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Series / Drop Dead Diva

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Drop Dead Diva is a legal comedy-drama fantasy television series that aired on Lifetime, premiering on July 12, 2009 and running for six seasons before concluding on June 22, 2014.note 

Deb Dobkins (Brooke D'Orsay) is an attractive, ditzy blonde model with aspirations of being a game show hostess. She is engaged to be married to her lawyer fiancé Grayson (Jackson Hurst), who is interviewing at a new firm. She goes off to her audition to be a model on The Price Is Right, talking to her friend Stacy (April Bowlby) on her cell phone and filing her nails, all at the same time. Poor Deb; if she had looked up for only a minute, maybe she would have noticed the grapefruit delivery truck parked in the middle of the intersection up ahead...

Meanwhile at the law firm of Harrison & Parker, Jane Bingum (Brooke Elliott) is preparing for her day. She is a literal Plain Jane: mousy, overweight, and obsessed with self-help books. Jane chats with her witty assistant Terri Lee (Margaret Cho) and haughty rival lawyer Kim Kaswell (Kate Levering), who is busy showing off her new designer purse. Jane steps out of her office just in time to see an armed gunman take the office hostage. Her boss, Jay Parker (Josh Stamberg), was apparently dating the gunman's wife. Jane tries to calm down the situation but trips over Kim's purse, and the paranoid gunman shoots her dead.

You're probably asking, "What the hell, the two main characters die in the first episode?" Rest assured; here is where it gets good.

Deb gets stopped on her way to heaven by angel Fred (Ben Feldman) because she has never done a good or bad deed in her whole life, which doesn't necessarily make her a bad person, but "probably just really shallow." Outraged, Deb pushes the return button on Fred's keyboard and is sent back to Earth...into Jane's recently vacated body.

Now poor Deb/Jane has to deal with being a skinny girl in a fat girl's body, working as a lawyer using Jane's legal smarts (as Deb has all of Jane's knowledge of courtroom operations but no memories of Jane's past), working in the same room with her (ex?)fiancé (turns out Harrison & Parker was the firm Grayson interviewed at), and getting used to her new life in general, including dealing with things from her pasts as both Deb and Jane.

As a result of this, Fred is also sent to Earth as her guardian angel (or, as he calls it, her babysitter), and along the way gets a crush on Stacy, whom Jane lets in on the big secret.

