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Tuesday, May 23, 2000

The surprise at the heart of Ally McBeal's musical season finale was this: Ally has a boyfriend. Alert the media! Start spelling K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

The interesting question for your reviewer: Assuming the relationship survives, can the show? Thwarted love has always been its theme. Its premise from the first episode was Ally's pining over Billy, her married law firm colleague and childhood sweetheart. With Ally now ensconced in a serious relationship, the show may have betrayed itself -- and its viewers.

A Thousand And One Knights

Throughout this season, Ally's quixotic search for love drove virtually every episode, as the damsel in distress sought her knight in shining armor. Night after night we watched her slink home alone in the Boston rain. Like Britney Spears and Mick Jagger before her, Ally couldn't get no satisfaction -- although she did get some girlie action, in her much-anticipated yet wildly anticlimactic lesbian kiss with Ling.

Ally's romantic life this year was bleak. In the beginning, there was Carwash Guy. (Fatal flaw: willing to have anonymous sex in carwash.) Then came Faux-Homeless Guy. (Fatal flaw: dishonest -- pretended to be journalist pretending to be homeless, then admitted he actually was homeless.) Then Ally developed a crush on The Biscuit. (Fatal flaw: nose squeaks in court like a mouse on crack.)

flaw: enslaved Ally as personal barista.) Then Carwash Guy's evil twin, Car Crash Guy, appeared. (Fatal flaw: sued Ally purportedly for car accident, but in reality due to bad date.) Finally, Ally's online tryst with Cybersex Guy led to a statutory rape rap. (Fatal flaw: resembled maverick member of Menudo.) How much lower could we have descended? I was waiting for Ally to seduce a cross-dressing serial killer with a Jello fetish.

Meanwhile, Billy and his wife Georgia separated over his demand that Georgia become his geisha. Yet any hope of the separation triggering a Billy-Ally romance was dashed. Billy's new chauvinism was fatal -- ending in his melodramatic death from a sexism-induced brain tumor.

If you doubt the connection between Billy's sexism and his untimely demise, recall that after he started to attend men's meetings . . . lo, and it was told unto Ally in a dream: "You have to save him." Recall, too, that days before he died, Billy hallucinated Nell with breasts bigger than Anna Nicole Smith's. Clearly it was chauvinism that did Billy in. If the show's theory is true, someday Hooters will be sued for toxic torts.

Nell's tart comment upon Billy's death was apt: "In Ally's whole life, she's only managed to get one man to love her, and he's dead." No wonder Ally, who turned 30 this season, flirted with lesbianism and Prozac.

Can her new boyfriend, Hugh Grant Guy, ride off with her on a white horse? Would we be able to endure even one episode if he did? Tune in next season.

Women On The Verge Of Litigation

As Ally faced personal woes all season, other women lawyers suffered professionally -- and fled Fish & Cage, which became Sodom & Gomorrah. First, Georgia sued the firm, claiming its sexist atmosphere broke up her marriage. Then, after Nell was unfairly denied partnership, she became a Clairol-dunked Joan Crawford -- nastily absconding with clients, but ending up alone, crying into her Merlot.

Ally remained loyal -- despite having to lapdance her bosses in a skimpy Santa suit in the Christmas episode. So did Elaine -- but she marinates her clothes in pheromones. (ĂŽNuff said.) Nell too, relented and crawled back to Fish & Cage in the musical season finale -- even though like many in the cast, she thus suffered demeaning dubbing, reminiscent of voiceovers in martial arts movies. (Perhaps the low point of the finale was when Cage confessed childhood obesity, then had to sing "Johnny Was A Fat Boy"-- the season's example of karaoke as sadism.)

The only other women on the show -- the clients -- also suffered for their sexuality all season. Ling's escorts were deemed prostitutes. A "slutty" dresser was, bizarrely, sued by her female colleagues. Farrah Fawcett portrayed a boss who posed nude and then sued her male subordinates. Men sought annulments from wives who hadn't confessed their lesbianism or breast implants. A woman was charged with murder for suffocating her husband with her breasts. Another murder was the work of a pair of killer lesbians.

In short, the show began to look less like a courtroom drama than a compilation of male anxiety; a Rorschach test for the Hollywood male. Is this what Howard Stern's nightmares look like?

is a savvy critique of sexism or whether it simply is sexism. Perhaps it was just a nine-month hallucination of sexism. One of the strangest features of this season was the fact that hallucinations were both warning signs of death and dementia, and also normal practice for allegedly sane characters. Strange dancing claymation creatures did the Electric Slide, and the cast appeared as The Children They Once Were. But crooning lawyers, claymation projections and other weirdness notwithstanding, simply nothing is as weird as seeing Ally happy -- and with a boyfriend. I wish her well. She'll need it.

Julie Hilden, a Senior Editor of Writ, is the author of the memoir The Bad Daughter. She practiced First Amendment law at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Williams & Connolly from 1996-99. Her reviews of the past season's Ally McBeal episodes are archived in FindLaw's Entertainment section.

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