Ally McBeal (TV Series 1997–2002) Poster

(1997–2002)

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Better than most
Pageharrison18 June 2004
One of the best shows to ever hit TV. There are some pretty negative comments here, but I know why. Folks are angry that the show changed in the last few seasons and they are disappointed that it ended. The first three seasons you couldn't go to the water cooler if you had not watched the show and had some little tid-bit to say about what you saw. That spells great writing and fabulous performances to me. Calista Flockhart is a wonderful person and a terrific actress. She made the show work. without her, no Ally. There are episodes that are priceless. The dancing baby is unique and entertaining. No one had ever taken that kind of risk on TV. A computerized baby dancing with real people. Of course everyone's doing it now. I believe Ally Mcbeal to be a classic.
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10/10
"I like a fresh bowl"
loza-122 January 2007
TV critics are supposed to use their experience and knowledge to map out the salient points of a TV series. Certainly on this side of the Pond, the TV critics seemed to have lost the plot - if they had found the plot in the first place. None of them liked Ally McBeal and they failed to find the essence of the programme.

What was interesting from my point of view is that it poked fun at the litigation culture which is prevalent in the USA, and is beginning to gather momentum in Britain, where people can sue one another often for the most ridiculous reasons. But if you had been fired for the most ridiculous reasons - for having orange skin or for seeing unicorns or for thinking you are Santa Claus - the team of lawyers at Cage and Fish would fight your case for you. However ridiculous the case, the programme took the legal arguments seriously, and John Cage's summations were a work of art, as they should have been after spending the night pacing round his office in his bare feet.

Some of the funniest moments in TV or cinematic history come from this show. The scene where John Cage's blowtorch erupts in the courtroom had me laughing so hard that I was literally fighting for breath.

Counterbalancing the humour was a great deal of pathos involving the characters whose entire lives are lived under the aegis of Cage and Fish - even the bar where Vonda Shepard performs is in the same building as the office.

Over the years, there were inevitable personnel changes in the cast. One of the most successful ones I thought was the introduction of Jackson Duper - one sane man in Cage and Fish's mad unisex toilet.

I know a little bit about acting - enough to know that much of the stuff the actors were doing is very difficult, so the cast are to be commended. Calista Flockhart made something outstanding out of a character that is essentially a cipher. She is a terrific dancer, too. It is a pity that so-called professional TV critics home in on her short skirts and her long, slender legs. They seem to be unaware that she is actually playing a role.

Peter McNicol's is just brilliant as John Cage, a man who jaywalks the border between genius and insanity. Greg Germann is excellent as Richard Fish.

Perhaps series 6 was a bit of a disaster. Certainly the inclusion of Dame Edna Everage is a good reason for reaching for the off switch. But I shed no tears over it: it just goes to show that there are two times that a classic series can end: too soon and too late.

And this series is a classic. So enjoy the 112 episodes. Like the Molly Maguires. "we'll never see the likes of them again."
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Was a great show that lost it's way
A Jay18 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
How can Ally McBeal be easily described? Well it actually can't because it works on a huge variety of levels. The characters are likable and funny, the dialogue is interesting and quirky and the stories vary from downright silly to incredibly moving.

I guess I'm mostly referring to the first four seasons of the series rather than the travesty that was the final one. The first four seasons were fantastic to watch and I really enjoyed every episode. Yes there were one or two duds scattered here and there, but that is only to be expected with that many episodes. But there could be some really moving moments. When Ally has to inform the office that Billy has died the acting by Calista Flockhart was superb because the whole situation was totally underplayed which made the announcement almost real and that much more moving. The final scene of the season one episode "Boy to the World" was heart wrenching That said the sheer comedy moments were also wonderfully played out. Ally getting stuck in a toilet, her fear of murderers, her trial for statutory rape are all a joy to watch.

But how could it all go so wrong after so much right? I won't say I watched the entire 5th season, it was just to painful to see such a decline. We were missing Renee, Ling, Georgia, Billy and Larry, it just couldn't be the same. And after that ridiculous daughter storyline happened, the series was doomed. It's a huge shame it had to end the way it did because of Robert Downey Jr's forced exit from the show. The character of Larry Paul breathed new life into the series and the hasty rewrites at the end of the 4th season are all to evident, yet even these are much better than anything much that passed for the 5th season.

But I can't condemn a series for one flawed final season when it brought me so much joy with the 4 previous ones. All in all I loved Ally McBeal for what it was, and I shall continue to watch my first 4 season DVD's for long time yet
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10/10
the best....
coz1kan20 August 2007
I'm in the middle of season four as i write these words. It's been a few years since the last time i watched Ally McBeal but somehow it was time again to visit the old gang at Cage & Fish.

I absolutely fell in love with this show, it's characters and story's a few years ago and I'm falling in love all over again. This show, it's heart, gentleness and (sometimes)idealistic look at life and love can get me to weep like a little schoolgirl (and I'm a man, age 32).

