Drop Dead Diva started a few weeks ago, I guess, on Lifetime. I had heard of it – thought at first it was another reality show, or reality/competition show, or a comedy about a reality show. Or something.
I did see a commercial at some point that explained it: Deb, a size-one blonde shallow model-wannabe, is killed in a lipstick accident (trying to drive while talking on the (albeit wireless) phone and touch up her lipstick, somehow didn’t notice the truck full of oranges). She gets herself sent back – never mind how – and winds up – again, never mind how – in the body of Jane, a brilliant lawyer who died taking a bullet for her (undeserving) boss. Jane is, to Deb’s horror, not only not beautiful (pretty, though), but overweight.
It’s not a horribly original idea, the dead-person-comes-back-into-someone-else’s-body theme. In the 80’s there was Heaven Can Wait, which was a remake of a movie I can’t remember at the moment (ah – Here Comes Mr. Jordan), All of Me (though the new body wasn’t dead first), and I know there have been many more (which I am looking up as I type). They usually involve swaps that are uncomfortable for some reason; there wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise. And there’s always a lesson learned by the formerly dead (that’s often the point of their being plopped into a new body), about tolerance or being a better person or opening up their lives or whathaveyou. So naturally the easy assumption is that Deb takes on Jane’s body and life and a) learns a new way of looking at the world and the people in it (i.e., learns to /see/ people who are larger than size two), and b) wins back Grayson (her live-in boyfriend, who genuinely loved her and whom she loved and who, she finds out as Jane, was about to propose) as a good and loving woman, not just a sexy blonde.
Then again, maybe not.
I’ve watched the first two episodes. It seemed like it would be worth a shot. And it was, well worth watching. My only quibble, which I’ll get out of the way, is that they keep saying Deb in Jane’s body keeps Deb’s memories (which go with the soul) and Jane’s intelligence, which I guess goes with the brain… but she keeps trotting out legal expertise – and observances on fly fishing – that are learning, not intelligence. I suppose it could (and might as well be) argued that what is learned is etched into the brain … I can go with that.
I like the cast, very much: Brooke D’Orsay is pre-death and flashback Deb, and pulls it off without being hateful. Brooke Elliott is Jane Bingum/Deb Dobson: she’s fantastic. The weight (…) of the show is on her shoulders, and she’s got it balanced beautifully. She plays Deb as transplanted into Jane and very unhappy about it with a real grace that has nothing to do with the Vanna White turns and presentation gestures left over from Deb. The hair-flip/swoosh every time she turns away is perfect. Margaret Cho is Teri Lee, Jane’s assistant – she hasn’t had a lot to do yet beyond be confused by Jane’s strange behavior and be a really good assistant. April Bowlby plays Stacy Barnett, who has been Deb’s size-one blonde ( ) BFF for, like, ever, and to whom Deb/Jane runs and tells all in defiance of orders. She’s actually adorable (“Yay! You’re home early!”) – a cheerleader who can’t figure out what to do now that the big game’s over, and who is terrified of the changes in her friend – because now Deb’s got Jane’s brains, and what will she possibly need Stacy for? Kate Levering is Kim Kasswell, another lawyer in the firm who is something like a Deb with brains – beautiful, svelte, smart, and oh-so-bitchy, and she underestimates Jane because of her weight. Jane was apparently the type who would take it on the chin and then go home and cry to her cat. Deb isn’t, especially since Kim is trying to cozy up to Deb’s would’ve-been fiancé … This is going to be a very enjoyable aspect of the show. Jackson Hurst plays Grayson Kent, as mentioned above… wow. I kept expecting him to be as shallow as Deb, or with her only because of her looks, or secretly a total jackass. He’s not, any of it. He’s a Nice Guy, a lawyer who pines to do pro bono work, and as above loves Deb to distraction and mourns her deeply; meanwhile, Deb is having a heck of a time working with him daily. Nice. Ben Feldman is Fred, who did the interview with Deb on entering the Gates of Heaven, and on whose watch she broke the rules and got hold of Jane’s body – as a result of which Fred is now her guardian angel. Oddly, this entails him being as human as she is, but without any extras – no powers, he says. Not quite Clarence. Regardless, he is cute as all get out.
The writing, always my main concern, is excellent. I had to rewind the second episode (watching on On Demand hath its privileges) because I would have sworn I saw the name “Whedon” go by – and, lo – I did. Jed Whedon, Joss’s little brother, who’s also written on Dollhouse. Well whaddya know.