This show contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Stacy develops this while she has a supporting role on a tv show.
  • Alliterative Name: Deb Dobkins, Kim Kaswell.
  • Amoral Attorney: To varying degrees, but especially Parker.
    • Averted when Jane has a difficult crisis in the first season finale. One of her clients pulls a 5-million dollar scam and Jane decides to turn him in, violating attorney-client privilege and potentially leading to her disbarment.
  • Artistic License – Politics: An extremely minor one. Jane makes a brief remark on the wedding of Princess Julia of Andorra. Although Andorra is a principality ruled by two co-princes as heads of state, there is no royal family since the thrones are filled by the current president of France and the current Bishop of Urgell, Spain.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the fifth season premiere, it seems that Owen is dead, and Old Jane has taken over his body; however, it turns out that Owen is alive, which Jane finds out after asking a small series of questions when he comes into her office. Old Jane shows up at the end of the episode in a model's body.
  • Betty and Veronica: Jane and Vanessa halfway through Season 2. Shown in a dream sequence in Episode 12.
    • Jane and Kim in Season 1 fit this even better.
    • Owen and Grayson for Jane's Archie throughout Season 4.
  • Brainless Beauty: Deb was one, and Stacy can fall under it, though both have started picking up lawyer terms due to Jane's brains.
    • Paul is a male version.
  • Brick Joke : In "The Long Road To Napa," Stacy makes a pitcher of tomato-blueberry smoothies. No one has time to drink them, so she puts them in the fridge for later. They reappear at the end of the episode.
  • The Bro Code: A Gender Flipped version, Jane at first refuses to accept Owen and Stacy dating, saying it's a violation of the girl code.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Even literally.
  • Butt-Monkey: Grayson claims himself to be this, given that his cases tend toward the unusual including representing a chimp and a couple who owns a haunted house.
  • Casting Gag: Natasha Henstridge plays Claire Harrison, the other partner in Harrison-Parker. This is the second time she's played a lawyer in a legal fantasy-dramedy. Incidentally, former Eli Stone alumni Sam Jaeger and Matt Lescher appear as clients of the week.
  • Catchphrase: Jane tends to post-fix questions with, "right?"
  • Celebrity Paradox: In Season 5, Stacy shows off her social media acumen by claiming that "I can tell you what every cast member of Pretty Little Liars had for breakfast." Episode 6x04 features Janel Parrish as Jane's client Chelsea, a cheerleader.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: How the afterlife is run.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Stacey occasionally falls into a ditzy version of this. Jane comes across as this to her boss, though primarily due to her lateral thinking.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Happens all the time, especially when Jane needs inspiration to solve her cases. Also happens when she and Grayson gets closer: you can be sure that in the following minute (if not seconds) something will pop and stop their interactions.
  • Control Freak: Kim Kaswell. According to Fred, she's more of a control freak than his last boss... God (being an angel, he'd know).
  • Curse Cut Short: Fred's cry of "Je-!" when Stacey uses Mace on him. Beyond the humour of the scene itself, what makes it hilarious is that Fred is an angel.
    • In "Dead Model Walking", after unknowingly agreeing to a double-date with current boyfriend, rival, and ex?-fiance, Jane lets out a flat "Fun." Of course, the shocked expression on her face says that other F-word.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Rosie O'Donnell's judge is pretty snarky.
    • In fact, several of the judges on the show have a notable sarcastic edge.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Aaron Howard from "Change of Heart". As he is set to be put to death for murder, he wants his heart to be given to his gravely sister Tina. The episode revolves around Jane and Kim's attempts to allow the heart to be donated without damage in time.