The story's about fulfilled and unfulfilled dreams, lost loves, Christmas spirit, special friendships,The passing of time and meandering moments, etc. have me glued to my television once again.
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It's hard to watch something you used to love go downhill.
Victor Field1 January 2003
David E. Kelley's a talented man, no doubt about it (and since he's married to Michelle Pfeiffer, many would add "sickeningly lucky" on top of that); when you have a CV that includes writing for Steven Bochco shows and successfully launching your own Twentieth Century Fox-affiliated company (and let's not forget, "girls club" has been his only real flop on the tube - even "Chicago Hope," which is doomed to be the Billie to "ER"'s Britney Spears, still ran for six years), on top of being the primary writer for your shows, it takes more than mere luck.

"Ally McBeal" was a delight for the first four years - though many claimed it would have been better without Calista Flockhart, I doubt it. True, the other characters and actors were of equal or better value - who'd want the show to be without Greg Germann as Fish, the world's most likeable inconsiderate wattle-obsessed dolt ("Ally, it's not my nature to be concerned about people, but what's wrong?") - but the show did clearly have Miss McBeal at its centre; and let us not forget that for all her insecurities, her looniness, and horrible luck in her personal life, she was in fact a pretty good lawyer when you think about it. Certainly better in court than Fish...

The people and writing were always funny and easy to take, apart from Lisa Nicole Carson as Renee* (in a TV special about the show, "This Life"'s creator Amy Jenkins said she thought Renee was smug. I agree), and adding the sultry and classy Lucy Liu to the cast was a chance that worked - her reduced role in the latter episodes, though understandable from her point of view, was a sad sign of the show's degeneration, but when Julianne Nicholson and James Marsden arrived and Peter MacNicol left that was it... and as for that child - spare me. The fun and the thrill were gradually seeping out, and Cage/Fish stopped being a place you wanted to visit. Episodes like the one where a man wanted to fly didn't help either - the toll of writing nearly every episode by himself must have affected Mr. Kelley. (Also note how that bar suddenly let people more famous than Vonda Shepard take a turn on stage. And as for Sting being allowed to act... although in fairness, Mariah Carey's episode was better than "The Bachelor" or "Glitter.")

In the end, I was searching my soul one night, and found there was so much more to life than watching a dying series. But one poor season after four good ones isn't a bad average. Thanks for the first 80%, David E. Kelley... youuuuu stinker! (He said affectionately.)

*About Lisa Nicole Carson; in all the articles written about how skinny all the women on the show were, nobody seems to have noticed that Miss Carson and Jane Krakowski are, as they say, really built.
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Ah, those were the days (well the first two seasons anyway)...
lomelasz12 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Where did it all go wrong? By the end of season two (which turned out to be the last genuinely great season of Ally ever), the show was getting 18million viewers per ep. As it limped to its series finale by 2002, it was only getting 10. Perhaps it all started to go horribly wrong in its third season. Or maybe its fourth? Or maybe the (sadly) dreadful fifth and final? Well, in my opinion things started to go wrong in its third season when Georgia left the firm (and appears very briefly in others after she leaves or just doesn't appear at all), Renee is absent for 6 episodes in a row, Billy is killed off and new character Mark Albert is brought in a hurry. Plus the rumours of anorexia that dogged Calista Flockhart and Portia de Rossi which couldn't have helped. The show was 'revived' in its fourth season with the addition of Robert Downey Jr but still doesn't improve (well at least until its second half where it gets a little better). Jokes that weren't even funny the first time are milked for all they're worth and main characters are neglected (which is very apparent in the final season). By the fifth season, the show was dismal. Bringing in about a hundred new characters didn't help (most were later dropped) and the constant references to 9/11 didn't help matters either. Come the last-ever episode, you feel more relieved than gutted. Maybe if we had discovered that the second season finale was its last-ever ep, i would have been gutted, but despite a few good eps throughout its third and fourth season (and very very few in its final), the show fell from grace permanently and should have been put out of its misery there and then.
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A once brilliant show that went downhill after 3 seasons.
Deeana17 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I remember back in 1998 when I watched the 2 hour premiere of this show and instantly I loved it. Ally was a fun character and her imagination was entertaining, especially where you saw Elaines head expand when she talked. An interesting love story also seemed evident as Ally goes to work at the law firm that her high school ex boyfriend also works at. The fact that he was married to Georgia made this very entertaining and had the audience on the edge of their seats wondering if he would go back to Ally. The characters were all interesting and different from each other and in time new characters joined like Nelle and Ling. Both brought something to the show and made it even better.

I think one of the starting points of Ally's downfall was when Billy (Ally's ex) died. That spelled the end for their relationship and that whole sequence leading up to his death was a bit wierd anyway, he went completely nuts, but I guess it was because of the brain tumour.

