Saturday, September 1, 2012

DROP DEAD DIVA, SEASON 4

i wrote here last may about drop dead diva, before the new season began. now the season is about to end, and there is no certainty that it will  be renewed.  it would be a pity to lose, not only because it was already a good show, but because this year it included a new character, briefly introduced at the end of last season but far more integrated into this year's shows.




for those who don't know DDD, a brief recap. when it began 5 years ago, it had a fairly novel premise. on the same day, two women are killed in different circumstances.  due to a mixup in heaven, one of them, deb, was not fated  to die, but her body is presumably too messed up to return her to, so she ends up in the body of the other woman, jane.  deb has been a narcissistic young wanna-be model; jane is a brilliant, somewhat drab  lawyer in her mid-30s.  jane is pretty, but fat, and when deb comes out of her coma she is less thrilled to be alive than horrified by her new body.  her guardian angel joins her to set up the rules, one of which is no one is to know that she's deb in jane's body [heaven, presumably, can't handle bad press.] but by the time he lets her in on this, she has already told her good-hearted but bubble-brained best friend, stacy.

jane has worked in a law firm whose other employees include deb's fiance, grayson. so part of the ongoing tsuris is that while grayson mourns his lost love, jane/deb mourns  her loss of grayson, who can never be told the truth.

the show has always been one of those on-the-edge dramadies--serious, but with a touch of humor about itself.  for me, and i think many other fans, the major joy has been that rarity, a fat heroine.  brooke eliot has been close to perfect in the role.  having always been thin and gorgeous, the new 'jane' simply doesn't know how to be an appropriate fat girl.  she sashays everywhere , flirts outrageously, and flips her hair around like a shampoo-commercial model.  luckily, jane's brain being part of her body, this newly blended woman has all of jane's legal knowledge [though none of her personal memory] and the savvy to recreate what she doesn't remember.  watching her morph into the hybrid jane has been one of the most charming experiences over the months of the show. the fact that it takes grayson 3 seasons [within what we assume to be the fictional time frame of a year or 2] before he recognizes aspects of deb in jane has been telling.  nothing about this fat woman with so much of deb's personality ever seems to remind him of his beloved fiance.  he was in love with a gorgeous babe, not an intelligent woman. it's only at the end of season 3, last summer,  that he begins to get a glimmer of something going on.  significantly, he kisses stacy, because she reminds him so much of deb. stacy starts to tell him the truth, finally supplying the hint that will start him looking at his pal jane differently.

stacy has been a great, if sometimes annoying character.  she is completely golden-hearted and loving, and nearly completely stupid. so she is always a present reminder that deb has been lucky in her peculiar re-incarnation.  it has caused deb to grow emotionally and intellectually, while continuing to appreciate the kind of savvy and idiosyncrasy of the untutored model.  the casting, in fact, has been wonderful all along, including that of  the boyish guardian angel, sent to watch over 'deb' but falling in love with stacy. [they've just dumped the character this season, replacing him with a meaner, more macho angel--possibly to give us a better foil for jane's defiance of anyone who tries to tell her what to do.]

all this has been grand. and then--enter owen.  introduced at the end of last season as a colorful and somewhat arrogant judge who takes a fancy to jane when she defies him in court, owen has created possibly more potential than the show can handle.  they have chosen the perfect actor for him, in a fairly surprising way.  everyone on the show is standardly gorgeous, even fred-the-angel, except for jane herself. Lex Medlin is appealing looking, much in the mold of john goodman.  he's a bit stocky, and not especially handsome, and owen dresses in outfits that suggest a fairly indifferent approach to fashion. he's neither suave nor stylish, in many ways less of a storybook character than any of the others.  and yet in a sense he's the most romantic character the show has yet had--a funky prince charming who matter-of-factly sweeps jane off her feet.  when he is at the airport on his way to a year's training for the america's cup, a lifelong dream, and sees that she's there too on her way to a couple of weeks in italy, he blithely shows  up in her airplane, and as she stammers about the america's cup, he just shrugs and says he can always sit on a boat but may never again have the chance to show her around italy.  she acts pleased; he acts pleased that she's pleased, and the whole thing takes place so smoothly that it takes a moment for the viewer to grasp that he's just given up a lifetime dream to spend two weeks with her.  pure, high-level romance, presented as a likable gesture of affection.  and we know that he is totally besotted with her.