I like the show so far. It’s gotten to me, for reasons which would be obvious if I were to post a picture (which ain’t gonna happen). I get it. It pushes all the buttons, and makes a lot of sense. It’s fun, it’s funny, it’s smart. I like it very much. Long may it wave.
What I can’t understand about this culture is: why is it that society looks at a “skinny girl”, one of the size-twos with the perky smiles and great hair, who has sacrificed education for the sake of more time with her hairdresser, and thinks she’s fine as she is – but looks at a “fat girl”, one of us more-than-size-sixteens, who may well be smarter than they are, and can only think we need to “step away from the cookies and get a grip”? Why is stupidity, or (more kindly) ignorance, acceptable, while shall we say lack of fitness isn’t? I understand the attitude that looks on fat with disgust as an unnecessary imperfection. I quite often feel the same way. I could have avoided getting to this weight. With work I can lose the weight. Thing is, I don’t hurt anyone but myself by being fat. So why am I expected by a great many people who look at me without knowing anything about me to change my life, while the stupid pretty skinny girls are under no obligation to become less ignorant? My priorities in life happen to be internal: learning, writing, reading. My priorities are … not popular.
I also don’t really understand why in this promo image –
Deb is front and center (left) and Jane is kinda small and backgroundy…
In related news, I also watched Last Chance Harvey this evening. Dustin Hoffman is Harvey Shine, divorced, a musician who wanted to be a jazz pianist and instead writes jingles for commercials. He has to go to London for his daughter’s wedding, which is not convenient given the client meetings he has to work around and the tenuous nature of his job in a rapidly changing industry. In London lives Emma Thompson’s character, Kate Walker, who is single, forty-something, tied closely to her mother, and having a miserable day – a small part of which is that her job entails stopping people on their way off planes at Heathrow and surveying them. And today one of the people she stops is Harvey, who blows her off. Well, then she goes out on a sort of blind double date with a coworker (Una), her husband, and a man they know… Kate makes Una promise that they won’t leave her alone with the man – and so, of course, Una promptly breaks the promise and scarpers, leaving Kate trying to make conversation with a younger man who isn’t happy about having been scarpered on. Before she knows what’s happening, he’s met up with a few friends – all young – and she is pushed aside… Meanwhile, her mother is certain that the man who recently moved in next door is a Polish serial killer – Jakob the Ripper, I suppose. So when Kate encounters Harvey in the airport bar and he, chatting her up more out of a need to talk to someone than anything else, tells her he’s had a shitty day, she can rightly challenge her right to shittiest.
He wins, however, because he arrived at his hotel expecting the entire wedding party, only to find no sign of them, and to be informed by his daughter that her mother rented a house for everyone but it was thought that it would be more comfortable for everyone to get him a room. Okay. Then at the pre-wedding dinner (not a rehearsal dinner, I guess, unless he missed it), having to deal with first the fact that whoever sold him his new suit left the HUGE security whatsit on his sleeve (the right one – the one you need for shaking hands with in-laws-to-be) and second that he’s in a cream-colored suit while everyone else … isn’t… He has to leave the table to take a phone call, making his way along behind the others seated on his side, and comes back to find his seat has been moved from near the head of the table to down at the foot. He has to watch as his daughter laughs and talks with her stepfather, and while the stepfather makes reference to all sorts of times they’ve had together… And then the daughter explains to him that she’s asking Brian (the step) to give her away. Bitch. So he tells her he has to get back to New York right after the ceremony, won’t make the reception – we applauded him, because we thought it was a response to the slight. It was actually the truth, except that on the way to catch his plane the cab gets stuck in bloody awful traffic, and he misses his flight. When he calls his office to try to fix things so that the meeting can be postponed, he is summarily fired. QED: shittiest day.
Mom-quote regarding Harvey at the dinner – “He could leave and they’d never notice.” I know the feeling. (See also Lt. Barclay.) I’m seriously thinking about taking the name Harvey_Shine if I have to create a user ID for anyplace. He’s a schlemiel, if I understand the definition properly: nice guy with a rain cloud over his head. (Upon looking it up, I mean schlimazel – I knew it was one of the words from the Laverne and Shirley theme song. Schlemiels continually mess up; schlimazels have continuous bad luck.) So is Kate, in her own unique and equally resonant way.
Resonance: Kate’s mother calls every hour or so.
Do you live with her?
Oh, no. No no no. God no.
You see, what I think it is is, is that I think that I’m more comfortable with being disappointed. I think I’m angry with you for trying to take that away.
It is more comfortable continuing along as everything always has been. Change isn’t comfortable, even if there’s the chance that it’s change for the better. Brief improvements are worse than no improvements at all…