×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Ally Mcbeal

The prolific David E. Kelley strikes again with this deceptively clever piece of comedic drama that joins "The X-Files" and "Party of Five" in upping Fox's intellectual profile. Offbeat, engaging and smartly written --- and with a can't-miss lead in Broadway actress Calista Flockhart --- "Ally McBeal" should score good word-of-mouth.

With:
Cast: Calista Flockhart, Gil Bellows, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Greg Germann, Lisa Nicole Carson, Jane Krakowski.

The prolific David E. Kelley strikes again with this deceptively clever piece of comedic drama that joins “The X-Files” and “Party of Five” in upping Fox’s intellectual profile. Offbeat, engaging and smartly written — and with a can’t-miss lead in Broadway actress Calista Flockhart — “Ally McBeal” should score good word-of-mouth and do decent business as a female alternative to “Monday Night Football.” Irresistible premise is kind of “thirtysomething” meets “Dream On,” with a twist of “L.A. Law” tossed in. Only the talented Kelley (as exec producer and writer of every episode) could make insufferable yuppies this much fun.

But none of it would work without the right personality in the center, and Flockhart is all that and more. At once sexy, funny, aloof and vulnerable, she burns up the screen as Ally McBeal, a young lawyer who has it all together at work and all apart outside the office.

Ally gets herself hired at a Boston law firm headed by her oily old law school nemesis Richard (Greg Germann) and populated by her on-again, off-again boyfriend Billy (Gil Bellows). Billy, for whom Ally still has the hots, is now married to the gorgeous Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith of “Melrose Place”).

To peer into Ally’s heart and soul, Kelley uses the effective device of fantasy. At various times, Ally imagines herself with huge breasts, having sex in a coffee cup, receiving arrows in the heart and … well, that’s enough to tease the idea. Suffice it to say the resulting visuals are entirely appropriate to the situation and perfectly zany.

Flockhart is expert at communicating Ally’s quiet panic and awkwardness in dealing with the hunky Billy and the suspicious Georgia (Georgia: “I hate you.” Ally: “Yes, I can understand that.”) Thorne-Smith, Bellows and Germann lend terrific support, striking just the right notes to help Flockhart soar.

Kelley strikes the difficult balance between humor and insight with his usual sure hand, stopping just short of the sort of satire that would strain plausibility. James Frawley does an exceptional directing job in the pilot that nicely matches “Ally McBeal’s” eccentric style.

It remains to be seen if Kelley can maintain the off-kilter energy of the pilot. Moreover, the lessons of “thirtysomething” remind us that today’s sympathetic young adult can be tomorrow’s grating and avaricious jerk. Yet it’s difficult to envision that happening to Flockhart and company as long as Kelley is around to smooth over their rough edges.

“Ally McBeal” is the rare example of a broadcast network premiering a series that feels fresh and different, if occasionally contrived. As such, it deserves to live longer than the standard few weeks. Tech credits are swell.

Ally Mcbeal

Fox, Mon. Sept. 8, 9 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Hollywood by David E. Kelley Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox TV. Executive producer, David E. Kelley; co-executive producer, Jeffrey Kramer; producers, Jonathan Pontell, Mike Listo; co-producers, Robert Breech, Steve Robin; coordinating producer, Gary M. Strangis; director, James Frawley; writer, Kelley;

Crew: Camera, Billy Dickson; editors, Pontell, Charles McClelland; production designer, Lee C. Fischer; sound editor, David Rawlinson; visual effects, Mike Most; music, Vonda Shepard; musical score, Danny Lux; casting, Judith Weiner. 60 MIN.

Cast: Cast: Calista Flockhart, Gil Bellows, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Greg Germann, Lisa Nicole Carson, Jane Krakowski.

More TV

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    John Singleton, the two-time Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as “mild.” According to TMZ, which first broke the news, [...]

  • Adam Lambert, of Queen, performs at

    Adam Lambert Back to 'Idol' to Mentor Finalists Through Queen's Catalog

    Adam Lambert famously launched his career on “American Idol” a decade ago performing a brilliant audition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wrapped that amazing eighth season performing with the band on the season finale, and years later earned his current spot as the front man touring as Queen + Adam Lambert. On April 28, Lambert comes full circle as he steps [...]

  • Lily Tomlin SAG Lifetime Acheivement Award

    TV News Roundup: Netflix's 'Laugh-In' 50th Anniversary Tribute Sets Premiere Date

    In today’s TV News roundup, Netflix sets the premiere date for its 50th anniversary special of “Laugh-In.” DATES “Laugh-In: The Stars Celebrate,” the 50th anniversary tribute to the original series by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, will premiere on Netflix on May 14. The special, which was taped at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, pays [...]

  • Texas Tech's Norense Odiase (32) shoots

    Live+3 Ratings for Week of April 8: NCAA Championship Game Dunks on Competition

    The final of the 2019 NCAA basketball tournament, in which Virginia triumphed over a spirited Texas Tech team, unsurprisingly finished way out in front in the Live+3 ratings for the week of April 8. Although the sports broadcast’s scripted competition made some gains, its 5.4 ratings still more than doubled that of “Grey’s Anatomy” in [...]

  • Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million

    Mueller Report Release Draws 11 Million Total Viewers Across TV News

    Coverage of the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report into whether President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice unsurprisingly caused a ratings bump across TV news yesterday. In terms of overall viewership, around 11 million people tuned in to see Attorney General William Barr’s news conference regarding the report’s release, and the news coverage surrounding it. According [...]

  • Neilsons Measurment Problems TV Digital

    WarnerMedia Pulls Out of Audience-Targeting Alliance Open A.P.

    WarnerMedia is going its own way when it comes to helping advertisers find specific groups of TV-watchers. The company, a founding member of the audience-targeting media alliance known as Open A.P., said Friday it would withdraw from the group, citing its desire to pursue its own strategy under owner AT&T. AT&T purchased Time Warner in [...]

  • BLESS THIS MESS - "The Chicken

    Listen: Lake Bell, Dax Shepard on Returning to Broadcast TV With 'Bless This Mess'

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s installment, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, chats with Lake Bell and Dax Shepard, stars of ABC’s “Bless This Mess,” which debuted on Monday. The show centers around a newly married couple, played by Bell and Shepard, who decide to ditch their shoebox New York City [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content