Ally McBeal (character)
|Allison Marie McBeal|
|Ally McBeal character|
|Portrayed by||Calista Flockhart|
Administrative Partner: Cage, Fish & McBeal
|Family||George McBeal (father)|
Jeannie McBeal (mother)
|Children||Madison “Maddie” Harrington (daughter)|
|Birth date||March 20, 1970 (Alternatively, April 1970 as S03E08 ("Turning 30") shows an April 2000 calendar)|
Ally is a Boston-based lawyer. She is shown as a woman who believes in love and is continually looking for her soul mate. She often hears songs in her head and experiences hallucinations, mostly of a dancing baby, due to her biological clock ticking and of sexual endeavors with various men.
Ally is the daughter of George McBeal (played by James Naughton), also a lawyer, and Jeannie McBeal (played by Jill Clayburgh). She claims to have at least one sister and one brother although neither are ever seen (not even in the occasional flashbacks). She had a sister who died at the age of six.
Ally attended Harvard Law School with Billy Thomas (played by Gil Bellows), with whom she had had a relationship since they were eight years old so that she could be with him. Billy, however, left Harvard to attend University of Michigan Law School, thereby breaking Ally's heart. The next thing the audience knows about Ally is that she lives with district attorney Renée Radick, and she is employed in a Boston law firm.
Ally quit the law firm because her boss harassed her and was then recruited by old classmate Richard Fish to join his law firm, Cage & Fish. To her own surprise and horror, she found out that Billy, now married to fellow lawyer (and University of Michigan classmate), Georgia, is working at Cage & Fish. She falls in love with him again, to the horror of Georgia. However, Ally and Georgia become friends and Ally learns to work side by side with Billy.
Throughout the series Ally dated lots of men. Because Billy remained the love of her life, no relationship ever got serious until she met Dr. Greg Butters (played by Jesse L. Martin). Greg and Ally got quite serious until the two were spotted kissing by Billy. Billy felt so jealous that he imagined himself to be in love with Ally after which he declared his undying love for her. The two subsequently engaged in a short affair, which Ally finally broke off. Nonetheless, Greg broke off the relationship after finding out.
The third season began with Ally engaging in sex with a guy at a car wash, it later turns out that he is the fiancée of a client, whom Ally subsequently tells of the liaison on her wedding day. Later, Billy discovers he has a brain tumor, and grows closer to Ally again. However, before anything can be done about it, Billy dies in Ally's arms in court after giving a passionate closing describing his life (though in reality he is hallucinating and describing the life he wishes he had shared with Ally.) When Georgia later asks Ally if Billy had said anything before he died, she lies to her in order to spare her feelings.
Ally started dating again, finally meeting a British lawyer named Brian Selig (played by Tim Dutton). The two started dating and ended up having a six-month relationship. When, after six months, Brian asked Ally to move in with him, Ally realized Brian was much too boring for her and then broke off the relationship.
Shortly after that, she fell in love with fellow lawyer Larry Paul. They initially met when she walked into his office by mistake, and spent much time talking about her issues before she discovered he was a lawyer and not the therapist with whom she had an appointment. The two started a serious but rocky relationship. Although initially troubled by the fact that Larry had an ex-wife with whom he was still close and an ex-girlfriend (played by Famke Janssen) who was also the mother of his child, it was soon evident that Larry was her soulmate. The two agreed to take the relationship long distance between Detroit and Boston when Larry's son visited and met Ally and told her he missed his dad at home. Ally then encouraged Larry to move back to Detroit to be in his son's life. Larry agreed and the two parted with the understanding that the relationship would remain and that each would visit the other until such a time that Ally was ready to move to Detroit. He left a note pinned to a snowman outside Ally's door on the evening he left for Detroit that said, "I will be back." (Initially Ally was supposed to get married to Larry at the end of season 4. But when actor Robert Downey, Jr. was arrested on drug-related charges and sent to jail, the network fired Downey, canceling the marriage storyline.)
While in college, Ally, in need of money, donated an egg for research, only to find out years later that it wound up getting adopted. One day a little girl (played by Hayden Panettiere) shows up on her doorstep, claiming to be her daughter, prompting Ally to faint. She gets to know her daughter over the course of several episodes. Her most significant love interest for this final season was Victor Morrison (played by Jon Bon Jovi) but the relationship deteriorated quite quickly as it was evident that Ally was still in love with Larry. Subsequently, her daughter Madison is harassed by schoolmates and mourns her anonymous father, so Ally accepting her bigger role now is to prioritize her child over her job and quest for love decides to move to her daughter's home city of New York.
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Opinion on Ally McBeal was that she was demeaning to women (specifically professional women) because of her perceived flightiness, lack of demonstrated legal knowledge, short skirts, and extreme emotional instability. Perhaps the most notorious example of the debate sparked by the show was the June 25, 1998, cover story of Time magazine, which juxtaposed McBeal with three pioneering feminists (Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem) and asked "Is Feminism Dead?". In 2004, Ally was ranked number 75 in Bravo's list of The 100 Greatest TV Characters. In June 2010, Entertainment Weekly named her one of the "100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years". She was also listed in AOL's 100 Most Memorable Female TV Characters.
Troy Patterson of Entertainment Weekly argued that Ally McBeal has similarities to Scarlett O'Hara of Gone with the Wind and that "Scarlett and Ally are fairy-tale princesses who bear about as much resemblance to real women as Barbie and Skipper." Patterson wrote that Ally is similar because she is also a child from a ruling class family, "pines hopelessly after an unavailable dreamboat", and has a "sassy black roommate" in place of a "mammy" to "comfort her".
- Jefferson, Margo (1998-03-18). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; You Want to Slap Ally McBeal, but Do You Like Her?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- Suqi, Rima (1998-09-10). "CURRENTS: TV DECOR; Ally Doesn't Live Here Anymore: The New and Old McBeal Digs". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- Stevens, Kimberly (1997-11-23). "NOTICED; Ally, the Talk Around the Water Cooler". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- Vineberg, Steve (2001-03-18). "TELEVISION/RADIO; Delivering Something Real To 'Ally McBeal'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- Michelle L. Hammers, "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 McBeals depictions of women are reincorporated into dominant masculinist discourses ... is particularly 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.
- "Is Feminism Dead? (Chat Transcript – Phyllis Chesler)". Time Magazine. June 25, 1998.
- "Is Feminism Dead? (Chat Transcript)". Time Magazine. June 25, 1998.
- "Debate: Is Ally McBeal a Nineties heroine? Or a grotesque creation of male fantasy?". Independent. London. 1998-11-08. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- "Bravo > 100 Greatest TV Characters". Bravo. Archived from the original on July 17, 2007. Retrieved November 11, 2006.
- Adam B. Vary (June 1, 2010). "The 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years: Here's our full list!". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
- Potts, Kim (March 2, 2011). "100 Most Memorable Female TV Characters". AOL TV. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- Patterson, Troy, Ty Burr, and Stephen Whitty. "Gone With the Wind." (video review) Entertainment Weekly. October 23, 1998. Retrieved on December 23, 2013. This document has three separate reviews of the film, one per author.