Is there a greater buzz-kill than "the very special episode"?
The raising of Serious Issues tends to swamp not-so-serious series, so when Lifetime started making a fuss about Sunday's episode of its dependably silly rom-com "Drop Dead Diva," I was worried.
And worry is the last emotion anyone should feel about a show that is, after all, about a lawyer named Jane (Brooke Elliott) whose plus-sized body is possessed by the soul of a dead model wannabe.
"The story is very close to my heart, and I feel privileged to tell it," "Diva" creator Josh Berman wrote in a letter accompanying the episode, in which Jane represents a lesbian couple who want to attend prom together.
Good news: That heart on Berman's sleeve isn't covering his funny bone.
Better news: The most special thing about tonight's "Diva" is how much it feels like every other episode of the show. With maybe a few more guest stars.
Inspired by Constance McMillen, the Mississippi teenager who last year challenged a prohibition against same-sex couples at her school's prom, the episode features out performers Wanda Sykes, Amanda Bearse, Clay Aiken and Lance Bass.
McMillen herself appears briefly as a courtroom bailiff.
Sykes, whose mention of McMillen's fight in a speech at a GLAAD awards ceremony last year first got Berman's attention, plays the judge in Jane's case, and she helps find the funny in a situation that might have played like a Lifetime movie.
Bearse is the judge on the episode's B-story in which Grayson (Jackson Hurst) Jane's recently jilted colleague (who, not incidentally, was once engaged to the present occupant of Jane's body) is representing a man whose mail-order bride has left him.
The hapless bridegroom, also known as "Hank the Bailiff," is a recurring character played by Berman's actor brother David Berman.
Chances are you'll be able to spot Aiken and Bass, too, neither of whom plays a part in the prom storyline. It's better off without such distractions (and in fact I was more struck by the casting of "Family Ties" dad Michael Gross as the really mean high school principal).
Fortunately for "Drop Dead Diva," there's nothing even remotely out of character about Jane going into court to try to right this kind of wrong: Jane tilts at windmills every week, and compared with some of her cases, girls who want to go to the prom together are positively mainstream.
So mainstream, in fact -- because the show's set in Los Angeles, not Mississippi -- that it feels as if "Diva," whose very special prom episode comes weeks after "Glee's," might be a little late to the party.