For its premiere last week, CBS' Courting Alex (Mondays at 9:30 pm/ET) drew 14.9 million samplers. It also saw seemingly just as many TV critics contend that the premise Jenna Elfman's uptight lawyer finds unlikely sparks with Josh Randall's laid-back bar owner is but a flipped version of Dharma & Greg, the statuesque comedienne's previous sitcom foray. Elfman, though, pooh-poohs such pigeonholing.
"I was doing a phone interview where they mentioned that, and I hadn't even thought about it, actually," the actress shares. "I hadn't thought this is anywhere near or opposite Dharma." Denoting several differences, she says, "Greg wasn't a workaholic [like Alex]. He wasn't a control freak. He was more raised in this upper-crust, rigid [manner]. Alex is just a control freak. To me, she's very different.
"I wasn't specifically looking for something that was totally different [or] similar [to Dharma & Greg]," she continues. "I don't think you can go after things from a perspective [like that]. I did Dharma, and I know what that was for me it was complete and satisfying and very known to the public. When I decided to do television again, I went, 'All right. What do I want it to be? What do I want to do?' I knew I wanted to be a single woman in Manhattan, that I wanted men around me, that I wanted a strong father dynamic. I wanted [my character] to be dynamic and alive and be really good at something and obviously have some Achilles heel, which is where the comedy would come in. And I basically persisted forward creatively until I found that."
Being so hands-on in the development of Courting Alex, and speaking as knowingly about the character as she does, one wonders how close this sitcom alter ego is to the real Elfman. "I'm a workaholic, but not [to the point that] I don't make time for myself. I just like to work," she starts. "I'm not a fan of being a dilettante, and I have that in common with Alex." As for more concrete differences, she says, "I can be spontaneous and go have fun easily. And I've been married 11 years next month, so the love-life aspect is completely and utterly dissimilar to mine!"
Addressing one last comparison does anyone else remember another mid-season sitcom about a blonde beauty with an improbably lousy love life? Elfman says that the unfortunate fate of ABC's Emily's Reasons Why Not, starring Heather Graham and pulled off the air after a single lackluster outing, has not given her pause. "I'm not discouraged at all by it. Not even close," she declares. "That show is different. The writing is different. I can't even compare them.
"Obviously, I feel empathy for the people who have the plug pulled on them," she adds. "But I feel very confident in my show. There's not one thing that I would say I would do differently."
Tonight, we will see if those 14.9 million people agree.