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DVD Review

DVD cover

Drop Dead Diva
The Complete First Season


Starring: Brooke Elliott, Margaret Cho, April Bowlby, Kate Levering, Jackson Hurst, Josh Stamberg, Ben Feldman, David Denman and Brooke D'Orsay
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 28 June 2010

When Deb, a beautiful-but-vapid model wannabe has a fatal car accident, she suddenly finds herself in front of Heaven’s gatekeeper Fred, who declares her a self-centred “zero”. Outraged, she attempts to persuade Fred to return her to her shallow existence but is accidentally relegated to the body of the recently deceased Jane Bingum, a brilliant, thoughtful and plus-sized attorney with a loyal assistant. Jane has always lived in the shadow of her more glamorous colleagues whereas Deb has always relied on her external beauty. Now, by a twist of fate and a bolt of divine intervention, Deb must come to terms with inhabiting Jane’s curvier frame and learn to reconcile her beauty queen ways with her brilliant, new mind...

The first season of Drop Dead Diva originally aired in the US in 2009. The idea, especially for a North American show, is pretty original in that the main character is not played by a skinny, cliched leading lady. Brooke Elliott's Jane Bingum is a more realistic portrayal of the average human form than TV executives would have us believe. And for this alone the series deserves more attention.

The basic idea to the series is not a million miles away from Dead Like Me. The main character is dead but is still being kept here on Earth; sees people she used to know but can't tell them what has happened to her; and generally has to get used to a new body and a new job. However, Drop Dead Diva is neither as well written or as funny as Dead Like Me.

The series starts when shallow wannabe model Deb Dobkins is killed in a car crash. When entering limbo her deeds while on earth are accessed and it's revealed that she never did one single good or bad deed in her life. She ends up accidentally returning to Earth and winds up in the body of super smart, but rather boring, solicitor Jane Bingum. Deb retains her memories, but Jane's intelligence. Now she's a hot shot lawyer with her own assistant (Teri) and Guardian Angel (Fred). Just when she's getting her act together, Deb's boyfriend starts work at the same law firm and she has no one to talk to about all her emotional problems. Eventually she decides to break her promise to Fred and tell one of Deb's closest friends (Stacey) what has happened. As Stacey is just as vapid as Debs was it doesn't take much to convince her that Deb is now living in the body of Jane.

For me the best supporting actress, and where most of the subtle and clever humour comes in, was April Bowlby as Stacy. The character is not a million miles away from the vacuous Kandi she played in Two and a Half Men.

Some interesting topics are explored over these 13 episodes, including Jayne taking a boutique to court after they basically turn their noses up at her when she wants to buy one of their dresses in her size; Jayne representing a waitress who was fired for putting on weight; a mother who wants to sue a company that runs a diet plan that is making her daughter ill; and Jayne representing a lingerie model who was fired for having breast cancer.

There are also several emotional episodes as Jayne meets Deb's parents (and discovers she didn't know them as well as she thought) and attends her own funeral where she hears what her friends really thought of her.

Cameo guest stars include Rosie O'Donnell, Paula Abdul, Tim Gunn and Liza Minnelli.

Extras include: Deleted Scenes (38 sec - which is actually one deleted scene where Jane discovers her school yearbook); Dreamisodes (2 min, 13 sec - three dream sequences cut from the show); Deleted Scenes (4 min, 17 sec); Rosie's Rap (27 sec - Rosie O'Donnell performs an impromptu rap between takes); Dropping in With Drop Dead Diva (13 min, 26 sec behind the scenes featurette); Cho and Tell (6 min Q&A with Margaret Cho who plays Teri); and trailers for other releases.

While this is a pretty light weight comedy series, the ridiculously low retail price (£19.99 - but you can pick it up for just under £13 from most online retailers) makes it hard to not recommend this enjoyable collection of episodes.


Darren Rea

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