The inclusion of James Le Gros' character seemed completely pointless and by the 4th season there were too many characters and not enough storylines to go around. John became just too weird (the room behind the toilet was just far-fetched and stupid) his girlfriend (played by Anne Heche)lived in an old elevator - totally lame! For the entire 4th season I felt stupid watching this show because the storylines were just too out there. The only thing keeping the show alive was Robert Downey Jr's drug scandals and being fired from the show, that made headlines around the world. The fifth season hasnt aired in Australia yet, I doubt channel 7 will be in a hurry either. I will watch it when it finally does air, but I dont expect to see much of an improvement.

It is sad to see that this once great show has completely hit rock bottom and in the space of only one to two years! The blame can only be pointed at David E. Kelley. He had a good thing going - this show won awards. I think he became too greedy, he wanted to do as many shows as he could by also having The Practice and then Boston Public. He lost interest in Ally McBeal and let it turn to absolute crap! I heard that when the cast and crew were told that the show had been axed Calista jumped for joy - she was glad it was over because she saw how bad it had become.

If you ever come across the re-runs of the 1st 2nd and 3rd seasons I recommend you to see them because you will find them funny. But forget the rest, it isnt really worth watching.

Season 1-3: 8/10 Season 4: 3/10
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One Of The Better American Comedies But Outstayed It's Welcome
Big Movie Fan11 December 2002
Out of all the mediocre American comedy shows we were bombarded with in the 1990's, Ally McBeal was a fine piece of work.

It is a comedy set in the legal sector. As a former legal clerk, I found the show quite funny at times and all the stars performed very well in their roles.

Calista Flockhart was the main star. She was the intelligent lawyer who excelled in the courtroom but her private life was a shambles. There was a lot of history between her and another lawyer Billy (played by Gill Bellows) who was now with Georgia (played by Courtney Thorne-Smith). This led to some interesting scenes.

The head of the firm was Richard Fish played by Greg Germann. Fish was only interested in the almighty dollar and didn't take life too seriously. There was also John Cage played by Peter MacNicol who was an eccentric lawyer whose courtroom antics really entertained.

The show was brilliant for it's first few years but like most TV shows, it outstayed it's welcome and lasted longer than it should have. The later episodes were very average at times.

However, Ally McBeal was a decent show and I definitely recommend the earlier episodes.
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One of the best shows on T.V
Calysta13 January 2000
When "Ally McBeal" premiered in Australia in July 1997, I by perchance taped the pilot episode, not even knowing what it was about. It was that sole episode that drew me into "Ally" magic, which quickly dominated a dull Monday night, 8:30pm timeslot.

As a teenager who gives the typically teenaged aim of "Dawson's Creek", "Felicity" and "Charmed" a miss, "Ally" was a complete relief, despite the fact then I knew little about the law.

As expected from David E. Kelley, the characters and the actors portrayals of them are simply first rate. By far the best of the ensemble, Calista Flockhart in the title role is sensational as the insecure, uptight lawyer of Boston. The Ally character is bound to become a future cultural icon of the 1990s.

Peter MacNicol, as the weird John Cage, Greg Germann as the legally unaware, unsympathetic boss Richard Fish and Lucy Liu as the moody, bitchy Ling are the forefront supporting actors of the cast. Jane Krakowski as the snoopish, inventive secretary Elaine is pretty good too.

However, it is the weaker characters of Nelle (Portia deRossi), Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith), Billy (Gil Bellows) and Renee (Lisa Nicole Carson) that have begun to show their wear and tear in the second series. Merely, they seem to be paid for standing around looking pretty. Hopefully David E. Kelley will develop these characters more in the coming seasons, otherwise they will continue to be dominated by the stronger cast, looking like beautiful people dressed up with sex to look better than they really are.

The "Ally" cast, and their continuing ongoing struggles in the court room and in their personal lives in a dream of a law firm has been for the majority of the season, one of the most entertaining of the shows on the air today.

However, Kelley's creativity and imagery that goes into each special treat of an episode is excellent. For once, plot and character seem to go hand in hand. By breaking the barriers and creating a show that is neither four parts drama to one part comedy, or four parts comedy to one part drama, was the just the beginning of his dealing with controversial issues.

Since the cross over episode with Kelley's even better show "The Practice", I have graduated from little league law to the darker, grittier side of Boston which has now replaced "Ally" as my favourite show. But the allure for more "Ally" is still there.

As long as Kelley can continue to separate sex and controversy entirely from a show of pure genius, "Ally" will be continue to be fresh and by all means, a great show.
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The "Anti" L.A.Law
Shapster1118 February 2001
For David Kelly the creation of this law firm must have come to him as he envisioned what L.A.Law would've been in it's most bizarre form. If you told viewers beforehand some of the quirks and cases the main character, and the firm, would entertain I'm sure the "test" audience would have responded with a collective thumbs down. This is why the success and following of the show is all the more astounding.

I have watched from the first episode and look forward to it every week. From the first time we saw Ally get sexually harassed in her old firm, to her first sighting of the baby cupid on roller skates with a bow and arrow we have embraced her quirks and her flaws. We have hung on every "theme song", everytime she saw Al Green and most recently Barry Manilow, and we have learned to clutch onto all the zaniness of the other characters as well.

Be it John Cage stuttering(pa..pa..pa..poughkeepsie), to the great "Fishisms" of his partner Richard Fish, to Billy's Robert Palmer girls, to Elaine's face bra, etc. etc. These characters are now part of our tuesday conversation at the water cooler. And in America that is when a show has made it!

Season three had it's mindnumbing sameness to it, but the introduction of Robert Downey Jr. has brought new life to a stagnant show. At the time of this writing it was announced Downey Jr. had signed a new 8 episode deal so it should be interesting to see where the show goes.
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10/10
I love Ally McBeal
mrbinky-131 May 2006
I ordered all five seasons from hong kong on e-bay... it's fantastic..!! you know, people watch Jerry Springer to make sure their lives are not that screwed up... I believe people watch(ed) Ally hoping their lives could become as chaotic... We are into the 4th season.. and it seems like the show should be wrapping up at the end of this season... but they go on for one more year... contract fights with ABC? I know Robert Downy Jr. went back to rehab at the end of season 4...

But this show is about life.. all the stupid little things that most people never even notice are magnifide a thousand time... Jerry Seinfeld did the same thing... Ally McBeal was a lawyer show about nothing.. but in Ally everybody is George and Kramer and all the other characters all the time all rolled into one... David Kelly was/is a genius. to be able to write so many shows with such passion. That's another key to this show you don't see on very many.. the passion the actors deliver their parts in... They invite us into their world and we actually become part of it... The fears we see on Ally are something we all experience at some time in our lives... Wish I could find more of David Kelly's shows on DVD... can't find the Practice at all...

let's have a reunion..!!!!
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Possibly the best TV show, ever...
JaseUK-211 November 1999
An absolutely brilliant TV show. It genuinely deals with the abserdity of law (with amazing detail) and life. John Cage and Richard Fish are, without a doubt, the funniest characters in the show. Ally is also very good. It's one of those shows which makes you say "I wish my life was like that..." and you strangely join the show on an emotional ride. I think we can all safely say that we miss Happy Boyle... ...a must watch.
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4/10
Like a triple stack of IHOP pancakes w/ extra syrup
rooprect28 November 2006
Mmm, doesn't a big stack of pancakes sound good? Maple syrup and fruit preserves on top. Take a bite. Mmmmmmm. Take another bite. Another. Another. EAT. EAT it, you!!! Keep shoveling it down your throat until your face turns green with nausea. You have just had the Ally McBeal experience.

I stumbled on this show in the winter of '98 and was instantly hooked. Like that stack of pancakes, I gorged myself on it. But the enjoyment soon wore off, because the Ally McBeal character (whom we see to be cute & endearing at first sight) soon becomes the most annoying, insecure, whining complainer you've ever met. (Call me a feminist, but I prefer my female leads to have a spine.) The gags & gimmicks of the show also become hackneyed, the music of Vonda Shepherd (which is really shoved in your face) becomes grating, and the incessant character changes & rewrites make the show into a damn soap opera.

My advice to you is to take this show in small doses, and quit as soon as it becomes bothersome (and it will). I made it through 2.5 seasons before my enjoyment had totally soured. It was good while it lasted, but like a crazy, neurotic ex-girlfriend it just turned ugly after it had overstayed its welcome.

And next time you go to IHOP, skip the pancakes. Order something healthy like the fruit cup. It'll sit with you much better.
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6/10
Looking back on Ally McBeal: A show for teenagers?
Haqqel Paalz17 April 2012
When I first saw this show (back in 2002) I was still a young teenager and I LOVED it. I thought a lot of the jokes were funny, the quirky characters were fresh and exciting and the often silly story lines (the cases, mostly) were as entertaining as smart. I also identified a lot with John Cage, being socially awkward yet intelligent and innovative, and Ally herself, being slightly neurotic and a hopeless romantic. I guess I kind of lost interest in the show as it reached its final season and must've forgotten about the bad stuff since I always held it in high regard.

Recently I started watching it again, and having seen A LOT of different series over the years as well as other work from Mr. Kelley I have to say, I'm disappointed. The first 2 seasons only barely still worked for me and after that it went downhill real fast. What changed? How come I connected to a show on an emotional level this well 10 years ago and now all I can see is flaws?

Well, I think those 10 years really made that much a difference. Take these 'hallucinations' Ally ha(s/d) for example. Where they were a relatively new and refreshing way to show how she viewed other people and how she reacted emotionally to certain situations in a slightly comedic way back in the 90s, now they look cheap and silly, at best (and not because of the often poor animation.) Where I could fist simply 'accept' these hallucinations occurring because of the comedic tone of the show, now I can't help but conclude this is a sign of a severe mental illness and a person like that working in a law firm is simply not a believable scenario. There's even this one episode about Ally really starting to believe in them and locking herself into her room, her friends and colleagues worry about her, and then it's all 'resolved' with no further consequences (not even a psych-evaluation) and she can go back to work no problem, just like that. These hallucinations feel like an enormous plot hole (if not a flaw on a conceptual level) rather than funny gags in between because of the semi-serious approach to them. I don't know whether problems like these are really due to experimenting with the format and the newness of it all, but I'm willing to do the show a favor and see it that way.