  • Dream Sequence: Quite a few, often involving guest stars as themselves.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Deb. She dies in the first episode because she was so busy talking on her phone.
  • Dumb Blonde: Deb and Stacy. And often subverted; both of them are a lot smarter than given credit for. It's just that their smarts don't necessarily revolve around the sort of knowledge most people would consider worthwhile. Plus, Stacy figures out and accepts Deb's new body/situation pretty quickly.
    • It becomes much more subverted in the second season where Stacy starts to get a lot more savvy and smart, even using her image as a dumb blonde to her advantage.
    • Also, the more Deb learns and experiences Jane's life and hears about Jane's life before Debbization, the more the viewers start to see how Deb as an outside observer makes rather insightful observations on her life. Indeed, there are signs that ditzy but well meaning Deb may actually be making a better life for Jane than Jane ever was. Such as re-connecting with Jane's absent dad and getting Jane's mom to go into therapy for bi-polar disorder.
    • Paul, Jane's latest guardian angel is basically the Spear Counterpart to Stacy.
  • Flashback: Used to flesh out Deb and her relationship with Grayson before her death. Also used with stories or phrases Deb told Grayson and that Jane repeats; this confuses Grayson immensely.
  • Feigning Intelligence: Stacy.
  • Freudian Trio: Jane’s guardian angels fit this. Luke is the superego, a stickler for the rules and determined to keep Jane from her past as Deb. Fred is the ego prone to human weaknesses and willing to let Jane begin a relationship with Grayson provided she doesn’t reveal she’s Deb. Paul is the id, not caring what Jane does as long as he gets to stay on earth.
  • "Friends" Rent Control : The house that Jane moves into is Stacy's home before she moves in...but no mention is made of how an out of work model/actress affords it.
    • Averted of course after Jane moves in.
  • Genius Ditz: The ditz part comes from Deb, the genius part from Jane. Though as with Dumb Blonde, Deb isn't necessarily as ditzy or dumb as usual per the trope. She's just that way compared to Jane and in fact can be pretty insightful.
  • Hate Sink: Charles Ellis from "The Long Road to Napa" is one in and out of universe. Charles married Maria and then married Emily without telling either woman about the other. After lying to them for five years, Charles is caught and they sue. During the trial, not only is it revealed that Charles got free stuff for his business because of his marriages, but Charles was also engaged to a third woman. The judge actually forces Charles to settle out of court because the jury all hated him.
  • Hello, Attorney!: Jane, Grayson, Kim, Vanessa, and some of the recurring opposing counsel count.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: A common tactic by Jane (or one of her co-workers) is to use the opposing client's own tactics to beat them.
    • A cheerleader has a public meltdown and is fired. She comes to Jane with a reporter to say she was driven wild because of constant bullying by her fellow cheerleaders. She's forthcoming to the point of signing a waiver so Jane can share information with the reporter. Midway through the case, Jane realizes the girl set this whole "meltdown" up just to get attention. The reporter shares this with the opposing attorney who gets the cheerleader to crack on the stand. She threatens to sue Jane for breaking confidentiality but Jane smugly points out that the cheerleader had given permission to share anything with the reporter, just as pissed as Jane about being used like this.
  • Identity Amnesia: Used by Jane as an excuse why she's different after she got shot.
  • Insistent Terminology : A couple in a bitter custody battle...over a chimpanzee, which people refer to more than once as a monkey.
    He's a chimp!
  • Meaningful Name: Jane was a literal 'Plain Jane'.
    • New guardian angel Luke Daniels counts as well. Luke and Daniel being books of the Bible. And for a triple, his earthly disguise is that of an angel investor.
    • Grayson Kent's name is clearly a reference to Nightwing and Superman due to his strong moral compass.
    • Deborah is Hebrew for "Bee." But in the Bible, Deborah was a prophet and a judge. Deb may be a shallow character but there's much more to her, which we find as the series goes on.

