'Drop Dead Diva' returns: What to expect

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Image Credit: Richard DuCree/Lifetime

Drop Dead Diva returns Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on Lifetime for the fifth season that almost wasn’t. After a surprise cancellation, the series starring Brooke Elliott was resurrected after its loyal fan base got vocal. “We had never trended on Twitter, and within minutes of our cancellation, we trended off and on for two weeks,” creator Josh Berman says, noting that an online petition also quickly amassed 10,000 signatures and fans began cutting their own videos of the show to explain why the series was important to them and should return. (A Facebook page has been created for the show’s Devoted Divas — with exclusives and prizes.) The show’s budget was still a concern, but because producers had always expected the show to have a long run, they’d invested heavily in the sets during the previous two seasons and even bought their own editing equipment. “Had we had to cut the budget in any prior season, it would have been noticeable, but the timing of season 5 was actually perfect for us,” Berman says. With that business out-of-the-way, here’s what you can expect story-wise this season:

• By the end of the premiere, which will begin with a “previously on” to make the show accessible to new viewers, last season finale’s crazy cliffhanger is resolved: When we last saw New Jane (Elliott) — how we’ll now refer to attorney Jane with the soul of dead aspiring model Deb inside her — she had just kissed Grayson (Jackson Hurst), Deb’s former fiance, who’d told New Jane he loved her right as she was about to marry Owen (Lex Medlin). Owen saw the kiss and collapsed, right as Old Jane pushed the button to return her soul to Earth. “So Old Jane is back, and we don’t know if she’s in Owen’s body or somewhere else,” Berman says. “Jane desperately wants to find Old Jane and also to figure out if Owen is dead or alive. I think the cliffhanger of this episode is just as good as the cliffhanger as last year’s season finale.”

• Kim (Kate Levering) will give birth this season: “It’s one of the funniest labor scenes that I have ever seen in my life,” Berman says. “I think she delivers in a way that no women has ever delivered.” Also look for the return of John Katzenberger as Kim’s father. “We’ll learn a little bit more about his relationship with her that might help inform Kim’s relationship with her new baby.”

• More interesting cases: “Six of the eight writers on Drop Dead Diva have law degrees, and even though I love the comedy and I love the [romance] drama, I think it’s so interesting to really delve into real law,” Berman says. “We have a case about a man who incorporated himself in order to sell stock shares in himself, which is a legal maneuver and based on a real story. But now he wants to get married and the shareholders will not let him get married. So he has to figure out how to dissolve the company or mount a hostile takeover of his own body.” There’s also the case of 21-year-old boy who was kicked off a plane when he refuses to open his window because he claims he claims he’s a vampire and the sunlight will burn his skin. “We wanted to find a Diva way in to a bullying story that would not seem like your typical bullying story,” Berman says. “We also wanted to write an emotional storyline for Grayson that ties into something that we’ve always suspected had gone on in his past. So Grayson ends up bonding with this boy who thinks he’s a vampire and it helps both of them gain closure on events in their past.” And the show’s writers were already breaking their story about a pro-baseball player who comes out with Jane’s help before professional basketball player Jason Collins made history and headlines. “It’s one of my favorite story lines of the season,” Berman says.

• A new angel for Jane, played by Justin Deeley (pictured, with Elliott): “For every angel that’s been on the show, we needed a good counterpoint to Jane. Now that New Jane has evolved so much, I thought it would be fantastic if her angel literally was the male embodiment of the personality traits and physical attributes of Deb: Somebody who was beautiful on the outside and superficial and sweet on the inside, but kind of oblivious to the world around her,” Berman says. “On top of that, this actor is gifted with physical comedy and Brooke is the best physical comedian that I’ve ever worked with, so the two of them together are making me cry with laughter watching their dailies. The editors have pulled me into the edit bay to say, ‘You have to see this.’ No matter how well I write a scene, they make it better.”

• Guest stars galore: Sandra Bernhard will appear as a judge. “We’ve been trying to make this work for five years, and this was the season we were finally able to coordinate schedules,” Berman says. “She comes on as a no-nonsense judge dealing with a case where a wealthier woman marries a man who basically just rips her off. And now we find out that he divorces his wife days after having a big gambling win at a casino and is hiding money from his wife who now needs it. So Sandra Bernhard can really unleash on this guy.” Shark Tank‘s Barbara Corcoran guests as Stacy’s business advisor. “I got to cast somebody that I’ve always wanted to meet,” says Berman. “Stacy is trying to make a life decision about whether or not she’s going to bring in someone to help her run the pakery. So she goes to a businesswomen’s conference and meets Barbara Corcoran as her advisor. And Barbara does not like Stacy.” Ed‘s Josh Randall pops up as a chemistry professor who’s been Catfished, and Jane represents him. Reiko Aylesworth will play a woman whose live-in boyfriend of eight years created a video game that his estranged parents try to get after he dies. “It’s almost like a child custody dispute over a computer game,” Berman says, “and the twist in that case is particularly delicious because no one will see that twist coming.”

UPDATE: Here’s our premiere postmortem with Berman discussing the Old Jane reveal.

Read more:
‘Drop Dead Diva’ creator Josh Berman on cancellation: ‘Don’t lose hope’

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