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Ally McBeal

An American television show.

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Ally McBeal: A Retrospective

  • Aug 21, 2009
  • by

In 1999, the year I retired from full-time teaching in Australia, the Ally McBeal show was at the height of its popularity.  It won an Emmy Award for the Outstanding Comedy Series.  The show ran for six seasons, starred Calista Flockhart in the title role as a young lawyer working in a Boston legal firm and focussed on the romantic and personal lives of the people in a law office.  The environment was highly sexualized with dating and flirting, drinking and humour dominating.  The show, the series, was heavily music-oriented.  Ratings dropped off in the fifth season and the program was cancelled after six seasons.  Feminists complained about McBeal’s emotional instability and lack of legal knowledge among many of their other complaints.1 -Ron Price with thanks to 1Ally McBeal, Wikipedia, 2009 and a review of Tim Appelo’s Ally McBeal: The Official Guide, Harper Collins, 1999 by Ian Lace in Film Music on the Web, December 1999.

Some called it the freshest, most deliciously
politically incorrect show to have crossed
the Atlantic: eccentric characters, outrageous
madcap humour, cartoon-like fantasies and
sentimental melodramas.  A unisex restroom
where the characters dance, sit on each
other’s laps, discuss their innermost
romantic yearnings, lose frogs down
toilets and where toilet lids operate by
remote control.  Some lines like: "Men
are like gum: after you chew awhile,
they loose their flavour;” and "Tell me
what kind of lie works here?" convey
some of the tone of the series and.....

Ally’s in the middle of a popular culture
insistent on offering images of grown
single women: frazzled, self-absorbed
girls with male power and with female
powerlessness seemingly harmless and
cuddly, sexy, safe and sellable.  Female
bodies, traditionally sexualized & linked
to emotionality operate as the barrier to
women's full and effective participation
in the professional and societal spheres.1

And I was settling down into retirement
away from the fast lane, from being job-
bed, from endless meetings and endless
conversations--into solitude, into a world
of writing, Bahá'í studies and none of the
Calista Flockhart and that Ally McBeal!!

1 Michele L. Hammers, “Cautionary Tales of Liberation and Female Professionalism: The Case against Ally McBeal,” Western Journal of Communication, Vol. 69, 2005.

Ron Price
19 August 2009

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RonPrice ()
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This full frontal facial photo was taken in 2004 when I was 60. The photo was taken in Hobart Tasmania. With its light and shadow, its light side and its dark side, it is an appropriate photo to symbolize … more
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About this tv show


Ally McBeal, despite low expectations from the network, proved to be a highly successful endeavor from writer/producer David E. Kelley. The notoriously tiny Calista Flockhart's neurotic portrayal of Ally fueled the show for five seasons, though it could not have lasted nearly as long without the insights of its eccentric supporting cast. Unique for its forays into the surreal, Ally McBeal as a show is as conflicted as its starring character. Half feministic endeavor, half a frustratingly traditional portrayal of lovelorn women, Ally McBeal danced precariously between law dramas of a more serious nature and Bridget Jones-esque "chick-shows." The series centered around the life of Ally McBeal, the quintessential "little girl lost," who, after graduating with a law degree from Harvard University, found herself in a law firm populated by an extraordinarily unconventional staff, including but not limited to Billy Thomas (Gil Bellows), her high school sweetheart. The show's premise allowed for quite a bit of creative freedom, and most episodes switched seamlessly from the thought-provoking (modern gender issues and sexual boundaries) to the absurd (remote control toilet flushers and pet frogs). Ally's quest for love and emotional fulfillment made for the heart of the series, along with the dark undertone of her often-questionable sanity. ~ Tracie Cooper, All Movie Guide Close
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