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Series of the Week: Dharma and Greg

“I wouldn't want our marriage to get in the way of your dating.”
Dharma & Greg is an American television situation comedy co-produced by Chuck Lorre Productions, More-Medavoy Productions and 4 to 6 Foot Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television for ABC. It first aired September 24, 1997, and starred Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson as Dharma and Greg Montgomery, a couple who marry instantly on their first date despite being complete opposites. The series also starred television veteran actress and Falcon Crest alumna, Susan Sullivan as Greg's snobbish mother, Kitty. The show's theme song was written and performed by composer Dennis C. Brown.
Created and executive produced by Dottie Dartland and Chuck Lorre, the comedy incorporated in Dharma & Greg took much of its inspiration from so-called culture-clashy "fish out of water" situations. The show earned Elfman a Golden Globe for Best Actress, out of a total of eight nominations, and moreover garnered six Emmy and Satellite Awards nominations respectively. In 2004, the plot loosely inspired Jay Roach's comedy sequel Meet the Fockers, starring Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro.
Jenna Elfman plays Dharma Freedom Montgomery, Greg's wife and a flower child. She is extremely peppy and ditzy, but she also seems to be more compassionate and forgiving than most people. Dharma encourages Greg to seek happiness, rather than fret about practical issues like money. Due to being home schooled by Abby and Larry, she has a limited understanding of Western culture and is very naïve when it comes to trusting strangers. She is named after the concept of dharma in Indian philosophy. Once, a Native American friend of her father's gave her the name "Crazy Man's Daughter".
Thomas Gibson plays lawyer Gregory "Greg" Clifford Montgomery, Dharma's husband. He is an upright, uptight, decent, though sometimes surprisingly open-minded, man. Greg's life was hopelessly banal before he met Dharma and married her on their first date. Since then, he has played straight man to the antics of his eccentric wife. Though his and Dharma's relationship has been rocky at times, Greg has never been shown to regret their marriage. He is shown to be an alumnus of the famous Phillips Exeter Academy, Harvard University, and Stanford Law.
Susan Sullivan plays Katherine "Kitty" Montgomery, Greg's snobbish mother. She highly disapproves of Dharma and is often successful in making her feel guilty. This often has the unintended result of making Dharma try to make it up to her in a "special" way, which everyone tries (unsuccessfully) to talk her out of and which then leads to Dharma having another fiasco to make up for. Kitty is generally represented as a manipulative, controlling woman and the other characters tend to consult her when they wish to do something evil. As an elite socialite, Kitty was initially quite displeased to have Dharma and her parents join the family, since they aren't exactly the kind of family she can present to her country club friends. However, she comes to accept Dharma somewhat over the course of the show and has even gone to her for condolence on rare occasions. She has also tried, unsuccessfully, to make Dharma come around to her way of thinking, especially involving the "responsibilities" of being the wife of a Montgomery.
Mitch Ryan plays Edward Montgomery, Greg's eccentric father. His philosophy for dealing with women involves remaining as uninvolved as possible. Head of Montgomery Industries (though he keeps going to work only because he can see little tugboats out the window) and at odds with Dharma's father, who calls him "Ed" and whom he calls "Finkelstein." Ed is often seen drinking martinis and Scotch.
Mimi Kennedy plays Abigail "Abby" Kathleen O'Neil, Dharma's caring mother, who encourages her daughter and son-in-law to produce children; "Feel free to have sex anywhere." Although they have a grown daughter and later a son, she and Larry are not married. Unlike her "lifemate" Larry, she immediately accepted Greg, though she still constantly annoys and conflicts with his parents. She is a militant vegan, which is a never-ending source of trouble.
Alan Rachins plays Myron Lawrence "Larry" Finkelstein, Dharma's father. He is a stereotypical sixties radical who frequently rants about various conspiracies. Despite this, he manages to get along with Edward, often when both are sick of dealing with Kitty. It is often alluded to that Larry is a chronic user of marijuana, though never proven. In the pilot episode Abby explains his usual cluelessness with "he blew out his short term memory back in 1972".
Shae D'Lyn plays Jane Deaux, Dharma's friend. She considers all men more or less evil; over the course of the show, her hair went from black, to red, to blonde. She and Dharma met when Dharma was calling strangers to meet new friends. D'Lyn left at the end of the fourth season, though she had one "guest appearance" in season five.
Joel Murray plays Peter "Pete" James Cavanaugh, one of Greg's fellow lawyers and a graduate of the Bob Marley School of Law. He's a particularly bad, lazy lawyer and was married to Jane for a time. His entire life can be summed up by the interior of his apartment: a massage chair surrounded by empty take-out containers, next to this is a small refrigerator and a stack of porno tapes. A high-class entertainment center is in front of this. It is said he wears adult diapers to football games. Greg once said of his friend; "Pete went to Law School in Barbados, he failed the Bar seven times. The last time because he threw up on the exam."
The show is great, plain and simple. Absolutely funny, mixing a nice balance of silliness and humor, with wit and drama. The show at times can really pull at you and make you think. The culture clash - social clash is more accurate - is eye opening and brings out real ideas and social issues. But never strays from the comedy. Plain and simple… 9/10


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