DROP DEAD ExcellentBy Michael Karol Posted: Aug 7, 2009
How great is it when one of your favorite new prime-time series references your favorite soap opera?
I TiVoed Lifetime's DROP DEAD DIVA with skepticism, tuning in only because I wanted to see how the show would handle the supernatural/fantasy elements of the plot. (Hey, at least I'm admitting that I watch Lifetime…occasionally…) The story: Deb (Brooke D'Orsay), a pretty, well-meaning but somewhat shallow Los Angeles wannabe model, engaged to gorgeous Grayson (Jackson Hurst), is killed in a car crash. Winding up at the gates of heaven, she insists her time is not yet up, impulsively pressing a red button on the desk of Fred (Ben Feldman), the angel assigned to her.
She is immediately zapped back to Earth, but into the body of a plus-size, earnest attorney named Jane (Brooke Elliott), who had taken a bullet fired by an angry client and meant for her boss. Now Deb must adjust to life as a size 16, while dealing with her ex-fiancé, who is working at the same firm, and that fact that Jane's impressive brain power keeps popping up anytime she has to make a decision. Only Deb's former best friend, Stacy (April Bowlby), knows the truth.
As if that weren't enough, Kim (Kate Levering), a cutthroat lawyer at the firm, lives to insult Jane and is also after Grayson. Deb's angel, Fred, has been demoted after letting her escape, and is now Jane's guardian angel, working in the mail room at the law offices and crushing hard on Stacy while trying to grasp the nuances of human interaction.
I know — sounds like a soap, right? It is, in the best sense, leavened with a lot of humor and, as might be expected, bittersweet moments, as when Jane sees her (i.e., Deb's) mother enter the law offices as a client (she's getting divorced from Deb's dad), or practically any interaction between Jane and Grayson. The cast is attractive and terrific, most especially Elliott, who is very winning as the confused Deb-in-Jane's-body. She's a real find, and makes you believe in all the fantastic shenanigans, and shed a tear or two along the way. Another big plus: Hilarious Margaret Cho plays Jane's snarky assistant, Teri. Cho has finally found a series that does her sly comedy justice (pun intended).
So where does ALL MY CHILDREN fit in? In episode three, one of Jane and Kim's clients wants to sue a shrink for curing her husband's Disassociate Identity Disorder (DID). Problem is, the doctor left her husband with the wrong personality. As Jane and Kim walk the halls discussing the case, Kim reveals an unsuspected knowledge of DID. The reason? She's a regular viewer of ALL MY CHILDREN. (Though I don't believe that Erica Kane — or any major AMC character — ever suffered from DID, Erica's behaved like at least 20 different personalities in her 38-plus years on AMC. Viki, a character on AMC's sister soap, ONE LIFE TO LIVE, does have DID.)
But I'll take the shout-out to AMC; it was funny and meaningful, and it helped place DIVA in its proper context: a dramedy with fantasy elements, yes, but firmly embracing its soapiness to boot.