Only DVD offers Judge Cynthia Boris the correct balance of sunny and cynical to enjoy this peppy series.
He's old school. She's new age. Together, they're just right.
Chuck Lorre (Cybill, Two and a Half Men) and Dottie Dartland (Caroline in the City) sat down to create a sitcom for actress Jenna Elfman (Courting Alex). They decided to do a show about an independent woman who was actually happy with her life, since that was such a rarity on TV. They couldn't just make her happy, though—they had to make her quirky. Thus Dharma & Greg was born.
Facts of the Case
Dharma Finkelstein (Elfman) is a free-spirited yoga instructor / dog trainer who has an unusually bright outlook on life. She acts on her impulses, such as flying to Reno just to have pie. She's the epitome of the saying "if life gives you lemons make lemonade." She was raised by hippie parents Abby (Mimi Kennedy) and Larry (Alan Rachins) who still subscribe to the counterculture lifestyle in the late nineties.
Greg Montgomery (Thomas Gibson, Criminal Minds) is a buttoned down US Attorney's office lawyer raised by country club parents Kitty (Susan Sullivan) and Edward (Mitchell Ryan).
Dharma and Greg have a chance meeting on the subway (actually a recreation of a moment that happened to them as children) and fate takes over. Their first date turns into a quickie marriage and suddenly they realize that they have to explain this madness to the rest of the world.
Humor abounds as Greg tries to live a relaxed and spontaneous lifestyle while Dharma learns to control her natural tendency to speak first and think later. And then there's the typical clashing of the parents.
It's veggie burgers vs. pate. The commune vs. the country club. It's Dharma & Greg: Season One.
While researching this series, I was surprised to find that it ran for five seasons. I recall watching it when it was originally aired, but I also remember it being funnier. Perhaps that's because I came in during a later season when the plots weren't so patentedly predictable? Five seasons! That's more sunshine and roses than an episode of Care Bears.
That's the main problem with this series. It has a terminal case of the cutes. Dharma smiles, does cartwheels, her dog has his own dog, and her biggest goal in life is having sex in the most unusual place so she can win control of "the duck." She convinces Greg to sleep on the roof; when it starts to rain he suggests going in and she suggests making love. Yes, it's sweet and romantic. But come on! In ten minutes that mattress is going to be soaked and squishy and gross.
My other problem with this series is that it's set in the wrong era. If the show had been made in the late sixties with Goldie Hawn in the lead role, it would have been a grand slam winner. But set in the late nineties it just doesn't ring true. Let's look at the lifestyle she and her parents lead…they're vegetarians. Oh boy, is that comedy fodder! They're environmentally conscious. Hysterical! And her father has no love for the government—join the club. Actually, Dharma comes from a loving, functional family whereas Greg's parents are much more comical in their stodgy rich folk way. They bear a striking resemblance to Richard and Emily of Gilmore Girls.
There are plenty of funny moments in this series. Personally, I think Susan Sullivan steals the show, but after watching four episodes in a row it all became too predictable.
Greg prefers showers to baths, so Dharma schemes to install a shower with her own two hands while he's away at work. Greg's mom calls and Dharma says she's busy planning a shower. Greg's mom thinks it's a wedding shower and rushes over with invitation samples and hors d'evour choices. Meanwhile, guess what Greg has up his sleeve? Yep, he's going to surprise Dharma by installing a shower in the house while she's gone. Let's top off the "Gift of the Maji" moment—Greg falls in love with the idea of being a "do-it-yourself" husband, while Dharma decides to buy a fancy new apartment just for Greg.
It's so very I Love Lucy—only Lucy was made in the fifties.
Let's talk special features:
"When Worlds Collide: The Dharma & Greg Story" is an interesting featurette that talks about the development of the series with quotes from the creators and stars Elfman, Kennedy, and Rachins. This same threesome handle the commentary duties which left me wondering why Thomas Gibson was completely absent. Unavailable or uninterested?
"Reaching Your Inner Dharma" is an interactive trivia game that challenges to you choose "what would Dharma do" in a variety of quirky situations. The answers are all clips from the show, so if you watch the season before playing the game you can't lose.
Finally, take a closer look at the "Post-Show Vanity Cards." These are lengthy, cynical tomes written by creator Chuck Lorre that were only shown for a few seconds at the end of episodes. The only way to read the Vanity Cards, pre-dvd, was to record the show and freeze frame. Now, thanks to the miracle of DVD, you can flip through the cards and read them all. I think they're the funniest thing on this DVD set.
If you're one of those people who always looks on the bright side—have I got a box set for you!
The court finds Dharma & Greg: Season One guilty of public indecency. Seriously, that much cute really should be illegal.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary on select episodes by Jenna Elfman, Mimi Kennedy and Alan Rachins
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