TV or Not TV: Why I Hate Ally McBeal

by Susan Karlin

She's a whiner, she's a flake, and worse, she's too damn skinny!

OKAY, so I like the writing and whimsy, and the show can hold my attention long enough for me to postpone doing my nails until the second commercial break. And I'm sure Calista Flockhart is a perfectly nice person, even though I did read somewhere that she was reluctant to leave the thea-tuh for that mentally challenged wasteland that is television, which makes her, at worst, affected, or at best, in dire need of an accountant. (Note: TV: $30,000 an episode; Broadway: $1000 a week.)

It's just the character she plays: Ally McBeal. She's a flake. A willowy young thing, fresh out of Harvard Law School, with a cushy job that demands more dramatic contemplation in the bathroom than the courtroom. Yet she is too insecure to live without a roommate; she waffles continuously over whom she should date; and she hallucinates dancing babies. As my mother would say, "If you want babies, the time to decide that is before your father works himself into the grave for the $100,000 to put you through Harvard. But, if you want to kill us, you're doing a good job."

Worse, she's skinny. If I see one more slinky blonde goddess held up as the grand trophy for all that's good, wholesome, and starring material, I'm going to scream. If only one episode could feature a bulimic dash to that co-ed bathroom, all could be forgiven. And yet, Ally's become the poster child for a whole generation of young professional women who feel displaced, misunderstood, and confused. They feel connected to her. They tune in to Fox every Monday night and watch a beautiful, well-paid, well-dressed woman fret over whether to date the art-class model with the big . . . er, brush. At least when they whined on thirtysomething—while still annoying—it was for good reason. A failed business. Losing the house. Cancer. McBeal worries about the sexiest way to sip her cappuccino. Besides, people whose last names are McBeal—or Flockhart for that matter—do not know how to whine. You want whining, watch Seinfeld.

Still, if I find myself home on a Monday night with unkempt nails, I'll probably tune in again. Like I said, I appreciate its fanciful presentation. And its court scenes are certainly no less ridiculous than those at the O.J. Simpson trial. Besides, it will give me something trivial to whine about. Maybe then I'll feel more connected.