 this is decent writing and directing, but above all it's medlin's acting.  he has an expressiveness of voice and especially of facial and bodily carriage that is remarkable. much of their love affair is reflected in his face.  from the very beginning, when he matter-of-factly tells jane from the bench that he has reserved a table for them at a local restaurant, hr reflects combinations of emotion. in this scene his casual bravado suggests a genuine interest in jane, a genuine self-confidence, and a slight, nearly imperceptible turn of  the lines between his eyebrows that suggest a  fear she might turn him down.  much later down the line, as the now-engaged couple are house-hunting, jane expresses her  appreciation of a house's big back yard, which she says will be perfect for a swing set for the kids. owen flashes in a minisecond a look that shows surprise [they had evidently not discussed this aspect of marriage], joy at the realization, and pure shining love for jane. the awkwardness of his proposal to jane is wonderful, and slightly underplayed: they had earlier talked about the institution of marriage, which jane cherishes  and he finds intrusive in a relationship.  his proposal reflects his willingness to do anything to please jane and to keep her with him, and at the same time a tiny hint of the fact that it isn't what he would have chosen on his own.   there are dozens of such textured emotions in owen's face throughout the episodes.

as i said, the problem with the owen character is that the show may have to heighten its own standards to embody what he, in combination with jane, has to offer it.  their relationship has bumps, but they are solved with the surface ease of an old love boat episode.  given the seriousness of his intellect, owen is not a character who would shrug off his beliefs against marriage in a brief time.  it's an interesting idea, rarely dealt with in tv fictions, and  worthy of characters who are both loving and reasonable enough to talk it over, get to the depths of each other's feelings, make decisions that involve an awareness of compromise. when, soon after he preposes, he suffers a near-fatal heart attack and decides he can't marry jane after all because of what it would do to her if he died from the next one, it's as though his earlier dislkie of marriage never happened. he tells her he has changed becasue of his near death, she says all the right but non-profound things about being lucky to have each other as long as they can, and he changes his mind.  yet here is a woman who herslf has nearly died, must have some deep sesne of her own about mortality, and has as well the intelligence to know that there aren't just the choices of marry soon or break up.all this rich human stuff, could make some great episodes, maybe even a full season of seeing their relationship deepen while working out its dynamic.  and none of that would take away from the rest of the things on the show that are fun and funny.

there is finally the puzzle of their physical relationship.  like all melodrama and most  comedy,  much of being in love in DDD is expressed in the sudden, mouthn-working, hip -grabbing kiss.  indeed jane's trip to italy takes place becasus she has seen such a kiss between stacy and grayson, and misunderstood it, not only running off  just when grayson is beginning to realize the similarities between her character and deb's, but also sharing the information with guardian angel fred, who is in love with stacy  and who now runs off back to the afterlife to escape his pain.  yet as she and owen clearly become closer, with stacy helpfully discussing with jane whether owen's interest is in 'dating' or being 'just friends', the Kiss, of any sort, barely materializes.  they do hold hands, they laugh and smile and delight in each other's company; they 'have chemestry.' to some extent, this is a welcome releif from the obligatory mouth guzzling body clutching boy-this-is-serious kiss.  reading owen's eyes, and to some extent jane's, is nice for a change.  but there are  moments one starts to wonder if they should just get adopted by the same parents.  this has been mentioned by fans on the various cyber venues--the show's face book page, the actors' facebook pages and tweet pages, Lifetime's own show gossip pages. i loved the deeply felt though highly inelegant post by one fan, discussing the scene when jane convinces the post-heart attack owen that they can and should be together, and he reacts with relief and excitement and puts the discarded engagement ring back on her hand. "He should have been kissing the crap out of  her!' wrote the disgruntled fan. indeed he should.

ah well, the season finale is sept. 9--the wedding day of jane and owen--and whatever cliffs that keeps us haning from, we can hope for a deeper and juiciier expansion of jane and own next summer.......




1 comment:

e7f228c6-d9f6-11e1-8c06-000f20980440 said...

Wow Karen a very nice analysis and summary of ddd. I love the show for a lot of reasons. One very personal reason which is I used to be fat and now I am not - so i kinda relate to judgements Jane has to deal with regarding her size. It mirror societies idea that all the "hot" girls have the boys running after them. I think that is perhaps the answer (which you implied) to the question why don't the two overweight (non-hot by our cultures standards) lead characters don't have long hot kisses. I guess we are lucky they even imply that they have sex. On to the next thing --- Luke the new angel not only is more macho but EXTREMELY well-off....whichs begs the question...is heaven really ok with the whole money equals power thing.....I mean Jane could pretty much blow him off if it was not for the fact that he basically controls the practice. It just goes to show take all your money with you when you die! On to the Owen and Jane "thing" I totally get what you are saying and I would enjoy taking it in another more real direction too, but I love a good fantasy. I wonder if perhaps that is what they are going for with the prince charming-esque owen. I guess I have at least loved someone that much that I could see how love could make him give in to a lot of things. Just my thoughts.