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    Ally McBeal - Season 1

    20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 970 mins . M15+ . PAL


    David E. Kelley is one intriguing dude. From the likes of his more serious efforts such as LA Law, Chicago Hope, The Practice and Boston Public, through to the more whimsical Picket Fences there are two things you can always rely upon receiving – lots of often thought-provoking legal stuff, delivered with a rather out-there, but still accessible, sense of humour that always tends towards the weirder side of life.

    Ally McBeal sees the latter trait turned up to eleven, with the main emphasis being on comedy rather than drama. While some wags out there may suggest it be called “coma”, perhaps “dramedy” would be a better description. For those who are fans, however, this first season serves as a fabulous reminder of just how good the show, and indeed David E. Kelley’s writing, can be.

    For the uninitiated, Ally McBeal revolves around the life of the lead character, a sickeningly skinny waif of a lawyer who seems to subsist only on carrot sticks, the odd bowl of Jello and lots of usually relationship-centric neurotic introspection.

    Thrown into the mix is her simply bizarre workplace, the law firm of Cage and Fish – named after its co-founders John Cage, or “The Biscuit”, a curious little man with more foibles and oddities than a MENSA get together (who is also the show’s most fabulous character) and Richard Fish, a money-grabbing sleazebag able to spout words of wisdom how he sees it (“Fishisms”) at the drop of a jaw who has a curious fixation with women’s necks. Ally has an assistant, Elaine, an eavesdropping floozy who’s always quick with (dodgy) advice, plus an amply bosomed flatmate district attorney in Renee. Then there’s Billy. Ah, Billy – the former love of her life who left her in law school, and has now married Georgia, but who may not necessarily be over she of the wafer-thin physique...

    The show plays out in a melange of bizarre fantasy sequence blipverts – dumpsters, guillotines, giant balls and expanding heads to name a few, inner monologues, whacked–out judges, occasional work and the centre of the show’s universe – the unisex bathroom. After all, it promotes worker harmony. Ahem.

    Contained herein are the pilot and the first season of 22 episodes. So what’s in store? Read on...

    The setup – Ally leaves a bottom-squeezing workplace and lands at Cage and Fish. Out of the frying pan and into... especially when she encounters Billy and finds out about Georgia...
    Fishism: “I'm nothing if not redundant. I also repeat myself.”

    Compromising Positions
    The Biscuit is arraigned on charges of soliciting a prostitute – then Ally gets to feel much like one herself with a prospective client. Billy has a secret, and there’s a little kiss...
    Fishism: “Problem is just a bleak word for a challenge.”

    The Kiss
    Ally dates a client and teams up with Georgia to defend a TV anchorwoman fired due to her age. This time there’s a REALLY little kiss after a double date...
    Fishism: “Everybody is alone. It's just easier to take in a relationship.”

    The Affair
    The widow of a former professor asks Ally to act as a pallbearer at her husband’s funeral, as she was his favourite student - however, little does she know what Ally knows...
    Fishism: “There's no embarrassing way to make money.”

    One Hundred Tears Away
    Ally is arrested after she trips a woman in a supermarket in an argument over potato chips. She gets a continuance, but her licence to practice law is suspended by the State Bar Review...
    Fishism: “Make enough money, everything else will follow.”

    The Promise
    Ally saves a rather large man's life with mouth-to-mouth, only for him to become somewhat smitten with his newly-found “angel”. Meanwhile, there are ogling problems in the office...
    Fishism: “I can't do anything about it, but I'd be happy to sympathize.”

    The Attitude
    Ally tries to get a “get” for a client, only to have a run-in with a rabbi. Georgia is having work problems and Ally has a blotchy and blobby date...
    Fishism: “Helping people is never more rewarding than when it's in your own self-interest.”

    Drawing the Lines
    The firm is enlisted to help the wife of a rather loaded cheating guy counteract a pre-nup, Elaine escalates her sexual harassment complaint, Ally and Billy have troubles with this ‘friend’ thing and The Biscuit picks a winner. Poop!
    Fishism: “I plan to have character one day, great character, but if you wanna be rich you better get the money before the scruples set in.”

    The Dirty Joke
    Ally fears a Julie Andrews rep – so tries to toughen her image by delving into the lurid world of dirty jokes. Meanwhile, the firm is sued by a delivery girl, Fish gets some illicit waddle action and ooh, more Poop!
    Fishism: “You know, I had a great aunt once who said if you stare at a beautiful woman too long, you turn to stone. She was partially right.”

    Boy to the World
    Ally defends a young transvestite prostitute whom she ends up befriending, while Fish gets litigious over issues his dead uncle had with non-tallness. Meanwhile, just for a change there’s some dating confusion...
    Fishism: “Happiness can be found in one word... denial!”

    Silver Bells
    It’s Christmas – time for introspection and time to see who’ll sing at the office Christmas party. There’s some threesome action, and anger from Georgia for all the wrong reasons...
    Fishism: “She told her that you told her about what she told you. I'm in the middle and clueless. I feel like Elaine.”

    THAT old issue of size and its importance raises itself due to a sculpting class and Ally has quite a big date. Bullying comes up, and we meet THAT confounded dancing baby...
    Fishism: “After women marry and have kids, they don't want any part of a man's penis. The bigger it is, the more of him she doesn't want.”

