The Year in Cheers Critical Favorites

#3 Ally McBeal (FOX)

Not since thirtysomething has there been such a collection of characters that delight and aggravate viewers with equal intensity. David E. Kelley scores his most culturally resonant hit with this aggressively quirky and completely original comedy-drama about a Boston law firm populated by addled oddballs whose cases are as ridiculous as their romantic entanglements. With imaginary dancing babies, jumping show frogs, wattle fetishes and remote toilet flushers, this show rarely knows when enough is enough. But in such an anemic TV era, it seems churlish to complain. Especially with its top-notch ensemble, who all dance to Vonda Shepard's one-woman jukebox of '90s frustrations and desires. Best episode: An inspired crossover with The Practice, proving once and for all how out-there Ally's world is.