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Ally McBeal
starring: Callista Flockhart and company

by David
January, 1999

It's not manly to watch Ally McBeal. If you are a guy and you catch even a second of it as you flip through the channels on a Monday night, you run a great risk of suddenly becoming a wuss. That's what They tell you -- They want you to be afraid. They want you to stay away from Ally and her pals. Well, I'm here to tell you that I was flipping through the channels and I stopped and watched. I braved possible further wuss-infection and watched again the next week. And the next. And I'm here to tell you that, not only am I just as manly as I ever was, but Ally McBeal is a damn good show.

Let's start with the writing. David Kelly (also the creator/writer of the Practice and the creator of Chicago Hope) sits at home all day and writes. That is all he does. He writes every script for two weekly hour-long TV dramas -- two of the best shows on TV. (He recently announced that next season he'll be writing Chicago Hope as well.) His characters are vibrant and even the unlikeable ones are somehow endearing. His plotlines are engaging and his dialoge some of the most flowing and natural on TV or film. He has an uncanny ability to identify what kinds of stories will appeal to different people, amd then weave so many complementing stories into each episode that everyone is left satisfied. The man is a genius.

And the acting is just as good. Even Flockhart's portrayal of the whining, annoying Ally (the character I like least on the show) is so dead-on and sincere that sometimes I am shocked at how strong my reactions are to this fictional character. The supporting cast is so very good across the board and, since their characters are not so whiny and self-involved (for the most part) they get a lot of the best storylines and funniest stuff. Saying that they are all strong actors would almost be insulting them -- they are all excellent actors. Most outstanding among this extremely talented group is Peter MacNichol . This TV and film veteran is one of the most under-appreciated actors working today -- his comic timing is impeccable and he is one of the most sincere actors I have ever watched. He is equally comfortable in comic and dramatic situations and creates more rounded, believable, engaging characters than almost any other actor on TV or film. His Ally McBeal character, a diminutive, stuttering, neurotic, warm-hearted lawyer named John "Biscuit" Cage is the most likeable character on the show and would be reason enough to watch, even if the rest of the show was pke-pke-pke-poop. Which it is most certainly not.

Bottom line -- take some time to watch this show, at least once -- I think you'll find that you like it. The stories are entertaining and engaging, the show (especially Peter McNichol) is often laugh-out-loud funny, and I hear some people find it very touching. But not me -- I'm too manly. At least, so far as you know.

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