Welcome to the next article in this year’s spooky series! Throughout the month of October, the staff here at Nerds and Beyond are revisiting some of our favorite Halloween themed TV episodes. Today’s article focuses on the ABC sitcom Dharma & Greg.
The season 2 episode is titled “A Closet Full of Hell,” and it truly lives up to its name. The episode begins with Dharma and Greg’s dogs barking at their closet. They discover a secret room full of dolls (totally not creepy AT ALL), and Dharma panics. Greg is unfazed, entertaining himself by scaring Dharma. (Oh, just you wait, Greg.) He later clears out the dolls, telling Dharma he wants to give them to charity, prompting Dharma to respond with, “What, like the Salvation Army of Darkness?”
Though the episode doesn’t explicitly mention Halloween, it still does an excellent job establishing a spooky vibe perfect for the holiday. It plays on the shared fear of creepy dolls, especially as there isn’t just one or two – there is an entire. Hidden. Room. No, thank you. The mood is enhanced by the general set up of the room itself. The space feels claustrophobic, making it seem as though the dolls are closing in. The lighting also mirrors that of horror movies, causing you to wonder what creepy doll might jump out at any moment.
During a housewarming party that Greg intends to enjoy, a terrified Dharma yells out for him from the bedroom. He finds her, and she tells him to look in the closet from Hell, and he sees the dolls have returned. She’s convinced he’s trying to scare her again, but Greg wasn’t the one who put them back. DUN DUN DUN.
A little later, Abby and Jane go with Dharma to see if they can feel any bad energy, Greg following. They feel nothing, getting ready to drop the subject until Jane finds two dolls that look eerily like Dharma and Greg, and Greg changes his tune VERY quickly. While hanging out with Pete the next day, he gets defensive as Pete teases him. Greg’s case isn’t helped when Pete smells sage. Greg reveals that Dharma, Abby, and Jane are trying to exorcise evil spirits.
One of the show’s fortes is its easy humor, and this episode is a goldmine of laughs. Dharma’s immediate and intense reaction to the dolls alone is enough to keep you laughing for a long time, especially with some of her one-liners. (One of my other favorites is “Wake up and smell the dead people!) Greg’s arc from skeptic to understanding Dharma’s fear was laid out well, showing that even the seemingly bravest among us fall to the power of horrifying dolls.
That night, Dharma and Greg are happy the ritual seemed to work…until they hear footsteps. Dharma is ready to flee the country, but Greg decides to investigate. When they enter the doll room, they’re greeted with a hanging doll and freak out. Greg tries to convince Dharma (and himself) that someone is pranking them, deciding to keep watch. While they’re waiting (dogs included), a woman (Mrs. Schumacher) pops up from a door in the floor, scaring all of them. Once they’ve calmed down, they learn the room is a shared space with Mrs. Schumacher’s apartment, who thought SHE was the one being haunted. When everything is cleared up, she invites them for tea sometime.
Humor also takes up the form of physical comedy, primarily every time someone is scared. Jenna Elfman doesn’t hold back her performance, perfectly capturing Dharma’s fear, whether Greg has scared her or she’s just being a general ball of fright and paranoia. Similarly, Greg’s fear-induced reactions are hilariously created by Thomas Gibson, made funnier knowing that Greg started the episode skeptical. Elfman and Gibson’s general chemistry with one another bolsters the impact of their reactions.
Dharma and Greg go visit Mrs. Schumacher. Only…she doesn’t answer the door. Her grandson does, and he claims that she died 15 years ago, getting upset when they try to argue. They slowly begin to panic, making an escape plan. Moments later, the grandson tells someone Dharma and Greg are gone, revealing Jane and Mrs. Schumacher. Jane explains it’s a tradition her and Dharma have going, except this is the first year they’ve done it. A SOLID prank, Jane. The episode ends with the very unsettling Dharma and Greg dolls talking to each other, and they are, in fact, possessed.
Overall, this a perfect episode when you need something to get you in the Halloween spirit and also need a good laugh. Elfman and Gibson bring their usual wonderful performances as Dharma and Greg to the spotlight, emphasized by their fright. The prank reveal also added a playful touch and was fitting for Jane. The dolls were just creepy enough to keep you on edge, not only throughout the episode but also after you watch. Make sure to check your closet tonight.
All episodes of Dharma & Greg are streaming on Hulu. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s installment of our spooky series!