One of Lifetime's more compelling shows, "Drop Dead Diva" takes inner beauty to new levels in the hour-long dramedy that manages to present the idea of beauty within without ever feeling heavy-handed. While "Drop Dead Diva" does have its fair share of dramatic moments, the overall feel of the series is light and playful. With engaging characters that are multidimensional and never become stereotypes, "Drop Dead Diva" not only defines the main character's inner beauty, but also the people around her. And while I'm all for the message behind the series, I'm also appreciative that the series is well written and presents its take on beauty in an intelligent and even playful manner.
Deb's (Brooke D'Orsay) life changed forever when she got into a car accident on the way to an audition. Before the accident, Deb seemed to have it all: good looks, a budding career and her dream fiance, named Grayson (Jackson Hurst). Deb is the kind of girl who doesn't take no for an answer and when she finds herself in Heaven, she decides she can't possibly be dead and insists that she be sent back to earth. Before the angel checking her in can stop her, Deb pushes a button that sends her back; only - not in the way she'd hoped. Deb wakes up to find herself in the hospital in another woman's body.
The woman's name is Jane (Brooke Elliott) and is pretty much Deb's opposite. While on the inside, Deb is Deb, on the outside she's Jane to everyone else. Only she and her guardian angel, Fred (Ben Feldman) know who she is and she's not allowed to tell anyone else. Of course, that doesn't keep her from telling her best friend Stacy (April Bowlby), who takes some convincing. Initially they fret over the fact that Deb/Jane no longer has a model figure, but is instead plus size and plain. Still, before long Deb puts her personality into Jane's look, and Jane is no longer plain, but rather quite bubbly and lovely - much to everyone's surprise at the law firm where she works. The good thing about being Jane, is that Deb gets to keep all the things Jane learned, just not the emotional, personal memories. In other words, Deb can still work as a lawyer, but she gets to end up putting her own spin on it. In fact, Deb/Jane as a lawyer is one of the more inspired aspects to the series. It allows the cases to be approached from both the logical and the out of the box angles.
In the first season, "Drop Dead Diva" covered a lot of things like Deb/Jane dealing with not being able to tell her family that's she's really alive, having to be a daughter to Jane's real mother, working at a firm with people who remember her one way, and so forth. However, the main thing that follows Deb/Jane and helps give the series even further depth is the fact that she can't tell her fiance Grayson who she really is. If she does, there will be major consequences. Additionally, to make things more interesting, Deb/Jane also works with Grayson in the law firm. So day after day, she must work alongside him, hoping he'll fall in love with her all over again for who she really is.
Beyond wondering whether or not Grayson will realize Jane is Deb, there are a lot of regular (and some not-so-regular) law cases that keep the series interesting and provide Deb/Jane a place to discover how smart she really is, and really try and help people along the way. In her firm, she works alongside her assistant Teri (Margaret Cho), her boss Jay (Josh Stamberg),and Kim (Kate Levering) another female lawyer who she tends to clash with especially early on. While the cases vary, the series truly shines when focusing on Deb becoming her own version of Jane - whether that's realizing something about a case that only she, Deb, could realize, or hanging out with Stacy and Fred, or trying to make sure that Grayson is happy, no matter what.
While Season one was really about Deb trying to navigate her way through a new life, season two was about Deb finally accepting her life and moving on with it as best she could, even when Grayson seriously started dating another woman. Season three opens where season two left off with Grayson in a comma and Jane waiting to see if he knows who she is. As the season progresses, Jane agrees to be Grayson's "best man" at his wedding to new girlfriend, Vanessa (Jaime Ray Newman). While Jane must come to accept, as best she can, Grayson's decision, she must also take on several new cases including defending a thief who robbed her ("The Wedding"). While there are several episodes that stand out, one of the more memorable is "Mother's Day" where Jane must help both her mom and Jane's real mom. She even ends up helping Deb and Grayson. There's something rather touching about the fact that Jane is torn between these two lives that plays off incredibly well, especially due to the way in which its presented, as well as Elliot's incredible delivery. Of course, season three isn't all serious as there are lots of humorous moments, some song and dance numbers, and lots of guest appearances (though some play serious roles). Some guest stars in season three include: Faith Prince, Brandy Norwood, Kathy Griffin, Paula Abdul, Tony Goldwyn and lots more.
"Drop Dead Diva" may not be perfect, but much like the heart of the story - if you look closely you find that it's pretty enjoyable. I'm certainly not the shows demographic, and don't watch it on a regular basis, but when reviewing the DVD, I can see that the show is clearly well written, thoughtful, and above all else superbly acted by Brooke Elliot. Cho's comic delivery is spot on, Bowlby's delivery is engaging, Levering is heartfelt, but it's Elliot who holds the show together. She doesn't miss a beat and is funny when she needs to be and subtle when the scene calls for it. If you're looking for something moving, entertaining and something that puts a new spin on inner beauty, then give "Drop Dead Diva" a try.
This set provides the entire third season.
VIDEO: The show is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Video quality is perfectly pleasing, with images that remain crisp and reasonably detailed throughout. A touch of artifacting is seen on a couple of occasions, but the picture was otherwise clean, with bright colors.
SOUND: Crisp, clear Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. Obviously, little in the way of surround use aside from occasional ambience and reinforcement of the music. Dialogue remained crisp and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: The extras section is a size zero - as in zero extras.
Final Thoughts: Sweet, well-acted and enjoyable, "Drop Dead Diva" is a pleasant comedy/drama offering from Lifetime. The DVD's extras section is a size zero - no extras - but the set offers fine audio/video quality. Recommended.