While channel surfing, I stumbled on the new Lifetime show, Drop Dead Diva. Always eager for a new campy train wreck, I tuned in to the pilot episode. Ten minutes in, my interest was piqued. Twenty minutes in, I may have teared up a little. At the show’s conclusion, I was hooked.
The second episode, which I watched yesterday, is even better.
It isn’t what I expected at all, thankfully. It’s funny, touching and highly entertaining.
Aside from the snappy writing, the main reason this show is a winner is its star, Brooke Elliott. (That said, “Drop Dead Diva” is a terrible title. It sounds like a tween ABC Family movie.)
Elliott plays Jane, a successful, type-A attorney whose body becomes the vessel for a superficial, blonde model named Deb, when they both die at the same time. However, while Deb’s soul occupies Jane’s frame, Jane’s smarts, drive and insecurities still come through. It’s a tough role — you are essentially playing two conflicting characters at the same time. But Elliott handles it wonderfully, keeping the comedy intact without taking it over the edge.
I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s an Emmy-worthy performance.
I just learned today that Elliott’s background is the stage. She’s appeared in Taboo, The Pirate Queen and Wicked. Rosie O’Donnell recalls discovering Elliot back when she was producing the Boy George musical:
“When I did ‘Taboo’… Brooke came in and she was fresh from the Midwest and she looked like she had just come off of a Disney cruise,” Rosie recounted to Access. “I said, ‘Now listen; you are gorgeous, you are a singer and a dancer, you have to look like a punk-rock kid…. So she went and she got herself — that day — an outfit of fishnets and a T-shirt that was ripped.”
“Yeah! I came back with the doll color and the black lipstick and the hair pieces and things like that to audition for this show that needed [a] funky look,” Brooke chimed in. “Rosie was fantastic. She [said] to me, ‘How much did you pay for that outfit?’… I was like, ‘$117.’ And she was like, ‘Well, if you get the show, I’ll reimburse you.’ And the first day of rehearsal, I got a check for $117.” [source]
But before all that, Elliott started acting in Chicago, where she was a member of local theatre company, Babes with Blades.
The show I did with them, they took a scene from The Miracle Worker, a scene from Heathers, and a scene from Robin Hood,” Elliott says. “In Robin Hood, I did quarterstaff fighting. In Heathers, we did all hand-to-hand, so it’s punching, Aikido rolls, and hair-pulling, of course. And they created a brilliant fight for the dinner table scene in The Miracle Worker. It was so fantastic.” [source]
Um. How awesome is THAT? I need to check them out.
Speaking of awesome, Delta Burke, Liza Minnelli, Nia Vardalos, Rosie, and a slew of other stars are slated to guest star on DDD. Also: Margaret Cho plays her droll assistant. I highly recommend it.