Ally McBeal

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Ally McBeal

Original title card
GenreLegal drama
Comedy-drama
Created byDavid E. Kelley
StarringCalista Flockhart
Courtney Thorne-Smith
Greg Germann
Lisa Nicole Carson
Jane Krakowski
Vonda Shepard
Portia de Rossi
Lucy Liu
James LeGros
Regina Hall
Julianne Nicholson
James Marsden
Josh Hopkins
Hayden Panettiere
Peter MacNicol
Robert Downey, Jr.
Gil Bellows
Theme music composerVonda Shepard
Opening theme"Searchin' My Soul"
Composer(s)Danny Lux
Vonda Shepard
Country of originUnited States
Language(s)English
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes112 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)David E. Kelley
Bill D'Elia
Producer(s)Kayla Alpert (2000–01)
Kim Hamberg (1998–2002)
Mike Listo (1997–2000)
Jack Philbrick (2000–02)
Steve Robin(1997–2002)
Pamela J. Wisne (1997–2002)
CinematographyThomas F. Denove
Billy Dickson
David A. Harp
Tim Suhrstedt
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time45–48 minutes
Production company(s)20th Century Fox Television
David E. Kelley Productions
Broadcast
Original channelFox
Picture format4:3
Original runSeptember 8, 1997 (1997-09-08) – May 20, 2002 (2002-05-20)
 
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Ally McBeal

Original title card
GenreLegal drama
Comedy-drama
Created byDavid E. Kelley
StarringCalista Flockhart
Courtney Thorne-Smith
Greg Germann
Lisa Nicole Carson
Jane Krakowski
Vonda Shepard
Portia de Rossi
Lucy Liu
James LeGros
Regina Hall
Julianne Nicholson
James Marsden
Josh Hopkins
Hayden Panettiere
Peter MacNicol
Robert Downey, Jr.
Gil Bellows
Theme music composerVonda Shepard
Opening theme"Searchin' My Soul"
Composer(s)Danny Lux
Vonda Shepard
Country of originUnited States
Language(s)English
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes112 (List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)David E. Kelley
Bill D'Elia
Producer(s)Kayla Alpert (2000–01)
Kim Hamberg (1998–2002)
Mike Listo (1997–2000)
Jack Philbrick (2000–02)
Steve Robin(1997–2002)
Pamela J. Wisne (1997–2002)
CinematographyThomas F. Denove
Billy Dickson
David A. Harp
Tim Suhrstedt
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time45–48 minutes
Production company(s)20th Century Fox Television
David E. Kelley Productions
Broadcast
Original channelFox
Picture format4:3
Original runSeptember 8, 1997 (1997-09-08) – May 20, 2002 (2002-05-20)

Ally McBeal is an American legal comedy-drama television series, originally aired on Fox from September 8, 1997 to May 20, 2002. Created by David E. Kelley, the series stars Calista Flockhart in the title role as a young lawyer working in the fictional Boston law firm Cage and Fish, with other young lawyers whose lives and loves were eccentric, humorous and dramatic. The series placed #48 on Entertainment Weekly's "New TV Classics" list.[1]

Contents

Overview

The series 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. Legal arguments were also frequently used to explore multiple sides of various social issues.

Cage & Fish (which becomes Cage/Fish & McBeal or Cage, Fish, & Associates towards the end of the series), the fictional law firm where most of the characters work, is depicted as a highly sexualized environment, symbolized by its unisex restroom. Lawyers and secretaries in the firm routinely date, flirt with, or have a romantic history with each other, and frequently run into former or potential romantic interests in the courtroom or on the street outside.

The series had many offbeat and frequently surreal running gags and themes, such as Ally's tendency to immediately fall over whenever she met somebody she found attractive, or Richard Fish's wattle fetish and humorous mottos ("Fishisms" & "Bygones"), or John's gymnastic dismounts out of the office's unisex bathroom stalls, that 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 series also featured regular visits to a local bar where singer Vonda Shepard regularly performed (though occasionally handing over the microphone to the characters). The series also took place in the same continuity as David E. Kelley's legal drama The Practice (which aired on ABC), as the two shows crossed over with one another on occasion, a very rare occurrence for two shows that aired on different networks.