  • Laser-Guided Amnesia / Ret-Gone: In regards to Fred towards everyone but Jane after he romances Stacey.
    • And while not brought up Luke as well.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Not as much as other series but still a pretty large one considering Deb's past relationships and the original Jane's past relationships Jane has to consider both.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Jane is accused by a policeman's wife of having an affair with her husband. Considering it had to do with the original Jane, Jane worried it might be true. Much to her relief it was only for legal help and they were meeting in secret because he was framed by some dirty cops.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Elaine, Jane's mother, tells Jane (about Stacy) that if "Roommates isn't the right word I'm very open-minded".
    • Stacy in one episode when she is seen acting secretive and meeting up with another woman to have lunch, turns out she wants to have a baby through artificial semination and was asking for advice.
  • Mood Whiplash: After a heart felt speech to save the home of an old lady who refused to move due to sentimental value, having lived there with her husband, had given Kim and Grayson cookies, etc., from developers, she profusely thanks Grayson and Kim for their help and hopes they'll help her again in six months time when her case goes on appeals. And then, making sure they promise to keep helping her and what have you, tells them something under lawyer-client confidentiality...reveals that in actuality, she doesn't want to move and have developers wreck her house because that would uncover the body of her dead husband. Whom she killed. It's not really clear if this is supposed to be funny, shocking or what, but it changes the mood considerably.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Paul's relevance in seasons 5 and 6 pretty much revolve around him getting shirtless scenes (when he is not simply in his briefs).
    • Also the shirtless dancers in Jane's dream sequences, such as the "Thunder from Down Under" in Season 2, Episode 8.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: "Empress Katia" in "Afterlife" is a pretty clear expy of Lady Gaga.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Fred, Luke (in Season 4) and Paul (in Season 5 & 6).
  • Phony Psychic: "Make Me A Match" features two psychic sisters fighting over their dad's shop. Grayson uses this to get the one sister to confess (while channeling their dead father) that she didn't want to keep fighting.
    • It's worth noting that while the two act like phonies and the entire cast of characters sees them as such... to the viewers, it's obvious that a lot of what they're saying is true (knowing Grayson is mourning Deb, that Deb is near, etc).
  • Put on a Bus: Parker after season 4, he ends up moving to Canada to patch things up with his ex-girlfriend so he can be a father for his son, leaving a pregnant and heartbroken Kim behind.
  • Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Whenever Deb gets an unusual flash of knowledge from Jane's mind, she tends to act like she has a mild shock/headache.
  • Really Gets Around: Parker, Parker, Parker. Pretty much the only women in the building he hadn't slept with were Jane and Teri.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In "Fifty Shades of Grayson" Kim goes into labor during a trial. She somehow manages to convince the judge to allow her to continue the trial over video while she's in labor.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Several of the cases that Jane's law firm handles are based on real life cases. For instance, Mary Ann Nealy, in the season 1 episode "Second Chances" is partially based on Sara Jane Olson. However, in keeping with the fact that this is a Lifetime series, the defendant is more sympathetic and gets a happier ending.
    • The season 6 episode "Desperate Housewife" has the case of a couple who took in a group of foster kids to appear on a reality series so they could get their house renovated, then kicked out the kids. A similar situation happened on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
  • Runaway Bride: Vanessa does this to Grayson, realizing something is missing in their relationship.
  • Samus Is a Girl: In one episode, Grayson uses the artwork of a well known graffiti artist to save a building from being torn down, at the end the artist turns out to be his female client.
  • Secret-Keeper: The only ones that know Jane is Deb are Stacy and her guardian angels, Fred (Seasons 1-3), Luke (Season 4), and Paul (Seasons 5-6) and in the sixth and final season Grayson
  • Shipping Torpedo: Luke was sent specifically to be this to Jane and Grayson.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: On her deathbed, Jane's mom, Elaine reveals she always knew Deb wasn't really Jane but still loves her like her real daughter.
  • Sleeping with the Boss: Kim in Season 2 through early season 4 with Parker the managing partner.
  • Something Only They Would Say:
    • In the pilot, a newly reborn Deb is able to convince Stacy who she is by relating a few of the wild adventures the pair have been on which no one else could have known.
    • When Jane finally confesses to Grayson she's Deb, he believes it because of how he's noticed over the last few years "Jane" saying little things only Deb would have known.
    • Grayson pulls this himself to convince Deb he's been reborn into a man now in prison.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Fred and Stacey.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: In the final season, Teri does one of her usual "whacky hijinks" by posing as a lawyer to help out a friend. She ends up being arrested and sent to jail for a few months for fraud and practicing without a legal license.
    • As a topper, when Teri gets out jail, Jane is ready to welcome her back only to be told there's no way a legal firm is going to employ someone who was convicted of being a fake lawyer.
  • Thicker Than Water: Sometimes played straight, others not so much.
  • Too Dumb to Live: While driving to a model audition, Deb is talking to Stacy on her cell phone and filing her nails at the same time. She doesn't realize she's about to get into a bad crash with the grapefruit delivery truck until it's too late.
  • Wham Episode: The season 4 finale. Jane kisses Grayson on the day that she's due to marry Owen. Owen sees them and has a heart attack. Meanwhile, the original Jane pushes the Return button and comes back in Owen's body.
    • Also season 6, episode 9. Grayson defends a murderer and is shot.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Parker started off as a cheating womanizer. Once his relationship with Kim kicks into full swing, however, his wife isn't brought up even when Kim shows up at his home or when he's drinking over having broken up with Kim temporarily. Only the womanizing aspect remains and even then it's been downgraded mostly to him simply disassociating himself from past girlfriends.
    • The fate of many characters is unknown at the end of the show, namely Fred (who really should have huge problems after what he did) and the original Jane (who didn't even make an appearance in the last season). Not to mention the real Ian Holt, who was crudely executed for a crime he didn't commit, and whose body is now inhabited by someone else's soul.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: By the end, Kim and Jane have essentially evolved into this.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Delivered by the original Jane to Jane when she found out that her mother died, and that Jane didn't have the decency to call and warn her (and, as she points out, she could have perfectly done so).