Ally McBeal was an American television dramedy created by David E. Kelley, with Calista Flockhart in the title role as a young lawyer working in a fictional Boston law firm named Cage & Fish, filled with similarly young lawyers who lives and loves are highly melodramatic. The show ran on the FOX network from 1997 to 2002.
Despite its legal environment, the show pays minimal attention to the actual practice of law. Instead it focuses on the romantic and personal lives of the main characters, though sometimes juxtaposing legal proceedings as plot devices to contrast or reinforce a character's drama. For example, bitter divorce litigation of a client might backdrop Ally's decision to break up with a boyfriend.
Particularly notable, the show frequently used vivid, dramatic fantasy visuals for a character's wishful thinking. Also, regular visits to a local, idealized bar where singer and cast member Vonda Shepard
regularly performed (though occasionally handing over the microphone to the characters). Each episode generally concluded on an upbeat, hopeful note with energetic music.
Ally McBeal was hugely successful, but received much criticism from TV critics and feminists who found the title character annoying and demeaning to women because of her excessive flightiness, lack of demonstrated legal knowledge, and extreme emotional instability. Flockhart's visible loss of weight by the second season also caused much media speculation.
However, Ally's search for true love struck a chord with young female audiences, and the eccentric characters around her were developed further, giving the show firm footing.
In the fourth season, Robert Downey Jr. joined the regular cast as Ally's boyfriend Larry, resurrecting the ratings of a show that had lost its novelty and thus much of its audience. However, when Downey was forced to leave as his (real life) drug addiction caused him legal troubles, plus other central cast members such as Lucy Liu also left, the ratings sank again. Not even guest appearances from Matthew Perry and singer Jon Bon Jovi and Christina Ricci in season five were enough to save the show.
- From Wikipedia