Review: Dead model possesses large lawyer in Drop Dead Diva

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

With a title like Drop Dead Diva, it's easy to get the impression that Lifetime's new dramedy is nothing more than fluff. Instead the series mixes Ugly Betty with The Devil Wears Prada to cook up a charmer with plenty of heart and humor.

In the series, Deb (Brooke D'Orsay), a beautiful and shallow model wannabe, focuses on the important things in life, like doing her nails and being concerned that her knees look fat. She lives with her handsome attorney boyfriend, Grayson (Jackson Hurst), and her best pal is the equally shallow Stacy (April Bowlby).

Meanwhile, hardworking, brilliant, plus-size attorney Jane Bingum (Brooke Elliott) trudges through life in the shadows of her more confident colleagues. But their paths are about to cross in the most unusual way when Jane is accidentally shot at work.

Just then, Deb is killed in an auto accident. She ends up meeting heaven's gatekeeper, Fred (Ben Feldman), who pulls up her file on his computer and looks over her living years. Fred determines she's never done anything bad or good in her life. In fact, he believes Deb is a zero/zero. All Deb knows is she has to get back to Earth, and when she hits a button on Fred's computer keyboard, she's instantly sent back. Instead of returning as Deb, however, she ends up in Jane's plus-sized body in the hospital.

Shocked to see she's not herself, literally, Deb isn't ready for Fred when he shows up. He tells her Jane's body was recently vacated and Deb is now Jane. Luckily, she does have Jane's brilliant mind to help her out. Suddenly Deb is living Jane's life, matronly clothes and all, as she takes Jane's cases at the law firm with the help of her loyal assistant, Teri (Margaret Cho), and runs into Grayson, who's just joined the firm. It's the ultimate second chance for Deb to stop being a "zero" and start making a difference.

Drop Dead Diva starts out almost as shallow as its main character, with the hot brainless model and the tireless, hardworking, brainy plain Jane. However, these caricatures are quickly disposed of when Deb and Jane unite, forcing Deb's exterior beauty inside as she realizes what it's like to be smart and to do good deeds for the first time.

Brooke Elliott is delightful as Deb/Jane, and she gives us a reason to like her character and the series. Margaret Cho is a stitch as Jane's assistant, who is only slightly thrown when her boss suddenly suffers a massive case of amnesia. And Ben Feldman, as Fred, has some nice moments as Deb's new guardian angel.

This breezy dramedy is a great fit for Lifetime. So forget the cutesy title of the series. Drop Dead Diva is the ultimate body-switching series, and far more than the sum of its parts. The series premieres on Sunday, July 12, at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.