-insurmountable differences between he and Dharma, he loves her unreservedly and hasn’t forgotten what about her inspired him to make that leap of faith and marry her.
Although Kennedy and Rachins add significantly to the ensemble, the real winners in the category of Most Valuable In-Laws are Susan Sullivan and Mitch Ryan as Greg’s parents, Kitty and Edward Montgomery; both Sullivan and Ryan are masters of the blank stares they invariably offer up to Dharma’s comments and actions, while Ryan is an unending source of comedic timing perfection when responding to Sullivan’s straight lines. Jane (Shae D’Lyn) and Pete (Joel Murray) serve as Dharma and Greg’s respective pals, with Pete being the bachelor buddy who’s always on the lookout for good times and Jane serving as an eccentric Ethel to Dharma’s Lucy.
Fans of the show will appreciate the special features, which include commentary on a few episodes by Elfman, Kennedy, and Rachins, a featurette on the making of the show (from which Gibson is notably absent, presumably because of his responsibilities on his new show, “Criminal Minds”), and a game where you’re offered the opportunity to reach your inner Dharma. Also, if you’ve ever noticed those incredibly wordy cards at the end of the closing credits – written by the show’s co-creator, Chuck Lorre (“Two And A Half Men”) – that you’d only be able to read if you recorded then paused them, you’ll be pleased to find that every one of the cards is offered here in a slide show that you can view at your own pace. They’re pretty funny.
Yes, “Dharma and Greg” is a romantic show at heart, hence its place on the WE (I mean, c’mon, everyone knows it’s only women who appreciate romance, right?), but it’s also a very witty one. The concept might’ve have arguably worn thin in later seasons, but, at the very least, its first year is fresh, fun, and quickly becomes addictive.