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Ally McBeal
Created byDavid E. Kelley
Theme music composerVonda Shepard
Opening theme"Searchin' My Soul"
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes112 (list of episodes)
Executive producers
  • Kayla Alpert (2000–01)
  • Kim Hamberg (1998–2002)
  • Mike Listo (1997–2000)
  • Jack Philbrick (2000–02)
  • Steve Robin (1997–2002)
  • Pamela J. Wisne (1997–2002)
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time45–48 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseSeptember 8, 1997 (1997-09-08) –
May 20, 2002 (2002-05-20)
The Practice

Ally McBeal is an American legal comedy drama television series created by David E. Kelley and produced by David E. Kelley Productions and 20th Century Fox for Fox. David E. Kelley and Bill D'Elia were executive producers.

The series revolves around Calista Flockhart in the title role as a lawyer working in the Boston law firm Cage and Fish. Although ostensibly a legal drama, the main focus of the series is the romantic and personal lives of the main characters. The show originally aired on Fox from September 8, 1997, to May 20, 2002.

The series received critical acclaim in its early seasons, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy in 1998 and 1999, and also winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1999. The series was canceled by Fox after five seasons.

Potential revivals of the show have been reported twice. In March 2021, it was reported that a revival as a limited series was in early development by 20th Television with Flockhart possibly returning.[2] In August 2022, it was reported that ABC was in early development of a sequel series and had approached Flockhart to reprise her role and executive-produce. However, regardless of the report, neither project has eventuated yet.

YouTube Encyclopedic

  • 1/5
    596 267
    131 383
    88 498
    209 303
    749 949
  • Best of Ally McBeal Part 1
  • All time best scene from Ally Mcbeal
  • ALLY MCBEAL Wins Outstanding Comedy Series | Emmy Archive 1999
  • Best of Ally McBeal part 2
  • 75th Emmy Awards: Ally McBeal



Allison Marie "Ally" McBeal begins working at the Boston law firm Cage & Fish, co-owned by her law school classmate Richard Fish (Greg Germann). She left her previous firm due to sexual harassment. On her first day, Ally is dismayed to discover that she will be working alongside her ex-boyfriend Billy Thomas (Gil Bellows)—whom she has never gotten over. Even worse, Billy is now married to fellow lawyer Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith), who later joins Cage & Fish. The triangle among the three forms the basis for the main plot for the show's first three seasons.

Although ostensibly a legal drama, the main focus of the series is the romantic and personal lives of the main characters, often using legal proceedings as plot devices to contrast or reinforce a character's drama. For example, bitter divorce litigation of a client might provide a backdrop for Ally's decision to break up with a boyfriend. Legal arguments were also frequently used to explore multiple sides of various social issues.

Cage & Fish (which becomes Cage/Fish & McBeal; Cage, Fish, & Associates towards the end of the series), the law firm where most of the characters work, is depicted as a highly sexualized environment symbolized by its unisex restroom. Lawyers and secretaries in the firm routinely date, flirt with, or have a romantic history with one another and frequently run into former or potential romantic interests in the courtroom or on the street outside.

The series had many offbeat and frequently surreal running gags and themes, such as Ally's tendency to immediately fall over whenever she met somebody she found attractive, Richard Fish's wattle fetish and humorous mottos ("Fishisms" & "Bygones"), John's gymnastic dismounts out of the office's unisex bathroom stalls, or the dancing twins (played by Eric & Steve Cohen) at a frequented bar. The show uses vivid, dramatic fantasy sequences for Ally's and other characters' wishful thinking; of particular note is the early internet sensation the dancing baby.

The series also featured regular visits to a local bar where singer Vonda Shepard regularly performed (though occasionally handing over the microphone to the characters). Star contemporary singers also performed in the bar at the end of the shows, including acts such as Mariah Carey, Barry White and Anastacia. The series also took place in the same continuity as David E. Kelley's legal drama The Practice (which aired on ABC), as the two shows crossed over with one another on occasion, a rare occurrence for two shows that aired on different networks.

Ultimately, in the series finale "Bygones", Ally leaves Cage & Fish and relocates to New York City.


Fox canceled Ally McBeal after five seasons. In addition to being the lowest-rated season of Ally McBeal and the grounds for the show's cancellation, the fifth season was also the only season of the show that failed to win any Emmy or Golden Globe awards.


