20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 540 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Shoot that poison arrow through my heart.
Like it or not, Ally McBeal was a genuine television phenomenon. The first season, as well as the stellar second season, represent the best the show ever had to offer. While the show was never completely awful TV, the final three seasons couldn’t match the charm and appeal of McBeal in the debut and sophomore seasons.
For those unfamiliar with the story of the single female lawyer with a vivid fantasy life, here’s the basic story. Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart) went to Law School because childhood sweetheart Billy (Gil Bellows) was going to Harvard Law School. But Billy swiftly transfers to another school, leaving Ally heartbroken. As the series begins, Ally is reunited with Billy at the law firm of Cage & Fish, run by another classmate, money loving Richard Fish (Greg Germann) and his odd law partner, John Cage (Peter McNichol). Throw in Ally’s annoying assistant Elaine (Jane Krakowski), her best friend and fellow lawyer Renee (Lisa Nicole Carson) and the presence of Billy’s lawyer wife Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith) and the world of Ally McBeal is complete.
The adventures of Ally McBeal begin with the first twelve episodes of the first season.
Ally gets fired by her law firm after an associated harasses her. Her Harvard classmate Richard Fish hires her at his new firm, where Ally discovers childhood sweetheart Billy. Fantasy highlight: Four arrows spring into Ally chest after she hears Billy is married.
Ally meets senior partner John Cage and is assigned to defend him for soliciting a prostitute. Fantasy highlight: Ally imagining Judge Boyle with a prostitute.
Ally and Georgia represent an anchorwoman who was fired for being too old.
Ally is asked to give the eulogy at the funeral for her favourite law professor. Problems arise when Ally confesses she had an affair with the professor. Fantasy highlight: Ally (literally) suffering foot in mouth disease.
The face bra
One Hundred Tears Away
Ally gets into an altercation with a woman at the supermarket over a packet of Pringles. Ally trips the woman and is arrested for assault, and shoplifting.
The Promise Ally handles a case involving an ice cream firm suing another for use of its name. Opposing counsel, the rather large Harry Pippin, has a heart attack in court and Ally saves his life. As a result he becomes smitten with Ally. Fantasy highlight: Ally imagining the car tipping over on her date with Harry.
The Attitude Ally becomes smitten with a colleague of Renee’s, Jason Roberts. But on their date, Ally is repulsed when Jason slops salad dressing on his chin. Fantasy highlight: Jason with salad dressing dripping all over his face.
Drawing the Lines Ally and Georgia bond when they depend Marci Hatfield, who has been dumped by her husband for his mistress. While Ally and Billy have a problem with their ‘friendship’. Fantasy highlight: Billy’s and Richard’s KISS tongues.
Billy & Richard hard at work
The Dirty Joke Ally and Renee have a dirty joke telling contest. The infamous delivery girl that the Cage & Fish men have been ogling, sues them for sexual harassment. Fantasy highlight: Ally as the limbless women from Renee’s joke.
Boy To The World Ally defends sweet transvestite prostitute Stephanie Grant whom she ends up befriending.
Silver Bells Ally takes on a case involving two women and a man who want to have a trio marriage. The case creates tension for the trio of Ally, Billy and Georgia. Fantasy highlight: Ally, Georgia and Judge Whipper shooting the husband.
Cro-Magnon Ally, Georgia and Renee take a sculpting class that features a rather attractive male model, whom Ally begins dating. Fantasy highlight: The ooga-chaka dancing baby.
Being a TV show, Ally McBeal is presented in its original 1.33:1 Fullscreen aspect ratio. Skin tones are realistic and shadow detail is respectable. Sharpness is inconsistent with some episodes offering wonderful details, while others are overly soft and grainy. There are occasional incidents of both edge enhancement and visible film artefacts, but these defects don't excessively plague the overall image. Colours are spectacular with superb richness and depth. Layer changes thankfully occur between episodes. Although there are a few minor problems, Ally generally looks bright and sharp on DVD.
A strong Dolby Digital Stereo audio package serves all aspects of this series adequately. Dialogue is always clear and audible and is directed, without any problems, through the front and centre channels. The rear channels are well utilised for the occasional effect, such as those involved with certain fantasy sequences, and for Vonda Shepard’s musical interludes.
Bygones, absolutely no extra material.
Waif, armed & dangerous.
I'll admit to being caught up in the Ally McBeal craze for the first couple of seasons. The show may have gone down hill after its first few seasons, but the charm of the first season is undeniable. All the fantasy sequences are entertaining and the core characters are appealingly nutty. While the first half of this debut season offers some wonderful episodes, the show really starts to take off in the second half of the season, so check out the review of Ally McBeal Season One Part Two.