'Ally' due for some changes

NBC's Veronica's Closet may have been the highest rated new show last season, but certainly the most talked about was Fox's Ally McBeal.

The comedy/drama about a young Boston attorney who has a habit of sticking her foot in her mouth has been nominated for 10 Emmys, including best comedy series and actress (Calista Flockhart).

Ally, which finished the season ranked No. 59 in the Nielsen ratings, has become a multi-media industry, spawning a hit soundtrack album (Songs from Ally McBeal, which has sold more than 1 million copies) and a companion book that will be published in October by ReganBooks.

Here's what to look for on the series in the fall.

A new lawyer: Portia de Rossi joins the cast as Nell Porter, a new lawyer at Cage-Fish Associates. Series executive producer David E. Kelley describes her as "yet another young, ambitious attorney" whose personality won't immediately gel with the others in the firm. "It will give us an opportunity to sample a little friction in the office place and maybe create another contrast to last year's harmony in terms of the working population."

A new love for Ally: Her ongoing obsession with former fiance Billy (Gil Bellows), whom she works with at the firm, will be in the past. "It will always be part of their character history, but it's pretty much over," says Kelley. "It won't be a hurdle that she'll keep trying to lean over. All her problems will be new ones this year."

A new home for Ally: Ally and roommate Renee (Lisa Nicole Carson) have a swanky new apartment, overlooking the city lights of Boston. "We wanted them to have a bigger place," says Kelley, "So they weren't so on top of each other." Behind the scenes, Kelley's TV shows, Ally and The Practice, moved from cramped Ren-Mar Studios to a new facility in Manhattan Beach, Calif., which afforded the producers the room to expand their sets. For the first time, we'll see the office of John "The Biscuit" Cage (Peter MacNicol). His office "isn't odd, but it is unconventional," Kelley says. "If you walked in, you'd ask who practices law in this room?"

By Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY