Posts Tagged ‘Drop Dead Diva’
If you missed Margaret’s recent chats with Craig Ferguson and Chelsea Handler, check them out, below!
Catch Margaret in the season premiere of Drop Dead Diva, a new series on Lifetime starting tonight!
Drop Dead Diva tells the story of a shallow model-in-training who dies in a sudden accident only to find her soul resurfacing in the body of a brilliant, plus-size and recently deceased attorney. Television newcomer and stage actress Brooke Elliott (Wicked, Taboo) stars as lawyer Jane Bingum, and Margaret plays her gal Friday, Terri.
Says Margaret, “This show, I absolutely love. It’s really funny, but it’s also touching. It has a lot of heart, and I think the acting is really incredible. I think people are going to fall in love with Brooke and the character Jane and realize that beauty comes in all sizes. When you look at women in movies and TV, it’s an unrealistic view of what women really look like. With the show, we are promoting a real woman who is beautiful with real curves, has a real attitude and is fabulous.”
You can watch previews and extras here!
By MARY McNAMARA, Television Critic
The press material for Lifetime’s new comedy “Drop Dead Diva” contains a lot of accolades from “women’s groups” in which terms like “role model” and “grab your girlfriends” appear with alarming frequency — as if the publicity department were bracing critics for a show that should be viewed through a political or genre framework instead of simply as, you know, a television show anyone might enjoy. (The term “role model” especially tolls in a critic’s ear with as much anticipatory delight as Poe’s funeral iron bells.)
None of which was necessary, as “Drop Dead Diva” is a lot of fun to watch, with the added bonus of introducing TV audiences to Brooke Elliott, a stage actress with fabulous comic timing and enormous dramatic flexibility.
Oh, and she weighs a bit more than 100 pounds, which may explain all that “women’s group” nonsense.
Created by Josh Berman, who has written for “CSI” and “Bones,” “Drop Dead Diva” answers the age old question: What would happen if a dippy but beautiful woman woke up one morning with a brilliant mind but a dumpy body? OK, maybe it’s not an age-old question, but it certainly is an interesting twist on the rather worn pretty-and-witless-meets-schlubby-and-smart-narrative that fuels so much of chick lit.
All this and heaven too. “Drop Dead Diva” opens with two very different women about to meet their doom. Jane (Elliott) is a driven drudge of a lawyer who wears brooches and finds what little joy she experiences in work and carbs. Lots of carbs.
Deb, played by Brooke D’Orsay, meanwhile, is a tight-bodied empty-headed model-actress (guess which one is blond; go ahead, guess) on her way to audition for a job Vanna White made famous.
Both are tragically killed, and we meet up with Deb as she enters the Great Sorting Room in the Sky, where Fred (Ben Feldman), her celestial concierge, informs her that though she has never done an evil deed, she has neither done a good one, making her his first “zero, zero.” Stung, she manages to get sent back to Earth, but via the tragically imperfect body of Jane.
With a setup like this, it would be very easy to fall into a veritable showcase of sexism — How dumb was Deb? How fat is Jane? — but Berman produces a deft juggling trick of heart and humor, balancing Deb’s shallowness with some solid common sense and Jane’s inadequate self-esteem with kindness and legal brilliance.
Almost impossibly, Elliott manages to embody both personalities in a way that, far from some tedious “Inside the Actor’s Studio” lesson in character assimilation, is just delightful to watch. She is aided in this wacky scenario by a serviceable if predictable diagnosis of semi-amnesia and, more important, by Margaret Cho as Jane’s trusty assistant, Teri, and April Bowlby as Deb’s equally shallow but still loyal best friend, Stacy. Both hit all the necessary double-takes and are-you-crazy moments with just the right dramatic frothiness and keep things tethered, if loosely, to the recognizable world.
There’s a bunch of cute guys, of course: Fred has been demoted to guardian angel and gets a job at Jane’s firm so he can keep tabs on his runaway soul. Deb had a boyfriend, Grayson (Jackson Hurst), who has also, as luck and narrative need would have it, just joined the staff (the economic slowdown has not, apparently, hit this portion of Los Angeles).
Despite Deb’s self-centered zero, zero status, Grayson appears to be a peach of a guy, devastated by his girlfriend’s death, but Deb is convinced he wouldn’t look at her twice now that she’s Jane. There’s a scheming colleague, Kim (Kate Levering), a possibly sleazy boss (Josh Stamberg) and a host of upcoming guest stars (Rosie O’Donnell, Paula Abdul). But mostly there’s just Jane, a one-woman, two-woman show, trying to figure out how to accessorize her new life, which comes complete with sugar cravings and a job that requires she think about someone besides herself for two minutes.
If you were of a mind, you could concentrate on all the rather obvious plot devices and general silliness — a female client transformed by a single make-over — and pick “Drop Dead Diva” to death. But why?
Certainly, the show falls more in the fun category than the brilliant, and it’s not going to change television as we know it, but with any luck, it will remind us not to take everything, including television shows, so darn seriously. There is joy to be had in a doughnut, beauty can radiate from a face not made entirely of cheekbones and Botox, but that’s not the point. Deb’s zero, zero has nothing to do with looks but with deeds, and in its own light-hearted and sentimental way, that is what “Drop Dead Diva” makes clear. Not so much that beauty (yawn) comes from within, but that you actually have to do something to put it there.
