[Contains leaky “test holes” and SPOILERS!!!]
The second season of Dharma & Greg (1998) kicked off with a bit of a curveball, as the eponymous odd couple agreed to adopt the new-born baby of a checkout girl that Dharma (Jenna Elfman) had befriended. This seemed like a pretty rich source for new storylines and jokes, but in the third episode the birth-mother, ‘Donna’ (Brigid Brannagh), returned to reclaim her offspring, and end the arc. I knew it was coming, because I used to have this season on VHS and watched those tapes to death… but it was still a bit of a let-down, all the same. The “village” that gathered in their apartment to help them raise the child was a lot of fun… especially Grace Zabriskie as a spiritual adviser/storyteller who’d inexplicably taken a vow of silence, and Meagen Fay as a man-hating milk courier… and I got a real kick out of all the alternative viewpoints on what “good” parenting involved. As I said before, one of the reasons I love this show so much, besides all the great jokes and performances, is that having full-on Hippies in leading roles means that it often comes at more familiar sitcom conflicts from a refreshingly New Age-y angle, and serves up stories that no other sitcom ever could or would.
This is particularly true of my fave episode of the season*, #2.10 (“Yes, We Have No Bananas… or Anything Else for That Matter”), in which Dharma impulsively decides to buy an empty store, and wait for the universe to tell her what sort of shop/business it wants to be. In the meantime, a makeshift community of commuters settles in, swapping simple goods and services among themselves, and even meeting-cute across the mismatched tables! It’s so sweet, watching this gentle whirlpool of fraternity form around our heroine… and plays in perfect counterpoint to Greg’s escalating obsession over the annual evaluation he’s received from his boss, who inexplicably sees our hero and his sleazy slacker pal ‘Pete’ (Joel Murray ) as equally “Superior”. There’s also a fantastically aggressive on-camera cameo by Yeardley Smith, as Greg’s snarky secretary ‘Marlene’, who resents the “Satisfactory” rating that he’s given her, and isn’t shy about letting him know!
Other notable supporting players included: Lillian Hurst, in a recurring role as the Montgomery’s maid, ‘Celia’, who Dharma insists on inviting to various social events, and embracing as member of their extended family. Mary Samuels (aka Mary Schmidtberger) doing double-duty as both a local cop frequenting a diner that D&G break into when their car craps out in the middle of nowhere (ep #2.4), and as the SF-based ‘Meter Maid’ whose heartless quashing of Dharma’s “random acts of kindess” inspires our heroine to run for election as a city council-member! (ep #2.16) Meanwhile, Marta Martin appeared in ep #2.7 as Celia’s niece, ‘Ynez’, who Greg (almost) hooked up with, back in the day. Jessica Lundy appeared in ep #2.11 as ‘Patty’, the tipsy trophy-wife of a d-bag property developer who’s planning to evict Dharma’s parents from their home. Maria Bamford appeared in ep #2.13 as an awe-struck violinist, who Dharma takes lessons from after “inheriting” a priceless Stradivarius from her bedridden grandmother-in-law (Nina Foch). Wendy Worthington appeared in ep #2.11 as an unhelpful City Hall worker… and finally, Nancy Lenehan appeared in eps #2.17/18 as ‘Karen Love’, Dharma’s intimidating election opponent.
Although there were a couple less-than-awesome episodes (and a few duff sub-plots) here and there, this was a very strong season overall… with Pete and Jane’s (Shae D’Lyn) hasty off-screen wedding and love-hate horniness making for a memorable non-D&G-centric highlight.
* And one of my fave sitcom episodes ever, in fact!