Main cast

Episode list

Reception

The show's ratings began to decline in the third season, but stabilized in the fourth season after Robert Downey, Jr. joined the regular cast as Ally's boyfriend Larry Paul. However, Downey's character was written out after the end of the season due to the actor's troubles with drug addiction.

Along with Dharma & Greg, Ally McBeal was one of the last two surviving shows to debut during the 1997-98 season, one of the weakest in television history for new shows. (Only seven shows to debut would be picked up for a second season, and only Dharma & Greg and Ally McBeal would last longer than three seasons, each providing enough episodes for syndication.) Both shows ended at the end of the 2001-02 season, five years after their debut.

US ratings

SeasonU.S. ratingsNetworkRank
11997–9811.4 millionFox#59[2]
21998–9913.8 millionFox#20[3]
31999–200012.4 millionFox#35[4]
42000–0112.0 millionFox#40[5]
52001–029.4 millionFox#65[6]

Criticism

Despite its success, Ally McBeal did receive some negative criticism from TV critics and feminists who found the title character annoying and demeaning to women (specifically professional women[7]) because of her perceived flightiness, lack of demonstrated legal knowledge, short skirts,[8] and extreme emotional instability. Perhaps the most notorious example of the debate sparked by the show was the June 29, 1998 cover story of Time magazine, which juxtaposed McBeal with three pioneering feminists (Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem) and asked "Is Feminism Dead?"[9] In episode 12 of the second season of the show, Ally talks to her co-worker John Cage about a dream she had, saying "You know, I had a dream that they put my face on the cover of Time magazine as 'the face of feminism'."[10]

Music

Ally McBeal was a heavily music-oriented show. Vonda Shepard, a virtually unknown musician at the time, was featured continually on the show. Her song "Searchin' My Soul" became the show's theme song. Many of the songs Shepard performed were established hits with lyrics that paralleled the events of the episode, including "Both Sides Now", "Hooked on a Feeling", and "Tell Him". Besides recording background music for the show, Shepard frequently appeared at the ends of episodes as a musician performing at a local piano bar frequented by the main characters. On rare occasions, her character would have conventional dialogue. A portion of "Searchin' My Soul" was played at the beginning of each episode, but oddly enough, the song was never heard in its entirety.

Due to the popularity of the show and Shepard's music, a soundtrack titled Songs from Ally McBeal was released in 1998, as well as a successor soundtrack titled Heart and Soul: New Songs From Ally McBeal in 1999. Two compilation albums from the show featuring Shepard were also released in 2000 and 2001. Other artists featured on the show include Barry White, Al Green, Tina Turner, Anastacia and Elton John. Josh Groban played the role of Malcolm Wyatt in the May 2001 season finale, performing "You're Still You." The series creator, David E. Kelley, was impressed with Groban's performance at The Family Celebration event, and based on the audience reaction to Groban's singing, Kelley created a character for Groban in this finale. The background score for the show was composed by Danny Lux.

Soundtrack nameTk#Release date
Songs from Ally McBeal14May 5, 1998
Heart and Soul: New Songs from Ally McBeal14November 9, 1999
Ally McBeal: A Very Ally Christmas14November 7, 2000
Ally McBeal: For Once in My Life14April 24, 2001
The Best of Ally McBeal12October 6, 2009

DVD releases

Due to music licensing issues, none of the seasons of Ally McBeal were available on DVD in the United States (only 6 random episodes can be found on the R1 edition) until 2009, though it has been available in Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan, Hong Kong, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, the UK, Mexico, Taiwan, Australia, Brazil, and the Czech Republic with all the show's music intact since 2005. In the UK, Ireland and Spain all seasons are available in a complete box set.

20th Century Fox released the complete first season on DVD in Region 1 on October 6, 2009. They also released a special complete series edition on the same day.[11] Season 1 does not contain any special features, the complete series set however does contain several bonus features including featurettes, an all-new retrospective, the episode of The Practice that Calista Flockhart guest starred in and a bonus disc entitled "The Best of Ally McBeal Soundtrack". In addition, both releases contain all of the original music.[12] Season 2 was released on April 6, 2010. Seasons 3, 4 and 5 were all released on October 5, 2010.[13] Season 1 and 2 are also available on the U.S iTunes Store.