On second thought, it may indeed change television as we know it.
By ALESSANDRA STANLEY
Published: July 9, 2009
Someone heard the old line about a thin woman trapped in a fat woman’s body and took it literally. In “Drop Dead Diva,” a Lifetime series that begins on Sunday, an aspiring model and airhead named Deb (Brooke D’Orsay) dies in a car crash and is transported — through a bungled act of divine intervention — to the body of a recently deceased lawyer, Jane (Brooke Elliott), who is smart, fat and frumpy.
The trading-places formula is put to use here in a weight-conscious comedy, a “Freaky Friday” mind-body exchange that measures the eternal contest between brains and beauty by the pound.
Deb, trapped in a Lane Bryant physique, doesn’t lose her own shallow, bubbly personality. When Deb awakens in a hospital bed and discovers that her once-taut stomach is now a pillowy protrusion of flab, she shrieks at her guardian angel, “You sent me to hell?” But she also assumes Jane’s high-powered brain and legal expertise. Deb discovers that while she now craves doughnuts and cheese dip, her mind also savors a complicated and compelling legal case. Basically she thinks like Elle in “Legally Blonde,” only she looks like Camryn Manheim on “The Practice.”
And while the presumption that a woman can be either brainy or beautiful, or in this case, good or thin, but not both, is a bit primitive, the series has humor and charm beneath its facile message, in large part (no disrespect intended) to a subtle, winning performance by Ms. Elliott.
It’s gotten harder than ever to find an imperfect heroine in a series who is actually flawed. More than ever these days, television suffers from casting dysmorphia; it repeatedly takes a slovenly, gluttonous, character and casts an exquisitely groomed, Pilates-toned actress in the part.
One of the running jokes of both “30 Rock” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine” is that the characters played by Tina Fey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are disarmingly sloppy, out of shape and addicted to junk food — and wine, in the case of Ms. Louis-Dreyfus. It’s a strain when both actresses are so petite, pretty and fit.
Debra Messing may have started the trompe l’oeil trend in “Will & Grace,” since she too was a whippet-thin actress playing a slovenly overeater. But the hypocrisy grows ever more insulting — a cognitive diss. Even TNT, which takes pride in badly behaved heroines — a slatternly sot on “Saving Grace,” a sweetsaholic on “The Closer” — assigns those roles to improbably slender, well-preserved actresses like Holly Hunter and Kyra Sedgwick.
And when a comedy does feature a female lead who is not conventionally pretty, that becomes the raison d’être of the series, as in “Ugly Betty.”
Network executives have concluded, perhaps not unreasonably, that audiences don’t really want television characters that are too true to life. “Roseanne” was a huge hit and lasted nine years, but it didn’t spark a stampede for plus-size actresses. Neither did “Less Than Perfect,” which starred a larger-than-usual actress, Sara Rue, and a venti-size sidekick, Sherri Shepherd. Ms. Manheim won Emmys on “The Practice” and “The Ghost Whisperer,” without inspiring many imitators.
Reality shows, on the other hand, feast on fat people. “The Biggest Loser” proved there was an appetite for weight-loss competitions, and now imitations abound. Oxygen has the latest: “Dance Your Ass Off,” in which chubby contestants shed weight by dancing. (Their scores are based on both their footwork and how many pounds they’ve lost.) This month Fox will present a “Bachelor”-like dating reality show for ordinary, heavyset people called “More to Love”; there is no weight loss requirement to winning a rose.
About two-thirds of Americans are overweight, many of them dangerously so. But television reflects a funhouse mirror image of society; sitcoms and dramas hold out impossibly narrow standards of beauty, while reality shows seek out and exploit the more grotesque displays of obesity.
“Drop Dead Diva” owes a lot to “Legally Blonde.” Deb, like Elle, even has a signature strut, which she calls the “booty bounce” (“shoulders back, show the rack”) and demonstrates to buck up discouraged female friends. But Ms. Elliott has a harder task than Reese Witherspoon: She has to merge two antithetical personalities without blurring the distinctions. Jane was a smarter, better person than Deb, but she was also insecure and depressed. Deb, once she settles into her legal briefs and sensible shoes, brings a dash of flirty confidence and “Born Yesterday” ingenuity to her caseload.
In the most implausible of comic mixups Ms. Elliott is convincing, and even affecting, at every turn.
Lifetime is bold to cast an actress who is hefty, without the aid of a fat suit like Gwyneth Paltrow in “Shallow Hal,” and plays a woman who is not likely to slim down magically just in time to find Mr. Right. That may be one reason so many better-known television stars signed on for small parts or walk-on appearances, from Margaret Cho, who plays Jane’s assistant, to guest stars like Rosie O’Donnell, Tim Gunn and Elliot Gould.
“Drop Dead Diva” isn’t a public-service message, it’s a lighthearted romantic comedy on Lifetime. Yet for all the farce it is grounded in reality.