Cast of season 4 (from left): (top) Liu, Downey, Krakowski, Germann, MacNicol; (middle) Carson, de Rossi, Flockhart; (bottom) Shepard, LeGros
14 Beacon Street in Boston, the exterior of which was used as the location for the law firm "Cage & Fish" (later "Cage, Fish, & McBeal"), which was located on the 7th floor of this building[3]
List of main Ally McBeal characters, with actors, by season
Actor Character Seasons
1 2 3 4 5
Calista Flockhart Ally McBeal Main
Greg Germann Richard Fish Main
Lisa Nicole Carson Renée Raddick Main Guest
Jane Krakowski Elaine Vassal Main
Peter MacNicol John Cage Main Recurring
Gil Bellows Billy Allen Thomas Main Guest
Courtney Thorne-Smith Georgia Thomas Main Guest
Portia de Rossi Nelle Porter Main
Lucy Liu Ling Woo Main Recurring
Vonda Shepard Herself Recurring Main
James LeGros Mark Albert Recurring Main
Robert Downey Jr. Larry Paul Main Guest
Regina Hall Coretta Lipp Recurring Main
Julianne Nicholson Jenny Shaw Main
James Marsden Glenn Foy Main
Josh Hopkins Raymond Millbury Main
Hayden Panettiere Maddie Harrington Main


Guest appearances

Ally McBeal has featured several guest appearances, including Richard Riehle, Willie Garson, Jon Hamm, Kate Jackson, Kathy Baker, Rusty Schwimmer, Nancy Stephens, Dylan McDermott, Dina Meyer, Miriam Flynn, Eric McCormack, John Ritter, Jessica Harper, Rob Schneider, Justin Theroux, Lara Flynn Boyle, Bruce Willis, Anna Nicole Smith, Joyce Brothers, Rosie O'Donnell, Jennifer Rhodes, Holland Taylor, Paul Bartel, Gladys Knight, Dee Wallace, Betty White, Farrah Fawcett, Mark Feuerstein, Rosemary Forsyth, Tina Turner, Loretta Devine, Gloria Gaynor, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Macy Gray, Dakota Fanning, Randy Newman, Michael Weatherly, Marcia Cross, Florence Henderson, Michael Vartan, Famke Janssen, Anne Haney, Alexander Gould, Richard Jenkins, Jean Louisa Kelly, Chayanne, Chubby Checker, Brenda Strong, Kelly Lynch, Rhea Perlman, Wallace Shawn, Anastacia, Bernadette Peters, Ann Cusack, Leslie Jordan, Paul Reubens, Sting, Christine Lahti, Ryan Hansen, Roma Maffia, Jacqueline Bisset, Elton John, Tom Berenger, Mariah Carey, French Stewart, Julia Campbell, Jane Sibbett, Matthew Perry, Heather Locklear, Vanessa Williams and Carl Reiner.


SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast aired
123September 8, 1997 (1997-09-08)May 18, 1998 (1998-05-18)578.1[4]
223September 14, 1998 (1998-09-14)May 24, 1999 (1999-05-24)239.6[5]
321October 25, 1999 (1999-10-25)May 22, 2000 (2000-05-22)398.5[6]
423October 23, 2000 (2000-10-23)May 21, 2001 (2001-05-21)
522October 29, 2001 (2001-10-29)May 20, 2002 (2002-05-20)

In Australia, Ally McBeal was aired by the Seven Network from 1997 to 2002. In 2010, it was aired repeatedly by Network 10.

Crossovers with The Practice

Seymore Walsh, a stern judge often exasperated by the eccentricities of the Cage & Fish lawyers and played by actor Albert Hall, was also a recurring character on The Practice. In addition, Judge Jennifer (Whipper) Cone appears on The Practice episode "Line of Duty" (S02 E15), while Judge Roberta Kittelson, a recurring character on The Practice, has a featured guest role in the Ally McBeal episode "Do you Wanna Dance?"

Most of the primary Practice cast members guest starred in the Ally McBeal episode "The Inmates" (S01 E20), in a storyline that concluded with the Practice episode "Axe Murderer" (S02 E26), featuring Calista Flockhart and Gil Bellows reprising their Ally characters. Unusually for a TV crossover, Ally McBeal and The Practice aired on different networks. Bobby Donnell, the main character of The Practice played by Dylan McDermott, was featured heavily in both this crossover and another Ally McBeal episode, "These are the Days".

