J.D. Lafrance
Dharma & Greg: Season 1 DVD Review

Dharma & Greg: Season 1

June 16, 2006

Director: James Burrows, Gail Mancuso,
Starring: Jenna Elfman, Thomas Gibson, Shae D’Lyn, Joel Murray, Mimi Kennedy, Alan Rachins, Mitchell Ryan, Susan Sullivan,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

1997 saw the arrival of a new sitcom that helped reinvigorate the romantic comedy on network television. Even though it wasn’t particularly original, Dharma & Greg it was a very well-written and well-made show featuring two leads that had undeniable chemistry together. Since the show went off the air and entered syndication, fans have wondered when and if it would finally be released on DVD. Well, the wait is finally over.

The show’s premise is a classic opposites attract story: Greg Montgomery (Gibson) is an anal-retentive attorney who meets Dharma Finkelstein (Elfman), a free-spirited yoga instructor on a subway train in San Francisco. Its love at first sight and in a few hours they’re married at a drive-thru in Reno. They meet each other’s respective parents and this is where the sparks really fly. Dharma’s folks – Abby (Kennedy) and Larry (Rachins) – are hippies who never quite got out of the 1960s while Greg’s – Edward (Ryan) and Kitty (Sullivan) – are stuffy blue bloods, the epitome of the elite upper crust. Neither one are thrilled that their children got married (and more important who to) and pray for an annulment. Naturally, much of the show’s humour comes from the clash of these two very different cultures.

which sees Larry going “underground” after he fears a routine background check will uncover his “radical” past. When Greg finds out that Larry doesn’t actually have one, Dharma and Abby create a folder with a checkered past for Larry to “steal.” This episode showcases just how funny Alan Rachins is – Larry isn’t too bright (one too many acid trips back in the ‘60s perhaps?) and his cluelessness is the source for a lot of the episode’s humour. In “Much Ado During Nothing,” Dharma and Greg compete with her best friend Jane (D’Lyn) to have sex in the weirdest public place in an effort to prove to themselves that they can still make love spontaneously just like they did when they first got married. So, they decide to have sex on the steps of the courthouse during the airing of the last episode of Seinfeld. Predictably (and hilariously), things do not go as planned.

Jenna Elfman brings a lot of bubbly charm to the role of Dharma. It’s hard not to be taken in by her sexy, girl-next-door looks and her character’s naïve optimism and New Age ways. Thomas Gibson is perfect as the good-looking straight man to Elfman’s loopy Dharma. He’s full of inhibitions and being with her helps loosen him up some. They work so well together and make a very believable couple. They balance each other, she’s a hopeless romantic and he’s the practical one and it is a lot of fun to watch them play off each other. Despite their differences, Dharma and Greg make it work because they truly love each other.

Dharma & Greg, like any successful sitcom, offers personalities that anybody can relate to whether it is the optimist, the realist, the hippies or the conservatives. What makes the show work is that because it is a sitcom, you know that ultimately everything is going to be okay and that’s what people want to see. In fact, we are seeing the world predominantly through Dharma’s rose-coloured glasses during the age of Bill Clinton when the economy was doing well. The show reflected that domestic, democratic bliss with Dharma as the Clinton-esque goddess who wins out. We need another show like that now in these dark and scary times. At least watching these episodes now they can act as a kind of security blanket, a gentle reminder of how good things were and how they can hopefully be again.

Special Features:

The first disc features an audio commentary on “The Pilot” by cast members Jenna Elfman, Mimi Kennedy and Alan Rachins. They laugh and joke as they reminisce about the episode with Elfman asking Rachins what he looked like in the ‘60s. They point out friends of cast and crew members, comment on the nuances in each other’s performances and even spend a little time catching up with one another in this fun if not frivolous track.

The second disc features a commentary on “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Father” with the same participants. Kennedy talks about how the episode’s set-up – Dharma and Greg getting screened by the FBI – actually happened to her when she was younger. Everyone gushes about the set design of Dharma and Greg’s apartment and how it changed over the series, pointing out where certain artifacts that decorate it come from.

The third disc features a commentary on “The Official Dharma & Greg Episode of the 1998 Winter Olympics” by the same participants. Apparently, they all had a lot of fun making this episode, getting into the spirit of the Olympics and gently making fun of the excitement that always surrounds it. Elfman and Kennedy muse about how their characters continually torment Kitty in this funny track.

“When Worlds Collide: The Dharma & Greg Story” is a retrospective featurette. Elfman points out that most women characters in sitcoms at that time were portrayed as neurotic while Dharma was an optimist. Show creators Chuck Lorre and Dottie Dartland found that most sitcom women were smart and had good jobs but had unhappy personal lives and so they wanted to create a character that had a happy life. Most of the cast, with the notable exception of Thomas Gibson, are back for this featurette and talk about such things as how they were cast and recall their favourite moments on the show.

“Vanity Cards.” Lorre started writing vanity cards that would appear for two seconds at the end of several episodes. All the ones for this season are included. Most are incredibly funny and very witty as he espoused his “personal beliefs.”

Finally, there is “Reaching Your Inner Dharma,” a trivia game where you have to answer ten questions to see how close you are to thinking like Dharma.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 92%



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