Of course, not only the show aged, I aged as well. And as I've grown into adulthood I am baffled by the idea this show was meant for adults. I quickly came to the conclusion that most of the characters were written as teenagers, on a mental as well as an emotional level. Ally is of course the best example of this, always doubting everything around her as well as herself, being insecure about herself, either not thinking about consequences of a situation or overthinking them... I could go on but you get the idea. The other characters have some pretty childish traits as well without something else making up for it. I get why I liked this show as much as I did when I was still a teen, but now it's just way too hard to even view these characters as believable, let alone connect with them.

Then there are the 'political' issues. If you've ever seen even one episode of a show by David E. Kelley you know what I'm talking about. Both Boston Legal and Ally McBeal are obviously very liberal shows with a high sense morality and this needn't be a problem, but it is, in many ways. I myself am a liberal, yet I take offense to the notion that all non-liberals are dumb for not being liberals or are simply evil. This notion however is a recurring theme in both shows and I think it displays liberals as closed-minded and smug. Another problem is the 'pro-woman' tone, particularly in Ally McBeal. Men are mostly displayed as either wimpy 'good guys' (Billy first 2 seasons) or sex-crazed assholes (Billy 3rd season, Richard Fish) and I take offense to that as a man.

I often get the feeling the writers really want to rub my face in what they think is morally right, and it's just annoying. I guess having grown up and having found my own sense of right and wrong really clashes with the show, another reason for me to argue it's more suited for teens rather than adults.

For me these are the real big issues with the show as a whole, the characters aren't believable on multiple levels, some aspects of the show are too 'out there' and remain unexplored and the political and moral messages are too one-sided and painfully present. There are some minor issues as well, Elaine never being funny even though she was obviously meant as comic relief, the never ending overuse of Vonda Shepard and her annoying voice, the quality of the animation, etc. etc. These are however a lot more subjective and don't affect the show as much as the rest, the show would be better without them but they don't ruin it either.

Lastly, what DOES still hold up? Well, as I've said the first 2 seasons are okay, even for today's standards. They don't hold up all that great because of aforementioned issues but they do have a lot going for them as well. The cast is great, most of the actors deliver a good, if not great, performance, the silly story lines usually don't get too silly and are entertaining enough to follow and even with their problems there are still some genuinely funny characters in the mix (Dr. Tracey being my favorite, but Richard Fish is also pretty funny at times, to name a few).

So, is it still watchable? Yes, but I'd prefer watching something else. I'm an adult now.
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You are all seduction!
Durga12 January 1999
My daughter and I, we both are crazy about this TV-series We can even say "addicted". The story is richly involvent and each character has its own unique charm. As soon as one show is ended and we are already looking forward the next,.. and the next... Calista, you are all seduction! By the way, how about a complete video with all Ally & Associated adventures? Yours, truly, fans.
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7/10
Great show that eventually unravelled
adriangr14 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I've just watched all five seasons of Ally McBeal again and the gloss it had when it was first aired does seem to have worn off. Basically the story of a kooky, single female professional in short skirts, whose life revolves around her ex, her inner world, and her career as a lawyer, does't really progress very far in it's 5 seasons. It also goes downhill quite quickly from the later half of Season 2 onwards, but more on that later. This is a review of the entire series, so there will be SPOILERS.

Season 1 introduces us to Ally and her quirky outlook on life. Basically all of the first season is one long tale of pining for lost love as Ally works alongside childhood sweetheart /soul- mate, Billy, who is now married to another woman. Of course, they all work at the same firm, a company called Cage & Fish. The episodes follow an extremely repetitive template: Ally and her firm take on a case, which always hold up a mirror to the emotions and events going on in Ally's personal life in that episode. As well as defending cases in court, Ally and her colleagues spend each evening after work in a bar, mulling over events of the day, while "bar singer" Vonda Sheperd sings songs that - funnily enough - also underscore the emotions and events of the episode. The episode will normally end with Ally (or occasionally another main character) speaking from the heart during the trial, using their parallel pain and insight to win over the jury, and thus (nearly always) winning the case.

Season 2 kicks off in the exact same style, demonstrating that the show really seems to have no direction to move in. Two new characters are introduced, Nelle and Ling, which normally speaks of desperation in a show, but luckily both Nell and Ling are very entertaining and played to perfection by Portia De Rossi and Lucy Liu. Nelle is by far the more interesting of the two, and I would love to have seen more time spent on her character.

On to Season 3, and this is where I started to lose my faith in the show on my first viewing. The character of Billy now becomes easily the worst aspect of the show, with his metamorphosis into an idiot. I never really warmed to the character of Billy, and sadly by season 3 she now has no depth whatsoever, which turns this whole plot strand into a cartoon. Luckily there are episodes that still have warmth, where the other cast members get a chance to show some depth. Episodes like the one where Elaine finds an abandoned baby, or where Ling makes friends with people in a care home, are good showcases for some nice stories and acting. Ally carries on dating guys and failing, but she is so picky that it makes you lose a lot of sympathy with Ally's so-called loneliness.

