Much lighter in tone than creator, producer and writer David E Kelley's other forays into legal drama LA Law
, and The Practice
, the slick thirtysomething series Ally McBeal
has never been out-and-out comedy but it spikes its exploration of emotional territory with sharp funny lines. Ally (Calista Flockhart) is a kookie cutie, a ditzy, skinny, single lawyer and we are privy to scenes from her overactive imagination (courtesy of CGI), surrounded by larger-than-life peripheral characters--almost grotesques--like outspoken boss Richard Fish (Greg Germann), nervy courtroom wizz John "The Biscuit" Cage (Peter MacNicol) and nosy secretary Elaine Vassal (Jane Krakowski). In later series these characters (including popular newcomers Lucy Lui and Portia de Rossi as frosty law babes Ling and Nelle) would edge towards one-dimensional caricatures as the same ground was retrodden relentlessly, but in this first series there is something compelling about the intrusive dynamics of this group of oddballs. The point is you don't have to like them to find them entertaining. Ally herself can be extremely irritating in a love-to-hate-her kind of a way. She is a curious dichotomy, a 1990s woman with a go-getting career and a penchant for her own way and yet with the romantic ideals of someone from another generation. Basically still hung up on ex-boyfriend Billy (Gil Bellows) who works for same Boston practice, alongside wife Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith), Ally is on the look out for her Prince Charming. The first series and its lead both garnered Golden Globes, a lot of gossip and a healthy audience for the Fox television network in America. Channel 4 snapped it up for British audiences who were intrigued, not least by the unisex toilets and sophisticated afterwork bar soirées where chanteuse Vonda Shepherd was always to be found crooning away in the corner. All in all, Ally McBeal
leaves you with the conundrum of wanting more but not being able to say why. --Emma Perry
Opening eleven episodes from the first season of the popular American comedy series. In 'Pilot', young lawyer Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart) discovers that both her childhood sweetheart Billy and his gorgeous wife work at her new law firm. Matters then take a turn for the worse when Ally loses her first case. 'Compromising Positions' sees Ally's senior partner Richard inviting her to dinner with potential client Ronald (Tate Donovan), and she soon finds herself falling for this attractive older man. In 'The Kiss', Ally feels that Ronald is holding back when they go on their first 'official' date, while 'The Affair' sees old wounds opened when Ally attends the funeral of her old law professor - with whom she once had an affair. In 'One Hundred Tears Away', Ally finds herself arrested for assault and shoplifting after becoming involved in a supermarket fracas over a packet of Pringles. 'The Promise' sees Ally becoming an object of obsession to an overweight attorney whose life she saves. In 'The Attitude', Ally makes a big impression on a rabbi whom she is trying to convince to grant a divorce to her client, while 'Drawing the Lines' sees former sweethearts Billy and Ally altering the boundaries of their relationship when the former reveals that he is not completely over Ally. In 'The Dirty Joke', Ally attempts to shed her Julie Andrews image by betting that she can tell a dirty joke in front of her colleagues better than Renee. 'Boy to the World' sees Ally deeply moved by the case of a beautiful transvestite prostitute she is asked to represent, while in 'Silver Bells', preparations are under way for the firm's Christmas party. Finally, 'Cro-Magnon' sees Ally dating a nude male model, while simultaneously working on a case in which a 19-year-old has been charged with assault for protecting his date.