Review: Lifetime's 'Drop Dead Diva'

Ditsy aspiring model Deb catwalks her way into the afterlife after a fatal car accident and learns how to live large in Lifetime's new series Drop Dead Diva.

Like its title, the show's premise is far from subtle - a mistaken keystroke on a Pearly-Gates-keeper's computer lands shallow Deb's soul in the plus-sized body of brainy lawyer Jane Bingum. Nor is it particularly original - see the 1991 movie comedy Switch in which a male chauvinist learns what it's like to walk in another person's heels when he's killed and comes back as a woman.

Yet, in spite of all the broadly drawn characters and obvious set-ups, Drop Dead Diva is surprisingly light on its feet. The show looks smart - even when the writing isn't especially so; and its treatment of self-image issues is often funny and touching - even when "Big Girls Don't Cry" is on the soundtrack.

If Drop Dead Diva proves to be a hit for Lifetime - and it may very well be, judging from the pilot - it'll be because of Brooke Elliott's winning turn as Jane. A stage actress with some film (appropriately, What Women Want) and TV (also appropriately, Law & Order: Trial by Jury) credits, Elliott manages to be believable even as the storyline's contrived fantasy defies believability. The rest of the cast, including comedienne Margaret Cho as Jane's assistant, is all fine; but it's Elliott's show.

Check out a preview of the show here.

Drop Dead Diva debuts on Lifetime July 12 at  9 p.m.