Walking a thin line on Ally's weight

Anyone watching Ally McBeal this season knows the old fashion credo is wrong: It is possible to be too thin.

As much as Ally's producers may hate to admit it, weighty issues are beginning to overwhelm their show. Where once people talked about the show's fantasies and feminism, they now discuss star Calista Flockhart's weight or lack thereof. Though the nastiest speculation is confined to the tabloids, you can't watch the show without forming questions of your own.

If there is a problem, Ally certainly isn't doing anything to hide it. Monday's episode opened with the size-2 Flockhart dancing in a tight T-shirt that made her look alarmingly waiflike and markedly thinner than she looked in the credits, which use clips from last year. Flockhart insists there's nothing wrong with her health or weight. Well, if there isn't, she should speak to the show's costumers, because someone's making it look like there is.

In an ideal world, appearances might not matter, but TV is a visual medium, and the picture on Ally has become a distraction. It not only pulls your attention toward the actress and away from Ally; it makes you wonder why the other characters haven't noticed. If this is merely a normal weight loss, you'd think Ally's friends would comment upon it particularly since they are constantly remarking on every other aspect of her personal life.

Ally might want to take a cue from Designing Women, which faced an equally difficult problem when Delta Burke gained weight. The show finally addressed it in a high-school reunion episode that ranks with the sitcom's best.

To be fair, Flockhart is hardly alone; the same criticism has been aimed at Courteney Cox, Helen Hunt and Lara Flynn Boyle. It may not be unhealthy for them, but it's unhealthy for viewers particularly young girls who already are pressured to be unnaturally thin.

We're all at fault, of course. We complain when actors gain weight, and we're shocked when they lose too much. At some point, however, we have to know when to say "stop."

So stop.

By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY