Ally McBeal, a TV series on Fox
(in Germany it's VOX - not really that much different, also owned by Rupert Murdoch
), is the only serial I still watch. It has ingenious humor and lovely characters. It's about a lawyers' office full of crazy people
who do funny things
. They are, in no particular order:
(Some spoilers ahead, but only for the first season. I've linked all the actors' names so you may add write-ups when you feel like it.)
- Calista Flockhart as Ally McBeal. She's the main character (oh, really?). A real weirdo who has daytime fantasies which are often visualized using neat special effects. One of them is that dancing baby that haunts her, another are her desires to have sex with various different tasty (not in the EDB sense of the word) men, who are also the reason that the show is very popular with women, whose online minority is probably the reason we don't see it praised here a lot. I still love the show although I'm not a woman. But then, perhaps I've got too much estrogen in my body. This stuff is everywhere. It's all a big conspiracy. This has really nothing to do with the show.
- Lisa Nicole Carson as Renee Radick, she plays Ally's best friend who also happens to be the public prosecutor. (Really, most people in the series are lawyers or eventually turn out to have always secretly been lawyers. This is because the series needs lawyers to keep the plot running. Both is pretty annoying, but it's a little thing and doesn't make it less funny. Ally McBeal probably the only subset of reality that needs lawyers to work.)
- Greg Germann as Richard Fish. He's Ally's boss and a greedy bastard, but pretty funny most of the time. He creates "Fishisms" (mostly anti-feminist statements of his) and brings in the weird cases (an old man who tries to escape from a prison with a trampoline made of rubber bands he has collected over 20 years or so, stuff like that) that the lawyers deal with. He talks pretty fast, too.
- Gil Bellows as Bill Thomas, he's Ally's ex-boyfriend and now married to Georgia, who is played by Courtney Thorne-Smith. Bill & Ally still love each other secretly, but Bill also loves Georgia, and Georgia and Ally are best friends, which is the background for lots of jealousy, love and hate. Bill is a pretty empty character, but still very expressive compared to most of the people we usually see on TV. He may simply seem a bit empty because Bill and Georgia are the only ones who are relatively normal compared to the rest of the bunch. Also, most of the episodes that bring him in at the front deal with his relationship to Ally.
- Peter MacNicol as John Cage, my favorite character besides Ally herself. He's just as crazy as Ally, if not more so. At hearings, he uses all sorts of tricks to distract the opponent lawyers and to manipulate the jury, like making funny noises with his stomach, firing up a flamethrower, wearing squeaky shoes or suddenly starting to sing. His character is developed strongly in later seasons, in the first episodes he rarely appears. He also leads the company together with Richard Fish.
- Jane Krakowski as Elaine Vassal, the office bitch. Really, she describes herself that way. She eavesdrops on other people's phonecalls and private conversations (often taping them) and prides herself with the number of people she has meaningless sex with. Pretty funny, sometimes rather annoying. She gets a little more background and character later.
- Portia de Rossi as Nelle Porter, a stunning blonde who has joined the staff later. She's a rather cold woman, but not as cold as her friend Ling Woo played by Lucy Liu. The two bring some very strange cases in, including an attempt to sue God and lots of weird stuff about sexual harassment, which resonates neatly with Richard's rather .. uhh .. conservative views. Both characters are a bit underdeveloped, although there are some highly emotional episodes with both of them.
What makes Ally so great that it's the only series I still watch? Several things:
- Many of the situations are simply hilarious. Especially the toilet scenes are absolutely unique and brilliant. They have unisex toilets, and many of the interesting conversations and plot elements take place there. One time, Ally actually gets stuck in the toilet and firemen have to rescue her. You don't find that funny? Neither did she!
- It's not a silly sitcom where the laughs come from tape. It's intelligent entertainment, people! It's not funny all of the time either. Some stories are really sad, others are, admittedly, a bit boring (especially the Ally/Bill/Georgia stories are a bit annoying, but I can live with that).
- It's got real characters. Not in the sense of being realistic, in the sense of being believable. In the sense of being full and not just something that some underpaid amateur writer made up on a bad day like most of the comedy you see on TV.
- While it's a fantasy world that has little to do with reality, it still makes you feel like you are there, and like you are welcome. It gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling in your belly, y'know.
- Ally's cute. Really. I'm not going to write much about that, because strong expressions of personal tastes can only lead to flame wars. But I really like her smile and her laugh and her facial expression when she finds out that the person she has been talking about for the last 5 minutes was secretly standing behind her all the time. And the kissing scenes are marvelous, too. Really, I usually don't dig close-ups of kissing scenes, but the ones in and with Ally are unique.
While it's a great series, it does have a maximum dose. I see Ally once a week, and I think I couldn't stand it much more than that, although I probably couldn't stand it much less than that either.
Is it something for people who don't have a "life"? Probably not. It's even more enjoyable with your girl- or boyfriend, if he/she goes for the humor. It certainly shouldn't receive any flames, because while Fox is indeed an evil corporation, the series seems to be the product of many creative minds who really know what they're doing, just like The Simpsons, also a Fox product, is. Give it a try. You may actually like it.