|By Stef MacDonald|
In our quest to find out, TV Guide went to Ally’s home base of Boston and grilled five real-life contemporaries—Amy Brown, 28, Andrea Cross, 27, Jocelyn Edwards, 29, Susan Graham, 28, and Jessica Nagle, 24. One’s married; the others have boyfriends or, like Ally, they’re still looking. One’s a law student (at McBeal creator David E. Kelley’s alma mater, Boston University); the others work in a variety of fields. Over a three-hour dinner, the women dished about everything from why Billy deserves the Dumpster to whether they identify with one of television’s screwiest heroines.
TV Guide: What do you like about Ally?
Amy: It’s nice to see someone screw up like she does—everybody’s probably acted irrationally and done selfish things.
Andrea: I like her quirkiness and the show’s. You sort of want to be in this fantasy world with her.
Susan: I used to find her really whiny. Now I think there’s a lot more depth to her.
Jessica: I like the way she’s always falling down, literally.
TVG: Do you sympathize with her?
Amy: Definitely when she’s lonely. It’s really hard to meet somebody. When she’s walking down a rainy street in Boston.… They really capture that feeling.
Andrea: Don’t you think they show too much of it, though? I mean, she’s on an empty street by herself every half hour.
Jocelyn: Well, it’s a chance to play Vonda Shepard’s music!
TVG: What about Calista Flockhart, who plays Ally? Everyone’s been commenting about her weight.
Jocelyn: She didn’t start out that thin.
Andrea: It’s not our business, but you notice. It’s distracting.
Amy: I feel bad for her. Now she looks frail. The good thing is that her roommate, Renee, is voluptuous and loves it.
TVG: Getting back to the show, what do you think of Billy?
Jocelyn: He’s a wimp.
Amy: If he were like the guy on The Practice [Dylan McDermott], then I could buy it. I almost think Fish is cute.
Jocelyn: Because he has a personality!
Andrea: Why are these two women [Ally and Georgia] head-over-heels in love with Billy?
Jocelyn: He’s Ally’s first love and she can’t have him.
Andrea: It’s the forbidden fruit.
Jocelyn: And the fruit is in her office every day.
Susan: I would not be able to work with my former first love.
Jocelyn: And his wife. No way!
TVG: So are Billy and Ally destined to be together?
Jessica: Maybe last year I would have liked to see that but not now.
Andrea: When Ally had all these fantasies about him, that was good enough.
Susan: But Ally and Billy haven’t really done anything yet. What’s one kiss?
Jessica: They’re portraying her as a weak woman. If Billy left his wife, I think Ally would find she’s not really in love with him. She’s in love with the idea of him.
TVG: Do you like Ally’s new guy, Greg?
Amy: He’s nice and cute but I want him to be a little more charismatic.
Jessica: It’s good that they’re not making an issue over the interracial relationship.
Andrea: It’s the same with Fish and Ling. [And] what about that model guy? With the…
Jocelyn: Oh, that was so awesome.
Andrea: I liked that it was purely sexual.
TVG: And her near fling with a boy toy?
Susan: Being a 28-year-old woman, I thought, Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if this 18-year-old hottie was flirting with me?
Andrea: But would you follow through? Ten years younger is too much for me.
Susan: Probably not. But how come it’s OK for Whipper to date Fish but not for Ally to be dating the younger guy?
Jessica: It’s different when you’re older.
TVG: What about the interoffice dating?
Susan: I spend more hours at work than I do anywhere else, and I don’t have many opportunities to meet people [elsewhere]. But the idea of dating someone at work is not something I want.
Andrea: It’s a little extreme in that office. Elaine is the only one who hasn’t gone out with someone at the firm.
TVG: Speaking of Elaine…
Jocelyn: I worked with someone like her. She was nosy and would say inappropriate things about sex that you just don’t need to know. But I don’t think she’s out to hurt anybody.
Andrea: I loved when Elaine went out with the John Ritter character. Ally made the right decision not to go out with him.
Amy: Guys come and go, but friends are more important. I think Ally realized she cared about Elaine even though Elaine drives her crazy!
TVG: What about the new women in the office?
Amy: I really got a kick out of how Elaine, Ally and Georgia were being catty about Nelle [when she first joined the firm]. I think women sometimes do that and we don’t really mean it.
Andrea: Sometimes? [Laughter from all]
Susan: Nelle and Ling helped to bring out those male characters who were on the back burner last season.
Amy: I love Ling.
Andrea: We want to be her!
Jocelyn: She’s got some power, boy! Her lines are just amazing.
Amy: I love when they play that music with her entrances.
Andrea: And Ling’s growl. They needed a character who’s totally nasty.
Susan: Because Ally’s too inhibited.
Jessica: I just want to know why Ling has to be so hard.
Amy: But they’re both kind of the same in that they’re lonely in a way. Back to the whole loneliness theme.
Andrea: They could have called the show Alone in Boston.
Susan: Or Sleepless in Boston.
TVG: So Ally’s single, but is it realistic for her biological clock to be ticking?
Jessica: She’s still young to be thinking so much about that.
Jocelyn: But I do know people who feel they’re not on schedule: married [with] a house and children.
Andrea: But it’s cool that she doesn’t think about it every day.
TVG: Clearly the office is Ally’s second home. What do you think of the firm?
Andrea: If any of these people worked in your office they’d annoy the hell out of you! But we enjoy watching them.
Jocelyn: I wish people could be as open and honest as they are, especially in court. Fish says exactly what he wants.
Amy: I think Fish is so cool because he’s like a caricature of the bad man.
Jessica: I think most men are like that a little, but they’re not allowed to say what he says. I want to see more of John Cage; he’s my favorite.
Amy: Mine too. But the frog thing was too weird; I didn’t get that.
Jessica: He’s one of these people you’re friends with and can’t picture dating and all of a sudden he’s your boyfriend!
TVG: How do you rate Ally’s take on the law?
Amy: I’m sick of everybody winning.
Jessica [the law student]: My boyfriend’s a lawyer and we’ll talk about the show’s legal aspects. But to me, it’s a comedy. I get more upset when a show like Law & Order does something inaccurate, because they’re trying to portray it as real.
TVG: What about that unisex bathroom?
Jessica: I don’t like it.
Andrea: It doesn’t seem outlandish to me. My college had coed bathrooms.
Jocelyn: There’s some decent socializing going on in there!
Amy: Maybe if your office had nice bathrooms like that you’d hang out there.
TVG: Any opinions on Ally’s short skirts?
Jocelyn: I don’t think they’d [fly].
Susan: I like her calf-length skirts. Have you noticed she’s been wearing them?
Jessica: I [interned] at a law firm and some women dressed questionably. But no judge would ever comment on it.
TVG: So to sum things up, is there anything you’d like to see on the show?
Andrea: I think they need another guy.
Amy: I’d like to see a total babe come in.
Jocelyn: An all-around great single guy.
Andrea: For Ally!