So here we are at Season 4 and I was relieved to see that the show seem to gather itself again. Characters feel more realistic, although by now Georgia has been silently written out of the show, while Nelle and new guy Mark pretty much has nothing to do. But the introduction of Robert Downey Junior as a new love interest is pretty good, and it's a shame that this was marred by the later scandal involving the actor, as he brings a lot to the show. Same for Anne Heche as a new love interest for John Cage, another quirky character (of course), but thanks to Heche's acting ability I think it comes across nicely. Season 4 concentrates on Ally's insecurity as part of a couple instead of her insecurity at being single, which is at least a change from three whole seasons where she was incapable of holding onto a man at all. But all in all, Season 4 is an improvement on the shallow and erratic Season 3.

And now finally Season 5, where the whole thing really unravels and slides down the hillside to the bottom. It's easy to see why Season 5 is the last one. Characters are dropping like flies, some are just not carried forward from Season 4 (Renee, Mark), others gradually appear less and less and then disappear (John Cage), and others are turned into little more than extras without story lines of their own (Nelle, Elaine). The worst aspect of the season is to introduce new characters at an alarming rate - including a new lawyer (Jenny) who is identical to Ally, which seems to serve no dramatic purpose. Ling returns briefly in a new ludicrous side story, and of course (for people that remember it), Ally acquires a 10 year old daughter. But other than that the plots go all over the place. Ally pretty much stops taking on any legal cases altogether and all we see is her being a mother. The abrupt tying up of events in the final episode is ridiculously condensed.

So in conclusion, it's a case of diminishing returns for the series as a whole. The positives that hold the entire thing together and made me want to return to watching are is the main cast, who are all pretty good. There are some touching moments in several episodes. Seasons 1, 2 and 4 are the best. The saddest thing is to wonder if the series might have recovered if Robert Downey Jnr hadn't had to leave, as he was really making the series pick up again, but by Season 5, it seemed like other cast members too were either opting out or being fired. With issues like this to contend with, it's no wonder the series was incapable having a longer run.
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7/10
Looking back...
runamokprods5 December 2011
I had forgotten that the early episodes of this series were a bit creaky. and at first Ally seemed so young, goofy and nervous that she felt more like a teenager than a smart 27 year old lawyer.

But by episode 5 or so the show and the character finds it's stride. And if it doesn't quite measure up to the best 'grown up' TV of today, it still deserves praise for being one of the series that broke the mold of what a TV show was supposed to be.

It had an openness to complicated tones that seamlessly mixed wild, sometimes surreal humor, more subtle humor and drama, to long story arcs and not easily solved once a week problems, and to being more about character than event, making TV a more novelistic and sometimes cinematic medium in the process.

Certainly Ally McBeal wasn't the first show to do any of these things, but it was one of the first shows that was a big success with these new approaches, and that helped paved the way for many of the best dramas dramadies and comedies on TV in the years since.

I'll admit, with years of even braver shows since, Ally McBeal no longer feels quite as special, and in fact now feels a little limited. Especially with DVDs allowing more than once a week viewing, a certain sameness to Ally's constantly fearful, broken heart and her funny/sad attempts to overcome it starts to plague the show.

But there's still a lot to enjoy here. The performances are terrific from top to bottom, and every 'silly' character is given their serious and moving moments, and every 'serious' character is allowed to be laugh-out-loud funny at times. Special mention has to be made of Peter MacNichol's 'The Biscuit', one of the oddest, funniest characters to actually work brilliantly in any series.

The writing is sharp and full of wit and pathos. The music is integrated in a way that was rare for TV before, but much imitated since, with montages to songs played and sung by Vonda Shepard (a great voice) who often also appears in the series as a singer at the lead characters favorite after hours watering hole.

I do have to say, some of the music now feels, in retrospect, too on the nose. The songs chosen (or written) almost always have lyrics that are too spot on, too obvious a commentary on the action, That good and bad side to the music sort of sums up my perspective on the series looking at it again in 2011. I appreciate and admire it for what it gave us and TV, I still enjoy it, but I'm no longer just blown away by it. Not in a world of Breaking Bad, Weeds, Mad Men, Nurse Jackie, Arrested Development, etc. etc.
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1/10
If you are older than 20, don't waste your time on this juvenile crap
impatient-905-3796926 September 2014
Wow. What a difference a decade makes. I watched this show when I was in my early twenties, and at the time it seemed unusual and quirky, with an unlikely heroine and a bunch of unorthodox characters. I did hate Vonda Sheperd's voice, though. That woman clearly never took voice lessons, otherwise she would know that this method of voice delivery is ghoulish.