Regular Practice cast members Lara Flynn Boyle and Michael Badalucco each had a cameo in Ally McBeal (Boyle as a woman who trades insults with Ally in the episode "Making Spirits Bright" and Badalucco as one of Ally's dates in the episode "I Know him by Heart") but it is unclear whether they were playing the same characters they play on The Practice.

In Season 5, Lara Flynn Boyle had an uncredited guest appearance as a rebuttal witness opposite guest star Heather Locklear's character in the episode, "Tom Dooley".

Filming location

14 Beacon Street in Boston was the exterior which was used as the location for the law firm "Cage & Fish" (later "Cage, Fish, & McBeal"), which was located on the 7th floor of this building.[7]


Upon premiering in 1997, the show was an instant hit, averaging around 11 million viewers per episode. The show's second season saw an increase in ratings and soon became a top 20 show, averaging around 13 million viewers per episode. The show's ratings began to decline in the third season, but stabilized in the fourth season after Robert Downey Jr. joined the regular cast as Ally's boyfriend Larry Paul, and a fresher aesthetic was created by new art director Matthew DeCoste. However, Downey's character was written out after the end of the season due to the actor's troubles with drug addiction.[8]

The first two seasons, as well as the fourth, remain the most critically acclaimed and saw the most awards success at the Emmys, SAG Awards and the Golden Globes. In 2007, Ally McBeal placed #48 on Entertainment Weekly's 2007 "New TV Classics" list.[9]


US viewer ratings for Ally McBeal, by season
Season Number of viewers Network Rank
1 1997–98 11.4 million Fox #59[10]
2 1998–99 13.8 million Fox #20[11]
3 1999–2000 12.4 million Fox #35[citation needed]
4 2000–01 12.0 million Fox #40[12]
5 2001–02 9.4 million Fox #65[13]

Feminist criticism

Ally McBeal received some criticism from TV critics and feminists who found the title character annoying and demeaning to women (specifically regarding professional women[14]) because of her perceived flightiness, lack of demonstrated legal knowledge, short skirts,[15] and emotional instability. Perhaps the most notorious example of the debate sparked by the show was the June 29, 1998, cover story of Time magazine, which juxtaposed the character of Ally McBeal with three real-life pioneering feminists (Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem) and asked "Is Feminism Dead?"[16] In the January 18, 1999 Ally McBeal episode, "Love Unlimited", Ally talks to her co-worker John Cage about a dream she had, saying "You know, I had a dream that they put my face on the cover of Time magazine as 'the face of feminism'."[17]


Music was a prominent feature of Ally McBeal. Vonda Shepard, a relatively unknown musician at the time, performed regularly on the show and her song "Searchin' My Soul" was the show's theme song. Many of the songs Shepard performed were established hits with lyrics that paralleled the events of each episode, for example, "Both Sides Now", "Hooked on a Feeling" and "Tell Him". Besides recording background music for the show, Shepard frequently appeared at the ends of episodes as a musician performing at a local piano bar frequented by the main characters. On rare occasions, her character would have conventional dialogue. A portion of "Searchin' My Soul" was played at the beginning of each episode, but the song was never played in its entirety.

Several of the characters had a musical leitmotif that played when they appeared. John Cage's was "You're the First, the Last, My Everything", Ling Woo's was the Wicked Witch of the West theme from The Wizard of Oz, and Ally McBeal herself picked "Tell Him", when told by a psychiatrist that she needed a theme song in a Season 1 episode.[18]

Due to the popularity of the show and Shepard's music, a soundtrack titled Songs from Ally McBeal was released in 1998, as well as a successor soundtrack titled Heart and Soul: New Songs from Ally McBeal in 1999. Two compilation albums from the show featuring Shepard were also released in 2000 and 2001. A Christmas album was also released under the title Ally McBeal: A Very Ally Christmas.[19] The album received positive reviews, and Shephard's version of Kay Starr's Christmas song "(Everybody's Waitin' for) The Man with the Bag", received considerable airplay during the holiday season.[20]

Other artists featured on the show include Barry White, Al Green, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, Macy Gray, Gloria Gaynor, Chayanne, Barry Manilow, Anastacia, Elton John, Sting and Mariah Carey. Josh Groban played the role of Malcolm Wyatt in the May 2001 season finale, performing "You're Still You". The series creator, David E. Kelley, was impressed with Groban's performance at The Family Celebration event and based on the audience reaction to Groban's singing, Kelley created a character for him in that finale. The background score for the show was composed by Danny Lux.

