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flightiness

Ally McBeal

Ally McBeal is an American television series which ran on the FOX network from 1997 to 2002. The series was created by David E. Kelley, who also served as the executive producer, along with Bill D'Elia. The series starred Calista Flockhart in the title role as a young lawyer working in the fictional Boston law firm Cage, Fish and Associates with other young lawyers whose lives and loves were eccentric, humorous and dramatic.

Overview

The show focused on the romantic and personal lives of the main characters, often using legal proceedings as plot devices to contrast or reinforce a character's drama. For example, bitter divorce litigation of a client might provide a backdrop for Ally's decision to break up with a boyfriend.

The show had many off-beat and frequently surreal running gags and themes, for example Ally would immediately fall over whenever she met somebody she found attractive, and the character Fish's "wattle" fetish and humorous mottos ("Fishisms") ran through the series. The show used vivid, dramatic fantasy sequences for Ally's and other characters' wishful thinking; particularly notable is the dancing baby.

The show also featured regular visits to a local bar where singer and cast member Vonda Shepard regularly performed (though occasionally handing over the microphone to the characters).

In the fourth season, Robert Downey Jr. joined the regular cast as Ally's boyfriend Larry Paul but was written out after the end of the season.

The show was canceled after a significant ratings drop during its fifth season.

Criticism

Despite its success, Ally McBeal did receive some criticism from TV critics and feminists who found the title character annoying and demeaning to women, and specifically professional women, because of her perceived flightiness, lack of demonstrated legal knowledge, and extreme emotional instability. Perhaps the most notorious example of the debate sparked by the show was the 25 June 1998 cover story of Time magazine, which juxtaposed McBeal with three pioneering feminists and asked "Is Feminism Dead?".

Episode list

Ally the sitcom

In 1999, at the height of the show's popularity, a half-hour version entitled Ally began being broadcast in parallel to the main program. This innovative version, designed in a sitcom format, used re-edited scenes from the main program, as well as previously unseen footage. The intention was to further develop the plots in the comedy-drama in a sitcom style. It also focused only on Ally's personal life, cutting all the courtroom plots. The repackaged show did not catch on and was canceled partway through its initial run. While 13 episodes of Ally were shot, only 10 were broadcast.

US Ratings

Season U.S. ratings Network Rank
1 1997-1998 15.7 million FOX #12
2 1998-1999 13.8 million FOX #20
3 1999-2000 12.4 million FOX #35
4 2000-2001 11.5 million FOX #45
5 2001-2002 9.4 million FOX #65

Main cast

Guest stars

The singers who would perform at the bar (most often Vonda Shepard) were accompanied by a trio of back-up singers often referred to as the Ikettes. The singers/actresses who portrayed the Ikettes were:

Whenever Goldsberry, Smith or King were unavailable, they would be replaced by:

The show also featured many guest stars, some of whom would return for an extensive number of episodes. Guest stars included:

  • Jon Bon Jovi – Victor Morrison (Season 5 / 10 Ep.): A plumber who was Ally's boyfriend for a short period of time
  • Dyan Cannon – Judge Jennifer 'Whipper' Cone (Season 1–3 / 17 Ep.): Judge who had a relationship with Richard Fish for a while. She later started her own law firm together with Renee Raddick
  • Taye Diggs – Jackson Duper (Season 4 / 10 Ep.): a lawyer who worked at Cage and Fish for a while and was a love interest for Ling Woo
  • Lisa Edelstein – Cindy McCauliff (Season 4 / 5 Ep.): a transsexual whom Mark Albert dated for a while
  • Josh Groban – Malcolm Wyatt (Season 4–5 / 2 Ep.): A teenager who hires Ally and ends up taking her to his high school prom; gets help from Ally with the loss of his mother. (also sings "You're Still You" and "To Where You Are")
  • Albert Hall – Judge Seymore Walsh: A stern judge with little sense of humor and a general dislike of the Cage and Fish law firm
  • Anne Heche – Melanie West (Season 4 / 7 Ep.): A school teacher who had Tourette syndrome. She dated John Cage for a while
  • John Michael Higgins – Steven Milter (Season 4–5 / 13 Ep.): An attorney who was also Ally's therapist for a while
  • Jennifer Holliday – Lisa Knowles (Season 1–4 / 6 Ep.): Lead choir singer at the local church who had a history with the reverend
  • Barry Humphries (credited as Dame Edna Everage) – Claire Otoms (Season 5 / 12 Ep.): A client of Cage & Fish who later started working at the firm as a secretary
  • Gregory Jbara - Reverend Compton (Season 4 / 1 Ep.): Reverend who testifies about his relationship with the nymphomaniac whose husband is seeking an annulment from the very marriage for which the reverend had performed the ceremony in the episode titled "Reach Out and Touch".
  • Phil Leeds – Judge Dennis 'Happy' Boyle (Season 1–2 / 5 Ep.): A very old judge who was obsessed with dental hygiene
  • Jesse L. Martin – Dr. Greg Butters (Season 1–2 / 11 Ep.): A doctor whom Ally dated for quite a while
  • Harrison Page – Reverend Mark Newman (Season 1–4 / 6 Ep.): The reverend at the local church, who had a history with lead choir singer Lisa Knowles
  • Matthew Perry – Attorney Todd Merrick (Season 5 / 2 Ep.)
  • Gina Philips – Sandy Hingle (Season 3 / 13 Ep.): Billy Thomas' secretary whom he briefly dated after his divorce
  • Christina Ricci – Debbie 'Liza' Bump'' (Season 5 / 7 Ep.): a lawyer who worked at Cage and Fish and married Richard Fish in the last episode
  • Tracey Ullman – Dr. Tracey Clark (Season 1–3 / 6 Ep.): Ally's unusual therapist; recommended to her by John Cage
  • Bruce Willis – Dr. Nickle (Season 2 / 1 Ep.): Filling in for Ally's therapist, Dr. Tracey Clark