Anyway, now that I am a decade older, I can't watch this series, not even for the sake of nostalgic feelings. The plots are just ridiculous, the character of Ally McBeal is so over the top, so ludicrous, so stupid, the tip-toeing around her is implausible and annoying, her gestures and incessant bleating silence fillers are impossible to tolerate.

I think I hate the series now. Ms. Flockhart is either a bad actress, or her take on Ally is intolerable. While trying to portray Ally as one of the last romantics, she created an out-of-control teenager who is permanently in PMS mode. Yuck.

There is only one (!) character that is worth watching this show for, it is Portia De Rossi's Nelle Porter. This character is suave, poised, intelligent, elegant, not to mention, absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, there is not enough of Nelle in the show, and far too much Ally...
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3/10
How did this character become a lawyer?!
bbb5153 March 2012
This is one of the worst shows I've been bored enough to sit through. I like Boston Legal and I like the idea of a comedy law show. However, this series is more focused on McBeal finding love and feeling sorry for herself. The idea is that she "needs" a man or she isn't grounded enough to perform simple tasks. This makes you wonder how the character graduated from law school. This coupled with Calista Flockhart's painfully obvious eating disorder makes for the most anti-feminist female lead I've ever had the displeasure of watching.

All that said, the first 2 seasons can be pretty funny at times. I attribute most of the humor to Greg Germann's character Fish, although he can be extremely sexist.

In closing, I'd like to say that apart from the sexism this series so annoyingly demonstrates, I have discovered at least two recycled monologues from Ally McBeal on Boston Legal. I would be looking for that in Harry's Law, but it's important for me now to avoid anything written or created by David. E. Kelley. I don't believe it's okay to be lazy enough when creating series to go back to your writing on a previous show and copy it onto your new script word for word.
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10/10
Ally McBeal Best ever, Bring it back
saralskeen19 December 2010
Ally McBeal Best ever, Bring it back. All the cast members are still around! And their is still a story to be told! LOVE LOVE IT. It's 2011 and no good shows out there. If they brought it back it would be bigger than ever. I am 38 years old and my life fits Ally McBeal. And all my friends love it. i have all the DVD seasons and we have marathons. The music was go great and I love every single person. The script was amazing. wow David E Kelly rocks. How did one man get inside a woman's head so well? Robert D. Jr. need to finish the story. We need a proper ending. I don't know what else to write but it wont let me post my review until I have enough lines. stupid. Bring Back Ally McBeal.
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It's Time to Close the Curtain
robert_haag12 February 2002
My wife and I are fans of this show. We watch it every Monday night. However, after last nights episode I feel it is time to close the Curtain on Ally McBeal. Obivously, the show has run it's course. There are two many characters and not enough dialogue to go around. You know a show is in trouble when they have to introduce a kid. The interaction between Ally and this obnoxious brat is not funny indeed. The fact that Cage is leaving the firm and Ally is made partner is a mistake indeed. I have always felt the they have under utilized Nell so why not make her partner? The story lines the this idea certainly would be more to the true Ally McBeal. Maybe Peter MacNicol(Cage) is seeing what I am and is bailing off this sinking ship.
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10/10
best show ever!
dramaqueennyc200313 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I LOVE Ally McBeal! It is a great show! AMAZING!! Firstly i must reply to: Ally having Richard's baby: huh? What a HORRIBLE twist! Cage and Elaine hooking up: Again huh? Being like Elaine in MANY ways i Can say that a woman like her who could get ANYBODY would not settle for the biscuit! believe me! i would know! Vonda in the credits: I know i hate that 2!!

Ally - What a terrible character! she is only half calmed down by Robert Downey Jr's Larry Paul who makes her half normal. she is a weakling and is a makes woman seem weak when we need more woman like Jane who makes us all seem so strong. she can actually survive with a fling every week and no commitment and when we have it we don't really want it. eg mark. ally needs a man by her side!! And how anorexic could u be??

Ling - One word .. hilarious! ling is fiery, bitchy and rarely but occasionally helpful! ling is SO funny and great. thank god they brought her in! and her relationship with fish! great! they are both so shallow that it fits perfectly!

Nelle - Overall, good. pointless relationship between her and john but she is interesting in the second and third season, OK in the fourth and tiring in the fifth. she was great at a time but now she is just OK. i loved her flirtatious ways with billy which infuriated Georgia!

Georgia - oh my god! what a terrible pointelss character! annoying and thank the lord she is gone! though i loved when she knocked billy into the stall, thankfully Elaine brought him right back to life!

billy - he was boring but i loved the billy girls, his bleached head and his death was SO tragic! poor billy! and Georgia and ally are too good for him! he and Nelle should have hooked up! casually!

mark - everyone hates him for being the new "billy" but mark is GREAT! he is not the funniest but he is a good actor and a good lawyer and hilarious in his first episode. he and Elaine made an interesting couple which was headed for disaster but at least he offered Elaine something even if it was only for a season.

Larry - he is so great! love his acting and he really was incredible! who in their right mind would hate Larry?

