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The David E. Kelley drama sitcom that is Ally McBeal received much hype upon its release. Kelley was coming off successful productions of L.A Law, Picket Fences and Chicago Hope when he penned the comedy/drama about a female lawyer and her quirky buddies at the firm. Ally’s story is an interesting one. She’s very unlucky in love and takes an almost cynical view of her relationships whilst thinking long and hard about any and all issues that arise from work. Throw in some seriously amusing characters and the mix is perfect for decent laughs. The two most successful characters in the laughs department are founding partners of the law firm, Cage (Peter MacNicol) and Fish (Greg Germann). Both of them are extremely quirky and throw some particularly bizarre lines into the mix of dialogue that will certainly have you laughing out loud. There’s also Ally’s dream man Billy (Gil Bellows), who managed to find a job at the same firm as our tiny heroine, Elaine (Jane Krakowski),  the nosiest person on the planet and Georgia (Courtney Thorne-Smith), Billy’s wife who conveniently works at the same firm as the rest of them. A recipe for laughs has been written.

Compromising to say the least

I must admit that I was initially disappointed with the first few episodes because my expectations were a little bit different to what the show turned out to be. I envisaged the series to be more like a traditional sitcom only set in a law firm, instead of the sort of wacky humour that’s closer to Northern Exposure than anything else. Some have even labeled it a cross between Sex & The City and The Practice which isn’t all that far off the mark. This kind of humour isn’t without its risks, mainly due to the fact that the comedy isn’t as overstated as a lot of couch potatoes have become accustomed to. Nevertheless, Ally’s character really did drag me in and at this early stage Calista Flockhart still had some meat on her bones. Lawyers get paid a lot. They should be eating well. Enough said.

There’s no doubting Kelley’s talent. He introduces some great features of the series to distinguish it from the rest. There’s the funniest use of a unisex toilet in television history, the hilarious “Fish-isms” from the man himself and the famous dancing baby, who appears mid way through the first season.

If you’re a fan of this popular series then you must get your hands on these six discs. Australian online DVD store EzyDVD have taken it upon themselves to fund the release of this Season One box set and release them exclusively through their website. There are only a limited number of set available so if you’re a fan you should stop reading right now and go and order your copy. But make sure you come back and read the rest!

An exclusive such as this will hopefully pave the way for stores to release DVDs that probably would have never seen the light of day, which is certainly the case with Ally McBeal in Australia. Maybe it will be afforded a general release depending on the popularity and sales of the EzyDVD boxes but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Kudos to EzyDVD for bringing about the creation of a fantastic Season One Ally McBeal collection.

But what really goes on in each episode? Let’s take a closer look.

Unisex toilet hijinks

DISC ONE: Pilot: Pilots are really interesting to watch once a series has found its feet. They usually contain a stack of plot lines, heaps of explanation and generally include too much information to be anything but a bit of a show-off piece. This particular pilot is very successful and it comes as no surprise that the studio snapped this proposal up pretty darn quickly. Here we find out about Ally’s obsession with Billy and her frustration because he’s a married man. We also learn exactly how she came to work for Cage & Fish and witness her first foray into the courtroom which ultimately turns out to be unsuccessful.

Compromising Positions:  Ally and Billy are assigned the job of defending Cage on charges of soliciting a prostitute. Definitely a storyline with limitless possibilities. This is the first time Ally has met Cage, the other partner of the law firm. Ally is attracted to a guy called Ronald Cheanie, Whipper and Fish have differences that are eventually settled quite passionately in the bathroom and we get the first glimpse of Ally’s favourite bar hangout.

The Kiss: Ronald Cheanie is back and a date with Ally goes pretty much according to plan except for the dreaded “goodnight kiss”. Ally also has to defend a TV anchorwoman who was fired because of her age and sex. A double date and more dancing ensues.

The Affair: Ally must be a pallbearer at her ex-law professor’s funeral but has issues because she once had an affair with the man. But she agrees anyhow, leading to hilarious consequences. The highlight of the episode has to be Elaine’s face bra which has to be seen to be believed. Cheanie returns and breaks up with poor old Ally.

DISC TWO: One Hundred Tears Away: Ally and a woman tangle in the supermarket over a packet of chips (Pringles, I believe) which results in Ally being charged for shoplifting after beating an earlier charge for tripping the female shopper. More face-bra action leads to Ally being the guinea pig. There are threats to revoke Ally’s license following the comical events but thankfully she keeps her lawyer status and more celebrations at the bar predictably take place.

The Promise: Ally must work on two cases in this episode; one involving a fat man in an ice cream suit as well as another case involving prostitution. The fat man falls for Ally after she saves his life and Cage manages to be co-counsel on the latter case. Sexism rears its ugly head (not for the last time) when Billy and Fish check out the form of a woman at work. Priceless.

The Attitude: The craziness continues when Ally has a run-in with a rabbi. Even more bizarre is his proposal to Ally for a date. Cage does some sneaky dealings and they all end up at the bar once again.

Drawing The Lines: Elaine takes issue with the men of the firm and steps up her sexual harassment case. There’s an attempt to negate a prenuptial agreement and Ally and Billy still have serious issue in their shaky friendship.

Do my bones look big in this?

DISC THREE: The Dirty Joke: Ally has image problems so she tries to make a change. Shock value is the key when Ally attempts to tell a dirty joke to her colleagues. Look out for a guest appearance from Sandra Bernhard as the representative of the new delivery girl.

Boy To The World: In a bit of a different episode Ally defends and befriends a teenage transvestite prostitute At times this one moves away from out-and-out comedy into real drama that we know Kelley can produce. Other highlights include Cage pondering dating Ally and Fish suing over his dead uncle.

Silver Bells: Ally is assigned the case of three adult wanting to be legally married. Of course, she draws several parallels between the case and her situation with Georgia and Billy. The Christmas party is the highlight, with Vonda Shephard singing a great version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”

Cro-magnon: Size is the big issue in this one, with a male model in the girls’ sculpting class being paid particular attention. Ally manages to hook up with him, in amongst working on the case of a 19 year-old boy charged with assault. The men at the firm place bets on a boxing match which was particularly amusing.

Phew! And that’s only the first half! Visit the second installment in the detailed review of the fantastic Ally McBeal Season One boxset exclusive to EzyDVD, where you’ll find the details on the remaining three discs as well as the video and audio impressions. The link is on the bar to the right. Or if you’re really impressed with what you’ve seen so far, look a little further down the right hand menu to go straight to EzyDVD to snap up your copy. Be quick, there’s only a limited number available.


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