DVD nameEp#Region 1Region 2Region 4
The Complete First Season23October 6, 2009February 21, 2005April 26, 2006
The Complete Second Season23April 6, 2010February 21, 2005April 26, 2006
The Complete Third Season21October 5, 2010February 21, 2005April 26, 2006
The Complete Fourth Season23October 5, 2010May 9, 2005April 26, 2006
The Complete Fifth Season22October 5, 2010May 9, 2005April 26, 2006
The Complete Series112October 6, 2009October 30, 2006April 18, 2012[14]

Ally (1999)

In 1999, at the height of the show's popularity, a half-hour version entitled Ally[15] began airing in parallel to the main program. This 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 was cancelled partway through its initial run. While 13 episodes of Ally were created, only 10 were actually broadcast.

In popular culture

The season one episode of Futurama, "When Aliens Attack", featured a parody of the show entitled Single Female Lawyer. The principal crux of the parody was that, effectively, Single Female Lawyer had no discernible plot other than the fact that the female lead was very attractive, wore a short skirt, and slept with her clients. The show has been broadcast into space for centuries, but the last episode was missing (due to Philip Fry's incompetence and time travel) and so a warlike alien race, who had become hooked on the show, demanded that Earth either play out the final episode for them or they would ignite the planet's atmosphere. Luckily, due to the nature of the show being little more than fan service, it was easy for Fry, Leela and the others to replicate it by simply putting Leela in a miniskirt and ad libbing the dialogue on the spot; this satiated the aliens, who left Earth peaceably.

In episode 2, season 3 of the British comedy The Adam and Joe Show, the show was parodied as 'Ally McSqeal' using soft toys.[16]

International broadcasters

CountryTV network
Arab League Arab WorldMBC4
Argentina ArgentinaFox
Australia AustraliaSeven Network, FX (Now W. Channel) 111 Hits and Network Ten
Austria AustriaORF1
Belarus BelarusBelsat TV
Belgium Belgium2BE, vtm, Plug tv (French), La Deux (French)
Brazil BrazilFox Life (cable)
Bulgaria BulgariaBTV and Fox Life
Canada CanadaCTV (English), ARTV (French), TVA (French)
Chile ChileCanal 13, Fox Life (cable)
Colombia ColombiaRCN, Citytv Bogotá, Fox Life (cable)
Croatia CroatiaNova TV, HRT
Czech Republic Czech RepublicČeská televize, Prima love
Denmark DenmarkTV 2 Zulu
Estonia EstoniaTV3
Finland FinlandMTV3 (original), FOX (reruns)
France FranceTéva, M6, Série Club
Germany GermanyVOX, Comedy Central, EinsFestival
Greece GreeceANT1
Guatemala GuatemalaFox Life
Hong Kong Hong KongaTV world
Hungary HungaryViasat 3
India IndiaSTAR World India, Zee Cafe
Indonesia IndonesiaRCTI
Republic of Ireland Irelandoriginally screened on RTÉ Two, repeats air on TV3
Israel IsraelChannel 2, Channel 3
Italy ItalyCanale 5, Italia 1, Fox Life, Mya, Iris
Japan JapanNHK
Kenya KenyaKenya Television Network
Latvia LatviaLNT, Fox Life
Lebanon LebanonLBCI
Lithuania LithuaniaTV3
Republic of Macedonia MacedoniaFox Life (cable)
Malaysia MalaysiaStar World, NTV7
Mexico MexicoCanal 5, Fox & repeats air on Fox Life
Morocco Morocco2M
Netherlands NetherlandsRTL 8
New Zealand New ZealandTV2, Prime
Norway NorwayTV 2
Pakistan PakistanSTAR World India
Philippines PhilippinesRPN-9 (1998–2001), 2nd Avenue (2009)
Poland PolandPolsat, TV4, Fox Life
Portugal PortugalTVI, Fox Life, SIC
Romania RomaniaPRO TV, Pro Cinema, Euforia TV
Russia RussiaRen-TV
Serbia SerbiaRTS, RTV BK Telecom, Fox Life (cable)
Slovakia SlovakiaMarkiza, TV Doma
Slovenia SloveniaPOP TV, Kanal A, TV Pika
Singapore SingaporeStar World, MediaCorp Channel 5
South Africa South AfricaSABC 3
South Korea South KoreaHome CGV
Spain SpainTelecinco, Cuatro, Fox
Sweden SwedenTV4
Switzerland SwitzerlandTSR1 (French area), SF zwei (German area), TSI1 (Italian area)
Taiwan TaiwanEracom
Thailand ThailandTrue Series
Turkey TurkeyCNBC-E and Fox Life
United Kingdom United KingdomChannel 4, Paramount Comedy 1, Paramount Comedy 2, TMF, Zone Romantica
United States United StatesFox, ReelzChannel
Venezuela VenezuelaTeleven

