about ally mcbeal
Nature of the show
Despite its legal environment, the show paid minimal attention to the actual practice of law. Instead it focused on the romantic and personal lives of the main characters, though sometimes 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.
Notably, the show frequently used vivid, dramatic fantasy sequences for a character's wishful thinking. 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). Each episode generally concluded on an upbeat, hopeful note, with energetic music.
Ally McBeal was hugely successful, but received much criticism from TV critics and feminists who found the title character annoying and demeaning to women because of her excessive flightiness, lack of demonstrated legal knowledge, and extreme emotional instability. Flockhart's visible loss of weight by the second season also caused much media speculation.
However, Ally's search for true love struck a chord with young female audiences, and the eccentric characters around her were developed further, giving the show firm footing.
In the fourth season, Robert Downey Jr. joined the regular cast as Ally's boyfriend Larry Paul, resurrecting the ratings of a show that had lost its novelty and thus much of its audience. However, when Downey (whose real-life drug addiction caused him legal troubles) and other central cast members (such as Lucy Liu) left, the ratings sank again. Not even guest appearances from Matthew Perry, Jon Bon Jovi, and Christina Ricci in season five were enough to save the show.
Ally the sitcom
In 1999, at the height of the show's popularity, a half-hour version entitled Ally began airing 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 unaired footage. The intention was to further develop the plots in the comedy-drama in a sitcom style. It also focussed only on Ally's personal life, cutting all the courtroom plots. 13 episodes of Ally were shot, but only 10 were aired.
The major cast members of the show included:
* Calista Flockhart - Ally McBeal
* Greg Germann - Richard Fish
* Peter MacNicol - John Cage
* Jane Krakowski - Elaine Vassal
* Vonda Shepard - Vonda Shepard
* Courtney Thorne-Smith - Georgia Thomas (Season 1 - 3)
* Gil Bellows - Billy Alan Thomas (Season 1 - 3)
* Lisa Nicole Carson - Renee Raddick (Season 1 - 4)
* Portia de Rossi - Nelle Porter (Season 2 - 5)
* Lucy Liu - Ling Woo (Season 2 - 5)
* James LeGros - Mark Albert (Season 4) recurring previously
* Robert Downey Jr. - Larry Paul (Season 4)
* Regina Hall - Corretta Lipp (Season 5) recurring previously
* Julianne Nicholson - Jenny Shaw (Season 5)
* James Marsden - Glenn Foy (Season 5)
* Josh Hopkins - Raymond Millbury (Season 5)
* Hayden Panettiere - Maddie Harrington (Season 5)
The singers who would perform at the bar (most often of course 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:
* Renee Goldsberry
* Vatrena King
* Sy Smith
Whenever Goldsberry, Smith or King were unavailable, they would be replaced by:
* Cynthia Calhoun
* Melanie Taylor
The show also featured lots of guest stars, some of whom would return for an extensive number of episodes. This last category included:
* Albert Hall - Judge Seymore Walsh
* Tracey Ullman - Dr. Tracey Clark (Season 1 - 2)
* Dyan Cannon - Judge Jennifer 'Whipper' Cone (Season 1 - 3)
* Phil Leeds - Judge Dennis 'Happy' Boyle (Season 1 - 2)
* Jesse L. Martin - Dr. Greg Butters (Season 1 - 2)
* Gina Philips - Sandy Hingle (Season 3)
* Lisa Edelstein - Cindy McCauliff (Season 4)
* Anne Heche - Melanie West (Season 4)
* Famke Janssen - Jamie Paul (Season 4)
* Taye Diggs - Jackson Duper (Season 4)
* Jennifer Holliday - Lisa Knowles (Season 1 - 4)
* Harrison Page - Reverend Mark Newman (Season 1 - 4)
* Christopher Neiman - Attorney Barry Mathers (Season 4 - 5)
* John Michael Higgins - Attorney Steven Milter (Season 4 - 5)
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.
* Several actors who would later gain fame as cast members on Desperate Housewives (which debuted in the fall of 2004) have guest starred on Ally McBeal: Steven Culp, Marcia Cross, Jamie Denton, Dakin Matthews, Kathryn Joosten, Brenda Strong, Mark Moses, Bob Gunton, Harriet Sansom Harris, and Christine Estabrook
* Barry White's music was frequently showcased on the show as a sexual stimulant; when one of the characters mentally "heard" the music, other characters would be attracted. This action was often accompanied by dancing and took place in the unisex bathroom.
* The show is also noted by many for introducing the "dancing baby" computer-generated image (CGI) to mainstream American pop culture.
* Known for controversial topics, the show was well-known for the infamous "Cro-Magnon" episode, whereby a well-endowed male model becomes the focus of Ally's attentions. Some critics have claimed that this penis size obsessed view of female sexuality is distorted and reflects more of a male point of view, as the show was written by David E. Kelley. Others have charged that the ridiculing of modestly endowed men is sexist and harmful, contributing to body issues for men similar to that of young women over their weight. On that note as well, the show has been criticized for the "anorexic" main character as being a bad role model for girls.
* Denmark: TV2
* France: Tèva
* Germany: VOX
* Italy: Canale 5, Italia 1, Sky Italia
* Netherlands: RTL5
* Japan: NHK
* Spain: Telecinco
* United Kingdom: BBC
Due to music rights issues, Ally McBeal has not been made available on DVD in the United States, though it has been available in Italy, Belgium, Japan, Germany, the UK, Australia and Brazil.
Awards & nominations
* 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)
* Outstanding Comedy Series (1998)
* Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (1998-1999, 2001)
* Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Peter MacNicol (1999-2000)
* 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)