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Case Number 21221

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Drop Dead Diva: The Complete Second Season

Sony // 2010 // 589 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // April 27th, 2011

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All Rise...

Judge Clark Douglas is drop-dead tired of this diva.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Drop Dead Diva: The Complete First Season (published June 1st, 2010) and Drop Dead Diva: The Complete Third Season (published June 20th, 2012) are also available.

The Charge

Life is funnier the second time around.

Opening Statement

Sigh.

Facts of the Case

Our protagonist (Brooke Elliot, What Women Want) lays out the premise for us at the beginning of each episode:

"See that aspiring model there?"

(At this point, we see a thin, attractive blonde played by Brooke D'Orsay, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.)

"That was me, Deb…until the day I died. I thought I'd go straight to heaven, but there was a bit of a mix-up and I woke up in someone else's body."

(At this point, we see an unflattering shot of the plus-sized Ms. Elliot.)

"So now I'm Jane, a super-busy lawyer with my very own assistant (Margaret Cho, 17 Again), a new life, a new wardrobe, and the only people who really know what's going with me are my girlfriend Stacy (April Bowlby, Two and a Half Men) and my guardian angel Fred (Ben Feldman, Cloverfield). I used to think everything happened for a reason. Well, I sure hope I was right."

So, there you go.

All thirteen episodes of Dead Dead Diva: The Complete Second Season are spread across three discs:

Disc One
• Would I Lie to You?
• Back From the Dead
• The Load Road to Napa
• Home & Away
• Senti-Mental Journey

Disc Two
• Begin Again
• A Mother's Secret
• Queen of Mean
• Last Year's Model

Disc Three
• Will & Grayson
• Good Grief
• Bad Girls
• Freeze the Day

The Evidence

I realize that attempting to ask a show called Drop Dead Diva to be realistic is preposterous, but man, this show is marching straight into daytime soap opera territory at an alarming speed. This season kicks off with an episode in which Jane discovers that she has a secret husband whom she hasn't seen in seven years. That's followed by an episode in which a woman discovers that her deceased husband wasn't really dead after all and has been suffering from amnesia for the past nine years. Later on, Jane is introduced to a new half-sister. It may sound silly, but believe me, it plays out in a manner even sillier than it sounds. That's too bad, because while Drop Dead Diva was never great television, it did what it did in a modestly satisfying manner. "Reasonably polished and well-acted, Drop Dead Diva is perfectly watchable," I said in my review of Drop Dead Diva: The Complete First Season. This time around, I can't even echo that faint praise.

Maybe this is just a personal preference, but I think it's entirely reasonable for a show to remain true to the world it establishes. Yes, I can accept the ridiculous supernatural premise of the show, despite the fact that the premise is violated in so many ways on so many occasions. Once everything has been laid out and the tenuous ground rules have been established, the show is then supposed to proceed in a reasonably credible "what if?" manner. In the first season, it kinda-sorta did a respectable job of that. This season, there are so many absurd moments that the believable ones only serve to accentuate how weak the rest of the program is.

Here's a good litmus test: do you still watch Glee and find it a satisfying, enjoyable program? If so, there's a decent chance you may like this season of Drop Dead Diva. Personally, I had to stop watching Glee midway through the second season simply because the program had begun violating its own rules of reality and regularly engaging in melodramatic nonsense just for the sake of it. For every touching moment of real-life drama which organically led into moving musical performances, there was another wildly contrived bit of silliness created to set up a gimmicky music video. Drop Dead Diva is guilty of the same sort of behavior, which makes its random, Paula Abdul-enhanced Glee-style musical number a somewhat appropriate addition. I find this maddening, but if you're cool with accepting each episode as its own bit of self-contained, overcooked entertainment and simply ignoring things like character development and long-arc plotting, then have at it.

Another irksome element is that the courtroom cases frequently ignore standard courtroom procedure—the writers seem aware of the fact that "objection!" and "overruled" are used from time to time, but there are all sorts of silly legal shenanigans that should have real lawyers (and those who have watched moderately realistic courtroom shows) giggling nonstop. The courtroom cases generally devolve into a platform for Jane to speechify about a series of relevant topics (this season, we tackle internet bullying, bigamy, cryogenic freezing, reality television, police corruption, age discrimination, the legal complications of sex changes, public nudity and Ponzi schemes, among other things). Alas, the writers never permit this material to become weighty enough to prevent the program from being generic "You go, girl!" fluff.

At least Elliot's performance is still engaging, though that's hardly enough reason to give the program a free pass at this point. She does what she can with the material, but the material gets pretty rough with her this season. In fact, most of the characters struggle to keep us interested—Margaret Cho is given little of interest to do once again, while David Denman (The Office) adds little to the proceedings as Jane's new boyfriend. The character who fares best this season is April Bowlby's Stacy, whose amusingly dim background commentary is presented just infrequently enough to remain consistently enjoyable. Guest stars include the aforementioned Abdul, Rosie O'Donnell, Vivica A. Fox, Cybill Shepherd, Sharon Lawrence, and Natasha Henstridge.

The DVD transfer is respectable, offering the program's bright, sunny palette with detail and precision. It's a pretty ordinary-looking program, but this is a perfectly acceptable DVD release that's about on par with most modern television show standard-def transfers. Audio is also just fine, with the show's perky soundtrack blending nicely with the dialogue and minimal sound design. Extras include three throwaway featurettes ("A Look Ahead to Season 2," "Drop Dead Dishing: The Cast and Crew on Season 2," and "There's a Little Diva in All of Us"), some deleted scenes and a music video.

Closing Statement

Reviewing the first season of Drop Dead Diva didn't inspire me to keep watching it on television, but reviewing the second season has inspired me to actively avoid the show if I happen to be channel-surfing. Despite some bright moments, the show has become messy and irritating.

The Verdict

Guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 85
Extras: 30
Acting: 70
Story: 50
Judgment: 55

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
• French
Running Time: 589 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Featurettes
• Music Video

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official Site








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