×

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

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Writers Guild Says It Helped Negotiate 100 Deals for Agent-Less Members

    The Writers Guild of America has asserted that it has assisted in negotiating more than 100 deals in recent months for members without agents. The missive from the WGA West board of directors comes nearly a year after the guild leaders ordered their 15,000 members to fire their agents if the agents had not agreed [...]

  • Hilary Duff

    Hilary Duff Asks Disney to Move 'Lizzie McGuire' Revival to Hulu

    Hilary Duff has posted a statement asking that the planned revival of “Lizzie McGuire” be moved from Disney Plus to Hulu. “I’d be doing a disservice to everyone by limiting the realities of a 30 year old’s journey to live under the ceiling of a PG rating,” Duff wrote on Instagram. “It’s important to me [...]

  • Tan France Jameela Jamil

    TV News Roundup: Tan France, Jameela Jamil Among OZY Fest Headliners

    In today’s TV news roundup, OZY Media announced Tan France, Jameela Jamil and others as headliners of OZY Fest, and Netflix dropped the official trailer of “On My Block” Season 3. DATES Disney Channel‘s second season of “Just Roll With It” will premiere on Sunday, March 15 at 8:45 p.m. The sitcom follows the Bennett-Blatt family [...]

  • Lorraine Toussaint

    Queen Latifah's 'Equalizer' Reboot Pilot at CBS Casts Lorraine Toussaint

    Lorraine Toussaint has joined the CBS’ reboot pilot for “The Equalizer,” Variety has learned. She joins previously announced series lead Queen Latifah and recently announced cast member Liza Lapira. In the reimagined version, Queen Latifah stars as Robyn McCall, an enigmatic figure who uses her extensive skills to help those with nowhere else to turn. Toussaint [...]

  • Ben Schnetzer

    'Y: The Last Man' Series at FX Casts Ben Schnetzer as Yorick

    Ben Schnetzer has stepped into the role of Yorick Brown in FX’s upcoming “Y: The Last Man” series, Variety has learned. He takes over the role from Barry Keoghan, who exited the series at the beginning of this month. The show is based on Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s award-winning DC Comics graphic novel series [...]

  • Herb Dorfman Obit Dead

    Herb Dorfman, Orion Pictures Home Video Executive, Dies at 77

    Herb Dorfman, former Orion Pictures executive and a home video industry veteran, died Feb. 25 of complications from Parkinson’s disease and dementia. He was 77. Dorfman served as head of home entertainment for Orion Pictures from 1987 to late 1996. Orion was a prosperous independent studio in those days that turned out a steady stream [...]

  • Black Panther

    What's Coming to Disney Plus in March 2020

    Disney Plus will continue to expand its library next month, adding older films as well as new television shows, releasing as both weekly episodes and entire seasons. After streaming on Netflix for over a year, Marvel’s “Black Panther” is making its way to Disney Plus, leaving just “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content