John - What a great lawyer though annoying in the 1st and 5th season though i loved the mariachi thing! he was so funny and loved the whistling and his little tricks!! so great!

Vonda - good singer though sometimes annoying

Renee - hate her!! omg almost as bad as ally! how self obsessed can u be?

Glenn, Raymond, Coretta, jenny - pointelss!!!

Maddy - good twist!

fish - hilarious! so superficial and funny! he is great with ling and Lolita and the whip!! Richard is SO funny and i always thought he and Elaine might be a good fling after he broke up with ling and she broke up with mark and were both on the rebound! great when being auctioned by men! loved the homophobia!!!

Elaine - best character in the show!! love the face bra, vi-bra, customised condoms, cherry flavoured underwear and the maternity dress! she never had a serious relationship till mark came along and although it was headed for disaster since they kept breaking up and getting back together! but still, entertaining! she was SO funny and omg Jane is WAY talented in singing, dancing and acting! she is my fave actress and is WAY better in theatre! she is so funny! and she is a perfect example of what more woman need to be like! may be promiscuous but at least something keeps her busy every night except "poor me, i'm ally mcbeal, loser here's my card!" she is fabulous! and thank god she found something other than the baby (awwwwwwwww) in the fourth season, even if she sunk into the ground with infidelity!

Overall, 10/10!!!
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America's Best Law Series
Thor200010 April 2001
I'm not a big fan of the gamut of law shows out there.They're all a rather on the bland and boring side and some of them toss in swearing and profanity and call it great entertainment. I watched the premiere episode of Ally McBeal only because nothing else was on with the plan of switching over later to TVLand, but I enjoyed it so much I stayed for the whole thing and tuned in the next week for the next episode. The series had me hooked as it set new standards for humor and reality as in the first episode when Ally's roommate, Renee, warns her against the trials of tribulations in "staring in the mirror and wishing your breasts were bigger" which Ally goes ahead and does anyway. Creator David E. Kelley must be a fan of Benny Hill because this is one joke that occurs almost often in the series. Calista Flockhart is a charming and irresistible presence even more lovely than any blonde caricature, and her new best friend, Elaine, played by Jane Krakowski of the first Vacation, is quirky and etherially whimsical as the most spirited character on the show. Greg German and Peter MacNichol have turned out to be wonderful comedy partners. The show lapsed a bit with the departures of Gil Bellows and Courtney Thorne Smith, but Robert Downey Jr.'s appearance has renewed the magic of Ally's search for true love. I can do without Portia de Rossi, just another clone in a long parade of "seen it before" blondes, and Lucy "The McBeal Tagalong" Liu who is nothing more than venom and cold water in a dress. My ideas of female perfection do not include these two annoyances, but the series does seem to struggle along with them for the sake of those fans able enough to stand them.
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The duck and the "SH" dwarf.
Fedor Petrovic (fedor8)9 October 2008
What the hell is this? "Kooky drama"? "Lawyers in Loony Tunes Land"? The world's thinnest, most duck-faced actress (even more duck-faced and anorexic than Michelle Pfeiffer) overacts her bony butt off, making cretinous grimaces that would shame Bugs Bunny, in one of the most animated non-animated TV series ever. This is also the most annoying one-hour-format TV show ever, hence the worst.

All the men act like pansies, and I for one refuse to believe that even hip big-city shysters are all as delta-male-like as this sorry (short) bunch. Wuss Peter MacNicol manages to be even more irritating than Calista Flockofducks with his fake Hollywood "shshshs" speech impediment: it's the sort of pseudo-inability to pronounce the letter "S" by turning it into a moronic "SH" that the likes of Jon Shtewart and Christian Shlater also practice with zeal. Watching MacNicol talk, I always wonder how come his jaw doesn't dislocate... Human facial anatomy was never meant to support the pronouncing of the "SH" sound more than three times per second. He is a medical wonder.

This badly conceived and written legal-drama/comedy hodgepodge also features some very 90s PC. It has POLITICAL CORRECTNESS written with huge, neon letters. Is there anything more unrealistic than a bunch of LAWYERS being full of ideals, high principles, and moral fiber? Laughable, but that's the way defense lawyers have been portrayed in Hollywood since its inception. After all, what is more noble than defending a murderer, a rapist, or a thief? When a TV series as retarded as "Ally McBeak" starts preaching to America about how it should run the country, then it must be time for Paris Hilton to become President. "Ally McQuack" is both a product of recent and large-scale Western dumbing-down and a perpetrator of it.

Those supposed touches of "eccentricity", like the UNBELIEVABLY annoying musical numbers, are unconvincing and embarrassingly unfunny. This is no Monty Python. Whatever "new" the talent-free makers of this garbage were aiming for, they failed with honours. "Ally McBeak" is a highly commercialized TV venture aimed at indiscriminating yuppies, bored housewives, and bipolar lawyers. It's yet another dull "objection overruled sustained your Honour may I call the witness" legalistic baloney that the American audiences seem to eat up with relish for some strange reason...
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