Monday, February 28, 2011

"Drop Dead Diva" needs a little more "Dead" and a little less "Diva"

Jane explains to Fred that her case is really, like, OMG hard

Okay, so believe it or not, "Samantha Who" and "Pushing Daisies" had a lovechild. Wait, that's not right. "Dead Like Me" and "Legally Blonde" had an illegitimate child. it was the result of a messy foursome?

Either way, "Drop Dead Diva" happened. It's a sugary feel-good comedy on Lifetime. Yes, on Lifetime. Hold on, that makes more sense when you consider that the show was originally meant for Fox. It's a good thing Fox passed, because "Diva" has a much better chance on cable. Haha. As if any new show has a chance on Fox. Anyway.

"Diva" follows the hilariously heartwarming life of Deb, a super-skinny but vapid fashion model who was hit by a car and killed. Once in limbo, she hits the "return" button, sending her soul into the nearest vacated body: Jane. Jane is an overweight, overworked lawyer who knows nothing about fashion but plenty about stuff that matters. Unfortunately, she dies and leaves nothing but her body and her lawyerly smarts for Deb to use.

The show quickly falls into a pattern: Deb, soon just referred to as Jane, lives her life as a stylish lawyer and has lots of really interesting cases. It's a kind of similar to doctor shows that only talk about the patients with golf clubs stuck in their heads or multiple personalities; Jane's cases are always highly unusual and sometimes oddly related to her life. She solves them with her innocent enthusiasm and mavericky, outside-the-box perspective.
Jane working with Kim - the resident mean-girl

Here's what I like about the show:

No one gives a shit that she's a size 20 16. Sure, the issue is touched upon early in the first season as Deb adjusts to Jane's body, and sure it becomes relevant during a case when Jane defends a woman that is fired for gaining weight, but other than those instances it is not a theme. Thank. God. An example of a real-sized woman in television that is totally watchable. Follow suit, other show maker people!

It's pretty addicting. The writers managed to create a seamless combination of episodic stories and overarching drama, which means it doesn't drag on but the circumstances carry from episode to episode. This is, in my opinion, the only way to do hour-long shows, and the reason why I get tired of crime/medical dramas so quickly. For me the characters need to grow and develop and have lives outside of their work. Sure, other shows give the cursory nod to the private existence of their characters, but not enough to keep me interested in the long run.

I'm this a pun? Or a prank? A contractual obligation? Sigh

Here's what I DON'T like about the show:

Besides the constant dream-cameos of Paula Abdul as a "judge" (gag me with a spoon), which are pretty self-explanatory, I dislike in general the very "Hollywoody" feel. It's set in LA, the cast is all gorgeous and shiny, Jane has a (don't get me wrong, adorable and hilarious) ditzy blonde roommate, and the first thing you see in the opening is the never-ever-seen-again bright blue beach. Why is this necessary?

As is to be expected in a sugary show like this, cliches and tropes and plot devices abound, which makes the storylines a little familiar and predictable. Jane blames her lack of know-how on amnesia, her angelic companion Fred is a regular Clarence, etc. The most annoying "fix" to the problem of her soul being in someone else's body is that she has Jane's brain but not her memories. Ummm...huh? So she can remember things she learned in law school, but she can't remember the names of her family members. This is hastily glossed over, and in my opinion utterly stupid. What's even MORE stupid is that every time she has a "smart girl thought" she winces in pain and touches her temple. Like the pesky intelligence is literally bursting uninvited from her brain.

I'm not a lawyer, but I'm sure anyone with real knowledge of the legal system would be annoyed by the tidy nature of the show. Cases are filed and sent to trial and solved within 24 hours, judges are easily swayed by gimmicks and emotional appeals, and very little paperwork actually gets done. This might be a dumb question, but do most law firms handle civil suits, criminal suits, divorces, property disputes, etc? Don't they usually specify? It seems like this firm does everything. I understand that if they did focus on only one type of law, the episodes would get pretty repetitive. But...but...but....what about the REALISM! Sigh.

What "Diva" needs to be perfect:

A slightly darker edge. I'm not asking for a gloom-and-doom rewrite, just a few minor tweaks. For one thing, Deb's fiancee Grayson is often seen grieving her death. This is good. Why don't we play with the theme of negativity a little more? Things going wrong, and such. Maybe Jane could lose a case every now and then. She's a bit of a Pollyanna, meaning she brings joy and sunshine and happiness into the firm; she often pokes her head into other people's offices, reads one file, and then magically offers some insight which allows them to solve their cases. What if she didn't have so much magically stored legal knowledge? What if she couldn't shrug and say "amnesia" and get a perfectly summarized explanation from her assistant as to whatever the fuck is going on? All I'm asking for is a little adversity. And I'm not talking "Oh no, I can't solve this case because I haven't found the perfect key yet" adversity. I'm talking hurdles. The writers want us to believe that being in Jane's life isn't always a cakewalk, so they should prove it. 

That's all, my minions. Back to the real world. 

Le Manuel


  1. Wow..
    "Girl, you ARE a writer"

  2. I agree with your take on things. As perverse as it sounds, I would really like her to lose a case once in a while. It's just not realistic otherwise.