Awards and nominations

References

  1. ^ "The New Classics: TV". Entertainment Weekly. June 18, 2007. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20207339,00.html. Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  2. ^ "The Final Countdown". ew.com. 1998-05-29. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,283382,00.html. 
  3. ^ "Final ratings for the 1998–1999 TV season". Archived from the original on 2009-10-23. http://www.webcitation.org/query?id=1256269806923508. 
  4. ^ "TV Ratings 1999–2000". fbibler.chez.com. http://fbibler.chez.com/tvstats/by_5_yr_period/1999-00.html. 
  5. ^ "The Bitter End". ew.com. 2001-06-01. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,256435,00.html. 
  6. ^ "How Did Your Favorite Show Rate?". usatoday.com. 2002-05-28. http://www.usatoday.com/life/television/2002/2002-05-28-year-end-chart.htm. 
  7. ^ Michelle L. Hammers, "Cautionary Tales of Liberation and Female Professionalism: The Case Against Ally McBeal" Western Journal of Communication 69 2, April (2005): 168. "The ease with which McBeals depictions of women are reincorporated into dominant masculinist discourses ... is particularly problematic for professional women. The increased danger that co-optation poses for professional women is due to the complex ways in which the discursive sedimentation that surrounds the female body, particularly as it has been traditionally sexualized and linked to emotionality, operates as a barrier to women's full and effective participation in professional spheres. Thus, McBeal operates as a cautionary tale about the dangers presented by the co-optation of postfeminist and third-wave feminist discourses as they relate to current professional discourses surrounding the female body.
  8. ^ "Is Feminism Dead? (Chat Transcript – Phyllis Chesler)". Time Magazine. June 29, 1998. http://www.time.com/time/community/transcripts/chattr062598.html. 
  9. ^ "Is Feminism Dead? (Chat Transcript)". Time Magazine. June 25, 1998. http://www.time.com/time/community/transcripts/chattr062598.html. 
  10. ^ "Ally McBeal, episode 12, season 2". 20th Century Fox. August 22, 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdHSOF6gVwo. 
  11. ^ "Amazon Posts Date for Season 1 & Complete Series". TVShowsonDVD. July 3, 2009. http://tvshowsondvd.com/news/Ally-McBeal-Season-1-Complete-Series-Dates/12247. 
  12. ^ "Fox's Press Release for The Complete Series Confirms ALL ORIGINAL MUSIC!". TVShowsonDVD. August 7, 2009. http://tvshowsondvd.com/news/Ally-McBeal-Press-Release/12444. 
  13. ^ "Ally McBeal DVD news: Release Date and More for Individual Sets of Seasons 3, 4 and 5". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on July 17 2010. http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/Ally-McBeal-Seasons-3-4-5/14076. Retrieved 2010-07-14. 
  14. ^ "Ally McBeal: Season 1-5". EzyDVD. http://www.ezydvd.com.au/DVD/ally-mcbeal-season-1-5/dp/6110150. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Ally" (1999) at IMDB
  16. ^ The Adam and Joe Show. YouTube. Retrieved on 2012-04-23.

External links