Musical releases from Ally McBeal
Soundtrack name Number of tracks Release date
Songs from Ally McBeal 14 May 5, 1998
Heart and Soul: New Songs from Ally McBeal 14 November 9, 1999
Ally McBeal: A Very Ally Christmas 14 November 7, 2000
Ally McBeal: For Once in My Life 14 April 24, 2001
The Best of Ally McBeal 12 October 6, 2009

Home media

Due to music licensing issues, none of the seasons of Ally McBeal were available on DVD in the United States until 2009, though the show had been available in Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan, Hong Kong, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Taiwan, Australia, Brazil, and the Czech Republic with all the show's music intact since 2005. In the UK, Ireland, and Spain all seasons are available in a complete box set.

20th Century Fox released the complete first season on DVD in Region 1 on October 6, 2009. They also released a special complete series edition on the same day.[21] Season 1 does not contain any special features, but the complete series set contains several bonus features, including featurettes, an all-new retrospective, the episode of The Practice in which Calista Flockhart guest-starred, and a bonus disc entitled "The Best of Ally McBeal Soundtrack." In addition, both releases contain all of the original music.[22] Season 2 was released on April 6, 2010. Seasons 3, 4, and 5 were all released on October 5, 2010.[23]

Home media releases of Ally McBeal, showing season numbers, with release dates
DVD name No. episodes Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
The Complete First Season 23 October 6, 2009 February 21, 2005 April 26, 2006
The Complete Second Season 23 April 6, 2010 February 21, 2005 April 26, 2006
The Complete Third Season 21 October 5, 2010 February 21, 2005 April 26, 2006
The Complete Fourth Season 23 October 5, 2010 May 9, 2005 April 26, 2006
The Complete Fifth and Final Season 22 October 5, 2010 May 9, 2005 April 26, 2006
The Complete Series 112 October 6, 2009 October 30, 2006 April 18, 2012[24]

Ally (1999)

In 1999, at the height of the show's popularity, a half-hour version titled Ally began airing in parallel with the main program. This version, designed in a sitcom format, used re-edited scenes from the main program, along with previously unseen footage. The intention was to further develop the plots in the comedy drama in a sitcom style. It also focused only on Ally's personal life, cutting all the courtroom plots. The repackaged show was canceled partway through its initial run. While 13 episodes of Ally were produced, only ten aired.[25]

Possible revival

In March 2021, it was reported that a revival as a limited series was in early development by 20th Television with Flockhart possibly returning.[2]

In August 2022, it was reported that ABC was in early development of a sequel series with Karin Gist writing and executive producing.[26] The series would follow a young Black woman out of law school who joins the law firm. Flockhart has been approached to both reprise her role and executive-produce.[27]

Flockhart, Germann, MacNicol and Bellows reunited at the 2024 75th Primetime Emmy Awards in a choreographed dance to Barry White's "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" recreating the unisex bathroom from the series.[28]

In popular culture

In a third season episode of the British comedy The Adam and Joe Show, the show was parodied as "Ally McSqueal" using soft toys.[29]

A first season episode of the animated sitcom Futurama, "When Aliens Attack", centers on an invasion of Earth by the Omicronians precipitated by a signal loss during the climax of an episode of Single Female Lawyer, whose main character is Jenny McNeal.[30]

In a fourth season episode of the show The Good Place, the Judge hands Ted Danson's character a petition to reboot Ally McBeal, stating "everything else is getting rebooted."

In the 2021 film The Mauritanian, Guantanamo Bay detention camp detainee Mohamedou Ould Salahi says to a US judge "Even in Mauritania, we have watched Law & Order and Ally McBeal."

In a fourth season episode of the show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a lyric in the song "Don't Be a Lawyer", mentions the show "No one you work with looks like Ally McBeal".[31]

Awards and nominations


  1. ^ Davies, Jeffrey (June 22, 2022). "How 'Ally McBeal' Influenced the Modern Cringe Comedy". Collider. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Petski, Denise; Andreeva, Nellie (March 26, 2021). "'Ally McBeal' Revival With Calista Flockhart Explored By 20th Television". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  3. ^ "Ally McBeal Offices (Cage & Fish)".
  4. ^ "Final Ratings for '97–'98 TV Season". The San Francisco Chronicle. May 25, 1998. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2020.
  5. ^ "Nielsen Ratings for 1998–99". The San Francisco Chronicle. May 28, 1999. Retrieved October 25, 2021.
  6. ^ "Nielsen Ratings for 1999-2000". The San Francisco Chronicle. May 26, 2000. Archived from the original on November 2, 2015. Retrieved October 25, 2021.
  7. ^ "Ally McBeal Offices (Cage & Fish)".
  8. ^ Cronin, Brian (March 5, 2014). "TV Legends Revealed – Robert Downey Jr. Was Written Out of Own TV Wedding". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on February 24, 2018. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  9. ^ "The New Classics: TV". Entertainment Weekly. June 18, 2007. Archived from the original on January 15, 2018. Retrieved February 5, 2012.
  10. ^ "The Final Countdown". May 29, 1998. Archived from the original on September 24, 2010. Retrieved January 6, 2009.
  11. ^ "Final ratings for the 1998–1999 TV season". Archived from the original on October 20, 2009.
  12. ^ "The Bitter End". June 1, 2001. Archived from the original on July 18, 2012. Retrieved January 6, 2009.
  13. ^ "How Did Your Favorite Show Rate?". May 28, 2002.
  14. ^ Hammers, Michelle L. "Cautionary Tales of Liberation and Female Professionalism: The Case Against Ally McBeal" Western Journal of Communication 69 2, April (2005): 168. "The ease with which McBeal's depictions of women are reincorporated into dominant masculinist discourses ... is particularly problematic for professional women. The increased danger that co-optation poses for professional women is due to the complex ways in which the discursive sedimentation that surrounds the female body, particularly as it has been traditionally sexualized and linked to emotionality, operates as a barrier to women's full and effective participation in professional spheres. Thus, McBeal operates as a cautionary tale about the dangers presented by the co-optation of postfeminist and third-wave feminist discourses as they relate to current professional discourses surrounding the female body."
  15. ^ "Is Feminism Dead? (Chat Transcript – Phyllis Chesler)". Time. June 29, 1998.
  16. ^ "Is Feminism Dead?". Time. June 29, 1998. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  17. ^ Kelley, David E. (January 18, 1999). "Love Unlimited". Ally McBeal. Season 2. Episode 12. David E. Kelley Productions and 20th Century Fox Television. Fox Broadcasting Company.
  18. ^ "Theme of Life". Ally McBeal. Season 1. Episode 17. Los Angeles. March 9, 1998. Fox Broadcasting Company.
  19. ^ "Ally McBeal: A Very Ally Christmas (2000) Sony Music". Amazon.
  20. ^ Atkinson, Terry (December 3, 2000) "TV Shows Breed Christmas Albums" The Post-Tribune (Gary, Indiana) (Entertainment News Service), page D-5.[1][permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Amazon Posts Date for Season 1 & Complete Series". TVShowsonDVD. July 3, 2009. Archived from the original on July 7, 2009.
  22. ^ "Fox's Press Release for The Complete Series Confirms ALL ORIGINAL MUSIC!". TVShowsonDVD. August 7, 2009. Archived from the original on August 11, 2009.
  23. ^ "Ally McBeal DVD news: Release Date and More for Individual Sets of Seasons 3, 4 and 5". Archived from the original on July 17, 2010. Retrieved July 14, 2010.
  24. ^ "Ally McBeal: Season 1-5". EzyDVD. Archived from the original on December 31, 2012. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  25. ^ Pierce, Scott (January 3, 2000). "Half-hour 'Ally' is a failure". Deseret News. Retrieved September 19, 2021.
  26. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (August 19, 2022). "Ally McBeal Sequel With New Lead In Works At ABC From Karin Gist; Calista Flockhart Eyed To Return". Deadline Hollywood.
  27. ^ Bucksbaum, Sydney (January 15, 2024). "'Ally McBeal' cast reunites at Emmys with throwback bathroom dance". Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  28. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (January 16, 2024). "'Ally McBeal' Stars, Led By Calista Flockhart, Recreate Series' Bathroom Dance In Emmy Reunion". Deadline. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  29. ^ The Adam and Joe Show. YouTube. Retrieved on 2012-04-23. Archived June 17, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ Handlen, Zack (December 18, 2014). "Futurama: "Mars University"/"When Aliens Attack"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved February 27, 2022. SFL is a decent parody of Ally McBeal, a show that was very popular at the time this episode aired, but which hardly anyone talks about anymore.
  31. ^ "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Cast (Ft. Burl Moseley & Clark Moore) – Don't be a Lawyer".

External links

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