'McBeal' moneymaker amuses all over again

When is a rerun officially not a rerun?

When it's been sliced, diced, shortened and jammed through the TV industry jargon machine and labeled as "repurposed" eye candy.

Which is how old episodes of "Ally McBeal" have been transformed into "Ally," a half-hour sitcom variation on David E. Kelley's Emmy Award-winning series, debuting at 8 tonight on Fox, WJBK-TV, Channel 2.

But guess what? It's kind of fun.

The first episode of "Ally" recycles a single storyline from an "Ally McBeal" in which Cage (Peter MacNicol) and Ally (Calista Flockhart) are entangled in discussions about going on a "real date." But Cage becomes suspicious that Ally still has feelings for Billy (Gil Bellows).

Because three new scenes were just shot for the premiere episode, it was not available for review. But three completed episodes of "Ally" were. Each offers a condensed storyline, trims most of the courtroom scenes, then focuses on a single office or romantic relationship.

In addition to using previously filmed footage that was not aired on the original "Ally McBeal," there's a zippy new theme tune for "Ally" by composer Danny Lux. What, no Vonda Shepard?! Not to worry, the "Ally McBeal" theme song chanteuse does appear in various recycled saloon moments in "Ally."

Why are Fox and Kelley doing "Ally," anyway?

Money, honey. Half-hour sitcoms are much easier and potentially more lucrative to syndicate than one-hour series, even funny Emmy-winning ones. So if "Ally" clicks, chances are it will further fatten pocketbooks for Kelley and Fox.