Lawyers in Literature and Film; Ally McBeal

There's always a character in your past who influences you for good or ill; when I had my first child and was a stay at home Mum, I loved watching Ally McBeal. There was just something about her sweet, childlike demeanour, or the fact that she spent hours worrying about whether she would ever get a boyfriend/get married/have a child whilst at the same time being a lawyer at a high powered but eccentric firm in Boston.

The show was created by David E Kelley, a famous name in legal TV work and the genius behind LA Law, The Practise and Boston Legal as well as Ally McBeal. He was asked to create a show that would keep women aged 18 to 34 on the channel after another show, Melrose Place, had finished. His original brief was to make it about business executives; he changed it to lawyers and...boom... Ally was born.

As legal dramas go, Ally stands unique. It had a good cast of characters that were quirky individuals; some of them were downright strange! It had a backstory and personal issues all over the place, and it was about a breed of Boston lawyers that we just didn't ever get in downtown Liverpool. You can carry that coffee shop coffee in everyday, but without the gratuitous scenes of Boston and the beautiful half  moon windows in the law offices, it just isn't the same.
Ally McBeal was as much a comedy drama about the cast as about the legal issues in it. It cast a female lawyer in a different light; they weren't all hard-nosed business women out to fight every man going, they could be flawed individuals with hopeless romantic notions about past boyfriends (Billy, played by Gil Bellows) and a biological clock that didn't so much tick as gyrate around her bedroom in the cutest possible way.

 I remember the biggest controversy about Ally McBeal was that all the main females were stick thin; Calista Flockhart (Mrs Harrison Ford, as she would be come) and Portia De Rossi were both accused of setting a bad example to the younger generation just for being very thin, and Courtney Thorne-Smith, who played Georgia, quit the show because she was under so much pressure not to eat.

But that isn't a reason to either criticise or enjoy the show, or to stop us from looking at Ally as a prime example of a TV lawyer. The show was skilled in pointing out the irony of the litigation culture, prevalent in the USA even now, where people could sue each other  for the most ridiculous reasons. Whatever your problems;if you had been fired for the most ridiculous reasons - for having orange skin or for seeing unicorns or for thinking you are Santa Claus - the team of lawyers at Cage and Fish would fight your case for you. However ridiculous the case, the programme took the legal arguments seriously, and John Cage's summations were a work of art. If only real life were Ally coloured.

At the beginning, I did say that characters influence you for good or bad; well, I was too 'old' (I thought) to pursue the legal career to be Ally, but I did love the music. Vonda Shepherd, whose version of Searching my Soul was the series theme tune, featured in many of the episodes and I loved the way that music was used throughout the series. I still like to buy a takeout coffee now and again and I would dearly, dearly love the patterned pyjamas that Ally had. 


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