'Ally McBeal' First Episode: THR's 1997 Review

Ally_McBeal_S01_Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Photofest

On September 8, 1997, Fox premiered a new hour-long series, Ally McBeal, which went on to nab 7 Emmy wins and 34 nominations during its five season run. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below: 

David E. Kelley adds another jewel to his telecrown, the latest a romantic whimsy for Fox called Ally McBeal. It’s a weekly hour about a beginning Boston lawyer who still loves her first boyfriend — who’s also in the firm and married to someone else.

As the luminous, Harvard-educated Ally, Calista Flockhart obviously is adored by writer-executive producer Kelley, director James Frawley and photographer Billy Dickson, who never let her out of their sight. It's like love at first through 50th sight.

It’s thin fantasy material that often stumbles over the line of cute, but it’s snappy and cleverly fresh. It might be a substantial effort to keep the same tone going with the meager premise, the triangulation going on with Ally, lifelong love Billy Alan Thomas (Gil Bellows) and his wife, Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith).

Ally realizes at a glance (as do we all), Georgia is not fat, is not stupid and isn’t missing any teeth. Neither does Ally assert that she wants to steal Billy, but, of course, that’s what the series is about.

Beside the brisk dialogue and the sexy tension, Kelley et al. do a few pretty flashbacks to underscore the longstanding love and engage in sight gags. Here’s one example: When Billy offers Ally coffee, she flashes on a huge coffee cup in which they’re cavorting.

Flockhart is full of invention, which is nifty since she has so much airtime, but she also gets excellent support from the others, including Lisa Nicole Carson as Ally’s cheeky roomie, Renee; Jane Krakowski as Ally’s too-grasping secretary, Elaine; and especially Greg Germann as the snaky Richard Fish, who runs the firm.

Germann makes a great creep, who asserts that it’s good to win, but it’s better to win ugly. He brings new joy to smarm. — Irv Letofsky

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