created by David E. Kelley
about a neurotic lawyer and the wacky people she works with. The series lasted from September, 1997 to May, 2002. A total of 112 episodes (all but one of which was written or co-written by Kelley) in five seasons. Ally herself was played by Calista Flockhart.
The series went for 'nutty' in a very big way, with preposterous lawsuits (man is fired for having bad comb over and sues, dying boy sues God, etc), dream and fantasy sequences all over the place, spontaneous dance numbers and the like. Probably best known in its early years for the CGI baby dancing to the "ooga-chaka" chorus from Blue Swede's "Hooked On A Feeling", and in its later seasons for a surfeit of "daring" "lesbian" kisses among various women in the cast. Achieved a kind of brilliance in the legal arguments made by the character John Cage. Achieved retch-inducing horror in its mundane romantic complications.
The show was the second-most popular program on Fox
when it was around, and was such a huge part of pop culture that Time
ran a cover story on it, accusing it of killing feminism. However, after its cancellation it vanished off the public radar
, and now it's most known for being the subject of a Futurama
This show provides examples of:
- Angry Dance: Lampshaded when John gets furious at Nelle for being a snobby Rich Bitch. He dances frantically in his office and Richard comes in. He points out to John that it's his Angry Dance. John replies that HE'S ANGRY!
- Ascended Meme: The dancing baby is one of the earliest internet memes.
- Back for the Finale
- Bait-and-Switch Credits: The opening promised a smiling and happy women most of the time, downplaying the show's dramatic moments.
- Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults:
- The trope swirls around this series like a cgi-baby circles Ally. There was one time Ally looks under the door of the stalls before she starts, only to find later that Elaine put her legs up.
- Sometimes averted by Searching the Stalls.
- Bilingual Bonus: Ling's argument in a Chinese restaurant, although it's still funnier when you have no idea what's being said.
- Birthday Hater: Ally was unable to appreciate her friends' plans for her birthday parties and couldn't even civilly accept their birthday wishes. She hated getting older without a husband in sight, feeling like a bit of a Christmas Cake. However, her friends could have been handling the issue differently. Why inflict parties on her when she hates them?
- Bitter Sweet Ending
- Black Best Friend: Renee seems to thrive on setting Ally up.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: A whole office full of them, and they are literally lawyers. All are very weird, but their firm hardly ever loses the case. Elaine is a Bunny-Ears secretary.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: Ally is mortified when she tells the patrons at her favorite bar a risque joke and they react with disgust.
- Character Title
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Renee. It wasn't explained why she and Ally suddenly were not room-mates or what happened to her law firm.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Ally, and lots of other people.
- Courtroom Antic
- Cousin Oliver: The daughter Ally had years before the series began tracks her down and moves in with her in the final season. Does this change Miss McBeal's worldview? Does it heck.
- Cross Over: Season 1 had one with The Practice. Strangely, some characters are actually seen watching the famous "head in a bag!" scene later.
- Fond Memories That Could Have Been: Billy confessed his love for Ally just moments before he died. He hallucinated and believed they were married and had kids together.
- Freudian Slip: Many, many characters many, many times. Ally sometimes slips into a Freudian Slippery Slope when flustered.
- Hallucinations: Ally has a lot of these.
- Head Desk: At one point, Ally makes her head meet desk a few times, saying "I have my health" every time.
- Hello, Attorney!: Found in all of David E. Kelley's legal shows, but probably reaches its apotheosis here. The female attorneys are dismayed to learn that this is actually a central part of the firm's business strategy... as highlighted on their official PR material.
- Imagine Spot: Ally has them on regular basis. It becomes a problem when she cannot distinguish them from reality. For example, one episode she kept seeing a famous singer, and she nearly attacked a real one who by chance appeared in their favourite bar.
- Indulgent Fantasy Segue
- In-Series Nickname: In spades. John Cage is "The Biscuit", Nelle Porter is called "Sub-zero", Mark Albert is "The Closer", and one Elaine's friend and former employee is called "Peanut".
- It's All About Me: Three guesses as to who "me" is.
- Ivy League For Everyone
- Jerk With A Heartof Gold: Richard Fish, Ling, Elaine and arguably Renee
- Littlest Cancer Patient: He decides he wants to sue God.
- MAD: Ally's Appeal. (Interestingly, the singer played by Vonda Shepard is actually called Vonda here, but looks nothing at all like Miss Shepard.)
- Male Restroom Etiquette/Wondrous Ladies Room: Both displayed, due to the unisex bathroom.
- Minor Flaw, Major Breakup: Ally would often dump a guy after one awkward date over a minor flaw. One guy could not eat properly and put salad on his face, or once a guy had Annoying Laugh.
- Musical Episode
- Nietzsche Wannabe: Richard Fish.
- The Nineties
- No Fourth Wall
- Only Law Firm in Town
- Pet the Dog: Ling, despite her abrasive personality and wildly offensive comments, likes to volunteer at an old folks home.
- Rant Inducing Slight: Ling hates it when people mispronounce her name by putting emphasis on the G or using a hard L.
- Ratings Stunt: The good old 90s lesbian kiss stunt.
- Really Gets Around: Elaine or so she claims.
- Record Needle Scratch: Constantly.
- Refuge in Audacity: Ling convinces a boy with leukemia that he can sue God. Well, actually his church so he can get the money for treatment. He wins, then promptly dies.
- Rich Bitch: Ling.
- Sassy Black Woman: Renee.
- Scooby Stack: When Ally is breaking up with Larry, the entire office spy on her and try to learn the latest gossip or see how she's coping. At one point, they all (minus Richard who is in LA) stick their heads in her door and immediately pull them out when Ally notices them.
- Sexy Santa Dress: Ally wears it while singing "Santa Baby" in one of the Christmas episodes. Very hot indeed.
- Softer And Slower Cover: The show regularly features various famous songs redone by Vonda Shephard in a slower, quieter style. For example, Bing Crosby's "Swing On A Star" was covered with a slower tempo and emphasis on the "Pig" part of the song.
- Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss: Thrice, always Ally with someone.
- Elaine once took Ally by surprise and starting kissing her in order to pretend Ally is gay and her girlfriend. Ally's date guy was a douche who would not take a hint to leave. He didn't buy it.
- Ally tries Elaine's bit on a guy who is a huge nutbag and loser who becomes convinced Ally and him are soul mates. Ally asks Georgia to do it and she obliges. The guy takes the bait and tells Ally there are ways to be cured.
- Ally and Ling once become fascinated with each other and try kissing in a very long scene. They agree it was good, but it missed one thing — a penis.
- Tinkle in the Eye: When Elaine found an abandoned baby boy and wanted to adopt him, he tinkled in the eyes of nearly everybody, mainly Ling and Nelle. It made Elaine invent protective goggles.
- Theme Music Power-Up: Ally's therapist advises her to think of a song she can sing to make herself feel better. She knows "this one song" and starts to sing it. It happens to be the show's theme song. The therapist cuts her off before she even reaches the first chorus and tells her it's an absolutely terrible song.
- Two First Names: Larry Paul, Ally's main love interest in Season 4
- Vagina Dentata: In one episode, the female regulars are wondering aloud about Ling's latest lawsuit, and Elaine comments "Maybe her gynaecologist pulled the wrong tooth".