Today, I was listening to a Vonda Shepard CD I had found at the thrift store. I got it because I remembered her from “Ally McBeal” and liked her voice a lot. When I put it on in my car, the first song was, of course, “Searchin’ My Soul” and it transported me back into my “Ally McBeal” watching days.
I wasn’t interested in the show at first. Then I was home from college on spring break and an episode with Jessie L. Martin came on. Since he was in the Original Broadway Cast of “Rent,” I knew I had to watch this episode. And you know what? It was pretty good. I think this episode also had the first appearance of the dancing baby. After that, I was hooked and started watching it all the time, including reruns of the episodes I missed. (I found out that Taye Diggs was on after I stopped watching the series.)
Ally McBeal is like the American version of Bridget Jones with her short skirts and all her quirks and insecurities. Watching Ally was almost equivalent to reading about Bridget. There are a lot of fun things I remember about that series. First, there was lots of music all the time, including scenes where the characters break out into a song and dance routine. I’m a musical theater junkie so that was definitely appealing. Then Vonda Shepard would sing whatever song fit the mood of a particular scene. She’d also be playing piano at the bar where all the lawyers congregated after work.
The characters really made the show what it was. Ally had such a fun group to work and hang out with. John “The Biscuit” Cage was this adorable, neurotic guy, from what I remember. Then there was the misogynistic Richard Fish, who found this one area of a girl’s neck attractive and called it the “wattle.” (For some reason, I could see Will Arnett playing him if the show was ever recast for the 21st century.) I liked Elaine a lot, as she made it look cool and fun to be an administrative professional. Jane Krakowski, who played her, is now on “30 Rock.” She has a good singing voice too. There was the really old judge who died and they did a tribute for him in one of the episodes. It was hard not to get teary-eyed from that. And we can’t forget about Ally’s unrequited love, Billy Thomas. However, I felt the show jumped the shark after Billy died and came back as a ghost. Lucy Liu and Portia de Rossi also got their start on this show.
There were also the fun quirks the show had, such as co-ed bathrooms and dancing babies. The “theme song” concept came from “Ally McBeal” too. I loved the song she picked (“Tell Him”) and how she was dancing to it on the street. Then there was Fish always saying “Bygones” or the Biscuit doing gymnastics in the bathroom. Ally's dorky nervousness around guys was hilarious too. She'd always fall over or say something embarrassing when she was around a guy she found attractive.
I bailed on the show as soon as Billy started making appearances as a ghost. I just thought it was a little far-fetched. At that point, I was starting to find Calista Flockhart to be a bit annoying too. So when I talk about “Ally McBeal,” I talk about the period of time when I did find the show cute and amusing. It was like a precursor to chick lit for me.