Apart from these frequently recurring actors the show also saw a lot of cameo appearances by singers (as themselves), along with numerous other one-off celebrity guest stars:

  • Barry White: Appeared for one of John Cage's birthday party and at Richard Fish's wedding
  • Al Green: Ally saw him in her hallucinations
  • Gladys Knight: Appeared in one of Ally's Al Green hallucinations
  • Tina Turner: Ally won a contest to appear as backup singer for her
  • Gloria Gaynor: goes to Detroit to visit his son. Also sings at the bar later that night and Ally tries to punch him thinking him to be her hallucination.
  • Mariah Carey: Appears as Candy Cushnip, a woman in a trial against a company claiming to find the perfect match for everybody. She carries a technician with a spotlight at all times because she believes "...a woman is prettier when she feels good about herself."
  • Macy Gray: Performs in the bar in one episode ("Hope and Glory", episode 20 of season 3)

Broadcasters

Country TV network
Arab World MBC
Australia Seven Network and FX (Now W. Channel)
Austria ORF1
Belarus Belsat
Belgium Kanaal Twee, Plug tv (French), La Deux (French)
Brazil FOX Life (cable)
Bulgaria BTV and FOX Life
Canada CTV (English), ARTV (French), TVA (French)
Chile Canal 13 , FOX Life (cable)
Colombia RCN, Citytv Bogotá, FOX Life (cable)
Croatia Nova TV, HRT
Czech Republic Česká televize
Denmark TV2
Estonia TV3
Finland MTV3
France Téva, M6
Germany VOX, Comedy Central
Hong Kong aTV world
Hungary Viasat 3
India STAR World, Zee Cafe
Indonesia RCTI
Ireland originally screened on RTE Two repeats air on TV3
Israel Channel 2, Channel 3
Italy Canale 5, Italia 1, FOX Life
Japan NHK
Kenya Kenya Television Network
Lithuania TV3
Malaysia NTV7
Mexico FOX Life (cable)
Netherlands RTL 8
New Zealand TV2
Norway TV 2
Pakistan STAR World
Philippines RPN-9
Poland Polsat, TV4, FOX Life
Portugal TVI, FOX Life
Romania PRO TV, Pro Cinema
Russia Ren-TV
Serbia RTS, RTV BK Telecom, FOX Life (cable)
Slovenia POP TV, Kanal A
Singapore MediaCorp TV Channel 5
South Africa SABC 3
South Korea Home CGV
Spain Telecinco (former broadcaster), Cuatro, FOX
Sweden TV4
Taiwan 年代集團
Thailand True Series
Turkey CNBC-E and Fox Life
United Kingdom Channel 4, Paramount Comedy 1, Paramount Comedy 2, TMF, Zone Romantica
United States FX
Venezuela Televen

DVD

DVD releases

Due to music rights issues, the first complete season of Ally McBeal has not been made available on DVD in the United States (only 6 random episodes can be found on the R1 edition), though it has been available in Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Japan, Hong Kong, Spain, France, Germany, the UK, Mexico, Australia and Brazil. In the Netherlands it is not possible to purchase a single season, all the 5 seasons are available in a "shoebox set", and are not sold individually. In the UK and Ireland all seasons are available in a complete boxset.

DVD Name Region 1 Region 2
Ally McBeal The Complete First Season N/A February 21, 2005
Ally McBeal The Complete Second Season N/A February 21, 2005
Ally McBeal The Complete Third Season N/A February 21, 2005
Ally McBeal The Complete Fourth Season N/A May 9, 2005
Ally McBeal The Complete Fifth Season N/A May 9, 2005

Awards and nominations

Awards won

Emmy Awards:

  • Outstanding Comedy Series (1999)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Peter MacNicol (2001)

Golden Globe Awards:

  • Best TV Series-Comedy/Musical (1998-1999)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series-Comedy/Musical Calista Flockhart (1998)
  • Best Supporting Actor in a TV Series Robert Downey Jr. (2001)

Screen Actors Guild:

  • Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (1999)
  • Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series Robert Downey Jr. (2001)

Awards nominated

Emmy Awards:

  • Outstanding Comedy Series (1998)
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Calista Flockhart (1998–1999, 2001)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Peter MacNicol (1999–2000)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Robert Downey Jr. (2001)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Lucy Liu (1999)
  • Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series Bernadette Peters (2001)

Golden Globe Awards:

  • Best TV Series-Comedy/Musical (2000–2002)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Series-Comedy/Musical Calista Flockhart
  • Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series Jane Krakowski (1999)

Screen Actors Guild:

  • Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series (1998, 2000–2001)
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series Calista Flockhart (1998–2001)
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series Lucy Liu (2000)
  • Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series Peter MacNicol (1999–2001)

References

External links

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