    The Blame Game
    Ally, Georgia and The Biscuit go in for a spot of airline spanking in a case involving a plane crash. Ally catches up with a big fella once again – and introduces him to ‘The Penguin’...
    Fishism: “This is what happens when the justice system gets perverted by principles!”

    Body Language
    There’s a touch of the bridesmaid blues, Ally tries to convince a prison superintendent to let a “lifer” wed, The Biscuit gets some "smile therapy" and Fish loses on-tap waddle...
    Fishism: “If there's one thing I know, it's women. When they're beautiful, they need to be thought of as smart. When they're smart, they need to be thought of as beautiful.”

    Once in a Lifetime
    Ally is dealing with a famed elderly artist and a gold digger – or is she? She’s also having bickie issues, while Cage solicits dating advice for fear of being a soggy Biscuit...
    Fishism: “If you don't kiss a girl on the first date, you're a gentleman. If you don't on the second, you're gay.”

    Forbidden Fruits
    The firm lands a rather high profile case representing a Senator who’s been accused of breaking up his now wife's previous marriage, while Ally's views on love cause more dramas...
    Fishism: “Personal questions don't bother me. I just lie.”

    Theme of Life
    Ally takes up kickboxing, and has a bout with Georgia. Meanwhile, Ms Size 0 (mrrf!) defends a doctor accused of transplanting a big fat hog’s liver into a woman without her knowledge. The theme song therapy begins...
    Fishism: “You gotta remember, you're not who you are. You're only what other people think of you.”

    The Playing Field
    Ally battles a teary munchkin attorney while a woman claims she is the victim of harassment because she refused to use sex to climb the corporate ladder. Just for a change there are more dating dilemmas - think lips...
    Fishism: “Verbal spankings titillate.”

    Happy Birthday, Baby
    Ally represents a lonely guy with a fetishist leaning towards tootsies who refuses to use insanity as a defence. She also freaks out when her friends assail her with a surprise birthday party...
    Fishism: “The outside world just doesn't get the joke.”

    The Inmates
    Ooh, smell that cross-promotion! The Practice does Ally, to defend a wealthy axe-happy client accused of murdering her hubby. Elsewhere a waiter claims to have been fired for not being gay and Renee gets herself arrested...
    Fishism: “What's inside doesn't count, it's how things look.”

    Being There
    The Biscuit comes to Renee’s defence, while somebody just may be pregnant. Time for a new theme song...
    Fishism: “Having a child is a selfish thing. Couples don't walk around wanting to give life, they say, “we want a child”. We want, we want, it’s a selfish thing, not that it's not a good selfish, but it's selfish.”

    Alone Again
    The Biscuit defends a 72 year old convict who used a home, erm, prison-made trampoline to break out just a month prior to release, while a woman wishes to sue her ex-fiancé for emotional distress, after leaving her alone at the altar. Speaking of leaving...
    Fishism: “In every person's life there comes a time when you have to go forth and be vicious.”

    These are the Days
    Bobby (The Practice) can’t get enough of Ally and comes back for more, after help on a case involving two men wishing to swap hearts. A cousin of The Biscuit's is arrested for assailing happy loving couples with a paddle, and there’s a whole lotta reflectin’ goin’ on...
    Fishism: “Never trust second thoughts, where there's two, there's three. You'll end up thinking forever.”


    Those accustomed to fairly recent vintage television shows on DVD should have a fair inkling of what to expect here. Presented full frame, and naturally being non-anamorphic because of this, things generally look, well, quite televisual. To be more specific, there is a fine amount of graininess that is quite omnipresent, which does have a slightly adverse effect on detail, especially in darker scenes, however at least with the image not being over-sharp nasties such as aliasing and shimmering are to all intents and purposes non-existent – and you won’t cut yourself on it! Bygones. Colour is pleasingly true to life and no other signs of visual gremlins show their ugly faces, nor are there any annoying layer changes popping up.

    To sum it up, you won’t have seen Ally McBeal looking this good before – what more could we wish for?


    The television show rule applies here as well. Sonically were served up a Dolby Digital surround mix that does its job extremely well, delivering the often rapid-fire dialogue clearly and effectively with no synch issues, in an environment where surround gymnastics aren’t particularly relevant or expected, and aren't particularly noticeable anyway save for a little ambience.

    Incidental music comes from composer Danny Lux, and his appropriate wares share time with classics from the likes of The Supremes and the great God of human-subwoofwoofness Barry White, plus of course she who could only be described as a composter, the seemingly omnipresent pillar of “BLEAH!” that is Vonda Shepard with her histrionically overwrought assaults on mostly once classic tunes.


    Umm, erm... well, each disc has a differently coloured static menu that will please fans of the human stick insect no end...


    Fans of Ally McBeal shouldn’t hesitate, this is just what you’ve been waiting for so get your order in now while you can, as it is only on limited release locally and is only available through EzyDVD - and wouldn't be coming out here at all if they hadn't agreed to cover the production costs.

    More than fifteen hours of uninterrupted McBeal deal awaits, sans those annoying ads and watermarks. Quality is as good as you can expect from a television series on DVD, and whilst the complete lack of extras may be rued by some, it could also be seen as a potential blessing – just think, they could have stuck on more Vonda Shepard...

    Now if only somebody would give Ally a mighty good feed, still she’s the type that keeps the likes of Kookai in business, so I guess her complete lack of anything resembling a body shape serves some purpose to the planet...

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1343
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      And I quote...
    "Fans of Ally McBeal shouldn’t hesitate, this is just what you’ve been waiting for..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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